Keeper Of The Cloud

It had never occurred to me to consider what this Cloud was all about.
Now I know.
It's not about climbing above the clouds, or other astral aspirations.
It's not about being high, or similar altitude-related (or dopamine) ambitions.
It's certainly not about anything light and soft that carelessly floats where the wind might randomly blow.

No, none of those.
It's about Winter.
It's about Pain and Misery and Agony.
It's about Dedication and Consistency and Determination.
It's about Commitment and Single-Minded Focus.
It is Winter. Dark and cold.

The Cloud is a lightning-charged, rain-loaded, heavy cumulonimbus. The sort that rides in slow from the sea, so massive that light cannot penetrate to its base. Looming darkness, low and steady, thunder rumbling far in the distance, as if trying to catch up with the floating behemoth. As it clears past the shoreline, the floodgates open, and rain falls in thick sheets, seeming to flow from an infinite well.

The Keeper is on a journey—a path of adventure and discovery. Relentless, the Keeper steadily charges ahead, regardless of the conditions.
The Keeper has a mission, a laser-focused target; nothing will get in the way.
Yes, the final steps of the journey will be in fair weather, blue skies with chirping birds, fluttering butterflies, and a unicorn, but the work has been done. The fare paid.
The Blood, Sweat, and Tears have been flowing for long weeks and months. 

All. Through. Winter.

And when everyone else stayed in bed, skipped a day, took it easy, momentarily gave up, missed an interval, or even raised a doubt - the Keeper embraced the Cloud and rode on.

The story of my 10K vEveresting

(if you don't know what Everesting is, go here now:, I'll wait.)

You know what the plan was (
This was all about execution, and thanks to mindful planning, it was as simple as possible.

Part of The Sufferfest training program is The Mental Toughness Program (MTP). Over the course of the training plan (12 weeks commonly), the MPT builds towards accomplishing the goal set at the beginning.
I wasn't sure that I was going to vEverest at the end of this 12-week plan, but it was certainly on the list of options.
June is always Nationals time, and although I will be better prepared for it next year, I usually like to plan my training cycles to peak in June (just in case!).
Anyway, the MPT helps you build your event prep perfectly. This includes checklists, strategy, contingency plans, and more.

For my vEveresting I had:
  • Pre-event checklist with all the items/tasks required: This had everything from phone charger to cycling shoes
  • List of things to do: for example, set trainer difficulty at 100%, go to sleep by 9pm, let the kids know what's going on, etc
  • Pace sheet: to mark off those climbs, note the times, notes, etc
  • Event Strategy: the overall plan. In my case, it included the pacing, nutrition, hydration, breaks, and other bits like bike selection and route.
With my "to do" list handy, I prepped everything the day before.
I made ~ten sandwiches, most with peanut butter + marmite + jam/chocolate/honey.
I set aside granola bars, checking in advance the net carbs to help maintain ~50g carbs per hour.
I charged my old Garmin and made sure it was recording in parallel as a backup.
I set my kit sets for changing to hang nearby.
I put all the fans in place.
Water was no worries because I'd fill up on the descents.
I updated the computers and made sure no auto-updates or anything funny will take place while riding.
I set up my yoga mat, foam roller, and other bits nearby for the descents.
I checked the rocker plate air suspension to make sure it was balanced and secure.
I had installed the 32-tooth cassette a few days before preventing any technical issues - commonly a chain that's too short, a derailleur cage that hits the trainer body or lousy shifting. That was perfect.

With all that, all I had to do was to show up.

I went to sleep early, around 9pm and got up at 5am.
I had my usual coffee, a small bowl of cereals, and got in gear.
Chamois cream aplenty.
Then, a short 10-minute focus exercise, as part of the MTP, to put me in the right mindset.
After that, there was nothing for me to do except get on the bike and get going.

As a side note - 99% of my rides on Zwift this year were in ERG mode. Either controlled by Zwift or externally by the SUF app. So I haven't actually climbed ADZ "for real" at 100% trainer difficultly in a long, long time, but I had ridden it tens of times already before, so I know what it feels like. I scored the Masochist Badge (25x ADZ) a while ago already...
The point being that I had no solid idea about the pace with a 32T. So a bit of calculation and guesswork, but no direct experience. 

Upon starting Zwift, I quickly found a dear friend already on the ADZ slopes and aware of my plans. So I joined him directly instead of starting "Road to Sky" and warming up (=wasting time). I found myself descending from about turn 18, which was perfect because it meant a couple of minutes of freeride before hitting a U and starting for real.
At the bottom, I changed from the Tron bike to the Specialized Tarmac Pro + Lightweight Melmestein wheels.
It's the lightest set on Zwift, and while I'm not a weight weenie, the marginal gains add up over 14-15 hours.
And I set off!

My friend (on the left) was pushing ~50min climbs, so he was gone real quick, and I started to make my way up.

The great thing about vEveresting is that there's no rush. Take all the time you need.
Unlike storming the Castle for the Sufferlandrian Knighthood - where you have a max 10-minute allowance between sessions - vEveresting is pretty relaxed in that sense.
People asked me, "can you do it?" and my reply was always: "sure - just a matter of how long it takes."
In retrospect, it's easier than any time-restricted mission.

I maintained my targeted effort of ~2.7w/kg, spinning easily in the low 80s range. Somewhere towards the middle of the first climb, my friend, who was now descending, turned around and escorted me to the top. We were chatting in the companion app, and on the descent, he asked me: "are you sure you want to do this?"
My reply:
 "Only 9 more to go! Not going to stop now, am I?"
And that mantra remained... 8 more to go, 7...6...
He flipped a U when he hit 2600m, and I kept climbing, looking forward to the long day ahead.

Meanwhile, the kids got up, and my SO dispatched them to their establishments. My middle son (8), who has already climbed ADZ himself, came by to run some calculations on how long it would take me. He didn't say anything, but I know what he's thinking already. The little dude has multiple 3+ hour Zwift sessions under his belt, and last time he joined me outdoors on his road bike, he clocked 80km... In fact, I consulted with him about vEversting ADZ or the Radio Tower climb (which takes less overall time). He said ADZ is easier, and counting to 10 is better than 60+.

The pace I targeted was a more or less sustainable 73 minutes based on the vEveresting Calculator (

Overall, the average was 75 minutes, which is pretty much spot-on.

Here's the breakdown: [ min | W | rpm ] 
Climb 1: 69' | 187 | 79
Climb 2: 69' | 187 | 81
Climb 3: 71' | 182 | 79
Climb 4: 73' | 177 | 79
Climb 5: 77' | 166 | 73
Climb 6: 81' | 159 | 72
Climb 7: 83' | 155 | 81
Climb 8: 77' | 168 | 68
Climb 9: 74' | 175 | 70
Climb 10: 77' | 168 | 68

I started to feel the effort on the 3rd climb, feeling the strain signaling through a mild ache in the quads—nothing unusual, and somewhat expected after 3 hours of work.
The 4th climb, already well over  4 hours in, felt slightly better, and that's because I did some stretching and lay down for a couple of minutes while my avatar was wheezing down the mountain.
#5 hurt and was already significantly slower.
It was getting hot and humid as well. I've been riding with the windows open, and it was a 29-degree (84F) day with 70% humidity. 
I made sure to keep the electrolytes coming in (thanks, Skratch Labs!), but the pace was getting slower and slower.

By the end of #7, 10 hours in, I had to change things up a little.

I had already changed kit by then and, for the first time ever, had gloves on while riding indoors. My palms were stinging, bright red, and the gloves were a big help.
On the descent, I made myself an iced coffee (my proprietary mix of Indian Robusta and Ethiopian Arabica) and turned on the AC full gas.
That was much better!

The pace immediately increased, and I was out of the slump. I felt good, strong, and had no problems at all from that point. I started to combine sitting/standing a bit more on these last ones, and the reduced cadence is evidence of that.
It was already dinner time, and my Mom, who had come to help, took care of the kids.
The last climb, #10, was fun, and my kids (wrapped up in blankets because of the AC chill) wouldn't go to bed until they saw me cross the line, pushing with whatever I had left in the tank.
I stayed on the bike for the descent this time, spinning softly. 

I finished feeling great - far from "broken" or "hurt". I was tired, but no dead. Nutrition and hydration no doubt a crucial element here, as opposed to past mega-rides where it was all about fighting the imminent bonk and wishing it would all stop (I'm looking at you Alpen Brevet!).

To conclude, I'd like to explain why I did 10xADZ for a 10K vEveresting, and not a "regular" vEveresting of 8848m.
  1. Because it's harder
  2. It's just another ADZ climb and a bit. I completed the 10th climb and did not stop at 10,000m, and that was the plan
  3. Knowing that a 10K was on my list, having to do everything again just for that extra small part above 8848 seems like a waste of time. Might as well do it now, it's as close as it gets
  4. I was fully trained, prepared, ready, and had the support around me and time available. Who knows when I'll get another chance?

Lastly, hats off to IRL Everesters. I can only imagine the hardship of Everesting / 10K IRL. The weather, the concentration on the descents, the darkness, the loneliness, the logistics - oh what a challenge that must be.

Us vEvertesters have it easy. Riding in air-conditioned rooms, watching videos and listening to music, taking time off the bike on the descents, not having to worry about supplies and gear... It's a cakewalk.
Yeah, it's a long day and has its place in the Hall Of Fame, but you can't really compare it with the Real Thing. 
I wrote to Andy of HELLS500 that it's humbling to be even considered amongst those who have truly Everested, and I mean that wholeheartedly. 

The real challenge awaits.