Tag Archives: Everesting

Training plans – benefit or burden?


Of course I understand that if you set yourself a significant challenge, you have to train for it. However, I have mixed thoughts about most training plans.

My main gripe is that I always feel guilty when I fail to stick to them (which is every time). Once the guilt sets in it’s easy to forget the good bits you are doing and what you are achieving and just focus on the negatives – the parts of the plan you are flunking.

Holidays, injury, bad weather, social commitments, laziness – there are always more reasons not to train than there are to train.

My other gripe is that they always seem to be so over-blown. That’s double-edged. Bad because it makes it even more likely that they can’t be kept to – but good because failure to keep to the plan doesn’t mean you’re bound to fail at the challenge.

I ran the London Marathon twice in the late 1990’s and had sub 4 hour training plans that I failed to keep to – but (just) managed sub 4 hour times on both occasions.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. If I was setting myself up as an expert and advising people on training for a specific event, I’d certainly be taking a cautious approach and building in some contingency to avoid people keeping to the plan and still failing at the challenge.

The thing that’s got me thinking about this is the everesting training. Clearly, it’s a sufficiently ridiculous challenge that I need to train – but how? I’ve found reference to a plan on the internet that seems to be endorsed by the Hell’s 500 people so it’s ‘official’ but they want $66.66 for it and it seems to entail at least 90 hours of cycling over 8 weeks. I’ll bet it’s good but that’s just the sort of plan that I know I’ll flunk.

So, taking the theory from that plan, I’m just going to have to cycle as much as I reasonably can, with much of it being uphill. In particular I’ll embrace the high intensity training model and go for hill reps up Dragon Hill – much as I did earlier in the year training for the White Horse Challenge.

I’ll couple that with weight reduction, where possible. The bike weighs in at about 7kg and I’m too mean to upgrade to Dura Ace to reduce that any further – but perhaps I’ll risk going without taking a spare tube and pump (or rather leaving them in the car).


Weapon of choice

I ride with a carbon saddle and want to keep that for lightness. It’s never been a problem (even for the triple Ventoux in 2015) but this could be a few hours too far for that? It needs thought.


Instrument of torture

As for me, I weighed in at about 65.3kg this morning (not too bad for 177.5m – 5’10” and 10 stone 4 in old money) so I’ll keep an eye on that. I wonder if I could lose a bit more without compromising on what little power I have?


Onwards to everest(ing)

The decks are now reasonably clear for my attempt at everesting in July.

Today was my first olympic distance triathlon. I enjoy really good health but haven’t felt great for a couple of days and woke at 5am this morning with a very sore throat, a blocked nose and an aching back. I did the only thing a man could do – I went to the triathlon anyway.

I put the wetsuit on, got into a pretty cold lake and began the swim. Almost immediately it became clear that it wasn’t going to work and I wasn’t going to shake it off – so I retired, ungraciously. The first time I have ever quit on something like that – I didn’t like doing it and I don’t want to do it again.

I’m really disappointed but there will be other triathlons, I’m sure. The only good news is that I can now start to think about training for my everesting, in ernest. Other posts have set out the plans but the training is a bit of an issue. It will be a long ride (something like 175 miles over about 20 hours or more), quite apart from the climbing (8848 metres).

How the heck do I train for something like that? That’s not an entirely rhetorical question – if anyone knows the answer I’d be grateful for guidance. Failing that, I assume it’s just a lot of cycling, both distance and hill reps. White Horse Hill here I come (again).

More everesting planning

So, what I know (or think I know) is that I’m going to have a go at everesting in July, using the climb between Les Carroz and the Col de Pierre Carree in the Haute Savoie. It’s about 11.5 km with a 725 m ascent at a fairly steady gradient in the order of 6.5%. It will take 12 and a bit reps to climb the necessary 8848 m. The distance to be cycled will be about 280 km (175 miles).

What I don’t know is how long it will take me – assuming I complete the ride – both on the bike and for rest and meals.

When I did the climb last summer (just once) it took about 54 minutes on the way up and 13 on the way back down. With no fall off of performance (which is completely unrealistic), that would indicate around 14 hours on the bike.

In 2015, the Cingle du Mont Ventoux (about 4500 m of climbing and 130 km so almost exactly half of an everesting) took 8 hours on the bike and 10.5 hours total time elapsed. Clearly double the climbing will mean even more extreme tiredness but that might be a bit offset by a friendlier gradient, less wind and no time being spent at the top (there is nothing but a col marker at the top of Pierre Carree although, to be fair, there is little of any merit at the top of Ventoux!).

All that seems to suggest being out for somewhere between 18 to 22 hours in total. Looking at the Hells 500 website, that fits reasonably well with the bulk of the elapsed times achieved by previous ‘everesters’, although the range is huge – between 9 and 40 hours.

Daylight hours in the alps at that time of year should be around 6 am to 21.15. I may be badly out but if 18 to 22 hours is realistic, it might make sense to start in the early hours to do the cycling in the dark while fresh, in the hope of finishing without too much riding in the dark at the end. It may be that starting like that also has a benefit from the normal boost sunrise can give.

Frankly, it’s just guesswork but it’s all I have to go on.

I’m with 5 friends on the trip to France – 3 of us are driving out together, one is driving from Germany where he lives and works and 2 are flying out to join us. I don’t want to mess up their cycling and none of them are mad enough to want to join me other than for a bit of company on a rep here and there.

My current thinking is that if the 3 of us drove out taking a shuttle in the early hours of the Saturday, we would arrive early afternoon. I could then try to catch up on some sleep while they got in an afternoon ride (if they want), eat with everyone in the evening and leave to do my attempt in the early hours on the Sunday.

God alone knows what shape I might be in for the rest of the week but that will have to take care of itself.

Does that sound like a plan?

A training checkpoint

I did my test circuit for the first time this year on 27 February. It’s a circuit of about 45 km through Faringdon, Clanfield, Bampton, Brize Norton, Carterton, Filkins, Lechlade, Buscot and back via Faringdon again.

In February I did it in 1:32:49 at an average speed of 29.2kph. I did the circuit again yesterday in 1:28:20 at an average of 30.7kph. It was very hard but not completely ruinous.

Admittedly, the first attempt was off a pretty low base but yesterday was still encouraging – at least it was for this Old Man In Lycra. It’s an average speed I’ve only once beaten – and that was in the first Velothon Wales which had closed roads and where I managed to hitch onto some really good trains. Yesterday was a solo ride.

Not exactly a scientific test but it looks like the lunges and hill reps I’ve done over the last couple of weeks are working well (even though the hill reps simply made one of my followers on Strava comment ‘bonkers … absolutely bonkers’). Hard to disagree to be honest. I’ll keep going with the hill reps to see if I can improve on the 12 reps I did in one session last week and on my PB of 4.40.

I know it’s beyond bonkers but I’m still intending to have a go at everesting in July.

Where and when to everest? Looking for Goldilocks

Having decided to try an ‘everest’, the first questions are where and when. The rules (http://www.everesting.cc/hells500/) say I have to choose a hill and simply cycle up and down it as many times as necessary to climb the height of Everest (8,848m). No time limit but no sleeping.

Steepness: That suggests that the hill shouldn’t be too steep (which might simply be too difficult over such a distance) or too shallow (if there were a road with just 1% incline, it would require c. 550 miles of cycling up it).

I guess that something in the order of 5-7% would be a reasonable compromise? At 5% it would mean in the order of 180km of cycling uphill (and the same distance down) for a total of 225 miles (to mix SI and imperial units). At 7% it would be a total distance of over 160 miles.

Length: A hill that’s too short will mean a possibly soul destroying number of ascents. The nearby Dragon Hill Road on the Ridgeway would need nearly 100 reps. That didn’t stop an everest attempt on it last summer that, I hear, failed after about 80 ascents – chapeau whoever made the attempt.

Time: The distance also brings into the equation the time it will take. My triple ascent of Ventoux took about 10 hours (with 6.5 of them cycling uphill) and is about half an everest. Unless I am going to be travelling a lot faster (and I have no grounds for believing that), this means that I’m likely to be cycling in the dark. I usually avoid that but it suggests that I should be making my attempt in the summer – and possibly further south – to maximise the amount of daylight.

To me, all that says that I should be looking at the alps, this summer – which is handy as, in July each year, I go out to the French Alps with friends. Even more handy is the fact that we are based in Les Carroz d’Araches in the Haute Savoie which is on the road to the Col de Pierre Carrée. The whole of the climb is 21km long and has an ascent of about 1350m, at a fairly steady 6.4%.

It’s a climb I’ve done before and would need just under 7 reps for the everest attempt. The main drawback is that the lower part of the climb can get a bit busy, even in the summer. The possible refinement, therefore, would be to do the climb from Les Carroz to the top of the col. That is about half the distance and half the ascent – and, importantly, should be fairly quiet as Flaine (the only place the climb leads to) has almost no summer season to talk of. It’s reasonably attractive too – I ran up 3.6 miles of it (for an altitude gain of 357m) with my younger son earlier in the month while out there skiing. He’s 37 years younger and in training for the Brighton Marathon so I was neither disappointed nor surprised to see him pull away from me on the way up!

So, I think I’ve found my Goldilocks hill. Not too steep, not too shallow; not too long, not too short: just right!

It could be about 13 reps of the road from Les Carroz to the top of the Col de Pierre Carrée in July this year. I think I’ll ask Will in due course – he has a great website about all things cycling in the Alps (and further afield) and who came up with terrific suggestions for climbs some years ago when I first started going out to the mountains to cycle in the summer. His website makes a great read at http://www.cycling-challenge.com


I’ll be 62 – I must be mad.

Some background

I’m not entirely sure what this blog is for or about. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a record of my year, perhaps it will just turn out to be about cycling and the pleasure I get from that. I will just wait and see.

It was the Tour de France that got me into cycling – but it was a slow burner.

I had bikes as a boy (when they were my only means of transport) but moved on to motorbikes and cars once I was 17. For some reason my attention was caught by Le Tour somewhere in the 1980s – I remember Greg LeMond’s win in 1986 and I was astonished by a sport which could be so beautiful and brutal.

I still didn’t have a bike at the time so it was an interest only as a follower from afar but I was hooked. I bought a mountain bike in the late 90s (at the time I bought bikes for my sons) but cycling was pretty well limited to the badlands that are Longleat Centre Parcs.

My interest in Le Tour was reinforced by the phenomenon that was Lance Armstrong. His story caught my imagination like little before or since. It turns out not to be quite as he told it (!) and it is, of course, not possible to condone the lying, cheating and bullying – but as far as I remember, it was him pushing the pedals round and he deserves a special place in my memories for that alone.

My first trip out to the alps to watch Le Tour was in 2003 when Philip (local GP, friend and cycling guru) and I saw them start a stage in Sallanches and then again in Borg d’Oisans as they climbed Alpe d’Huez and up on the Col de la Ramaz. I was completely unable to ride my mountain bike up Ramaz and that led me to buying a road bike (with a Fort steel frame) which I still have even though it has since been joined by 20 other bikes of various sorts.

I went out with the local cycling group from about 1998, but still didn’t really click as a cyclist until 2010 after I bought a carbon framed Giant TCR2 (£477 from Ebay).

I expect this all makes me the perfect cliche MAMIL but I was wondering if I still qualified for the ‘MA’ bit having reached 60. I checked on the internet and although there were a few places that defined middle age as ending up to 64, the consensus seemed to be that middle age ran from 40 to 60. One way or the other, it was clear that I would not be a MAMIL for ever unless the upper limit for middle age kept pace with me growing older. So, I am happily an OMIL – an old man in lycra.

By way of a bit of further background, I am no sort of athlete and am more enthusiastic than talented. Perhaps that is one of the blog’s purposes – to celebrate what enthusiasm and effort can make up for in the talent department.

I seem to have been born with almost no fast twitch muscle fibres so cannot sprint but I do have endurance and – with effort – am able to keep my weight under reasonable control. If I were a horse, I would be a one-paced stayer. That is reflected in my cycling which tends to involve longer rides and pointing the front wheel uphill.

As far as my palmares highlights go, I did the Etape du Tour in 2013, the Wiggle Dragon Ride (Gran Fondo) in 2014 and the first Velothon Wales in 2015. As part of my 60th year celebrations I completed L’Eroica (the original one in Tuscany) and then, on the drive back, stopped over near Bédoin in Provence to take on the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux challenge which requires riding up the mountain by each of the three roads, in a single day. Perhaps I’ll talk about those at some later date.

I am now toying with new challenges for this year; favourite is a go at everesting, of which there will certainly be more later – a great opportunity to obsess about place, time, weight, training, nutrition …

Weight this morning  (a beastly) 66.6kg. Yesterday was 67.4kg.