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The Ascent Challenge

(Written by: Jeremy)

I had to peel myself out of bed this morning. Saturday’s Everest was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by far, and it’s left every muscle and tendon in my body completely wrecked today. Some of the feedback I keep getting though is “ you made it look so easy”, and I’m here to tell you it wasn’t. From about hour 5 onwards, my body was rebelling against me, but for the entire 10 hours I had a huge grin on my face. Yesterday was the best day I’ve had in a long time, maybe since I broke four minutes in the mile for the first time, and it was all because of the people who showed up and rode with me, cheered me on, supported from the sidelines with food and bottles, took photos, and provided me with finish line beers. 

I could go on and on about dozens of individuals who did small things that made a difference yesterday. Chris Monette spent all day on that hill taking video and photographs, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. My parents were absolute weapons in the feed zone, never once missing one of my requests. My Ascent teammates, almost all of them riding in from Toronto to ride numerous reps with me. Ian, who closed his bike shop early and drove to Hamilton just in time to ride the last five reps with me. My friends David and Richie, who came early in the morning, rode some reps, went to work, and came back after their shifts to ride more until the end. My friends from my running days, Reid, Anthony, Andrew, and Taylor, two of whom did some major dusting off their bikes to join for some laps. Reid even ran alongside for a few, which was awesome. Alex Hoch crushed a half Everest. Dylan Bibic wheelied all the way up Sydenham (probably a record in itself). Leah Kirchmann came for some laps in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. Local strongmen like Derek Gee, Martin Rupes, Nick Diniz, Ed Veal, and Mark Brouwer all showed their support. Numerous local cyclists, from Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph, Brantford, and the GTA, all rode some laps. People brought their families. Neighbours stood on their porches and rang cowbells. It was truly an awesome experience. 

Two more people I’d like to shout out. My girlfriend Maddy was a rock star all day. She helped with everything from feeding, to Instagram contributions, to even riding the last few reps of the day when everyone else was pretty much cooked (the last few reps of the day were also some of my fastest too, so extra kudos to her). And lastly, gotta give a shout out to Adam who helped put this thing together with me. The guy started at 4:30am, Everested in about 11 hours 10 minutes, which was the fastest ever Canadian performance until I surpassed it, and then continued riding to 10,000m (he’s the 5th fastest all-time to 10,000m, and the fastest Canadian by far). He was my biggest inspiration out there when I was suffering. 

Sydenham is far from the ideal hill to Everest. You’d want something straight, super steep, with a very fast descent. Lachlan Morton just broke the world record, and every downhill he was averaging 95km/h. We were lucky if we averaged 60km/h yesterday. Maybe one day I’ll chase a faster time on a better hill. However, setting records wasn’t really the focus yesterday. It was about bringing the community together, and raising some money for organizations that we believe in. We haven’t done a final tally yet, but I can safely say that our initiative led to several thousands in donations, which I’m so proud of. Sydenham was chosen for exactly this reason. It was the only place around where we could safely invite people to come spectate, join for some reps, and generally enable inclusivity. 

We’ve got a bunch of merchandise from our sponsors that we’re going to be giving away to people who participated in the #AscentChallenge, but I’ll need a few days to sort this all out. To sum it up, the feedback from yesterday was amazing, and I’m really happy with how it all came together. If you’re still interested in participating, check our fundraising section of the site to see how you can do so. If you weren’t mentioned above, you were certainly not forgotten, as everyone played a huge role in making yesterday a success, so thank you! 

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(Written by: Adam)

Have you ever done something that, 6 months earlier you said was “stupid and pointless” and you “have no interest in ever doing”? Okay good, me too. I like riding my bike uphill as much as anyone, but yesterday was a bit much. Since Jeremy already touched on all the gratitude and warm feelings that we have after the day at Sydenham, I’m here to describe some of the torture and regret. Herewego. 

I woke up at 3:30am and drank two of those Starbucks canned espresso things. I drove to the Sydenham Lookout and tried my best to shove pasta into my mouth at 4am, which might have been the most difficult thing I did all day actually. I put lights on my bike, turned the Wahoo on, and thought to myself, “Well, once I press Start Ride, I’m into it and can’t go back…”. Honestly, there was a moment of wondering if I should actually start or just go back to bed. But then my former Midweek nemesis, turned friend, turned hero, Steve McKee was waiting for me at the bottom. Alright Steve, let’s get it then. 

Steve did the first 5 reps with me, which was perfect. He went back home, and I got to settle into a rhythm for about 3 hours or so just riding alone. Riding solo through the sunrise, when the legs still felt great, really was special. It wasn’t until Chris Monette showed up around 7am to start shooting film and photo that I started to realize, “Oh I’m gonna be out here all. day.”.  My strategy was: take a short pit-stop every 15 laps (~2 hours), even if I don’t feel like I need it. I would get a new bottle, gulp down caffeine, refill pockets with food, stretch the body out for a second, and get back on the bike in just a few minutes. This ended up working until Lap 75 when my feet hurt so bad that the pit-stops came a bit more frequently. 

Laps came and went. The lap times got slower. Legs began to tighten up a bit. Stomach started to feel weird. Luckily there were no gastro issues, but the fear of one existed inside me. People would ask me “How many metres ya at?!” and I’d say “6300” and they’d say “Nice only 3700 to go!”, like I wasn’t already counting down each metre myself. When I came through 8000m and Wayne Rae kindly let me know I was in the “Death Zone”, it all started to make sense. I had no desire to eat or drink anything, but it had to be done. Eclipsing 8848m and, for the time being, holding the Canadian Everesting record maybe made me feel warm and fuzzy for a few seconds but it was quickly back to the aforementioned Death Zone. The final 10 reps, I don’t even really remember. Myles and Geoff were the guiding lights and I just kept rolling over the gear until it was over.

A lot of people have been asking me about the fuelling strategy, so here’s the breakdown: “When was the last time I ate something? Can’t remember? Okay eat something.”. I ate my first Xact Fruit2 after Lap 5, and must have consumed close to 30 of them over the entire day. The diet was made up of: ~30 Xact Fruit2s, 6 bananas, 6 homemade oat bars, 1 espresso from Cafe Domestique, 4 Cokes, 4 Monster Hydros (sponsor me please), 8 bottles with Xact electrolyte tablets, and a Collective Arts Dry-Hopped Sour after the finish. I had muscle cramps galore in the last 2 hours, but I don’t think I could’ve fuelled much better. Xact Nutrition really kept the entire day bonk-free. 

It’s been said by myself and Jeremy a few times now, but there is absolutely no way either of us would have made it to the proverbial summit without all the friends riding alongside us. And the people out to cheer, ring cowbells, yell words of encouragement, and just take in the sight of crazy people on bikes going up and down this hill all day. Whether they were friends of ours, or just locals perhaps unaware of the lunacy of Everesting, they made time on their summer Saturday to show support and make the day a little bit better for us. If anyone I saw on the side of the road yesterday is reading this, thank you.

(Photos by: Sean Pollock)


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