Just the other night, in the latest issue of Rock and Ice, I read a great piece by Whitney Boland titled "Crossroads". The short story rang familiar, and not just because I'd climbed with Whitney several times recently. More so because she's writing about the frustrations on a former project of hers, "Swingline" (13d). "Swingline" happens to be my project as well, and those same frustrations had entered into my psyche.
"Swingline" breaks down as a 13a to a not-so-good rest, followed by a less steep, techy(ish) 12 move v8 boulder problem that culminates in the hardest move, a long reach from a left hand, 2 finger "funnel", to a small 2 finger, 1/2 pad pocket sidepull. I'd fallen off that move 4 or 5 times on redpoint. Those falls had all happened in the Red River heat and humidity, and I couldn't wait for better conditions. They arrived, on my 36th birthday, and I was stoked to get out and send. Something funny happened thats never happened to me on a route... I regressed. Never even got to the move. I never got comfortable on the rest, never got into the zone. Failure.
Wait... that isn't the whole story. This wasn't the first time "Swingline" broke my heart. Allow me to back up a little. Early in one particularly humid session, while bolt to bolting to warm up, "Swingline" dealt it's first blow. I loaded a small two finger pocket in the crux and instantly felt searing heat in my forearm, like the tendons had been stretched WAY too far. No popping, no tearing... but scary nonetheless. For the next 2 weeks, I couldn't load those two fingers. Not even on the biggest jugs. Another week or so of being careful, and the tendons were back to normal, but those lost 3 weeks felt like eternity.
NOW... back to the present. On my 36th birthday, after regressing when I was so close, I decided to take a break from "Swingline" and return when the temps were back to good. After blaming everything else (new shoes, improper warm up, anchor fever, got too comfortable, blah blah blah...), I settled into the idea that I wasn't getting comfortable on the holds, and more importantly, the rest, because the pockets were hitting me in the same spot over and over, making the side of my right ring finger thin and tender. On the last go of that day, I lowered off dejected, with a bloody ring finger. Happy birthday to me.
As Justin had already crushed his project at the Darkside, "The Return of Darth Moll"(13b), and had moved on to "No Redemption" (13b), the thuggish "Ultraperm" (13d) around the corner seemed to be a good fit. (Click on the route names for great videos of both routes!) A quick send on "No Redemption" bolstered my waning psyche, and I began work on the REALLY steep, slopey pocket goodness of "Ultraperm". On a bolt to bolt foray up the line, I met with success and ultimate failure. After finally deciding on crux beta (there are 49837973893797 chalked holds in one spot), and pulling through, I committed to the one sharp pocket of the route... really dug my fingers in... made the next move... but left a chunk of my finger behind. Bloody and beaten. What a sissy.
Ultimately, its a good thing. It'll heal up right instead of getting worked every week on the same pockets. I've got a crimpy 13a to try and onsite around the corner, and a sick, slopey 13d to check out as well. I'm being forced to take a step back, reevaluate, and keep moving. A fresh start, so to speak. I've learned some things about how to better structure my next summer's training to prepare for fall, and I sent an amazing techy 13b I otherwise wouldn't have gotten on. All that, and frankly, the really good conditions have yet to arrive. We may only get a month or so of it, but my finger will be healed (its looking pretty good already), as will my psyche. And if I need, I know I can cry on Whitney's shoulder, because she feels my pain.
You thought I lost. I know I won.
In the Red River Gorge, "Omaha Beach" is everyone's favorite route to hate on. Locals love to depict it as a mindless jug-haul with no "hard" moves. In 2010, I decided to give this jug haul a go. I hung more times than there are bolts...
We measure our sport in numbers. A silly concept, really, but it's what we've got, and I've come to accept that. However, as an individual, I reserve the right to measure my own progressions however the hell I want to, and often times, the numbers don't quite reflect what I know to be the truth.
We're here. Finally. There is still much work to be done. All of the old blog posts will need to be formatted, and we still have apparel sitting in boxes that we need to photograph and get on here. That's just the beginning. But we're here.
Not too long ago I sat down and had a great conversation with John Blomquist from the "Chalk Talk" Podcast. We got into several things, including hiphop, art, and life, but the majority of our conversation revolved around The Power Company and training.
It's interesting how fast perspective can shift when one's situation is altered. Each time I get the clearance to do a new exercise it's the highlight of my day. Mobility or strengthening - doesn't matter - it's all the same level of exciting to me right now.
Therapy. Atrophy. Ever wonder why those two words are one letter away from being anagrams? It's because they go hand in hand. When you aren't using muscles, your body has zero interest in maintaining them. They disappear FAST.
So surgery went well, they tell me. I have no idea since I don't know what's going on in there. I'll trust their judgement.
I'll keep this short and sweet, since you'll be hearing alot from me in coming months. I leave my house in about 30 minutes to head to the hospital for rotator cuff surgery, specifically to repair a full thickness labrum tear as well as a full thickness supraspinatus tear.
I was through the middle crux for the first time from the ground. The hardest moves were behind me, with only a V5-ish mantle and a 12+-ish headwall guarding the chains. And it was wet. Not damp wet. Soaked wet. Dripping wet.
Last summer I teamed up with my good friend Leif Gasch to try and put down a famous unfinished Todd Skinner project called "The Strawberry Roan."
Our new training space, "The Engine Room," is mostly complete, and it is exactly what we'd been missing. I'm psyched to get stronger than ever this training season with the help of the tools we've added to our lineup.
There's more to life than climbing. It's true. Some are willing to forego nearly all else for the singular pursuit of living a life on the rocks. Some aren't. None of us are right or wrong, we just make our choices and do the best we can with them.
I’ve been getting tons of questions and comments about the High/Low approach to training that I’ve been exploring and writing about. I figured that it might be prudent to let people know whether or not this style of training is for you.
Just a couple of quick notes to get me back into the swing of keeping you all updated on what's going on here...
Spring has nearly yielded to the stifling heat and humidity of the jungle-like summer, and I've not posted a single update on how it's gone.
It's easy to get discouraged by how quickly the pros seem to put down the hardest projects, when for two seasons you've worked on the same 12c, and still haven't been able to clip the chains. Maybe you're just in too far over your head?
The end of an epic. I finally clipped the chains on "Swingline". As it should be, it didn't go down without a bit of a fight, and over the last few sessions it's taught me a few lessons.
Goals are a funny thing. Unless they are once in a lifetime goals, we who make a habit of setting and reaching for goals often just check one off and replace it with a new one. Before I've completely moved on to my next goals and deemed it too long ago to bother blogging about, I just wanted to type up a quick update:
Tomorrow, Autumn officially begins. This year I'm taking issue with the word "Fall". I'm removing it from my lexicon. "Fall" is in the air... duh, of course it is... but that isn't where I want to be. This season is for sending, so no more "Fall".
After a spring of relative success I came to the realization that I had a few remaining glaring weak points. At the root of all of it was that my thoughts on training had gotten maybe too complicated. Too many exercises, not enough real focus on a few of the basics.
I feel stronger and more fit than I ever have at this time of year, but before we get down to business as usual, I suppose I should give you all a quick update on where I've been and how the spring season went.
Can you simultaneously be in an intense training cycle and realistically expect to perform your best? Doubtful.
While I've always thought ARCing to be a useful tool, it doesn't teach you how to climb once you've already taken on a massive pump. That's where the CAP comes in. Climbing After Pumped.
I rarely get frustrated about a rock climb, but on my final day climbing on "Ghost Dance", I grew far more upset than I ever thought I would regarding a 60 foot line of bolts.
here is still something so satisfying about doing a hard route first try with no prior knowledge, testing all of your skills on the fly, requiring you to pull tricks out of your bag at a moments notice. However, there is something about redpointing that goes much deeper.
I've been here in Lander for 9 days, and have spent some quality time with a couple of different projects, including one of the best 13c's I've ever climbed on called "Ghost Dance", and my intended project for the trip, a short, fierce 13c called "Atomic Stetson".
"You have the key, right?"
"The key to the route. You know what you need to do. Do it."
Climbing, in terms of movement, is easily the most complex sport I've ever been involved with. In such a complex sport, can we even begin to train simply? You can, but you have to boil it down to specifics.
...while searching for dry rock close to the road (we arrived late in the day), we came across the huge boulder of "Super Mario". "Super Mario" is a short, powerful line, very reminiscent of Wild Iris...
If there is one thing I've learned in the past couple of seasons, its that despite the fact that the climbing I most often do is steeped in endurance, I can never have too much power.