Now he's had time to ruminate, cogitate and digest, Andrew has had a chance to write up his first Everest. I say first, because he's bound to do another one. Seems to have been bitten by the bug. I suspect it was some kind of radioactive spider. It's left his mind warped and his body superhuman. Or maybe he's caught something off one of those hills. Either way, here's what the Ebbanator has to say about #Ebberest.
“Everesting” first came to my attention about two years ago. I think that one of the online cycling sites carried an article about it and I thought it was both amazing and somewhat crazy. As many of you know, I have a hill climbing partner in crime in Michael Jervis, and we absent-mindedly discussed it, trying to get our heads around the various challenges it presented.
People tend to focus upon the climb, but it’s also the distance that you need to overcome. There is a fine balance between ascent and distance on any hill you use for an Everest. With a steep hill, you gain ascent quickly and you end up with a shorter total distance, but it is really tough to climb. A longer, shallower hill is great, but then you can end up riding well in access of 200 miles in order to achieve the required 8,848m of climb you need. I identified two potential climbs that might be suitable, Carr Lane and the main road up to Hardwick Hall. I knew both climbs well, they were local so I knew that support might be more forthcoming (compared to a hill out in the Peak) and they seemed to offer a balance between climb and distance. Whilst I continued to think about it, it wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind. I carried on with other challenges like the Tour of the Highlands and ticking off more of Simon Warren’s Greatest Climbs. But I couldn’t get rid of the idea completely.
So, the next stage was to become more practical and I needed to analyse the differences between the climbs I’d identified. Carr Lane has an ascent of 100m exactly, meaning I would need to do 89 reps (in theory) to hit the climb target. At a length of 1.5km, this would mean a total ride of 267km or 166 miles. Alternatively, Hardwick had 77m of ascent, but was longer at 1.9km. Whilst this meant that Hardwick was “easier”, with an average gradient of 4% (versus 6.6% on Carr Lane), it also meant I would need to rack up 115 reps, with a total distance of 436km or 271 miles if I was to achieve my goal. The main appeal of the Hardwick climb though was that, once the front gate is locked at about 6.30pm, it gives a safe bit of closed road to ride up and down. But, given the distance, there was no way I was going to be able to do it overnight and the three cattle grids would be tough on every ascent and descent. Decision made: Carr Lane it was!
I’d already climbed Carr Lane plenty of times, completing a “Nevis” of 14 reps in 2015. I began including it in my regular evening rides, and also set myself a target of adding additional climb into my weekly totals. A mild winter this year meant that, bar one occasion, all of my riding has been outside on the road. That allowed me to hit Carr Lane regularly and I was often completing 3-5 reps in the freezing cold and dark. But that’s an amazing experience. You end up in a little bubble generated by your bike lights. You are focused on just the 20-30 metres ahead and know when cars are approaching due to their headlights. So long as it was dry, it was great and helped me complete the Strava climbing challenges through the winter. I began to think about the kit I’d need and looked further into the “Rules” of Everesting to ensure that I hadn’t missed anything. The final thing that persuaded me to have a go was that, about 6-8 weeks ago, someone Everested Rowsley Bar by riding up it 41 times! I don’t really like Rowsley Bar, it’s a really tough hill and the traffic going up and down means that, for me, it’s not a hill I have connected with. However, I looked at the guy’s Strava data and found that I had competed far more distance and climb than he had. If he could do it on Rowlsey, then I needed to have a go at Carr Lane – game on.
I had to move the date back due to both the club’s 2-up time-trial and the WToB that took place on the 10th June. I’d ridden for three days in Shropshire with various club colleagues over Whitsun weekend and the miles and climb in my legs from that needed to be used to my advantage. 3rd June was too soon after, 10th was out, so the 17th was set. I told Michael who, although saying I was mad, then threw himself into fully supporting me, committing to come and start early and do as many as he could. John Pattison, who at the time was off wheels due to breaking his collarbone, also provided a sounding board. Strangely, neither of them expressed a desire to do it all with me.
I’d planned to let people know, but didn’t want to raise awareness unduly and then have to change my plans at the last minute for any reason. It was a personal challenge and I didn’t want to put further pressure on myself. Janey, my wife, had made me commit to pulling out if I was really struggling on the day, and that is one of the reasons why I didn’t look at doing it for charity. Personally, I’d have been satisfied with a 5,000m climb ride, the first time I’d have done that, but I would have felt something of a failure if my charity goal wasn’t achieved. So I gradually told a few more people and gauged their reaction. Well, their reaction after they laughed and told me I was mad.
As the day approached, I watched the weather forecast. It started at 21 degrees with a tailwind of 17mph (good news), changed midweek to 19 degrees with a 10mph tailwind (even better) and then, with a day or so to go, it looked like 25 degrees and a minimal tailwind. Hmm, kit was changed over, additional water purchased, more hydration sachets added. Michael loaned me his Garmin as I was concerned that the battery on mine would run out, and it couldn’t easily be charged on the move. The bike had already been services, but had developed an annoying creak, so went back in to stop me going insane, brakes were checked, spares assembled, food purchased (including the necessary pork pies) and, finally, everything was ready to go. I nipped up to Carr Lane on the Friday after work to check for any last minute problems (potholes, broken glass, gravel etc) and swept the turning area at the bottom. Returning home, I felt as ready as possible and packed my stuff into the car and, knowing it was going to be an early morning (and a long day) I planned an early night. And then I had a couple of glasses of Prosecco and went to bed at 10.30!
My alarm went off at 4am and I had my normal breakfast, got my last few bits sorted, and headed out of the door at 4.50am. Michael had messaged me to say that he was up, but his body didn’t seem to want to function normally at 4am, so at least I knew that he would be there for the start. I drove through Sutton Scarsdale (avoiding numerous pigeons that were just sitting in the road) and up the hill for a final check and found that the road had been decorated with various motivational phrases since I’d been there the night before. Michael was waiting at the top in Palterton and we both admired the view, with the Peak District hills away in the distance. I drove back down to the bottom, parking up in what I hoped would be a shaded spot later in the day, and off we went.
My aim was to do 9 minute loops (bottom to top and back again) with a 7 minute climb and a 2 minute descent. With 6 reps an hour, that would give me 6 minutes every hour to refill bottles, have some food etc. I felt really comfortable straight away. I’d had a few concerns over my left leg in the three days beforehand, tight muscles, but had convinced myself that it was just my mind playing tricks on me and, as soon as I’d warmed up, I felt good. Dave Gallop turned up early on his way to work and provided encouragement and took a few pictures and then Michael and I settled into paces that we were individually comfortable with. This meant that, after the first 6 reps, I was about half a rep in front. We stopped, refreshed water, had a bite to eat and off we went again. At about 7.30, Neil Fryer arrived as planned and brought coffee, which was appreciated and is a required part of any bike ride in my opinion. Neil pointed out that he was unfortunately on his CX bike, and that it was heavy, and had cx tyres, and only 10 gears, and that the tyre was a bit flat, and then joined us on the hill. Michael carried on until about 8.30, having done 17 reps himself, and then departed to deal with family duties. Mike Leaney joined me for about an hour and settled in alongside me, providing someone to chat to as a distraction and good pacing. Martin Bradley arrived too and joined in for a couple of hours until both he and Neil had to leave at about 9.30. It was all going well, I was easily hitting the 7 minute goal I’d set, without pushing too hard, and the weather was lovely. Between 9.30 and 10.30, I knew I’d likely be on my own, but Greg Barker, and then John Pattison, Matt Hazelhurst (one of the road decorators!) and David Colley all appeared to add their support. Steve Ellam arrived and took photos of us going up and down the hill (before heading off to do “Bad to the Bone”) and various walkers, runners and other cyclists appeared now and again, trying to figure out what was going on before disappearing in various directions. Traffic was quite steady, possibly because of the car boot sale at Twin Oaks Hotel but, throughout the day, there were no real issues with cars on the hill.
Janey and Lizzie arrived at about 10.30 and brought welcome iced coffee and hugs, and further words of encouragement, although there was concern about the rising temperature. I assured Janey that I’d be sensible before they went off and I settled back into my routine. It was great to see Jay at 11ish as she had been in an accident earlier in the week. As usual, she arrived via a circuitous route, adding about 7 miles onto a 16 mile ride to get there! To me, it now seemed that riders were arriving every 15 minutes. I’d come down the hill to find people waiting, and then ride back up and people would be at the top. Some brought extra water as well as food, cans of coke – the back of my car was rapidly filling up and my organisational OCD started to kick in before I put it back in its box
Over the first 5 hours/30 reps, I was riding well within my target time, but from about 11am onwards, the first signs of fatigue and heat started to slow me down. Save for the middle section, there isn’t much shade and, as the sun moved around closer to midday, the top section particularly was extremely hot, with the tarmac also reflecting it upwards. At this point, my 6 rep pattern went out of the window and changed to 4 at a time, but even this wasn’t giving me the rest I needed, and gradually my repeats got slower and slower. I was taking on plenty of water, and plenty of electrolytes but, by mid-afternoon, having achieved my initial target of 50 reps/5,000m, I sat at the top of the hill eating an iced lolly and drinking a coke provided by Jay and Dave, looking at the people around me thinking “What shall I do?” I decided to persevere, slowly, keep chatting to maintain my focus and to be very wary if I began to develop a headache, or feel chilled. But then, Libby and Shaun Clarke arrived - with a massive container of iced water. Rather than filling my water bottle, I asked that it be tipped over my head and back. I carried on doing one or two reps at a time, getting regular drenchings at the top, drinking fluids and I gradually began to feel as though I was getting over the bad patch. I had a strong group of riders around me including a couple of non-club members, Rob and John, plus Martin Nicholls and Patrick Murphy, who just pedalled up and down with me. I can’t recall what we talked about (apart from Patrick’s socks, which were the brightest of the day) I was just focusing on ticking each one off.
Even now, writing this account, I have got no clue when people came and went through the afternoon. But gradually the temperature began to drop very slightly, a small breeze began to blow and a little bit more shade appeared. Sharon Macarthy arrived at the bottom, bringing all manner of sandwiches, gels and drinks and Mike joined me again to do more reps to add to the ones he’d done in the morning. I did a rep with Richard Brown and his son, Will, and another one with Tim and George Cooper. Absolutely brilliant to be riding up that hill with the two youngsters (sorry, not you Richard and Tim!), seeing their youthful enthusiasm and trying to harness some of their spirit to see me through the coming hours.
And then Michael came back, and Neil, Steve Crapper turned up, Matt Hazelhurst unexpectedly came back. Rob returned after a brief trip home, Simon Randall appeared. And then the temp came down again, and it began to get more manageable. We started to tick off blocks of two or three, or even four at a time. A bit of banter returned to the ascents, with one rep being dominated with Fast Show quotes (isn’t Carr Lane brilliant!). I continued to look expectantly into the Peroni box dumped at the side of the road near the top, hoping that there might be a cold bottle in there, although I would never have been able to stomach a beer. And people began to gather at the top and bottom. My phone continued to ping away, notifying me of the updates that were being put on Facebook by various people. Shaun and Libby reappeared (Libby with a G&T) at the top, along with David Colley, sporting two bottles of beer. Lights were installed on bikes and the descents slowed somewhat, but everyone in the group knew the lines to take by now. Gradually the number completed rose past 70, then 75 and finally passing 80 with everyone announcing we were into single figures. Unfortunately, my sums told me otherwise! Looking at the ascent, I wasn’t so sure, I thought we’d need another one to be safe, but kept it quiet for a bit longer.
At the bottom, Janey and Lizzie had returned earlier with chips and it was great to see them at the end of each descent, although Lizzie seemed to be more interested in exploring Dave Martin’s camper van than the crazy thing her dad was doing. Dave produced a miracle cup of tea, together with an even better malt loaf bar and that just rejuvenated me. Unknown to me, or just simply not remembered, Michael had headed off at about 10.30 having racked up an amazing 28 reps. And then I was down to 5 reps and I decided that we would indeed need to do another one, just to be safe and all those riding with me just took it on the chin and said “let’s do it!” It had now turned quite cold at bottom and extra layers were required although Rob was still riding in a sleeveless top until about the last 5 reps when even he had to grab a jacket from his car.
With two to go, I asked Janey to head up to the top of the hill. Lizzie was fast asleep in the front seat of the car, having lasted until about 11:30pm, but woke up ready to greet me when I finished. The 89th rep left me about 14 metres short of my target, so we all dropped down the hill for the final time and started the last one. Spirits were back on the up, legs felt lighter and I knew that I’d done it. As we came round the corner at the top, the group of people who had stayed clapped and cheered, I got pats on the back from the riders around me and I finally crossed the line at about 12:20am, 19 hours after starting.
It was a strange feeling to finish. I was delighted that I could now get off the bike and I was very ready for a shower. I was completely stunned by the level of support through the day and that there were still people around to see me finish at gone midnight – people were clearly mad! The group of riders who did the last few hours with me all got great thanks, the banter and encouragement made those last hours seem like a much shorter period of time. Doing a little self-assessment, my hands ached from holding the bars for so long and I’d developed blisters on the heel of my hands from when my gloves were wet earlier in the day. The only other cramp I’d had was in my feet, but I’d kept flexing my toes and thankfully that hadn’t been too much of an issue. Matt Hazelhurst helped me save my ride on the Garmin, and then it was time to drop down the hill a final time to load up my car and head home.
Slowly the realisation of what I’d done was beginning to dawn on me. I sat at home after putting Lizzie to bed, enjoying a cup of tea (nothing celebratory at that stage, I just couldn’t stomach it) and some cereal and toast, and just tried to piece the day together. The hours in the middle of the afternoon were some of the toughest I have spent on a bike and Janey did express her ‘frustration’ that I hadn’t called her so she could be there. But I was pleased that I’d generally made sound decisions and was sure that if I hadn’t had the benefit of the iced water, I would have stopped and felt comfortable with that. My bike had performed faultlessly, the kit I wore through the day had been comfortable, I’d drunk plenty (I reckon about 18 litres of fluids), struggled a little with food and I’d enjoyed the company of so many riders. I logged my ride on Strava and laughed at the elevation profile (crocodile teeth), marvelled at the fact I’d used 10,000 calories and finally acknowledged that I’d spent 19 hours on Carr Lane. People were right, I was a bit mad.
Post event, I was relatively okay, far better than I’d imagined I would be. My legs certainly ached, but not to the point where I couldn’t walk up and down stairs. Apart from my hands, which were bruised, I’d held up pretty well. I kept drinking fluids to rehydrate (admittedly, there was some celebratory alcohol on Sunday afternoon), had a massive English breakfast that hardly touched the sides and went for a stroll in the shade at Hardwick to stretch my legs. I read through some of the posts and messages from the day (there were hundreds) and registered my ride with “Hells 500” for the official Everest register, which is run by Veloviewer.
It was an amazing day, one I will never forget. The ride itself was very much part of that but I still can’t get over the support I received from everyone. I’ve named certain people above, but wanted to highlight a few people again for special thanks. Firstly, Janey and Lizzie put up with a lot from me as I’m always planning things or actually riding, their patience and support is very much recognised and appreciated. Big thanks go to Michael Jervis for his support beforehand and on the day. It shouldn’t be forgotten that he, along with several other riders, did a significant number of reps on the day too, Michael finishing with 28. Neil Fryer did 25 reps and offered his usual encouragement and dry humour and, alongside my neighbour, Rob, (who dug deep to complete 27 reps) especially made things seem much easier as the day drew to a close. Yet again, the members of Bolsover and District Cycling Club surpassed themselves and made me so proud to be part of this fantastic club.