"When someone says you can't do something. That just gets me psyched  to try and do it, of course." 
- Hans Florine in Wall Rats

Back To Reality

"Would they be eaten by sharks; speared by natives? Mike had no idea." - The Endless Summer

This is just how I felt, I had no idea whatsoever what to expect. All I knew was that I wasn't overtrained, it hadn't started raining, none of my injuries were flaring up too bad, and I was going to try. None of the events on my list seemed too bad in and of themselves, it was just a matter of stringin' 'em together. 

I got stuck in the office with the last-minute work and my support team, Bob and Ratso, decided to put a dent in Sat. night's party stock before I'd even arrived. This probably wasn't the best plan, as Bob's schedule would mirror mine for the next two days, making "jesus, I'm tired," a remark very reminiscent of challenge 2000's "I'm tired too. Tired of all the possibilities of it all."

5:00am, Nov 21, 2003 - I'm up before my alarm goes off, doing yoga breathing exercises. In training, I hadn't been able to get a good breath hold but though that with a slow heart rate in the am I should be able to make 2:43, which is .20 less than my best. 

above right: "jacques mayol does 3 hours of yoga before diving, I can have 5 minutes now." OMMM.

above:  the 2 specks in the middle of the road are steve finishing the run.

right: strike one, or was it ball twenty?

below: if only i weighed twice as much and were a foot taller, i'd take shaq's job no problem.

I did around 2:30 to warm-up. I didn't have an official clock on it and was surprised. Also, happy. 2:43 went fairly easily next go.

Did some yoga and set-off running, trying to be quiet to allow Bob some extra rest. Finished in 28:30. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down as I'm used to running miles under 6:30. But this was no triathlon. I had 43 hours ahead of me.

My friend Chris Huntley was waiting for me with a bag of baseball and a couple of gloves. I hadn't thrown a ball in years, though I throw rocks regularly. Chris wasn't about to do me any favors either. It took me a while to learn that he'd give the inside corner, but not the outside, and I probably through an entire game of pitches before 43 strikes were in the bag.

Next up, free throws. Despite one of those double-enforced playground rims, this went quickly and easily. Spent far too many years teaching these mechanics to ever lose mine. Now, if I had to make them in a row...

Then it was home to load the van. Chris went to work and Bob took over support duties. Kenji had also been there to rebound but had his own support task ahead, getting the backyard ready for Sat night's soiree.

A little behind schedule, Friday morning's traffic wasn't about to do us any favors. By the time we were at Conejo Mountain we were already an hour behind. Planning to do as much mtn biking as possible, I hadn't recon'd the trail because it was a fire road. It turned out to be steep and rugged, making very slow going. I stopped after 4 miles to climb.

This went well, and I ticked 12 routes in very little time, no falls. Back on the bike for another 4 miles, getting to the van still one hour (and now 2 miles of biking) behind schedule. 

While it wasn't going perfect, it was way too early to panic. I jumped on my road bike and sped off towards the coast. I lost Bob when I passed him as he was looking for the camera but  we were able to connect without losing much.

My bike's freewheel then started making all sorts of noise and seized up. Luckily, I'd brought a spare set of wheels, which were race wheels and faster, so I probably made up the stop with extra speed.

The weather was behaving well. I rode into a head wind towards the coast, but once I turned south/east on PCH, it became a tailwind, yee-haw. I flew by an area where I'd hit a severe headwind in last year's challenge, thinking how much less I was suffering, at least so far.

The surfing spot was 4000 PCH, a place known as Staircase and favored by me because it was good for dogs. We met up with Denis Faye, who was also packin' the infamous King Pin fritters, that had been Fed Exed from Berkeley by Hans Florine.  

tuco's ashamed, "i can't even look. get back on your bike. you're supposed to be suffering" 

"that's better. this isn't birthday pretty hard..."


Despite Bob's claim that it was a "terrible idea," I fired off fritter number one before hittin' the surf.

Don't know whether it was because I suck at surfing or fritter induced, I did start to cramp rather bad around hour one. I still kept trying to catch waves but one particular place kept cramping worse and worse. 

We than had an issue with the rangers, whom I heard "never came down on the beach". This caused one of us to keep going in and tending the dogs. In the end, we cut the session an hour short, but not as much because of the rangers as that we were running out of light.


With 20 miles of biking, a volleyball game to play, and not wanting to ride PCH in the dark, I took off at a frantic pace. I drank as much E-Load as possible and, thankfully, didn't cramp too much and pulled into the 76 Station next to Duke's, in Malibu, just before dark. 

We sped off towards the court trying to find a quick fourth. Unfortunately, the most eligible, Reed and Kenji, were busy imbibing back at the El Matador and didn't want to be disturbed.

This meant it was 2 on 1 volleyball. Me, being both the challenger and the more experienced player, got the solo side, and a lot of extra work to bump, set, and hit all myself. A spirited game turned ugly when it became too dark to see. Either way, we were well in excess of 43 points, and I was ahead, HA! Final score was around 35 to 27.

seen any big guys lately? not too many at 10pm on friday

Gold's Gym in Venice was next. Not only is the place hilarious to hang out in, it's also inspirational. Plus, had a Concept 2 rowing machine which I was going to need in lieu of a kayak.

This seemed like a long road ahead. In an attempt to stave off lactic acid accumulation, I started off using very light weight and doing a lot of reps, mainly sets of 30. This wasn't impressing any of the big guys at Gold's, I'll tell ya. Sets of 30 are hard for most people because they never do them. Thankfully, I've done a cycle of 30 reps ever year for more than a decade. The downside to long sets is that they're slow, and what might have impressed the big guys was that I was in that place damn near 4 hours.

I'd done 86,000 pounds before and knew it wouldn't be a problem, given sufficient time. I was using my legs a lot, and they were cooked. I really didn't want to do any arm work, nor any small muscle groups at all, knowing I'd need them later. 

By the time I'd polished off the weight, Bob was pretty bored. As I started on the rowing machine, he took off with Tuco and I got stuck rowing for 36 min 11 sec (6900 kilometers) to a bunch of TV's playing nothing but Michael Jackson gossip. I tried, in vain, to get the staff to change the challenge but they claimed they couldn't. Uugghh!

After rowing, it took about 15 minutes doing yoga to enable me to stand fully erect. Then all I had was a bunch of sets of pull-ups, hanging straight leg raises, bar dips, and push-ups. Thankfully, my arms hadn't been engaged too much and had enough reserve to see me through.

Back at the car, the Little Guy was guarding the fritters for me. I'd eaten very little all day and quickly polished off another one. We grabbed a burrito on the way home and after eating, Bob and Reed hit the sack whilst I setting in for a fairly long yoga session. I was doing okay but incredibly stiff. 

I also then traced the source of my "cramps" during the surf. Apparently, the board had hit the inside of my right thigh during a wipe out and I hadn't noticed. This was the area that was cramping so bad, and there was a large bruise.

My friend Melissa Packer, a yoga instructor, had given me some restorative postures which I followed to the letter.  By the time I went to sleep, I felt pretty decent. 

like a dragon guarding his treasure, tuco makes sure the fitters are safe 

king pin, breakfast of champions (kanji = fight with conviction to win)

This morning I WASN'T up before me alarm, which took me out of a very deep and sound rest. The weather had changed and the wind was rippin' outside, but there wasn't time to even consider its possible effect.

We started the ride at first light. Bob had a mechanical right at the start, Reed went back to help, and I was alone. I came back to meet them at the summit of Westridge, an old missile station. It offers great views of LA that, on cold windy mornings like this one, are stunning. Then we headed west on dirt Mulholland. While one of the easiest mtn biking trails in the area, it's not even close to being flat and we were going either up or down the entire ride. At some point, I again forged ahead, really enjoying the morning. LA never looks better than during Santa Ana's.

At a sign near the turnaround I noticed that mile bike odometer was short of the mileage on all of the road signs--great! Too late to amend, I was destined to ride more than necessary by a few miles and there was nothing I could now do about it.

I ate another fritter and a half as we headed up the coast.

I was telling Bob that the fritters weren't too bad, right before I said something about feeling hot and nauseous. He then commented that I made the same comment each time I ate some, which I'm sure was true. At least I only had one to go.

Pulling into the parking lot, we were in for the worst point of the challenge... no surf! The tide was too high and the waves weren't breaking. Daylight was burning and there was no time to look for something else. I was going to go paddle around but Bob said, "If you're going to bag something, this is the one."

With 31 routes still on the agenda, I couldn't hesitate. Climbing being by far the more difficult thing to do, I decided to head up the hill. Besides, if I just wanted to paddle around, I could do that just as well at night.

While it seemed like things were going well, this was going to be the crux. Climbing 31 routes in a day is hard in itself. At Echo, it's even harder than most places. And I wasn't going to get onto the rock til nearly noon, giving me about 5 hours of light.

Reed dropped me at the trailhead with just my own gear and no rope. Ratso and I ran in, hoping to meet some friends with ropes. Sure enough, Jeff and Kelly were at the very first climb about to start. They allowed me to lead it and toprope the next one. Two routes done in about 10 minutes.

Then, like clockwork, my Chad showed up. He allowed me to climb first and he would only climb routes I thought were good. We polished off 9 routes pretty quickly.

By this time, Reed, Jesse, Kevin, and Sandie were there and had some routes set up. They allowed me to climb right through. I did the three routes they had set-up in about the time it took Sandie to climb the one. I was cookin', but I was also getting tired and still had 17 routes to go. Plus, it was hot and I was a bit short on water. How did it go from freezing to hot?

racing sandie 

Bob had left to put gas in the van but had arrived finally. We headed off to the east side of Echo, which has some multi-pitch climbs that are low-angle so that I could get some weight off my arms. I hadn't done most of them so had no idea what to expect. Chad and another friend, Ike, followed us over and put their rope on a long 5.10. On our first route, Bob and I epic'd, or shredded, really. We didn't have a long enough rope to lower off the second pitch, so I ended up tethering the rope to one anchors and climbing around on some loose rock to fix it. This greatly amused the folks below, who heaped shame on us and belittled our chances for success using such tactics. So it was a little dangerous. I didn't have time to f^@k around.

After toproping the route the Ike and Chad had done, I used the same rope to do an adjacent climb. My arms were tired and it was pretty steep and loose. This was the closest I came to falling all day, which would have resulted in a long skin-grating pendulum. Thankfully I didn't rip. 

Bob and I went back to work on the multi-pitches using some weird tactics to make up for our short rope, causing Chad to say, "I don't know if I'm watching two people that are really good at what they're doing, or two people about to kill themselves." But our dubious tactics were quick, and we do know what we're doing, even in a delirious state. One example of this was when we were too high to double our rope and rappel, so I lowered Bob down an adjacent route we hadn't done. He put some quick draws on it and clipped the rope in. Then I down climbed it on lead, pulling the gear once it was above me. Piece o' cake.

Soon I had only 5 routes left. Jess, Kev, and Sandie had a rope on three, then I Bob and I went to finish it off on two more routes I didn't know. This was a great way to finish, since I had to focus a bit more on the climbing. My arms were pretty thrashed and I would have fallen had I not stayed focused.

leading pitch 42 in fading light. one to go!

lap 2 

I ended up just making my goal of 3 out of 4 being 5.10. I led more than my requisite 50% and the hardest route climbed was 11b (three of them).

All I had left was to run the trail out, and then do it again. I ran out and was greeting my a howling wind in the parking lot. I ditched my pack and started running back in, passing some climbers who said, "what'erya doin', some sort of Eco Challenge?"

By the second lap, it was dark. I kept tripping on rocks but know this trail pretty well and never augured in, which was still just blind luck. 


While finishing my last fritter, I contemplated getting back into the water, but both Bob and Reed though is was absurd. There was no moon and I couldn't really surf. I have a hard enough time when it's light. I'd just be paddling around in the dark. 

So it was off to the party.

Since I was late getting there, Kenji had taken over as host. Actually, he was the host all night as I was rather indisposed.  To ensure that we had 43 recorded guest, he was forcing everyone to sign in.

above and left: chad "quint" horton

Chad "Quint" Horton had volunteered to man the Q. He just caught a 511lb Mako shark, which would make up the bulk of the evening's menu. If fact, after climbing all day and cooking all night, Chad left the party and went straight to his boat. That's a dedicated fisherman. 

Deb Merlo and Jesse Fasy were also an integral part of the food prep, with Deb making 43 of the "best cupcakes in the world."

The party exceeded all my expectations, and also proved that I could, if necessary, cram 43 people into my guest house. 

While the crowd humored me by watching my film, Wall Rats, I finished off my last few hundred push-ups, crunches, and leg lifts.

Strangely enough, I felt pretty good even though I'd eaten almost nothing but fritters during the challenge. In fact, during the course of Saturday I ate nothing but a Clif Bar, and apple, and 2.5 fritters up til the party. 

how karen and arnould looked to everyone else

and how they looked to steve.
Then I had to finish drinkin', not as easy a task as it sounds. But I finally did manage, right at midnight, to down my last martini and final beer.

While I was under the impression that I'd finished the challenge except for the surfing, I'd totally forgotten about a few events: roshambo, juggling, and massages. Heck, I'd even been playing roshambo, I just forgot to finish it off. Or maybe I did and didn't remember. Oh well, whatever...

right:  the el matador, full up

below: the morning after.
after a few rounds with leon spinks? was boxing even part of  the challenge?

I've got to head out for England and will finish this upon returning. I should have more perspective then anyhow.

Thanks to everyone who came to the party. It was a pleasure seeing you!

Special thanks to:

Bob Banks

Chad Horton

Deb Merlo

Jesse Fasy

Kenji Haroutunian

Chris, Denis, Ike, Jeff, Keli, Kevin, Melissa, Reed, Sandie

Apri Challenge

I spent the next day wandering around the Getty with Jeff and Keli. I was sore, especially trying to walk down stairs, and my brain certainly wasn't functioning 100%. It was one of those lazily blissful days you spend with friends where you never feel ancy, even for a second, about being somewhere else or not getting enough exercise.

oh, yeah, passed these out at the party. slightly amended the list later on, so this one's more inclusive.

43 Films That You Absolutely Must See

kenji mans the bar

Since that challenge I haven't really stumbled on any pearls of wisdom about the meaning of it all. While people were saying it was impossible, it certainly didn't feel that way. Time was an issue, and daylight even more so. If there had been any surf at I would have finished all the main elements, except some things I forgot than don't matter much. In many ways, I didn't suffer as much as I have in the past trying to do an excess of one thing. But, I don't know, maybe I'm just used to suffering. But I feel pretty good about it. So it must have been pretty hard but all that matters is that is was fun. Hey, isn't that the last line spoken by Cpt Kirk? "it...was...fun!"

left: andrea and  lou
below: maybe he really is mack of the yead. reed, flanked by molly, sandie, jess, candice
down down: diana, steve, cheri, chris, mason (steve may not look tired but, oh, if you could see his eyes up close!) 


I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Steve Schneider, spoken in the film, Wall Rats (coming to a mountain film festival near you).

"That's it."

"So long home viewers."

"Be safe in your next adventure."

"Just make sure you're adventuring." 



 Dec 16

This might have been a bit harder than I thought as it's nearly a month later and I've hardly done any exercise, nor have I wanted to. I'm writing today only because last night was the first time since the challenge that I've been at all restless. Normally I can't sleep if I go two days without exercise. Since my birthday, I've been climbing 4 times and run about 3 miles, slowly. Total.

I've been asked about whether or not I succeeded on my challenge, which was something I hadn't really considered. Success, at least in terms of completing the itinerary, is never really an issue with me. It's something to strive for and when it's done, it's done. The point is to challenge myself and I'll let historians decide whether or not I have been a "success". For me, the journey is enough

And, since I'm starting to recover, guess it's time to start thinkin' about what's next...