November 2019


Ophthalmologist conquers height of Everest in endurance race

by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Editorial Co-Director

Dr. Odette’s endurance race took place in Utah at the Snowbasin Resort.

Dr. Odette marks his final loop of the race.

Dr. Odette after his first of 13 loops in his quest for 29,029 vertical feet.


For John Odette, MD, the milestone of his 40th birthday inspired him to challenge himself. That challenge came in the form of 29029, an endurance event, also referred to as “Everesting.” In this event, participants complete a certain number of mountain ascents to total the vertical height of Mount Everest—29,029 feet.
Dr. Odette spoke to EyeWorld both before and after this feat, which took place in Utah, detailing his training and his ultimate success.
Before the event, Dr. Odette shared how he first learned about the event through a podcast. “I’ve always wanted to climb Mount Everest, but with two young children and no time to go acclimatize and train appropriately, I thought this sounded like a cool thing,” he said.
29029 rented a private mountain at Snowbasin Resort in Utah where a basecamp was set up. It’s limited to 250 participants.
Dr. Odette explained that he’s raced before, particularly half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks, but he has never competed in an endurance event like this. “Unlike marathons where you can just go online and find a good training regimen, this is relatively new and not something you can find your own training program for,” he said.
Luckily, he was supplied with a training plan ahead of the race, which included training for 4 months prior. It’s mostly leg and cardio workouts, Dr. Odette said. For example, 3 weeks ahead of the race, one of his training exercises was to run for 30 minutes and rest for 30 minutes, repeating for 8 hours.
This is necessary because the 29,029 vertical feet must be completed in 36 hours come event day.
Dr. Odette speculated that the altitude would also be a factor. The course starts at about 6,500 feet and increases to an altitude of around 9,000 feet. After this ascension, participants then ride a gondola down the mountain. To reach the goal, in this case, required 13 loops. Dr. Odette added that the altitude in Texas is much lower than in Utah, so he expected some adjustment would be needed and that this might cause him move to slower than in training.
Going into the event, Dr. Odette hoped and believed that he could hit the 29,029 vertical feet goal.
Speaking after, he was thrilled to have accomplished the climbs in 33 hours—even with taking a much-needed rest break in the middle of the event.
“I was happy to just get through it,” he said. “It was a real beat down on my body and my mind.” Dr. Odette believes he was mostly prepared for the physical aspects of the event, though he did note that using hiking poles, which he doesn’t normally use, meant that his triceps were very sore.
He also noted that mental toll of the race, especially because he became ill in the middle, adding an extra layer of difficulty. “I just had to push through,” he said.
Reflecting back, Dr. Odette said he wished he had more time to acclimatize, as just breathing was a challenge. Each ascent was about 3 miles and 2,700 feet of elevation, he said, so it was basically like walking 3 miles straight uphill.
Dr. Odette initially started out by hiking about 17 hours straight but then took a 5-hour break when he began to feel ill. “I knew as long as I could get up and get moving again, I had time to finish,” he said. “It’s somewhat of a race against the clock.” When he did finish, it was about 3 hours before the 36-hour deadline.
“It was truly amazing because there was such a broad diversity of people there,” he said. The youngest person at the event was 16, he said, and the oldest was around 70.
Dr. Odette added that he’s open to doing a similar event in the future, if friends or family wanted to participate with him. “I would say that doing something like this is an incredible experience, and I think it’s more about the people and how the experiences run with the people you’re doing it with that can really change your life,” he said. “Trying to push yourself to do something new every year is a really great thing.”

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Ophthalmologist conquers height of Everest in endurance race Ophthalmologist conquers height of Everest in endurance race
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