Soon after I moved to London in February of 2009, I found myself at a housing estate in Earlsfield training with Dan. This being his local training spot, he showed me around some of the various jumps and challenges in the area and we worked on some running and standing jump drills on a set of stairs. It was a good session, short and dynamic.
Afterwards, Dan pointed out a standing jump that he had been drilling recently and he wanted me to take a look at it since it was a big push for him, and he thought it might be a good challenge for me too. It was big, and with tired legs from the drills and having not focused on max standing jumps for quite a while, it was well out of my range for that day. Confident that if I was fresh and got back in to the groove of standing jumps I could probably make it, I vowed to do the jump within a week, and in typical PKG tradition, I added an incentive of having to do 500 repetitions of a smaller jump in the area should I not make the deadline.
It was a busy week and I didn't get a chance to go back to Earlsfield when I wanted to. I managed to squeeze in a short power session for the legs elsewhere and hoped I'd be ok when I returned to Earlsfield a week after my first encounter with the jump.
Before I knew it, it was D-Day. Deadline day, and I had to make the jump. After warming up, the jump still looked big but I felt that if I pushed with everything I had then I could probably make it. I bounced off after getting two feet on the wall. And again. And again. I rested a little longer and tried again. And I bounced off again. It was one of those days where the body isn't quite fresh or firing on all cylinders... great timing!
I made the big standing jump to the wall a couple of days later but it wasn't within the agreed time, so at some point I had fo face the forfeit.
Here's a clip of the jump, filmed almost two years ago on the day I managed it for the first time:
Fast forward almost two years and those jumps were still hanging over my head. I'm not normally one to avoid a good physical challenge but I'd been working on other skills, focusing more on strength and power, over endurance (except for the 1,000 muscle up day!), and I'd been forgetting about the forfeit for a month here and there. There never seemed like a good time to do such a large number of jumps.
But it had to be done. I'd given my word that I would do it and even though almost everyone else had forgotten about it, it was eating away at me and invading my thoughts when I was going to sleep at night and it was popping in to my head on the tube.
Alright, screw it... time to do those jumps! Christmas Eve, 2011. Why not? Let's get it out of the way before the new year and tick it off the to-do list.
I warmed up, looked at the jump and realised it was slightly bigger than I remembered. It's nothing compared to its big brother next door that caused me all this trouble in the first place, but it's a respectable jump, about 9ft across and half a foot down. With 500 to do, I thought I might as well make a start. I'd decided to only count the jumps where I landed and stayed on the wall, and for every jump I missed I would add another repetition on to the final count. How long could this take... three hours? Four?
I'd soon settled in to a routine of lining up the jump, leaning forwards and pushing, landing as quietly as I could and walking back around to the take-off wall. I'd been working in sets of 10, taking a 30 second break and then going for 10 more, and had rattled out the first 100 in 30 minutes. So far, I hadn't missed and it crossed my mind that it might be possible to complete the challenge without missing one jump. Why must we always make things harder than they already are?
Jumps 52-55 of 500:
200 in just over 1 hour, no misses. My quads feel a little interesting and are clearly asking me when I plan to stop this madness. The little voice in my head again asks if it's possible to finish this with no misses. I'm approaching half way and I'm not having much fun, and now I'm seriously thinking about not missing.
250. Half way and 1 hour, 19 minutes have passed. My glutes have joined the queue of body parts waiting to complain and my calves feel slow... But what's really starting to take a toll is the building pressure of having not missed. My mind flashes back to the 300 kong to precisions I did back in 2008 and the feeling is exactly the same, that dread that builds with each successful repetition that needs to be forced down and controlled to leave a focused and clear mind for the next attempt.
300 in 1 hour 37 minutes. I have spaghetti quads. I'm so tense on the landings trying not to make a mistake that I'm adding unnecessary difficulty to each jump. I could just deliberately overshoot and end this madness, take a break and finish the last 200 without the added stress...
Of course I can't, what are you? A bleeder? This will all be over in an hour and you can go home and eat, rest and sleep. Focus on the jumps... relax... BUT DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT MISSING!
400. 2 hours 15 minutes. I'm incapable of judging distances now and I think I'm going to miss every time. Luckily my body is running on auto pilot and taking care of the push for me and somehow managing to factor in my failing quads and depleted calves. I glance to my right and see the big jump that I couldn't do that led me to this day.
495. The first thing that happens when you try not to think about how close you are to finishing is you immediately think about how close you are to finishing. Alright, shut up and finish this... You won't miss now. Oh really? Yep. REALLY? YEP. And in a moment of stupidity, I did it again... I made a decision that was as ridiculous, as it was plain stupid.
"If I miss the last jump, I'm going to start again."
This would be a much better story and I would have learned a much better lesson if I'd missed that last jump, but fortunately I didn't. I finished 503 jumps in 2 hours, 53 minutes (500 + 1 for Dan, 1 for Shirley who had been supporting me with her own jump challenge nearby, and 1 for luck).
Done. I sat down on the wall for a minute and realised I hadn't touched the floor in nearly 3 hours. It was almost ceremonial to step down from the walls and as soon as I did my legs went from spaghetti, to jelly, as they breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I made a new pact with myself at that moment. Never again will I accept a forfeit, or challenge, or endurance marathon of doom, without giving it much deeper consideration first.
Training hard is good but training hard AND smart, is better.
All that being said, there was one more challenge in my mind that I was considering trying before the new year. Something I'd been thinking about for a while and thought I might just be able to do. One last all-out war with my body that needed to be played out.. and like all good wars, it involved muscle ups.
Write up coming very soon...