One Million Vertical Feet in a Year | Rush Tempo’s Story

The Art’s Cyclery Strava Club has grown rapidly over the last year and one of our most stalwart members, Rush Tempo, shared this inspirational story on the Art’s club page about his quest to climb 1,000,000 vertical feet in a year:

Strava is intoxifying. Just the thought of it ignites my receptors. I was introduced to Strava only a year ago. In an instant my breath was taken away, every ride in the world, every person, every athlete’s path was there before me. Soon, I was “Following” athletes from every country. I was eager to meet and make new friends from Europe, North America, South America and Asia. I even “Followed” a guy from Australia. He rides an MTB on kangaroo trails. I was following more people than I could follow, and if that makes any sense to you then you know what I’m talking about. I loved my new friends. I was a couch potato and wanted to become one of the fast guys on our Saturday group rides. I had a working theory; I would ride the hills until I was stronger, fitter, and faster than everyone else.

Out of curiosity I looked at the leaderboards to see who was doing big elevation. Daniel Cipriani was always on the leaderboard. When I clicked on his name it forever changed my life. Cipriani was attempting to ride one million vertical feet in a year. It was late October and it was not a slam-dunk, it was a race against the clock.

You see, Cipriani didn’t set out to ride a million vertical feet in a year. A million vertical was just a by-product of his love of riding. Very late in the year, maybe in October or November, someone casually said to him, if you hurry you could make the million mark. I followed Cipriani every day, watching his numbers get bigger and bigger. Hundreds of people were giving him Kudos and comments, Go Daniel! I was caught up in the moment. His routes were squiggly lines resembling pigs tails as he tied each climb together, one after another. He was an inspiration to me.

Prefumo Canyon 3

Punchy, brutally steep sections pepper the entire route up Prefumo Canyon.

I made my way over to our biggest hill, Prefumo Canyon, 1200 vertical feet, six miles to the top. I started riding and barely made the climb up the hill, so much for trying to emulate the great climber Cipriani. Eventually, near the end of the year Cipriani did it, he made it to 1,000,000 vertical feet! It was just amazing, what a feat. I had never heard of such a thing, never seen such a thing, and never felt such an emotional attachment to an achievement. What was amazing to me about the all out effort, and what gained my utmost respect, was that there was no trophy, no money, no prizes, no one to care, no one to show off to, no nothing. It was a personal achievement, a goal post. Ha, who does that?! I was so intrigued by the effort, I wondered, could I do it too? I wanted to get in shape, I wanted to ride hills, so if that’s the plan then why not?

I sat down with my ride leader and discussed the possibility. We figured I would have to ride up and down Cuesta Grade, the freeway at the edge of town with about 1200 feet of elevation, two and a half times a day, every day for 365 days. I was like, what? That’s insane. What if I missed a day? I would have to ride the Grade five times? Oh come on, no way! And certainly I would need a rest day, and there would be life events to get in the way, and weather to stop me. It just didn’t seem possible. And ride on the freeway every day? We decided, maybe Prefumo Canyon Road, it was also 1200 feet but at least it didn’t have any traffic. We both laughed, neither one of us liked climbing Prefumo even once! I said, “I’m going to try it.”

Prefumo Canyon 2

Prefumo Canyon is as beautiful as it is punishing. The Art’s team uses it as a regular training haunt.

I think there were very few people, if any, that thought I could do it, or would do it. I’m sure all the early bets were made against me. Some figured a few weeks at best, others a few months. They would have been right. I didn’t expect to make it either. But the fact is that it was about the challenge. It was about sacrifice. It was about going the distance, going further, farther, working harder than the other guy. It was about self awareness, introspection, a desire to say, “why not?” It was about dedication, self motivation, and through Strava, it was about caring about others.

Although I made it, I learned that I am not the best. My big fat head was humbled many times by many people. I learned I could not become the best in a year, perhaps ever. I learned that climbing hills does make you a better climber. But I also learned that riding the flats is very important too. And I learned that the quality of riding is more important than the quantity of riding. I had scaled the one million vertical slope. I wasn’t the first to get there. I didn’t have the most vertical feet. Others had made it to the million in a much harder venue or fashion. But still, I did make it. I made it on my own terms. I threw in a two hundred mile ride with eleven thousand feet of climbing just to prove to myself that I can do other types of riding. I tried to sprint the segments for the thrill of the competition. But then again, soon found out “those” types of riders are segment hunters and get no kudos for that. Not to worry though, I never took a KOM; although occasionally, if the wind was strong and my legs were fresh, I did pretty well. Riding for three, six, eight, ten, twelve, and fourteen-hour days, as many days as possible without collapsing takes a toll. The bike gets worn out, as does the rider.

After a long, long time the bike becomes personal. The wrap of the tape, the feel of the hoods, the angle of the bars, the cant of the seat, the adjustment of a cleat, the length of a stem, the tool bag, the water bottles, the width of the tires, the cluster, it all culminated in a mission to move a unique physical person with unique needs. The knees, the back, the shoulder, the toes, the neck, the arms, the butt, the calves, the hamstrings, the lips, the cold, the rain, the heat, the sweat, the agony, the euphoria, the fun, physically it all culminated in an abundance of memories.

How lucky we are to enjoy this sport of cycling. Thank-you so much for all of your support, your best wishes, your funny comments, your inspirational rides. As I head up the hill one last time this morning, I’d like everyone to know, just how much I care about our cycling community. It is with a heartfelt thank-you to my SloVelo group, our local bicycle shops, our SLOBC members, our Cal Poly Wheelmen, and our bike commuters, to each I say, “Here’s to you!” I’m the guy that gives you “Eight Feet” when I drive by in my car. :-) Happy cycling everyone! Rush Tempo

Whether you want to make an attempt on Rush Tempo’s record, or you just want to connect with other riders for inspiration and camaraderie, join the Art’s Cyclery Strava Club and start logging the miles!