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So, The Challenge is Out There

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"uhh, yes, there is a challenge and I think it's put out there by us."

"Good, Steve"

- From the Greg Stump ski film, License to Thrill

I've always wanted to do something worthy of the Jack LaLanne challenge and now I have, I think. Jack used to offer up 10 grand to anyone that could workout with him and keep up. In fact, this guy at Men's Journal got him to offer the challenge last year (at age 86) and still got smoked. Almost puked during the warm-up as I recall. Anyway, I finally did something that I doubt anyone else will want to attempt, though I would love to see someone try--so much so that I'll pony up 10 large to anyone who can equal it. The main reason is that it has so many different activities. That's what Jack used to do as well. His ace-in-the-hole was that you had to swim in his pool, which is set around 55 degrees. I guess mine is making all those free throws, because there is no way fitness alone can get you through it. Anyway, I hope someone tries to repeat it. I would love to watch. I'll even help.

When I look back at my challenge--from my rested point of view--it seems like it could have been much harder. However, if I read back through the diaries and recollect how injuries, illness, and the like hampered me I figure it was hard enough. If I could do one thing over it would have been to organize a way to raise money for a non-profit. I thought about it pretty early on but was so busy just trying to organize it so that I could do it myself that I never got around to it (I was also worried that I would bonk part-way in and not be able to complete it). Still, I could have easily raised some money. I hope that in the future fundraising will be a part of all the difficult challenges.

I guess what people will want to know is why I think this will be hard to repeat. A super-fit person can certainly hammer through most of it, but this is what I'm thinking:

First of all, you need to be pretty fast to do the sprinting. Fast-twitch and slow twitch athletes rarely mix and this challenge obviously offers obstacles to both. So just finding people who have the natural ability to run fast enough should narrow the field somewhat.

Next, you must be able to rock climb at a fairly-high level. Not as high as it would have been if I had completed all 40 V4's but higher than most people can climb. The 400 boulder problems is much harder than most climbers realize. I would say this is doable for only the top 5% of all climbers and up to now has only been done my me. (I predict it will be upped this year, though).

Just these two things will weed the field to a handful of possible challengers. Now they must be able to shoot a basketball, which should really be tough since in all my years of climbing I only met a few people that had played basketball at any level.

But still, I know a guy that just might be able to do all this, Aaron Baker (college track, good climber, monster biker, needs a little work on his shot...), but he can't eat, and you still have to do the fritter challenge and All-American Day!

--By the way, Aaron plays so many sports at such a high level that he could do something that would be horrendous to repeat if he wanted to inflict the pain on himself (I'm just baiting him a little. Think Jean Triollet, Aaron)--

But now you have to be able to punish yourself for all those days in succession. This is the crux, for sure. It's indescribable just how hard it is to push something to your limit, then get up and do it again, day after day. Anyone who read my diaries knows how exhausted I was. They don't know how much I wanted to quit--I don't think-- but it was my overriding thought throughout the second half (it ran concurrent with sleep, which I did talk about all the time). But suffering was what I had signed-on for so I kept going. I wanted to do something similar to the Tour de France, tailored to me of course, but with the same type of day in, day out challenge. Not that my event is a hard as the Tour. It doesn't have the intense pressure or competition. But I think it was a good parallel for me.

So I'll leave you with some words on suffering from Greg LeMond, one of history's greatest cyclists.

" Stage racing is generally known to be very taxing. But I think you can only realize how taxing after you race the Tour de France. You can't say that professional bike racing is ever easy. But in the Tour de France, the level of intensity is so high that I honestly believe we're approaching some kind of human limit. What's unique about the Tour is that it requires the same level of endurance as the longest races and the same level of intensity as many shorter races. That's an awesome combination.

The first year I rode the Tour de France, 1984, I had raced practically every other major professional race. I had won the Tour de l'Avenir, which was supposedly the junior version of the Tour. Supposedly. In that first Tour, I couldn't believe there was never any letup. I could never recuperate. In the first Pyrenees stage, suffering from bronchitis, I was in so much pain that I could barely see! My legs felt as if they were no longer there. I kept pushing and getting dropped on the climbs. All I could think about was quitting."

So, the challenge is out there, for all you pain freaks, and we hope to see you some day on a big sufferage.

(sadistic laughter)


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