Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Schedule

Saturday July 19th, 2008

0300- Wake up
0315- Begin meditation
0339- Finish meditation
0340- Get going to the Kerr Hall Arete
0415- Hopefully get off the building
0430- Get on a bike, headed for Painted Cave (the pictograph cave, not the boulder crag)
0630- Return to campus
0645- Jump in the bitchass cold ocean
0709- Get the hell out of the gaddamn cold ass water and warm up
0730- Head for the hills
0800-? Boulder.
2000- Gather some friends, some beef, some beer, and start celebrating.
2100- Crack that second bottle of Double Bastard
2200-ish- Build a big fuckin’ fire and enjoy it.

Throughout: do nice things and pick up garbage.

This is a rough draft and subject to change. And let's hope for good weather!

The Smoke and the Flapper

You may be aware of the odd summertime sun-blotting atmospheric condition called “haze,” which came about because all of California is on fire. Today’s sky looks something like a bright day in London fog, the sun appearing like a full moon. Check out the SF Chronicle’s report:

But what, you might wonder, does this have to do with my challenge? The high concentration of fire-byproduct in the air makes any sort of training out of the question. Ever done jumping jacks with a cigarette in your mouth? Ever run 10k around a campfire? Bad idea. I haven’t smoked a thing in several dozen hours (all part of the training), yet last night I was in a coughing fit at 2 AM. I suppose meditation training could be a particularly good idea, relying as it does on shallow breathing, but I think today will be an off day from the athletic side of things.

Probably for the best, as well. Monday and Tuesday were long days. After a 5k run Sunday night which gave me some narsty blisters due to ill-fitting hand-me-down cross trainers, I drove to the Great Western Power Co. in Oakland for a somewhat less than inspiring boulder session. After giving up on the pre-set problems, I made my way upstairs into the training room.

If training rooms were pachyderms, this one is an African elephant, Scott’s garage is a pygmy mammoth. It is the Barney to Scott’s Baby Bop, the Shaq to Scott’s Spud Webb. Not a knock against Scott’s wall, of course, just a comment on stature. For instance, one can stand up all the way in this training room, and the wall itself is 60 degrees rather than 30, meaning that I can actually haul myself up by lots of different ways. Finger strength is my weak-point, and so this wall is perfect. I spent a fair interval working on some crimpy, pinchy problems, did some reps on the system board side of the wall, and then spent the last hour doing core and back lifting:

- 3x10 reps lat pulldown
- 3x10 reps seated row
- 3x10 reps bent over dumbbell row
- assorted leg lifts and crunches until it hurt

After a brief rest of running food for a pitifully short hour and a half shift, I came home and did 3 sets each of two different bicep curls. Then to bed.

Tuesday began with a twelve-mile bike ride to the top of Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley hills, a gain of 1000 feet from my house, a brief lunch, then a bike ride down to Ironworks (6 miles), where I enduro-bouldered for about four and a half hours, followed by a brief hangboard session and a bike ride to my post as professional food runner.

When I got to work, the street behind Pyramid was flooded due to a broken water main, and Pyramid actually had to close at 7:30 because the fire sprinklers were not working. If you asked my opinion, I would tell you that it don't matter; we got beer. Well, sadly, another shift cut short and Spenser continues to be hella broke. But the bonus is that my 5 miles of biking home, up the 700 foot hill I live on, was in the light, during a rather hazy and thus colorful sunset.

So Monday and Tuesday combined included roughly 8 hours of bouldering, a fair amount of weights, and about 25 miles of biking with 1700 feet of altitude. I'm exhausted, and that is why the poor air quality forcing a rest day is a blessing of sorts. The trees that are currently en fuego probably disagree, but I am too far away to hear their cries. Also, three days ago, I split my index finger callus, and this is a very painful injury. Crimps hurt, pockets hurt, even washing my hands hurts. An off day might help it heal?

I am starting to realize how bloody hard this is going to be. Even at Ironworks, where the bouldering is contained within one warehouse, it would be hard to do 240 problems including repeats. In 4 hours I did roughly 60 problems. And I didn't have to hike around to find them. Crap. I also fear for the multitudinous Santa Barbara pressout topouts, which I have not been training for. Time to start doing some pushups, I think.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Training: Day 1 and 2

This whole birthday challenge thing, I’m quickly realizing, is not primarily geared toward a month-long training session culminating in a single, victorious glorious 24-hour sprint of activity. A short while ago, after finishing up my last little bit of coursework for a Bachelor of Science degree and nearly simultaneously being rejected from the teaching fellowship that would’ve made me a 70 hour/week disciplinarian in a classroom in Poor Neighborhood, Oakland, CA, I came to the haunting yet liberating realization that my ties to the Bay Area, California, and America were scant. By that, I mean that I have nothing going on that requires my presence in any particular geographic location. No school, no job, no plans for grad school. Therefore, I am free to do what I’ve always timidly fantasized about, that is, save up some ca$hmoney and find a job elsewhere.

And that “elsewhere” can be read as “some place away from this election-year bantering, and near some world-class climbing.” I say timidly because, like the 40 foot cliff dive or the all-night sex and drug orgy, it’s the sort of thing that sounds amazing, but committing and terrifying all at the same time. Foregoing all my formal biology training to dick around as a broke globetrotter? What if I get hurt out there? What if I never get my career on track? What if…?

Like an onsight freesolo, there’s nothing to be done but to commit. Half-assed attempts are the surest way to fail. Thus, my training regimen, though not strictly regimented, takes full advantage of my resources. To wit: I have tons of free time because food runners at Pyramid Brewing Company, my place of employ, are in demand for only 20 hours per week. I have a membership to Touchstone Climbing gyms ( for 63 dollars per month, and I have two gyms (Ironworks and Great Western Power Company) to choose from within easy driving distance. I have the aforementioned realization. And I have some V-hard projects in Australia that need to be ascended and named.

Thus, after having committed enough to start a blog and a Facebook event, I began formally training for my Birthday Challenge.

Friday, I warmed up by running food for three hours, then biking over to Ironworks. I endeavoured to do every boulder problem in the gym that was V6 or easier, and was nearly able to do so (it took three and a half hours to reach bouldering exhaustion). I figured that endurance bouldering will likely be the physical crux of the challenge, hence to get started ASAP on that piece.

Then followed the pull-up pyramid:

- 3x5 pulls, thirty seconds’ rest in between. Rest 1 minute, then:
- 3x7 pulls, thirty seconds’ rest in between. Rest 1 minute, then:
(etc., doing 3x10, then 3x10, then 3x7, then 3x5)

Finished with core workout, biked back to Pyramid where I refueled with a bowl of chili and two pints of Thunderhead IPA (employee discounted, of course), and then rode my bike up the steepest hill in El Cerrito, gaining 720 feet in less than a mile. Had a smoke or two and got ready for another day.


Went over to Oakland and played around on the boulder problems for a little while, then went to the new training wall. It is, a la Scott’s house, a woodie with a grid of small holds. Unlike Scott’s, it lacks a roof but due to fewer space constraints allows for problems 6 moves long, and more. It is about 60 degrees instead of the Scott’s Wall 30, and the holds range from quite good to quite miniscule. Being that finger strength is my weak point, due in large part to a sore knuckle on my middle finger that is only recently becoming less painful, I made a resolution to begin to train here more often. Unfortunately, I tore a nice avulsion on my right index finger and bled on nearly every hold up there. Fortunately, my blood is untainted by the myriad pathogens one might find in an hIV sorority. I ended the day with a full battery of light-weight shoulder lifting, since they don’t often get to work during the movements of climbing. Cardio for the day was running food for four hours, in 85 degree heat.

Sunday will be mostly a rest day, with a little cardio and core thrown in for good measure. Hoping the split in my finger either heals soon or stops hurting. Going to go enjoy an A's game with my dad and brother, as a late Father's Day gift. Stopping the use of correct grammar and complete sentences. Signing off....


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Commitment

Today, Thursday June 19th, is the day I officially decided on my set of challenges, signed up for a Blogspot blog, and began inviting people. One month from today will hopefully see the goals met. Who knows?

This is good though. I have always loved the concept of a birthday challenge since I began climbing in 2004. For those who have bouldered in Santa Barbara, it was the ad in the back of Ocean's 11 that directed me to I attempted challenges for my 21st and 22nd birthday, both of which were ill-conceived and lacked sorely for planning. As such, they were neither completed nor attended. Not to say I didn't have great days, running myself silly and blurring my vision simultaneously. Birthdays always surround me with a sense of levity and well-being. But this time around, I'm putting the word out; I'm planning; I'm training; I'm stoked.

This is scary though. It's a doable challenge, but it hinges on planning more than any other single factor for its completion, a trait that I must have been born without. This, then, is an exercise in commitment: to put together the logistics of an unorthodox birthday celebration, to find spotters and boulder-beta givers, to find willing hosts and companion athletes, to training, to find eaters and drinkers. If I can complete my challenge the satisfaction will come as much from the fulfillment of a plan as it will the physical exertion and beer/beef meal afterward.

Primarily, though, the most important objective of this plan is to have an epic day enjoying bits of everything Santa Barbara has to offer. I shall climb in the mountains, bike in the foothills, swim in the ocean, builder at my alma mater, and hang out with some of the coolest people the world has ever seen.

This is what I'm thinking now, T minus thirty days. Regular updates will follow, regarding training, planning (holy shit!), and most importantly, a rough itinerary of D-Day. Check back on an accordingly regular basis.

The Challenge

I miss Santa Barbara.  What better time to visit than the sunny, beautiful, laid-back summer...during my birthday?

In the spirit of turning two dozen, and in the style of so many before me from the Santa Barbara community and elsewhere, I cordially invite everyone I know to help me get through what promises to be an epic day of all flavors of the rainbow of awesome.  Here's the menu:

- 240 boulder problems
- Ascend the Kerr Hall Arete 
- Bicycle 24 miles, including 2400 feet of elevation gain
- 24 minute ocean swim
- 24 minutes of solo meditation
- Drink 2.4 Double Bastards
- Perform 24 random acts of kindness
- Feed beef and beer to 24 people
- Collect 24 pounds of trash
- Have a 24 foot diameter bonfire

I have a rough idea of how the day might go, but I most definitely need some volunteers.  Primarily, I'll need some of the help that Micah Elconin got in his epic challenge (, in terms of finding 240 boulder problems in the Santa Barbara hills.  I should state that Micah is one of the main inspirations for me in this challenge, and I pay tribute to his accomplishments by plagiarizing a few of the challenges on my list from his.  I'll also need help picking up trash, nabbing a guerrilla ascent of the Kerr Hall Arete, and eating and drinking.  The more the merrier.