With no races to compete in this summer, athletes are finding new ways to motivate themselves. And for some, it’s also a chance to support others and build community.
In June, pro-cyclist Cory Wallace, who was a longtime Greater Victoria resident, became the latest with local ties to add his name to the finisher’s list on Everesting.cc. The accomplishment is a feat of determination where a cyclist does repeat climbs of a hill as many times as required to reach the elevation of Mount Everest – 8,848 metres.
“The toughest part was the rough and muddy terrain and the wet weather,” Wallace said. “Being at an altitude of 2,550-2,910 metres meant there was limited oxygen levels as well.”
On July 25, Saanich resident and former University of Victoria cross-country and middle-distance runner Jackson Bocksnick, 27, achieved the Everesting status with top local cycling prospect Ethan Pauly, 19, on Bear Mountain. They raised $4,000 for KidSport Victoria, and did the ride on the same day as their inspiration, the Shim’s Ride, in which another former Vike took part, rower Sam Horn, who was at UVic for the same period of 2010-2015. Horn partnered with pals Cole Glover and Nick Monette and rode 500 km from Port Hardy to Victoria, overnight from July 24 to 25. The trio did it to raise money and awareness for Spinal Cord Injury B.C., on behalf of their friend Mathew Szymanowski, another Vikes rower alum. Last August, Szymanowski’s (Shim) was struck by a driver while on his bike and suffered two punctured lungs and a severed spinal cord, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Before that, the national rowing champion had planned on riding the 500 km length of the Island.
“We looked at what Cole, Nick and Sam did [for Shim’s Ride], what they did isn’t just the exception, we think the sport develops those attributes and we want to celebrate it, and to develop more things like that in the community,” Bocksnick said.
For Wallace, it was about further supporting parts of the Nepalese community that he’s become part of. His achievement is one of the most unique of all the nearly 10,000 Everesting efforts recorded to date, as he did the first Everesting recorded in Nepal, in the Solukhumbu region, only 50 kilometres from the real Mount Everest. As a world champion 24-hour endurance mountain biker, Wallace also did his Everesting on a trail using a mountain bike, whereas most use the more efficient road bike on pavement.
“It was used as a fundraiser to feed the poor in Nepal during lockdown, to support the Nepal cycling centre in Kathmandu, and to build the [local] monastery a new greenhouse,” Wallace said.
The world-beater has a global following and raised $6,350 from 102 different donations from friends, family and fans around the world, mostly by posting through social media. The Everesting took Wallace 18 hours, riding up the unpaved 3.1-km road to the monastery 25 times. It has 365 vertical metres and Wallace’s total elevation gain was just over 9,000 metres. Wallace was aiming for 15 hours but at the 12-hour mark, his internal engine began to slow down, likely due to his fuelling, as he tried to do it on three local staples, buckwheat pancakes, potatoes and organic honey.
“For the last five or six hours my stomach denied the intake of any more fuels,” Wallace said.
Everesting grew in popularity this spring and summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling bike racing (and all sports), including multiple new records by pro cyclists.
In their conquest of Bear Mountain, Bocksnick and Pauly rode Bear Mountain Parkway 65 times in just over 11 hours, which more closely resembles the incline of the Dominion Observatory in Saanich, which Fabian Merino and Clay Webb climbed 68 times over 19 hours in 2015. Bocksnick rode in last year’s national road cycling championship (which ended just short of the finish due to a flat) and is teammates with Pauly on TaG Cycling.
“We raised money specifically for KidSport Victoria to look at supporting Indigenous youth, and new Canadians, and underprivileged youth, because sport should not be a privilege,” Bocksnick said. “We don’t want money to be a factor but also want to say, you’re welcome here.”
The two often run into the Shim’s Ride trio of Monette, Horn (both of Mighty cycling club) and Glover (Red Truck) at races. The inaugural Shim’s ride started 7 p.m. in Port Hardy on Friday and, after a long night with little traffic on the road, the trio fuelled up on Tim Hortons coffee and bagels in Courtenay. When they reached Drumroaster Coffee in Cobble Hill, they were joined by Oak Bay Wheeler teammates of Shim’s for the rest of the way, Horn said.
They finished up with pizza and beer at Windsor Park Saturday night, having made the whole trek with only two punctured tires and no other issues. The team managed to raise more than $70,000 for Shim, as they also sold custom jerseys provided by Jakroo (where Monette works) for the ride that blew up in popularity, netting $20,000.
Horn shared a similar sentiment to Bocksnicks’ that, without a competitive schedule this summer, there is room to include a greater community around events.
“One of the biggest appeals about racing is there is a strong sense of community and purpose,” Horn said. “For an athlete, there’s nothing like competing and pushing yourself and seeing improvements, so racing is a challenge. Riding long distance, or climbing as many metres as Everest is tall, while trying to raise money for a good cause and bringing community together outside of the community is even better.”