HOW THE DAY WENT DOWN:PART ONE: ARMS
goal: 31 rock climbs of 5.10 or harder
4:15am is an ungodly hour. The only people who should be up right now are paramedics and prostitutes. Of course, in 15 hours I might need an ambulance. And I’ll definitely feel like a filthy used up whore. I remind myself to change the ringer on my phone.
Today's gonna take hauling around a lot a crap. Points off for clutter.
5:40am: Yooly and I meet Brian at Malibu Creek State Park. It’s dark. It’s cold. Somewhere nearby a celebrity is walking the line in front of a State Trooper. We start hiking in.
6:30am: Roped up and ready to climb.* I’m half an hour behind schedule and I’m honestly not sure if I can squeeze 31 climbs into the next four hours. I’ve climbed maybe twice since I got clocked by that cell-jabbering, Lexus-driving, hairy-knuckled let's do a line of blow off the dashboard Santa Monica meathead. Am I bitter. Not at all. I didn't like that beautiful beautiful BMC Pro Machine anyway.
*Style Disclaimer: I normally don’t count toproping as climbing. But given the tight schedule, I don’t see a choice. So the plan is to lead a route and then run laps on toprope. Oh well, no style points there. I’ll never be allowed on the Team Zissou boat now. And such cool red beanies too.
Yooly kept track of climbs using the indisputable caveman method. 1 stone = 1 climb.
I pick the easiest 5.10 on the Stumbling Blocks to begin and knock off the first 5 laps pretty easily. I move onto some harder routes and start to really feel the overhanging razor sharp holds. But I’m getting back on schedule and things are looking up. Oh did you catch that? "Looking up" get it? "looking up?"
8:30am: Having lost Brian to the Jesuits, Yooly and I hike up to Mt. Gorgeous. This is the part I’ve been nervous about. Mt. G. is quite a bit longer and more overhanging than the Blocks and I’ve saved the last 11 routes to be groveled over here. I lead up the arête and bumble and grunt and slop my way up. Guess I'll have to resort to proper technique.
Thankfully there’s a couple of unwitting Birthday Penance supporters climbing the route next to us. Ryan and Lucky provided Yooly with some much needed entertainment.
9:30: Ryan and Lucky get into a serious Family Guy v. South Park discussion and I hardly notice the past eight laps. They got some gear stuck on one of the 5.11s, so for my 29th climb I lead their route to hang their rope. Ouch. First hang of the day. Strike a couple more style points.
9:45: JD arrives hoping to see some serious agony. He expresses his disappointment at the fact that I’m not trembling like a Chihuahua in a rainstorm. I feel surprisingly good and the last two routes go down without much fanfare. By now it’s 10:30 and we’re late again. I celebrate by eating a ham sandwich. Yay hamwiches! We traverse over the Stone Pool and start the hike out of Malibu Creek.
11:15: It could be hotter. Then again, it could be cooler. My bare chest hit the sun and JD's camera suffered pixel burn.
After a quick change, Yooly follows me up to the top of Saddle Peak, where I'll leave my truck stocked with water and more hamwiches. I jump in Yooly's car and we speed back down to the PCH. We're already late for part two.
PART TWO: LEGS
the goal: to gain 3100 meters (10,170 ft) on the bike
12:15pm: Yooly and I arrive at the base of Latigo to meet the cycling crew. Ivan and Bubba will be my companions for the whole ride. Even though Ivan's already ridden 80 miles and climbed at least 5000 feet. Way to totally diminish my challenge, Ivan.
12:45: Yooly, Ivan, Bubba, Mark and Boston Brian accompany me up Latigo. Despite Yooly's frequent yells of "Attack!" we take it pretty easy. Reaching the top in a blistering 1:05. 2400 feet done.
Yooly and Mark say good luck as Ivan, Bubba, Boston Brian and I head down to Muholland.
1:45: What can I say? Bubba loves rollers and I struggle stay in his 30mph wake on Mulholland. The climbing hasn't even started but the Penance has definitely begun.
We stop for water at Malibu Creek State Park. I was here like three hours ago but it already feels like yesterday. I take my first and only legal piss of the day.
We head up Piuma at a reasonable pace and I turn on my ipod. Time for some songs from '76. What's up first? The endearingly raciest Skynyrd! Sweet Home Alabama indeed fellas! Bubba tells me to stop making twangy guitar sounds.
We reach my truck at the top of Saddle Peak and Ivan hits the wall. He's ridden 105 miles already today and hasn't eaten enough. Boston Brian makes it up and offers Ivan the use of his swimming pool just a few miles away. At this point I would have even scrapped the whole challenge in favor of mojitos by the pool. But being the cyclsadist that he is, Ivan was disgusted by the idea of luxury and promptly threw up. He then lied down in the back of the truck, muttered some things that sounded like prophecy, and passed out.
6pm-ish. Bubba and I leave Ivan to recoup while we head down Stunt for another loop. We hit 7-Minute Hill, Old Topanga and Fernwood. At the base of Fernwood Bubba asks me why I can't just be 25 instead of 31.
Of course it's Bubba's birthday too, and he's late to his own party, so we burn up Fernwood, hitting the final climb on Saddle Peak Rd. at over 30kph in the big ring. At this point Bubba is literally cussing at the road for being so long. We make it back to the truck and find Ivan. Coherent and ready to rock.
Bubba leaves us to ride back to Santa Monica. I still have about 2000ft to climb so Ivan and I head down to Piuma, hit the short but vicious hill on Cold Creek on the way to Stunt. Amazingly Stunt feels fine and I watch the altimeter click past the 10,200 mark just 500 meters from the top.
7:30pm: Determined to squeeze every last ounce of pain out of the day, we sprint the last 200 meters to the truck. Okay. I'm done. Ivan's ridden 125 miles and done at least 15,000 feet. He's done too.
Ivan and I pack up the truck and head back down Fernwood. Before dosing off Ivan says "I can't wait to get back to the PCH... I'm so sick of seeing twisty road."
the hard data: Even though my Garmin said I'd overshot my goal by 200 feet or so, once I downloaded it into Ascent, the elevation gain was a hundred feet shy.
PART THREE: BELLY
the goal: share 31 cupcakes, grill 31 burgers, 3 beers and 1 bottle of wine
This is where Yooly really had a birthday challenge of her own. After belaying me for four hours, riding Latigo and sitting in PCH traffic, she prepared a truly gourmet Summer meal for 30 people. All except the burgers. That was my domain. I skip the shower for a pair of shorts and get to work. "Hey, thanks for coming! Have a burger. I stink!"
The LaGrangers showed off their helmet strap tans to the climbers.
And the climbers climbed...
As far as the other challenges go. This is where the Birthday Penance just doesn't measure up to a true Birthday Challenge. But what could I expect? Those guys are pros. No fund raising. No Campari. No sardines. No ironic hats. And to tell the truth, I only polished off two beers before I went back to swilling Endurox. Frankly I was just happy to hang out with a whole bunch of really damn great people. And they were really happy to just poke my climbed-out, ridden-out, nearly lifeless body with sticks.