Ben Hildred: 1 Million Feet in 200 Days

July 29 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California

The Milly in 200


It's safe to assume that Ben Hildred is a little out of our league when it comes to painful feats of athleticism. He completed his Olympus Mons challenge (69,841ft of elevation in 3 days) then started this new adventure one month later. Check out our quick interview with Ben below!

Did you originally plan to do it in 200 days?

Originally the plan was to do a million feet within the predetermined benchmark of a year (365 days). A few heavy hitters had done this already [among them Mark Weir in 2005 and Juliana’s Margaux Elliot in 2020], but early on I’d wondered how fast it could be achieved. I’d figured out the daily average elevation for 365 days and consistently being above it I started to think about new time targets, after the first month of peak summer [SCB: Ben resides in NZ where the seasons are inversed compared to the Northern Hemisphere] , long evenings and multiple ride days I was on target to knock it off in 10 months, a few more weeks past and 265 days started to look possible. Looking at my elevation output from start to finish it was always on a steady climb, 265 days (Sept 22nd) became 8months, then 7months, then after a  bone aching and lucid month of June, 200 days (July 19th) could be seen on the horizon, it just required two of my biggest weeks in the middle of winter. 

Was it accelerated because you got bored/sick of it/saw an opportunity to get it over with so you could enjoy your days again?

It accelerated because I wanted to see how far I could take it, if I’d done two back to back 10000m weeks then that became the new norm, anything less wasn’t progress. Although there were grim days I never got bored or sick of it, smaller goals were microdosing the gruel. Towards the end I felt worried about completing the million as it’d leave a very real hole in my days and motivation, I’m happiest when out to achieve. 

Was it what you expected it to be? Did it feel like a chore or a challenge? Did the feelings you have for it evolve or change through time?

At different times it was a chore and a challenge, the first few months it was simply a background ticker I kept my eye on whilst enjoying the New Zealand summer and doing what I would be doing anyway. As the weeks got colder and darker it started to feel more real, that’s when the accelerated timescale started to get my attention. Every spare moment mattered and other aspects of life were put on ice while I rode as much as time would allow. As time went on it certainly became all the more consuming. It makes me wonder how different the effort would have felt if my daily average was consistently spent over the 200 days from the beginning.  

How did you schedule this? Was it regular vert each day (before and after work) or did you bulk up mega vert on your weekends and then do a bit less on work days?

Vertical gain remained consistent over all days, work or not, work days simply meant better time management and work became forced rest time.

What is it you do for work and what's your schedule like? Could you be flexible?

I work at Vertigo Bikes, in Queenstown, the best bike shop in the game! A lot of my hours pedalling were during split shifts, this meant an early start and late finish, but I could benefit from the midday light.

How much did it suck doing a lot of this during the winter?

I reached half a million on May 3rd, 123 days in, so most of the work was through winter, and it was difficult to not have the option of a smaller day, or a rest day when it was really miserable, some days I’d finish and my hand were too cold to undo my shoes or helmet clips. Being soaked anyway I’d stand in the shower in full gear and wait until I’d warmed up to remove my shoes. Having two pairs was useful in the latter months!

It feels like just yesterday you did the Olympus Mons, do you recover well from these sort of things or are you just conditioned to do vert?

It was only the month of December between O’Mons and starting the Million, I feel conditioned to these big days now, or maybe I just haven’t recovered properly for a while, so this is the new norm’? Either way, I’m happiest when out on a big day with a goal in mind and pedals to turn.

What compels you to do things like Everesting, Olympus Mons, and a million vertical feet?

I think it’s an amazing feeling and idea to challenge your perceived limits, to see what’s achievable and how long or far you can stretch focus, determination and capability. Any excuse to spend as much time on the bike as possible, planning a mission and setting a goal will get you further with anything. I’ve said it before, but bikes man, nothing compares.

  • Take a look at "Forced Habitsfrom our friends at SRAM to learn more about Ben's journey.

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