For many of us, the changing of autumn to winter marks the end of a climbing season. For me, route climbing is on it's final lap, and bouldering is just about to take over the baton. As I live 6 hours from the nearest good boulders, the transition to winter also means that I'll be spending alot more time in the comfy confines of the gym. Good thing we finished The Anvil when we did.
At the beginning of every cycle I set new goals. I put them down on paper, and post them front and center on my refrigerator so I'll remember those goals everytime I reach for the vanilla bean ice cream. I aim high, so inevitably, my goals are never completely met, and will have to carry over to the next season. This isn't an accident. It's by aiming for harder to hit targets that we learn the little lessons we need to improve ourselves. If you always reach your dream, are you dreaming big enough? For some, maybe. Not for me. It helps to motivate me when I know there are parts of my aspirations still dangling out there, waiting for me to put them to rest.
Photo by Elodie Saracco.
As this route climbing season is winding up, I feel stronger than ever. Several 13b's came together in a handful of tries, and for the first time I've felt comfortable warming up and cooling down on a 13a that I know well. I came close to meeting many of my goals, but fell short repeatedly. "Swingline" (13d), which I expected to go down easy after making fast progress, has proven to be a nemesis. I've fallen off the final hard move 8 or 9 times, and finally decided to give it up until next season (maybe). Much of the time spent working on "Swingline" could have gone toward meeting my smaller goals, but the fitness I've built is going to be an important future tool.
My goal to onsight 13a also fell short by a move. Onsight goals are slippery... you have one chance. The important thing for me with these is that in every case, I went all out. I wasn't intimidated, and I executed my plan perfectly, with the exception of clipping chains. Success in failure.
Hidden behind this veil of failure have been several important lessons. First off, I learned that I have to treat my spring season and fall season very differently. Last spring I came out of the blocks fast, peaking and ready to go. Temps were perfect and gravity seemed to be low. As the days warmed, my harder goals had been reached, leaving only the "easier" goals for the final push into summer. Autumn, it turns out, is the opposite. Who knew? I came out of my corner swinging again, only to find that summer still thought it was here, and temps didn't go below 80 until my peak fitness had withered away. Next year I'll flip my plan accordingly, and plan my peak for mid October.
Another big stopper for me this season was skin. So many burns on "Swingline" in the humidity got my fitness up, but it also destroyed my skin in exactly the spots on my fingers that were key to being comfortable on the route. The same happened on "Black Gold" (13c) and "Ultraperm" (13d). Lesson learned: When working on or "feeling out" routes in less than ideal conditions (weather or physically), tape and superglue are invaluable. I've discovered that just a thin layer of superglue on the side of my finger where it wears from the sharp pockets is plenty to protect it for an attempt. After watching Sam Elias taping and gluing his fingers, I built my own "kit". Tape, glue, sandpaper, clippers, ibuprofen, etc... now are with me always, and are getting used regularly.
Black Gold. Photo by Taylor Frohmiller.
The final big lesson that I took from this autumn is that I can't always expect to have another phenomenal season. My spring was my biggest ever, and I planned to continue that momentum. Doesn't always work out that way, but that doesn't mean I won't be trying to have another spring just like it come March.
As I know alot of my readers are also on the final stretch of a particular season or cycle, I'd love to know how your expectations panned out, and what you learned from the successes and failures. If you've got the time, leave us a note. Knowing how many people are out there pushing to reach their limits keeps me psyched, so I look forward to reading your comments!
This will be a review of 2018 in regards to goals, training, climbing, numbers, injuries, and lessons.
It’s been a wonderful pump-free five years, but that time has come to an end.
As I switch back to sport climbing as my primary focus, I feel like this is a good time to reflect on and share some lessons I’ve learned over the past few years and talk on some things I’m having to relearn.
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.