Tuesday, March 4, 2008
So, did I do it? The short answer is contained within the photo above. Hell Yeah, I freakin did it! How was it? What do you think? Read on for a complete play by play of my 27 hours of joyous suffering. For the full slide show of Bob's awesome photo's go to www.king-dino.com/micah/index.html
2/28 - 4:15 pm
Blake and I arrive at the Coral Casino. We're parked next to a lambo (of course). Bridget meets us at the front desk and lets us in. She informs me that she forgot her camera. Shit. Sorry folks. No photos of Micah in his speedo.
We make our way to the newly renovated posh locker rooms. My plan was to hang out and stretch in the wet sauna before jumping in the pool. This turned out to be quite dangerous. Lying on the floor in the steam room, trying to find some last minute peace, I hear a thunderous sound erupt above my head. "What's that?" I wonder. Moments later I realize my head is directly under a steam vent preparing for a super charge neutron blast. I roll to my side and jump off the floor just in time to avoid a total challenge shut down. Oh man. This is gonna be good.
2/28 - 5:00pm
I dive into the pool and officially begin the challenge. I remember anxiously waiting for my neck to tweak and go completely out, but it seemed to be handling the swim, or "warm up", in the words of Coach Bridget, quite fine. Although it felt very stiff, the swiming didn't seem to be aggravating the condition. However I was spending a great deal of mental energy focusing on relaxing the area and maintaining a straight spine. In the end my challenge swim was probably some of the most efficient and beautiful swimming I have ever done. Half way through I experienced what can only be described as swimmer's high. A feeling of complete streamline through the water. Not any faster than normal, but so much smoother. Swimming went real well, at least until around 2550 meters. Towards the end of the second to last lap I was gifted a calf cramp of birthday challenge potency. It took about 10 minutes for it to disengage, and even then I could barely move my foot without reengaging the muscle contraction. Damn it. I walked it off and breaststroked the final lap.
2/28 - 6:30pm
After a short break, I get in the jacuzzi and try to massage my calf into a state of relaxation while Bridget teaches Blake about the wonders of swim caps. Rubbing my calf by the jets I simultaneously began prepping myself for the freedive. "Your sick lungs can handle it." "It's like 45 seconds of stress." "You're calf won't cramp up." "Man, I hope my calf doesn't cramp up."
The plan was to do 3 short dives to warm up and then nail it. Breathing in the pool, preparing for my first warm up, I see the lifeguard walking towards me. "Just wanted to let you know that the pool closes in 5 minutes." Great. No time for warm ups. Time to rock. I relax into deep breathes for 2 minutes, allowing my thoughts to simplify and my heart to slow. 4 quick powerful breathes followed by a full inhale and... go. Half way down the pool I feel the anxiety start (much quicker than I was expecting). I sense the surface above me and in a reckless moment consider surfacing to escape the pain, only to realize in the following moment that the pain of failure could be far worse, so I close my eyes and just keep stroking. Glancing forward I see the end of the pool. I can make it. In full panic I make one final stroke. I touch the end and surface gasping for air. I pull off my goggles to look Bridget in the eyes, "I'm ok."
For the record, it was my understanding that the Coral Casino pool was over 50 meters long (and it is). My plan had always been to dive the length of that pool. It seemed close enough to 54 meters to use that perfect number (27x2). From my initial look over the place, I felt as if it was right around 3-5 meters longer than Olympic size. Turns out it's only 1 foot longer. Whatever the case, I completed the challenge as I understood it, but not completely how I had described it. Sorry for any confusion.
2/28 - 8:00 pm
I arrive home for night of cooking and drinking. Wysel was there. He had just arrived from Arizona. What a champ. He drove 7 hours to hang out with my lame ass on my birthday. I open up a bottle of Spanish red and enjoy a glass with a quick dinner of turkey pasilla cakes and seaweed salad from lazy acres (weird I know).
Then it was off to the kitchen to cook for a few hours. My goal was to prep everything I possibly could for the dinner the following evening while simultaneously polishing off 1 of my 2.7 bottles of wine. Things went well. The guys left half way through to go party downtown, so I was able to focus and work efficiently. By about 10:30pm, I was done with all my prep and was catching a pretty strong buzz from the bottle of red. Time for bed.
3/1 - 3:00 am
I wake up to the sounds of howler monkeys dancing in the living room. The roomies were home from the bars and still going strong. My plan was to wake up at 4am for 45 minutes of yoga followed by the headstand, but after rolling around in bed for a bit I decide on skipping the sleep and plunging ahead. Getting out of bed, I notice the beginnings of a moderate hangover and a solid stiff neck. Entering the living room I find 2 passed out drunks and a third dancing by himself half naked in the middle of the room (Any guesses who that might be?)
I roll out my mat and begin. Minutes later the third monkey passes out on the couch and I practice to the sounds of their communal snores. The yoga wasn't officially part of this challenge, but was very necessary to accomplish an endurance headstand. Without a thorough alignment of the shoulders and back, a 27 minute headstand would more or less guarantee an injury.
I start my recently compiled 27 minute song list, take a few breathes, place my elbows, drop my head and slowly raise my feet into sirshasana (headstand). Almost immediately I notice that my shoulders are much more fatigued than I am used to. To avoid neck injury the shoulders take most of the burden in a proper headstand. Creeping up on 10 minutes, the shakes already have begun. Breathing into the strain, I methodically continue to reestablish balance and alignment, allowing my entire body to hold its weight as effortlessly as possible. 20 minutes rolls around and I've begun to drip sweat.. Bythis point panic has set in. Seconds feel like an eternity. The songs seem to go on forever. Half way through the final song I know there are only a few minutes left. I'm gonna make it. As the room goes quiet, I cautiously lower (this is a dangerous moment) and curl into childs posture. The blood drains from my head and I notice my hands and forearms go numb then light up with fresh supply of clean blood. I raise my head and let out a scream, "YES!" The snores continue from the couch. None of the monkeys move an inch. That 27 minutes upside down in my living room may have been one of the most difficult physical challenges I have ever accomplished.
The clock reads 5:oo am and I realize that I've got some extra time to kill before picking up Andy up at 6am. So I take off my shoes and go on an early morning barefoot walk that knocks 0.7 miles off. Upon return, I gather my things and drive off into the sunrise.
3/1 - 6:00am
Andy and I arrive at ROCO where the Minister himself, Bob Banks is waiting. Stepping into the coffee shop, I begin to realize how tired my body already is. Looking people in the eyes was already difficult and there was a persistent naseau that was surely part hangover and part exhaustion. The perfect state of mind for climbing 270 boulder problems.
We shoot the shit for a little bit and then drive up to the Brickyard. The three of us exited our cars to one the most beautiful mornings any of us had ever experienced on West Camino Cielo. Maybe the gods were smiling on me.
I had spent some time working out circuits that would hopefully allow the bouldering to be completed somewhat efficiently. My plan was to get 50 problems done at the Yard (not nearly enough to finish the rest off at Lizards Mouth), but Bob surprised me with some good news. There was a cluster of boulders at the Yard that he always referred to as the VB boulders (VB meaning under V0). I had neglected to include these in my circuit and he figured I could tick off a large amount of problems in this area. We arrive at the VB boulders and begin our long day of bouldering. Well, not until I dawned some purple stretchy pants and racing stripe drag shorts. After all style is good for endurance.
It didn't take long for me to realize that Andy was planning on completing all 270 problems with me. Bob, on the other hand, had a different agenda. "Micah, I'm glad it's not my birthday" he says as he snaps another photo. With the inclusion of the VB boulders and a large cluster of boulders in and around the Hunter S Thompson area, Andy and I were able to tick off 110 problems in about 3 hours.
Another near death experience occurred around problem 85 or so. While topping out a less than perfect problem that has no name and surely never will, I broke off a hold and barely avoided falling 10 ft to certain genetic line destruction via a large sharp and perfectly placed tree stump (very pungi stick like). This was one of many near falls due to less than perfect rock and less than perfect conditions. Although the sun was out for most of the morning, much of the rock that sat under trees was soaking wet in spots and the less popular lines were covered in slick moss. This meant that Andy and I were slipping and sliding more than we would have liked. Yeah, we got charged a little bit extra for the moss.
3/1 - 10:30 am
After a 30 minute break and some food (Andy makes a damn good pizza) we headed up the road to Lizard's Mouth where, with any luck, we could finish off 160 more problems and finish up the day. Remember that weather that I was bragging about. Well, it disappeared. The fog that hours ago was 1000 ft below had moved back into the hills and engulfed us in its cold wet miserableness. Winds picked up and spirits dropped. Shitty doesn't really do my mood justice. I hate climbing when it’s cold. Nothing is worse than numb finger tips that one must trust their life to. My first 50 at Lizards Mouth took almost 2 hours. Luckily more of the gang showed up and kept morale high. Mary, Marcela, Travis, and Jeff, I thank you for every spot and every little bit of motivation.
3/1 - 1:30pm
Sometime around this time problem 200 went down. Andy and I were getting real tired. We took another break and tried to get warm. Sitting and snacking I started to notice how bad my skin was getting. It was more or less on empty. Every pad and even my palms were worn down to the last layers of available friction and protection. Andy didn't look much better. I really didn't want to go climb any more rock, and even though he stayed positive, I don't think he wanted to either.
On our way back up to the rocks, another contingent of support arrived as the sun started to push through the fog once again. "The Homies" made quite an entrance. Blake, David (who drove up from L.A.), Eric and the great Wysel stumbled up the path in classic dirt bag style. Beers and other "things" in tow, they promptly got to work on their own little challenges. Rock jumping, stick fighting, and female photography were their main events. Seen any rippers lately? Also about this time, my beautiful and always supportive girlfriend arrived with a very special present. She presented me with my official 27th birthday challenge shirt that she handmade in classic sweetheart style. With my shirt and a large mob supporting the final effort Andy and I set out to finish what we'd started.
Cramps, blood, bruises, hangovers, and total exhaustion weren't going to stop us. We pushed forward lifting ourselves to some higher level of consciousness that only a Birthday Challenge could usher in. As 4:00pm rolled around we had about 20 more problems to complete. Slowly ticking off classics and not so classics in the Sorry About That area the countdown from our comrades drove us on. 20 more! 10 more! 5 more! It was going to happen. Then the question. What problem would be number 270? Bob and I talked it over and realized that the perfect finale would be the Rat Mantle. It's no giveaway, and in my opinion a total classic. Plus Andy had never done it. So we all walked over to the boulder named after the Birthday Challenge mascot himself, Tuco the Rat, and in turn, Andy and I turned the mantle, pumped our arms to the sky and sat down relieved to be done with the madness.
If one were to add up all the climbing we had just completed it would undoubtedly be something close to 2500 ft. of 5.10. Wow. Big day.
Before saying much more, I have to bow my head to the great Bob Banks. Without Bob's encyclopedic knowledge of Santa Barbara bouldering and his years of Birthday Challenge experience, I would have been hard pressed to complete the climbing component of this challenge. Thanks Bro.
And as said already, Andy for some reason willingly climbed all day with me (even though he had to guide other climbers the following day). His spots, positive vibe and uncanny effort will not go unforgotten. And yes, he looks good in his stretchy pants as well.
3/1 - 4:45 pm
Removing my shoes (BTW: the new 5.10 Vmiles are great) I checked my watch. I had a little more than 3 hours left to complete the remaining tasks. Success was well within reach. After figuring out some car logistics, I cracked open a bottle of white and started walking down West Camino Cielo, barefoot of course. Blake was nominated to man the Mini Cooper and drove 2 miles down the road to mark my final destination and hopefully stay out of trouble for just a little while longer.
Walking alone basking in the golden sun that had now returned in full splendor, I felt what can only be described as a divine sense of peace (A little new age I know, but it was really nice). Of course the alcohol that was now hitting my depleted system must have partly been responsible for this improvement in mood. Normally my tolerance is very high. One bottle of wine is usually enough to get me fairly buzzed, but rarely has any major affects on my system. Well, this bottle was hitting me a little harder than I was used to. Half way through the wonderful Albarino I caught myself talking to absolutely no one. Fragmented sentences and other less than perfect English began to fall out of my mouth uncontrollably. I was getting hammered. By the time I made it to Blake and the Mini the bottle was empty and I was in a complete stupor smiling ear to ear.
3/1 - 6:30 pm
Blake and I arrive home to Bridget, Josh and Wysel decorating the living room. I should have known they'd be up to no good. Strapping on an apron and my trusty Invasion from Planet C hat, I go to work in the kitchen.
My work the night before turned out to be very helpful. The meal came to together very quickly. Chicken and Caulflower Curry, Rajma with Kale and Pumpkin Seeds, and Basmati Brown Rice. Educated Vegetable fare to say the least. My stupor left me with little ability to taste what I was creating, but I guesstimated to the best of my ability.
As the clock neared 8:00pm we took a head count. With only about 16 people in the kitchen at 7:30 I was not very stoked. Somehow, a few last minute phone reminders brought the troops running. Before my time expired, 30 or so people filled their plates and enjoyed their meal just as I finished off yet another bottle of wine (That made 3 bottles in 27 hours, but I figure that should make up for the freedive confussion).
3/1 - 9:30 pm?
After entertaining my friends for longer than they may have liked with various drunken activities I was taken to bed and tucked in by my girl. I'm told that at some point in the evening, somewhere around the time she presented me with one of the best carrot cakes of my life (homemade and improved to perfection), we were prompted to engage in a 27 second kiss. I, of course, was quite into the public display of affection so dove in without delay. Bridget spent the next 27 seconds enduring what she described as a 5 year old with ADD attacking a jar of candy. This may or may not have been done while my pants were stuffed with a large sweet potato, but it doesn't really matter because it happened after my 27 hours expired. There's always next year.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Am I ready? Well, the short answer is yes. The longer answer is well..... I wish I didn't feel bronchitis creeping up on me, and I wish that I didn't have a major kink in my neck. And man, I wish there were some more easy boulder problems on West Camino Cielo. I'm a little scared, as I should be. Humble yet secure I step into battle with no one other than myself, which can often times be the most difficult battle of all, but it's so damn fulfilling. I'm ready. I can do this. No big deal.
Tentative Challenge Schedule
5pm-7pm: Swimming and Freediving
8pm-10pm: Cooking Prep+Wine
4am-5:30am: Yoga and Headstand
6:30am-8:30am: Bouldering at the Brickyard
9am-2pm: Bouldering at Lizards Mouth
2pm-3pm: Barefoot Hike
3:30pm-5pm: Bouldering at Painted Cave
5:30pm-8pm: Dinner and Wine
8pm-?????: Whatever the Hell I want!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
So what to do? Giving up is an option. Nah, everyone's doing that. Change my challenge date? That sounds like giving up to me. Oh I know. Continue according to plan and do what I can over the next few days to rehab my neck as far as possible. That's the one.
Two days of rest and restoration will have to be enough. March is approaching and the weather is looking good. Speaking of which, I need all your help Saturday night. Part of this challenge is to feed 27 people a proper meal. This will take place at my house (550 Miramonte Dr in Santa Barbara) at around 6pm. Please come by and help me out with your hungry belly. Bring some drinks if your into that sort of thing.2/18
Bridget and I left for her families ranch on Friday morning. Not much training this weekend other than some yoga and some light hikes. I had originally hoped to hit it hard the week preceding and then rest up at the ranch for my final push to the challenge, but the flu put a wrench in that wheel.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I’ve been hanging out at coffee shops a lot lately (yeah, I’m back on the espresso con pannas), and the pastry selections have been less than inspiring. I love “hippie pastries”. You know, whole grain stuff with good oils etc. So I decided to take the matter into my own hands and created some awesome whole grain all butter Scottish Oat Scones. Yes.
Zen Yai plus 6 beers out and about.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
I'm also really busy. As I've mentioned already, this whole working, training and living at the same time is really filling my plate. This being the case, I'm not feeling that motivated to sit and type. Below you'll find basic outlines of the training components of my week, and some other short details.
Climbing at Mr. Lees
-Redpointed The Shores of Hell (11.b)
-One good redpoint failure on White Lotus (11.d)
90 Minutes of Yoga
Bouldering with Elijah at Lizards Mouth
-30 or so problems, most of which were far below one star on the quality rating scale. Somehow, we had a nice time though. After more than a decade of hanging out at the Mouth, I still love being there.
1 mile in the pool
dynamic free dives
-2 x15 meters
-2 x35 meters
almost 1x 50 meters
90 minutes of yoga
8 minutes headstand variations
2000 in the pool
-200 freestyle with leg float
-200 freestyle with kickboard
no freedives (my groin has been really sore from breaststroking which is the stroke I use when freediving. Bummer.)
Played an acoustic set at the Mercury Lounge. Good times. Lots of friends showed up. The house was packed. I played well considering how out of practice I am. Drank 5 stiff Belgium beers for free. Yummy.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I guess that's been the recurring theme lately and the overall beauty of my challenge. I've spent most of my life struggling with how best to balance, well, my life. How do I find time to cook, eat, climb, practice yoga, swim, play the guitar, write, spend time with loved ones, sleep and make the money necessary to fund all of this? Well, my hope is that training for this challenge will help answer this question which haunts me on a daily basis.
Sun Salutations, Restorative postures
Climbing at Mr. Lees
-4 goes on Shores of Hell (11b) including 2 redpoint failures. Redpoint guaranteed next week.
-2 goes on some 11d
Climbing in Santa Maria is hard. Energy levels are rarely high after a day on the overhanging pockets of the Owl Tor and Mr. Lees. After a long day of climbing with cool folks including the ever popular Normal Guy, I was in need of some good food, and I sure as hell wasn't going to be the one to make it. So.... Zen Yai of course. For those of you that haven't had it yet, do yourselves are favor and go order the Duck Curry. It will change your life. I promise. Met up with Phil for drinks at Eos after dinner. 3 Gin and sodas and a complimentary glass of champagne. Time for bed.
Sun Salutations, Restorative Postures
The sun was out so I headed to Lizards Mouth to get some more problems wired. I ran into some of the UCSB kids that crank pretty hard. They distracted me from my original mission and showed me a new problem that's allot of fun. It's basically a sitstart to Phyllis Diedrickson. Great moves on an overhanging wall lead to a pumpy and fairly difficult topout. It's in the V5 range and well worth a few goes.
I also overheard that someone found a way to brake off part of the undercling on The Dancing Outlaw at The Brickyard. Are you ready for a rant? Well here goes.... That hold was REAL solid. The only way it could have possibly broken off would be if some idiot thought they were so fucking cool that they could climb only days after a heavy rain. Look guys, it's sandstone. It sucks up water, and breaks when weight is applied. Just because you have it wired and the fall won't kill you doesn't mean you can climb on it when it's wet. Quit unnecessarily defacing classics that some of us haven't done yet, and would really enjoy doing at some point. I'm glad people are motivated to climb, but holy shit, have some fucking ethics and wait for the rock to dry out! I haven't been down to the Brickyard yet to look at the damage, but I'll report in when I see it. Enough for now.
Here's a video I found of some random dudes working the Dancing Outlaw (No guys, that's not Lizards Mouth). Sorry about the ending to this. Climbers are dorks. It's not my fault.
I circuited some problems as the sun went down and then had a marvelous pranayama session.
1 mile in the pool
-200 kickboard flutterkick
-200 freestyle with leg float
-4X40 underwater breaststroke
-Pineapple and Quinoa Upma
-Celery Root Salad
-Black Mussel, Shitake, and Kale Stew
75 minute yoga. I skipped the headstand today because I tweaked my neck a bit climbing on Sunday.
-Jerk Shrimp with Quinoa Cakes, Spiced Black Beans, Curried Winter Squash, and Braised Collard Greens
-Leek Pate and Yellow Beet Borscht
-Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Chili Honey Mustard Dressing
Went swimming at night after work. A nice change of pace.
1 mile in the pool
-200 flutter kick with kickboard
-200 freestyle with leg float
-6X15m underwater breaststroke with only 3 breaths between go's
90 minute yoga including 17 minute headstand (yeah my neck is feeling better)
Here's a photo of proper headstand:
-Coconut and Banana Bars (gluten free!)
-Wild Rice, Oyster Mushroom and Swiss Cheese Casserole
-Sweet Sesame Snap Peas
3 hours climbing at the shed
Felt strong. My endurance is really coming along. I felt smoother, lighter and quicker than I have in a long time. Made it up 6 or 7 different routes (a few of which I did multiple times). If you've climbed at the shed, you know how much climbing this equates to.
Barefoot neighborhood walk
More or less a rest day.
-Chicken Legs in Viognier Sauce
Sun Salutations and Restorative Poses
1 mile in the pool. I had hoped that I would get a big workout in today, but for some reason, I felt really weak, tired and unmotivated today. Probably a case of too much rest (10 hours+ of sleep last night and no drinks)
-200 catch up stroke
-4x100 freestyle sprints