Larry Optis did an Eversting ride on a 2.3 km section of Heritage Rd. in Caledon, Ont. just outside of Brampton on Saturday, May 6. The weather was grim with rain and the temperature hovering as low as 1 C over the almost 29 hours he spent climbing the 96 m incline. His goal, raise money and awareness for youth mental health through jack.org. Optis also had an eye on the exclusive 10,000 m High Rouleurs Society, a recognition that no Canadian had achieved.
“When you look at the numbers it’s scary,” Optis explained but his motivation to help break the stigma of youth mental health and raise funds was strong. “I have a personal story with mental health which I had never shared. As a teenager I suffered from depression. It drove me to want to make a difference in youth mental health.”
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The idea to Everest first occurred to Optis a few years ago. In 2007, he finished the Race Across America. He’s done multiple 24 hour races as well as a lot of touring and bikepacking. Optis knew he had the ability to do the type of effort required but it was finding a cause to do it for with jack.org that motivated him to set a date and commit.
Jack.org was founded in 2010 and seeks to empower youth leaders and help young people engage and raise their voice in relation to their and others mental health.
“Everesting is quite unique. It did feel impossible and it’s the same with conquering the stigma of mental health,” Optis said. “Everest is a very good symbol for a challenge. Conquering Everest defines mountaineers. Using that imagery to guide you through the ride, it helps you.”
The ride began at 7 am on May 6. The section of Heritage Rd. he choose was quiet and he insured to let all the residents know he’d be spending the day and night riding it as to not disturb anyone. Optis covered 480 km and 9,418 m of elevation gain, according to Strava and his Garmin Edge 520, after 27 hours.
He returned home only to realize that his Garmin had not recorded the elevation. By his calculations he should have been over the 10,000 m threshold needed to receive recognition by the High Rouleurs Society. Instead of calling it a day, he headed out a couple of hours later without sleep for 33 km more and seven more hill repeats to ensure he met the required standard.
In total, he did 110 ten repetitions of the 2.3 km hill covering 512.88 km. It represents the most distance a rider has covered to reach the High Rouleur Society according to the website’s stats. The elapsed time for the 10,082 m of climbing was one day, seven minutes and 48 seconds.
“We each climb Everest in our life many times over. We have to keep challenging yourselves at every point of our life and keep striving even when you have adversity, I did it in the rain and cold. It was hard to stay warm, part of that you need to approach strategically,” he said.
To complete the ride in these challenging conditions, Optis had to lay out and execute a careful planned strategy. Otpis estimates that he consumed approximately 80 per cent of his calories through liquids. He also used almost every piece of cycling apparel he owns.
“I needed to change every 90 minutes because of the conditions,” he said. Throughout the ride he used seven (or eight) rain jackets and he wore a pair of Gore Tex active wear pants to keep his legs dry for almost the entirety of the ride. “It was a bit silly but it enabled me to survive the cold. Once you start feeling the elements it’s too late.”
Throughout the day he had the support of over 50 local cyclists who joined him for portions of the ride. “It’s something we can all be part of.,” he explained saying that the hundreds of people who donated and voiced their support on social media and elsewhere all played a role in “conquering Everest together.”
Optis set the goal of raising $1 for each of 8,848 m he intended to climb. By May 14, he had surpassed his initial goal and reached his secondary goal of raising $12,000 on his Jack.org donation page.
In a thank you letter following the event Optis wrote, “The overwhelming outpouring of support, personal stories and generous donations, matched with the drive and tenacity of the cyclists that came out to ride with me, is what kept me climbing through the rain and wind, far into the night”