birthday challenge
November 25, 2014 posted by

Birthday Challenge ’14 – A Different Perspective

Birthday Challenge ’14 – A Different Perspective

I’ve been  taking heat for not updating so here ya go…

My birthday was last weekend. I did a challenge. It wasn’t much, so my friends did one for me, too, in order to pick up the slack. Since theirs was more fun, let’s start with it.

 Bob and Micah’s “Manny’s 54th Challenge”

 5 sports and 4 things that cause cancer

In the spirit of taking the good with the bad (something these two are well versed in), these long-time birthday challengers had an impromptu day guaranteed to leave them tired, sore, and probably slightly hungover. Here’s what shook out:

54 boulder problems. 9 first ascents.


including real bouldering – bob on something that looks hard.


and silly bouldering – micah on “the fat man”, lizard’s mouth.


and both of them nabbing  first ascents.

5.4 mile “mainly uphill” bike ride

540 reps (traditional exercises: pull-ups, push-up, jumping jacks)

Make 54 free throws (between us)


5 mile run for Bob

4 mile run for Micah

5 beers + 1 mai tai


Carcinogen 4: Drinking to excess. 5 beers + 1 Mai Tai. ‪#‎mannys54th ‪#‎birthdaychallenge

4 cigs


Carcinogen 2: 4 cigarettes. ‪#‎mannys54th ‪#‎birthdaychallenge

1 McRib


Carcinogen 3: Mcdonalds. McRib… wow. How do people eat this shit?

1 fritter –


Carcinogen 1: Shitty deep fried food. Apple fritters for breakfast.

 Bob’s summary: Fucking tired. Pretty hard for a challenge we thought up yesterday.

 Micah’s: We had a good time suffering in your honor yesterday. Had a nice chuckle as I literally crawled into the bathroom this morning.

My challenge was less fun. On the heels of my last round of chemo, which had gone swimmingly, I caught some kind of infection when my counts (immune system) were at zero. This isn’t awesome so I spent a bunch of hospital time as they did tests to make sure I didn’t have something serious and, basically, to make sure it didn’t get worse until my counts recovered. While being in the hospital is easier when you don’t feel good than when you do, it’s still pretty boring. Couple that with no exercise (so I didn’t risk infecting my lungs) and I left the place feeling pretty crushed.

I didn’t feel like doing any sort of challenge. Thing was, there were three ropes hanging from the new cliff I’m developing and only a few hours of decent weather on the horizon. If I couldn’t get the ropes down immediately after leaving the hospital, there was, given the forecast, a good chance they’d get snow/iced in for the winter. It was late afternoon, I felt pretty bad, and weak as a kitten, but I figured that I’d might as well try. I grabbed an empty pack, a headlamp, the dogs and set off.


the crag in better weather. left pic, phil shows off its scale. it’s not small. 

Somewhere on the website I say the cool thing about birthday challenges is that they are entirely based on where you are at any given time in your life. Sometimes my challenges are hard enough that most people can’t fathom what I’m doing. This year, all I could even hope to attempt was something the average pedestrian wouldn’t consider much of anything (okay, most people would probably be pretty scared but still). The only rule I set for myself is that “if you know you can do it than it’s not a challenge” and I set my odds at about 20%. That would do.

I almost quit after about ten steps but forced myself to keep taking steps until I felt it was dangerous for my health. I was amazed that I even made it to the “climbing” portion, where I just kept trudging, feeling any loss of momentum would end things. The scare factor actually helped me. I had to focus on both the climbing and the snowy slopes above, which helped me forget about my condition. When I actually dropped the last rope it was somewhat surreal. Amazing what you can accomplish with a “one foot in front of the other” mentality. The descent was the last scary part, but I had it wired enough that it was no issue, even in the dark with muddy/icy shoes.

Coiling and hiding the ropes took about all the arm strength I could muster. On the hike down my legs were like jelly, feeling the same as they often feel after all-day mountain adventures. The entire epic took less than three hours but cooked me so much I feel instantly asleep when I got home, which is usually the sign of a decent challenge.


back on terra firma, i had to deal with two chupacabras.

So that’s my report. My cliff is clean, my gear safe from winter, and I didn’t totally cash it in on my birthday just due to a little adversity. I’d have much preferred to suffer with Bob and Micah but the great things about birthday challenges is, there’s always next year.


  • Perhaps the young handles risk more easily?

  • The numbers don’t really translate as to how difficult this day was. Obviously not a “challenge” at all, but as a “sports” day, well…..I’m still sore 3 days later. Of note, while The Fat Man is definitely “silly” bouldering, I tried harder to not fall out of that than anything else in maybe a decade.

  • The Fat Man’s like a guilty pleasure. Nothing wrong with stupid rock tricks. – Johnny

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