Interview | Milo Finnegan-Money
Milo Finnegan-Money, aptly named @enduranceparkour, is a Colorado-based freerunner who has taken the bold leap of packing his life into a van and becoming a nomadic filmmaker.
His first major project - Up and Over - just dropped (see below) and it's fair to say the focal run is monstrous in both scale and technical challenge. We sat down with Milo to talk about his process, hopes, and fears.
I train ascents and descents regularly, but no way would I have the stamina to complete that run. What physical prep do you do?
Stamina / endurance is something I’ve been pretty singularly focused on for over a year. During my surgery recovery I did a modified version of the Wim Hoff method that included empty-lung extended breath-holds, hyperventilation and cold immersion (3-minute ice baths). I did that routine at least 5 times a week for about two months, along with extended underwater swims (managed a 100m Olympic pool on a single breath) and hot/cold therapy (there was a hot-tub with an unheated pool that I broke into every night for about a month a couple miles from my house). Although I’ve always been an endurance focused athlete (I worked as a bike messenger for 6-years and also did some cross country cycling trips), I think these routines and exercises pushed my underlying physiology to new places, even speeding up my recovery time post-op. I still do these activities, although much less frequently, and I plan on going back to the basics during the winter season. Research suggests that it expands your lung capacity, increases the efficiency of blood-oxygen storage, strengthens vasodilation and vasoconstriction making capillary exchanges more efficient, and increases your VO2 max. I would suggest it for anyone looking to push themselves, and recommend ‘What Doesn't Kill Us’ by Scott Carney as a resource to get started.
Once my ankle could handle it I started running a mile everyday, as fast as I can. At 7:20 now, but looking to push that even lower!
Did you deliberately seek out an intimidating challenge to fit the doc’s theme, or conceive the film's idea conquering the location?
My initial plan wasn’t even to make a doc. I just wanted to film a few really long lines with a drone, before leaving Colorado, and release them as a single video. But I rolled my ankle right before the filmmaker, Colten, arrived, and had to roll with the punches. The whole process was extremely organic: I never thought about what the final product would be, I just asked Colten to film things that felt relevant to prepping the one line I’d settled on sending given the circumstances. We did one impromptu interview in my van, where I rambled for a solid 15-minutes, and that’s where all the voiceover material came from. As a filmmaker I tend to avoid pre-conception when making documentaries; the theme should emerge from the footage, the way a sculpture is hidden inside a block of marble. Pre-conception damages your ability to perceive what matters and causes you to be selective in what you capture. You can’t know the story of something that hasn’t happened, and to find the truth of the matter is impossible if you impose your interpretation to early. In the case of this project, the whole thing emerged during the editing process.
The line itself I conceived slowly. That building, which is in DTC (Denver Tech Center), was the first spot I went training after my reconstructive ankle surgery, and I filmed a similar up & over line then, although it was less complicated and the consequences were much lower. But the idea of doing a full up-and-over was there for 6-months, and by simply going back to train there a few times I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. After that it was just a matter of being ready athletically, which I had already been working on regardless of this particular line.
Sometimes I get ‘shook’ at height and it's like I've never trained parkour before. Is that something you experience, and how do you overcome fear in general?
That still happens to me all the time, and although I know it’s possible to alter your headspace, I prefer to avoid the risk if I’m not feeling at all interested that day. In general, I only train at height when I’m feeling compelled to, and I think forcing yourself too far outside of your comfort zone with such serious consequences is a stupid idea. I could die doing what I do, and I’m under no illusions about it.
In order to accomplish feats at height requires an absolute awareness about the severity of a mistake, and a serious acceptance of what that might mean. It’s critical that you feel comfortable at height while moving simply (standing, sitting, walking, hanging, etc.). If you don’t feel comfortable hanging off the side of a building at 5-stories, or doing a turn vault, I would suggest that you slow down before attempting a descent. Listen to your body, take every discomfort and fear seriously, move through the process slowly, disassemble the physiological experience and analyse it. Yes, we want to reach the point where we can escape a situation that has extreme consequences, but you don’t need to recreate that pressure artificially to complete a challenge during training. Training isn’t application, and it requires a calculated approach. Trust the process and you can make mental gains as methodically as you make gains physically.
What has been your most frightening experience to date?
When I was 19 I rode a track bike 1200 miles from NYC to Birmingham, Alabama with two friends on longboards. Somewhere in Virginia we ended up pretty far off the beaten path, got caught in a thunderstorm, ran out of food and water, and had to spend 15-hours in our tents in a ditch by the side of the road. The following morning we decided to make a break down a dirt road toward the nearest town, and while my friends walked their boards, I rode ahead. After an hour or so completely alone I saw a pick-up truck coming toward me. It passed, and then curiously pulled a u-turn before driving back again. I half expected the driver to roll down the window and ask if I needed any help, but they didn’t; the car just passed me and went back around the bend from which it had initially emerged. Then it came back, and as it was coming toward me the second time I saw the driver and we made eye contact. He lifted his finger, put it in his mouth and began to suck on it while staring straight at me. I felt my stomach drop, and once he passed and was out of sight I got off my bike and ran into the corn field at the edge of the road. I watched the car come back past slowly, with a swiss army knife in hand, and mentally prepared myself to stab some stranger in the eyes. I waited, and it came back past yat again, and after a moment of pause I decided to make a break for it. I jumped back on my bike and hauled ass harder than I ever have before, and just around the bend I reached the main road and a safe place to wait for my friends to catch up.
That was the last day we traveled as a team. That afternoon my friends decided to catch a bus down to Birmingham, to which I rode the remaining 800 miles alone to meet them.
What would you like to see more of in the parkour/freerunning community?
More people pushing themselves in unique ways and with a greater level of focus. Thinking in broader distances and time spans.
Anything you'd change?
The obsession with power as the greatest test of skill. I think it limits your training and alienates a lot of people who might otherwise be interested in the sport.
What projects can we expect to see from you in the future?
In the near future I’m planning on hitting up Seattle’s Freeway Park and Flint’s Grand Fountain to push my endurance and do some really grueling challenges. I’m also on the lookout for some really tall descents (10-20 stories) for projecting, and I want to head back to Colorado to send some of the other lines I was working on soon. My long-term goal is to train for a mile of parkour, which I’m not entirely sure is possible, but I plan on pursuing for the next couple of years, so follow along to see my van adventures and training as I attempt to go the distance!