Latest Updates from Birthday Challengers Far and Wide...




December Update

We haven't been reporting lately because, well, we're busy but also because there hasn't been a ton to report. A few new challenges have happened, been attempted, or are in the works. It's December, and that means Catra's probably got something happening soon.

Here's a report from Brad:

Hey Steve, Here's a link to the 2008 challenge page   This isn't an off the couch challenge but it's not exactly a well trained for challenge either.  My running has been consistent but up till now my longest run is 13 miles.  I've started doing some crossfit training which should help as far as the duration of the challenge goes and I've been doing some minimal mtn biking.  Overall I'm psyched for the challenge and it's all I've been talking about for about the last two months.  This challenge is a stepping stone for me, in the spring I hope to compete in my first 50 mile trail run.  Thanks again for all your inspiration.


and Heather's cooking up something in New England:

Not sure how many have you have heard of the Birthday Challenge but I thought I would throw it out there to the RI gang, and I am turning the big 4-0 this year.  It’s a challenge that involves a ridiculous amount of exercise (ie climbing, biking, running, swimming, yoga, etc), humor, drinking, and usually eating strange things.  It is an event that you design for yourself usually with a theme around your birthday age. It was started by a crazy friend of mine out west, Steve Edwards. I've included the website below so let me know if you're interested, he will post your challenge and photos.

And Trent had a pretty cool run through in October and is planning a full-on assault at something in Jan.

Trent's Recon


Micah Finishes

Report coming soon but check out the slide show from Bob Banks. Looks like great fun with plenty of suffering.


Brian in training

Here's his blog


Bob's Cross Fit Workout From Hell

Here's his blog


Blue Star Cadet Alvin Chen

Hi all,
I love your website and find it to be a great amount of inspiration
and I love the Life Aquatic!  I'm not the most in-shape person and
can't really compare my challenges to those on your website, but I
thought I'd throw something together anyways.  Here's a link to my

Alvin Chen


A Guy Named Todd From Kentucky is in progress.

Here's a link to his blog.


Brad from December

Hello!  I thought I would pass this challenge along, more to say thank you than anything.  I saw the article in Backpacker a few weeks ago and decided that for my 26th birthday I would try my own challenge.  It's not as exciting as a 42 hour run but it should definately push my limits.  Here's a link to the outline of my challenge and I will post results and pictures after the challenge is complete.  Thanks for an inspiring website and I believe I have found a new annual ritual.
Brad Child

To find the limits of what can be done, one must first risk going too far.
-Bradley Paul

Link to his blog here


Jamil is at it again


I'm posting some updates to my blog today during my birthday challenge.  Check it out if you have some time.... I should be posting pictures later.




I've been slacking but that doesn't mean nothing has been going on...

I've been busy but challenges have been coming in. I'll update them as quickly as I can. Micah's challenge in SB looked epic.


Check out the Feb of Backpacker Magazine

I've been interviewed about BDC and there will be an article. Haven't seen it, so I have no idea what it'll say. Hopefully will be nice and slanderous. Endurance athlete Lisa Jhung did the interview so, hopefully, she's captured the spirit of the thing.


Challenges Sans Reports

We've got some serious slacking around here. As Mark said to Manny, "if you didn't film it than it didn't happen," and we've had a couple of challenges that I've been part of (so I know they happened) that have are still un-chronicled. Let's get to it, people.


Reed vs Smog, Part II

I'm going to do my challenge on September 2nd. My
plan is to start hiking up
the Vivian Creek Trail to San Gorgonio Peak at
around 5:30am. I will summit
and then return to the car as quickly as I can
without doing too much damage
to my legs. Then I'm going to hop on my bike and
ride it to the ocean. The
hike is going to be around 18 miles round trip with
just under 5,500 feet of
elevation gain. The ride is about 90 miles long and
loses about 6,000 feet.
I will consider myself lucky if I finish the ride
with the sun still in the
sky. To celebrate I might have to have 4.1

I haven't really thought much about any support, but
if anyone wants to try
to help they are very welcome. Chad said that he
would start hiking later
than me and then plan on giving me some water when
I'm heading down and he's
heading up. Anyone else want to do some hiking? I
think I'm on my own for
the biking, but that's fine, since I don't really
know what time I will be
starting the ride.

I hiked about 11 miles with 3,400 feet of elevation
gain yesterday. I wasn't
moving very fast and my knees were pretty sore as I
was heading down.
Sunday's hike will be much worse. Hopefully the hike
yesterday will help me
feel a little better next weekend. Today I am
feeling pretty sluggish and my
calves, quads and butt are all a little sore. It
will be much worse next



Greg Carter Off The Couch In Austin

 I am doing it in about a week. Decided to leave out the great climbing I did on our recent trip and make this a wholly Austin-based challenge…


Big Weekend

Pat Schlosser of Apple Valley, CA, Ben Banks of SLC, UT, and Spencer Cannon of LA all completed challenges over the weekend. Look for the write-ups soon.


Scott Young From Afghanistan

My name is Scott and I am turning 31 this month. I am currently deployed in Afghanistann with the US military, and I was hoping to come up with something to make my birthday even more memorable than it will already likely be.  Last year I completed a birthday challenge, and since I had such fun, I figured I'd give it another shot in spite of the limiting environment.  As I know that the best challenges have a fundraising element, I've started a fundraiser for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF).  SOWF is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the children of special operations troops that have been killed in training or in combat.  The website and details can be found at  In the spirit of the birthday challenge, I would appreciate a minimum donation of $31.  Of course, I would be grateful for a donation of any amount.  Donations to SOWF can be made via the internet at the webpage I have set up through SOWF for this event, ge.

And now, without further adieu, the 31st birthday challenge:
31 repetitions each of the following exercises (the descriptions of many of these exercises can be found at ):
1. Regular pull-ups
2. Chin ups
3. Push ups
4. Bench press
5. Shoulder press
6. 20lbs wall ball throws
7. Hang squat clean
8. Hang power clean
9. "Air" squats (i.e. bodyweight only)
10. Barbell thrusters
11. Bar dips
12. Burpees
13. Box jumps
14. Knee to elbows
15. L-pullups (keep legs straight out in front of you)
16. Deadlift
17. Kettlebell swing
18. Ring pushups
19. Push jerks
20. Situps
21. Back squats (with weights)
22. Jumping pull-ups
23. Walking lunges
24. Double unders (jumping rope must pass under feet twice to count as one rep)
25. Kipping pull-ups
26. Dumbbell thrusters
27. Ring dips
28. Overhead squats
29. Sumo deadlift high pulls
30. Stiff legged deadlifts ("good mornings")
31. Back extensions

In addition, I'll complete a 3.1 mile run, 31 minute exercycle ride, 3.1k row and 3 rope climbs.

All of the above is to be completed in a 24 hour time period, and we're hoping to add more stuff along the way.  It will probably go down on or around the 25th.  I have enlisted a couple of other disturbed individuals to attempt this feat with me.  All in all it should be a good time.

As further incentive, I will send the top donor an American flag that was flying during combat operations in Afghanistan.
It will come complete with a certificate of authenticity signed by our unit commander.
Please feel free to forward this on to anyone who you think might be interested.  Thank you in advance for your support and contribution to the SOWF. 



This is right up our alley. Check out this climbing comp. Anyone want to hit Arkansas?


Monotony - Pain

Phil up this weekend in California.


From Adele Tamboli


I'm turning 25 on May 31, and I am planning a challenge.  It's
probably not up to the high standards of, but I
am doing my best, and this is my first real try at a birthday
challenge!  Here's the plan: I have a list of things I want to do, and
I am giving myself two and a half weeks to do them (because I am
weak).  The list and details are up at

Of course, I am open to suggestions, if this isn't good enough...


Keeping the Wisconsin Tradition alive: Colin Erskine's Upcoming Challenge

Is in the works. Check out his ongoing blog:

Or link to it from his MySpace page:


Sandee's Challenge Write up done.

We'll post it soon, hopefully.


Sandee and Phil Challenging California's Central Coast

Two big challenges are coming up. The first is this weekend, when Sandee will attempt what could be the longest bootleg run yet attempted: 37 miles. And that's not all. She's also got an ascent of Figueroa Mtn (day's ride for most people), and a bunch of swimming and bouldering in the mix. But she's also going to run 37 miles, from winery to winery, en route to tasting 37 wines. Her sustenance, in honor of Easter, is going to be those godawful bunnies that your mom used to sandbag you with as a kid. As far as we know--and we know a lot about this sort of shenanigans--this is the longest bootleg run yet attempted.

Check it out here.

Phil is training for an unprecedented 40 laps at the Tor. This is hard to fathom if you've never seen the Tor, but it's friggin' ridiculous by most people's account. Or, as Chis Leube put it, "impossible".

Read about his training here.


Nick Rhodes Going Big in Wisconsin

His challenge is this Sunday. Here's what the locals are saying:

"You do realize that those WT shots could kill you at that point in the day, don't you?"

I know you won't listen to me, but I'll say it anyway. I don't think this is a good idea, you are going to hurt yourself, possibly permanently. There is a difference between intensity and insanity."
And for the record, the UW Triathlon Team does not condone, sponsor or encourage this in any way.

"Are you serious? You are a complete nutcase. I say this mostly of your attemptto drink around about 18 ounces of whiskey all at once. Assuming you survive all the other parts of this lunacy, the booze-guzzling might do you in. Buddhists don't believe in hell, but I am sure there is some sort of name for this, that I think has to with guilt or something.
"I will not help you.  Mostly because I live in Milwaukee, but also because
mostly I am sane."

Here's what he's planning:

After participating in many challenges with the likes of Todd Mei and Tim Lindl among others I have decided to finally plan and execute my own challenge. My excuse for this previous lack of action on my part is due to the fact that I was born in February, one of the worst months of the year (Thank Bhudda it is only 28 days). In previous February's I either wanted to kill my self or at least kill others. With my spirits much more lifted as of right now I have decided to plan as follows......

The challenge is set for Sunday February 18th. I will be turning 25 on Monday the 19th.

-First challenge is to find someone to work for me which will hopefully be done today.

-At 6am on Sunday I will start skiing at Elver Park in Madison at which I'll make 25 laps of what is approximately a 1 mile course. I have guessed that this will take 6 hours.

-At noon I will head off on a roundabout 25 mile route in the freezing cold on my commuter bike to Boulders. This will approximately take 2 hours.

-At Boulders I will climb 25 leads. (Repeat if need be, lame but necessary). I'll give myself 4 hours to do this.

-At 6pm from Boulders I will be setting off on a 25 mile bootleg booze run in which I will take 12.5 (25 divided by 2) shots of Wild Turkey (My Power Animal) or the equivalent. This will take all night. Being Sunday with some bars closing early the will be on reserve a flask full of W.T. of which I will drink in case of no bars being available.

-I also want to run with 25 different people during the run.


Jeff Brown on Full Focus KPBS San Diego Tonight

Concerning this access issue which could be about a lot more than San Diego. Tune in or head to the San Diego Access page to see how you can help.

Full Focus KPBS


Charlotte 's Fundraising Party Next Weekend

Help Miss C's challenge and her quest to raise money for Rover Rescue by heading here. If you're in So Cal, you won't want to miss it.


Nice Work, Julie (sure, we'll put you on the front page)

My name is Julie Sauer, it is my birthday tomorrow, but I did my
birthday challenge this weekend.  Here is the link and I have attached
my main image.  Hopefully I can get on the site, I know the challenge
was not anything amazing, but it was a challenge and I had a lot of fun
doing it.  You guys are AWESOME!

Julie Sauer


Charlotte Wants To Party

Help Miss C's challenge and her quest to raise money for Rover Rescue by heading here. Sounds fun, so don't miss out.


Join Catra This Friday!

Hi Friends -

It's that time of year.  You guessed it it's time for Catra to do something crazy as a b-day challenge. 

I will be starting on Friday December 15th at 5am in the Mission Peak parking lot Stanford ave, in Fremont.

Take Mission blv. off of 880 follow Mission blv. a couple miles and make a right onto Stanford av.  follow it to where it dead ends. 

Looks like Julia, Mylinh & Joe will go for the Ohlone 100k.  They will finish if I have any say in it!

I really want them to finish so will go out and stay with them.  Hey I have all the time in the world. 

Anyone that wants to start at 5am Friday can go out with us and just turn around whenever.

We will arrive back to Fremont mile 62 1am or 2am.  We will head to Jerry's house 1 mile from the trail head to meet up with whoever and hot soup for me and warm clothes. 

Linda & Jerry I think you two should head out to us.  Let me know what time you will start.  This way maybe the night group can run with you out to us. 

We will head out again to Sunol and do out and backs this way anyone can meet up with me anytime on Saturday. 

I should arrive back to Fremont again at 8am-9am.  Would be nice to have any ultrarunners join in the fun than for there morning long run 20 miles.  I should be back once again around 3pm and head back out again.

I would like as many people who can come out to join me during this section.  If your looking for a 8 hour run at night this sections for you. 

I will finish at 11pm.  So if were not down in the parking lot by 11pm whoever is with me will have to carry me because it's only a 42 mile run so at 42 hours I turn into a pumpkin..LOL.. Just kidding let me know who's in. 

Talk to you all soon,



Charlotte Plans Big Month

Looks fun, and ambitious, and she needs your help. You can read more about her challenge and upcoming fundraising events (er, party!) on her blog at:

Miss C's Blog

Charlotte’s 30th Bicoastal Birthday Challenge
(to be completed in 30 day 12/30-1/28)

Since I will be on the East Coast from December 27-January 10th, I will have to complete some of my birthday challenge away from home.

1. Run 30 miles.
2. Ride Tri bike for 300 miles.
3. 30,000’ of Snowboarding
4. 30 Rock Climbing routes
5. 3 mile Ocean Swim.
6. Kayak 30 nautical miles.
7. 300 push-ups
8. 130 pull ups
9. 3,000 sit ups.
10. 3 hours of Yoga
11. 30 times up & down Manhattan Beach Sand Dune.
12. Lift 3 tons of free weights. (6,000 lbs)
13. Dance for 3 hours straight with only three ten minute breaks.
14. Meet three new friends.
15. Make dinner for 30 friends.
16. Get 3 hour long massages
17. Read 3 Classics.
18. Clean/fix/remodel unfinished projects in my home for 30 minutes 3 days a week for 3 weeks.
19. Make, bake and give away 3 dozen cookies.
20. See 3 shows on Broadway.
21. Visit 3 Museums for at least 3 hours.
22. Call 30 friends that I haven’t spoken to in at least 2 months.
23. Eat 3 French Silk Pies from Baker’s Square.
24. Drink 3 bottles of wine.
25. Consume 3lbs of crab legs.
26. Consume 3lbs of ribs.
27. Raise $3,000 for Rover Rescue which will save the lives of 42 dogs.
28. Volunteer 3 days at Los Angeles Food Bank with 3 friends.
29. Bake 3 lbs of healthy doggie treats for Valentino’s doggie pals at the dog park.
30. 30 random acts of kindness for 30 strangers.


Join Catra!

Hi Friends -

It's that time of year.  You guessed it it's time for Catra to do something crazy as a b-day challenge. 

I will be starting on Friday December 15th at 5am in the Mission Peak parking lot Stanford ave, in Fremont.

Take Mission blv. off of 880 follow Mission blv. a couple miles and make a right onto Stanford av.  follow it to where it dead ends. 

Looks like Julia, Mylinh & Joe will go for the Ohlone 100k.  They will finish if I have any say in it!

I really want them to finish so will go out and stay with them.  Hey I have all the time in the world. 

Anyone that wants to start at 5am Friday can go out with us and just turn around whenever.

We will arrive back to Fremont mile 62 1am or 2am.  We will head to Jerry's house 1 mile from the trail head to meet up with whoever and hot soup for me and warm clothes. 

Linda & Jerry I think you two should head out to us.  Let me know what time you will start.  This way maybe the night group can run with you out to us. 

We will head out again to Sunol and do out and backs this way anyone can meet up with me anytime on Saturday.

I should arrive back to Fremont again at 8am-9am.  Would be nice to have any ultrarunners join in the fun than for there morning long run 20 miles.  I should be back once again around 3pm and head back out again.

I would like as many people who can come out to join me during this section.  If your looking for a 8 hour run at night this sections for you. 

I will finish at 11pm.  So if were not down in the parking lot by 11pm whoever is with me will have to carry me because it's only a 42 mile run so at 42 hours I turn into a pumpkin..LOL.. Just kidding let me know who's in. 

Talk to you all soon,



26,000' Up and More

This looks rugged...

2007 Birthday Challenge:

I will be turning 22 years old on January 31st and here is my proposed birthday challenge:

Since I have school and work during the week and my birthday is a Wednesday, I will be completing the challenge in a 24 hour period beginning at 12:00am on February 3rd.

Hike up Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, AZ 22 times. (1.2 miles up, with 1,200 ft elevation gain = Total of 52.8 miles and 26,400 ft elevation gain)

Do 22 pushups at the top each time. (Total of 484)

Do 22 crunches at the top each time. (Total of 484)

Eat 22 quesadillas

Drink 22 virgin bloody marys

Get shot by 22 paintballs

**I will chug 22oz of beer for every person who completes this with me

My site is for those who want to follow along.  I would love some space on your site!

I know this will be extremely difficult, but I feel that I will be prepared to make a really good attempt.  I have hiked up and back down Piestewa in the past in about 40 to 45 minutes, so making it 22 times in 24 hours is doable, but very tough.  For training I will be hiking it as much as possible between now and Feb. 3rd.  I have run in several ultra distance running races so I feel I have a good base.  Let me know what you think!  Your site is great! Live life!

Jamil P. Coury


The Drunk Cyclist

Big Jonny, the man at Drunk Cyclist, has been thinking of a challenge. Feel free to send ideas to him on his site. Currently, he's thinking about:


Jacq's Back

Jacki Florine has announced her 43rd challenge.


On Sunday, I ran/pw up Mt. Diablo.
Carried full load of water and food and safety gear.
Up: 3 hrs:13 mins, 9.88 miles, average pace of 19:36, best mile pace of 
Down: 3 hrs:9 mins, 11.81 miles, average pace of 16:02, best mile pace 
of 10:05
Sorry, I don't have any elevation gain/loss stats. We don't have the 
software to download that stuff off of the GPS, yet.

Result: Painful (very, very) quads. More like crippled!!!  :  )
It is an adventure to go up and down my stairs all day!!!!
Very cool to run down a mountain. I almost always opt out of this type 
of insanity.
Now I know why.

This months Plan is to celebrate my birthday by doing a 43rd birthday 
challenge consisting of:
4 trips up and down Mt. Diablo running as much of it as possible, with 
all water and food in pack. Roughly 22 miles each.
4 trips around the Ridge Trail of Lafayette Reservoir, running as much 
of it as possible. Roughly 5 miles each.
Climb @ 4 Touchstone Gyms within 43 hours completing a total of 43 
Kiss my handsome hunk of a spouse 43 times (ooh, I might have to do 
Consume 4 very dry vodka martinis with 4 olives each. No vermouth, no 
Eat 4 candy canes.
Eat 4 lbs of chocolate ( Ghiradelli's extra dark chips, Peanut M & M's, 
Plain M & M's) .
Make, bake and give away 4 dozen large gingerbread people.
Make some popcorn and apple cider or hot chocolate, then pack the 
family up in the Jeep and drive around town touring Holiday light 
Enjoy 4 rounds of port in front of my fireplace.
Listen to a minimum of 43 hours of Christmas Music!
Sit in the Sauna at Touchstone Climbing 4 times (minimum of 43 minutes 
Complete a total of 4333 abs in 31 days. That is 139.8 abs per day.
Do 43 full push ups.
Do 4.3 pull ups.  :  )
Complete 4.3 hours of volunteer work.
Skate ski 4.3 miles.

If you would like to participate in any of the activities (except the 
kissing Hans part and sauna) let me know. Would love to share the fun.

All of this will be posted on my blog:



Catra's New Challenge

This looks hard, even for Catra!

Just a quick not on December 15 & 16 I will be doing my b-day challenge.  I will run for 42 hours through the Ohlone wilderness since I will be 42.  And every 4 hours 2 min.  I will do some sort of exercise.
I will be posting on my blog about it.


Steve's Challenge Blog Up

Check it out if you're curious about how to do your own.

I Thought It Up In A Dream, Actually


New and easier way to report your challenge

Now anyone can do one. You don't have to hope Bob or I have time to record yours. Check out the do a challenge page.


We've Got  Supplement Sponsorship in the Works

So maybe y'all can score some dope for your next challenge. It's supposed to be easier with EPO, right?


Finally We're Updating Again!

You'll see a bunch of new challenges listed below. Some were done; some not. We've got updates coming along with a few new challenges in the works. We apologize for the lackluster year. It's been busy with, ya know, life stuff. But challenges have been happening without us and we'll get 'em all up eventually.


More From the Imperfect Mile Club

Journal Entry: Inch Worm

Very good conditions. The rubber track was a little
> wet from all of yesterday's rain, and my legs felt a
> little tired (surprisingly). I think I over did my
> run on Monday: a fartlek run totalling about 7.5
> miles. Anyway, this morning's times:
> 5:00.94 (ten minute rest) 5:58 (one lap rest) 5:36
> (one lap rest) 220yds at 32 secs (half lap rest)
> 440yds at 66 secs.
> I think with either fresher feeling legs or a drier
> track I could have been a contender. I was happy to
> beat my previous record but also aghast that I
> missed the break by less than a second. My
> individual times:
> 1:13; 1:16; 1:19; 1:12
> Lap three is always the killer, and I always think
> I'm running closer to the 1:15 mark than I am, but
> I'm also trying to save some juice for the last lap.
> Next go is Thursday. I've lost the grass track to
> overgrowth as the lanes are no longer visible.

> Todd


Scott Young

Dear Steve and,


My name is Scott Young, and I’d like to submit my 30th birthday challenge.  My birthday is the 16th of August, and I’m hoping to fill my day with all the things I’ve loved over the last 30 years (except the tattoo, that’s new).


  1. Get up at 0300
  2. 30k running at my favorite local trail
  3. 333 meters of climbing in the gym
  4. 300 pushups
  5. 300 situps
  6. 30 pullups
  7. 3 tons of free weights
  8. Additional 3.3k run with my wife and kids
  9. 3 favorite foods/meals
  10. 3 each of my 3 favorite, um, beverages
  11. 3 chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches
  12. 3 favorite movies
  13. 3 favorite albums
  14. Get a tattoo (just one)
  15. Finish within 30 hours






Travis Madsen

Hi Steve,

I'm following in your footsteps next weekend and doing a birthday challenge in Santa Barbara.

I'm turning 30, and here's my challenge:

Surf 30 waves (ocean conditions permitting);
Climb 90 (3 x 30) boulder problems;
Mountain bike 30 miles through the backcountry (as much singletrack as possible);
* Run 30 kilometers on trails;
Soak in 2 hot springs for 30 minutes each;
Jump into the Seven Falls pool 30 times.
All to be completed in a span of 30 hours.

And finally -- do all this with no more than 3 weeks of real training. (This last one is unavoidable now because I've been working too much.)

Wish me luck. I'll get some fools to come join me and take pictures and we'll send in a report.


-Travis Madsen


Kelly Nicholas  in New Orleans

This is the plan I sent out to the New Orleans Hash group a couple weeks ago. My goals were 1) to incorporate many of my favorite things, 2) make it physically difficult but not impossible, 3) reach outside of myself and not be afraid of being embarrassed and 4) capture the essence of New Orleans while doing things to bring it back. Although there aren’t any singular outstanding physical challenges like I’ve seen on your site, I think the sheer number of them and the fact that I’ll be working at least one and a half of the days will more than make up for it.


I chose to try and complete all the elements of my challenge to raise money for the National MS Society because it will directly help my mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago. I will have progress about my birthday challenge on MySpace as well as on your site. I’ll have a URL for my NMSS fundraising page later this week. Thanks, and have a great day.


Here is the final list of things I intend to complete
from July 27-July 30. Some people said it wasn't
challenging enough, so I adjusted accordingly. Factor
in that two of those days I'll be at work and the
final day I'll be comatose!

Bike 39 miles
Run 39 miles
Rollerblade 3.9 miles
Drink 3.9 Turbo Dog pints in an hour
Give my boyfriend Ryun 39 kisses each day
Sing 39 songs from memory
Read 3.9 chapters of a book on July’s NYT bestseller list
Climb the gym’s rock wall 39 times (if it is opened up; may have to have a last-minute substitute)
Pot 390 healthy plants I’ve started from cuttings or seed to share with community gardens or neighbors
Eat 39 ounces of chocolate
Eat 3.9 pounds of muffaletta sandwich
Do 39 consecutive minutes of water running
Stretch for 39 minutes each day
Write 3.9 pages
Play with each of my four cats for 39 minutes
Write 39 postcards to family and friends
Walk up to 39 strangers, kiss them on the cheek or shake their hand, ask them their name, and wish them a nice day – all while in a red dress to promote the New
Orleans Red Dress Run
Eat 39 half-cups of brown rice
Do 390 sit-ups
Do 390 push-ups
Do 390 Pilates ball exercises
Do 39 pull-ups
Do 390 jumping jacks
Drink 3.9 liters of water each day
Knit or crochet 39 rows of a project
Pick up 39 pounds of litter
Make 3.9 dozen chocolate chip cookies
Submit work to 3.9 (4) publications or contests during the course of the challenge
Drink 39 ounces of red wine
Cut out and prep 39 squares for a hash shirt quilt
Eat 39 ounces of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers
Collect 39 items of clothing for donation
Climb 390 flights of stairs
Jump rope for 39 minutes
Leg press 3900 pounds (cumulatively)
Stay awake for 39 consecutive hours
Take 39 photographs
Do 39 minutes of yoga
Eat 3.9 pounds of one fresh fruit or vegetable
***And the one to grow on: All because I want to raise at least $3900 for the MS Society in preparation for the Louisiana ride October 7 and 8. I'm registering
for the MS ride as soon as I find out more info about a team, but as soon as that happens I'll be setting up a fundraising page directly through the National MS
Society website; they will be able to track donations and your money will go straight to them.


The Imperfect Mile Club

I failed at my goal of 5:15 by my birthday. Ran 5:24,
2 seconds off my best of 5:22 a couple weeks ago.

I will also be taking some time off of the running
since as of about 5 days ago I began a bout with
plantar fasciitis in my left foot. Sandbagged! I was
on vacation, just did a couple light runs, but it came
out of the blue one morning, maybe I tweeked it
somehow, or maybe it was too much walking in flip
flops. I don't think it affected me today as much as
having that week off and trying to drink body weight
in beer every day/night. So as it goes, I will join
Todd on the sidelines for a few weeks at the least.

Until then...
Go England!



Derek Dunn; a this time he means it!

Back on track this year with streamlined challenged and a blog "to keep it real."  Check out my first blog - maybe I can get a "Seinfeld" nod for anal retentiveness, which would be just a pleasure to be nominated.
Expect more posts and some cool ideas to be translated from last year's plans and some new ones too.


Mike Loftus


My name is Mike Loftus and I'm writing from Portland, Oregon. On May 31st I'll be turning 29 years and I have cooked up a little challenge.

- Start the day off with 29 minutes of meditation
- Run - 2.9 miles 2.9 times in Forest Park
- Road Ride - 29 miles to the local trails and back (round trip mileage)
- Mountain Bike - 29 miles on local singletrack
- 29 Minute walk around the neighborhood with our wonderful pooch
- Read 29 books to the kids (2 1/2 yrs old & 1 month)
- Spend 29 minutes playing chase with Jackson (2 1/2 yrs old)
- 29 Pull-ups
- 290 Sit-ups
- Drink 2.9 local pints
- After the kids are asleep, a 29 minute message for my wife
- And a little something for everybody, a list of 29 recommended books that I've read over the past year

Let me know how it looks.





Josh Merriam: 28 in Beaumont

Beaumont Texas is not much of an outdoorsy, fun place to live.  But I've been motivated by your site to do my own Birthday Challenge.  It's still in development, but I have this so far:
 The Challenge:
- I will climb 28 of the best routes at E-rock on May 23rd
- I will complete 27 other challenges during the 27 preceding days

- play 28 different games in a day
- eat 28 different fruits in a day
- introduce myself to 28 strangers
- do "The Milk Challenge" in 28 min
- hike the 28 mile: "Trail Between the Lakes"
- drink 28 drinks at 28 places with James payne in 28 hours
- do 28 pull-ups every day of the challenge
- and many more...
(this is off my site at


From Todd



Catra's New Blog

Check it out at: trailgirl


Ladies and Gentleman, Introducing Steve Patton

I would like to submit my birthday challenge.  I turn 40 this year, and have 2 challenges I want to try to tackle:
444 in 4
This is 400 miles cycling, 40 miles running, and 4 miles of swimming in 4 days.  I'm going to try this in Phoenix next week when I'm there.  The conditions will have to be just right, so I'm not sure if I'll do it.  The main Birthday Challenge I'd like to do this year is the following:
In one day:
4.0 kilometers swim
40 leagues biking (approx. 120 miles)
40 kilometers running (approx 25 miles)
Probably do this in August, as my 40th birthday is in December.  Please let me know what I have to do to get the 2nd one sanctioned.  I'd post it on my website along with other Epic workouts I do.  please see,
Steve Patton


Todd Break 700!

This afternoon I finally broke the 700 pull up barrier.  I managed 707 pull ups in 60 minutes.  The pull up portion of my challenge is completed, though I am still wondering if I should contact Guiness and go for an "official" attempt.  The breakdown:

minutes/pull ups

1-30 / 11 per min

31-50 / 12 per min

51-60 / 13 per min (within the last 15 secs I did 7 additional pull ups).

Brian says it was the Beethoven he was playing in the background.  I feel like I had a finishing kick like Roger Bannister in the home stretch.

Some Winter Motivation From Jure Robic, via Daniel Coyle and Reed

Pretty long but worth the read. Enjoy!


Here’s that story about Jure Robic I was talking about this weekend. He’s insane, but oddly motivating.


“Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t the TV news is it? Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”

~Kurt Vonnegut 

February 5, 2006

That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger

Jure Robic, the Slovene soldier who might be the world’s best ultra-
endurance athlete, lives in a small fifth-floor apartment near the 
railroad tracks in the town of
Koroska Bela. By nature and vocation, 
Robic is a sober-minded person, but when he appears at his doorway, 
he is smiling. Not a standard-issue smile, but a wild and fidgety 
grin, as if he were trying to contain some huge and mysterious secret.

Robic catches himself, strides inside and proceeds to lead a swift 
tour of his spare, well-kept apartment. Here is his kitchen. Here is 
his bike. Here are his wife,
Petra, and year-old son, Nal. Here, on 
the coffee table, are whiskey, Jägermeister, bread, chocolate, 
prosciutto and an inky, vegetable-based soft drink he calls Communist 
Coca-Cola, left over from the old days. And here, outside the window, 
veiled by the nightly ice fog, stand the
Alps and the Austrian 
border. Robic shows everything, then settles onto the couch. It’s 
only then that the smile reappears, more nervous this time, as he 
pulls out a DVD and prepares to reveal the unique talent that sets 
him apart from the rest of the world: his insanity.

Tonight, Robic’s insanity exists only in digitally recorded form, 
but the rest of the time it swirls moodily around him, his personal 
batch of ice fog. Citizens of Slovenia, a tiny, sports-happy country 
that was part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991, might glow with 
beatific pride at the success of their ski jumpers and handballers, 
but they tend to become a touch unsettled when discussing Robic, who 
for the past two years has dominated ultracycling’s hardest, longest 
races. They are proud of their man, certainly, and the way he can 
ride thousands of miles with barely a rest. But they’re also a 
little, well, concerned. Friends and colleagues tend to sidle 
together out of Robic’s earshot and whisper in urgent, hospital-
corridor tones.

‘‘He pushes himself into madness,’’ says Tomaz Kovsca, a 
journalist for Slovene television. ‘‘He pushes too far.’’ 
Rajko Petek, a 35-year-old fellow soldier and friend who is on 
Robic’s support crew, says: ‘‘What Jure does is frightening. 
Sometimes during races he gets off his bike and walks toward us in 
the follow car, very angry.’’

What do you do then?

Petek glances carefully at Robic, standing a few yards off. ‘‘We 
lock the doors,’’ he whispers.

When he overhears, Robic heartily dismisses their unease. ‘‘They 
are joking!’’ he shouts. ‘‘Joking!’’ But in quieter 
moments, he acknowledges their concern, even empathizes with it — 
though he’s quick to assert that nothing can be done to fix the 
problem. Robic seems to regard his racetime bouts with mental 
instability as one might regard a beloved but unruly pet: awkward and 
embarrassing at times, but impossible to live without.

‘‘During race, I am going crazy, definitely,’’ he says, 
smiling in bemused despair. ‘‘I cannot explain why is that, but it 
is true.’’

The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its 
pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech 
goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. 
His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last 
days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the 
roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. 
Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy 
figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to 
see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.
‘‘Mujahedeen, shooting at me,’’ he explains. ‘‘So I ride 
His wife, a nurse, interjects: ‘‘The first time I went to a race, 
I was not prepared to see what happens to his mind. We nearly split 
The DVD spins, and the room vibrates with Wagner. We see a series of 
surreal images that combine violence with eerie placidity, like a 
Kubrick film. Robic’s spotlit figure rides through the dark in the 
driving rain. Robic gasps some unheard plea to a stone-faced man in 
fatigues who’s identified as his crew chief. Robic curls fetuslike 
on the pavement of a Pyrenean mountain road, having fallen asleep and 
simply tipped off his bike. Robic stalks the crossroads of a nameless 
French village at
midnight, flailing his arms, screaming at his 
support crew. A baffled gendarme hurries to the scene, asking, Quel 
est le problème? I glance at Robic, and he’s staring at the screen, 
‘‘In race, everything inside me comes out,’’ he says, 
shrugging. ‘‘Good, bad, everything. My mind, it begins to do 
things on its own. I do not like it, but this is the way I must go to 
win the race.’’
Over the past two years, Robic, who is 40 years old, has won almost 
every race he has entered, including the last two editions of 
ultracycling’s biggest event, the 3,000-mile Insight Race Across 
America (RAAM). In 2004, Robic set a world record in the 24-hour time 
trial by covering 518.7 miles. Last year, he did himself one better, 
following up his RAAM victory with a victory six weeks later in Le 
Tour Direct, a 2,500-mile race on a course contrived from classic 
Tour de France routes. Robic finished in 7 days and 19 hours, and 
climbed some 140,000 feet, the equivalent of nearly five trips up 
Mount Everest. ‘‘That’s just mind-boggling,’’ says Pete 
Penseyres, a two-time RAAM solo champion. ‘‘I can’t envision 
doing two big races back to back. The mental part is just too 
Hans Mauritz, the co-organizer of Le Tour Direct, says: ‘‘For me, 
Jure is on another planet. He can die on the bike and keep going.’’
And going. In addition to races, Robic trains 335 days each year, 
logging some 28,000 miles, or roughly one trip around the planet.
Yet Robic does not excel on physical talent alone. He is not always 
the fastest competitor (he often makes up ground by sleeping 90 
minutes or less a day), nor does he possess any towering 
physiological gift. On rare occasions when he permits himself to be 
tested in a laboratory, his ability to produce power and transport 
oxygen ranks on a par with those of many other ultra-endurance 
athletes. He wins for the most fundamental of reasons: he refuses to 
In a consideration of Robic, three facts are clear: he is nearly 
indefatigable, he is occasionally nuts, and the first two facts are 
somehow connected. The question is, How? Does he lose sanity because 
he pushes himself too far, or does he push himself too far because he 
loses sanity? Robic is the latest and perhaps most intriguing 
embodiment of the old questions: What happens when the human body is 
pushed to the limits of its endurance? Where does the breaking point 
lie? And what happens when you cross the line?
The Insight Race Across America was not designed by overcurious 
physiologists, but it might as well have been. It’s the world’s 
longest human-powered race, a coast-to-coast haul from
San Diego to 
Atlantic City. Typically, two dozen or so riders compete in the solo 
Compared with the three-week, 2,200-mile Tour de France, which is 
generally acknowledged to be the world’s most demanding event, RAAM 
requires relatively low power outputs — a contest of diesel engines 
as opposed to Ferraris. But RAAM’s unceasing nature and epic 
length — 800 miles more than the Tour in roughly a third of the 
time — makes it in some ways a purer test, if only because it more 
closely resembles a giant lab experiment. (An experiment that will 
get more interesting if Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner, 
gives RAAM a try, as he has hinted he might.)
Winners average more than 13 miles an hour and finish in nine days, 
riding about 350 miles a day. The ones to watch, though, are not the 
victors but the 50 percent who do not finish, and whose breakdowns, 
like a scattering of so many piston rods and hubcaps, provide a vivid 
map of the human body’s built-in limitations.
The first breakdowns, in the
California and Arizona deserts, tend to 
be related to heat and hydration (riders drink as much as a liter of 
water per hour during the race). Then, around the Plains states, 
comes the stomach trouble. Digestive tracts, overloaded by the strain 
of processing 10,000 calories a day (the equivalent of 29 
cheeseburgers), go haywire. This is usually accompanied by a wave of 
structural problems: muscles and tendons weaken, or simply give out. 
Body-bike contact points are especially vulnerable. Feet swell two 
sizes, on average. Thumb nerves, compressed on the handlebars, stop 
functioning. For several weeks after the race, Robic, like a lot of 
RAAM riders, must use two hands to turn a key. (Don’t even ask about 
the derrière. When I did, Robic pantomimed placing a gun in his mouth 
and pulling the trigger.)
The final collapse takes place between the ears. Competitors endure 
fatigue-induced rounds of hallucinations and mood shifts. Margins for 
error in the race can be slim, a point underlined by two fatal 
accidents at RAAM in the past three years, both involving 
automobiles. Support crews, which ride along in follow cars or 
campers, do what they can to help. For Robic, his support crew serves 
as a second brain, consisting of a well-drilled cadre of a half-dozen 
fellow Slovene soldiers. It resembles other crews in that it feeds, 
hydrates, guides and motivates — but with an important distinction. 
The second brain, not Robic’s, is in charge.
‘‘By the third day, we are Jure’s software,’’ says Lt. Miran 
Stanovnik, Robic’s crew chief. ‘‘He is the hardware, going down 
the road.’’
Stanovnik, at 41, emanates the cowboy charisma of a special-ops 
soldier, though he isn’t one: his background consists most notably 
of riding the famously grueling
Paris-to-Dakar rally on his 
motorcycle. But he’s impressively alpha nonetheless, referring to a 
recent crash in which he broke ribs, fractured vertebrae and ruptured 
his spleen as ‘‘my small tumble.’’
His system is straightforward. During the race, Robic’s brain is 
allowed control over choice of music (usually a mix of traditional 
Slovene marches and Lenny Kravitz), food selection and bathroom 
breaks. The second brain dictates everything else, including rest 
times, meal times, food amounts and even average speed. Unless Robic 
asks, he is not informed of the remaining mileage or even how many 
days are left in the race.
‘‘It is best if he has no idea,’’ Stanovnik says. ‘‘He 
rides — that is all.’’
Robic’s season consists of a handful of 24-hour races built around 
RAAM and, last year, Le Tour Direct. As in most ultra sports, prize 
money is more derisory than motivational. Even with the Slovene Army 
picking up much of the travel tab, the $10,000 check from RAAM barely 
covers Robic’s cost of competing. His sponsorships, mostly with 
Slovene sports-nutrition and bike-equipment companies, aren’t enough 
to put him in the black. (Stanovnik lent Robic’s team $8,500 last 
Stanovnik is adept at motivating Robic along the way. When the 
mujahedeen appeared in 2004, Stanovnik pretended to see them too, and 
urged Robic to ride faster. When an addled Robic believes himself to 
be back in
Slovenia, Stanovnik informs him that his hometown is just 
a few miles ahead. He also employs more time-honored, drill-sergeant 
‘‘They would shout insults at him,’’ says Hans Mauritz. 
‘‘It woke him up, and he kept going.’’
(Naturally, these tactics add an element of tension between Robic and 
team members, and account for his bouts of hostility toward them, 
including, in 2003, Robic’s mistaken but passionately held 
impression that Stanovnik was having an affair with his wife.)
In all decisions, Stanovnik governs according to a rule of thumb that 
he has developed over the years: at the dark moment when Robic feels 
utterly exhausted, when he is so empty and sleep-deprived that he 
feels as if he might literally die on the bike, he actually has 50 
percent more energy to give.
‘‘That is our method,’’ Stanovnik says. ‘‘When Jure cannot 
go any more, he can still go. We must motivate him sometimes, but he 
In this dual-brain system, Robic’s mental breakdowns are not an 
unwanted side effect, but rather an integral part of the process: 
welcome proof that the other limiting factors have been eliminated 
and that maximum stress has been placed firmly on the final link, 
Robic’s mind. While his long-term memory appears unaffected (he can 
recall route landmarks from year to year), his short-term memory 
evaporates. Robic will repeat the same question 10 times in five 
minutes. His mind exists completely in the present.
‘‘When I am tired, Miran can take me to the edge,’’ Robic says 
appreciatively, ‘‘to the last atoms of my power.’’ How far 
past the 50 percent limit can Robic be pushed? ‘‘Ninety, maybe 95 
percent,’’ Stanovnik says thoughtfully. ‘‘But that would 
probably be unhealthy.’’
Interestingly — or unnervingly, depending on how you look at it — 
some researchers are uncovering evidence that Stanovnik’s rule of 
thumb might be right. A spate of recent studies has contributed to 
growing support for the notion that the origins and controls of 
fatigue lie partly, if not mostly, within the brain and the central 
nervous system. The new research puts fresh weight to the hoary 
coaching cliché: you only think you’re tired.
From the time of Hippocrates, the limits of human exertion were 
thought to reside in the muscles themselves, a hypothesis that was 
established in 1922 with the Nobel Prize-winning work of Dr. A.V. 
Hill. The theory went like this: working muscles, pushed to their 
limit, accumulated lactic acid. When concentrations of lactic acid 
reached a certain level, so the argument went, the muscles could no 
longer function. Muscles contained an ‘‘automatic brake,’’ 
Hill wrote, ‘‘carefully adjusted by nature.’’
Researchers, however, have long noted a link between neurological 
disorders and athletic potential. In the late 1800’s, the pioneering 
French doctor Philippe Tissié observed that phobias and epilepsy 
could be beneficial for athletic training. A few decades later, the 
German surgeon August Bier measured the spontaneous long jump of a 
mentally disturbed patient, noting that it compared favorably to the 
existing world record. These types of exertions seemed to defy the 
notion of built-in muscular limits and, Bier noted, were made 
possible by ‘‘powerful mental stimuli and the simultaneous 
elimination of inhibitions.’’
Questions about the muscle-centered model came up again in 1989 when 
Canadian researchers published the results of an experiment called 
Operation Everest II, in which athletes did heavy exercise in 
altitude chambers. The athletes reached exhaustion despite the fact 
that their lactic-acid concentrations remained comfortably low. 
Fatigue, it seemed, might be caused by something else.
In 1999, three physiologists from the
University of Cape Town Medical 
School in
South Africa took the next step. They worked a group of 
cyclists to exhaustion during a 62-mile laboratory ride and measured, 
via electrodes, the percentage of leg muscles they were using at the 
fatigue limit. If standard theories were true, they reasoned, the 
body should recruit more muscle fibers as it approached exhaustion — 
a natural compensation for tired, weakening muscles.
Instead, the researchers observed the opposite result. As the riders 
approached complete fatigue, the percentage of active muscle fibers 
decreased, until they were using only about 30 percent. Even as the 
athletes felt they were giving their all, the reality was that more 
of their muscles were at rest. Was the brain purposely holding back 
the body?
‘‘It was as if the brain was playing a trick on the body, to save 
it,’’ says Timothy Noakes, head of the
Cape Town group. 
‘‘Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. In fatigue, 
it only feels like we’re going to die. The actual physiological 
risks that fatigue represents are essentially trivial.’’
From this, Noakes and his colleagues concluded that A.V. Hill had 
been right about the automatic brake, but wrong about its location. 
They postulated the existence of what they called a central governor: 
a neural system that monitors carbohydrate stores, the levels of 
glucose and oxygen in the blood, the rates of heat gain and loss, and 
work rates. The governor’s job is to hold our bodies safely back 
from the brink of collapse by creating painful sensations that we 
interpret as unendurable muscle fatigue.
Fatigue, the researchers argue, is less an objective event than a 
subjective emotion — the brain’s clever, self-interested attempt 
to scare you into stopping. The way past fatigue, then, is to return 
the favor: to fool the brain by lying to it, distracting it or even 
provoking it. (That said, mental gamesmanship can never overcome a 
basic lack of fitness. As Noakes says, the body always holds veto 
‘‘Athletes and coaches already do a lot of this 
instinctively,’’ Noakes says. ‘‘What is a coach, after all, 
but a technique for overcoming the governor?’’
The governor theory is far from conclusive, but some scientists are 
focusing on a walnut-size area in the front portion of the brain 
called the anterior cingulate cortex. This has been linked to a host 
of core functions, including handling pain, creating emotion and 
playing a key role in what’s known loosely as willpower. Sir Francis 
Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, thought the anterior cingulate 
cortex to be the seat of the soul. In the sports world, perhaps no 
soul relies on it more than Jure Robic’s.
Some people ‘‘have the ability to reprocess the pain signal,’’ 
says Daniel Galper, a senior researcher in the psychiatry department 
at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at
‘‘It’s not that they don’t feel the pain; they just shift 
their brain dynamics and alter their perception of reality so the 
pain matters less. It’s basically a purposeful hallucination.’’
Noakes and his colleagues speculate that the central governor theory 
holds the potential to explain not just feats of stamina but also 
their opposite: chronic fatigue syndrome (a malfunctioning, 
overactive governor, in this view). Moreover, the governor theory 
makes evolutionary sense. Animals whose brains safeguarded an 
emergency stash of physical reserves might well have survived at a 
higher rate than animals that could drain their fuel tanks at will.
The theory would also seem to explain a sports landscape in which 
ultra-endurance events have gone from being considered medically 
hazardous to something perilously close to routine. The Ironman 
triathlon in
Hawaii — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 
marathon-length run — was the ne plus ultra in endurance in the 
1980’s, but has now been topped by the Ultraman, which is more than 
twice as long. Once obscure, the genre known as adventure racing, 
which includes 500-plus-mile wilderness races like Primal Quest, has 
grown to more than 400 events each year. Ultramarathoners, defined as 
those who participate in running events exceeding the official 
marathon distance of 26.2 miles, now number some 15,000 in the
alone. The underlying physics have not changed, but rather our 
sense of possibility. Athletic culture, like Robic, has discovered a 
way to tweak its collective governor.
When we try understanding Robic’s relationship to severe pain, 
however, our interest tends to be more visceral. Namely, how does it 
‘‘I feel like if I go on, I will die,’’ he says, struggling 
for words. ‘‘It is everything at the same moment, piled up over 
and over. Head, muscles, bones. Nobody can understand. You cannot 
imagine it until you feel it.’’
A few moments later, he says: ‘‘The pain doesn’t exist for me. I 
know it is there because I feel it, but I don’t pay attention to it. 
I sometimes see myself from the other view, looking down at me riding 
the bike. It is strange, but it happens like that.’’ Robic veers 
like this when he discusses pain. He talks of incomprehensible 
suffering one moment and of dreamlike anesthesia the next. If pain is 
in fact both signal and emotion, perhaps that makes sense. Perhaps 
the closer we get to its dual nature, the more elusive any single 
truth becomes, and the better we understand what Emily Dickinson 
meant when she wrote that ‘‘pain has an element of blank.’’
It’s a gray morning in December, and Robic is driving his silver 
Peugeot to one of his favorite training rides in the hills along 
Slovenia’s Adriatic coast. The wind is blowing 50 miles an hour, and 
the temperature is in the 40’s. If Robic’s anterior cingulate 
cortex can sometimes block out negative information, this is 
definitely not one of those times.
‘‘This is bad,’’ he says, peering at the wind-shredded 
clouds. ‘‘It makes no sense to train. You cannot train, and I am 
out there, cold and freezing for hours. I am shivering and wondering, 
Why do I do this?’’
Robic often complains like this. Even when the weather is ideal, he 
points out the clouds blowing in and how horrible and lonely his 
workout will be. At first it seems like showboat kvetching that will 
diminish as he gets more familiar with you, but as time wears on 
it’s apparent that his complaints are sincere. He isn’t just 
acting miserable — he is miserable.
The negativity is accentuated, perhaps, by the fact that Robic trains 
exclusively alone. What’s more, he’s famously disinclined to seek 
advice when it comes to training, medical treatment and nutrition. 
‘‘Completely uncoachable,’’ says his friend Uros Velepec, a 
two-time winner of the Ultraman World Championships. Robic invents 
eclectic workout schedules: six hours of biking one day, seven hours 
of Nordic skiing the next, with perhaps a mountain climb or two in 
between, all faithfully tracked and recorded in a series of battered 
‘‘I find motivation everywhere,’’ Robic says. ‘‘If right 
now you look at me and wonder if I cannot go up the mountain, even if 
you are joking, I will do it. Then I will do it again, and maybe 
again.’’ He gestures to
Mount Stol, a snowy Goliath crouched 7,300 
feet above him, as remote as the moon. ‘‘Three years ago, I got 
angry at the mountain. I climbed it 38 times in two months.’’
Robic goes on to detail his motivational fuel sources, including his 
neglectful father, persistent near poverty (three years ago, he was 
reduced to asking for food from a farmer friend) and a lack of large-
sponsor support because of
Slovenia’s small size. (‘‘If I lived 
Austria, I would be millionaire,’’ he says unconvincingly.) 
There is also a psychological twist of biblical flavor: a half 
brother born out of wedlock named Marko, Jure’s age to the month. 
Robic says his father favored Marko to the extent that the old man 
made him part owner of his restaurant, leaving Jure, at age 28, to 
beg them for a dishwashing job.
‘‘All my life I was pushed away,’’ he says. ‘‘I get the 
feeling that I’m not good enough to be the good one. And so now I am 
good at something, and I want revenge to prove to all the people who 
thought I was some kind of loser. These feelings are all the time 
present in me. They are where my power is coming from.’’
As a young man, Robic was known as a village racer, decent enough 
locally but not talented enough to land a professional contract. 
Throughout his 20’s, he rode with small Slovene teams, supporting 
himself with a sales job for a bike-parts dealer. It was with the 
death of his mother in 1997 and his subsequent depression that Robic 
discovered his calling. On the advice of a cyclist friend, he started 
training for the 1999 Crocodile Trophy, a notoriously painful week-
and-a-half-long mountain bike race across
Australia. Robic finished 
In October of 2001, Robic set out to see how far he could cycle in 24 
hours. The day was unpromising: raw and wet. He nearly didn’t ride. 
But he did — and went an estimated 498 miles, almost a world record.
‘‘That was the day I knew I could do this,’’ he says. ‘‘I 
know that the thing that does not kill me makes me stronger. I can 
feel it, and when I want to quit I hear this voice say, ‘Come on, 
Jure,’ and I keep going.’’
A year later, he quit his job and volunteered to join the Slovene 
military, undergoing nine months of intensive combat training (he 
surprised his unit with his penchant for late-night training runs). 
He earned a coveted spot in the sports division, which exists solely 
to support the nation’s top athletes. For Robic, the post meant a 
salary of 700 euros (about $850) a month and the freedom to train 
full time.
This day, despite the foul conditions, Robic trains for five and a 
half hours. He rides through toylike stone villages and fields of 
olive trees; he climbs mountains from whose peaks he can see the blue 
Adriatic and the coast of Italy. He rides across the border 
checkpoint into
Croatia, along a deserted beach and past groves of 
fanlike bamboo. He rides in a powerful crouch, his big legs churning, 
his face impassive.
While I watch from the car, I’m reminded of a scene the previous 
night. Robic and his support crew of fellow soldiers met at a small 
restaurant for a RAAM reunion. For several hours, they ate veal, 
drank wine out of small glass pitchers and reminisced in high spirits 
about the race. They spoke of the time Robic became unshakably 
convinced his team was making fun of him, and the time he sat on a 
curb in
Athens, Ohio, and refused to budge for an hour, and the time 
they had to lift his sleeping body back onto his bike.
Stanovnik told of an incident in the
Appalachians, when Robic, who 
seemed about to give up, suddenly found an unexpected burst of 
energy. ‘‘He goes like madman for one hour, two hours,’’ 
Stanovnik recalled. ‘‘I am shouting at him, ‘You show
you show army, you show world what you are!’ I have tears on my 
face, watching him.’’
At the end of the table, Rajko Petek wondered whether he could 
continue to work on the crew. ‘‘It is too much,’’ he said to a 
round of understanding nods. ‘‘This kind of racing leaves damage 
upon Jure’s mind. Too much fighting, too much craziness. I cannot 
take it anymore.’’
Robic sat quietly in their midst, his eyes darting and quick. 
Sometimes he’d offer a word or a joke, but mostly he listened. At 
first it seemed he was being shy, but after a while it became 
apparent that he was curious to hear the stories. The person of whom 
they spoke — this sometimes frightening, sometimes inspiring man 
named Jure Robic — remained a stranger to him.
Robic finishes his ride as the winter sun is going down. As we drive 
back toward Koroska Bela, a lens of white fog descends on the 
roadway. We pass ghostlike farms, factories and church spires while 
Robic talks about his plans for the coming year. He talks about his 
wife, whose job has supported them, and he talks about their son, who 
is starting to walk. He talks about how he will try to win a record 
third consecutive RAAM in June, and how he hopes race officials 
won’t react to the recent fatalities by adding mandatory rest stops. 
(‘‘Then it will not be a true race,’’ he says.) In a few 
months, he’ll do his signature 48-hour training, in which he rides 
for 24 hours straight, stays awake all night, and then does a 12-hour 
But this year is going to be different in one respect. Robic is going 
to start working with a local sports psychologist who has previously 
helped several Slovene Olympians. It seems that Robic, the 
uncoachable one, is looking for guidance.
‘‘I want to solve the demon,’’ he says. ‘‘I do not want to 
be so crazy during the races. Every man has black and white inside of 
him, and the black should stay inside.’’
He presses the accelerator, weaving through drivers made timid by the 
fog. ‘‘This will be good for me,’’ he adds, his voice growing 
louder. ‘‘I am older now, but I have the feeling that I am 
stronger than ever before. Now I am reaching where there is nothing 
that is too hard for my body because my mind is hard. Nothing!’’
Robic attempts to convey the intensity of his feeling, but can only 
gesture dramatically with his hands, which unfortunately are needed 
to control the steering wheel. The car veers toward a ditch.
Acting quickly, Robic regrips the wheel. After a shaky second or two, 
he regains control of the car. We barrel onward through the mist. His 
sidelong smile is pure confidence.

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News From Winter 2006