Archive for August, 2010

New fitness project

Every morning I drive to work. It takes 45 minutes, give or take. After about 30 minutes I pass a sign that says parking + bus. For a while I have contemplated taking advantage of the parking space, and instead of taking the bus, riding my bicycle the rest of the way to work. But I have been loathe to try it because the return journey after a hard days work strikes me as torturous uphill pedaling.

Today I tried it to see how much time it takes, and to decide if it is something I would be prepared to undertake on a daily basis. I was also going to lift some weights at the gym at work before returning to the car.

The ride to work from the parking was surprisingly hard and lasted a good 40 minutes. Towards the end of the ride I was starting to feel it in my lower back and even more so a little lower than that… Turns out it is almost 14 kilometers one way. And almost 30 for the round trip. Might not sound like a lot if your a pedal machine, but for me, it’s (more than) enough. When I arrived at work I discovered I had forgotten the access card, so I could not get into the gym. Instead I had my lunch, hung my jacket to dry and tried to compose myself for the return journey. It was indeed hideous. My ass hurt like hell. My lower back as well. My thighs were burning from going up all the time. At least it felt that way, but there were brief stretches of respite where I could stand on the pedals and stretch my aching back. In the end I did arrive at the car one hour after departure from my place of employment.

Well home, after a shower and a hot cup of herbal tea (with chilli and cocoa) I decided I would give it a go. Monday is a shit day to start anything, and I have a lot of errands to run anyways. So Tuesday is D-day for project “Ride a bicycle one-third of the way to work and back again”. I think I will try to do 2 or three days this week, and then see how it feels.

The hardest part just might be to get up a full hour and fifteen minutes earlier to manage to do the bike ride and take a shower before starting work. 4 am does not sound too damn tempting. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I used my HRM on the return trip, and it said I had used over 700 calories. I estimate the total both ways around 1200 calories. Which is not bad at all. Combine that with walking for 3-4 hours at work and taking Dante for walks in the evening I should be able to drop some weight for sure. We’ll see how much of an optimist I am in a couple of weeks…


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Iron and rock

I started weight training again yesterday. Last time I lifted anything was in April. Today everything hurts. So I was reminded of the following quote.

“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.” – Henry Rollins

I think the same can be said about the rock I climb. It gives perspective, it never lies, it makes me stronger, it motivates me and challenges me. And if I’m not ready it teaches me a lesson. Henry Rollins is a smart guy. Recommended reading.

So I was thinking…

I have been doing a little thinking this week. My elbows have been a little sore, and I have given them a rest from climbing. I have taken some of that time and evaluated the season. I know it isn’t over yet, but it is winding down rapidly, and it is unlikely that I will make significant advances.

My original goal was to climb 5.12 this season. It will not be met. However, that goal (along with the entire challenge) was taken out of thin air, and not based on any experience or knowledge about training for climbing.  So I am not really too disappointed. I really want to break 5.11a though, and I still hope to do that before the season ends. I think 5.11 is within reach. I have not done a lot of red point work on routes I felt were actually possible (mostly worked Muffin Man which is 5.11c), and I have felt very close on a 5.10c and a 5.11a I have worked a little bit. Given a few hours and some focused work on a 5.11a I believe I can get it done. Gorm has agreed to help me when he comes down next weekend. Hopefully we can find an interesting route to work.

It does seem like my body will take a while to adjust to the demands of hard climbing, and it does confront me with some pretty hard choices. It feels like 4 sessions in 8 days was a fair bit more than I can handle at the moment, at least as long as it is a couple of sessions of hard climbing. The choice here is to gun for as much climbing and improvement as possible towards the end of the season, or taking the long view and cutting back to prevent injury. To me that choice is not easy, because I really love climbing a lot, and there is no better feeling than breaking a new grade. However, I am so stoked about the trip next year, and I know I don’t want to spend another 6 months injured as preparation for that.

This means I will be cutting back to no more than 2 climbing sessions a week, and only one of those sessions will be climbing at my limit. Most likely it will be bouldering. One session of 4×4’s and one session of projects seems likely. The rest of the time will be spent working off the remaining dead weight through cardio, and a general training program designed to make me stronger all around, with specific focus on climbing antagonists. I hope this program will keep me healthy and climbing through the winter, which will give me a flying start for the spring compared to this year. Perhaps I can even up the intensity a little after new years, and again next summer, in order to gradually prepare my body for the demands of the climbing trip next fall. And setting me up nicely to break 5.12 somewhere along the way south from Squamish…

This season has been really good. I have upped my climbing significantly from last year. I have had a great week in Lofoten. And I have learned a lot about training, my body and climbing. My confidence has increased, my love of climbing has gotten stronger and I have been a happier camper all around. The 5 year plan is alive and well even though I am a full number grade behind schedule. I will just have to make up some ground towards the end. My tendons will need time to handle the really hard climbing I want to do, and it does feel like that is the main challenge now. And there is no secret shortcuts for that. Just keep working at a level the body can handle, and let it grow stronger at its own pace.

Climbing again today!

4 sessions of climbing in 8 days. After losing my climbing partner Gorm. Could have been worse, eh?

Today I drove west to Bera crag in Drammen to meet up with Paul and Bente from the climbing group I recently joined. My GPS led me to the spot and I parked a short stone throw away from the rock. Very nice.

After a little meet and greet, it was decided I should lead up the warmup, a 5.4 route I was told (but I can’t find it in the topo), which I did and then ran it again on toprope. Then Bente and Paul did a 5.10b off the same chains, which I had to try as well. It felt like there was nothing to stand on, but the friction was great, and I stood firmly on absolutely miniscule ledges. I think I would have to wire it well before attempting it on lead, as I had a couple of falls in the beginning, once from going off-balance and once from a botched grab.

Then it was time for a route called Victoria Terrasse at 5.9. It is actually a pretty neat route, because there are three options off the same bolts and chains. One option at 5.6, one at 5.9 and one at 5.11c. Paul led up Victoria Terrasse, and I followed on toprope. It felt pretty nervous in the beginning, but got better towards the end.

Bente did the 5.11c variety called Victoria uten egg (Victoria without edge) on toprope. It is the same route, except the edge on the left is off-limits. Really thin stuff, and I’m very impressed.

I like the lead and how to swing it, so I had to send the 5.9 variety, which I did. No fuss, just clean climbing. I was very pleased with myself, even if it is a couple of grades below my limit. It is always interesting the first few routes at a new crag, but this one felt good. And because it is a slab, I would very much like to work the 5.11c variety. I think I can do it with a little (maybe a lot of) work. Maybe I will get the chance.

Now my elbows are telling me to cool down for a couple of days, so no climbing until Thursday at the earliest (unless something really cool comes up on Wednesday…). And antagonist work 2 times a day.

Moving up again. I like it!

A very flexible lady, Victoria. She can accomodate you in three different grades.

Sunday at Hauktjern crag

This Sunday started a little later than usual, Thomas and I arrived at Hauktjern crag around 12 noon. The trek is a good general warmup, and after a couple of burns on a 5.6 we felt ready for bigger and better things.

So I introduced Thomas to one of my favourite routes. It’s called Skrabanek and is a  5.10a. I like it because of the last two moves which I think are really cool. The start is a pretty nervy runout on a slab, then you hit a almost vertical part and the coolness begins. Today the beginning was more nervy than I remembered. I think it is because I haven’t really climbed anything close to my limit on lead in a long time. Pretty much all toproping the mission impossible lately, and my head needs to adjust to being on lead again. But as a nice compensation, the last two moves flowed effortlessly. Very pleased, I was.

Thomas went up on toprope. He struggled a little bit on the technical slab and needed some time to psyche himself up before the 2 top moves. But he pulled through with one hang. He is very strong boulderer (compared to me), but he needs some work on his footwork, and the experience on rock to know his limits and learn to trust holds.

After a little break we decided to work a 5.10b he tried and failed on the last time he was there. It is called Hit og dit which means something like Here and there. It turned out to be really tricky. I gave it a go on lead, but had to capitulate and agree to toproping it. I spent a ton of time trying to figure out the crux, fell a dozen times and pumped out before I could work it out. Thomas started out on toprope and hit the same brick wall as I had. Where nothing worked, feet slipped, fingers grabbed nothing but air in desperate lunges. So we took a break.

After some food I felt ready to try it again. And I figured it out! It had been like a puzzle, with off-balance moves and tiny little features for the feet. Lowered down and breezed through the crux again, and a third time for good measure. Thomas went on, and with a little effort he managed to copy my moves (we’re the same height which makes the copycat approach much easier). By the time he finished, we were both really nackered after 3,5 hours of climbing/belaying and decided to call it a day. I would have pushed for a quick send, but I just wasn’t feeling it today. Next time.

I texted OA and asked him about the cheap 5.11 he had told me about, but with the struggles I had on a 5.10b, I didn’t feel up for it.

It was a good day of climbing non the less, and I am looking forward to the next time. I really need to climb more around this level towards the end of the season of I am going to break 5.11. Which I am.

Late nite bouldering

Went for a couple of hours of late night bouldering with OA today. Got there around quarter till 9 and left around 11 (closing time).

Had a lot of good burns. Did my first blue problem. Very pleased with that. Was yet again reminded of how much cooler it is to climb with someone, than it is to climb alone. Got some good tips on technique, footwork and creating my own problems when I run out of ready-made problems around my level. Which was a cool thing to do.

OA also showed me the fabled exercise room. And it was pretty cool. System wall, finger boards, campus boards, red cord, weights, and some stuff I don’t know the name for. I am looking forward to trying the system wall sometime. Again I got some good tips on how to use the fingerboard more effectively. Good stuff.

I had fun climbing, it is great to learn new stuff and the company was good. Looking forward to the next time.

Mixed routes

So I’ve been having some discussions about mixed routes with different people lately. And my position is, well, let’s just say it is not the majority position. So the only logical conclusion is that all those people just don’t get it… At least that’s what I tell myself as I lie awake nights wondering what is wrong with me.

Either way, my position is that mixed routes are an abomination (not really, but unnecessary). And here is why.

In my mind a route should be either trad or sport (bolted). If it is possible to use natural protection, then it is a trad route. If it is not possible to use natural protection, then bolt it and make it a sport route. And when I say possible, I mean possible, not necessarily easily, or without runouts. Some exceptions apply. Those will be explained below.

To me, mixed routes are absolutely pointless. So you’re climbing a trad route and there is a long scary runout. Tough luck. Don’t bolt the part that scares you. Climb something else. And if you’re bolting and get to a part that can be protected naturally, finish the job and bolt the whole damn thing so I don’t get stuck halfway and have to leave my quickdraws hanging because I didn’t read the fine print (never happened, but I’m assuming it will sooner or later).

The main argument I have heard pro mix, is that it makes certain routes accessible to “normal” climbers. But why do you have to bolt half a route? Just put up some proper anchors, and you can top rope the route if runouts scare you. And then the route can be enjoyed properly by people who relish the adrenaline rush a good runout creates. And don’t tell me not to use the bolts if you won’t toprope it.

If it’s a sports crag, with tons of bolted routes, then people come there to climb sport on bolted routes. Unless it’s a truly legendary type route, I won’t go to a crag to climb one route trad. If I want to climb trad, I’ll go somewhere I can climb many trad routes, or one multi pitch, I guess, but it is basically the same thing. So at this crag, you bolt it even if parts of it is possible to do with natural pro. The rock is studded with bolts anyway, a few more ain’t gonna matter. And if all of it can be protected naturally, you take your drill somewhere else.

And if it is a trad crag, don’t bolt a section just because you can’t stomach the runout. People come there to climb trad, and yes, they can choose not to use the bolts you put there, but why do you have to climb that route if the runout scares you so much? Why can’t you climb something that is better protected? Or something easier? Or toprope it if it looks super cool and you need to do it? Leave it all natural for someone who enjoys a good runout?

I don’t really understand this idea that it is my right to climb every route. And therefore I will bolt it (or at least the scary parts) so tightly that I can do it without feeling even the slightest tingle.

To me, climbing a route is not a right I am born with. It is a right I have to earn. I earn it by getting strong enough, skilled enough, tough enough, motivated enough and by loving the route enough to give it my all.

Don’t bolt the crap out of runouts on a trad route to feel safe. If you can’t shake that need, you are not ready.

If you go to climb trad routes, then do that. If a route scares you too much, do the next one. Don’t destroy it for the next guy (who’s ready for it) by bolting half of it.

Accessible. I would like there to be routes for everyone. But I don’t want every route to be for everyone. Just like some routes (most routes actually) are too hard for me physically and technically, some routes are too hard for me mentally. Why is that a problem? No one (that I have met) argues we should chisel out holds on difficult routes so that weaker climbers can climb 5.13 or whatever grade is out of their reach. And then the strong climbers could just choose not to use the holds we made. But to me it is the same thing as bolting runouts on short trad routes.

Some climbers are mentally strong and can handle runouts, but most are not. So leave the runouts for those who can handle them, just like we leave the hard routes to the climbers who can handle those.

This post is only about shorter routes. Big walls and alpine routes are different animals all together, and much more complicated. I don’t think I am ready for that discussion yet (see what I did there?).