Give me a difficult challenge
January 28, 2012 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Help me come up with a list insanely difficult, completely stupid things to accomplish.

This is hard to explain briefly, but I have a desire to do something(s) that are impressive and truly difficult. This all stems from a bet I recently lost in the office. The wager was to run a marathon on a treadmill on only one days notice at an 11 minute mile pace without running more than 3 miles in the past 2 years.

I am very fit (former college wrestler, religious weightlifter) and have more than my share of ego. I thought I had it in the bag. I failed, but did finish. I always get asked how long it took me; that answer in minutes is 26.2 * 11 + 2.

Mentally I broke down. I needed a 10 minute final mile and didn't have a prayer.

So, now i am looking for other challenges that seem almost impossible. What I don't want is to run a marathon, nor do I want to do an urban athalon or a tough mudder. Much respect for anyone who has done these, but just the fact that there are thousands of other people there is a huge turnoff for me.

Some ideas I have come up with:

Rowing across lake Michigan
Take a pro boxing/mma fight (proper training req.)
Currently working towards a 300lbs bench, 400 lbs squat, and 500 lbs deadlift.

Give me your best ideas, lets torture my body.

TLDR: I want crazy physical stuff to do so I can brag about it in a bar.
posted by jmugrapler to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (50 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have geographical, financial, and/or time restrictions? Because off the top of my head: climb Everest, without oxygen. Pulling a sled with all your supplies across Antarctica would also be physically and mentally very tough.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: @rtha - I am in Chicago. It would be difficult for me to take more than 1-2 weeks off from work consecutively, otherwise I like the Everest suggestion.
posted by jmugrapler at 3:27 PM on January 28, 2012

Dive off the 10 m springboard in your local university's swimming pool (assuming they have a diving team and the necessary facilities).
posted by halogen at 3:35 PM on January 28, 2012

Race at a velodrome?
posted by loriginedumonde at 3:37 PM on January 28, 2012

Tow a jet airliner filled with passengers and crew down the runway. I'm sure your local airport would be happy to oblige.
posted by fundamentafriendapendability at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Doable in 2 weeks:

Swim the English Channel, or from the US to Cuba.
Complete the Dakar or Gumball Rally.
Kayak from the headwaters of the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty (315 miles).
posted by apparently at 3:48 PM on January 28, 2012

When I was in high school athletics, if we were acting up, we would be made to do bellyflops, which consisted of getting on the goal line of the football field, running 5 yards, doing a pushup, run 5 more yards, do another pushup, etc., until you got to the other goal line. On days when we were particularly naughty, we'd run 300 or 400 yards worth of bellyflops (i.e. 3 or 4 lengths of the field).

So, how about you do an insanely long amount of bellyflops? Perhaps enter a 5K road race & do bellyflops the whole way?
posted by AMSBoethius at 3:57 PM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: I find the English Channel swim compelling. Obviously further research is required, but anyone care to venture a guess as to the level of swimming proficiency needed?

I appreciate the concern for my health, it is certainly at the forefront of my mind.
posted by jmugrapler at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2012

Go to your local Crossfit gym and see what kind of challenges they can set you. You can also do their workouts of the day, every day, and see how you compare to the elite times; or prep for the Crossfit Games on your own.
posted by googly at 4:17 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Join a race that runs upstairs in tall buildings as quickly as possible. To really challenge yourself do what firefighters do and carry some heavy gear. Or just brag in a bar and lie, that is what most of the others bragging there are doing anyhow.
posted by mermayd at 4:18 PM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

You could always join a volunteer fire fighter service if you're in a rural area, or your equivalent of the SES if you're in a city. It's hard work, dangerous, and you're helping people, so it might get you more kudos in a bar than a physical challenge done for its own sake.

For a real challenge, you might want to look for some feat where your physical strengths put you at a disadvantage. For a body-builder, that might be running a four-minute-mile, climbing a rock face or some kind of gymnastic feat.

Anyway, whatever you do, if you do some charity fundraising with it, memail me and I'll chip in.
posted by fonetik at 4:19 PM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Learn to walk on your hands.
posted by trip and a half at 4:20 PM on January 28, 2012

Does it have to be a physical challenge? Finishing something complicated like a Senbazuru or a needlepoint might be difficult in a different way!

Fonetik's idea about fundraising is fabulous!
posted by xmts at 4:22 PM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: @trip and a half - Due to 15+ years on wrestling mats, I have the hand walking thing down.

Adding Charity is a great idea!

Shin kicking absolutely has the requisite amount of crazy!
posted by jmugrapler at 4:35 PM on January 28, 2012

train with and keep up with a group of elite high school dancers (fonetik's comment made me think of this one.)

Cartwheel the length of Chicago? Backflip the length of Chicago?
posted by vespabelle at 4:39 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Complete the 24 Hours of Moab single handedly.

Or, complete a Double Century (200 miles on a bicycle) in less than 10 hours.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:41 PM on January 28, 2012

So, now i am looking for other challenges that seem almost impossible.

Wear a fedora so smashingly well that you are the envy of all others.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:44 PM on January 28, 2012 [14 favorites]

Climbing difficult mountains, or large amounts of them?
Maybe start here.
posted by ropeladder at 4:53 PM on January 28, 2012

Two weeks let's you do the entire Illinois river if you can keep up just under 20 miles a day. If you can manage more, you can tack on part of the Mississippi. Hug the shore. Barges are big.

There's the Katy Trail in Missouri if 238 miles of bicycling sounds good - round trip works out to about 34 miles a day. (I'm doing at least a one way trip some time this spring/summer.)

The problem you are going to run into is that there are lots of things that don't seem all that tough (like the bicycle thing) to people who would die before they managed to complete one day's worth of the trip. So if you did a round trip on the KATY (for example) in a week, serious cyclists would be impressed and people who couldn't do 20 miles might very well seem all "meh" about it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:55 PM on January 28, 2012

Response by poster: Lots of great ideas, thanks all.

Kid Charlemagne, I hear you on people not understanding the impressiveness of something. Even though I said I wanted these things to be impressive, they really only need to be impressive to me.

What makes the Katy so difficult?

I have an 8 year old Gary Fisher that never got enough use, so I may be fairly well equipped already.

Also, is 200 miles in 10 hours even possible?

I had some pals who did the Gobi race a few years ago. I didn't have the time, but boy was I jealous.
posted by jmugrapler at 5:03 PM on January 28, 2012

A 200-mile bike ride is possible but very hard. Maintaining 20 mph on a bike for any extended period is a lot of work, and riding 200 miles in one go at any speed is very hard. Put the two together and it's a very tough challenge, although I suspect it lacks the "marquee factor" that would make it a good bar brag.

Any kind of endurance-oriented athletic endeavor probably puts you at a disadvantage if you're a weightlifter, both because your current workouts probably don't emphasize cardio more than necessary, and because you're carrying around a lot of muscle mass that's not being put to good use on a bike or run. I wouldn't say don't do it, but I would say train specifically for it, and don't assume that good general fitness will see you through.
posted by adamrice at 5:14 PM on January 28, 2012

Shin kicking absolutely has the requisite amount of crazy!

Train for a muay thai fight, do that, and then go do shin kicking. Two birds with 1 stone!

A thru-hike of the Appalachian trail if you can get the time off. Usually takes about 6 months to get through the 2100 odd miles.
posted by astapasta24 at 5:16 PM on January 28, 2012

How about running with the bulls in Pamplona?

How about doing the Triple Crown of Hiking?
posted by ruhroh at 5:19 PM on January 28, 2012

Do a local powerlifting or weightlifting meet. Also, armwrestling, Highland games, or strongman.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:23 PM on January 28, 2012

Build a house! If you want to do that in a week or two you'll probably need a house-building buddy, though. But I would be totally impressed if I met you in a bar and you were like, "Yeah, me and my buddy built a house in two weeks."
posted by mskyle at 5:25 PM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

It's not a difficult trail at a leisurely pace and stop at a lot of brew pubs or something. Do it over a long weekend and it becomes impressive.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:25 PM on January 28, 2012

You could always bike the leadville 100 (as in 100 miles, starting at an altitude of 10,000 feet and going up to as much as 12,000-ish).

But seeing how you're the crazy type, you'd probably want to run it insted.
posted by angab at 5:26 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give the Inman Mile a shot.

Watch this guy break down over the course of the attempt.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 5:36 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

you could try the barkley hundred-miler - impossible to register for, impossible to complete.
posted by facetious at 5:54 PM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

learn a routine on the still rings.
posted by hasna at 7:39 PM on January 28, 2012

Learn to do parkour on a pogo stick.

Parkour is also supposed to be good training for Ninja Warrior.
posted by lakeroon at 8:25 PM on January 28, 2012

I don't know why I suddenly remembered this.

Dig a hole in your backyard.
posted by furiousthought at 9:08 PM on January 28, 2012

I've been wanting to hike length of the Shenandoah National Park (107 miles) in a single go. No sleeping, finished as quickly as possible. To my knowledge, that's never been done.
posted by waldo at 10:21 PM on January 28, 2012

My son and I are currently mapping our smallish town/city (Wylie, a small suburb of Dallas) on foot, by hand. Maybe not up your alley but it is tough work and intellectually stimulating.
posted by holdkris99 at 10:27 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Live to 120.
posted by bz at 11:42 PM on January 28, 2012

Learn to make fire with a bow drill using rope that you hand-twisted from the inner bark of a tree. Learn your local edible plants. Learn how to fish using only things that you can make in the woods. Learn to build a warm shelter out of tree branches and fallen leaves. Then go camping without any supplies but a hatchet and a knife.

This is actually something that a group near me used to train people to do. I learned most of the skills separately but I never got up the nerve to try supply-less camping. Of course you don't just dive right into it, first you leave your matches at home, next time no food but bring matches, etc., gradually ramping up until you don't have to bring anything at all.
posted by Arethusa at 12:48 AM on January 29, 2012

Find a friend and enter the DusiCanoe Marathon. 3 days of hellish paddling with tales of rapids, hippos, and crocodiles to come home with. They accept amateurs, and unlike some of these other suggestions (Swim the Channel? Get real!) you might actually finish.
posted by roofus at 1:28 AM on January 29, 2012

Sit still for ten days.
posted by flabdablet at 2:04 AM on January 29, 2012

A lot of the suggestions coming up are what I would call "feats of endurance": running an ultramarathon, ultramarathon swimming, ultramarathon cycling. Like adamrice, I don't think these suggestions fit very well with your background or current workout regime. You mentioned you are working towards a 1200 pound powerlift total, but also that you haven't run more than three miles in the last two years. The problem with all of these ultramarathon suggestions is that they have long ramp-up times for training and building up the requisite experience at shorter distances.

Even then, it may not meet your criteria to not be out there with thousands of other people. Someone upthread mentioned the Leadville 100 bike race. Just to use that as an example, the field is capped at 2,000. They use a lottery system to give out slots combined with a six race qualifier series (new this year). I believe they got almost 8,000 applicants for the 2011 race. So the real feat wasn't finishing, but rather getting to the start line.

I like the "feat of strength" ideas, like Kandarp Von Bontee's suggestion that you enter a powerlifting competition or a strongman event. I'll add to that theme and suggest a couple of more:

Beastskills has tutorials on a lot of challenging gymnastic movements that you could learn relatively quickly: one-arm pullup, one-hand handstand push-up, clapping handstand push-up, flag, L-sit to handstand push-up. These have the advantage that not only can you brag about them in a bar, but you could actually turn it into a bar bet and do one.

Captains of Crush are a brand of hand gripper that are considered the gold standard for grip strength and used in strongman contests. They are graded in numbers (e.g. #1, #1.5, #2) and when you get to the #3 gripper, which takes 280 pounds of force to close, they start officially certifying people who can close the gripper. Only five people have closed the #4 gripper. More details on the history of CoC grippers

Check out Diesel Crew to get started on other feats of strength like tearing decks of cards and phone books, bending nails, bending hammers and wrenches, etc. IronMind has books and training tools on this stuff as well.

Lift an Inch dumbbell. The Inch dumbbell at the Arnold Classic

Train to lift "manhood stones" and visit some of the famous ones like the Inver Stone in Scotland, the Husafell stone in Iceland, etc.

Good luck with finding your challenge.
posted by kovacs at 5:50 AM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Kovacs - I completely agree. Just by nature of the question I am getting mostly endurance challenges. We must have a lot in common because I have tried or thought about trying many of these:

I can rep the CoC #2 and need to order up the 2.5. The One arm pullup has been relatively cruel to me. At 6'2" and 220 I am not ideally proportioned for it. I can get a few reps at body weight plus 100#, so still a bit of a delta to go. Currently working on a hand stand pullup away from the wall.

These are great and I would to see the suggestions move in this direction.
posted by jmugrapler at 6:16 AM on January 29, 2012

Response by poster: *handstand puSH-up away from the wall.
posted by jmugrapler at 6:20 AM on January 29, 2012

Yes, let me come in and say that running ultramarathons is not really all that tough. I've done a bunch of 100 mile races, and I'm doughy and persistent. Barkley, as mentioned above, is by far the hardest you could enter, there have only been a couple of finishers. Other 100 milers, even Leadville, have much higher finisher percentages. The last three Leadvilles have all had finisher percentages above 50%. A big part of that, though, is just the altitude, which really is a factor outside your control. People who are ridiculously good runners end up with altitude sickness and have to drop.
posted by OmieWise at 11:58 AM on January 29, 2012

ride the great divide
posted by ames at 3:27 PM on January 29, 2012

Finish Sasuke

From Tomtesterom
- swim The Channel
- tame and ride a wild horse
- finish marathon des sables
- climb el capitan (jumaring)
posted by Akeem at 3:55 PM on January 29, 2012

Be so strong you can roll up frying pans.

Crazy yoga asanas (reminds me of that crazy pole dancing post from the Blue).
posted by ifjuly at 5:13 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Has anyone mentioned rock climbing? Climbing routes are graded by difficulty (though, of course, fairly subjectively compared to running miles or lifting weights). You could start in a climbing gym and get familiar with the yosemite decimal system (rating system) or the V grade system, for bouldering. In case you don't know anything about climbing: climbing routes are rated by the hardest move on that route. Let's say that 5.7 is a moderate/beginner climb (which you might be able to climb without falling on your first try since you are an athlete). You could climb a bunch of 5.7 routes, then you could climb 5.8s, 5.9s. etc. You could set a goal of climbing 5.12 or 5.13 or whatever. The same can be done with the V system bouldering (which, in theory, you can do on your own - especially in a gym) could climb V1, V2, etc.
posted by fieldtrip at 7:40 PM on January 29, 2012

Riffing on Kovacs idea. We used to try and hold a dollar bill in a set of hand grippers and not drop it for a minute. It's amazingly hard. Would be a very cool bar trick if you could do it.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:54 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ride your bike back & forth to Milwuakee or the Dells. (note: problematic in winter.)

Climb all of the Willis Tower stairs every day for the two weeks of your challenge.

Put on a tracking GPS and gather as much street-level data in your city for the OpenStreetMaps project as you can, on foot.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:34 PM on January 30, 2012

Beat the record for climbing up Mt. Monadnock consecutive days, about 3000 should do it.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:02 PM on January 30, 2012

I know a guy who circumnavigated Lake Michigan in a kayak. He even started from Chicago.
posted by desjardins at 11:33 AM on February 2, 2012

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