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What does it take to ride one million vertical meters in a year? We asked the guy who’s trying

Ultra-cyclist Jack Thompson will complete one Everest (that's 8,848m) per week plus some. He tells us why — and how.

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If you follow Jack @jackultracyclist Thompson on social media or YouTube, you are used to his epic endeavors on the bike.

The 33-year-old Australian (who lives in Girona) is big on setting records, breaking them, climbing mountains, and often climbing them again and again and again. Last summer he raced the peloton to France during the Tour. Earlier in the year, he set a record on Portugal’s N2 Highway, riding the 715km route in 24 hours and 11 minutes. The year before, he set a world record for most kilometers ridden in a day over a week (unsupported).

Read also: Meet Jack Thompson, the cyclist who just set the world record for most kilometers ridden in a week

His reasons are many — he loves to ride, he’s fit, he has maniacal focus, and he’s admittedly obsessive-compulsive. However, Thompson also uses every epic as an opportunity to raise awareness for mental health. His most often-used hashtag is #itsoknottobeok, and he’s very open about the fact that, for much of his life due to anxiety and depression, he hasn’t felt OK.

In tandem with riding 1,000,000 meters (that’s 3,280,840 feet) in 2022, Thompson hopes to raise €1m for mental health-related charities. That’s the bit he’s most nervous about. The Everesting once a week for 52 weeks? Pssh. Old hat. 

We already know who (Jack) and what (1,000,000 vertical meters in a year), but we had to ask why and how.

VeloNews: So…how’d you come up with this one?

JT: Good bloody question! I’m always thinking about stuff, I like the art form of coming up with a concept that will test me and that will generate interest. This year the biggest challenge comes in the form of raising the €1M and so for me, that’s all new and I’m nervous about it. But, it’s new and exciting and so I love that challenge. Generally, the ideas come to me at the weirdest of times. This one came to me while in Portugal last year and initially it started as the idea of just Everesting once per week for a year. Then I started to build and build on it and that’s where we are today!

VN: OK, so the thought of tracking all this makes a Luddite like me very nervous. How will you keep track? 

JT: I’ll be tracking this all through Strava data with data generated from my Wahoo Bolt. I’m super driven by patterns and routine and so every week looks somewhat the same. I know that I need to tick off at least 19,300m of vert/week to hit the target and so…

VN: Yea, let’s hear it. What does the week look like? 

  • Monday — 2,500m of short hill repeats with others (fun, interesting, short)
  • Tuesday — 3,000m of longer hill repeats (20-40min style climbs)
  • Wednesday — 2,500m out-and-back style route (No repeats!)
  • Thursday — 1,500m cruisey loop (I love this ride because it’s chill and I’m back at home at a reasonable hour)
  • Friday 8,848m – The “Everest Day” and a good way to end a week!
  • Saturday — 1,000m recovery and the return to a normal weekend (minus the huge food intake)
  • Sunday — Off

This will obviously change as the travel starts, but if I can, I’ll keep this routine year-round, just so that my body becomes accustomed to the training load.

Also, I’m obsessive-compulsive, so that makes sticking to a plan way easier.

VN: OK, so I guess all you’ll be doing is . . . climbing? No races, no events? 

This year is all about climbing for me. The goal within the goal is to complete 52 Everests, but that’s about as varied as it will get. I’ll be doing a heap of travel during the second half of the year and riding with people and in places that are new to me, so this is exciting enough. There’s no rest as such built into the plan aside from Sunday rest days. I’m OK with this, but I do recognize that getting sick is highly possible, and so should that be the case, I’ll work around it to get things done.

VN:  You already climb a lot — what was 2021 for you in terms of meters climbed? That might help put this 1,000,000m thing into perspective.

JT: Unfortunately, I don’t have a number because I only started logging rides on Strava midway through the year  To help put it into perspective though, the most elevation from any rider in the WorldTour last year was Ritchie Porte with 662,000m, so were going [to do] 50 percent more than that.

VN: Is Everesting no big deal for you now? Like – how long does it take you to recover from one of those? Is one a week a little too ambitious? Or unhealthy? Let us know how you do it. 

JT: An Everesting is still a substantial accomplishment for me and for anybody. I never take any of them for granted. I got ahead of myself on the fifth one and thought that because it was on an easier climb that it would be easy. I was wrong and I suffered for 12 hours. One a week is ambitious, especially for an entire year. I don’t think it’s unhealthy, but I do have to stay 300 percent on top of my recovery and my nutrition. The Supersapiens device has honestly revolutionized the way that I eat, in particular the quantities. I would say that I eat 50 percent more now than I was eating this time last year whilst on the bike training. An Everest has me sitting at around 130g/carbohydrate/hr for 12 hours, which is a massive amount of food.

Similarly, I don’t have a lot of time for anything else in my life, because I recognize the importance of recovery and looking after myself. At the end of the day, I want to raise €1m because I see the huge impact that it can have on bettering people’s lives and I’m so driven by that. The bike for me is just a vehicle for hoping to deliver a better way of life for someone else who is suffering.