Finding Everest In Colorado -- Sam Long Takes On The Giant

Photos by Kenny Withrow

Everesting has become all the rage over the past handful of weeks as everyone looks to turn their hard-earned fitness into something quantifiable now that the spring and summer events have all but disappeared. Rebecca Rusch’s Giddy Up Challenge over Memorial Day Weekend is helping inspire a large number of cyclists to push themselves in achieving the over-the-top climbing challenge of ascending the equivalent of Mount Everest (29,029) in a single ride. Professional triathlete Sam Long has had his season interrupted, but rather than throwing in the towel on the year, he’s shifted gears and begun chasing KOMs on some of the biggest climbs in Boulder and Tucson. This past weekend, he also gained the prestige of becoming an ‘Everester’ in a blistering time of just over 10 hours. Here’s his take on the day.

Frameset: Argon 18 Gallium Pro Disc 15th Anniversary Edition
Wheels: ENVE SES 5.6
Tires: Continental GrandPrix 5000 TLR
Handlebar: ENVE SES Aero Bar
Stem: ENVE Aero Road Stem
Gearing: 53-39 chainring and 11-30 cassette
Computer: Garmin 520 for power/display and Suunto 9 Barometric edition for elevation
Apparel: Wattie Ink Endless Summer Aero triathlon kit with Contender Navy Bibs

What did your nutrition and hydration look like?

My nutrition and hydration were a buffet of stuff. I did not track calories per hour as much as I focused on getting in enough calories throughout the day. I had a total of 5, 24 oz bottles of sports drink with First Endurance EFS Orange flavor (200 calories each). At about 4 hours in I started switching between bottles of Coke and a sports drink for a total of 3, 24 oz bottles of Coke. I also drank 32 oz of water and a 20 oz Red Bull throughout the day. Throughout the 10.5 hours I had 234 oz of fluid. It was a cooler day, around 60 degrees and I found I was still dehydrated at the end.

The food got pretty crazy! Throughout the ride I had ~7000 calories of solid food and gels. I had some sandwiches, fig bars, gels, blueberry muffins, a whole bag of Ruffles chips, candy gummies, and Kind bars. I didn’t hold myself to a strict schedule but tried to eat at least a bar every lap (each lap was around 40 minutes). I took a few 5-minute breaks at my car where I stuffed my face. In total, I had 9020 kcals including fluid calories during the ride. My energy expenditure was 9100 so I did a very good job!

Did you make any equipment modifications?

I made a few changes. I put on an 11-30 cassette as opposed to my usual 11-28. I also replaced the chain with an Ice Friction chain to save some energy. Because I had a car midway through the loop, I took one bottle cage off and just had one bottle at a time. I also took off my saddlebag and only carried a Co2 inflator and cartridge. Weight really matters from an energy conservation standpoint for this.

What climb did you Everest on?

Lee Hill + Deer Trail, Boulder, Colorado (Note that I started from a little below this and went a little above it for logistical reasons)

Length: 4.65 miles
Average grade: 8%
Elevation gain: 1,856 feet

What were your final stats?

Time:10 hours, 38 minutes (total time), 10 hours, 1 minute (riding time)
Distance: 134 miles
Elevation gain: 29,219

Strava ride file

Why did you choose this particular climb?

I think which climb one chooses is probably the most important thing. I had a few different things that were important to me.

1- I wanted it to be a climb I have done in training and that I consider a challenge. Lee + Deer Trail is one of the hardest climbs in Boulder. Yes, this made it harder, but it made it more legit in my opinion. I think the most efficient way to do an Everesting would be on around a 10-minute climb.

2- I also wanted there to be a convenient spot for me to park my car at to have an aid station.

3- I wanted it on a safe road with minimal traffic!

What was your strategy going into the day and reflecting back, was it the right one?

I didn’t have too much of a strategy. Mostly, I just put my head down and rode. I tried to keep it as consistent as possible but played games with myself to stay mentally on it. I suppose I went in without a strategy so that I would have things to think about on the day. I didn’t listen to music for the first 4 hours and then the music got progressively louder. I took a total of four breaks throughout the day, most of these were only five minutes to stuff my face with food but one of the breaks I took just past mid-way was around 20 minutes.

What ended up being the hardest element of the day for you?

I think the cumulative effect of all the climbing. Around 26-28k were the hardest for me. The final 1,000 feet were not bad as I knew I was almost done. What’s difficult about an Everesting is as you get tired you still have to keep the power up on the climbs. When you get tired but are on flat ground you can still move at a decent speed even at a low power. An Everesting is a balancing act between steepness vs duration. The less steep the more overall miles you have to ride.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew beforehand?

Honestly, I think being naïve helped a bit with this. I hadn’t experienced this kind of elevation gain before and by the time I got over 20k I was already committed. Things I would have changed would have been more logistical things. I would have wanted to set up a table at two different points on the climb with bottles of hydration I could have grabbed to stay hydrated. I had to stop if I wanted another bottle of water and thus got a little dehydrated. A second thing is if I really wanted to go for the fastest time, I would choose a shorter climb that took around 10 minutes. Ideally this climb would be very punchy the first three minutes, settle down for a minute or so and then get very punchy again. Finally, the pacing is huge. I went a little too hard on my middle laps when I was feeling good. One was at 330 watts for 30 minutes! I then paid the price a little for this on the back end.

Where does this rate in terms of difficulty compared to other events you’ve done?

Pretty DANG HARD. It was the most kilojoules I have ever done on the bike by around 1500.

Follow Sam Long on Instagram at @samgolong