Translate by Luka Krnić
I suppose it is true that I was staring curiously at a piece of cake that was cunningly inviting and tempting me, until I finally finished it this Sunday. There was not much joy, moreso a type of sadness that the cake is gone. What remains is a good memory about daydreaming, some modest planning, even less preparing and …
The simplest explanation of Everesting is: 8848 m of altitude on a bicycle, which is how tall Mt. Everest is. The first to complete this challenge was the grandson of the legendary George Mallory, who cycled up and down Mt. Donna Buang in Australia 8 times (1069 m of altitude). He did it in preparation for Everest and published an article on his challenge on the website Cycling tips. Australian Andy van Bergen, cycling enthusiast, leader of the cycling team Hells 500, got an idea while reading the article. He picked 65 cyclers and a hill near his home. In February 2014, around 35 to 40 cyclers completed the challenge. He set up a website called Everesting, where you can read the rules and other important information, and a Hall of Fame with every victor to the challenge so far. The first Slovenian to ever conquer this challenge is Marko Baloh, who chose Trebeljevo for cycling, and completed the challenge in a time of 15:36:48. Everyone picks an ascent of their choice and uses Strava as proof. That’s that. The number of people who complete Everesting goes up each year, so now there are different variations of cycling Everesting. Half Everesting, 10k, which is 10000 m of altitude. It is possible to complete it on Zwift. Runners can also participate in it, with or without transport. One of the friends who helped me, Klemen Kovač, did Everesting in August 2020 on foot at Krvavec.
You need to conquer 8848 m of altitude. You pick a certain segment that you input on the official website and you get an exact number of ascents you have to do, and other data. The altitude also counts the descent.
The challenge needs to be completed in one go. There is no time limit, but you cannot sleep during it. You also cannot go over multiple segments. You need to pick only one and go only over it, you cannot ride in a circle. The segment you ascend up is the one you descend down. You can end the ride after 8848 m, but it is recommended that you do a few more for certainty. You cannot walk. Safety first. Moto of the official site is: “It only counts if you get back down from the mountain”.
Once you are done with the challenge, you submit proof to the official site. They verify it and if everything is right, you are put in the Hall of Fame.
First, I was shyly watching it from afar, but soon after I was already looking for a hill that would fit me best. It seems fairly simple, you just drive somewhere and ride your bike up and down. But it is not like that. When you dedicate yourself to the challenge, you realise that even the ride downhill is a discipline in of itself. Until you try, you underestimate the descent. I had a few places in mind: Šmarjetna gora, Pševo, Trebeljevo, Ljubljanski Gead, Možjanca, and Lubnik. I went over each of them a few times and quickly realised the important parts of the challenge. Of course, this counts for me personally. You need to differentiate between top notch cyclers who set records, and us, average amateurs who only want to finish the challenge. This requires you to try and minimise all external factors. I wanted the steepest hill possible that I could still normally go up and down on for 10 plus hours. When you are going down Šmarjetna gora you need to be extremely careful on each curve and after a few hours you are extremely tired from the descent alone. Many people said “just go up Vršič 10 times”. In theory, yes, but in practice, most refuse to descend from it after their first time. Personally, I wanted a hill that has something beautiful in it. A welcome bonus would be a terrace with coffee, but that would be too much. As soon as I saw last year that Laura Šimenc, with the help of her partner Miha Krama completed Everesting on Povlje, I started thinking. After a few minutes I realised that this will be the scene of my challenge.
What was left was the most important component – the head. You can be physically prepared, but if you aren’t in the right mindset, no physics will help. The opposite is possible, mentally you can compensate for some lack of training. So, I waited for the call. You can’t force this. For a long time, I’ve understood the philosophy of the sadly deceased Tomaž Humar. He once said that he goes when the mountain calls. Exactly that. For me the call was finding out I work on Saturday. Perfect, some rest, and then on Sunday action. First, I got in touch with Laura Šimenc, the Slovene record holder with a time of 11:31. I received some much needed advice. What followed was a search for people who were ready to help. As always, I was visualising the event in my free time, which helped incredibly. And the final day, classic… running around mad, resting as much as I can … buying food, drinks, and at the end taking a look at the track. There was loads of sand on the road which would end up being a challenge on the way down, so I went back, picked up a broom and got to sweeping. When someone walked by, I hid the broom. “What are you doing?” “Sweeping.” Why?” “I’ll go down this hill 100 times tomorrow.” Many people would alert the authorities after such a conversation. The biggest pile of sand was a few meters under the summit. There I only swept in the center of the road and left it at that. Plenty of space for a bicycle rider. A few minutes before 5 AM I began with the challenge. I knew beforehand that I couldn’t count the amount of times I did it. So I will just look at my watch. I baked some cookies, took a few chocolates, a bread roll and some water. Everything else was with Ivo, who arrives at around 11 AM, which was the only mistake. Although, that is just my description, which might not be correct at all. I had a supportive role in competitions before, and after I listened to the competitor it seemed like we weren’t even at the same event. The competitor is concentrated only on his work and nothing else interests him, while the people around him have a different perspective. I know that I personally am not very friendly at competitions, but that is purely because I am completely focused. Someone said that every move, every action, phrase, besides cycling is unnecessary. And I myself knew that I wasn’t physically prepared enough for this to be a cakewalk. So I tried to do everything else correctly. I rode in my own rhythm. The plan was that I eat and drink every 3rd lap, so around once every 24 to 27 minutes. The first 4 hours I was riding alone. The feeling was not great. Nothing special, nothing I could put my finger on, but something was not working. That is why I was overjoyed when Kovač Klemen joined me. He did at least 10 laps with me and during them Jure Šprajc also joined us. I tried to keep my eyes away from the watch. I knew that all I had to do was cycle and cycle. I turned off all apps on my phone besides Strava, that recorded my activity despite having a watch already. Soon others started joining us too and I really only did a few more laps by myself until the end. When Ivo arrived, we figured out we had no salt, only two packets of magnesium, who with the help of my clumsiness went to the floor instead of my mouth. This is where I really ****** up, and the consequences followed swiftly. The heat and steaminess started picking up too. And only water for a few hours without any vitamins, minerals or any of the like. And all of a sudden I feel as if I had a wire stretched from my knees across my thighs. Crazy, what is this now. I immediately take a break. It was almost impossible that I pulled a muscle since I was riding slowly. Nothing, I go on. On the way up, though, the first cramp. And immediately another break. So far I am still calm. And then the next time going up I get another cramp in my thigh, the bottom part under the knee and my sole. And as a bonus a dull pain across my thigh. This gives me a scare. Another break. When I’m still experiencing cramps while laying down is definitely the hardest moment. I never had to deal with cramps, I don’t know how to react, let it hurt or not. With that pain, however, I felt like my thigh was going to explode. Luckily, Medo came soon who gives me a massage. And the next few laps go fine. I get off the bike a few times when the cramps pick up so hard that they don’t go away until I lie down on the road and stretch my leg. And a massage again, some laps… helping at the summit are Ivo, Miha Šlibar, Miha Zdešar, Aleš Bizovičar, and during the rides Mitja Čebokli, Tomaž Šink, Matej Hauptman, Jaka Berger. Everyone does a few laps with me. And at the summit they get some salt, magnesium and other important ingredients, which they give to me when I need them. I don’t have a system for eating anymore, I eat what they give me. The cramps ruined me physically and especially mentally. You never know when the next one will hit. I try to go over the steep part in a higher gear, but it only made me more tired. Day is slowly turning into night. It gets colder, the cramps calm down, and I can do more consecutive laps. When there is no one to accompany me, Ivo gets on a bike with me. And he does a lap or two. Yes, definitely. If my friends weren’t here, I would have definitely resigned. But with their presence it felt embarrassing. A person comes to help, and I say that I give up. No. So I got back on the bike, step by step. And the number finally came under 10. That’s when I took my final break. I had one more planned, but it was not necessary. With every minute I felt better. The final to last lap I finally cut myself some slack. Earphones in my ears, the ones who know me know what opera was happening under Storžič, and everything was easier. About 300 meters, and then the system broke down. Before the steep part I lost all energy, and finally just steered from one side of the road to the other so I got to the end. But it was worth it. One last time. I wanted to do another one to be sure I got over 8848 m, but Ivo convinced me that I had enough. No euphoria, maybe it still comes.
They deserve to be at the top of the article, but the publisher doesn’t allow it. KLEMEN KOVAČ, JURE ŠPRAJC, MIHA ŠLIBAR, IVO ŠVRLJUGA, MIHA ZDEŠAR, MATEJ MEDVED, MATEJ HAUPTMAN, MITJA ČEBOKLI, TOMAŽ ŠINK, JAKA BERGER, a hundred times thank you for the company and help. Everything went perfectly, all I had to do was push on my bike and they did everything else. A huge thank you to Laura Šimenc for the theoretical help. As an interesting fact for the triathlon addicts, in the idyllic environment under Storžič, 6 different Ironmen cycled that day, with collective 47 Ironmans completed. As I am writing this, I’m getting chills, you really did great. Thank you.
FOOD AND DRINKS
The plan to eat every 3rd lap quickly went to nothing, which was not the smartest thing, but that was mainly my problem. Later on, they made sure to satisfy all my needs with vitamin energy mixes. Some were probably so strong that I would have failed dope control. As previously mentioned, the second part of the day I gave myself in to the team. What they gave me I took, threw a little away, there was also some problems with throwing up. But let’s put it like this: 3 rolls with cheese, some homemade cookies, around 8 gels, 1 ice cream, some salty snacks like chips, a banana here and there… With drinks it was mostly water, some coca cola, mineral water, energy mix, only one coffee, and for the first time, in time of the worst crisis a beer, which helped immensely.
My opinion will probably change with time, but as of now, I have never suffered for such a long time. Physically and mentally. Physically I was completely destroyed by cramps, and the mental strain came from having to cycle for the whole day on the same road, with the same rhythm. The hill was about 1 km long. Half of it I did in the second highest gear, then the highest, on the way down I didn’t change anything and so on. Nearing the end someone had an idea so every lap I did an additional 100 to 200 m to change up the rhythm a bit.
This year I did 2000 km, which is the least I did in the last 8 years. However, I did do a lot of alpine skiing. Altitude is altitude, after all. I did 2 bicycle tours with 2000 m altitude, and one with 3000 m. I did a test run on Povlje, where I did 30 laps so I had an idea about what fits me and how it’s easiest for me.
I definitely should have ate more, maybe even drunk. Before all I should have taken care of the magnesium, salt … Ideally I would have had someone to keep me company for the first 4 hours, since later on every unnecessary action comes back with interest. Theoretically it would have been better that I attempted this a few weeks later, so I would have gotten used to the heat, but those are trivialities.