RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Sean Gardner was a distance runner in high school at Atlee, but when he got to college at Virginia Tech, he knew he didn’t have the speed to run at that level. That’s when he found cycling.
“It’s kind of just a cool experience to go do a nice 100 mile ride out in the mountains and explore some new roads,” Gardner said of his days cycling outside of Virginia Tech’s campus.
Fast forward, and the 26-year old Richmond native is now a professional cyclist. He trains by riding 500-600 miles per week and takes part in races of about 100 miles. However, this year has been a little bit different, as coronavirus has brought racing to a halt for the most part.
“It’s kind of thrown a wrench in the 2020 plans,” he said. “Cycling-wise, there’s not much racing going on.”
That doesn’t mean there isn’t any competition. A few of Gardner’s teammates introduced him to Everesting. This challenge involves riding up a hill as many times as it takes in one ride until a cyclist reaches 29,029 feet, representing the summit of Mount Everest. It’s gained popularity this summer with the lack of racing events, and Gardner decided to give it a shot in September.
“No real expectations - just wanted to have fun and got some good learning experience there," he recalled.
His first attempt saw him finish the climb in seven hours and 25 minutes. But with a steeper hill, some nutrition adjustments and better pacing, he thought faster was feasible.
“I kind of blew up halfway through, so this time, a little more moderated towards the beginning and then I kept that same pace through the whole time.”
That’s right- this past Saturday, Sean gave Everesting another attempt. He picked a different climb and produced some impressive results, finishing at 6:59:38- a world record, and became the first person ever to complete the challenge in under seven hours. It took 51 times up the hill to finish, and his time and distance were verified through cycling computers and an app.
“It’s been pretty cool seeing so many people reach out,” Gardner said. “It’s definitely quite a bit more social media than I’m used to.”
The official website for Everesting says that the challenge has been completed nearly 12 thousand times across 97 different countries (as of Thursday, Oct. 8), so Gardner does not expect his record to stand for long. But he’ll wait a little while before trying to tackle the climb again.
“I think I’ll let someone take it off and then I’ll think about doing it again.”
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.