How to prepare for Virtual Half-Everesting

Everesting and Half-Everesting are THE challenges for hardcore climbers – pick a climb and ride up and down until you reach the cumulative elevation gain of 8.848 m / 4.424 m. No sleeping allowed. Sounds simple, but it isn’t 🙂

Some succeed. Here’s a short Q&A with a recent virtual Half-Everester. Enjoy!

1. How do you pick a hill for vHalf-Everesting?

“Pick any hill, anywhere in the world” is the official guideline. Oh, my! Here comes the decision fatigue, and you haven’t even started pedaling. But, if you’re stuck in home isolation, at least the options on Zwift are more limited.

The hill of you choice should be a mix of (1) manageable enough gradient, (2) manageable enough cadence (gears tend to run out quickly once muscle fatigue kicks in), and (3) a reasonable cumulated distance for your fitness level.

For the first two criteria, there’s a great video on that from the Data Science Cyclist; whereas for the latter, the everesting calculator (everesting.io) works wonders on a previously attempted hill (you will need to know your realistically sustained average speed/ power on the hill of doom).

2. What will make you fail?

Assuming your climb of (self-afflicted sustained pain) choice is well matched with your fitness level, a handful of gremlins can almost definitely reposition you on a path of failure.

(1) Thank you for calling the customer helpline. Did you plug in your device? Yes, the first gremlin is the pesky tech-related inconvenience.

For my virtual ride, the bike setup was perfect (well lubed chain, optimal bike fit etc.), but the trainer setup had some improvements area. The strong recommendation is to recalibrate your trainer the day before the attempt. But for an inexperienced Zwifter (myself included) the advice lacks specificity, since there is a spindown calibration option which typically comes with your trainer app (e.g. Elite, Wahoo), and one slightly hidden feature on Zwift. Guess which one I discovered on the day of the event 🙂

zwift calibration

To top things off, the recalibration of the trainer just 1-day before made me experience a slightly punchier hill. Long story short, the day of my “first” attempt was spontaneously postponed by 1 week until I was able to readjust to the “new normal”.

(2) I scream, you scream, we all scream for … carbs and water! (and ice cream of course). Yes, we’re talking nutrition and hydration.

If you’re new to endurance threshold attempts, managing your nutrition and hydration is probably not your strongest skill. However, depleting your glycogen reserves early-on and not fueling with enough water will inevitably make the challenge unnecessarily harder.

But fear not, the everesting.cc webmasters put together an amazing guide on how to prep for Everesting basecamp/ the full journey, which includes some great advice on nutrition and hydration.

everesting guides
Image from everesting.cc/guide

I found it useful to document the grams of carbohydrate intake and litres of water, just to be sure you’re on the right track. Past your mid-way point, sugary bites might become significantly less appealing, and so the slow death of “bonking” becomes to sink in.

Here’s the template I used to stay on top of my 30-40 g/h carbs and 1 l/h intake (beware, you’re targets might be different).

everesting base camp nutrition

(3) 404 motivation not found error

By far, the general advice lists your mind as the biggest hurdle in completing the attempt. Just be mindful of this, and open about it.

Do you hate the “andale, andale” (go, go) talk? Is it almost impossible for you to emotionally react to comments while your heart is pounding at 160-170+ bpm? Stay on top of these things and speak up early on, but make sure you don’t push away your support crew.

In the end it’s supposed to be an enjoyable (minus the physical pain) challenge, for everyone involved. Rest assured, your fame will most spread around your close circle, so don’t piss them off needlessly 🙂

3. How do I know if I can finish?

You don’t! Since there are so many influencing factors. The best you can do, in my opinion, is to control these variables to the best of your ability and react early-on to red flags along the way (e.g. glycogen tank half empty).

Fitness-level wise, the advice included in the everesting.cc guide is that you should be able to comfortably complete at least half of the targets (i.e. 2200+ m for basecamp, and 4400+ m for the full leg). Personally, I found this advice to be a good-enough rule of thumb.

everesting base camp zwift

4. What happens next?

After you finish, you’ll probably be excited … and shortly after dead with exhaustion.

everesting base camp submission
Image from everesting.cc

For those completing the basecamp challenge, the full Everesting attempt timeline will probably get pushed back by a few months, “just for good measure”.

But after a few days, once the lactate levels fall back to normal, a most expected email pops into the inbox. Hooray, you’re now in the hall of fame! And just like that, you’re (probably) on your way to plan the next attempt to conquer your Everest.

Ride on!


PS: this post is meant as advice from personal experience. It does not contain advice approved by a medical specialist. The post is not sponsored by Everesting / Hells 500.

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