On August 24, 2020, Forward Foundation supporter (and Co-Founder Chris Cayford’s friend) Marco Lam found a unique and incredibly gruelling way to raise funds and awareness for Forward Foundation and our mission. To celebrate Chris’ birthday, Marco decided to attempt an indoor virtual cycling challenge known as “Everesting”. With Marco’s determination and desire to help, Partners in Climb was born.
The concept is as simple as is it agonizing – pick a hill anywhere in the world, and complete repeats of the climb until you climb a total incline of 8848m, the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.
Marco chose to ride “Alpe du Zwift”, a route that included 21 hairpin turns over a course that required him to cover 1036m of incline every lap. The route is inspired by Alpe D’Huez, one of the most famous mountain stages of the legendary Tour de France bike race. Using a Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer that simulated the climb’s gradient, Marco needed to complete more than 8 laps of this route to accomplish his Virtual Everesting goal.
“Forward Foundation has really become a way for us to share Chris’ kindness and love with young adults experiencing challenging times. With the negativity and unfortunate events happening around the world, Chris’ love and unselfishness has inspired me to give back to the Forward Foundation in a different way instead of just the golf tournament and gala.” – Marco Lam
In his training sessions, Marco never exceeded 6000m before the day of the event. After taking the day before off work to rest and prepare, Marco was on his bike shortly after four o’clock in the morning to begin the first of his ascents. The entire event was streamed live on YouTube as followers from around the world chimed in with words of encouragement and donations to support the cause.
“[The] first couple laps were great,” Marco recalled later that week. “[I] had energy and I felt like I was pacing pretty good.”
Starting so early in the morning, most of his followers weren’t even awake as Marco began his day-long journey. Luckily, a couple of close friends decided to join him as he got his day started. “[I] had two friends join me for laps 1 & 2 and we FaceTimed on the side, [so] that made it better because of the social aspect.”
After the first two laps, equipment malfunctions started to become a factor as the Smart Trainer that Marco was using struggled to keep accurate tabs on his progress. “Halfway through lap 3 was a struggle because my trainer was overheating a bit and I had to rig a solution with another fan to cool it down. The trainer was under-reading any power output by about 15%. [While that] doesn’t sound like much, overexerting for [an] Everest effort is not something you want to do.” After getting the bike sorted out, Marco recalled lap 4 being “just a grind to finish”.
One of the benefits of a virtual Everesting challenge is that riders can get off the bike as their avatar descends the mountain they’ve just climbed. This allowed Marco to stretch his legs and get something to eat. “[My] friends at Planted Meals provided me meals pre-event and during,” that Marco gratefully accepted.
After 8 fully completed circuits, Marco was very close to his end goal of almost 9200m as he was once again joined by a few friends who rode alongside him and pushed him to the finish. With a growing number of supporters cheering him on online and interacting with the live feed, Marco was able to power through the last few hundred metres as the final donations poured in. Initially aiming to raise one dollar for every metre climbed, Marco had set out to raise almost $9000 for Forward Foundation and their mission. Final donations totalled $15,118, well beyond the original goal!
Finally, after almost 20 hours after he started(!), Marco surpassed both 8848m (Virtual Everesting badge) and 9200m, which guaranteed his Everesting badge. His accomplishments can be seen on his Everesting Hall of Fame page. Shortly after he got off the bike for the final time, Marco dove into a midnight snack that consisted of “pizza, burgers and coke” followed by an ice bath, epsom salt bath, and a shower before getting right into bed.
If the day’s activities weren’t enough of a workout, Marco met up with friends the following day to walk and play 18 holes of golf! “Surprisingly, I wasn’t as sore as I originally thought I’d be. The active recovery by golfing the next day and heading out for walks kept my muscles moving and didn’t allow them to get sore compared to just sitting at home.” Walking the course was a better option than taking a well-deserved cart, however, as his “rear end was sore and sitting was difficult”.
Reflecting on the finish when he was overcome with emotion, Marco fondly shared how he was feeling as he made his final surge to finish at 9203m, 216km after he began his ride!
“Simply seeing all the congratulatory comments and the thought of finishing was overwhelming,” he said. “The thought of $15k+ providing someone with an experience is what was going through my mind afterwards. It wasn’t about me, but more so for the foundation and what THEY do!”
More About the Forward Foundation
In 2013, Christopher Cayford was diagnosed with cancer. In the years that have followed, he navigated the challenges of being seriously ill with kindness and grace. Christopher serves as a role model for many. In return, his ‘village’ stepped up and supported him through his journey with every opportunity possible. Christopher and 9 remarkable people were motivated to ensure that no young adult facing a shortened life expectancy should pass without first realizing a treasured experience, shared with those that love and support them. With that concept serving as motivation, The Forward Foundation was established. The Forward Foundation provides young adults who have a terminal illness with a meaningful experience that encourages connection. To learn more about how you can help or to make a donation, please visit https://www.forwardfoundation.ca.