Tag Archives: Everesting

vEveresting: Reaching the summit

Mount Everest has called to adventurers for over a century. Many of those who reached for the summit failed such as George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924. Many have experienced success since that time, but only two men can claim the distinction of being the first to crest the highest peak in the world: Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of India.

Climbing Everest has become more than an act by a select number of mountaineers. It has come to represent any attempt to achieve something that stretches human endurance that only a few dare and fewer still obtain. It is the call to a summit top experience.

10556487_1381306305526641_2263816333020543617_nOn June 13, 2015 in his own way, Frank Garcia followed in the footsteps of Hillary and Norgay. His summit was to be the first to “summit” using a new category of Everesting. He planned to climb the height of Mount Everest on his bicycle without actually going anywhere.

This is possible because Frank had access to Zwift’s indoor cycling software. This allows a rider to combine a virtually created world for cyclists with real world cycling components to give the user a near on-road experience. With this software and a bicycle connected to a smart trainer, Frank was ready to begin his adventure.

So after a fitful night of sleep with anticipation keeping him awake, Frank mounted his saddle a little behind schedule. We’ve probably all had that feeling when we get a late start to a race or charity ride. Sometimes the most nerve racking part is just getting on the bicycle!

The fear that he would not be able to stay awake for the entire 20 to 23 hours he had allowed for the attempt weighed on his mind as he began those first turns of his pedals. Would he be able to continue that long, or would some technical glitch or a saddle sore undermine him? But encouraged by his wife and children there with him, Frank set off for the summit. Little did he know the family he would find along the journey.

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He made the first climb up the .2 mile stretch of virtual asphalt. He would most likely ride over the “Shut Up Legs” chalk graffiti scrawled across his path over 300 times as he repeatedly climbed 94 feet each effort up the 7% grade. This was more than a physical exercise. It would be a test of his mental strength.

I asked him if he ever felt like giving up.

“There wasn’t a time I felt like giving up, there were many.”

That is when Frank began to find a family he never realized was there for him.

“It just didn’t seem like an option to give up as a team had formed and now it was about them too, and I didn’t want to let them down. Hours 12-14 on the bike where the worst. I was going really slow, but the team pulled me through. Julynn Washington’s words of encouragement were most helpful and just the fact that she was there the whole time.”

However, it wasn’t all about fighting through adversity. Through the pain and suffering of the mental and physical effort, Frank was buoyed by the magical thing happening around him. What could have been a lonely and draining effort became an experience of community and support.

Jonathan Lemon and Ken Bitting supporting Frank. -- Photo by Julynn Washington

Jonathan Lemon and Ken Bitting supporting Frank. — Photo by Julynn Washington

“It is hard to point out a moment that meant the most to me. Really it was the whole ride because there were all these people there supporting me.  People I didn’t even know before. It was such an honor to be the focus of that support.”

That isn’t to say that it was easy, or that even having people attempting to offer support always had positive consequences. As is often the case in these types of endeavors, good intentions can sometimes get in the way. Frank experienced this during some of the many times he attempted to make a u-turn to start another repeat of the climb.

“I was getting frustrated with u-turns, because you can’t make them when someone is next to you. This usually happens with ‘sticky’ artificial intelligence guys generated by the software that won’t leave your side.  Anyway Jim Purtell was being a trooper and doing climbs with me after one of these frustrating periods (there were a ton of AI guys out during the attempt) and he was next to me and I got mad.  He went and told his wife I was losing my mind (which about that time I was).  Great thing was, next morning, you know who was out helping me again? Jim Purtell!”

Frank Garcia's setup for his Virtual Everesting attempt. -- Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

Frank Garcia’s setup for his Virtual Everesting attempt. — Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

Other riders came to cheer him along the way. Some logged in and watched from the side of the road. Many used the messaging function within Zwift to send “shouts” Frank’s way. For the man who was the focus of this support he was quick to give these angels on wheels their due.

“These folks made all the difference in the world. It gave me something to focus on other than the pain. I kept telling myself, just follow those wheels Frank, just follow those wheels. Ken Bitting did over 10,000 feet of climbing with me!”

And climb they did. According to Strava, Frank Garcia pedaled his bicycle 17 hours 18 minutes and 54 seconds. He covered 163.8 miles in distance and 29,697 feet in elevation (consider he also descended that much… where would that take him!?!) He started June 13, 2015, at 10:32 PM Watopia time. He stopped the clock on June 14, 2015, at 10:29 PM Watopia time. That means he was reaching for the summit just shy of 24 hours.

“Well I want to say there was elation when I finished, but really I wanted to puke.” Frank told me after a good night sleep. “So that dampened my enthusiasm right then. I was happy I reached ‘the summit’ for the impromptu team that formed and I was happy it was over. Today the satisfaction of having done it is starting to sink in.”

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Click the image to donate.

Why? Well, part of it is simply the spirit of Mallory and Hillary. Being the first to ever “vEverest” on Watopia — or anywhere for that matter — was appealing, but it was also an opportunity to join the large support network of cyclists and runners who “Climb For Nepal” during the month of June. Frank joined them in raising money for people affected by recent natural disasters in Nepal.

The Zwift community has rallied around Frank in this endeavor as well. As of the time this article was being written, the total amount raised by Frank’s efforts exceed $9,000 (including a matching gift). There is no doubt he will accomplish his second summit by raising over $10,000 by the end of June.

Frank has no doubt.

“I see in the news all the time where people of different backgrounds might not be getting along. I wish there were more reports of this kind of stuff where people of all different backgrounds from all over come together to help each other out. I know that humans can be bad but they can also be amazingly good.”

You can be a part of that goodness by supporting Frank’s ClimbForNepal efforts at his MoreThanSports.org fundraising page.

Witness Everesting History

It is not everyday you get to see something that has never happened before. I don’t mean something small. I’m talking about something epic… something long, monumental, and is accomplished by only a few. Tomorrow we have a chance.

Frank Garcia, of Tucson, Arizona will be attempting to Everest on Zwift’s Watopia Island. “What is that?” you might ask. Well, we’ve got three things to cover here… Watopia, Everesting, and Frank.

Everesting

For the full experience, go here to the official Everesting site. However, let me summarize for you here. To “Everest” on a bicycle is to climb the equivalent of the height of Mt. Everest by riding repeats on a incline meeting the rules set forth by the official arbiters of the adventure. In this case, Hells 500.

What are the rules? Again, visit the official site for all the nitty-gritty. Here are the ones most germane to understanding the attempt.

  • Rides must only focus on one hill or mountain per ride
  • Rides cannot be loops
  • Rides must be full ascents each time
  • The 8,848m is taken as your total elevation gain
  • It does not matter how long the ride takes, but it must be ridden in one attempt
  • Rides…  must be able to be correctly verified in order to qualify

So, here is an example. The closest large climb from my home is Paris Mountain. From the base of the climb to the top of Tower Road is roughly 900 feet. This means to Everest on that location I would need to…

  1. Start at the base of the climb and ride up to the top of Tower Road
  2. Turn around and ride back to the bottom
  3. Repeat that scenario 32 times (bringing total climbing to 29,029 feet)
  4. If I could average 20 minutes per climb, that would take nearly 11 hours
  5. You can obviously stop to eat and take care of natural needs — so you are talking a long day in the saddle

The first person to record an Everlasting attempt was George Mallory of Australia. Ironically, this George is the grandson of famous British Mountaineer, George Mallory. He climbed Mt Donna Buang 10 times in one day to accomplish the feat. From this the challenge was born.

George Mallory - photograph from Cyclingtips.com.au

George Mallory – photograph from Cyclingtips.com.au

A number of people have followed the rules and finished their own Everesting attempts. You can find a list of them all on the Everesting Hall of Fame. Still, there will be only one first attempt.

Watopia

So, where does Watopia fit into this? Well, it began as a question on a Facebook page.

“So who will be the first to “Everest” on Watopia?”

When I first saw the comment, I laughed to myself. “Yeah, right!” I personally know only two people who have Everested in the “real world.” I rode along with someone on a valiant, yet failed attempt at the challenge. Everesting is a bonafide epic endeavor on real roads, to do it on a trainer seems insane.

“Actually,” you might say. “It is impossible to Everest on a trainer.” Not so fast, Watopia makes this possible. Zwift‘s Watopia is a virtual world where you can ride your trainer and get a real world experience.

Climbing the Watopia Wall.

Climbing the Watopia Wall.

This is possible by using “smart trainers.” These trainers take topographical data fed to them by the Zwift software and adjust resistance on the trainer to match the resistance experienced on a comparable road in the real world. So, if you are riding on a virtual road with a 7% grade, the trainer will adjust the resistance on your drivetrain to match the effort you would need to climb a real world 7% grade.

Low and behold, the thread took a serious turn and before you knew it, Hells 500 was brought into the loop and a new category was created called “vEveresting.” You can right now find the rules for this new category at Everesting.cc. Here again, I will summarize for you.

The environment:

  • Must be completed on an approved virtual application – currently only Zwift is recognized
  • Must be attempted on an approved, pre-calibrated smart-trainer with 100% resistance replication
  • Must be verified by numerous data sources – heart rate, cadence, power meter, etc.
  • Must provide visual proof – photos, .FIT files

The attempt:

  • Rides can be of any length, and on any hill or mountain within the Zwift framework
  • Refer to the above rules for the traditional attempt

Frank Garcia

Enter Frank. He was the first on the Facebook thread to hint at seriously attempting to use Watopia to Everest.

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Photo by Carolyn Sullivan

“Well…. for planning purposes (as I have been coming off a rest period)… Are we saying one ride?… Are we saying premium setup with trainer difficulty set to max? (or not at all any trainer)… Now if only I could keep this idea from my coach….”

On June 6, 2015, Frank drank the Kool-Aid and became the first to commit to an attempt.

Okay I slept on it… (and other than my mind thinking I am totally nuts)… I am 52% certain I will attempt this (probably more but I still want to leave myself an out :-))… Read up on the rules…(obviously everesting doesn’t really count, but I will follow all the other ones)…@Kevin Connors and Shane Miller, sending a note to contact at everesting as requested (don’t know how to contact Andy directly)…If this is going to happen I would like it to truly help Nepal so will try and get my company and its employees to commit contributions (anybody else who wants to help with the donations is invited).”

By June 10th, the die was cast. Zwift history would be attempted on Saturday, June 13, 2015.

I will be attempting this on Saturday starting at 4 AM PDT (UTC -7 hours). I am planning on the attempt taking 22 – 23.5 hours. My company has agreed to help with fund raising by matching donations related to this vEveresting for Nepal. Hope you will all help me in making my company pay LOTS! More information to follow in a separate post. Carolyn Sullivan is coordinating for the company (Cycligent).

So, it appears that Frank will be attacking the Strava segment, Watopia Wall, starting on Saturday morning. The climb is .2 miles in distance at a 7% grade. That gives him 94 feet of ascent. That means he must do over 308 repeats of that segment!

It is here that the epic nature of a virtual Everesting attempt jumps out at you. Folks, this is on a trainer. The sensory portion of a real attempt is missing. There will be no altering of lines or changing nature around Frank. Mentally, he has his job cut out for him. Sure, the Zwift software will be a big help, but after a bit…

We’re cheering you on, Frank. It is also important to note that Frank isn’t just doing this for glory. He is attempting to help the people of Nepal. Whether the makes the “summit” or not, it is worth showing him support for the attempt by giving toward his effort.

Give to encourage Frank. Give to help the people of Nepal. Show up Saturday morning on Watopia and keep Frank company during his attempt.

Then… maybe you’ll start your own Everesting plans…

Read about Frank’s attempt.