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Mind the Brain: The Science of "Everesting" 1

Zanny Venner explores how enduring intense physical fatigue can strengthen your mental health and stamina in challenging situations.

 

Attitude is everything. On and off the bike, a lack of strength, stamina and skill can often be overcome by enthusiasm, motivation and positivity. But even the strongest, fittest, most elite athlete is no match for a souring attitude and weakening mindset.

I grew up training and competing at a national level, as a ski racer, and as a track and field athlete. I have a reasonably high level of base fitness. And yet, I can count a number of experiences where I truly felt like I couldn’t go on when others I considered peers were able to keep pushing. I cracked, cried, and hated some of the most beautiful moments and environments. Why were the others happy to keep pedaling on when I was mentally out of gas?

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I had to prove to myself that I could maintain a positive attitude, solo, through a properly long endurance challenge. I wanted to develop a deeper pool of experiences to draw on in difficult, mentally fatiguing situations, both on and off the bike. If the body won’t quit until the mind does, I had to set a higher threshold for my mind.

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“Everesting” is a somewhat common challenge in the cycling community: climb and descend a hill, repeatedly, until you have climbed the height of Mt. Everest (8,848 meters or 29,028 feet) Most riders undertake the enormous, yet tangible challenge on their road bikes. But I’m no roadie, and what made the most sense to me was to pedal my Process 134 up the Garibaldi Park Road in Squamish, and descend an efficient route of my favourite single and double-black diamond trails (a version of 19th Hole to Angry Midget, for those who’ve ridden in Squamish.)

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I began at 8:15PM on July 27th. I finished at 10:15pm the following day, after 26 hours, and having ridden 175km (108 miles) and 8913m. I had a couple of difficult moments, but this time, no tears. I battled 35 degree heat, I struggled to stay hydrated and fed, and I missed my arbitrary 24-hour goal. But I never considered quitting. 

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Descending real mountain bike trails was essential, and the weight of suspension and DH casing tires didn’t feel like it hindered my effort. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have completed the challenge going up and down a road, without a quick hit of adrenaline blasting down my favourite trails on each descent.

The day came and went. When the Garmin read 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), I wasn’t in a celebratory mood; I didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. “10,000m doesn’t seem so far away,” I told my friends who came to cheer me on for the last lap. 

And although I didn’t keep pedalling, I’m really proud of myself for thinking that I could.

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The 2022 Process 134 29 CR DL

Video by Peter Wojnar
Words by Zanny Venner
Photos by Joel Ducrot

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