During this year’s Rapha Rising, over 5,000 athletes in 75 countries completed the Challenge and climbed their way to 8,800m (28,871ft). Unlike the pros in the Pyrenees, many of these meters were gained on smaller hills, with repeats and routing required, in the wee hours of the morning, late night and over the weekend. There are some amazing stories of triumph and perseverance and plenty of pain. Check out the heat generated from the athletes around the world that participated in the Challenge.

A Strava Challenge might have a set of guidelines, but they mean something different to each athlete who rises up for the occasion. Ryan Page is one of the athletes that shocked himself by completing the challenge he never thought he could do.

I had to complete the amount of climbing I had done in the last 6 years in only 9 days. People around me thought I was nuts. I even had my doubts.

Ryan shares his Challenge reflections from rising up to cruising altitude, a place he had never been before:

8,800 meters of climbing in nine days and a free Rapha patch? Count me in. Wait… did that say meters? How many feet are in a meter? 8,800 meters is just less than 30,000 feet? 28,871.4 feet to be exact. You may ask yourself, as I did, why does that number sound familiar? Well, for one, that’s the altitude commercial airliners travel at and it’s also the elevation of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. What did I get myself into?

Being an amateur triathlete and father of three, I often find myself financially challenged. I want to do all the races and buy all the gear but that is not always possible. That is why I love these little challenges. They are free and something to look forward to. So after doing my math, a lot of math, planning and discussing with the power that be (my wife) I gladly decided to take a break from my half marathon training regimen and accept the Rapha Rising Challenge. Unbeknownst to me, there was much more at stake than a free Rapha patch. The story is as follows.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.21.33 AMDay One, “The Kraken Don”: There is truly nothing like setting out for a ride at the crack of dawn. Or as my three year old calls it, “The Kraken Don” which I may try stealing from him as a nickname for myself because, well, it’s awesome. I love the smell of Hidden Valley in the morning.

Day Two, “Jell-O Legs”: This day did not go as planned. I was hoping to do another 50 miles; however, my body had different plans. I learned more about the science and importance of nutrition, hydration and rest on this ride. I respect this ride, it kicked my butt. Two category 3 climbs and multiple category 4’s… But it sure was beautiful out there.

Day Three, “Are We There Yet?”: This is the “Before Work” ride I planned for the week. Remember all the math? This ride allowed me to efficiently climb a maximum elevation possible, in a very short amount of time, relative to where I live.

Day Four, “Ninja Riders”: Today was supposed to be my rest day. Supposed to be… I had my first tip over, hahaha. On my second or third “Treasure Hill” hill repeat, a rider (a super stealth ninja rider) sneaked up on my left and gave a friendly hello. I must have been in the zone, or the 90 degree heat, or something, I do not know. All I know is that they startled me and I tipped my bike over into the dirt wall. I think I really needed a rest day after all.

Day Five, “The Day of the Bonk”: 5:00 AM, it’s too early, cold, and dark. I’m too tired, sore and slow to ride today. I really debated not riding, but powered through and paid the price. If you learn one thing from this rant, learn from my mistake. Listen to your body, not the auditory hallucinations in your head. If you’re tired, rest. Rest makes you stronger. Deciding to take this ride likely impacted my rides for the rest of the week.

Day Six, “Second Wind: After yesterday’s mistakes, I went back to the drawing board. I fueled better the night before, less liquid grain (beer) and more sleep. The results were not astronomical. However, I felt better then I did the day before. No auditory or visual hallucinations. Just good ol’ sunrise climbs.

Day Seven, “Light at the End of the Tunnel”: This better be the coolest dang patch in the history of patches. Feeling stronger, I guess. No PR’s but I feel better when climbing. Shut up legs! Tomorrow we start the hard stuff. Almost there, I hope.

Day Eight, “The Rock Sore”: I did not set any land speed records, but PR’d on Rock Store! Getting lost is never fun. However today I didn’t mind. Kanan, Cornell, Mulholland, Encinal and Decker… Need I say more?

Day Nine, “The Gran Fonally”: Woke up early to watch the end of Le Tour for motivation. Congrats Nibali! Started out hoping to put down 100 miles. I bonked at 70 miles. The last 3 miles felt like 300 miles. But… I FINISHED!!!

Everything about completing Rapha Rising surprised me. Basically I had to complete the amount of climbing I had done in the last 6 years in only 9 days. People around me thought I was nuts. I even had my doubts.

Using Strava (elevation profiles) and rides I had completed, I mapped out a challenging but possible schedule. Climbing was my weakness. I repeatedly told myself, and friends, I need to work on my climbing. Without this challenge from Strava, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to actually try.

I took a long sabbatical from riding (and all exercise) about six years ago. I lost sight of who I was and what I enjoy doing. I started riding again in April of this year thanks mostly to my friend Ryan Hamlin. Prior to Rapha Rising and since April this year, I had only ridden 336.4 miles and climbed 26,325 feet. Now, in just nine days, 287 miles, 20 hours in the saddle and over 30,000 feet of elevation gain later… I want a burrito, a margarita, a nap and my dang Rapha patch!