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Hemoglobin is a protein responsible for transporting oxygen in your blood. When you breathe, your lungs diffuse oxygen into blood, and it's the hemoglobin's function to do the moving for the rest of your body. In high elevation where the air is thinner, pressure is lower because fewer molecules are present, including oxygen, therefore each breath you take contains less oxygen, and the body responds by increasing your heart rate and the amount of blood pumped with each beat. Most of us know what it feels like: it's pretty damn hard to breathe up there. In acclimatizing to elevation, the amount of hemoglobin in the blood increases which allows more oxygen to be carried throughout the body. It can take days or weeks, but full hematological adaptation is achieved when the increase of red blood cells plateaus.
Let's say you want to scale Mt. Everest, possibly the most brutal acclimatizing the human body can experience. A well known, commonly followed maxim in mountaineering is "climb high, sleep low." This allows for a gradual acclimatization so that the recovery is done at an oxygen level and air pressure that the body is more accustomed to. Of course that's not law if you're keen on breaking Pemba Dorje Sherpa's summit record of 8 hours, 10 minutes. If you're like the rest of us plebes, prepare for a lot of up-and-down.
Though if you're reading this, you're more likely preferential to riding a bike than hoofing on crampons. And more than likely you're familiar with the more recently popularized solo-ride activity, "Everesting". Here's a refresher on the bike rules:
- Climb the height of Everest: 29,029 ft / 8,848 m
- Activity is performed on a single climb (up-and-down A LOT)
- One activity, no time limit, no sleep
On June 13, 2020, Australian pro-cyclist Lachlan Morton broke the Everesting world record at 7 hours, 32 minutes, and 54 seconds over 42 laps of Rist Canyon in Bellvue, CO. Morton thought he'd never do it again, but his data regretfully reported just shy of the required elevation gain and the record was disqualified. It's worth mentioning that only two weeks prior to his attempt, on May 30 he broke the treacherous Kokopeli Trail record, a 142 mi mountain bike ride from Moab, UT to Loma, CO in 11 hours, 14 minutes. So the dude rips.
Not a month later, and exactly a week after his first attempt, on June 20 Lachlan broke the Everesting record AGAIN at 7:29:00. This man is a hemoglobin hero. More impressively, he possesses the mental fortitude of Siddhartha Gautama. I was deeply inspired by the series Thereabouts he created with his brother, Gus Morton (you're hopefully familiar with from Episode 6), and their beautifully shot, creative and eloquent, alternatively elegant influence made me reevaluate what I was doing on a bicycle.
It seems to me that the types of virtues necessary to be successful in sport, especially professional sport, let alone the fitness required to break world records, should look rather dry, like discipline and work ethic. But it's clear as crispy Colorado air that in the few hours we got to spend with Lachlan, his order of operations always has and continues to put FUN first. Should that sound counterintuitive? The more I think about it, the more it makes sense, and everything else – fitness, speed, devotion, discipline, work ethic... it all seems to follow as a byproduct. Enough deep introspection for now, and I'll continue my lifelong studies with Guru Morton on my own.
Welcome to Episode 12 on Gold Hill, CO.
We start our day near Downtown Boulder, outside the beautiful home where the Mortons parents reside. Scott is already taking a lesson and restraining his excitement.