Words: Jiří Fikejz Photos: Kristina Běloušková
The Everest Challenge, or Everesting, is a classic endurance challenge for athletes, which involves climbing the amount of elevation equal to the height of Mount Everest, which is 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level. Adding to the list of those who have attempted it, Jens Voigt and a few Czech people took on the challenge at the beginning of 2017. I do one long (over 300 km) endurance training session every year to train my psychological endurance and morale, but wanted to push my limits this year and see how my body responds to such a long session of climbing. Before that, I had never ridden more than 4000 meters in a single ride and I had great respect for those who had climbede more than twice that. I chose our favorite hill in Ústí nad Orlicí, which is known as "Andrlák". Motorsport fans know the hill from uphill races and it is an ideal place for stress training for cyclists. The elevation gain of the hill is 230 meters and the length of the climbing route is 3.6 kilometers. To successfully complete the Everest Challenge, it was necessary to complete the climb almost 40 times. I did not have any extra preparation before the ride; it was only necessary to be well rested- and mentally prepared for the long day.
I started at 7.30 a.m. More and more enthusiasts gradually began to appear on the hill to push their limits. I wanted to ride my first twenty rides up at a pace of 15 minutes per uphill ride, which corresponds to 260 W or also 3.75 W / kg. I was feeling very well, ate three times per hour and it was no problem to joke with my companions, including my friend Mark, who went on roller skis. Regular energy intake and consistent tempo is the recipe for success when Everesting. After seven and a half hours of riding, I slowed down and extended my times by one minute per uphill ride, but my legs still worked well and everything looked like my endurance D-Day. We had great refreshments prepared for us at the top of the hill from lunchtime; refreshments are really important for these kinds of feats. Not only is it important to have knowledge of your own limits, but sufficient energy intake is also a necessity. I remembered an article written by Dan Polman about the World Championships of ultra long distance athletes and I tried not to experience some of the situations they got themselves in. A major topic was what to eat while making such a great effort. I chose rice with dried ham and parmesan cheese, corn sandwiches, bananas, raw snack bars, sweet rice with nuts, and homemade gluten-free muffins. I certainly do not recommend that anyone eat poor quality sweets or heavy meals that are tasty but totally inappropriate during similar challenges. I drank water, light ionic drinks, Red Bull Cola and non-alcoholic beer.
After nine hours of riding, my first difficulties began to appear. I was breathing poorly, and my overloaded cervical muscles caused me unpleasant pain when swallowing and moving my head from side to side. Even then I didn't even think once about giving up. I was frozen on the downhill and did not take off my winter vest even on my uphill ride. It was already dark when I was finishing my last 300 vertical meters. I was feeling chilly, so I rode only at the top of the hill, because I suffered more while riding downhill than uphill. Tears were running out of my eyes for the last ten minutes and I was wrapped in a scarf because the cold air was making my breathing worse as I was counting down the last meters of the challenge. At the top of the hill, I was helped down from my bicycle and I wrapped myself in a blanket. I felt as if I had come back from a space mission and could not walk after being in a weightless state. I felt a state of complete psychological exhaustion and relief overcome me. At that moment, only Petr Novák, the ski alpinist and mountain adventurer, was there with me; he managed the height of Everest together with me.
I must also mention the performance of others; Lukáš Elčkner, the leading Czech cadet in XCO, managed to overcome the height of almost 7,400 meters, which is incredible at his age. On top of that, he managed it with the lightest gear of 39-28 on his road bike. Gabina Matějíčková also tackled over 7,000 meters and always had a smile on her face! Honza Hurák and Martin Blaho set their wonderful personal record and reached over 5,000 meters of climbing.
I would like to thank my parents, my girlfriend and everyone who supported us on this beautiful and long day!