While in COVID lockdown, I recently vEverested (virtually Everested) on Zwift (Strava link to prove it). Riding 29,029 feet of elevation on my trainer was a long day in the saddle and a lot of fun. For those interested in vEveresting, I have 9 tips to consider as you prepare for the indoor bike climb of your life.
1 - Get your family on board
Getting buy-in from your family is perhaps the most important. You’re going to be on your trainer for 10-20 hours, that’s a long time at home not being able to interact much with your family. Ideally, arrange for fun stuff they can do while you’re grinding away up the mountain. The last thing you want to deal with is family tension on top of the ambitious physical goal in front of you.
2 - Be ready for loads of low cadence work – or get a bigger cassette
In order to be accepted into the Everesting hall of fame, you need to set you smart trainer’s difficulty to 100%. This means that a 13% grade on Zwift will feel like 13% on your trainer. Usually, people have this setting at 50%, so a 13% grade will feel like 7.5%. Changing the trainer difficulty is important though, because gearing matters. If you ride a normal road bike cassette as I did, then you will be doing low cadence work for most of the climb. I averaged around 55-60 rpm for most of my ascents, putting out 250-270 watts. If I’d had a larger cassette (or a mountain bike cassette), then I could have done 90+ rpms at lower watts no problem. Big takeaway – practice a 100% trainer difficulty ascent on Zwift before your vEveresting attempt to make sure the gearing is how you want it.
3 - Keep your heart rate low (below LT1)
This is longer than a marathon, so you want to avoid depleting your glycogen levels as much as possible. Keeping your heart rate below Lactate Threshold 1 will help you burn fat and keep you strong throughout the whole day. I kept my heart rate below 130 bpm most of the time – and usually under 120 if I could. The last couple of hours, your heart rate will likely creep up no matter what you do, but keeping it low for as long as possible is the key to success.
4 - Eat and drink A TON!
Another key to success is calories. This is as much of an eating contest as endurance sports has. You don’t have to worry about logistics – and you get a 10 minute break every time you descend. This is the time to absolutely nail your nutrition.
Here’s a list of what I ate (picture above):
- 5 bananas – one about every hour
- A bunch of gummy bears, because they were in our house for some reason
- An entire pack of dates
- 8 bottles of my homemade energy drink similar to Infitit Go Far (300 calories per bottle)
- 8 bottles of my other homemade energy drink similar to Gatorade (150 calories per bottle)
- A few other random things that I just put in my mouth but don’t remember
All being said – I easily ate about 5000 to 6000 calories. That’s much higher than I’d eat during a race, and I didn’t have GI issues at all. There was also no pressure. If I didn’t want to eat right then, the food would sit on the table next to me.
5 - Enlist friends to cheer you on and ride 1 or 2 ascents with you
Everesting with others is just more fun. You can chat with them and sweat together. I used Discord, texting, and Zwift chat to keep in touch with others tackling the Alpe du Zwift 8.5 times that day with me. However, I also had many friends that wished me well and even jumped on Zwift to ascend the mountain a time or two with me. That was super motivating. When your fresh friend jumps on and you’re on ascent number 6 – then putting out a few more watts gets easier.
6 - Find a good pair of bike shorts and chamois cream
Even if you have the physical strength and endurance, saddle sores can still take you down. Make sure you have the right gear for your rear.
7 - Start early, but get some sleep beforehand
It’s a long day on the saddle – I started just after 4AM. I have a couple friends that started at midnight. The “go through the night” route seems risky to me. I need the sleep beforehand to feel good during the day. Takeaway – know how your body functions – and I’d recommend 7-8 hours of sleep beforehand if you can.
8 - Find distractions to keep your heart up
A big-screen TV with Netflix sure helped me. I went through the entire “The Letter for the King” series (it was decent – just good enough to distract me on a couple ascents). Then I went for some fun YouTube video fail collections that I could watch with other music cranking in my headphones. Finally – on the final ascents, it was just loud workout music to push me up the hill more. Find several hours’ worth of material to distract and entertain you while you spin away.
9 - Celebrate!
When you complete your vEverest attempt – and you will if you put your mind to it – then a celebration is in order. For me, that meant Grater’s ice cream with the family, then popcorn with extra butter, and some Boylan Bottling Co. root beer. I ate about 40 other things as well – but those were my favorite. Consider some gear purchases to remember your epic accomplishment.
If you’re thinking about vEversesting, you should definitely do it. It’s a long day, but it’s an accomplishment worth sweating for. Let me know if you’re going to make the attempt, and I might join you for an ascent or two. If you’ve already vEverested, then share some of your own advice in the comments below. Good luck – and Dream Big. Dream Fast.
Alex Fuller is a father of three, professional marketer, and captain of the all3sports and podium multisport race teams. He’s on a quest to qualify for Kona by 2022. He’s on Zwift way too much, likes to eat pies for training fuel when he can, and can do some damage at a buffet. Follow him on Instagram: @alexfullertri