WEEK #86 GUEST ENTRY: THE ONE ON HAWK HILL, SAN FRANCISCO…

A few weeks ago a good man attempted, no, achieved, something great. Chris Douglas is, to some people, maybe a bit crazy. I like to call it devotion, dedication, passion and drive. Above all, he has supported 99%RIDE. His drive and energy has raised over $1000 for our cause. For that I am very thankful. A fellow cyclist with a goal, a passion, a drive and a bit of craziness…
This is his story, a legendary day in San Francisco…

#Everesting For a Cause

Like many stories, this one begins with a chance encounter.

7I met Dirk on a bike ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz with some friends. We were part of a larger group that was continuing to ride to Los Angeles, but our plan was to ride to Santa Cruz and take the train back home. On the ride I was talking to this tall European-looking guy wearing a “99 Percent Ride” jersey. As we got talking–as only long bike rides can do–I quickly learned about Dirk’s mission. His story captured my imagination, but I didn’t realize the extent of his goal until I attended a presentation a few weeks later that he gave about his ride for charity.

Fast-forward almost a year (and several donations from my family to Dirk’s cause later). I had been following Dirk’s journey on Facebook and on Strava and wanted to do something epic to help. A friend of mine, who introduced me to Dirk, and I were talking about doing something cool for Dirk and raise money for his cause in the process. Soon, something cool turned into something epic as we decided to try to “Everest” our local San Francisco hill, Hawk Hill.

So what is “Everesting” you might ask? The basic idea is to go on a bike ride where the total elevation equals the elevation of the highest peak on Earth—29,029 feet. Tradition has it that one is supposed to this on one’s local mountain in order to do the challenge the right way. Our local hill in San Francisco is called Hawk Hill, a 620-foot high climb just north of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. To complete this challenge, we would need to ride a total of 147 miles and go up and down the mountain a mind numbing 47 times.
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Fast-forward some more. The date was set, Dirk was all for it, and a website had been set up to collect donations. January 10, 2014 would be the day. Dirk thought we were crazy but he loved the idea, and we had collected over $1,000 for 99 Percent Ride. The fates were not as kind as they could have been. Several weeks earlier we learned that the Golden Gate Bridge would be closed for the weekend (for the first time in over 25 years!). The weather was unseasonably cold for San Francisco. And in the end, the group that was going to attempt this challenge had dwindled due to sickness and time commitments so it would just be me attempting this challenge. I got several requests to push the date back but I could not turn back now.

On the day of the challenge, I awoke at around 3 am and was soon out the door to ride the 5 miles from my house to the base of Hawk Hill crossing a desolate Golden Gate Bridge. I had a small backpack with supplies to hold me over until my incomparable wife, Susan, would drive and park on the hill to support me. She would end up being there for me for over 9 hours manning my personal aid station! By the time the sun rose, I had ridden alone for 4 hours and climbed around 7,000 feet.

3The rest of the day, I was blessed to be accompanied by friends until the end of my ride. First Krista and Alex rode with me and then Isabelle joined. By the time she had to leave, Michael, Danny, Chipper and Spencer came out to do some repeats with me. Kari was not far behind and came to support me and also hang out with Susan. Russell also came with his kids to show his support and hang out with Susan for a bit. Finally Tommy and Phil came. Phil rode with me for over 5 hours and climbed over 11,000 feet with me.

In the end I was unable to complete the challenge even through physically and mentally I felt great. I made a key mistake to not bring enough clothing to account for the drop in temperature when the sun went down and the temperature dropped by 20 degrees. On my last decent, I was shivering so violently that my handlebars were shaking. At this point I had climbed over 22,000 feet was beyond 2/3rds of reaching my goal. On my last climb, I decided that I would jump into the car and blast the heater to warm up and continue. Unfortunately, the battery in the car had died and I was unable to warm-up and stop the shivering. Susan gave her down jacket (it fit very, very snugly) but it was to no avail.
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I rode for over 11 hours for a total of 114 miles, climbed 22,370 feet, and completed 36 hill repeats of Hawk Hill. Here’s a link to the Strava file for the morbidly curious: http://app.strava.com/activities/239447666

While I was extremely disappointed to not achieve my goal after feeling so great physically and mentally throughout, I am comforted by all the support that I have received before, during and after the attempt. I am also comforted in having raised awareness for Dirk’s cause and in many ways I am proud to have been able to make it my cause as well, if only for a day. We need more Dirks in this world and I am grateful be able to call him a friend.

From San Francisco, California,

Chris Douglas

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