Taking a peek inside the workshop of Murfreesboro Outdoor and Bicycle, among the many workers and visitors is Whitney Stanbrough, 29. While the hard-working, friendly technician may seem like just another bike enthusiast, he’s recently done something no other Tennessean has: ride the vertical equivalent of Mount Everest in one ride.
Whitney is the first Tennessean to date to complete an Everesting. Everesting is a biking challenge in which a rider pushes him or herself to complete a ride with a vertical climb of 8,848 meters, the same elevation of Mount Everest. The feat must be completed on a single route, which means the rider must go back and forth on the same path over and over again until the distance is achieved. The rider can take breaks for food and drink, but cannot sleep. As this task typically takes over 24 hours to complete, the lack of sleep can be a deciding factor on whether a rider can complete the ride.
“The thing that really got me on [my first attempt] was the sleep deprivation,” Stanbrough told the Pulse. “Riding past hour 12, that’s when you get really tired and you still have 12 hours to go. At that point, nothing really makes sense. You’re out of your mind, you’re out of your body and you’ve pushed yourself past what you’re humanly capable of. Anything after that is just mental toughness.”
Whitney’s first attempt was an Independence Day trek up Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains with a colleague this summer. Unfortunately, the two were unsuccessful. However, that trip helped Whitney understand the challenge ahead of him. He began training over the next three months, often going for six-hour nighttime rides in order to prepare himself for the most difficult part of the ride.
During the daylight hours, Stanbrough was visited by friends, supporters and coworkers who either rode laps with him, provided him with water and cold towels periodically or just sat back in lawn chairs and cheered him on. But when the sun went away, so did his audience. The fatigued biker was now on his own.
For eight hours, Whitney had no human contact. It was just him, his bike, the monotonous surroundings around him and the hope for a celebratory meal of pizza and beer when it was all over. The isolation began to creep up on him, and Whitney began to doubt whether or not this was all worth it.
“As you can imagine, up was down and down was up. I was having hallucinations at night, audible and visual hallucinations,” he says. “‘What is this? Why am I doing this?’ These are all questions I asked over the 25 hours I was on the side of this six-tenths of a mile section of road.”
“Even the dogs out there were looking at me crazy,” he adds jokingly.
This section of the journey pushed not only his mental limits but his physical limits as well. To top things off, Whitney realized he had miscalculated the amount of laps needed to achieve his goal. He initially projected it would only take 142 laps to reach the goal elevation, but it actually took 222. Despite these setbacks, an exhausted but determined Whitney persevered.
“I can’t even really recall the last two hours of it, other than it just hurt a lot,” he says. “You’ve suffered so much and you don’t wanna quit at that point because then all the suffering was for nothing.”
Lasting through the night, he soon saw the sunrise, and with it, the return of his cheering section.
With the added confidence boost of the the sun’s rays and his friends’ support, Whitney completed his last repetition 25 hours, 19 minutes and 46 seconds after beginning his journey. He pushed himself to the limit, with mental and physical exhaustion taking its toll on the athlete. He became sick immediately after completing the challenge, putting his coveted celebration of pizza and beer on hold. But looking back, Whitney says the grueling experience was more than worth it.
“It was definitely a mind-boggling event to grasp, but one that I’ll hold near and dear to my heart [and] something that I’ll cherish for a very long time,” he says.