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One week after 12-year-old Moriah Swan completed the 2011 Death Valley Double Century, she came to me and asked, “Dad, do you think I could finish the Everest Challenge next year?”  It had been a mere six weeks since Moriah’s 15-year-old sister, Hannah, became the youngest female ever to finish this insane race.  With 29,000 feet of climbing, multiple trips above 10,000 foot elevations, and sustained double digit grades that climb into very thin air, the Everest Challenge (EC) is the undisputed hardest two day stage race in America.  It is the ultimate test of strength and endurance for a road racer and it has one of the highest DNF rates of any race in the U.S.  Due to its difficulty, it typically has six to ten times as many male racers as female racers.  Hannah Swan was the first junior women ever to finish.

Not wanting to discourage my ambitious daughter, I gently replied, “Moriah, sweetheart, EC is considerably harder than the double century you just did.  It has a 20 mile long finishing climb that gains 6,000 feet with sustained 15% grades, ending above 10,000 feet.  You hit that climb after 23,000 feet of climbing when your legs are totally shot.  To be honest Moriah, I do not think that you are strong enough.  However, maybe a year from now you will be.  So, let’s just wait and see.”  Fast forward nine months.  Moriah is back at my desk.  “Dad, I really want to do EC!”  I thought to myself, “Every time Moriah has set her mind on accomplishing some unbelievable feat, she has pulled it off.  How can I say “No” to my Mighty Mo?”  I gave her a huge smile and said, “Well, we would have to start climbing this week in order to ramp up in time.  Are you sure you really want to do this?”  “I want it Dad.  Let’s do it!” she exclaimed.

Over the next 10 weeks, we would increase the climbing in our long ride from 3,000 feet to 12,000 feet.  Moriah’s two older sisters, Hannah and Rachel, quickly jumped on board the EC train.  The four of us climbed endlessly over those 10 weeks, ate perfectly, and lost 20 pounds as a team (10 pounds from me!).  The girls, who were already good climbers, quickly became lean, mean, climbing machines.  They were ready to conquer EC.

At 6:40am on September 29th, in 50 degrees, the three Swan sisters took the starting line just outside of Bishop, CA with a field of 32 ladies.  Seven of the ladies were racing Women 40+ Masters.  Nine of the ladies were racing Women Pro/1/2, including 16-year-old Hannah who was now a Cat 2.  Sixteen of ladies were racing Women Cat 3/4, including Rachel and Moriah.  By then end of the race, only 25 of the 32 would finish (22% DNF rate).  The whistle blew and the race was on.  The fourth Swan sister, 11-year-old Sarah, and I drove SAG.  Moriah hung with the leaders all the way till South Lake Rd. (almost two hours), when a surge from the pro women blew her out the back.  She finished the 15,000 feet of climbing on day one in 7 hours and 52 minutes, about 30 minutes behind Rachel and 1 hour behind Hannah.  Day two went just as well and all three girls remained mentally and physically rock solid as they finished the 29,000 feet of climbing, topping out at 10,000 feet above sea level after slaying the brutal Bristlecone climb.  The three girls fueled on HEED, Sustained Energy, HammerBars, and Endurolytes.  They recovered from day one with Recoverite shakes, Endurance Aminos, Tissue Rejuvenators, and Super Antioxidants.  Thank you, Hammer Nutrition!

Hannah’s division had two Pros, two Cat 1s, and five Cat 2s, including Hannah.  She ended up taking 5th place out of the 9 starters.  Rachel ended up taking 4th place out of the 16 starters in her division.  She also displaced Hannah as the youngest female finisher of EC.  Rachel held that record for 50 minutes, until 13-year-old Moriah, who finished 8th in the same division, crossed the finish line.  It was an awesome race and I was so excited for all three of my daughters.  Sarah, who was equally excited for her three sisters, pulled me aside after the race and said with a confident grin, “That youngest finisher record, . . . . won’t last long!” 

 

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