Epic Quest of Awesome

It’s Day 5 now since I started questing at Nerd Fitness Academy, and I have to say, the experience has been very fun so far. As I battle Bosses and Gain XP I am working each day to try to implement Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life ideals into my own.

This of course, means making my own Epic Quest of Awesome(Which, in short is a gamified bucket list). I have overlooked my Impossible List carefully and followed suit to separated each item into it’s own Quest Category.

Each Quest is worth 20 XP. After every 100XP is hit(or 5 Quests total) I gain a level. In addition to regular quests there are also Master Quests, extremely difficult quests that automatically level you up once you hit them.

The one tweak I’m making to my EQA draws from my Runescape-playing days, and color code the quests. Each Quests will be colored as such:

  • Quest Completed
  • Quest Started
  • Quest Not Started

Russ’ Epic Quest of Awesome

Below you will find a list of what I want to accomplish over the years. My Epic Quest is a progress and is subjected to change over time.

Completed Quests

Level 2

Level 1

North America Quests

  • Rock Climb Devil’s Tower
  • 50 points in 50 States(2/50)
  • Snow Board in Jasper, Canada
  • See an Aurora Borealis
  • Hike the Ice Age Trail(More Info.)
  • Strawberry Hill(More Info.)
  • Corn Palace(Morn Info.)
  • Travel to Canada

Central/South America Quests

  • Backflip on top of Macchu Picchu

Europe Quests

  • Paraglide in Chamonix Europe
  • Step foot in Sweden
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride in Sweden
  • Marcle Aches Cave(More Info.)

Africa Quests

  • Surf in Killer Point Mocorro

Far East Quests

  • Go to a Japaense Hot Spring
  • Bunny Island, Japan
  • Fuji Mountain Race(More Info.)

South Pacific Quests

  • A Simple Walk Into Mordor(More Info.)
  • Scuba Dive Australia’s Coral Reef
  • Bungee Jump off Victoria Fall Ridge

Ninja/Strength Quests

  • 10 Years Martial Arts(1/10)
  • 10 Years Weaponry(0/10)
  • Complete All Fitocracy Quests(More Info.)
  • Run Alpha Warrior(Texas & California)(More Info.)
  • 5 No-Kip Muscle Ups
  • 15 Second Human Flag
  • Sign White Block at Fight or Flight Academy
  • Post a 5-Minute Parkour Montage
  • Pick a Master lock

Flips & Twists Quests

  • Front Flip
  • Back Flip
  • Aerial
  • Side Flip
  • Corkscrew
  • 540 Kick

Personal Level-Up Quests

  • Skinny Dipping
  • Cliff Swinging
  • Make Food(Cheese, Wine, Yogurt)
  • Visit A Sunken Ship
  • Take A Sniper’s Course
  • Get a Wax
  • 1,000 Photo Challenge[Progress]
  • 1,000 Geocaches
  • Spontaneous Vacation

Rock Star Quests

  • [PIANO] Piano Man By Billy Joel
  • [PIANO] Roses and Butterflies By Making April
  • [PIANO]  Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [GUITAR] Guitar vs Piano By Goukisan
  • [HARMONICA] The Times They Are Changing by Bob Dylan
  • [HARMONICA] Piano Man By Billy Joel

Education Quests

  • Get a Helicopter Pilot License
  • Become SCUBA Certified
  • Learn to Sail A Boat
  • Get a Motorcycle  License
  • Publish a Mobile App
  • Write a Novel
  • Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree

Les Stroud/Survivalist Quests

  • Score 300 With Recurve Bow[More Info.]
  • Make Deer Jerky
  • Finish a Survival Adventure Race[More Info.]
  • Wilderness First Responder Certification
  • Waterfront Lifeguard Certification
  • Build and Shoot Arrows from Scratch
  • Take a NOLS semester Course[More Info.]
  • 7-Day Survival with BOB
  • 21-Day Survival, only Knife

Running & Races Quests

  • First Marathon
  • Barefoot Marathon
  • Minneapolis Ground Rounds(51 Miles)(More Info.)
  • 50-Ultra Marathon
  • 100-Ultra Marathon
  • Spartan Sprint
  • Spartan Super
  • Spartan Beast
  • Spartan Trifecta(Sprint + Super + Beast In 1 Year)
  • Triathlon Sprint(750m S/20K B/ 5K R)
  • Triathlon Olympic (1500m S/40K B/ 10K R)
  • Triathlon Half-Iron(1.2 mi S/90K B/21K  R)
  • Triathlon Iron(2.4 mi S/180K B/42K R)

Events/Conferences Quests

  • Eeyore’s Birthday
  • Room 13 San Antonia[More Info.]
  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Cirque De Loteil
  • Google Local Guides Summit
  • Red Bull Art of Motion

Financial Quests

  • Have $10,000+ in Saving before 2019
  • Adopt a Minnesota Highway
  • Earn 1,000 Subscribers on Challenge List

Master Quests

  • Get A Career Allowing Me to Live Anywhere
  • Completed a Barkley Marathon[More Info]
  • Obtain a PhD

Challenge List Mini-Quests





How To Do The Most In A Day

Stop me if this rings a bell: It is the start of a new day, you take a look at all the things you have to-do today. You have a full day ahead of you to get things done.

Fast forward to later that evening. Your time to work is almost up, you still have so much left to do and the deadline to complete them is drawing near. You are likely going to be staying up late just to get them done in time. I know I had my fair share of those days

While I may have spent each day crossing off my tasks, taking minimal breaks each day, by the end of the day I had accomplished almost nothing meaningful. This was because I kept making the same mistake every single day:

I was making not making a SMART To-Do List.

If I wanted to make sure I was getting the most done each day I had to figure out a way to improve my To-Do List. Fortunately for me, I discovered a way that helped increased my productivity by 1000%.

What Makes A Good To-Do List?

As Charles Durhigg describes in, Smarter Faster Better, a To-Do List should have the most important task first. Although, many of us don’t do this and fall into a spiral of spending each day finishing the easiest tasks first while leaving the more essential ones unfinished.



One of the reasons why we often don’t do the most important tasks first is because we tend to build our To-Do list, but do not consider why they’re on there in the first place. Sure, if I work on a task I would happy to have finished it, but is its purpose valuable enough to focus on?

Most of the time the answer is no. We like to think that completing the task is as equally rewarding as the others on our list, but what ends up happening is that we focus on the wrong tasks we want to complete.

We feel what is known as Authentic Pride, otherwise known as the joy given when we feel like we’re accomplishing something. However, this is not true authentic pride, rather a dopamine effect we get when we cross off a few items on our list.

While it is definitely beneficially to write down your To-Do list down on paper, or use an electronic To-Do builder like Habitica or To-Do Ist, this is almost meaningless if the list is built without a thoughtful approach.

To make the most impacting To-Do List, these three rules are essential:

  • There needs to be a reason for doing the tasks
  • It should follow your stretch goals
  • There needs to be flexibility

Building A Better To-Do List

In order to figure out what tasks we should focus on it’s a important to think about why we want to focus on them in the first place. Once each item does have a reason figured out, it becomes clearer which ones take precedence over the other.

To figure out what are the most important tasks to focus on, follow along with me with this simple exercise:

  1. Take out a sheet of paper or your favorite electronic note taking software
  2. Separate the list into two columns, one titled To-Dos the other titled Reason
  3. Write down all the things you want to complete by the end of the week in the To-Do column. (1 sentence is more than enough)
  4. Once you finish your To-Do column, review each item and write down why you want to do it in the Reason column. (Again, 1 sentence is more than enough)

Now that you have a clear idea of what each task is and your motivation for doing them, pick out the top four to five most meaningful tasks (sound familiar?) and put them onto another list. By now your list should look something like this:


This list you have created is now what we call your Weekly Stretch Goals.These items on your list are not things you should expect to complete in one day rather they will be broken down to smaller tasks completed throughout the week.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create what is known as SMART Goals.

Defining SMART Goals

SMART goals have been a popular way of formatting To-Do List for quite some time now, and that is not surprising. When trying to plot out an effective To-Do List, SMART Goals can become an extremely practical tool to help plan that out. Some of you may be asking yourself,

“What are SMART Goals?”

SMART goals is an acronym used to define each item on a To-Do List and how needs to be worked on. It stands for:

  • Specific – What needs to be accomplished
  • Measurable – How the task will be broken down
  • Achievable – What needs to be done to fully focus
  • Realistic – How you plan on reaching this focus
  • Timeline – When it will be completed

To help illustrate this let me use an example of one stretch goals I have on my list:

Publish an Application on the Google Play Store

Right here I have a clear, Specific, goal of what I want accomplished by the end of the week. The next step is to divide up this project into smaller, Measurable, tasks that can be accomplished throughout the week:

  1. An interface needs to be designed
  2. The application needs to be coded
  3. The application needs to fully functional
  4. The application needs to be published

The next step is to formulate a plan on how I will achieve this. I am able to delegate 2-3 hours on this project on days I work, while the days I have off I can spend more time on the harder tasks. To make this Achievable, I have to schedule in what times are best suited to perform what tasks.

Now the only way to make this Realistic is if I define certain rules for myself to work on this task. During the time dedicated to the project I will be closing my e-mail, leaving my phone on silent, and only work on this task during the allocated tasks.

Break it down on a day-by-day basis, the Timeline would look something like this:

  • Day 1: Create project’s user interface
  • Day 2: Code the project to perform basic operations
  • Day 3: Add any additional features to the project
  • Day 4: Test and fix any bugs
  • Day 5: Finalize and publish

Writing this SMART goal took less than 2-3 minutes to complete. This task is now delegated from one huge project to much smaller, manageable, tasks that I can complete throughout the week. It also gives me a better idea of what I should be focusing on doing the day and what other items should be handled later.

Which leads me to the final component for building a To-Do List

Your To-Do List Should Be Flexible

One of the last, but most important parts of your To-Do list is that it needs to have room for flexibility. There are going to be days where something pops up and you can’t accomplish your To-Do list as expected. This doesn’t mean you should completely stop yourself from working towards your goals, instead that task should be revised to a fit a more realistic goal for the week.

A fundamental thing to keep in mind is that designing effective SMART Goals is not something that can be done once per week. SMART Goals should be created, then reviewed and updated daily.

This is because new To-Dos will always be popping up throughout the week and it is impossible to gauge your priorities days in advanced. I would personally recommend having two to-do lists. One that has your weekly SMART Goals, and one that has your every day goals.

Each day, before writing your daily To-Do list, spend some time thinking about what you need to accomplish for the day. Analyze how you plan on approaching each tasks. Richard Plepler, HBO’s CEO, does something similar to this by doing non-religious prayer 15 minutes a day. I personally spend 5 minutes a day meditating to go through what I need to do throughout the day.

Regardless of what mental exercise you plan on doing, remember to keep your SMART Goals in mind when creating your list.


I hope that this entry helped anyone who is struggling with their every day tasks.I know since changing how I do my To-Dos I have started seeing a noticeable increase in finishing my Challenge List goals.

Just to leave off, you do not have to do your To-Do lists in this exact format. Some people have different ways they approach tasks and that is perfectly fine.The important thing is to experiment with how to create To-Do list and see what works for you. For me, SMART goals have been a tremendous help to increase my productivity, for others, this may not be the case.

Whatever the case, just remember your To-Do list is not just how many items you cross off, but what you improve on when you do it. Stay strong, and keep pushing forward.

Goal 29 Accomplished: Do Not Say “I” For An Entire Day

“Have you ever noticed how often we use the word “I” in a conversation. Whenever we do talk to someone it’s not difficult to accidentally make the conversation about ourselves.”

When I first heard this quote it made me more aware of how often I used the word “I” in a conversation. It was common for me start a conversation or chat with someone for a period of time and use the word “I” at some point. It got to the point where it was difficult to try not to use that word in my vocabulary whenever making conversation.

So in the start of 2016, I chose to challenge myself to completely remove the word “I” from my vocabulary for an entire day. This challenge would not only require me not to say “I”, but words that utilize “I” in abbreviation like, “I’m, I’ll, and I’d”. This challenge was not just limited to conversations spoken orally, but also through different forms of communication such texting, e-mailing, and IM’ing. To make sure there wasn’t a way to cheat this challenge, like staying quiet for the entire day, I made it required to be able to do this challenge only on days where I’m doing my regular duties. These were days where I was the most talkative whether it was when I worked, doing extracurricular activities, blogging, socializing, or other activities that required a lot of communication.

This challenge ended up being quite different than some of the others on my list. Instead of it being an accumulation of activities or one activity happening on a specific day/event, this was something that could be done every single day. This challenge meant there was a lot more room for failure throughout the year. So, when the year started I decided to take up this challenge right on January 1st. At first, I thought this challenge would be a bit difficult but possible after a handful of failures. However, despite being actively aware of not using the word “I”, it ended up taking me 114 consecutive days before successfully completing this challenge.

Doing this challenge ended up becoming quite the experience. When “I” was removed from my vocabulary it largely influenced the way I conversed with others. Trying to be aware of not using the word “I” ended up making me talk slower than usual, often making me think about what to say for a good 1-2 seconds before actually speaking. This ended up causing me to put a lot more thought into what to say order to convey a concise but meaningful message.

Although the most interesting aspect of not saying “I” was how much it shifted what to say during a conversation. Removing the word “I” from all conversations also removed most topics related to myself. This shifted about 95% of my conversation to either be more general or about the other person/people I was conversing with. This helped me realize how much people tend to like to talk about themselves.It felt like one of the easiest ways to make someone happy was to make the discussion about them. When they are talking about themselves they seem to be a lot more open towards sharing things about themselves and enjoyed my company more. Whenever I conversed with different strangers it was far quicker for them to be friendlier towards me than prior to when I started this challenge.

Even though this challenge is completed, the habit of trying not to say “I” still has stuck with me. Many of my conversations have now shifted to rarely talking about myself to instead making talking more about other person. I still have an awareness for speaking with others and find how little the word “I” is used. Not sure if this has became a temporary habit influenced by this challenge or if the result is more long term. Whatever the case, this challenge proved to be extremely difficult yet fun to do.

2016 Challenge List
29 Do not say “I” for an entire day

Goal 47 Accomplished: Go Snowboarding

Back in middle school I took a field trip to a ski resort where I learned to ski for the first time in my life. After a few hours of lessons I took onto the bunny slope to begin my Olympic Skiing career. In one hour, my short dream of being a professional skier was shattered when I found myself repeatedly falling face first into snow. I chose to hang up my skis for the rest of that day and spent my remaining lunch money trying to get the high score in Pac-Man.

Every once in awhile I like to reflect back to these sort of moments and compare them to where I am now. While I may have never fulfilled my short-term dream of being an Olympic Skier I did manage to become insanely good at Pac-Man. As I got into college I made friends with a lot of people who love to hit the slopes every winter. I was invited every so often to join them, but I told them I wasn’t too much of a fan of skiing. One of them suggested that instead of going to the slopes to Ski, I give snowboarding a shot. Being a lover of physical activities and new challenges, I thought I’ll give it a go.

I saved up my paychecks to book a hotel room with a couple of mates over in St. Cloud for a weekend. After we got settled in our hotel, my friends and I packed in the car and headed to Powder Ridge Lodge.I booked a private 1 hour lesson with a snowboarding instructor to learn everything from ground up. Since my snowboarding lesson wasn’t for a few hours I took the time to go snow tubing with a couple of friends.It felt like quite the adrenaline rush to start off my Slope experience by going 20MPH in an inflatable tube.

After a few hours of tubing I went to my snowboarding lesson to meet my instructor. My instructor took things slow by drilling a few basic techniques down. When I got comfortable with that it was off to the Bunny Hill. Being the impulsive “dare devil” that I am I went to the very top of the slope and found myself frequently falling on my arse. Eventually my hour was up but I was still falling down the slopes every so often. However, rather than hang the board up to play Pac-Man, I told myself to keep going for it. After a few more hours I was finally able to go down the slope without once falling on my butt. I kept at it well after dusk just to make myself consistent. I then rewarded myself with a sore bottom and a cup of hot cocoa.

The entire experience was definitely rewarding. I may not go professional in the future, but I now know a new skill which I can continue to improve on. When I reflect on this moment, I feel proud that I didn’t stray away from this skill because I wasn’t good at it. It made me realize that the only way to ever be good at something new is to work it out while taking in the bumps and bruises along the way .It’s best for me to keep in mind that the road to success will always be a rough one and I just need to learn how to drive on it.

2016 Challenge List
47 Go Snowboarding ACCOMPLISHED

2016: Continuing the List

One year ago I made a list of 25 things I told myself I had to complete by the end of 2015. I called this list “The Challenge List“, in which I would took up 25 challenges to help improve myself throughout the year. I figured by instead of referring to them as goals I would like to get done, they would instead be thought of as challenges I must complete. By the end of it all I ended up accomplishing a large chunk of my challenges and pushed myself towards boundaries I never thought possible.

The list ended up becoming so beneficial towards self-improvement that I decided to do it again for 2016. This year I gave myself 25 new things I am challenging myself to complete by the end of the year. Like last year, I am not going to think of these as 25 things I want to complete this year, but 25 things I must complete.

2016 Challenges

Progress: 18/25

  1. Go to an Escape Room
  2. Visit a China Town ACCOMPLISHED(8.27.2016)
  3. Swim a full mile(1650 Yards)ACCOMPLISHED(7.26.2016)
  4. Do not say “I” for an entire day ACCOMPLISHED(4.23.2016)
  5. Finish a Spartan Race ACCOMPLISHED(6.25.2016)
  6. Go to the Wisconsin Strawberry festival ACCOMPLISHED(6.26.2016)
  7. Get a Full-Body Wax ACCOMPLISHED(11.11.2016)
  8. Rock climb Taylor Falls, Minnesota ACCOMPLISHED(9.10.16)
  9. Do 10 Footbag kicks
  10. Publish a mobile app ACCOMPLISHED(7.29.2016)
  11. Make a flash drive
  12. Road Trip to Canada ACCOMPLISHED(10.22.2016)
  13. Winter Cabin Trip Up North ACCOMPLISHED(12.11.2016)
  14. Hike up Timms Hill, WisconsinACCOMPLISHED(6.29.2016)
  15. Visit the Minnesota Eagle Reserve ACCOMPLISHED(7.1.2016)
  16. Create a Video Game ACCOMPLISHED(8.20.2016)
  17. Build an Arcade Machine
  18. Achieve Level 100 on Habitica ACCOMPLISHED(10.17.2016)
  19. Get accepted into Advanced level Parkour classes
  20. Take a Yoga Class ACCOMPLISHED(3.25.2016)
  21. Run a 5-minute Mile
  22. Go SnowBoarding ACCOMPLISHED(1.9.2016)
  23. Start a Fire with a Fire Bow
  24. Craft and Shoot my own Arrows ACCOMPLISHED(8.7.2016)
  25. Win a T-Shirt in Marines Pull-Up Challenge(25 Pull ups) MAX REP: 18, (9.1.2016)

The 2015 Year in Review

The year of 2015 ends which means it’s time to take a look back at everything accomplished this past year. With the end of the year I have can finally mark off three more items off my list such as Meditating twice a week, Practicing Martial Arts, and Complimenting a different person every day. With those three items completed my total number of challenges finishes off with 16 completed out of 25 challenges. For a complete update on the list and my analysis on each of them you can look here.

Now with those items crossed off the list, let’s take a look back at what didn’t work, why it didn’t get completed, and how I can take that information to help with my goals for 2016.

One of the biggest reason for some of these items not being accomplished is a change of interest. To put it straight, I didn’t study for my A+ certification nor did I work towards my gold medal for my President’s Challenge because I no longer saw it beneficial towards my life’s goals. I felt my time would have been better spent if I didn’t focus on these items rather spend time developing skills for my long term goals. By doing so, I ended up exceeding my ambitions that started these goals and became a much more accomplished individual in the end.

Some other items were not accomplished simply because I didn’t have the funds to do them. Some of these items, such as going to a shooting range and going to a Parkour jam, would’ve been financially draining. At the time, I did secure funds to complete some of these challenge items, but did not manage to have sufficient funds to complete the some of the more expensive items.

As for the rest of the uncompleted items on my 2015 list. I would like to say that I had a justified reason for not completing them, but I can’t. I felt like I overshot my list and greatly underestimated my ability to complete one of these items while juggling every day chores and the other 24 items on the list. A good chunk of these items I was able to accomplish because there was always some sort of deadline to complete them by. The rest of them did not have such a dead line and felt like I had all the time in the world to finish them. When there wasn’t any sort of deadline for these items I couldn’t find the ability to focus all my efforts to complete them.

So, what does that say for my goals for 2016? Well, I feel like to best accomplish my tasks I need to organize a plan that allows me to spend 100% of my effort towards completing them. I think the best way to accomplish that is to schedule a few days out of the month to really sit down and focus on completing my goals. Finishing my goals would be best accomplished if I take the time to sit down and focus solely on completing one project at a time. By doing so, the project will not only get completed faster, but I will also be able to accomplish it to my best ability.

In the end I felt like I had accomplished a lot during the year of 2015. I managed to go through 4 jobs, ran my first marathon, got my driver’s license, became Lifeguard certified, and placed second in state in the Cyber Defense Collegiate Competition . I felt like none of this could have been possible without the endless support of my family, friends, and colleagues to push myself to go beyond expectations. I also feel that this blog and my readers became a driving influence to keep me going.

So I ask you, my readers, what are you proud to have achieved in 2015 and what are your goals for 2016?

Goal 12 Accomplished: 12 Hours Of Parkour

Parkour has always been a big part of my life. Before I got into it I had very little muscle and about 20 lbs of fat on me. When I started out I only dabbled in it a bit just to master some basics. It wasn’t until I met some skilled athletes practicing downtown did I discover this passion in me that wanted to improve.
Since that day, I began to push myself to do things beyond what I’m use to. I restricted myself to a veggie filled diet and exercised nearly 4 hours a day. I felt myself improving both in body and mind. As I grew older, I started to loosen my restrictions and ended up neglecting my Parkour training. I felt like I needed to get that push again, and so I decided to set my goal to train Parkour in a 12 hour period.
The task seemed like it would be simple, I practiced 6 hours in a day before so I thought another 6 would be no big deal. I calculated that this task would require me to consume at least 6,000 calories. To make sure I was in top condition, I prepared tomorrow’s meals before hand, did some carb loading, and went to bed early.
The beginning of it wasn’t bad. I wanted to diversify my training to prevent boredom and settled to jog to a different location each hour. The start of the day was extremely humid so I did light work as a general warm up. I wanted to take things slow first as I planned to do more intensive work in the evening.  The first 3 hours flew on by. I ended up smashing my toe slipping on a precision jump. I felt like that was due to low energy from hunger and decided to take a refuel break. I downed some carbs and proteins, a Gatorade, and an energy bar before quickly going back to training. The rain started to pour in causing me to move my training indoors. The break from the sun was just what I needed to cool down a bit while I gradually built up the intensity my workouts.
After a few hours of some moderately intensive training I took another refuel break and drove to the Fight or Flight Academy for some Parkour classes. I felt energized enough to head to my classes where I’d do the more intensive workouts. I got to the class where I signed up for Flips work. After flips classes we moved on to freerunning where we did some more flip work off of walls. I did another quick refuel break before moving onto Parkour.  The class for Parkour was Kong vaults, but myself and several others were taken to the intermediate class to train double kongs. I was a bit exhausted at this point and being that I haven’t done Kong vaults in a while, it took a while to get a few of them going. After a little guidance from my instructor, however, I not only performed my Kong vaults beautifully, but was also able to nail the double Kong.
After Parkour the gym stayed open for an additional 2 hours for open gym. I spent this time trying to smooth out some of my front flips. After a while I joined a few others and we started messing around with a couple of tricks. The gym was closing so I moved on to practice at a local park. I was working on what little energy I had left so I moved on to really light stuff. I hit the 12 hour mark just as my Parkour rolls started to get sloppy and painful. I rewarded myself by eating an entire frozen pizza and stretching out for a really long while.
In the end I sustained a broken toe nail and an injured leg, but managed to make a heck of a lot of progress in my training. The next day I was exhausted and sore, but was still able to move around to do some more stretching and leisure activities. I feel proud I manged to stick with the entire journey without tapping out and managed to cross one more item off my list.

Challenge List:
12 12 Hours of Parkour ACCOMPLISHED

Goal 8 Accomplished: Hike Up Eagle Mountain

Back in June, three of my friends and I made the journey to travel up to Northern Minnesota to visit the Spirit Tree. Unfortunately for us, the Spirit Tree was no longer accessible to the public and we weren’t able to complete our journey. While we still had a fun camping trip, I felt like the trip was no longer a challenge.


After thinking it over I decided to save up some money and make a second trip up north. This time, I was going to test myself physically by climbing up Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. This 2,300 foot tall trek would be a 7 hour hike on rough terrain and will be the first to cross off on my list to trek the highest points in each of the fifty states.
Devil’s Kettle

My girlfriend and I readied ourselves for the trip. It would be a four hour ride from home to Two Harbors, where we planned to set up camp, then an additional half hour car trip to reach the start of the trail. We felt like taking advantage of our time up North so we planned a number of other visits along the way, such as touring Enger tower in Duluth and hiking to Devil’s Kettle.  After hitting up some of the sites we eventually landed to Two harbors on our third day. We set up camp in the early morning then headed off to Eagle Mountain. While the trail was 7 miles long the actual summit was a  3.5 mile hike from the closest parking space. We readied our gear, checked for water, then hit up the trail.


DSC00088The trek to the summit felt like a very easy walk. The silent nature that surrounded us was very captivating. By the time we started to hit the 2nd mile marker the weather got increasingly humid. We stopped by a small beach to dampen our faces with the cool water before quickly heading back on the trail. We arrived at the summit and found the trail getting steeper. We hit a nice clearing that we assumed only meant we were at the finish line. We would’ve stopped there too, if it wasn’t for a hiking couple who pointed out that the trail goes another mile upward.


We took this time to munch on some food and re-hydrate ourselves. We made the foolish mistake of packing salty treats with an inadequate amount of water. We finished out snacking and were down to less than a cup of water a piece. We carried on and soon found ourselves to the top of the mountain. We grabbed some pictures, enjoyed the lovely view, than drank the rest of our water. After we rested for a bit we decided to head back down the mountain.


DSC00096   DSC00091


Our Savior, the Beach

The hike back down felt a lot easier than the hike back up. Eventually we hit the small beach and cooled our faces in the water. The rest of the trail was going to be very rock and very hilly from then on out. We realized we made the huge mistake of not packing enough water. The weather started to hit it’s peak temperature during our trek back. We started to become exhausted from the combination of dehydration, heat, and exercise. We finally got back to the car where we drank a bunch of Gatorade as a reward for our climb.


The next day we drove up Ely to enjoy the rest of our trip in the Boundary Waters. It was definitely a worthwhile experience to take on Eagle Mountain. It also proved to be a valuable learning experiencing to make sure we pack more water for future hikes. Eagle Mountain, a very enjoyable trip, and is now the first out of fifty I have climbed.
8 Hike Eagle Mountain ACCOMPLISHED!

Goal 4 Accomplished: Be Lifeguard Certified

One of my first memories as a kid was when I fell into the water and nearly drowned. My second memory was when my mother took me to swim classes where we did a rendition of “The Wheels On The Bus” as she dunks my head in the water. As you can tell, my first experiences with water where not pleasant ones. Although, as I grew older I found myself ever more fascinated with water. Every camping trip we went on my goal was to get everything set up before dusk so I had time to go swimming. When I started exercising more my exercises consisted of a lot of running, and a lot of lap swimming. I felt like I could never escape the water.

A few years back I found myself also getting more interested in the outdoors. I loved being one with nature and wanted to be with it as much as possible. This lead me to an interest in wilderness survival, where I would study and practice how to live off the land for years. Eventually I realized I can make my love for the outdoors a career by being a Wilderness First Responder. Not only would I be able to challenge myself to face the dangerous beauty of nature, but I could help people who are in need.

Logically, my love for the water and my goal for being an outdoor rescuer led me to signing up for a Lifeguarding class. I felt that it will be a good preparation towards my goals as well as challenge me to be a better swimmer. Boy, did it challenge me.

One of the requirements for being certified as a Lifeguard is two swim 300 yards consecutively. I use to swim 20 sets of 100 yards when I was younger so I thought this was no big deal. I spent most of my 2014 Fall semester, and summer break training. It turned out to be a lot harder experience than I thought to build up to this, especially because I took a break from swimming for my marathon training.

Nevertheless, I put in months of training for my experience so I was going in with my all. The first day of class required a pre-test that took nearly half the day to do so. I regrettably did weight training with my friend the day before, so I was working on tired legs. I powered through the test and I was thankfully able to go through the rest of the class. Unfortunately, some of my classmates weren’t able to do so. After the pre-test the class dropped from 25 to 16 people.

The rest of the week was filled with a lot more physically straining exercises that went on for hours each day. Each day it was several hours in the water, a few hours of testing, then another few hours studying the Lifeguard manual. As the week progressed we saw a couple more students who didn’t make it through, and one classmate who had an emotional breakdown. I still strove on, determined to finish this to the best of my ability. After pushing through I managed to complete the test and officially became life guard certified.

Challenge List
4 Be Lifeguard Certified ACCOMPLISHED!

Goal 17 Completed: Finish A Rugged Maniac

A lot of people like to refer to me as a fitness fanatic. Personally, I agree with that. I love to spend every day pushing my body beyond it’s limitations just to see if I could. I thought there’s no better way to test my body’s physical abilities then to complete in an obstacle race.

Fortunately for me, when I started to compile this list there was a Groupon available for a discounted entry fee to the 2015 Rugged Maniac, a 5k obstacle course. My friend, Xue and I both wanted to use this as a prep run for our future goal of running a Tough Mudder. Xue and I signed up as a team and were set to run the course.

We signed up for an early afternoon race. By now a lot of the more elite runners finished up so the competitive edge was not present among racers. After the runners finished gathering, the buzzer sounded and we were off. Remembering back to my marathon experience I decided to pace myself for this course. A lot of the runners ahead of us decided to sprint up ahead before quickly dragging behind on the up hill portions.

There were a lot of fun obstacles ahead of us, and fortunately for me, I was an avid Parkour athlete. With ease, Xue and I blew past the early obstacles. We climbed walls, vaulted objects, and jumped over obstacles to quickly find our way to the 1-mile marker. We drank our water and started approaching some of the more shocking obstacles. One said obstacle was to dive feet first into a 4 foot pool of water.

During our run, the weather was well below 60 degrees. After we took our dip into the pool it felt like the weather dropped at least to 30 degrees. We decided to jog around to warm ourselves up, but moments when we had to stop and wait to run some obstacles soon gave us that chilling feeling again. We reached many a more water obstacles between 1-2 miles. My favorite in particular was sliding down a plastic tube, crawling in a foot of water while underneath bar wire, then climbing back up to the tube to be greeted by the foulest smelling mud.


When we hit the mile 2 marker our bodies became more dirt than clothing. We headed our way past a number of other obstacles that challenged our strength and balance. When we got to the sand bags, Xue did not hesitate to grab the 50-lb bag as opposed to the 20-lb. I decided to do the same and raced him up to the top of the hill. We both dropped our bags down at the end of the obstacle then jogged our way towards the end. After literally jumping over fire and climbing a warped wall we were finally at the last obstacle, a slide down to another pool of freezing water.

We both looked at each then slid down while giving out our battle cries. We ended our race dirty and victorious. We went out to refuel on some much needed carbs before I went off to take two showers to get the mud off me. In the end, it was a fun experience and I had immediately signed up for another obstacle race for 2016.


Challenge List
17 Finish a Rugged Maniac ACCOMPLISHED!