Name: Todd Mei
Birthday: April something or other
Occupation: Insurance agent. Ask for Walter Neff at The All Risk
1 32 boulder problems at Devil's Lake
2 16 "Classics" meaning:
hard, high, scary
3 Run 32 Miles
4 Stop at 16 bars
5 Finish 16 drinks, each time enacting a famous drinking scene from a movie.
"Here's to all my friieeeenndss...."
A Challenge for One, A Challenge for All
men also cry. Grown men also cry.”
been checking the weather all week, and between weather.com and weather
underground, the forecast seemed to alternate between rain and
thunderstorms. Finally, Thursday and Friday had consistent
reports. Both websites forecasted a sunny day on Saturday, April
five us made our way to the North Shore of Devil’s Lake—Nate
Emerson, Patrick Neuman, Tim Lind, Jason Huston, and myself. Upon
arriving, three others met us there—Nick Rhodes, Mike Simon, and Steve
Schultz. It was the most people with whom I had been bouldering at
the Lake, and it was 6am. The temperature was a chilly 40 degrees.
not much to say about the bouldering portion of my challenge except that
it was the best conditions I had seen at the Lake in a long time,
possibly ever. The slick quartzite was crisp and the friction
seemed to be good. The morning began with a good portend as I was
able to climb Show Me the Kind and Red Hair Arete in one attempt.
The exciting Zipper was still very exciting, but my confidence with pads
and spotters made the climbing less tense. All problems went down
within one attempt with the exception of the Zipper (2), Beautiful Soup
(3), and Massive Vertigo (5).
maybe there is more to say.
retrospect, it was a wonderful combination of old, middle, and new
school problems: John Gill’s the Flat Iron, Eric Ziesche’s Beautiful
Soup, Stuart Emerson’s Martini Madness, and Peter DeSalvo’s Massive
The Long Run
party’s now five strong, no problem with that!”
very hard and the part of the challenge I wanted to complete the most,
the bouldering did not size up to the running portion of my challenge
with respect to pain. After such a good morning at the Lake, I was
sliding into complacent sports-achievement. I seemed to say to
myself that it didn’t matter what happened now that I had done the
circuit of circuits.
the calm before the storm, and the birthday challenge would soon become
a challenge for each one of us in our own private hell. In the
spirit of a memorial, I feel that I should mention each person’s name
who went on the run: Nate, Nick, and Jason would run. Tim, Neuman,
and Peter Gentry would ride support on their bikes. Lindl towed a
small trailer for supplies.
-- 16 Bars -- 16 whiskeys
2:45pm we were ready to leave the luxury condo and embark on the 32 mile
went without incident until the third bar (about 6 miles in) despite the
fact that my legs already felt a little too tired. At Fieler’s,
we were served by a bartender sporting an oxygen nose tube. The
elderly gentlemen there took amusement at our foolish endeavor once
explained to them. Jason had opted for a dry run (no whiskey)
since he was by no means a runner, just some big wall guy from Oregon
looking to challenge himself. The last time I saw Jason drink was
New Years Eve when he passed out outside Lindl’s house in sub-freezing
temps after a Chinese movie night of red wine and stiff Caucasians a la
Peter Gentry. Well, Jason’s pseudo-Prohibition habits were the
butt of a few jokes from the bartender who seemed to take it out on
Lindl oddly enough. For, when Tim ordered his rye on the rocks the
bartender dumped about 6 ounces of whiskey into his glass. Tim was
on the road to oblivion. Nate later remarked, “It’s a bad sign
when the support crew is getting drunker than the runners.”
hardest leg of the run would appear to have been from Quivey’s Grove
to Tony Franks, a full 3.3 miles. Along the way we encountered
kids burning a troll doll on the railroad tracks. Neuman and Lindl
chased them down for no reason. Apparently one of the kids pulled
his head out from behind the bushes and said, “We didn’t do it.”
That’s the thing, I just like to hide in bushes.
very tired upon reaching Tony Franks. I was half wondering if I
could make it. Then, it rained. It won’t last I thought
The forecast said sunny. It wasn’t supposed to rain until
midnight. The sky was a pale gray; those aren’t rain clouds.
through the arboretum was fun for a few seconds. Then I realized
like a few years ago during my last challenge that I would be fighting,
trying not to cramp up. My last challenge at 30 years old entailed
a running portion of 30 miles on trail. I cramped up at mile 10.
It was a terrible fight the rest of the way, my cramps not clearing up
until mile 26. That was then. The body remembers pain.
Nick looked great. I felt more like Jason—lagging, tired,
outclassed by better runners. We reached Bennett’s Smut and
Eggs. We ordered Jim Beam shots but we were fairly certain it was
Early Times. All the while, porn was playing. Great crowd as
you can imagine.
jaunt to the Echo Tap. Patty Strach met us there. She
brought me fresh socks, running tights and a shell. It was
Jason’s last hurrah. He was done. Pretty much off the
couch, Jason had made it halfway. I felt like Jason, done.
Nick and Nate? Looked fine. We stepped outside to hit the
Coliseum Bar. Lindl had phoned ahead to order us food. Did I
mention that the only food and drink to be had during the run was
whatever the bar was serving?
Rain. Rain….Dropping Temps…Wind…
Coliseum Bar, we ate our food like Homer Simpson. No words, just
eating. Meanwhile, Jessica Simanek (Nate’s girlfriend) showed up
to provide what would later prove to be invaluable car support. Oh
wait, there were words exchanged at the Coliseum. Maybe we
should stop (with reference to the weather and possibility of
left the Coliseum Bar, it was…raining. The runners took a head
start. A few minutes later, Neuman comes up from behind and says,
he just handed me the bike lock and said, ‘I can’t do this
anymore.’ And he left.”
drunken reaction at the next bar, “Whoaa!” Smiling in some
kind of shocked but amused way.
professed that Hell was cold since it was farthest away from the warmth
of God’s love. Dante had never been to Wisconsin. Clearly,
Wisconsin is worse, at least it was that night. For, there was not
only cold temps but wind and…rain.
on what Nate considered to be the crux leg, from South Bay Lounge to the
Silver Eagle: 3 miles long (21 miles in). I was so worn and cold,
so cold and tired, so tired and pissed off. Everyone was the same.
Nate never let on if he was in pain. I tried to be positive.
In my own frustration I snapped, “I hate that. It’s not over
after this [leg of running].” Then I heard my old roommate
Kursten. After eagerly partaking in the Fritter Challenge in 1992,
he later refused to continue halfway in. He yelled, “No, you
can’t make me. I won’t do it! It’s not fun anymore.”
it’s not fun anymore. I recited the St. Crispin’s Day speech
as I ran. This gives you an idea that cardio-vascular wise I was
fine. My legs, however, were like two thick tubes of discount
ground beef. USDA chump.
wet. Soaked through and through. The same petty pace bar to
bar: get cold, stay wet, run, get warm, get to the bar, drink, stay wet,
sweat, step outside, get cold, stay wet, run, get warm…
Temperatures were in the low 40s.
the Silver Eagle. And at that point I thought as close as we were
I was not going to finish. We started at a fast pace towards the
Horseshoe Bar and halfway through Nate dropped back. I was too
tired to think anything of it. Nate is a far better runner:
tougher, more experienced at runs, a better drinker.
mention Nate has no spleen? He lost it in a bad ski race accident
when he was young. By all rights, he should not be here today.
Jessica was worried the entire time about his lack of spleen. He
can drink a lot on a night out on the town or belly up at the bar, but a
prolonged event of running and processing toxins at a rapid, intense
arrived at the Horseshoe on Tim’s bike. He was pale and for the
first time, he looked worried. After waiting a while at this
hellhole, drinking from water-back glasses that felt like they still had
the wax from lipstick on the rims, Nate threw in the towel. He was
nauseated. Luckily, Jessica was there with the car to drive him
off. I can’t reiterate how tough Nate is. He won the 100
mile Kettle Morraine race, posted the second best time, and has the 27th
fasted 100 mile time in the States. When he dropped out, it was
like the bottom falling out. Support in Nate’s case means
someone who will try to endure as much pain as you can so that you know
you’re not going it alone, all the while smiling or at least making
jokes about the pain. I was not happy.
was wet and cold.
meanwhile, looked fresh as if he had never started. A tri-athlete
and founder of the Intensity Newsletter, Nick Rhodes is a shoe-in for a
Dirk Nowitzki stand in. I couldn’t believe how he was
taking this all. A mutant. He would keep saying that he felt
terrible. But it was quite obvious that the worst he felt was
nowhere near as bad as the best I felt.
was surprisingly fast to the Glass Nickel. Patty and her friends
Honor and Colleen were waiting there. I plopped myself down at a
table away from the dining guests so as not to disgust them. Honor
and Colleen bought us drinks. I couldn’t even raise a brow to
say thanks. Nick, meanwhile, was mingling like some kind of
teatoatler. But he had had every drink so far. Mutant.
Neuman finally saw the light of a finish. Lindl, in all cotton,
looking like a vagrant was still drunk and miserable. But he, too,
saw the light. Then Jesus came in.
was wet and cold and tired. He offered no solace or strength, so I
took a shot. And we were off again. I knew it. I knew
it. I knew it all along. That goddamned hill just before the
Weary Traveler was going to be hell. It’s not even a hill.
It’s a slight incline. But for some reason, it always feels
night, no different. Each step was like a dagger in the mind.
Each step I wondered, or at least it seemed I had enough time to wonder,
if my legs would cramp up. By now the miles between bars had
become much less, and the whiskey now became a concern. I rarely
get drunk. I simply go from buzzed to throwing up. I was
buzzed. I would have no warning signs except the spins. By
then it would be too late. Two more bars. Every now and then
I thought I felt the spins coming on. Lindl ordered some chips and
guacamole at the Weary. We ate like wolves. Off to the
Wind. Cold…with a hey and a ho…blow you hurricanoes, blow!
Lear had moved from England to Wisconsin. Lead in the water and
bad weather makes for a good tragedy. I was auditioning for the
part of the Fool that night. I was a shoe-in save for the guy next
to me with a mullet, buck teeth, a Packers jacket, and chronic wasting
disease in the brain. Go Pack! Go!
to the Caribou? More of the same medicine. it went down like
Ipecac. The whiskey there felt fine. No way I would puke
unless out of exhaustion.
the Caribou (which was without incident) meant running round about to
the last bar, the Great Dane. The real course was supposed to loop
Park Street and end with 33 miles. I was in no way going to get an
extra mile for anyone’s sake. When the loop was mentioned, Nick
blurted out, “I can’t run and backtrack!” He must have been
in pain, though it never seemed like it. Neuman replied, “We got
to get 32. We’ll run to the Nitty Gritty and back to the
Dane.” The last leg was pure hell. Over the hump of the
isthmus and back up to the Dane. Nick still looked good. He
let up the last block to let me finish first.
At the bar, I put my head down. The bartender said I had to leave.
I told him I wasn’t drunk. I was tired. I told him I had
just finished running 32 miles. He looked at me like it was no big
deal. He gave us our shots of Wild Turkey Rye and then we ate
food. It only took us a few minutes to start laughing at how
terrible it all was.
had his 12th beer, successfully completing his challenge of
biking 32 miles and drinking 12 beers. Tim was still drunk.
Patty was disgusted at how bad we smelled—sweat, alcohol, stale smoke,
and men’s tears. On the way back to the condo in the car, I
purveyed the Isthmus and wondered how everyone was living their lives:
if was just wasting space or at least trying to experience some kind of
Saturday, April 24th, 2004, I embarked on a birthday
challenge of 32 boulder problems, 32 miles of running with 16 shots of
whiskey along the way. In the end, it didn’t seem to do anyone
much good. But at least we all tried. No one wins in a
birthday challenge. No one.
day, Patty and I went to see Jonathan Waterman’s slide show about
crossing the Northwest Passage on kayak. The very last segment
involved him talking about a polar bear he had encountered just as he
reached the Atlantic waters. The bear had been tracking him for
several miles. Polar bears are known to stalk their prey over long
distances. The bear entered the water after him. Instead of
paddling away he decided to move closer to the bear. He put
down his paddle and looked at the bear, into his eyes. He said he
conveyed nothing but deep respect for such an animal—something he said
he felt he had learned all his time while being absolutely alone for
weeks at a time in the Artic, from all that he learned from the Inuit.
After a few seconds of gazing, the bear climbed atop an iceberg and
no sense to this ending, but hearing and seeing Jon Waterman’s story
put everything into perspective. Except for the prune feet I had
after running in wet shoes for several hours.
there’s not a chance it’s going to kill you, it’s not a