In February, we launched our most gruesome and demanding climbing challenge, PAINDEMONIUM. The rules are quite simple, ride twice the elevation of Mt Diablo, daily, for one week for a total of 53,872 ft (16,420.186 meters) in 7 consecutive days.
We thought this would entice any climber's appetite for challenge, not just because of the pure elevation, but also because of the accumulated fatigue, both physical and mental.
Corinne Black is our first PAINDEMONIUM finisher, not once but TWICE. And most impressive, is that in her second try she did it in just 5 days.
We sat down and chatted with Corinne, also known as "The Mountain Goat" to learn more about her, her experience with the Challenge, and her passion to climb.
The Pain Gang: Tell us about you, where do you live? Where are you from? How long have you been riding?
Corinne: OK. Do I have to say my age? I’m 44, well, on 6th April! I have two things that I love in my life: My family and cycling! I grew up on the North East coast of England, North Shelds and cycled pretty much flat roads. I then moved to Delves Lane, a little village just outside of Consett near the North Pennines, that threw hills into the mix! I’ve been cycling for 21 years. Unfortunately for me, I got into cycling the year after my Dad passed away. My Dad cycled all his life, he loved his family and he LOVED cycling! My heart lies with road bike and climbing. Where I live I can cycle 10 miles and climb 1000ft. My area is so awesome for climbing. Being so near the North Pennines I have a mix of short and long climbs with varying degrees of percentages. Being a Grimpeur, I am truly blessed.
The Pain Gang: What bike do you ride, what gear you used to finish the challenge?
Corinne: I have 5 bikes. 3 road bikes and 2 mountain bikes. But my first love are the road bikes! My Dads Denton’s steel road bike sits on his turbo trainer (My dad passed away in 1996 and he was a very passionate cyclist from childhood). I have my pride and joy a carbon Ribble HF83, full Ultegra spec. But, my workhorse, Winter bike, an aluminium BeOne Briza Comp got me through both attempts! She is kitted with a mix of 105 and Tiagra components. Mudguards WERE required! I needed to wear full Winter leggings and overshoes. I had 4 layers on top. A fleecy buff and a fleecy hat! It was cold, Winter in the UK! My fuelling was all over the place. Most days I could only manage a gel and a bar. It does go to show you though, how far you can push your body.
TPG: How were the weather conditions?
Corinne: On both attempts each day varied in weather conditions. On the first attempt I had planned to rep my favourite climb Humberhill. But once I drove there I realized that the road was just too icy. So I headed over to my backup climb, Bargate Bank (About 6 miles from my home). Over that first attempt I had minus temperatures, snow, sleet, ice, heavy rain and sun! But, I managed to hill rep Humberhill 5 out of 7 days. On the second attempt the weather was slightly better and I could rep Humberhill on all 5 days. Only two days of rain and the other three were pretty much sunny spells. With highs of 4c!
TPG: What motivates and drives you to ride your bike?
Corinne: I have an inner passion for cycling and especially hitting the hills. I do believe, in my heart, I get this passion from my Dad, a lifelong cyclist. I suffer anxiety and panic attacks in certain situations and cycling is such an awesome release. I don’t just love riding my bike, I’ve also developed a joy of working on them too. The intricacies of setting up the new brakes pads and fettling with my gears! Last year I cycled every day, some days I lost my passion for the beauty of being on two wheels. This year, I’m cycling to ENJOY it, not because I have set myself a challenge. Though, I do love a challenge! This may sound strange but I do actually enjoy sitting on the turbo. It has so many benefits. I’ve cycled 7 100 milers so far this year. Yeah, did I say something about challenges?
TPG: Why do you like climbing?
Corinne: I discovered HILLS and CLIMBING when I moved to Delves Lane! I soon realized I was born to climb. I’m quite small and weigh around 8 stone, so a perfect combination for hill climbing. I love the feeling of the ascent, the effort you have to put in. Anyone can ride on the flat but it takes a Grimpeur to ride in the hills! I quite enjoy the thrill of the descent too. I am, I have to say, a fearless descender! 58.2mph is my max descent speed.
TPG: Why do you love the mountains?
Corinne: I love the wide open spaces. The views from the top are always so much more beautiful than the views from the bottom. Cycling where other cyclists fear to go. The ascent is the dream for me. The passion, the feeling of being alive and free. The flat just doesn’t do that for me. Climbing over 1.1 million ft last year this where I spend my life. I am a ‘Mountain Goat’. My local hills are so amazing there are so very few cars on them. They give me a freedom I can’t get anywhere else.
TPG: How did you complete the challenge?
Corinne: I completed it 100% solo. On the first attempt I used 2 hills (Due to ice on my main climb). On the second attempt just 1 hill. I’d have all my fuel, kit, spare wheel, track pump, bike in the car the evening before. On the morning I’d drive to the climb and park up. I broke each day down into 3 reps. So, 1 full set would be 9 reps and I’d stop at the car and get a fresh bottle. Basically I’d stop every 1/3 of the way. My reps ranged from 11 – 31 per day. Each day I’d end up stopping 2 or 3 times.
TPG: You have completed other climbing challenges, what challenges have you completed and when? what drives you to search and complete them?
Corinne: In 2015 I completed an Everesting on Harthope Moss, in the North Pennines. 4am-9pm and 48 reps! It was a windy day in June but at least the wind was on my back during the ascent! This I did 100% solo. Driving to the climb early in the morning, having all my fuel and spare kit in my car. At one stage, later in the day, a driver pulled near me and shouted out ‘Have you been on this climb all day, I passed you early this morning?’ It was quite difficult trying to explain to him what I was doing, it’s only 1 ½ miles at 9% avg, but you still need to breath! Sometimes, climbing and talking AND breathing just don’t work together!
In 2016 and 2017 I participated in the Tilnar Cycle Challenge (You cycle as much or as little as you wish from 6am-9pm. But, for me, it’s always about the altitude, how much can I climb). Both years I climbed the most overall during the challenge doing circuits of my hilliest route. In 2016 I cycled 155 miles and climbed nearly 19,000ft over 14 hours. 2017, I wasn’t feeling too good so I only managed 133 miles and just over 16,000ft and only lasted 12 hours! This year I plan to smash my previous climbing numbers! And what’s the most efficient way of gaining altitude? Well, for me, it’s hill reps! And if I feel good, I have it in my head to throw in an Everesting and possibly a HRS.
TPG: How did PAINDEMONIUM stacked up against the other challenges?
Corinne: You know, when you cycle up and down the, well pretty much same hill, day in day out, you have PLENTY of time to think about things! In a way I think the 7 day PAINDEMOIUM is harder than Everesting. You have to go out there every day, for 7 days putting in the altitude. Mentally, that is tough! For my Everesting I was done in 17 hours and it was over with.
TPG: You completed PAINDEMONIUM twice, why? What was the difference between both?
Corinne: Hmmm, everyone LOVES a goody bag! Really, though, well, the first time, I thought it’s a climbing challenge that I hadn’t attempted and THAT was what motivated me! Once I completed that, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could complete PAINDEMONIUM over 5 days instead of 7. But, again my first attempt, over 7 days was harder. Those extra two days of knowing I had to go to the climb and hill rep for around 6 hours, that was tough. I am so not thinking ‘What would it be like to do PAINDEMONIUM over 4 days’!
TPG: What did you find most challenging about PAINDEMONIUM?
Corinne: Motivating myself to get out each day, over 7 days. Knowing I had to be out there for around 6 hours and 8000ft on average a day. For where I live, hill reps are the most efficient way of completing the PAINDEMONIUM challenge and Humberhill is THE most efficient hill near me and that is only 1 ½ miles from home. I climb a lot, but I’m not used to climbing THAT amount everyday! It is an awesome challenge.
Follow Corinne's journey to the sky on Instagram @hittingthehills
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