How many feet of elevation do you climb each week? How many times do you ride per month?
These are the type of calculations that will weigh heavily on Paul LaCava’s mind for the next 11 months as he tries to accomplish his goal of 1,000,000 feet of vertical gain by December 31st.
I met up with LaCava on Tuesday to see how we was doing and to share a few thousand feet toward his goal.
LaCava has lived in Portland for 18 years and moved here for a job after doing most of his growing up in Corvallis. He credits his dad, a marathon runner, for piquing his interest in endurance sports. When he’s not pedaling or skiing or running, LaCava stays busy as a sales rep for Giant Bicycles. For the past 10 years he’s been driving between bike shops in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
Now 39 and with a decade in his current job, LaCava seems to be reflecting on where he’s at. That self-assessment is partly to blame for staking out such an audacious goal; but LaCava says the real story is that he just haphazardly decided to do it. “There’s no real secret agenda. No noble cause,” he told me during a pre-ride conversation at Breadwinner Cycles Cafe on North Williams Avenue. “It’s really selfish; but it’s a fun thing that hopefully won’t drive me too crazy in the next 11 months.”
To reach 1 million feet of what he refers to as “vertical accomplishment,” LaCava figures he’ll need to average just over 2,700 feet per day. While he’s likely to do some backcountry skiing, the vast majority of the miles will be done on bicycles. In a typical year, LaCava’s bike computer stats show that he climbs about 500,000 feet — so even for a guy known for his endurance biking exploits, doubling that will be tough.
LaCava says he’ll make sure to always have a bike ready-to-go in his work van as he travels. He might pull off the freeway and do a quick ride in the middle of nowhere. When he’s home in southeast Portland he’ll have plenty of hills right outside his door. Some of his favorites are Mt. Scott, the backroads near Oregon City, and of course the reliable West Hills above downtown Portland.
To keep on the pace, LaCava will find motivation from many sources. He said skier Aaron Rice’s human-powered record of 2.5 million feet of elevation gain in one year was a major source of inspiration.
He’ll need all the inspiration he can find in order to not get behind on the numbers. “Every day I’ll try to fit in something,” he said. “That’s the challenge — when you take a day off, all the sudden the next day you have to do 4,000 or 5,000 feet and that’s a big ride… You can get behind it so fast and you’re suddenly off the pace.”
To keep on the pace, LaCava will have to make the most of every waking hour. His mind will constantly be chasing the numbers. “The time is there, you just have to do it. I can look at my phone and 10 minutes go by. Well, do that five times a day and that’s almost an hour. I can do 2,000 feet of climbing in an hour.”
“This is a slow time of year, work-wise,” he added, “So I hope to front-load and get ahead of things.” This year he’s at about 54,000 feet. “I figure I’m right on track so far.”
Will he make it? Follow Paul’s quest for 1,000,000 feet via Instagram.
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