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How Flywheel Helped One Rider Prepare for the Climb of His Life…Everest

By May 31, 2017 No Comments

Some of us FLY to climb the TorqBoard. Others, like Seattle rider Patrick Mauro, clip in to climb Mount Everest.

To help build his cardiovascular strength for this life-defying adventure, Patrick hit the bike for what he calls “the perfect environment to train at a higher heart rate in a competitive but welcoming setting”. Read on for how he found the physical and mental fortitude to reach the highest peak:

I can pinpoint the precise moment that I decided to climb Sagarmāthā (29,035 ft; 8,852 m), known to Westerners as Mount Everest:  I had just retreated from an unsuccessful climb of Mount Adams (12,280 ft; 3,744 m) via the Adams Glacier, a moderately technical route that winds its way up 5,000 ft (1,500 m) of broken ice.  My attempt to summit was stymied by a maze of crevasses that could only be passed by walking across thin bridges of snow of unknown strength or by rappelling to the bottom of the crevasse and climbing up the other side.  My team suffered one fall into a crevasse, my partner dangling by the rope with only his head poking out of the gaping void; whiteout conditions that limited visibility to mere meters; and a descent along a ridge that threatened to shed tenuously perched rocks on us without warning.  With frayed nerves and an aching body, I got back to the trailhead after twenty-three hours of movement, but I knew I had more fight in me.  Recovering over burgers and beers at a late night dinner in Hood River, Oregon, I realized I was ready to tackle Sagarmāthā.  The only question was how to prepare. That’s where Flywheel came in.

Sagarmāthā, the highest mountain in the world, presents its own unique obstacles that challenge the body and mind.  Since the routes to the summit were commercialized in the early ‘90s, on average seven people have died per year (source:  The Himalayan Database, http://www.himalayandatabase.com/).  Faced with a climb that presents a fatality rate of 1.2% and a summit rate of 52%, I had to develop a training program that would minimize my chance of dying and maximize my chance of summiting. The route to the top of the world requires extreme endurance to withstand six days of effort during the summit push, the ability to kick into high gear to circumvent life-threatening obstacles in the rarefied atmosphere of the Khumbu Ice Fall (17,500 ft to 19,700 ft; 5,300 m to 6,000m), and upper body strength to navigate the fixed lines on the Lhotse Face and Hillary Step.  I knew that my preparation for the climb would be rooted in cardiovascular conditioning with a healthy amount of weight lifting, and Flywheel classes provided the perfect environment to push myself in a supportive, energized setting.

Mountaineering is primarily a low intensity, long duration activity, so the core of my training required long, easy runs (heart rate zone 1) to build the cardiovascular foundation for the rest of my training.  This conditioning had the effect of increasing my aerobic threshold.  While absolutely necessary, this training effect would be of limited use to me in the low oxygen environment concomitant with the extreme altitude of my climb.   For this I had to spend time building my VO2 max and pushing my anaerobic threshold as high as possible.  Flywheel classes, with their demanding sprints and active recoveries provided the perfect environment for me to train at a higher heart rate (zone 3 and 4) in a competitive but welcoming setting.  After so many hours of solo training, it was a treat to come to a Flywheel studio, hang out with some friends, and battle it out on the TorqBoard.  The arm workouts towards the end of each class were an added bonus, allowing me to build the shoulder strength and flexibility that would be required to pull myself up the ropes that drape over the steeper sections of the route, e.g., the Yellow Band, Geneva Spur, and Hillary Step.  In total, I spent twenty to thirty hours per week either training in an urban setting or hitting local trails, with at least one or two Flywheel classes mixed in per week whenever I was on the grid.

All this training has more than adequately prepared me for the challenges ahead.  In training climbs in the Cascades and Adirondacks I was able to carry heavy loads with ease and speed, but the real trial run came when I traveled to Tibet last fall to climb Cho Oyu (26,906 ft; 8,201 m), the sixth tallest mountain in the world.  On that expedition, I was able to keep pace with my climbing Sherpa, one of whom holds the world record for the most number of summits of that peak.  While this underscored the power of the physical conditioning Flywheel provided, I was surprised to find myself relying on the psychological fortitude I developed while battling it out in head-to-head sprints in Flywheel classes.  Mountaineering is a miserable, emotionally draining activity at times, but I was buttressed by the knowledge that I had overcome physical pain time and again in my weekly workouts.  Emboldened by my success on Cho Oyu, I will attempt to summit both Sagarmāthā and Lhotse (27,940 ft; 8,518 m), the fourth tallest mountain in the world, in 24 hours.  If I am successful, I will be the thirteenth person to do so.

My team will embark on our summit push in the next few days, hoping to top out on May 21 or 22.  You can track our progress on my website and see pictures from our expedition on Instagram.  Wish us luck! Namaste!

Patrick's expedition winds its way along a steep mountain trail in the Khumbu Valley with Ama Dablam looming in the background.
Fog permeates the lower Khumbu Valley during an early morning start on my trek to Sagarmāthā base camp.
Porters carry loads towards a river crossing in the lower Khumbu Valley.
The moon shines over the West Shoulder of Sagarmāthā and the Khumbu Ice Fall.
Wind scours the South Face of Sagarmāthā with the summit visible in the distance.
Patrick representing Flywheel at Camp II (21,300 ft; 6,500 m).
Patrick showing off some Flywheel gear at Camp III (23,800 ft; 7,250 m) with the summit of Sagarmāthā in the distance.
Patrick's climbing sherpa setting the course on the steep and icy Lhotse Face.
Patrick enjoying the view of Sagarmāthā, Nuptse, and Lhotse from the summit of Lobuche after a successful acclimatization climb.
Patrick's fellow climbers making their way through the Western Cwm towards Camp II with Sagarmāthā and Lhotse in the distance.