Everest-ing During the Pandemic by an Indian Cyclist

By Anupam Gupta, an IT solutions architect, avid photographer, cyclist and runner, based in Greater Noida.

I recently became a virtual Everester (Yeah yeah yeah!). This put me in the ‘Hall of Fame’ on everesting.cc website. Many fellow cyclists wanted to know more about this concept, why and how I did it. So, here’s the full story.

What is Everesting anyway?

The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. The first event described as “Everesting” was done by George Mallory, grandson of mountaineer George Mallory who unfortunately disappeared on Everest in 1924.

“Complete the challenge on a bike, on foot, or online, and you’ll find your name in the ‘Hall of Fame’, alongside the best climbers in the world” says the website everesting.cc

Now, virtual Everesting means doing it on an indoor smart cycling training, recording your activity on one of these two cycling apps – Zwift or RGT. You must also record your activity on Strava app; here’s my Strava log, and submit your stats to the folks at everesting.cc for approval.

Why I did virtual Everesting

Well let’s talk about the “why” now –

So, this pandemic made me, like many of us, stay indoors. A few of us chose to continue staying indoors even when the lockdown was lifted and it was business as usual for the rest of the world. Maybe we were too chicken hearted or just playing safe as Corona cases continued to rise around us and one wondered ‘Is it really safe to step outside?’

So what does a guy like me who loves outdoors do when he can’t or just won’t go outside? He buys himself a direct drive cycling trainer (in April of 2020), and begins pedaling at home. Two months down the line he feels he should try more than just an hour of pedaling at home for a few days a week. vEveresting takes his fancy and he tries that. Oh the ‘he’ here is me! Let me switch back to the first person to avoid confusion here.

Now for me to attempt Virtual Everesting there was a big mental block. I’m typically an anti-indoor-trainer guy who feels it’s a waste of money and time to buy and ride on one. But since I bought it (a Minoura Kagura DD), I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I told myself – ‘The boredom will be there, it’ll be sweaty and messy indoors but don’t worry, just do it man’. That’s really it. The ‘how’ follows.

How I did virtual Everesting

My first two attempts in June were not successful. In the first I did not take a mandatory U-turn after a descent. In the second I started late on Saturday; that would have gobbled up my Sunday (the next day) and so I abandoned it with a promise that I’ll be back. And I was, on June 6, 2020 at 12:18 hours IST. I couldn’t start any earlier as my mornings are always busy in household chores.

As preparation I cleaned my bike’s drivetrain squeaky clean with WD40 and dry lube. I cooked my food pre-ride. My nutrition was a steady intake of water along with fruit juice (litchi juice), porridge and one bout of tea. The day before I ate carb-heavy meals in breakfast (roti intake doubled), lunch and dinner. That’s really it in terms of intake - no gels, no electrolytes, no bananas etc.

The key thing was that I had made up my mind to not exert myself much, to pedal mostly in zone 2 for my HR and not go to zone 4 or 5 at all. So, I played with this plan, stayed in zone 2 mostly, zone 3 seldom, and in zone 1 at times too. This worked like clockwork - the body kept going and going. During descents, I simply got off saddle and quickly lay flat on the bed with my feet up on a chair or pillow to get the blood flowing back from the legs. This works in outdoor ultra-rides and worked here too. My feet became lighter like magic. At times taking off my bib shorts and just wrapping myself in a towel for 10 minutes for descent helped too.

To keep the mind occupied, web series and some office work on the laptop helped. But that can’t go on for 18 hours can it? So, at times it was just a ‘thinking nothing, seeing nothing, feeling nothing’ kind of a ride; eyes closed and constant pedaling. I did this madness in my study room which has my trainer setup. No AC, only a fan with a door to the balcony open for ventilation.

I realized, it’s not a speed game at all, it’s a game in which the tortoise, from the tortoise and hare story, wins. The hare here is your own devious mind that may tell you - you are going slow Anupam (avg speeds of 7-12 kmph is damn slow right?), you can do it fast and get over with it sooner, oh just push hard on descents to begin climbing soon etc etc. NO. The hare is wrong or let’s say it’s not my friend. I chose the tortoise. It said to me - go in zone 2, 3 buddy… go slow, just chug along… you don’t have to go home after this, you don’t need catch a train… just go slow. The legs said - slip into lower gears if need be, no worry… there’s no heroism here in trying to grind hard… just keep the legs spinning easy, don’t rest too much, don’t rest too little… listen to your body - that’s the only friend you have here.

And like this, it was done! What’s next? Well, to remove the v from vEveresting. Soon fellas!

I’ll end with the words of my mother “You guys are mad, just mad, I don’t understand why you guys do this" or maybe with the thought of Edmund Mallory who was asked why he wanted climb Mt Everest and simply said, “Because it’s there”.