The Journey to Climb One Million Feet in One Year

Climbing a million feet is an experience no one will ever forget accomplishing.

It can’t be done on a whim and is really a process that takes a dent out of your life.

It blows my mind that I’ve ridden a bike an average of two hours a day this year.

Sure, some of that time has been commuting or the Garmin recording while I’ve taken my time at CicLAvias, but it’s still amazing to think of all the days I’ve been off the bike due to sickness or just having other things to do.


Gravel riding has been an efficient way of getting vert too


For me, cycling is many things including commuting, socializing, giving better access and providing an escape.

I’m also a person who enjoys being physically active and sometimes these worlds cross over.

I enjoy being competitive within my middle age dad confines by creating goals that helps me progress as a stronger cyclist.

In 2015 when I started working downtown, I thought my 15 miles route along the river path would keep my fitness up, but after a couple of months I found myself falling back.

I don’t do intervals, own a power meter, nor have come anywhere close to spending $10k on a bike, but for me the best to improve was to climb hills.

There was no clear plan other to just pick hillier routes whenever given the chance and results were beginning to show.


My Send it Sunday Series has been a great way to climb and meet rad people


I felt stronger on group rides and snagged a KOM here and there, but you ask yourself “Can I do more?”

So in 2017, my goal was to average 2,000 feet a day which quickly became slightly more to round up to 750k for the year.

It wasn’t too much of an adjustment as it was only a 10% increase from the year before.

My new route to work was about 1,800 feet of climbing and if I had extra time, I’d add a few more hills on the way.

I ended up easily beating my goal by 10k and for 2018, I could only go up.

Aiming for 800k seemed like a nice round number, not even thinking about hitting a million seeing how much of a struggle it has been for other friends.


Dona Pegita along with Mt Olympus were climbs in the high teens I targeted


The year started out slow and I was way below the pace by June.
Fortunately, my job gave me Fridays off for the summer and with a relaxed work schedule, I started having 6k – 8k efforts on my free days.

From there, I started putting together months of 80k – 90k+ for the rest of the year.

As time passed, I raised my goal to 850k for the year and even tried reaching 900k at the very end.

By fall, all this extra climbing had paid off as I felt the strongest I had ever been on my bike.

At the same time, I realized that for the second part of the year, I climbed 520k meaning if I just doubled that effort for 2019, I’d reach a million.


At first, I didn’t think I could pull this off being about 20k feet behind schedule after January dealing with colds, bad weather and general fatigue for the efforts the last six months.

My daily elevation increased in February, but I still found myself further behind pace meaning I had to go above the 2,743 feet average for the rest of the year.

March was a month where I just kept pace, but by April, I knew I had to take it up a notch if I was going to do this.

Every ride to work was an effort to see how much elevation I could get within an hour and a half which felt like doing intervals daily.

Also, since time is vert money, I started targeting climbs where I could efficiently gain elevation.


I caught the million foot disease from Michael Muhney who completed it in 2018


That meant finding steep climbs without much interference while also avoiding many stop signs on the descent to get back quickly to my repeats.

Since every foot counts, an extra few minutes on these climbs could mean another 150-300 feet a day which adds up.

For me, Mount Olympus between Laurel and Nichols Canyon became a hot spot as I could cover 2,200 feet plus per hour while dealing with the joy of 17% grades.

I set weekly quotas which determined who and where I’d be riding to ensure I’d get enough elevation to hit my mark.

The climbing went so well that by the end of September, I was well ahead of pace.

By November, I had to climb 2,300 feet per day which lowered to 1,800 by December.


My friend Vic has been the biggest help on keeping me sane during these rides


At the same time, keeping this pace for over a year and a half was starting to wear on me.

Riding would at times seem like a chore and as winter set in, I missed my opportunity to do long, epic rides because of the cold temperatures.

I wanted to knock out the million as soon as I could because you never know how much sickness, bad weather or the holidays can take you away from riding.

Still, I wanted to hit that seventh digit in a special way which meant riding the San Gabriels.

These mountains are an amazing getaway that transports me to the Sierras even though I can reach them in minutes.

While the cover of snow could be seen as a deterrent, it was a draw to me to highlight what an amazing contrast the Angeles National Forest provides.

Since a million feet is a solo journey, I was fine crossing this threshold alone even though I had to alter portions of my route due to the conditions, even allowing me to explore a couple new offshoots.


Crossing One Million at Hwy 2 & Silver Moccasin Trail


Needing roughly four thousand feet to cross the milestone, I stopped for a picture which led to a moment of self-reflection.

It has been the most tumultuous year of my life, yet somehow I devoted a humungous amount of time to an endeavor only I could come to terms with.

As irrational as this goal was, reaching it gave an additional layer of purpose and order to everyday.

My family has played a tremendous role in helping me sort out my emotions, but cycling has provided an extra layer of distraction to keep me in a positive frame of mind.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll try to reach a million again in 2020, while the numerical goal may be the same, the journey will differ.