Name: Doniel Drazin

Birthday: November 20, 1974

Occupation: Student

The Challenge:

26 minute swim

26 mile bike

26 bolts placed on new routes

26 routes led

260 push-ups

260 sit-ups

2.6 King Pin apple fritters

26 shots/beers/smokes

2.6 mile hike/2.6 times


The Echo Challenge  

Story and photos by Louie Anderson

After having been a key support player in my challenge, Doniel decided that he too had to do a challenge.  In the last few years, Doniel has become a great motivating force and has begun to share the duties of maintaining and developing the climbing area known as Echo Cliffs, located in the Santa Monica Mountains.  With this in mind, he chose to perform much of his challenge in and around this climbing area. 

It all started with the three of us (Doniel, myself, and his girlfriend Traci) meeting at Starbucks to fill the many thermoses needed to house Doniel’s coffee supply for the duration of the Challenge.  The challenge was scheduled to start at 10:00 pm and we were to meet at 8:45 for Starbucks’ last call.  Doniel and Traci got stuck in traffic and didn’t make it till well after the 9:00 closing time.  An omen of things to come?  I was able to fill all of the thermoses prior to closing and after a quick stop at the market to stock up on the necessary supplies (i.e.: cigs and alcohol) we headed off to the beach across from Neptune’s Net for a nice little swim.
This was the one event that I think had Doniel truly worried.  Now 26 minutes of swimming in the ocean would be a breeze if we lived in some tropical paradise, however we don’t, and the Southern California region was just coming out of a very unseasonably cold spell.  

With this in mind, Doniel came fully decked out in Neoprene.  I don’t mean just a wetsuit, I’m talking a full body suit, hood, booties – the works!  I mean any Navy SEAL that saw Doniel would have saluted.  As the clock struck ten (or maybe it was the stopwatch?) into the pounding surf my dear friend went. 

Both Traci and I did our best to keep lights trained on him as he was repeatedly pounded by the breakers.  For some reason Doniel stayed close to shore and probably spent more time recovering from the waves than he did swimming.  It was probably for the best though as there were several times where we temporarily “lost” him from our flashlight beams (causing momentary panicked sounds to escape from Traci).  

About halfway through, I started feeling guilty for not enduring the beating with Doniel.  Shortly thereafter I decided that I wasn’t showing too much support by standing in my multiple layers of clothing on the dry shoreline.  There was nothing to do, but shuck my clothes and join in.  Doniel was smart to wear the wetsuit.

 After a brief recovery, and the first of his coffees, it was off to the trailhead.  One of Doniel’s friends, Brandon Thau, was supposed to show up sometime during the night and join us the next morning.  Shortly before I got to the parking lot, I passed a random truck with climbing stickers.  Could it be?  Yes, it seems the luck was on Doniel’s side as it was Brandon and his girlfriend Chris.  We all pulled into the lot and shared the first of Doniel’s shots (nothing but the best, $60 a bottle Casadores Tequila).  We loaded up record-breaking weighted packs (full of all the “essentials” that we ended up not needing or using) and headed off to the crag for a little middle of the night bolting fun. 

While Traci started setting up the tent below the Kamikaze Cave’s steep routes (could there be a nicer sight to wake up to anywhere?), Doniel was busy rapping down a 100-foot wall to place the first of his twenty-eight (2 more than required for the challenge) bolts.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a sport route bolted by headlamp.  While this event was not technically demanding, I think that the following 2-3 hours of sleep deprivation took their toll on Doniel’s fitness the following day.  The routes produced by the bolting (“Bushwacked” and “B-line”, both 5.9 or easy 5.10) should prove to be quite popular for warming up and for the moderate crowd.

We finally got to bed at 3:30 and slept a whopping 2 ½ hours before it was time to get up and start the routes.  Due to the beers Doniel drank before going to bed, he was looking rather well-rested and ready to go.  The first of the routes fell at 6:15 am and continued throughout the day until just after 4:00 when Doniel successfully finished his last route.  During the day, it was decided that the chosen routes were too easy and Doniel stepped right up and added a few 5.11’s and an overhanging 5.12 redpoint to the list to replace some of the easier routes.  Bravo! 

It wasn’t until about 11:30 am or so that Doniel decided to tackle the fritters.  Out came a ziplock full of the lard and sugar infested monsters, and so it began (more to follow later).  Shortly before climbing his last routes, Doniel started his push-ups.  I would have liked to see him interspersing these, the sit-ups, and the fritters throughout the day, but Doniel had a plan and didn’t seem too worried.  A few quick smokes under the belt and it was on the trail again for the next leg of the challenge.

We ended up down in nearby Agoura Hills for dinner and more caffeine when Doniel decided to start into his sit-ups.  What better place than the parking island in front of Starbucks?  If nothing else we answered a lot of questions about Birthday Challenges and fielded a lot of strange looks.  We were ahead of schedule and feeling positive about the outcome.  Surely the worst was behind us?  After a quick shopping stop by Traci (although the pants were cute and I’m sure she had to have them), the happy little caravan headed out to the starting point for the 26-mile bike ride.

Doniel’s friend, and sometimes climbing partner, Chris lives locally and does a fair amount of bike riding.  He had set up Doniel with a loaner road bike and a course that was 13 miles one-way.  Easy enough it seemed to ride to the end of the course, then turn around and ride past familiar territory back to the car.  Easy enough in theory, anyway.  We set off on the ride with Traci following behind in my truck, providing musical accompaniment, regular mileage announcements, and the all-important headlights.  This was great!  We were our own little touring group, complete with support vehicle.  I must admit the first 5 miles or so were incredible!  Now I know where the truly wealthy live.  We rode through beautiful canyons, past sprawling ranch-style mansion properties that would make TARA seem like a shack.  Then the hills hit us!  Now remember that Doniel was on a loaner.  Big mistake, as Doniel was having difficulty shifting into the easier “granny” gears.  The hills kept getting steeper and longer and poor Doniel was usually stuck in his middle ring.  Soon motivation (and perhaps the light at the end of the challenge tunnel) got us through the hills and to the end of the first leg.  Only one problem – instead of being 13 miles into the ride, we had barely covered 8 miles!  Neither one of us were to keen on reversing the hills since they were much longer in reverse, and so it was decided (even though we had very little knowledge of the area) that we would continue on and make our own way.  Worst case, he would hit 26 miles and throw the bikes in the back of the truck for the return trip.  We kept heading more or less in the direction we felt was needed to close the loop and after a smoke break, and an inquiry as to what in the heck we were doing by the local police, we hit mile 26 with less than two miles distance back to the car.  In fact if we had eliminated a few false turns that had to be reversed we would have ridden an almost perfect 26-mile loop by sheer luck!

The real downside of the ride came with the realization that we had been crawling along much slower than our hoped for pace, and that the ride had taken 2 ½ hours.  Doniel now had only one hour and ten minutes to finish the remaining push-ups, sit-ups, beer/shot/smoke combinations, and fritters.

With this realization came a second (or was it third or fourth or fifth or…?) wind and Doniel started firing off sets of push-ups and sit-ups like they were nothing.  The big problem here was the remaining fritters and combinations.  There was only a small portion of the fritters left and the plan was to eat them at the end (damn the consequences!).  The combinations however were to be the real challenge.  After a shot was poured (and then promptly refused), a solitary beer was drank.  “No more alcohol,” said Doniel and so it was that three cigarettes stood between him and the remaining fritters.  Now for those that don’t know him, let me explain that Doniel does not smoke.  The whole inclusion of the smokes proves the dementia that is a necessary part of planning a challenge. 

Nevertheless, the cigarettes were consumed with plenty of time on the clock.  All that remained were the fritters.  It was 15 minutes shy of midnight (and the end of the challenge), when I said goodbye to my friend, Doniel.  I’ve got to admit that I’ve never seen Doniel this tired and spent (even after marathon bolting and cleaning days at the crags).  I only hope I didn’t look like that during my challenge – although I’m sure I did (I’ve seen the photos).  He wasn’t sure that he could handle the fritter even though there was only about 1/5 – ¼ fritter remaining (I think the three chain-smoked cigarettes were catching him).  He promised to do his best to finish them on the drive home.  Let’s just say that didn’t happen.

A short while from home (and after the time had expired from the challenge clock) the fitter remained in its plastic bag – uneaten.  Doniel had the sudden urge to puke, and try as she might Traci just couldn’t pull over in time.  Doniel’s challenge ended with his vomit all over the inside of his truck and dripping off his chin.  Happy Birthday Buddy!