Posted by: Jack | January 13, 2008

The Birthday Challenge

Two years ago I took up a tradition — recommended by friend, Travis Melin — of enduring one or more “birthday challenges” of either a physical or mental nature; or in most cases, both. My very first challenge was a unicycle ride of 23 miles which proved quite enjoyable. That same year I took on juggling, climbing and elemental endurance challenges as well.

Last year I didn’t fair as well. I attempted a juggling challenge of maintaining five-ball for 120 catches (24 x 5 balls = 120) but after an hour of frustration, I gave up. I also went on a 24 mile bike ride which really isn’t a significant challenge.

I failed to plan ahead for this year and when my birthday arrived I had nothing arranged. I’d already done the juggling thing and the unicycling thing and the bicycling thing. I had considered running 25 miles but having only run twice since moving to Portland, the aftermath of such a run — assuming I could complete it — would likely include permanent injuries.

I decided not to worry about it and instead this birthday’s theme was more one of over-indulgence. Friday night (technically pre-birthday), Anna and I went out for dinner at a little place called the Delta Cafe, featuring southern cuisine (I strongly recommend this place for their awesome food and super cheap beer…they have 40’s of PBR). After a complimentary mound of extra-shiny (greasy) sweet potato fries, my meal consisted of a half rack of BBQ ribs, ¼ BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes ‘n gravy and some collard greens…with pork in them. Finishing every last bite was a physical challenge to be sure, but not exactly of the healthy variety. Death was nearly imminent when we arrived back at home where the heart attack was chased off with a hearty bowl of ice cream.

Waking on my birthday, with hunger still a distant memory, we enjoyed some complimentary coffees at a local shop (thanks to the parents for the Chinook Book), and walking by Trader Joe’s on the way home, made an astounding discovery at the Limbo’s produce market that is attached. There are 3-4 lb. bags of produce on a rack and every bag is $1. The items inside are discounted seemingly because they are nearing the end of their ripe stage. We scored a delicious-week’s worth of veggies for $2. This is definitely going to be a staple.

Not much later we set out heading southeast for Mt. Hood National Forest where we were planning on enjoying the Bagby hot springs. Nearing our destination we encountered many feet of snow on an unplowed road. After a weak attempt at pushing through, we were forced to turn around (with much needed aid from a friendly guy with a shovel) only to encounter a line of other cars also trying to make it to the springs. With less than one lane and zero possibility of passing, a lot of backing up ensued. Although we missed out on the springs, driving in the snow was pretty fun.

On the way back, we stopped at the Fearless Brewing Company in Estacada where my birthday earned us a free beer sampler. After some bread ‘n bratwurst fondue, a couple pints and a tremendous game of scrabble (I won) we were back on our way home.

En route, we swung by REI to put a gift card to use (thanks Warren) and I picked up a great juggling shirt and some more socks to add to the post-Christmas pile (thanks Julie). Feeling bloated and cramped wasn’t enough to stop us from passing through the Krispie Kreme drive-thru to collect my free birthday doughnut (at all other times Krispie Kreme is a total rip-off). And of course, just before arriving home, we added on a couple Dairy Queen Blizzards; also a complimentary birthday treat.

Around this time I was thinking that it might be feasible to have my challenge be ingesting 25,000 calories in a 24-hour period but a bit of debate quickly and thankfully put that idea down.

So, getting back to this year’s challenge: Instead of having a single event-challenge, I’ve decided that in the spirit of countering the damage done on my birthday, I’m going to take on a running challenge after all. Only, the challenge will involve far more than 25 miles. Starting today, I’m going to run five days each week for five weeks with a minimum allowable run of 30 minutes (approximately 4.25 miles).

Though I’m not particularly concerned with my weight, I am concerned with stats so I went out and performed my first old-person act by purchasing a scale. Today I am at 148 lbs., four or five lbs. over where I’d like to be.

My only concern going into this challenge is a sore knee as a result of a slight hyper-extension incurred on a bad fall off of a giraffe at juggling club last week. If today’s run proves aggravating, I may have to postpone the challenge by a week.

Wish me luck!


  1. […] to a Questionable Start If you read about my birthday challenge this morning, you’ll know I was heading out for a run today, the first in about a month. I had planned a […]

  2. Fun, indulgent birthday celebration!
    How are your knee and stomach feeling today?

  3. […] a related note, somewhere in my long-winded detailing of the plans for this challenge, I mentioned that I had bought a scale and might like to lose five […]

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