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Jason's Diary
My 30th Birthday Challenge Journal


The Long Over due Post and Pre Birhtday Challenge Journal:

Posted in reverse order. For the final entry scroll down to Jan. 24, 2001


12/22/00 11:44 PM

Well it is almost the end of my actual birth day. I can hardly believe I am sitting here, almost midnight, exhausted from the day, journaling about a birthday challenge invented just 3 days ago. I feel as though I have been on a missile launched at high velocity and the momentum is increasing!

The past 24 hours alone have been exhausting, stressful, exciting, and a little scary. First, I commit to the challenge. Than start sending out e-mails and contact Roberta and Lee (Roberta is one of the co-founders of Young Survivors Coalition).

The conversation went along the lines something like this….

"Hi Lee.. How is it going? Usual Lee and Jason talk.

Jason: Ummm Lee I need to talk with Roberta when she gets home I’ve decided to do a birthday challenge….

Explain to Lee what the challenge is. Lee is excited, calculating if I can do it, and of course insisting my last mental screw has obviously become loose!

  jasonroberta.JPG (17667 bytes) Get the go from Roberta (this is obviously a good thing since I already began sending out emails. Get the go from my email to Steve at birthdaychallenge.com (also a good thing for the same reason.)

By noon today, my actual birthday I have emailed over 200 people. My friends have already begun forwarding on the emails and in less than 24 hours I have commitments for almost $2,000!!! Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! Of course my focus quickly shifts to getting organized, finalizing a date, getting the support I’ll need, getting press, and pushing forward to hit the fund raising goal.

left: jason and roberta

My brother Michael calls at 10 a.m.

Michael, after singing our mutually bad rendition of "you say it’s your birthday….." "Are you really gonna’ do this" ….he already knew the answer to that one!

Michael: Can I buy you lunch for your birthday?

Jason " Sure, that would be awesome! Are you in town?" All the while thinking, I’ve got to train, Ive got to raise money, I’ve got to think of a route..time for lunch??

My wonderful borther hops on a plane and flys down to buy me lunch. Mom calls during lunch laughing.

Mom " I got your funny e-mail on the birthday challenge. That was so cute. Carol called she said she got the email and thought it was funny to. She asked me if you were really going to do that. I told her of course not….. Jason, you aren’t REALLY going to do that are you?"

Jason: "Well mom yes I am. I have to explain to her that I do not plan on lifting all 3 tons at once, 10 sets of 100 pounds on the bench equals 1,000 pounds, etc. etc."

In the back of my mind: Got to get a training schedule together. What is going to be my exact challenge date? I need to email back all of the people who already responded. How do I keep track of donations?

2pm Michael is gone. Great lunch. Great time. Haul butt back to the office and continue the finger numbing emails. I sent most of the emails out individually. I do not believe when you are asking someone for something, especially like this, that the way to do it is with a blind email. Replies keep coming in…just AMAZING!!!!!

5pm on my birthday I am still working frantically. I have gotten no work done outside of the birthday challenge project. Something very nerve racking for someone self employed.

Mind to self: When am I going to get some push ups and sit ups in? I at least must get in a run today!!

11:30 p.m. End of my bday. Today I arranged for my good friend Mills ( a PT specializing in athletes), as well as a Cyclists and Runner to hang by me in a support vehicle, help me keep my body together throughout the challenge, and ride / run with me on parts. We start thinking of routes and keep running the pros and cons of different dates. I still have not replied to the fantastic number of incoming emails pledging support and good luck wishes.

Doug Pruitt is going to have me on his TV show next week. Going to work the press hard. Calculated I need to reach over 10,000 people to come close to getting enough "no thanks" out of the way to raise the money. Brad Somer, M.D. is stoked by the cause and going to get it on the oncology web sites to help raise the donations.

Eco-Challenge released info on team registration.

Mind to self: Must focus on birthday challenge! New Zealand…alpine race with sea kayaks. Great, sea kayaks with spray covers….how on earth am I gonna do that one? I have never in my life been in a sea kayak… you’ll learn. Focus on birthday challenge. Do the diary entry for Steve. Focus……

Gotta get some sleep. Doing the Sweetish Hill ride with the hard core road racers for 4-5 hours in the morning and than pushups and situps. Sleep boy……

End of Day One.

Sunday 12/24/00

Ran to downtown to meet Sheila and friends for breakfast. Stopped and did push-ups at red lights. Already starting to feel stronger with my push-ups. Was supposed to run again and do another ride. Instead chose to rest. Another difficult balance of this challenge on short notice is balancing rapid training and prevention of injury from over-training.

Monday 12/25/00

Sheila and I are in Houston with her family. We rode on this wonderful access road that went dead east forever. Better yet was the dead on head wind at 30+ miles per hour the entire way. I forced myself to pull the entire time and instructed Sheila to hang on for the ride. We went out 15.5 miles and averaged 15 miles per hour. I felt it was the strongest 15 MPH ride I had done in a very long time. We turned around and came back now with a incredible tailwind. I was able to hold 30mph. My boy felt strong at the end of the ride but I could feel some discomfort on the inside of my right knee. A little bit of mental fear developed as I realized the pain was likely caused by holding the same position in the saddle (to stay low in the wind) and that was something I would have to do for much longer to successfully complete my challenge.

12/26/00 4:35 PM

Journaling when trying to manage the time crunch I have put myself in is quite a challenge. To reflect since me last entry. Rode Saturday morning 54 miles with a group of about 25 very serious road racers. We averaged aprox. 17 mph. It was a "have fun and just spin the legs" day. I felt strong the entire time which is a little reassuring as I am concerned about the 300KM bike leg. Mills Cooper rode with me, we discussed pace, survival strategy (Mills worked the Pacificare Race Acroos America Team for several years). We also selected the challenge date. January 13th. to Sunday January 14th. This will allow me to join up on Sunday with a 30K run already organized outside of Austin, and if the weather goes awful (ice storms are common this time of year) I have a one weak window to try again. That evening I did push-ups and sit ups. Increasing the reps and decreasing the rest time between sets. During the day, while Sheila did a back to back off road ride, I went to the office to follow up on the emails from people pledging contributions and wishing me luck. I had no idea how quickly something worthy as supporting a good cause can grow to a full-time task. Sending thank you emails, coordinating a support team for the challenge, organizing a press schedule and preparing a press release, finalizing a date (a VERY difficult task) this all aside from actually training for the challenge.

12/26/00 Evening (while making this journal entry). Every half hour I am doing 40 push ups and 50 sit-ups. Body feels good. Tomorrow the real training will begin.

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

  I feel that I am looking upon the birthday challenge as some epic event from some sort of hazy mist. Could I really have done all that I challenged my spirit to accomplish? Could it have all really occurred that fast as if in a dream-like state?

My soreness, almost two full weeks following the birthday challenge, combined with congratulatory emails and word of contribution checks continuing to arrive at youngsurvival.org would confirm…I DID IT...WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKIN’??!!??

This journal will certainly miss important parts leading up to and during the challenge. I ask for forgiveness and input.

On a cold, rainy, wind blowing Saturday morning I left downtown Austin on my 30 hour birthdaychallenge.com quest to push my body and spirit to the edge. My real focus was the goal of raising money and awareness for a charity supporting young women with breast cancer: youngsurvival.org.

photo: early on in the ride: jason and the peleton

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The weeks leading up to the birthday challenge were strewn with bad omens sending three alarm waves of "bad kharma" thoughts deep into my mind.

Two weeks to go until challenge weekend and training was on schedule. Than omen numero uno struck. I miscalculated the time I would be out on my Wednesday long ride and was caught in the "we hate bike riders" evening rush hour. I called Sheila to come get me. Sick from a sinus infection my always there-for-me Sheila trudged in her car, picked me up, and took me home. The combination of my fatigue from the ride and her sinus infection left us both off guard when we drive into the car-port and both FORGOT THE BIKE WAS STILL ON THE ROOF OF THE CAR! The noise of the bike colliding with the carport and the roof rack being ripped off still makes me cringe… and less than two weeks before the birthday challenge!

Thursday: Intense hill workout with Mills and Sheila. Hey the bike "looked" fine...why not? I felt strong on the hills… I was feeling ready for the challenge.

Friday: I took the bike in after the hill ride to be safe and have it checked. That is when I learned the graphite fork was compromised. Good thing it didn’t snap on some of those 50 MPH descents.

Sunday: On the spare bike for my shakedown ride. Forty miles in the rain with Sweetish Hill and thirty miles with Sheila "fresh." Good ride but the body was aching...was I really ready?

Tuesday: Adventure Race Team Mate Darran Wells and I did a 12-mile trail run. I tripped TWICE over barbed wire fences and than lightly sprained my ankle between some loose rocks. Big time omen! I returned home with legs cut from rusty barb wire and a limp. I was greeted by Sheila, Jeff, and Mills (two of the guys helping me plan as well as supporting me during the ride). They were not happy. "No more riding. No more running. You are tapering until Saturday. Stretch. Soak your ankle." They were right.

During all of this time I am also coordinating with the press, sending thank you’s for donations, trying to finalize the ride route, and finalizing support logistics for the challenge weekend.


Friday: Less than 24 hours until "bday":

Noon-ish: Marc Siegel, the Director of the ittn.com and one of the nicest guys on the planet has an airline ticket he is going to give to Steve Edwards of birhtdaychallenge.com. News8 Austin calls and tells me they want to cover the entire event, need route information, maps, phone numbers, and can they have an exclusive?

2 p.m.- 6 p.m. : Grocery store for supplies and food for company. Get to the house and help Sheila clean for the arrival from New York of Lee and Roberta (Roberta is the founder of youngsurvival.org). Lee and Roberta arrive. Dinner is ready. Eat, talk, have a great time….must get to sleep…..butterflies. How could my stomach have butterflies..it’s not a race? Of course during a race not everyone will be watching from around the country ready to cut checks depending on how I do.

Saturday, January 13th, 7:00 a.m. CHALLENGE DAY!!!

Rain, Rain, Rain. Cold. Cold. Cold…Why exactly am I doing this????

8:45 a.m. Arrive at sweetish hill. Reporter from the Daily Texan begins shooting away. Riders start showing up for the sweetish hill ride. Barry has arrived to be drive a support vehicle and video tape. Sheila arrives with Lee and Roberta. Jeff, Stacy, and Mills arrive. Jeff, Stacy, and Mills spread the word to the Sweetish Hill riding group…. Birthday challenge…good cause… 186 mile ride…. Route already planned.

It is dumping down rain now.

9:20 a.m. I roll out accompanied by everyone one of the sweetish hill riders! Barry following, Sheila, who wanted to ride with us so very much is with Lee and Roberta to ensure they can get some pictures and cheer me on from the beginning of the route.

Some time less than 20 miles into the ride: I have already knocked out 10 GOOD hills. Oh man…. How could I have already hit 10 hills in the first few miles? Did we mess up on the route? Please let me make it.

Still raining.

The pack has me in the middle to protect me and keep my speed low. Stacy is staying right behind me. Jeff in front of me controlling the packs speed and Mills by my side. We are in the rolling hills averaging 17 mph and have a tremendously long journey ahead.

Mind to self: "I hope they stay for a long ways. What am I going to do if I am stuck on my own?" "Man. I know I am going to be out here alone. Please stay." The riders in front of me are kicking up road water into my face making it difficult to see and stay relaxed in the pack… I guess that is why I must have not seen Mills pulling up on the right when I knocked him off the road. He was fine… Stacy to Jason "It’s ok Jason. Forget. Focus on the ride. Don’t think about it. Forget it…focus."

  bikesolo.JPG (21948 bytes) About mile 35: The pack is already down to 7 or so. Two more guys are pulling off and I know Stacy and Mills will be heading back soon to prepare for helping me later.

The weather is rough. Cold I can handle. Wind I can handle. Wet I can handle. Add them together…and you have a mental battle of choosing between self preservation and pressing on.

Mind to self: "Press on. Press on. No options. Pedal…just keep pedaling."

We have passed over I-35 and are heading out past Georgetown into what I remember from the route planning as the big rolling hills area. I am soaking wet and getting pretty cold. I am worried about Stephen, one of the riders who hooked up with us in the beginning and was not ready for something of this caliber in these kind of conditions. I take a troops tally in my head and think about Jorge and Stew, two very strong riders who have told me they plan on staying around 100 miles. We’re all miserably cold. Jorge keeps coming back and reminding me to eat and drink. "Does that support vehicle have any hot fluids? You need to drink something other than water and eat more than power bars."

I radio Barry … Sheila is on the way with egg salad and hot tea… please hurry. My focus has shifted to keeping my "team" happy. I lose them and I am in deep trouble.

Sheila arrives somewhere around mile 60’ish. Hot tea, egg salad, chicken in tortilla. She is awesome! I have no time to stop and be polite. I stop, drink some hot fluids, grab the tortilla and have to get going because my body temperature already started dropping and uncontrollable shivering set in. "Must keep rolling."

Mills and Sheila and Barry are also tending to Stephen. He is down for the count...not looking to good. Mind to self: "Man, I hope I make it."

The first 90 miles were cold, numbing, and dream like. Jorge and Stew pulling with me glued to their wheel and Barry making sure we had fluids and food. Self: "Just stay on the wheel."

This is not as easy as one might think. Jorge and Stew are machines. Jorge has calves the size of a VW bus and Stew just powers on and on with a Terminator killing machine look on his face. I remember staring at Jorge’s calves at one point and seriously thinking "If those things (the calves) take off…I am so screwed."

Hours go by….

Somewhere in that time we stop at some barbeque/gas station/ icehouse in who-knows-where-texas-bubbaville. Imagine a bunch of guys walking in from the rain wearing tight lycra...

oh yeah… we’re dead.

"Excuse me. Where is your restroom?" I ask.

At least one of John Deer hat wearing folk was kind enough to lift his hand from his fixins’ of BBQ and point toward the bathroom.

Clicking away in my sissy boy bike shoes wearing my lycra rain and mud covered uniform I trek down this hall in what can only be described as a converted horse stall. Found the bathroom… (should have pee’d in the horse stall). Note to self: "Come back dressed in bubba clothes…BBQ smelled great!"

More long and cold mesmerizing miles. We finally arrive in Elgin sometime early-mid day. McD’s hot coffee here I come! Stew and Jorge are pulling off and heading home. I am grateful for all they did and nervous to see them go. Stephen has been riding shotgun in the car with Barry and wants to give another shot at pulling me. I know he must be hurting. He is a good guy. Quick change into dry bike clothes. Leave a drippy puddle in the McD’s, apologize to the staff about our mess….explain to them it is for a good cause. They approve but still think I am a freak (they’re right). Back on the bike…let’s get this thing moving. Mile after mile. Stephen pulls well and makes it another 20 or so miles. Sheila has joined in, Jeff is in back with a car, and Barry is now in a lead vehicle. Barry and Jeff are directing cars around us and I can hear the discussions on my radio hook-in plugged into my ear.

We climb over I-35 now south of Austin. The sunset was beautiful and the rain finally stopped. Dusk is quickly encroaching. As we climbed over the long rolling hills I noticed I was starting to fade…and fast. Jeff would later tell me that he saw my shoulders shrugged down over the top of the bike coming over the crest of the hill and new something was wrong. I have an "I’m way long gone dude" look on my face. I chug down some hot soup courtesy of Megan. Grant Tait, another support driver, is rubbing my legs trying to keep me from cramping. Barry is video taping the half-baked humor of me mumbling on the side of the road and Jeff is checking the bike.

Jeff to Jason: "Did you air up your tires before you left this morning?"

Jason "No."

Jeff " Dude. You’ve been riding with 80 pounds. Give yourself an extra ten miles…he says while pumping up the tires.

Mind to self "110 miles down…a long ass ways to go. Man So far to go. Come on Jason. Get it together. Get back on the bike."

We’ve decided to cut off the Gatorade and go back to straight water. The sugar took me up to fast and slammed me back down. We ride into the Buda HEB. Lots of folks waiting for me there. Refreshes me to have everyone near by. I eat some more. Nightlights and blinkers on everyone for the dark. We group up and head out toward San Marcos. The fog is eerie. It is so thick that as the cars headlights shine from behind us it predicts are shadows as a 3D figure in the fog in front of us instead of on the ground below us. In San Marcos. We realize are calculations were off and we are going to be short on mileage. I call it. We follow the course as planned and head back into town. We’ll make up the extra miles back in town.

Somewhere early on back around Buda it is down to just Mills and I. Mills is fresh and riding very strong. I keep reminding him he needs to slow down. I have gone over 150 miles and Mills and I are averaging right under 20 MPH. I am concerned about how the pace will effect me during the run tomorrow but happy to be watching the miles fly by. I am ready to get off the bike. Around mile 176, a mere 10 miles from the finish, the extra energy expended to keep the pace fast over the last 30 miles or so paid me back. I bonked again. Sitting on the side of the road, trying to eat and drink in the parking lot of some shopping center next to a "lingerie modeling" place. I decide it is time to use "gu." Gu is mostly sugar and caffeine in a gel form. I figure it will get me back up quick. The downside of gu is that the quick increase in blood sugar slams you back down when it runs out. I figure I’ve got about an hour left and if I don’t finish by than my body will tell me to kiss off.

We get back on the bike. Mills and I are going slower. Steady pace...watching the tenths of miles click by…so close. We need to do an extra out and back to to make up for the shortage earlier. We ride right past the finish. My eyes are glued on the parking lot as we ride by…. Less than 6 miles to go. We head out, come back, and sometime around 11 pm we celebrate… FINISHED!

I am excited. Than I remember I am merely 1/3rd complete with my birthday challenge. I am thinking about the run. Steve Edwards of bday challenge is insisting I start packing in some food right away in prep for tomorrow.

Everyone is exhausted. Barry Jucha has been in the car following me since the beginning and it is obvious that he is just as ready for some well-earned rest as I am.

Sunday, January 14th. Time to run.

  We arrive in Buda and I am antsy. A TV crew from News 8 has been waiting for me for half an hour… I over slept. They do a live remote broadcast...that was cool. Steve, Megan, and Art are there as well as Marcy, John, and Kip from my team. Steve is going to bike along side us with the mat for the push ups and sit ups. Sheila is still wonderfully by my side. Cheering me on and helping however she can. preruninterview.JPG (20993 bytes)

Monday, February 19, 2001

I am going to finish this bday challenge journal!!!!!

Author’s Note: As it has been almost a month my close memories are probably a little hazy (and likely the reason why Steve kept asking me for the journal). I am writing this in West Texas on the return from the Lajitas Mountain Bike Race.

meganjasonrun.JPG (15357 bytes) The run was tough. I felt surprisingly good but had fatigue that definitely knew the previous days bike ride was not a slacker day. We went out on the run and I calculated 10 minute miles would have me doing 6 sets of push-ups and sit-ups, should keep me comfortable, and leave me enough strength to finish up in the gym on time and within target. The first 10 or so miles and first sets of push-ups were no problem. Steve was riding along side us carrying the therma rest.
When I was close to the 30 minute push-up/sit-up time Steve would launch ahead, inflate the air mattress, and get everything set up for a quick in and out. After about mile 10 my legs started telling me what a jerk I had been to them over the past 24 hours and decided that pressing on was going to be battle. I began looking forward to the push-up/sit-up break as it got me off my legs and gave me a break, even if for only a few seconds. pushups.JPG (19213 bytes)
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Sheila joined in for the last few miles of the run. It was Marcy, Megan, Art, Sheila, me, and the last hill. Sheila kept wanting to know how I was doing, see how the run was, etc. I was able to muster out the comment "top of the hill" which Marcy explained to her meant "talk later he is hurting". I ended up walking the hill. My only walk during the run.


The last set of push ups were right before the track entrance where you run one lap to the official finish. I had an entire cheering squad by me! Roberta of Youngsurvival.org, her husband Lee, and Lee’s parents. Marcy shouted out the push-up and sit-up rep numbers as she had done all morning. The last few push-ups were tough. I was mentally thinking about the weights by now…and my thoughts were not real positive. Finished the run in 3 hours and four minutes...looking back should have pushed a tad harder and done "3:03". SUCCESS! Leg two accomplished.

Now to the gym.

We arrived at Powerhouse gym with several hours to go. I took the elevator up...stairs were not an option at this point. Betto, the Gym owner was waiting at the front desk. We went in and Steve and I got to work. I felt good right away with lower back, delts, and triceps. I tried some legs…what a joke that was!! Steve talked me into it and we hammered right past 3 tons with my goal of 30,000 pounds.


Now my upper body started showing some significant signs of burn out and my bodies last remnants of strength began fading fast. About an hour in the gym and we let out hoots of success…30,000 pounds!!!!

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photo: jason and roberta on channel 8, austin

And still time to blow! As we headed out Steve came up and said "You know I’ve got those fritters." Man, was I hungry and thought sure why not….just a fried piece of yummy dough! I should have known from the menacing grin on his face and the sympathetic looks from Megan that an adult gives to a poor old dog on it’s death bed that these were not your standard fritters.

With an ear to ear grin Steve brought over a bag that had enough oily ooze on the outside to make me think it was filled with greasy sausage….if only I had been so lucky! I look into the depths of the bag and to Steve’s delight were a pit of three enormous fritters. I am pretty sure the fritters were grinning ear to ear at me too!

I was hungry…I tried. Man did I try! One bite, two, than three, than I was down for the count! Sheila and Megan gave there condolences…Steve left the bag of fritters for me to ponder on the next week and a half until I finally gave up and let them lay to rest. I am sure the fritters will decompose in the land fill faster than they will in my gut!!


A succesfull bday challenge. A great cause… and what the hell nothing better to do on a weekend J

Many thanks to all who helped!

-jason mittman, adventure racer, real estate investor, good cause stoker, and sometimes bday challenger.

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