Name: Ben Banks
Birthday: August 8
Occupation: Fireman, level 3 Team Zissou Cadet
Resides: Atwater Village, CA

The Challenges

In 24 hours, I will complete:

1.  30 routes, all on sight, 5.10 and harder
2.  30 boulder problems, on sight
3.  30k of running while listening to 30 songs by the Eagles (I hate the f---'n Eagles)
4.  300 pull-ups, push-ups, and leg lifts
5.  30 minutes of proper "warm up", Team Zissou-style
6.  30 minutes of nunchucks and/or bo-staff
7.  3 hours of yoga
8.  30 minutes of massage for Lynn
9.  30 minutes of "chase" with Bowie (his favorite game)
10. 3 pounds of ham eaten (weight before cooking, "Hey Tina, eat some ham.")
11. 3 Campari on the rocks, poured by an intern (hey, I'm a lightweight) down the hatch

This will be done while wearing a proper red cap.  Unfortunately, I don't own a speedo.


It's a Cliffhanger...

When the alarm clock went off at 4:30 am, I popped up and grabbed my red cap.  I had no time to waste – warm-ups, yoga, and 10k to complete before the crew was supposed to arrive at precisely around 6:30 am. 

Under the orange glow of the street lamp, I blasted into the first minute of Zissou-style warm-up.  Whoa Nellie.  Fifteen minutes of poor-form yoga and I fired up the Ipod.  Nothing like Don Henley at 5 am.  Somewhere around the L.A. River (about a quarter mile from my house) I got really tired of the Eagles.  No one ever said this was going to be easy…

After finishing the run and feeling pretty good, I packed up some essentials (extra red cap, underwear, goggles, ham, rain slicker) and called Steve’s cell phone.  I asked if he and Andrea wanted some coffee when they got to the house.  “Does the Pope shit in the woods?”  I threw in a couple extra scoops.


We crammed into my truck with far too much equipment and hit the road.  The plan was to boulder at Snow Mountain and climb at Holcomb Valley Pinnacles.  Only Steve had been to the Pinnacles before, but qualified that he really didn’t remember much about how to get there.  I rode in the back of the truck and did push-ups and yoga en route to the mountains.  Bowie (my dog) was a hinder, as he continually tried to nap on me.  I think everyone should try doing pushups in the back of a truck doing 80 on the freeway.  Almost feels gyroscopic.  In between coffee and miscellaneous stretching, I had done 50 pushups and 30 minutes of yoga by the time we parked the truck. 

pics: should have had bikram help me with my form. not much room for calisthenics. the impressive boulders of snow valley, "pretty country. landlocked."

“This is bouldering, not climbing.  You’re going to need something with a collar.”  Good thing I brought a proper shirt. 

Steve ran ahead to scope out some bitching lines.  Soon, he was visible only by his red cap.  We warmed up on some of the proudest lines this side of Fontainebleau.  The 30 problems went down pretty easily, and included problems mainly in the V0-V1 range.  Skin became a bit raw, as the rock was somewhat dirty and grainy.  The main problem was blood loss due to leg wounds incurred while trampling through the overgrown trails.  Driving to the Pinnacles, I ate a pound of ham.  Andrea and Steve had also brought ham (in solidarity) and each finished a sandwich.

pics: i think i hear the jack quail singing. 


Then the true challenge began.

Let’s just say that a new component was introduced into my birthday challenge:  3 x 30 minutes of being totally lost in the San Bernardino Mountains.  It turned out that the guidebook I had purchased was less than helpful in finding the desired crag.  Actually, worst guidebook I’ve ever purchased.  We obtained a map from the visitor’s center, which was equally useless.  We would have been better off getting in the truck and driving with our eyes closed.

Several adolescent moto-crossers, lost Jeep off-roaders, and squirrel hunters later, we passed encampments of circled oversized motor homes and sites littered with auto parts.  We knew we were close.  We all took a hit off the gas can and finally pulled into the parking area for the crag.  Of course, those in the group that carried the guidebook managed to get totally lost, and those that didn’t found the crag in a matter of minutes.  When we started climbing, it was 2 pm.


I was a little unmotivated at this point.  We were starting way behind schedule, I had a lot of warm-ups left, hadn’t touched the nunchucks, and had only finished one pound of ham.  We began climbing in the sun/shredding, because, well, when in Rome… 

We scrapped the idea of doing all 5.10s and amended the challenge to 30 routes onsight of any grade.  We also lengthened the time frame to 30 hours.  Steve and I didn’t look in the guidebook, and it wasn’t long before I found myself a few bolts up a pretty nasty route.



Relying heavily upon Steve’s drill-sergeant-esque motivation, I completed the 30 routes by 8 pm.  Some of the routes were so easy that I didn’t clip any of the bolts on the way up.  I am not proud.  My feet were killing me.  The last few routes, however, were in the 10+/11- range, which I felt was a good way to finish.  Mike scoped the last route of the day, which I climbed in the dark sans headlamp, and we hiked back to the truck.  We didn’t use headlamps or the guidebook, so we found it right away. 


pics: lynn griese, the brains behind team zissou, napping because 'someone's gotta make sure you idiots can get home."

stevesy and andrea pesce, scriptgirl.

kingsley casts off into the night, "bikram, is that thing rolling?"





Lynn and Andrea had set up camp, and the following ensued: ham, nunchucks, chips and salsa, warm-ups, power bar, whiskey, ham.  I made the grave mistake of not bringing the ”ham-grenade” (a two-pound ham that, due to its formation process, looked like a WWII relic).  It was waiting for me at home.  We packed up and took off.  After driving over an unseen chasm at about 25 mph, we managed to get lost for another hour.  We were all pretty punch-drunk at that point, and pondered the possibility that we’d never make it out alive.  Everyone in the truck, except Lynn, fell asleep on the ride home.  I rode in the back again and did more yoga and pushups, but fell asleep before long.  We pulled into my driveway at midnight.

Just before 12:30am, Steve and I laced up our running shoes and pulled on our red caps.  Another 10k had to go down. 

“We’re running around L.A. wearing red caps at night.  We aren’t going to get shot by the Crips or anything, right?” 

We ran at a pretty good pace and finished in about 50 minutes.  My legs were pretty much wasted.  The whole time I was running, I thought about the 32 ounces of precooked, cured pig waiting for me in my refrigerator.  However, I felt strangely optimistic.

When we got back, I ate a bit more ham.  I thought that cutting the ham up into smaller chunks might help it go down faster, but no such luck.  In fact, it actually appeared that there was more ham than when I started.  Eating ham quickly grew tiresome.  Mike, Steve, and I each drank Campari on the rocks (of course) before Steve and Andrea left.  Mike crashed at my house.  It was almost 2 am.

pics: ready to run "you sure these caps are a good idea in this part of town?"

"intern, get me a campari." "on the rocks?" "you got it." kingsley, papa steve, cinematographer mike "bikram" ayon, born on the ganges.


I awoke the next day at 8 am and finished the remaining 10k.  I brought Bowie with me, because I figured that if he ran in front of me, I would be in fact “chasing” him, thus completing one of the challenge elements.  It turned out that he was pretty tired as well.

The run took over an hour and included some periods of walking.  My legs were totally thrashed.  When I returned, I immediately went to my garage and began the pull-ups and leg lifts.  I did 5 pull-ups and leg lifts per minute for an hour.  These went down easily.  I began doing pushups in sets of 20 to reach the 300, but went over the time cut-off at 11 am.  I continued, and reached 300 just before 11:30 am.  I also managed to work in a few more warm-ups.  Those suckers were hard.  I tried to eat more ham, but couldn’t.  Something about the texture…


         My birthday challenge was a lot of fun.  I was able to complete the main events of running, climbing, and bouldering, and nearly completed the exercises within the time limit.  I finished six minutes of warm-ups, one hour of yoga, and ate a pound and a half of ham.  Getting lost a couple times was a bummer, but, as usual, Team Zissou made the best of a bad situation.

Many thanks go out to Steve Edwards (mastermind/motivator), Mike Ayon (photographer/scout), Andrea Pesce (ham-in-solidarity/route cleaner), and Lynn Griese (driver/wife, to whom I still owe thirty minutes of massage).  I figure if I start training now, I’ll be ready for 3.1 pounds of ham next year.