birthday challenge
October 9, 2013 posted by

The Santa Barbara 53

The Santa Barbara 53

This challenge was spurred by Owltoberfest, a climbing festival of sorts at one of California’s premiere sport climbing crags. With attendance mandatory, I penciled in the weekend by committing to attempt to climb 5 routes at The Tor and follow it with riding my bike up Santa Barbara’s three HOR category climbs. With insufficient training and a slight injury to boot, I rolled into my old home on Friday with a lot of trepidation.


Day 1 – Owl Tor 1 Birthday Challenge 0

Actually the Tor is undefeated versus birthday challenges (see Phil’s epic challenge here), and probably everything else for that matter. To put it mildly, I got killed. Here’s how it went.


First, the word “climb” needs to get defined. In a sport climbing sense it means to go from the bottom to the top without hanging or weighting the rope. It’s a big difference from getting to the top, especially at a burly crag like the Tor.

My challenge was effectively over at the 6th move on the “warm-up” climb when I hit a hold wrong and re-tweaked a finger I’d injured a few weeks before. I still climbed on with some hope but after failing on both the first two routes (the only two that were very doable in my current condition) I knew chances were pretty much zero. By the end of the third route my forearms were cooked, too, rendering the whole finger thing moot. I simply don’t have the condition for 5 Tor redpoints. By route #5 I could barely hang onto the quick draws and clip my rope into them.


I salvaged the day with ascents of Elijah Ball’s Follopian Tube and perhaps the 2nd ascent of Phil Requist’s Seminal Vescile, two “adventure climbs” where the crux includes avoiding rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and angry birds. Twas brilliant!


Despite my feebleness, Owltoberfest was a rousing success. Many climbers had banner days. Loads of routes were done by climbers for their first time, and Elijah earned the “Lord of the Forest’’ award for the first ascent of Gala Gala Happy, a route bolted 18 years ago (which gives an indication of how hard it is to climb at this cliff).


Physically it didn’t feel like a failure. I was destroyed (which the Tor tends to do).  My challenge mulligan would be to climb on 5 routes instead of redpoint, a different proposition, far less cool, but effectively the same thing for my quest to test the limits of my ability to recover.


santa barbara radness, bottom to top – taqueria la colmena, breakfast at los tarascos, phil shakes martinis at the tor in honor of the lord of the forest, who’s seen in the poster attached to the cliff by one digit–the saying goes that as long as you can do weighted pinky front levers or mono campus moves, no moves are harder than 5.9 at the tor. other pics include me modeling a tremor’s inspired “running’s not a plan. running’s what you do when a plan fails” t-shirt courtesy of my wife’s racing crew,  one of the busier days in tor history, and shredding (sarcastic meaning) on the spearmint rhino. thanks to brian, aaron, jason, phil, elijah, tom, and micah for event, photos, and artwork.

Day 2 Evening the score

painted cave denis on a steep bit of painted cave rd

Santa Barbara has three iconic climbs in the world of cycling: La Cumbre Peak from both Gibraltar and Old San Marcos roads, and Broadcast Peak via Refugio. All basically rise from the ocean to 4,000’ and provide world-class views on roads that have virtually zero traffic. Strava claims the day was 73 miles and 13,900′ of climbing.

morning  refugio rd

The Tour de France rating system classifies climbs in categories, from 4 (easiest) to HORS (out of category), which doesn’t make any sense unless they let Nigel “these go to 11” Tufnel design their rating system, but whatever. All three climbs are HORS, meaning similar to L’Alpe d’Huez, Ventoux, et al.

I’d never heard of anyone doing all these in a day but I’m sure it’s been done. It’s too aesthetically cool not to have. But that meant I couldn’t find any tip or strategy. Even though I’d done them all separate, together would be a whole different proposition.

My colleague/friend Denis Faye joined me for the day. We’d met in Santa Barbara, so it seemed fitting. Back then our common bond was film. Since giving him an old race bike last year that’s changed. He’s now more than just a keen cyclist, but obsessed. This would be his first massive day on the bike and he was psyched, rousting me out of bed at 6AM with a call to rise and shine. I was sore from the Tor. Rising was a slow affair. I never really got around to shining.

refugio  climb #1

It’s pretty boring to recount climbing on a bike. You turn the cranks and go up. It hurts. You come to terms with the pain and keep going. That’s really about all there is to it.

dirt denis mastering the dirt

On Refugio the last mile or so is dirt. At least until the last quarter mile or so that’s super steep decomposing asphalt, which is worse. This was exciting to Denis, a roadie, who worried about both crashing and hurting his new bike but plowed through it like a champ.

badtarmac bad tarmac, and steep!

The first bad patch came on Painted Cave Road, a very steep 2 mile section in the middle of climb #2. Denis was bonking a bit and probably even more worried about the unknown when I told him we were only half way there. The last “easy” part of La Cumbre was grim.

dead  looking to reanimate

I was basically done before we began Gibraltar but I knew I’d finish, no matter what. Still it was a one-pedal-stroke-at-a-time affair for me, and the descents were brutal as my forearms were cooked from the Tor. Denis, meanwhile, had  revived from his bad patch and was cranking. Near the summit he sprinted away in order to get a photo of my finishing. Very impressive. “Stoller, you’ve been acting weird ever since you won that bike.”

gameface #2, high on camino cielo

Monday morning I slept in until 8:30, hours past when I’m usually up. I feel like a had a huge weekend of exercise, and nothing feels too injured (even my finger), so all is well. I have no idea how I’m going to catch up on all the tasks and exercise I’m supposed to do but this is exactly what I signed up for. Bring on week 2!

three  top of #3, looking less worse for wear than I actually was

Now the tally…

Daily Stats

pullup our old “pull-up bar” on Gibraltar road. A set is mandatory when you pass, no matter how tired.

Beachbody WOD

Yoga Booty Ballet Pajama Time– YBB no longer gets a lot of love around Beachbody but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. I still use some of their workouts for various things, particularly Pure and Simple Yoga. Tonight, however, Pajama Time got the nod, since I had some trouble sleeping last night after my rest day worked too well (I guess). Not wanting to risk two bad nights consecutively I went with a workout designed around helping you sleep better.

Synopsis – Did some rowing and a chest and back workout in the office.

Reading & questions answered: /2809 (53/day) – 19& 51 (86 questions and 281 pages), What to Eat, by Marion Nestle. Redundant at first, this book is growing on me. Lots of excellent info in it.

Servings of Shakeology: /53 – 1(8) – w/ h2o
Days of Ultimate Reset: /5.3
Days taking supplements: /53 – 7
Days of no alcohol: /53 – 7
Days of no meat: /53 – 7
Coffee Cycles (more on this later): /5.3 – Have begun.
King Pin fritters: /5

Beachbody workouts: /53 – 1(7)
Push-ups: /5300 – 160(370)
Jumping jacks: /5300 – 0(300)
Ab moves: /5300 – 200(560)
Crunches: /5300 – 200(600)
Ab Ripper X Moves: /5300 – 200(600)
Beast back day: /53,000 lbs. 54,000 CHECK
Beast chest day: /53,000 lbs.
Beast shoulder day: /53,000 lbs.
Beast leg day: /53,000 lbs.
Beast arm day: /53,000 lbs.
P90X2 functional warm-up: /53 – 1(6)
Running drills: /53 – 0(6)

Neuro-integrating stretching: /53 – 1(6)
Iron Mind gripper and extensor band reps: /10600 400(2000)
Breath hold sessions: /53 – 1(7)
Stabilizer sessions: /53 – 1(7)
Internal Organ Training: /53 – 1(8)
5.11 Climbs: /5
5.12 Climbs: /3
5.11 Boulder transverses: /5 – 1
5.12 Boulder transverses: /3 – 1
Campus board movements: /530 – 0(66)
Climb-specific pull-ups: /530 – 0(60)
Cycling on road bike: /53 miles
Cycling on mountain bike: /53 miles
Cycling on cyclocross bike: /53 miles 0(26)
Cycling on time trial bike: /53 miles
Cycling on fixed gear bike: /53 miles
Cycling on single speed bike: /53 miles
Cycling on tandem bike: /53 miles
Hiking: /53 miles – 0(7)
Running: /53 miles 0(2)
30 minutes of rowing: /5 times 1(1)
30 minutes of elliptical: /5 times
30 minutes of swimming: /5 times 0(0)
Hours of travel 3.5 (15))

Tasks for his wife: /53 – 1(6)
Chores around the house: /53 – 0(11)
Tasks for his dogs: /53 – dogs are basically sidekicks so this one’s a freebie

Blog posts: /53 – 1 (11)
Team Beachbody Instructional Videos: /5
Team Beachbody Video Chat /5
Days keeping these stats: /53 – 1(8)

A Few Challenges of Yore

2000 – 40 Days of Hell
2003 – Get Back To Reality
2006 – This is Gonna Hurt
2007 – My Blood Must Be Fully Replaced Each Year
2010 – Birthday Tribute from 67 friends
2012 – Making Lemonade

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