Video: Margaux Elliott on her Journey to Climbing 1 Million Feet in 2020

Dec 10, 2020 at 18:57
by GrowCyclingFoundation  
Story, Video and Photo by Satchel Cronk

It is difficult to even comprehend what it means to climb a million feet on a mountain bike in one year. It’s the equivalent of “Everesting” more than 34 times, or riding the complete Tour de France route (on dirt) every other month, or climbing more than 2,700 vertical feet every single day, 52 weeks straight. And it is even more challenging to imagine doing all that on a long-travel full-suspension bike, while working full-time, in a year filled with an exceedingly high rate of plot twists and unexpected circumstances. Unbelievable as it may be, it is exactly the feat that Margaux Elliott is very much on track to achieve, and would make her the first woman to do so. Though the goal threw challenge after challenge at her on her way to this endurance feat, Margaux’s grounded resoluteness and incredible community support have lifted her to the brink of a major milestone.

Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism

The towering redwood canopy that stretches upwards from Aptos, California is a unique and stunning sanctuary. This year, it has been Elliott’s second home, as the fire road that winds up through Nisene Marks State Park became the primary vein that will carry her to that magical million. She has spun her cranks up it literally hundreds of times; a thousand moments spent in the dappled light and shrouded fog, all adding up to hours that methodically bring Margaux that much closer to her goal.

Hours are, in some ways, the primary currency of the pursuit. Elliott rides roughly 24 hours each week, which on top of her (thankfully flexible) full-time role in managing Giro's entire apparel line, makes the million-foot challenge a singular pursuit in Margaux’s non-working hours (and regularly intrudes on sleep time, too.) It has meant that most everything else in life has been put on the back-burner until next year—friends (though she sees, and makes, plenty on the trails), family (Sasha the cat does great in a pinch, and her fiancé Evan does join for pre-dawn coffee), and the couch (well…some more of that wouldn’t hurt.) It’s the kind of goal that feeds on steady, stubborn resolve rather than early-stage excitement, truly a marathon and not a sprint.

Somewhere over the summer, Elliott realized that she’d ridden herself into such solid, locomotive-level fitness, that it wasn’t muscle strain or soreness that she’d have to push through to hit a million. Rather, it would be about continuing to wheel her bike outside on every day listed on her expansive spreadsheet, swinging a leg over the top tube and pushing down on the pedals. She’d have to go ride on all different kinds of days; good and bad, when she felt like it and when motivation was lacking. Most importantly, she’d have to decide what she’d let deflect her from her goal, and what difficulties she could pedal right through.

Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism
Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism

The challenges, like any good story, marched at Margaux all year long. That’s part of what was so appealing to Elliott about embarking on this mission—that there would be difficult days, and that she’d have to dig deep to carry on. Still, some were expected, and others were not. There was fatigue and there were mechanicals, hot days and crowded trails. So Elliott slept when she could, maintained healthy levels of Snickers fuel to burn as needed, fixed flats and swapped bike parts as necessary, drank Skratch and smiled at all of the new faces on the trails. Through it all, she kept climbing.

Other days, though, 2020 threw curveballs. Elliott battled at times with nagging injuries, agonizing over whether missing some rides to fully recover would help or hurt her long game. There was, of course, the pandemic, which in some ways simplified her schedule, but also briefly shuttered forest access and forced Margaux to adjust to a totally different lifestyle in a year in which she’d already flipped her paradigm of normalcy. One evening, returning from a weekend of different climbs in Downieville, a car accident totaled Elliott’s Jeep and very nearly her Juliana, forcing her to lose valuable days for recovery. Terrible wildfires in Santa Cruz County and beyond choked the air and forced Margaux indoors. And, in some ways the most halting, social justice protests in the United States forced a reckoning that reached to the very base of Elliott’s privileged position of riding a bike. Through it all, she kept climbing, but through it all, Margaux found new purpose in her pursuit.

Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism

See, she has had plenty of time to think. Part of the beauty of her goal is that it’s given Elliott a phenomenal chance to find perspective. Amidst the hectic pace of modern life and the chaos of this year, her hours of mountain bike meditation have allowed Margaux to reflect on the incredible support that’s gotten her to this point; from a beginner getting literally towed up climbs to a rider approaching history. Somewhere beneath those redwoods, she realized that she is the product of a community that has strengthened her as a cyclist since day one—from friends who waited on climbs, to a company culture that encourages big dreams, and to the fiancé who keeps Margaux and her bike rolling—and that not everyone who picks up a bike is lucky enough to have that network. But just like every pedal stroke is a tiny yet concrete step towards her goal, Margaux now sees the multiplying power that each little act towards each other can have in our communities.

Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism

Photo by Satchel Cronk Part of the Piece Margaux Elliott s Community-Conscious Climb To Endurance Exceptionalism

So, Margaux Elliott is no longer just riding for a million feet of vertical ascent this year. She’s riding because she loves it, but also because she believes in sharing the transformative powers of sport. She’s riding to prove to herself that she is capable of more than she’d ever imagined, but most importantly, she’s riding to inspire others to chase goals that they’re not sure are possible for them—yet.

Margaux Elliott is leveraging this campaign to raise awareness and funding for the Grow Cycling Foundation, a non-profit that promotes education, awareness and opportunities that increase diversity and inclusion in cycling. Follow and support Grow Cycling at growcyclingfoundation.org or donate to Margaux's Fundraiser directly here.


47 Comments

  • 57 0
 Dear Margaux, from your work family at Giro, we couldn't be more proud. Even though we've had a year to witness this dedication, we still struggle to wrap our heads around how you can juggle this volume of riding and continue to over deliver in your role as the lead product manager for all things Giro apparel. We hope the broader MTB world is as inspired as we've been.
  • 25 0
 I could not have done it without the support from my work family Smile Thank you for everything, especially helping me to tell the story!
  • 14 0
 You've ridden your bike more this year than I've ridden my bike in the last 3 years combined! I'm so proud of you Margaux! Achieving this goal takes a massive amount of commitment and you've got it!
  • 4 0
 Couldn't have done it with without you Smile Thank you for always fixing the things I break on my bike and making me coffee Wink
  • 8 0
 damn now that's a goal i would like to try in 2021
  • 6 3
 Pretty incredible to even attempt such a challenge. Huge respect for someone that can show that level of dedication to reaching such a high goal. From a marketing perspective though, I do wonder why this came out before reaching the goal... particularly since it's so close to the end of the year and the article states she is "on track" to hit 1 million feet. I feel like it would have been better to capture the whole story rather than release this before it is complete.
  • 6 1
 Perhaps because this is an active fundraiser for Grow Cycling... people might be more motivated to pitch in a few $ to support her goal
  • 3 0
 What an insanely impressive achievement! I had a huge year for me and I'm still trying to close out on 700k, I can't even imagine the dedication to get to a million. Very nice work and commitment, and glad to see it's benefiting a great cause.
  • 5 0
 Incredible achievement, Margaux! I think you may have just inspired a few of us to set a new riding goal in '21.
  • 5 0
 An amazing feat for any rider, and love the idea of supporting Grow Cycling Foundation. Way to go, Margaux!
  • 3 0
 Wow, lots of respect and admiration to you, Margaux. That is amazing and really, really bad@$$.

How do your legs feel? Super/Bat/Spider/Wonder Man/Woman have nothing on ya'... Beer
  • 3 0
 Maybe this will inspire my best friend and family to go riding with me...
  • 6 0
 hahaha, thank you!! At first my legs would get pretty sore and fatigued...12 months in now they're pretty used to it! I think they're looking forward to a couple days on the couch once I finish though Wink
  • 5 0
 @margauxjo: Well, it makes me want to jump on my bike and pedal for the nearest mountain. Thank you for the inspiring story.
  • 5 0
 That is super impressive. Even 500,000' in a year on top of career, family, etc. is a lot.
  • 5 0
 Margaux this is so awesome! Way to make something great out this dumpster fire of a year. Cheers - Alex
  • 4 2
 I met Margaux the other day randomly at the demo forest. Somehow I had read about her doing this, and recognized her from instagram and we also follow each other on strava. Was fun to meet and chat Funny enough I am doing the same thing (that's right ..1,000,000ft in a year), except for raising money for mental health training for Roger's Behavioral Health therapists who treated my son in 2019. I can't put the go fund me link in this comment because I'll be banned if I do. I love riding my bike and ride about 3,000 ft a day which is in Tilden park currenlty and usually into the night, as well as day trips to surrounding areas. I love eating pizza afterwards also. I'm changing it up to have rest days currently, but on track.

But enough about me....well done Margaux! Looking forward to the party and the pastries!
  • 4 0
 Congrats on your accomplishment, a real testament to your force of will! I grew up riding Nisene Marks and Wilder Ranch, such a great area to live and experience.
  • 3 0
 Incredible accomplishment! Makes me like Giro even more, donation to Grow Cycling has already happened. Congratulations to you when you cross the finish line!!!
  • 1 0
 Today, in Slovenia, avalanche took from us a friend, a mtb enthusiast, mother, enduro racer and much more, who done in 2019 almost 2,5m feet of uphill and last year more then 1,5m... and last year she puts cycling quite a lot on the side because of her first love - mountain climbing. Maja, we will miss you!
  • 5 0
 so sick
  • 5 0
 Shitchyeah Margaux!
  • 3 0
 That 12,000,000 inches! But only 304,000 meters.... Just kidding, you're crazy in a good way.
  • 5 0
 Legendary Margaux!
  • 5 0
 Hell yea Margaux!
  • 3 0
 So, so good Margaux! That focus for a whole year, incredible goal. Stoked Smile
  • 3 0
 Thank you! All those endurance stories coming from you guys helped fuel the fire Smile Congrats on Olympus Mons!
  • 4 0
 Go Margaux! What an awesome achievement.
  • 4 0
 You can be proud of you Margaux !
  • 5 0
 Badass!
  • 4 0
 Super Marguax KILLING IT
  • 3 0
 Congrats Margaux. Incredible accomplishment.
  • 3 0
 Thank you Ian! Smile I know there's always a chance to see you out on the trails and heckle you Wink
  • 2 0
 Who didn’t check their Strava for elevation gained after reading this only to be further humbled? Congratulations!!
  • 2 0
 Congratulations, the target you managed to reach is impressive. Other targets for next year?
  • 3 0
 One of my favorite people! You are an inspiration!
  • 2 0
 That's some dedication. Amazing.
  • 3 1
 Nice one!
  • 9 12
 Not taking away from the accomplishment but the sub header 'On 20 December Margaux Elliott will become the first woman to climb one million feet in a year on a mountain bike.' is complete and utter ignorant BS. I know 2 women that do this every year. I know a few dudes that have done it for years on end. To say unequivocally that this is a first is complete presumptive ignorance. Like when Weir's 1M feet always got trumped up. Newsflash, not everybody has to sing their own praise from the highest peak. Plenty of dudes were doing this before...they just didn't have the notoriety or care about self promotion. Good on ya Margaux, shame on ya authors for promulgating such hyperbole.
  • 5 1
 Exactly. Rebecca Rusch, Sonya Looney, and a bunch of others have likely done this many times over. Good on Margaux but this reads too much like a PR piece with no fact checking.
  • 1 0
 And those people are not regular people, they are athletes. A big difference. @Snowytrail:
  • 1 0
 Let’s go with “regular person rides bike to raise money”, then shall we? Mark Weir and all the other athletes mentioned here are athletes.
  • 5 2
 Wow, lots of aggression here in this comment taking away from how good of a cause Margaux is raising money for. I would say shame on you for bringing this type of attitude under such an awesome bit of content, this is exactly the type of attitude that our small industry can do without. Although there may have been other female athletes to reach a goal of one million feet in a year (I have not fact checked this) I would be willing to bet that they have not done so exclusively on a mountain bike.
  • 1 1
 I was thinking the same thing.

I'm cool with "CLimbing a million feet this year for charity", but not "first woman ever".

Hell, I am at about 750,000 feet and I wasn't even trying, that is just normal riding for me.
  • 2 0
 Mad respect for you!
  • 2 0
 GIVER????
  • 1 0
 whose feet are these?

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