From Marathons to Mt. Everest

Meet Don Wilcox. A serious cyclist. Seriously.

Don was the winner of the 2018 TransAlt ''Bike to Work Challenge'; logging in 524 miles on a Citi Bike commuting in the month of May. He is also a top Bike Angel (over 1500 lifetime points), and Citi Bike founding member.

Do you bike every day? How often and about how many miles per week?

I Citi Bike to work every day rain or shine (except in icy conditions). The commute is 10 miles each way for approx 100 per week. I ride my touring bike an additional 3-5 days a week for about another 100-250 miles. It depends on what I am training for. Training for a race in France this year had me approach 400 miles per week.

When he’s not passing the rest of us on the bike lanes, he can be found (or maybe not) canvasing the most famous peaks and mountain ranges around the world, including Kilimanjaro which he summited (again) this past month.

Next month, he’ll be aligning his mountaineering spirit with his NYC cycling regimen to accomplish a feat known simply as: Everesting.

What is Everesting?

It involves riding a bike repeatedly up and down the same hill until one reaches the height of Mt. Everest (29,029 feet). Extended breaks or breaks for sleep are not permitted. I did the feat back on July 28th in 27 hours on the big hill in Central Park. I’d like to do it again to raise money to provide the porters on the real Everest and Kilimanjaro climbs. I found that their basic needs (shoes, socks and gloves, etc) could use improvement (also additional safety equipment to bring items up a mountain).

How did you learn of the Everesting challenge and is this something you'd do for a third time?

I learned about Everesting from a rider doing the French Grand Fondo 'the Marmotte this past summer. While I was training for the event, a friend of mine in Singapore who was also doing the Marmotte needed to find a way to gain elevation in order to feel confident on completing a 107 mile Grand Fondo that had total climbing of 15,000 feet. This friend of mine (Charles Spencer) did the only hill in Singapore he could find some twenty times to get a total over 6,000 feet. He put his results on an app called Strava (main app for cyclists to show their training regime), and a reader noted that if Charles did the hill 100 times it would be 'Everesting'. Thus, the seeds were planted in my mind.

After training and completing the Marmotte I felt very good about my climbing skills and endurance level and thought maybe I could attempt Everesting. On July 28th on the Great Hill in Central Park, I set out to do just that. After biking 315 times up and down the hill, I had officially Everested. Training for Grand Fondo gave me the experience needed for completing such a long event.

The 2018 NYC Marathon is right around the corner! Do you think the Everesting challenge could be used for training?

I ran 12 TCS New York City Marathons over the years (most recent in 2001). When training for the 1992 NYC Marathon, my friend from Singapore talked me into riding a bike from NYC to Saratoga in two days— a 212 mile undertaking. I trained for a bit to get through that task, all while running 50+ miles per week. That year, I noticed running the marathon seemed easier. I actually felt good at those final six miles, and attributed that to the cross training I had done with with cycling. I realized that riding a bike for 5+ hours at a clip built up my endurance so I had a strong sold base to run a three-hour marathon. Three-hour marathons feel like a day off when you're doing an Everesting that takes 16-24 hours. I could probably do the NYC Marathon this year based on my cycling training alone.

How much more difficult is the Everesting challenge in comparison to running a marathon?

Both have the psychological barriers that tests one's spirit. The marathon has 'the wall' at 20 miles while an Everesting has 'the death zone' at 24,000 feet of climbing, The key to both events is pacing. Going out of the gate like ghostbusters in either situation will likely only end in tears and pain. The extra constraint of Everesting is the overall time factor. It goes without saying the staying awake for 20+ hours can contribute to fatigue. Cycling is very unforgiving if one crashes due to lack of concentration. Unlike the marathon, there are no crowds of people cheering you on when you attempt Everesting. It is often a solo event with little to no fanfare.

Have you always been interested in cycling - especially long distance trips?

I was an avid runner from 1977 to 2013, but my knees started to hurt and slow down my pace. Cycling become my main sport after a friend bought me a bike for my 50th birthday, a Trek Madone 4.7. That gift has ultimately cost me tens of thousands of dollars on airfare and travel as I entered various Fondos in the US and Europe. It all started with the 'Death Race' in Tahoe, CA in 2013, then the Italian Fondo Maratona and finally the French Fondo Marmotte. Each race had a minimum of 10,000 feet of climbing and this put some good fear in me to say the least. I have no regrets for accepting that gift.

What's the best or most memorable cycling trip you've been on?

The three fondos I mentioned stand out.

- Death Race only because it was the 1st time I cycled up a real mountain

- Italian Maratona for the shear beauty of the race of the Dolomites and completing with French and Italian riders for the 1st time. Also, hitting speeds of almost 60 mph was a wake up call on the descents!

- The French Marmotte for the legionary climbs (Gilibrair and Alpe D'Hiez). The Tour de France did the same route a week after I completed the course.

As a dedicated cyclist, how do you feel about the impact Citi Bike has had on the number of people biking in NYC?

When I began commuting to work back in 1992 there were NO bike paths in Manhattan. I rode down the West Side Highway en route to the Financial district in harm's way. Thankfully, Mayor Bloomberg changed all that under his transportation Commissioner Kahn. Suddenly bike paths appeared, then Citi Bike. Back then it seemed it was only me riding a bike, but today the Hudson River Greenway is filled with both commuters and tourists. I see hundreds of riders per day now compared to zero a decade ago! The bike culture is growing and Citi Bike is a big part of the acceptance of the trend.

Don's next Eversting challenge will be up Cat Paw Hill in Central Park. It will take 455 rides to reach an elevation of 29,120 feet. Head here to learn more about Everesting and to follow along on Don's upcoming adventures.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.