Last night I was reading the uber-classic "Performance Rock Climbing" by Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann, and it occurred to me how young my training really is. If you're reading this blog, chances are that you've read or browsed many a training tome. Ironically, "Performance Rock Climbing", while maybe the first of it's genre (?), was the last that I read. I found it at the public Library, and I've renewed it twice now. Someday they may get it back.
I'd never read the book because my training really only began in 2006. Yes, I'd been climbing a long time, since 1994, and I had blindly tried all sorts of training, all of which was beneficial, but had no real focus. Sometime around 1998 I was managing a pizza parlor, and since the middle of the days were slow and boring, I installed a pullup bar in back. It became my mission to do 100 pullups and 100 pushups in 10 minutes. See, at that time I was solely a traditional climber, and I figured that pullups closely resembled the position we were always in while placing gear. If I could do 100 in 10 minutes, I could climb harder. I eventually "sent" the pullup/pushup challenge, and I eventually did climb harder... though I'm not sure how much one related to the other.
After 8 years or so of mostly traditional climbing, I was burnt out. Had a daughter, a new career, and fewer and fewer options for crack climbing around Red River. I hung it up. For the next 3 years I climbed once every 4 months or so, and only on cracks I'd already done. I may never have REALLY climbed again had it not been for several simultaneous events conspiring to hurt my ego.
1. A man I looked up to, John Bronaugh, passed away. John was the author of several excellent guidebooks to Red River Gorge, and his legacy in that arena is quite capably carried on by my former partner in climb, Ray Ellington. What endeared John to me wasn't the development he had done around the
Red, but his quick wit. The first time Ray and I shared a rope with him, he treated us like punk little brothers, even though we were climbing harder. Even on our project, he told us we were just doing it wrong, the hard way, and if he were in shape it'd be over. Anyhow... John, before passing, called me out. Publicly. He said on an internet forum, that even though people believed me to be an overachiever, he thought the opposite. He believed I did just enough to get noticed, and when it came time to really show and prove, I quit. He was right. I had never really realized it before, but he couldn't have been more spot on.
2. I went climbing with my friend Yasmeen (who you see all over Ray's Red River guides). After doing a couple of 5.11 cracks that I had no problem with, I tried a 5.11 sport route. I couldn't get to the chains. Too pumped. Yasmeen finished it off with little effort, and handed over a toprope. Still, no chains. I was devastated. Wasn't sport climbing supposed to be easier??
3. On a trip to Vedauwoo, right in the midst of starting to contemplate climbing again, I broke my hand. While belaying my friend Justin Edl on a sketchy 5.12 RP seam, he fell, pulled all his gear, and I stepped under him and tried to catch him. He bruised his heels, I broke my right hand. Suddenly, I wanted to climb.... but couldn't. For the first time, it had been taken from me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
So... when the cast came off, I dropped the ego that I had built thru trad climbing, and hit the gym, struggling up the 11's, and inventing methods to train what I saw as my weaknesses. By early 2007, I did my first few 5.12's, and by October of the same year, my first 13a. Somewhere in there I discovered that training is not only a means to an end, but something exciting in itself. A tool by which to measure not only strength and endurance, but perseverance, focus, and attitude.
Now it's 2010, and I've read every book on training I can find, and taken from each to design my training programs. I've climbed 30-some 5.13's, up to 13c, and still, at nearly 36 years old, see huge room for improvement. I recently began work on what will soon be my first 13d, Swingline, and 5.14, which seemed mythical when I began climbing, is suddenly within reach.
No matter what grade you're climbing... or what your goals are... the journey is the same. Pushing your own personal limits is something hugely rewarding. You'll be hearing about mine, and I'd love to hear about yours. Now lets go get it...
Sending "Cow Reggae", 13b, Wild Iris, Wyoming.