My legs were destroyed.
The 500 jumps had broken my quads down to a place they haven't been in a long time, and stairs were once again my worst enemy.
Everyone remembers trying to walk up or down the stairs following their first few training sessions, and it ain't pretty. That stiff 'Thunderbird-casual' walk you try to pull off as you approach the stairs and the straight face that tries to project "I'm cool bro, I got this." It lasts until you hit the first step and then it's like someone's wedged a slice of lemon in your cheek as the horror springs across your face. It ain't cool bro, and you should've called the elevator.
But, it didn't last long and by Thursday I felt almost 100% again. Three days of Thunderbird-casual isn't a bad price to pay for getting that forfeit out of the way.
Now, on to the next challenge. It was also back in 2009 that I first attempted the now infamous '300 challenge', that is 300 muscle ups in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. It was tough, but I finished it in 2 hours and 11 minutes on my first attempt and during the 1,000 muscle up challenge just over a year ago, I shaved 2 minutes off to make my personal best 2 hours and 9 minutes. I was happy with that but I saw something that day that I knew I would one day be facing.
My good friend Joe Boyle not only finished the 300 challenge in under 2 hours (1 hour, 56 minutes), but he also went on to finish the 1,000 muscle ups in around 8 hours... An incredible achievement. Now, I was happy just to finish the 1,000 muscle ups in one piece, but one thing I did want to tick off was a sub 2 hour 300...
I'd need to do it 9 minutes faster. It doesn't sound like much but when I sat down to do the maths it turned out to be quite intimidating. I'd need to do at least 2.5 per minute, every minute, for 2 hours straight to make 300 in 2 hours.
I'd enjoyed Christmas like everyone else back home with my family, and I'd eaten a lot of food, both good and bad. I'd soaked most of it up healing from the 500 jumps but I felt a bit bloated and not quite on top form as I went to bed on the eve of war.
Thursday. Even on the train to Leicester from Hinckley, I was doubtful. I didn't feel much better than last night and it was wet. Not raining, but everything was dripping, dark, cold and grey.
Just do your best.
The scaffolding was good. Tim, my old friend from Leicester had found us a fine set and he planned to attempt as many as he could in a 2 hour time limit too.
2.5 per minute, every minute... For 2 hours.
I started with sets of 3. I'd learned a valuable lesson for endurance challenges like this during the 1,000 and that was to listen to my body, rather than being too strict on timing.
I'd do 3, walk around, and when I felt good I'd do another 3. Shirley, my master tactician for the afternoon was helping me to keep track of the numbers and was working out how many I'd need to do to catch up if I had to, or how much I could relax when I got tired.
I had to hit 150 in an hour, but ideally I'd be at least a little ahead to give me some breathing space towards the end. My goal was to hit 180 muscle ups in an hour, which is 3 per minute for an hour, and this would allow me to drop down to doubles for the last hour.
The problem with that plan was that it relied on completing 3 within the minute, not on the minute, so rest times would be limited.
I'd stuck to 3 per set but I wasn't going fast enough. I hit half way after 56 minutes, 20 seconds, which only gave me 3 minutes, 40 seconds in the bank to slow down later.
162 muscle ups in one hour.
I couldn't drop to doubles, I was about 20 muscle ups behind schedule and felt pretty beaten up.
I was working hard and not resting as much as I wanted to, and yet I knew I had to somehow increase my workload if I was to finish this in under 2 hours.
It was around this point that I had an internal conversation with myself that revolved around me not wanting to do this again. I'm tired, this hurts and I'm just not enjoying these challenges any more. Dealing with pain is a necessity when you train hard, but dealing with pain for 2 hours, 5 hours, 10 hours, 15 hours, is just not nice. I've done so many of these long haul killer sessions that it's time to do something else, time to test myself in other ways...
I don't want to fail and have to come back and try again another day, I don't want to go to sleep tonight wondering if I could've given more.
So let's frickin' do this. Let's step it up, increase my effort, reduce my rest times and tear this whole goddamn scaffolding down if I need to. Whatever it takes to finish this in the time limit.
I stuck with sets of 3. The first two felt ok each time but the third was taking a toll. I had to claw back 20 muscle ups using 3 at a time to allow me to drop to doubles. I had to fight for the privilege to drop to doubles.
Walking to the bar, I'd repeat "It's just three muscle ups, anybody can do three muscle ups", under my breath, I'd manage two... fight for a third, drop, update my counter and walk around for 30 seconds or so then head back to the bar. It was hell. Again.
Muscle Ups 196-198:
I was down to being 9 muscle ups behind schedule. I had to claw back 9 more before I could drop to doubles.
Suddenly I was two ahead of schedule. I'd done 252 after 1 hour, 35 minutes, by reducing my rest times and pushing harder when I was on the bar.
I had 25 minutes left to do 48 muscle ups, but I was a broken man.
At 1 hour, 40 minutes, and after 264 muscle ups, I dropped to doubles. Time was quickly running out but I had five muscle ups in the bank and could afford to drop down to doing two per set, as long as I did at least one set per minute.
Muscle ups 285-286, shortly after dropping to doubles:
I remember looking at my watch and having 15 minutes left, and I had 25 muscle ups to do... This was going to be tight.
With 10 minutes to go I had 14 left. I can do this.
I had 3 muscle ups left and 5 minutes on the clock, I've got this. But then, I failed a double and managed just one muscle up for that set. OH... SH*T!
My failed double and obvious panic:
It was my first failed rep and suddenly a lightning bolt of fear shot up my spine. What if that was it? What if that was as much as my body had in the tank and I couldn't do any more?
I walked around, came back screaming "JUST ONE REP!" in my head and ripped up as hard as I could. My body was grateful and perhaps surprised that it was just a single rep, and I made it.
2 left. I finished them one at a time.
I hit 300 muscle ups at 1 hour 58 minutes and 18 seconds.
1 minute and 42 seconds inside my desired time limit.
It was over...
With a little time left and with Tim still battling away, I did three more singles before the 2 hour time limit. 1 for Shirley for managing my time, 1 for Tim for his Herculean effort alongside me, and 1 for luck.
We went to a Chinese restaurant a couple of hours later and spent an hour and a half hammering the buffet service and refueling. As we ate, relaxed, chatted and caught up on news, there was a moment where I knew this was the last endurance challenge I was going to do for a while. Perhaps for a long while. I've spent the best part of eight years doing this kind of thing, and it's time to work on some other goals now. Of course, they're still Parkour/training related... but this kind of challenge with ridiculous amounts of repetitions, with time limits, without time limits, without missing, with forfeits, without, and with various other stipulations involved, they no longer interest me as much and I think I've gone as far as I want to with them, for now at least.
It was Thursday 29th December, almost the beginning of a whole new year, and I'd ticked off two items on my to-do list. I felt good.
That feeling lasted a few moments.
...Then I remembered I had agreed to a challenge that Stephane suggested just over a year ago. There was two days left of 2011.
(write up of challenge #3 coming soon.)