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How community support, McDonald’s salt packages and the motivation of a good cause helped Jeremy Rae break the Canadian Everesting record

The Canadian record changed hands twice this Saturday

Everesting—climbing 8,848m of elevation in one ride—has become the official cycling trend of the lockdown. The total number of ‘official’ completed Everesting attempts has doubled this year alone and the men’s and women’s world records have each switched hands three times this month. The latest Everesting world record, set on June 14, was accomplished by Lachlan Morton of EF Education First who broke the record with a time of 7 hours, 32 minutes, and 54 seconds.

The same day, the Canadian Everesting record was also broken. Everesting.cc, which has not yet been updated, currently lists the fastest Canadian time as 12 hours and 37 minutes held by ultrarunner Ailsa MacDonald.

On June 14, the Canadian Everesting record was broken in Hamilton On. twice, by two teammates. First, Adam Millar of Ascent Cycling rode 8,848 m of elevation in less than 11 hours. Millar continued his ride and hit 10,000 m of elevation in 12 hours and 13 minutes, a new Canadian record, and the worldwide 5th fastest 10,000 m ride.

Adam Millar now holds the Canadian record for fastest 10,000m elevation ride. Photo: Chris Monette

A few hours after Millar’s Everesting feat, teammate Jeremy Rae scooped up the Canadian Everesting record, finishing in 10 hours and 27 minutes. His high caliber ride is surprisingly titled “Honestly my favourite ride ever”, but Rae says that the support he received throughout the entire day made the difficult ride a special one.

Local hills

The record breaking ride started out as a personal challenge that Millar and Rae explored when racing was first cancelled. “Because of travel restrictions and logistics, we wanted to do it somewhere local,” says Rae. They chose one of his favourite climbs, Fifty road, just outside of Hamilton.

As planning for the attempt progressed, the city of Hamilton was in the process of removing its bike share program. The cyclists realized the ride could be a vehicle to bring attention to the cause, and decided to make the ride into a fundraiser.

A week before they were due to Everest, the bike share program was saved by donations, but the idea of using the ride as a charitable force still lingered. The team decided to create the #AscentChallenge, and challenged any cyclists to pick a hill, a cause that’s important to them, and donate a set amount of money every time they completed the climb. Rae chose to donate to the The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion “I wanted to give to something local,” he says. “It’s a really cool organization, they run programs locally, help organize protests happening in Hamilton and are extremely active lobbying local gov.”

They knew that publicly posting about the event would attract other local cyclists and predicted (accurately) that the narrow Fifty road would not be safe for social distancing if even a few extra riders showed up. They decided, instead, to move to Sydenham road, a much wider climb, with room to safely space out.

A distanced community

Millar started his 10,000 metres of elevation at 4:30 a.m. and Rae started his Everesting at 8:00 a.m. Even in the morning, the cyclists were overwhelmed by the amount of support they received while Everesting. Rae estimates that hundreds of cyclists rode the climb with them throughout the day (while safely distancing).

His parents held hand-made signs and cheered him on at the top. Photo: Chris Monette

His parents held hand-made signs and cheered him on at the top, while at the bottom a local homeowner stood outside ringing a cowbell for hours as Rae rode laps up and down the climb.

A stream of familiar faces and local supporters came to cheer them on. Team Sunweb rider Leah Kirchmann joined for a few laps, as did Reid Coolsaet, a Canadian Olympic marathon runner who jogged alongside the cyclists.

Riders on hybrids dropped by to check out what was happening, and some families set up picnics at the top of the climb. Rae says he feels like the ride brought the cycling community together in a safe way. “There are tons of cyclists in this area that know of each other but don’t normally ride together,” he says. “But at one point I was climbing with guys from four different teams and we were all saying ‘you know, we should ride together when things are looking better.’”

Lessons at 8,848 m

“I was not prepared for what happened at around 5,000m,” says Rae. “It was easy cruising until halfway, when suddenly my body just shut down and I started cramping everywhere.” A teammate suggested he was low on sodium so he ate some salt packs his girlfriend had grabbed from a local McDonald’s, “The cramping went away and I felt like a new person,” he says, and he continued to snack on pepperettes and other salty foods throughout the ride.

“The descent is everything.” Photo: Chris Monette

Another lesson: “I learned that the descent is everything,” says Rae. He uses Morton’s record breaking ride as an example—the Australian rode a straight, steep 2km road and averaged almost 100km/h on the descents. “I averaged 55 or 60 km/h. Sydenham is far from ideal, but it checked the boxes as a local ride with enough space for distancing.” Traffic increased on the road throughout the day and is one of the very few sources of annoyance he lists from the experience.

Rae expected the traffic. He isn’t particularly fond of the popular local hill, but he’s happy he rode Sydenham instead of Fifty road. “I was hesitant to Everest on Fifty road because I knew it would no longer be my favourite hill afterwards,” he says. He went out to Sydenham a week before the ride and managed to nab the KOM, “because I knew I might never go back to the hill again after this,” says Rae.

Motivated for a cause

As a string of cyclists took turns riding up the hill with him, Rae estimates he rode only one or two laps solo. “We were chatting with other cyclists the whole ride,” he says. “We weren’t really going for a time—It became way less about the time more about a challenge, a way to give people something positive to do.”

Rae’s girlfriend Madeleine Kelly helps him push through the last few laps photo: Chris Monette

The team estimates they’ve raised at least a few thousand dollars, but they are still tallying the donations others have made (and holding off on distributing prizes until they’ve hit a final count).

“It was hugely motivational at 5,000m when I was feeling awful, to know this would have some sort of impact,” says Rae.

“I would do it again but it would have to be for a good cause. I don’t think I would feel motivated to do it otherwise.”

Though it’s unlikely Rae would ever Everest on Sydenham road again, national team cyclist Derek Gee has grabbed back the Sydenham KOM, so he may have to revisit the hill at least one more time.