Saturday 1 January 2022

Virtual Mount Everest - DONE!

I'm very pleased to report that the Virtual Mount Everest climb supported by David Fairlamb Fitness was successfully completed on the 18th of December. It was, without doubt, THE most difficult thing I've ever done in a gym setting. It was also certainly up there with any of the tough days running around the world. 

The aim was a relatively simple one to comprehend, to climb 29,029ft on a Versaclimber as quickly as possible. I knew it would be far more difficult to execute however. With a good opportunity of hitting my own personal fundraising target of £500 for St. Benedict's Hospice I was determined as ever to have a right good go.

I started climbing just after 0830 in the Versa Hub at David's gym. My heart rate was high even before I started climbing probably due to the excitement and adrenalin. I'd never seen that before at the start of a session! My heart rate was to remain quite high for the first thousand feet until I settled in to a good rhythm. It took just over 10 minutes to reach the first thousand feet. I attempted to calculate a finish time based on this start but, as per usual, I found maths quite difficult while exercising. I've never quite figured out why that is.

Donna did a great job on the support team where, for once, no blisters needed to be tended to, no food needed to be cooked and I was never in danger of getting lost. Just having her in close proximity was a great comfort. 

After 10,000ft or so a few gym regulars, Heather, John and Karen turned up to lend support with David Fairlamb. Heather and John paid a quick visit to McDonalds and brought back McFlurries and coffee. I had one McFlurry after 13,000ft and drank the other one much later once it had melted. That sugar hit complemented the bananas I brought to use throughout the session quite nicely. Not once did I feel lacking in energy. That was surprising as I had calculated that the calorie deficit would be in the 1000s by the time I finished.

I did my best to maintain a pace of 100ft per minute and while this was 130-140ft in the early stages, I just about managed to keep it at 80-90ft later on. I knew that my cadence was consistent throughout. What did lessen was the depth I was getting with each stride.

I reached the 19,000ft point in poor shape. I was finding each block of 1000ft physically tougher but the mental battle around this time was agonising. It was the kind of thing I've felt many times around the world as I neared the end of a stage. I can only liken it to when your football team is hanging on for a much needed result and there is still 10 minutes to go plus added time. Imagine that feeling for days on an around the world stage or thankfully just a few hours on this event. It's enough to drive you mad. I think it did in Australia and the USA was almost as bad.

When I hit 20,000ft I started to really find it tough going. Yes, it had been getting progressivly tougher but this was next level toughness. By that I mean, numb feet, aching legs and an increasing level of mental anguish. I can deal with the physical side quite well. I usually have to resort to something in my mind when the mental battle really hots up though. This has taken many forms so far during the run around the world. I've recently heard this referred to as "self talk". I'll do my best to explain what I mean by all of this. It may come out as me simply rambling as it's  hard to put into words what happened that day.

At 20,000ft I simply said to my watch "Hey Siri, play the old songs playlist". That's a list of songs that take me immediately back to another time and another place. One where my parents were still alive and usually a lot of fun was being had. Other songs have a profound meaning given by my Mam and Dad. All in all that day, it added up to me being taken to the brink mentally. 

When I said "Hey Siri turn the volume up to 90%" the Versa Hub seemed like it started to shake! I should add that I was connected to the Hub's superb sound system. I didn't even have to push a button and simply spoke my requests to my Apple Watch.

After 20 minutes of the old songs and having shed as many tears as beads of sweat I was ready to tackle the final 7000ft or so. I had come through the other side in a good place, having to take my mind to a dark and emotional place. For a few minutes the mental and physical pain subsided.

With a swift "Hey Siri, shuffle the Virtual Mount Everest playlist" none other than the absolutely banging tune that is "Badman Riddim" blasted out in the Versa Hub. The change of musical pace and tone gave me a renewed sense of purpose and desire. Next up was "If you could read my mind". "Very apt" I thought. 

The final 5,000 ft became even more difficult physically. I could hardly feel my feet and my thighs were in a world of pain. Mentally, though, I put the event to the sword. It wasn't just the music that was to thank. There were a number of very kind donations coming in to St. Benedict's Hospice. They made a massive difference. 

I reached the 29,029ft virtual Mount Everest after 7 hours and 47 seconds of climbing. When I got off the VersaClimber I was walking like a chimpanzee. I was absolutely not in full control of my legs! I found that quite amusing actually.

What a relief to have finished such a tough event! My immediate thought was that I wouldn't be doing that again any time soon. It was easy to say that I'd underestimated the challenge but I'd never done anything like it before. It was a case of completely going into the unknown. An average heart rate of 139bpm for that duration is definitely close to some of the best performing days of running around the world.

The Apple Watch stats were interesting. I can't vouch for their accuracy though. 56,766 steps taken equating to just over a marathon distance. I did liken this event before it started to a marathon in climbing terms. I wasn't far off that.

A very kind donation from long time sponsor Chapman Ventilation saw the total for St. Benedict's Hospice smash through the £1000 barrier. Given my target for the Virtual Mount Everest Challenge was £500 I felt that it was even more worthwhile doing.

I'm pleased to report that the final amount raised was £1020 and you can see the kind donations here.

As the clock struck midnight on 31st December 2021 the current fundraising campaign came to an end. A very pleasing £13,780.43 had been raised for St. Benedict's Hospice. The challenge had also seen the £340,000 barrier hit for the overall total and within that the barrier of £145,00 for St. Benedict's Hospice. 

So many donations. So much kindness. All of which I feel have been fully deserved through my endurance efforts. 

The debt of gratitude to the Hospice continues to be repaid. All of this, despite world events stalling the progress of the run around the world for now.

Thank you again to everyone who has donated. Together we have made a huge difference. 

It's all to do again in 2022 and beyond.