Last year “Everesting” was a thing amongst a small subset of area cyclists. In a nutshell, Everesting is doing hill repeats until you’ve ascended the height of Mt. Everest (29,029′.)
While there doesn’t seem to be the same level of enthusiasm for Everesting amongst cyclists this year, prominent area ultra runner Jess Mullen recently became the first woman in the world to do an Everest on foot.
Jess provided me with some nutritional guidance when I was doing a “metabolic efficiency” project to adapt my body and performance to a high fat low carb diet.
Every April Jess organizes the Chirico Tenpeat, which is a challenge to do up to ten hill repeats of the Chirico Trail to Poo Poo Point near Issaquah. As part of this year’s Tenpeat, Jess thought it made sense to try an Everest as part of her training plan for an upcoming race.
“I found out about Everesting through my coach, George Orozco. I am getting ready for Cruel Jewel 100 in May which has 33,000′ of climbing and 33,000′ of descent, so Everesting on the Chirico trail seemed like a great trainer for that. I chose Chirico is because of the Tenpeat; I knew I was going to be doing the Tenpeat plus a few extra repeats so Everesting there was most appropriate. The timing and terrain were perfect for Cruel Jewel.”
“Also, I am drawn or intrigued by challenges or races that are simply really hard. Not pretty or epic but just hard for the sake of being hard. I enjoy the discipline and endurance required for success. Everesting, since it is repetitive, was alluring in that sense–as well as the sheer volume of vertical gain and descent.”
Since Jess is a super-experienced ultra athlete, she says the Everesting challenge felt easier in some ways than a typical race.
“In a few ways this felt easier than my typical 100-mile races. I would compare the Everesting to a 100 vs a different distance race due to the amount of time it took to complete. It felt easier and less stressful because I wasn’t racing. I didn’t choose to do this as fast as possible. I certainly didn’t lolly gag but I was more laid back than I am in races. So that felt easier.”
“It also felt easier in that I had so many friends come out and keep me company. It gave me something to look forward to and they provided great distraction from what I was doing. Also being on such a popular public trail created a great deal of positive distraction from all the hikers out there.”
“I think the repeats would be really hard for some people and would have been much more mentally challenging for me a few years ago but now it was no big deal. I do hill repeats on Chirico, at Mount Si, and on the Squak Mountain service road every week (at least 2 of them most weeks.) As a result, repeats don’t faze me. Boring scenery or repetitiveness doesn’t affect me.”
It took 18 repeats to get it done.
“The volume wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be physically. I got slower and a bit tired on the uphill but no flare-ups of muscles or tendons, and no cramping. And I was super solid on the downhills. That was more fun than expected. I love downhill running and have built up a pretty solid base to handle a lot of hard downhill so it wasn’t bad. The final descent (after finishing the challenge) was a bit rough because I took a break up top and my muscles tightened up. I chose not to sit at all once I started until I finished the final summit (so it was nice to finally sit down at the top when done!)”
Just like with the cycling Everests, friends joined Jess for at least a few laps.
“I was glad to have my friends there and to announce it publicly so that if I struggled mentally with getting it done, all that would help motivate me not to quit. Fortunately that was never an issue. I had a good head about me the whole time. The worst I dealt with was nausea on the climbs for most the night and into the second day. I chose to use that as an opportunity to practice my mental game and keep positive and calm about it. I knew I wasn’t nauseous on the descents and the nausea wasn’t severe so I just kept telling myself to roll with it, no big deal. No need to slow down because it’s not unbearable and it’s not getting worse. It’s just unpleasant.”
“My eyes got super tired. That trail is decently technical the entire way and I did not want to fall especially in the rocky sections. I was paying attention the whole time. At the end I had a hard time keeping my eyes open.”
The possibility of becoming the first woman to Everest on foot was a big motivator.
“Of course that was a huge draw to doing this. I can’t think of a time that I’ve gotten to be the first in doing something. I’ve placed as the first woman in races but I’ve never been the first female to complete a challenge. And yes, this is probably due to not many runners knowing about this challenge yet but that’s ok! Still cool to be the first one to do it. And don’t get me wrong, it was hard and it was a ton of climbing. I think I handled it so well because I am very well trained for this exact type of challenge – physically and mentally.”
As we corresponded after the accomplishment Jess mentioned that she is still sore.
“DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) is for real! I am definitely a little sore. It feels as though I did a million squats or lunges.”
In the big picture the Chirico Everest was merely a long training effort for Jess who has an impressive race calendar planned for 2018.
“I consider all my 100s “big” races or equal race efforts due to the multitude of variables in 100s. I work with a coach and train specifically for each as they come up and then race the best I have in me each one. And then it’s really about what the day presents and hopefully at least one per year will go well!”
“I pretty much train year round. My off-season tends to happen when I feel like my body is starting to fall apart. May not be the smartest way to do things but it works for me and I like to train and race most year round.”
Is another Everest or double Everest in Jess’ future?
“I would love to find another challenge similar to this to do. I really enjoyed the break from the ‘racing’ mentality and think I’ll try to incorporate more challenges in the future. No need to do a double though.”