The Birthday Challenge was damn hard and pushed me to my a lot further than I expected. Of course, once I completed it I started to think that it wasnt hard enough. That isnt completely true, but it also isnt completely false.
I didnt prepare for the BC as well as I should have. A month before the event I thought I had plenty of time to get ready, and then a few days later it was time for the Challenge. I then didn't help matters by going to a party on Friday night and not getting home until damn near 3:00am. It was made worse by the fact that it was my friends Enrique and Kerrys birthday party and they enlisted me to take shots with them in celebration of all our birthdays on numerous occasions.
|Saturday was a final day to get
ready and I cleaned the house and made sure I had all the supplies I needed for the BC.
The supplies made a huge pile and I was so impressed that I had to take pictures of the
whole thing. There must have been 6 cases of PBR, several gallons of Gatorade, several
bottles of Red Bull and another energy drink, tons of Clif Bars and PowerBars, cigarettes,
fruit, juice, and 7-Up (for the panaches). I also decided I needed to redo the car for the
event, so I decided to repaint the rims. This time I chose Pacific Blue, which turned out
quite nice. It looked so nice that I decided that I also needed to wash Octavio (my car is
This took all day, and I had dinner planned with my friends Jen and John for a carbo-loading dinner with lots of Pasta, mixed with some Red wine. Steve Edwards also joined us for dinner and having run five peaks back and forth in the San Gabriel Mountains that morning he had built up a pretty good appetite. Eventually it was time to head home and see if Bob Banks and the two Swiss guys had shown up yet.
We arrived home and shortly thereafter Bob and Mike and Matthias (the two Swiss guys) showed up in a few minutes. We all shared a couple of beers until around 11:30 when someone suggested that I start drinking at midnight and get a few beers and cigarettes out of the way before I go to bed. Half to myself I muttered, "Hell, I should do one leg of the run right now." Steve looked over at me and said, "You know that might not be such a bad idea." So we quickly all agreed that this was actually a great idea and started to get ready. I was ready mentally, but I still had a big load of pasta sitting in my stomach and didnt feel much like running.
We adjusted the route so that it would pass by Taylors, a local bar, at 5.8 miles. We also prepared a drop off stash of three beers complete with lime slices in a ziplock bag and dropped it off about three miles into the run. We figured that since it was midnight we probably didnt need to hide it too well, and we figured that a large sign labeled "Happy Ours Ranch" would probably be a good landmark. During the drive we hit midnight and the Birthday Challenge officially began. We immediately started drinking the Panaches that we had prepared for the first part of the run and started smoking a cigarette. Hell, I was so excited that I almost finished my beer by the time we got to the 7-mile point.
We started a slow jog down San Timoteo canyon amidst a chorus of howling dogs and encouragement from the Swiss guys. Then they drove away and we knew that there really wasnt any other way to get back to my apartment except by running. It ended up being a very strange run. Number one, it was dark and we were in a quiet canyon, or so we thought. It turns out that almost everyone in the canyon owns several large dogs and all these dogs didnt seem to like the idea of having Steve and Bobs (and Rachels) dog Tuco (also Ratso or Kailo) running down the street so close to their homes. Just when the dogs started to calm down we were overtaken by a freight train on the tracks next to the road. It was insanely noisy and we couldnt believe what was going on. Steve and Bob and especially Ratso were more freaked out about it than I was, since I at least knew there were tracks there. Next we got to where we had stashed the beers and we decided to relax and drink them and then move on. Since Bob was carrying the cigarettes we had one of them too. I cant say that the cigarette tasted very good, but the beer sure did. We started running again and I kept expecting some police car to pull up and ask us what we were doing running down this dark canyon in the middle of the night. Im sure it would have been an interesting situation.
|Towards the end of the run we made it to Taylors. They wouldnt let Tuco in the place, even with one of the customers tried to convince the bartender that it would be okay. This didnt float with the bartender and Tuco stayed outside. Bob and I sat at the bar and ordered drinks for the three of us. We knew our timing was perfect when she called last call just after delivering our drinks. We enjoyed another cigarette and then started the final mile or so to home. It was a little hard to get running (jogging really) after stopping, but in a few blocks we were back in the swing of it and shortly we arrived back at my place. The Swiss guys were sleeping on the balcony and we tried not to disturb them as we enjoyed another beer before bed. Since Bob and Steve werent interested in trying to complete the smoking part of the challenge they declined to join me for a last cigarette.|
I slept poorly and it felt like my heart was racing for most of the night. Finally it was morning and time to get ready for the second leg of the run. My two friends Jen (of John and Jen from dinner last night) and Tim were joining Steve, Bob and me on this leg of the run and it was here that we started to fall behind on our time schedule. Finally everyone arrived and we headed up to the start of the second run, which was mostly downhill.
Tims wife Cyla was driving support for this leg and with her help we made it to the start of the run. It was pretty easy going for quite a while and we were rather enjoying ourselves. At one point we passed three friends out walking, while a group of about five cyclists passed all of us heading the other way. That was pretty cool. Tim told me that Cyla was going to be meeting us with water at about the half way point, which I knew to be a cemetery. When we got to the cemetery she wasnt there, which was a bummer because I was ready for some water and a short break. Fortunately she was parked just around the corner and we all enjoyed a brief relief.
Not long after we started running again, Jen Webb and Dave Guttman caught up to us in the other support vehicle. They offered us beer, and I think that both Bob and Steve accepted one. Dave Guttman even got out of the car to join us for some of the run. Jen had taken the job of "Official Empty Beer Can Tosser" as her own and was doing a good job of providing empty beer cans and tossing them out the window. Fortunately, beer cans arent so aerodynamic and dont fly very well. She did manage one toss that went straight into my hands. I was glad it did, since it was coming really fast and probably would have left quite a mark. A little further down the road I saw Jen parked in someones driveway, talking to a cyclist. I assumed she was trying to coax him into joining the cycling leg, but it turns out that she was trying to get him to toss empty beer cans at us. I guess he wasnt too keen on the idea, since he declined. Dave Guttman tried to get in the car once and Jen wouldnt let him in, so he decided to continue running.
A little further we met Cyla for the last relief station and only had a little bit further to go. After a very short break I decided to keep running. I spied a big huge jeep with orange painted rims and I felt guilty I hadnt repainted mine orange. So it goes. Jen Hirsch caught up to me about here and then Steve and Bob did a few minutes later. Dave and Tim were taking it a little easier, but werent very far behind us. Finally we hit my apartment complex and the second run was over. Whew.
After a little refueling and various phone calls we headed out to the start of the last 7 mile run. It was refreshing to hear the Shikara playing in Cylas car when we got to the start. I figured that had to be some sort of good omen. For this run it was Steve, Bob and Jen again. John was going to ride up and meet us and then put his bike on the car and run he rest of the way. John caught us after about 2.5 miles and the car was nowhere to be seen. At this point I needed a restroom so badly that I couldnt really run. I would jog a few steps and then the need to hit the toilet became overpowering. Finally the support vehicle showed up and I grabbed some toilet paper and was able to solve my problem.
When I get back to the car I realized that the support vehicle had disappeared for so long because they were busy getting supplies. They had brought us a box of donuts and some water, and of course, they had lots of beer, so I grabbed a beer and a donut and a cigarette. We were psyched and dug in. People running by gave us some funny looks. I guess everyone doesnt have support stations on their runs that include beer and donuts and cigarettes. We started to move again and headed towards to my house. After another rest stop with about two miles to go we were on the last leg when a police car cruised past us at a very slow rate of speed. NWe didnt think much about it, except to be glad that Jen wasnt flying around throwing beer cans at us. A minute later the police car is behind us, slowly making its way down the street. When I look over the female officer looks our way and says, "Jen says to tell you guys to pick up the pace." Totally classic. Finally we finished the run and it was time to start thinking about the cycling.
It was here that we really had big lull. Steves bike had fallen sideways on his bike rack the day before and he now had to bend his fork leg a little bit in order to make it rideable. This certainly isnt confidence inspiring, but I promised Steve that there werent any breakneck descents on the ride. After Steve got his bike fixed we noticed that Johns bike had a flat tire. That took a little while to fix when he realized that he was having problems with his rim strip and needed to retape the whole tire. Finally we were all ready to go, but we were probably an hour to an hour and a half behind schedule.
The riders consisted of Steve, John and myself and the surprise guest couple of Katherine and Brian. Steve and I had just met Katherine and Brian the night before at John and Jens pasta loading extravaganza. They were both avid cyclists, and we invited them to join in for the ride, but I wasnt sure if they would or not. We were all glad they showed up because we figured that the more people we had the easier it would be and the more fun it would be. Dave decided to ride some of the bike stage too, even though he was going to be on his mountain bike. Well, at least he had put some slicks on.
We started riding and Dave was having a good time. It seemed he was enjoyed getting worked, in fact, he said as much. Unknown to us, the support vehicle had stopped for a Gin and Tonic break and would join us shortly. They passed us after about five miles and Dave decided his ride was over for now. I started yelling "Beer. Beer. Beer." As loud as I could as I approached the car. Jen Hirsch, now helping out in the support vehicle quickly opened the ice chest and handed off a beer to me as I tossed my water bottle to the side. God, it almost felt like we were a small pack moving through the feed section at a major race. Now in the car, Dave tried to make it more like a race by trying to convince everyone to buy a pitchfork so they could chase us up the road like Il Diablo at the Giro and the Tour. Now if he had a Devils costume, that would have been classic.
Two miles later we were on one of the last mellow climbs of the ride when my calves started to cramp badly. They had been cramping a little bit for a while, but this was more serious. Finally I had to get off the bike to massage my calves. After a few minutes I felt better and started to ride again. I found that I could keep a steady pace okay, but if I tried to increase my speed or bridge up to another rider then my legs would start to cramp up and I was toast. We stopped for a rest break a few miles later and while walking over some boulders I began to wonder how difficult the bouldering might be with totally shot legs. Hmmm.
|The next five miles or so was all down hill and with my superior mass I had an advantage here. Initially I got in front of everyone and got to do a little motor pacing, hitting 40 miles an hour. Then Katherine caught up to me and she pulled me the rest of the way down the hill. She was hammering and it became clear that she was the dominant cyclist. In fact we later found out that the weekend before she had raced a hundred mile Mountain Bike race and that her sister had just clinched the World Cup Title at a recent Mountain Bike race. Yes, she was a ringer and that was just fine by us.|
The next few miles of the ride were pretty mellow until we hit a head wind. About this time I made it through a stoplight and got a break on everyone. I knew that they were stronger than I was, so I kept on riding figuring they would catch me quickly. Well, it took a while for them to catch me and then when they did the group was a little separated. The headwind didnt feel too bad, but as soon as you got off someones wheel it felt pretty bad. Finally we made a turn and we didnt have to worry about headwinds any more. A few miles later the support vehicle joined us for a quick stop and I decided that I had gone quite some time without a drink and mixed myself a Panache. We took off and looped around town a couple of times to get the requisite 34 miles. Both Steve and I were surprised by how hard the cycling had been. We both had expected it to be the easiest part of the BC. It still might have been, but it wasnt really easy, by any means.
Once again it took a little while to get ready for the next leg. The delay wasnt too bad this time because we all knew that we were at risk of running out of daylight. At this point I felt that I had done the worst part of the challenge and could finish the whole thing, but I also knew that it wasnt a certainty. During the transition and the drive up to the boulders I had a couple of smokes and beers, but kept it pretty mellow. I had experienced the lethargy that comes from drinking too much while bouldering and knew that if I had too much to drink I would have a hard time continuing. I also knew that a lot of my chances for success relied on keeping moving. Otherwise I would get really tired and not want to continue.
Once we arrived at Snow Valley we saw a few other vehicles, but no people. I was expecting my friends Pat, Josh and Todd to be up there waiting for us. Mike and Matthias were also supposed to be there along with Matt Artz, who is responsible for most of the development in the area and who organized the Snow Valley bouldering contest a few years back. There were cars enough for everyone, but we didnt see them.
I had planned to walk East on the road to where the first problems I was planning to do were, however this wasnt a good option for Tuco. Bob offered to take Tuco with him through the woods, while Steve and I hoofed it down the road. It was further than I remember, but we eventually got to the Block, the first boulder of the day. Steve and I quickly ticked off the tall problems there and moved on. We hit the next five problems pretty quickly and then we began to worry about Bob and Tuco.
The next stop was the Masta Blasta boulder, which had about 10 problems on it and was the last boulder before we returned to the car. At Masta Blasta we caught up with Pat, Josh and Todd. Their encouragement made the problems go faster, but they were also enjoying watching me struggle with climbing. Many of the problems had high first footholds and my leg would cramp up when I tried to lift it that high. Once I got past that pain and stood up on the foot, my leg would cramp again when I tried to extend it. It was a frustrating, painful experience, but good fun for those watching. Still, the problems went by pretty fast and we were now a quarter of the way through the bouldering. Steve and I decided to have a smoke while walking to the next boulders and we began to get more concerned about where Bob and Kailo might be.
At the next set of boulders we ran into our support crew. They continued in fine form, making sure everyone had a fresh Brittany (Pabst Blue Ribbon with a lime). Steve and I quickly ticked the seven problems there and Steve climbed an extra one to make up for a problem he had trouble with earlier. About this time Bob and Tuco showed up too. It turns out that Bob didnt find the shitty little climber path that I expected him to take, but did find the nice singletrack a little further back in the woods. He said he walked two miles and didnt see a boulder he couldnt spit over. Fortunately he realized his mistake and backtracked and finally found us.
The next stop was quite the social center and there we ran into the two Swiss guys, bringing our whole group to a dozen people and two dogs. We were loving it. Steve and I ran around the next two boulders and quickly found ourselves at 34 boulder problems, half way through. Damn, I might make it. We took a quick break, had another beer, enjoyed a delicious sandwich, watched Josh try to body surf his crash pad on the pine needles and continued climbing. The boulders were scattered, but near enough that we were able to just leave our stuff in a pile and go hit various problems. Quickly we had finished another 9 problems.
We moved on to the Orca boulder and we all climbed Orca, one of the best problems of the day for sure. The next stop was the Tidal Wave area where there were a lot of problems and the actual Tidal Wave itself, which I was concerned about being able to do. My legs often cramp up on weird mantles and this one was exactly the kind that I do poorly on. Fortunately I did the problem first try and let out a loud shriek. When we were just about finished with all the problems in the area I realized that we might not have enough light to hit all the problems on my list, since the last area was a little bit of a walk. I told Steve and we decided to add some problems here and at the next area to get to 68. We added three problems there and then moved on to the final area.
I had only planned on doing 6 problems here, but we needed to add four more to get to 68. Dave Guttman pulled out the headlamp so we could read the topo easier and Steve and I started ticking off problems. Todd would find us the next problem, so that we were constantly moving and didnt waste anytime. Once again, I realized that endurance bouldering is actually a somewhat cardiovascular activity. The last problem was an overhanging bulge. Dave handed me his headlamp and I climbed it with the headlamp on. When I summited everyone was cheering. It was totally exciting and I was thrilled. I tossed the headlamp down to Steve and he made his way to the top too. Now I just had to finish drinking.
While we were packing up I was handed beer number 8. I had to drink at least nine more beers and smoke at least as many cigarettes. I had better get started. I finished number 8 before we got to the car and drank numbers 9 and 10 on the way home. When we got to my place we realized that my keys were with Dave and Jen, who were picking up the pizza. Fortunately I had my ice chest, so I had beer. Then John and Jen arrived with the ice chest and everyone had beer. We were all hungry, but since we had beer we were pretty content.
Finally Dave and Jen arrived with the pizza and the keys. Many people formed a quick queue for the bathroom, while everyone else waited for the pizza to get opened up. I was hungry but since I still needed to do a fair bit of drinking I refrained from stuffing myself.
|Now it was time to get serious
and finish drinking. Slowly I made my way through the beers and cigarettes. The surprise
for this part of the evening was Janiec, who rarely drinks and doesnt smoke at all.
Im not sure what her motivation was, but since she didnt help out during the
day she wanted to help out now. She started drinking and then she actually started smoking
too. I dont think she was enjoying the cigarettes very much either.
As many people figured, the cigarettes were by far the worst part. I wanted to smoke 17 of them, but I knew that for every beer over number 17 that I had to smoke one less cigarette. I finished beer number 18 and cigarette number 16 with about 7 minutes left. I tried to finish a seventeenth cigarette, but when time ran out and I was only half finished I just put it out. Suddenly I was very tired. I had been successful, but it had taken almost all the hours in the day.