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Everest Challenge 2014: Ugly Weather, Minor Illness Leads to DNF

In the days preceding Everest Challenge 2014, I did not feel strong. My sinuses felt off (I had thrown out my NeilMed sinus rinse by accident several days prior and the dry air at ~11,000' cracked and bloodied my nasal passages for several days).

I suspected something was off because I had no surge power*—not a good sign going into a race for me.

* When well rested, “surge power” (my term) means generating high power output with a feeling of it being hardly an effort, a very positive and enjoyable feedback loop.

Personal experience details, day 1

Due to permit issues, Day 1 of 2014 EC consisted of Bishop Creek / South Lake + Pine Creek + repeating Bishop Creek / South Lake (no Rock Creek in 2014). Also, timed race start was pushed part way up the first climb.

Day 1 of the 2014 Everest Challenge brought glowering gray clouds with some rain and snow, though sunlight broke through for a short while around 8:30 AM, and was beautiful.

I completed Day 1in mediocre time (15/30 in Master’s Men 45-54). Albeit with at least 15 minutes of stopping for clothing and similar.

Descending the first climb, temperatures were extremely cold (wind chill well below freezing, near summit temps as low as 35°F), but the Endura Helium jacket at least kept my core from going hypothermic. Some riders looked absolutely miserable, and my fingers went numb in medium weight wool gloves.

Ascending the 2nd climb (Pine Creek), my time was mediocre: 57+ minute versus 51+ minutes one week prior on a test ride, and 50 minutes just two days after the race, an erratic set of numbers showing that I was doing poorly on race day.

Descending Pine Creek with the jacket on, I became strangely chilled, so I stopped at my car at Millpond, stripped off my waterlogged outer long-sleeve jersey and changed into a wool hoody top, placing the hood over my head and under my helmet for head and neck warmth. This felt much better and I was glad of it ascending, even as some light rain began.

Ascending the final climb (Bishop Creek, same as first climb), power output was 25% lower than my expectations, and erratic as well. At one point snow accumulated on my sleeves. My stomach felt hollow and empty during the climb; I lost all appetite and was unable to stomach more than a token mount of Hammer Gel. A slightly nauseated feeling persisted for some hours after the race, so I could eat little for about 4 hours after race end, a serious problem for recovery and refueling, though I forced down some oatmeal and some hot soup. That finally sorted itself out around 6PM and I ate a full meal. I was lucky to get a ride down about 30 minutes after finishing, avoiding yet another chill.

That evening, I used the Marc Pro on my quads for about an hour and I could feel the relief (it really does work), they felt fine in the morning, albeit with sore gluteus muscles which are harder to manage.

Day 2

Waking on day two my quads felt reasonably good albeit with sore gluteus muscles, but that is the norm for me.

But as is typical for an incipient sinus infection, my lungs can be affected: my small airways were impaired (asthma), to the point of quite audible wheezing as I exhaled. While an asthma inhaler damped down the wheezing to low levels some hours later, it was clear that feeling 'off' on prior days along with mediocre performance on the Day 1 had everything to do with a “bug”. I am prone to sinus infections and sinuses interact with lungs for me.

And so with dark gray lowering clouds over the Sierra around 6:30 AM, I faced a decision: stress my body again in freezing temperatures with the probable result of a multi-week recovery as the 'bug' opportunistically took hold, or abort.

And so the first time in my life, I quit a race. Napping and resting and snacking and hydrating all that day and then sleeping 11 hours that night eliminated the wheezing I had bought a new NeilMed sinus rinse and used it starting Saturday night, but that was too late. By Monday I felt much better, to the point of a strong ride up Pine Creek, remarkably good in feel and power compared to race day, and nearly two minutes faster than the test ride a week earlier, showing that for 2014 the “perfect storm” of slight illness on exactly the wrong day along with adverse conditions meant “not this year”!

Click for larger graph.

Elevation profile and power / heart rate for Everest Challenge Day 1, 2014
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