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Kiara Lylyk climbs the mountain

With few competitions to attend, the 16-year-old Guelph competitive cyclist took on the challenging Everesting 2020

With most organized sports competitions cancelled this year, athletes find themselves looking for new challenges. For Guelph's Kiara Lylyk, she found one that would test her limits.

A 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Centennial CVI, Lylyk decided she’d take on Everesting 2020 as a solo cyclist. A member of the Speed River Cycling Club, Guelph Off Road Bicycle Association and the Dundas Valley Velo cycling team, Lylyk heard about the event from DVV’s Pete Appleton.

“He just reached out and said that there was a fundraiser going on and if anyone wanted to join in,” she said. “Of course, because there’s been no races and nothing to really challenge me except to train, I decided I might as well just do the whole thing because I have nothing to lose.”

“Because she didn’t get to race this year, she was looking for her own different challenges and when this one came up she was ‘Hey, this is a good one,’” Kiara’s mother Heather said.

Everesting 2020 involved climbing an amassed total of more than the height of Mount Everest (8,848 metres) in less than 24 hours and was held on a section of Fifty Road in Hamilton on a Saturday that saw variable weather throughout the day.

“I went there not knowing the road at all,” Kiara said. The fundraiser was through New Hope Bikes and they were running it on that road. We signed up and they were set up there. The road was closed which made it nicer during the dark hours.

“There were a couple of corners and it kicked up near the end to 11 per cent (incline) which made it interesting.”

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Heather said. “I know she has a lot of tenacity and she’s very determined, but setting a goal like this is sort of beyond what an average 16 year old would think about. There are other young athletes that have accomplished this goal this summer so I think that she wanted to be in that club.”

The event used a segment of Fifty Road that was a little over one kilometre in length. While the hard work put in by the cyclists came on the uphill segment, the downhill portion also had its challenges.

“In the night, it was really cold and slippery and raining so I had to pay a lot of attention going down,” Kiara said. “During the day it was drier so I could just sort of zoom down and get back up.”

Kiara was one of five cyclists attempting to do the challenge solo while the other 45 – the event had a cap of 50 participants due to COVID-19 – were members of teams that were in the fundraiser. Starting at 6 a.m., Kiara finished the challenge at 8 p.m. With breaks to get hydrated and to answer nature’s call, Kiara figured she cycled for 13 hours.

“Every five or 10 laps I would just make sure to get a new bottle and I’d stay on my bike,” she said. “I just tried to keep going so it wouldn’t take forever.”

While it might be thought that the first or the 85th and last lap would be the toughest, Kiara found that wasn’t true.

“I want to say lap 25 because I started out too fast,” she said. “There were other people there and I was just trying to keep up with the people that were passing me even though I knew if I wanted to complete it I had to go at my own pace. At lap 25 I kind of hit a wall and was super tired and my legs were aching. Luckily I had a friend (Natasha Badertscher) and she rode with me for five or six laps. That really helped me because I almost considered quitting at that point. It was under half and it was frightening to keep going because of how much I had left.”

Kiara also had company on the hill near the end of the challenge.

“The person that organized the event for her team, Pete, he knew that she was going to attempt to do it solo. He has done it solo before, but he wasn’t doing it solo this year. He said to me after when he saw Kiara around the 40-lap mark, he was like ‘She’s going to do it. She’s going to finish.’ So he stayed and rode with her for the last two to three hours after the crowd completely thinned out. That was amazing,” Heather said.

“The hill going down was fast and you just worried as she’s getting tired. Having that person ride with her and support her was amazing. And then she did it and it kind of took a little bit to sink it. Holy smokes, that’s a big feat. We were really proud.”

At the start of the event, the biggest challenges for Kiara might have been battling loneliness and figuring out the course.

“For the first couple of hours, it was really dark, there was only a couple of people and I didn’t really know the climb that well,” she said. “I was just trying to figure it out in the dark. All I could see was the yellow line at that point.”

“The first two hours, it poured rain and it was dark and there were only a few people on the hill,” Heather said. “I just wasn’t sure what to expect. When it was 2 degrees and pouring rain, I’m sitting in my van and she’s still going. I would’ve packed it in and sat in the van, which some guys did. They waited until the rain stopped, but she just hunkered down and kept going. As the day went on, she didn’t waver. She didn’t look tired, she had good energy, she was happy and she just kept going.”

To get ready for the challenge, Kiara made sure she took on plenty of nutrition.

“I ate a lot of food before just because I knew it was going to be really energy-consuming,” she said. “I’ve been training for a couple of years, but I’ve kicked up my training a lot this year even though with school I found it kind of difficult to train. Honestly, the little bit of rest that I had not training as much in September and October leading up to it was really beneficial because I was just able to go out there and do a consistent effort and I had the energy to do that.”

While Everesting 2020 was Kiara’s first event of the year, she’d normally be in 20 or more races annually as she competes in mountain biking, road races and on the track. If there had been competitions this year, she would’ve been in the U17 class while she’ll move up to junior (U19) next year.

“I’m really lucky that I have this sport I can do outside of school,” Kiara said.

She’s played hockey for Centennial and also run cross country for her school.

“It’s been challenging because the really fun part of school is doing those sports and attending football games and such and just participating and representing the school. I would do cross country usually at this time of the year so it’s been really different.”