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On Sunday, Lauren De Crescenzo set a new Everesting world record with a time of 9:57:29.
A week before that, the former pro and current research fellow at the Center’s for Disease Control (CDC) ended a 60-day COVID-19 emergency response deployment.
Seven days isn’t a lot of time to go from emergency relief work to an Everesting attempt, but De Crescenzo has a proven track record of overcoming adversity. In April, the ex-professional road racer celebrated four years post-traumatic brain injury after which she spent five weeks in recovery at Craig Hospital in Denver. That accident and her subsequent rehabilitation at Craig have steered the course of De Crescenzo’s life, from her retirement from cycling to her master’s degree in Public Health to her current role in the CDC’s Department of Injury Prevention.
For now, in the hours after her 29, 777-foot attempt (yes, she went over the 29,029 requirement), Everesting takes the cake in terms of difficult life experiences.
“Yesterday was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life,” De Crescenzo told VeloNews.
Like many other athletes who’ve recently jumped on the Everesting bandwagon, De Crescenzo didn’t spend weeks preparing for the attempt. She says that she only decided to embark on it about a week ago, mainly because her fiancee was doing it, too. A medical student at Emory, he wanted to raise money for his hospital. Whenever De Crescenzo hears of an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for her charity of choice, the challenge itself almost becomes secondary.
“My favorite charity of all time is Craig Hospital because of all the time I spent there,” she says. “When he [Jim] told me about his idea, I was like, ‘Craig! I can raise money for them, plus I’m gonna have FOMO.’ I had to do it.”
De Crescenzo and her fiancee Jim used the Hog Pen Gap climb, two hours outside of Atlanta, Georgia for their attempts. The segment measures 2.1 miles, averages 9.8 percent grade, and perhaps most importantly, is very straight. De Crescenzo says that she averaged 45 – 50 mph on the descent. After 24 laps, she’d broken Katie Hall’s record. The extra half lap was to make up for GPS discrepancy. De Crescenzo credits both Hall and Ruth Winder for blazing the trail and providing some good teaching points re: Everesting.
“I saw that Ruth did it and thought, ‘that’s cool, but Flag? Not a great climb because of the descent.’ I saw Katie Hall did it, and her Strava said ‘I felt fine!’ So, I thought, ‘Oh, then I could probably do it.’”
De Crescenzo says that she studied Hall’s Strava files, noted her pacing, and also used the Everesting calculator to help with her plans. In the end, she says, her average power was 193 and weighted average power was 218 although she started in the 240s.
“I went out a little hard, on pace for 9:20, and that fell apart,” De Crescenzo said. “I’ve never ridden for 10 hours or done that much climbing. It was twice as much climbing as I’ve ever done.”
De Crescenzo says she was amazed and endeared by all the people who came out to support her. Friends, colleagues from the CDC, even a motorcycle gang perched at the top of the climb to cheer her on. She says she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that the positive feedback she received while completing a superhuman feat on a bike made her second guess her decision to leave professional cycling.
“I decided to focus on having a career, finally got my master’s, got a job at the CDC,” she said. “But I’ve been doing this Zwift virtual racing and doing well. So, here’s this girl who works 40 hours a week, racing during her lunch break. It’s been crazy. It’s hard to step back from cycling completely.”