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Seven Summits in Seven Days

by Ryan Atkins on May 03, 2021

As the winter drew to a close and Covid marched on, I was finally at my wits end! The promise of spring and the looming question of when we will be able to return to a normal schedule of racing and travelling made me itching to challenge myself. The thing is, what to do in the middle of winter, with loads of snow, no one to race and nowhere to go?

Everesting seemed like a good option. Going up and down a hill until you complete the height of mount Everest. But I wanted something bigger! So I came up with the idea of the “Seven Summits Challenge”. Every day of the week, I would ascend the height of a different summit from the list of the highest peaks on each continent. This would be a logistical challenge as well as a physical one!

Here was the plan:

I ended up; running (outside and treadmill), Cycling (gravel, fat bike and zwift), ski touring (powder day and groomers day). What really struck me about this challenge was how if you just keep going and pace yourself, the body is capable of incredible things. I loved the challenge of getting up early (before sunrise everyday) and training all day long, then coming home, eating, washing my clothes, preparing my gear for tomorrow, focusing on recovery and going to bed. The early morning and massive volume started adding up pretty quickly but finally having a challenge set forth made me really excited and motivated.

Some of my statistics:

  • 43,431m / 142, 490 ft elevation gain (A vertical Marathon!)
  • 566 km / 345 miles
  • 55.5 hours
  • 6.2 Gallons of water consumed during activity
  • 11,112 Calories burned
  • 41 cookies eaten

With any endeavor you learn a lot. And you hope you remember them once the suffering ends. Here are some takeaways, mental and physical, from this challenge:

  • Logistics: It was a lot. Training for 7-12 hours a day sounds hard (and it is!), but add in waxing skis, drying skins, cleaning bikes, preparing meals/snacks, recovery and sleep. I was on the move doing something for pretty much the entire 7 days. To say it was exhausting would be an understatement.
  • Lessons: I learned that I love to move. Every day had its highs and lows, but the absolute beauty of a body in motion became pretty evident to me. Once i got on the trails and took the first step/pedal stroke, every worry, concern or doubt slipped away and I was left with this task of going up and down.
  • Training: I think that to start training you just need to increase your volume gradually and make sure you are getting in lots of vert every day. practice being efficient in training, find good hills and learn what nutrition works best for you. I like to average at least 1000m climbing per day in my everyday training. As I ramped up for this challenge, that increased to about 1500m average, per day. This was sustainable for me and set me up well (physically) for the challenge.

Looking to gain some vert on your own. Here are a few helpful tips for your training and planning:

  • Choose a steep hill
  • Choose clothing that you can layer
  • Stash your food at the bottom (eat every 20-30 minutes)
  • Pace yourself! Finding your ideal pace as quickly as possible and sticking to it
  • Set goals. I liked to set goals of 1000m at a time
  • Switch it up! By using a bunch of different sports, I avoided any overuse injuries and kept it fun.
  • Eat and drink lots. By constantly eating I mostly avoided the dreaded “bonk”

To anyone out there frustrated by Covid and being told what you can and cannot do, here is my suggestion: Make your own challenge, train for it, put it on the calendar and GO FOR IT. I found so much satisfaction in being able to control my own event and really challenge myself. Good luck.

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