Wednesday 30 March 2011

Within a move

Holding the crux. A good feeling
Right now I’m totally locked on with my highball project in the glen. Progress has been superb and It’s gone from a distant prospect to feeling very possible in a short time, thanks to all that training. It’s really at my limit though, so I have to accept that every good session might be the best before I lose ground. It doesn’t matter - I’m enjoying trying, a lot.
It’s only when really committed in a die hard way to a project that the windows open up to learning new things. It surprises me that the learning doesn’t stop even though I’ve been here before - maximally motivated, maximally stretched and close to both success and failure all at the same time.
It’s good for me to experience this on a hard boulder line for the first time in a few years - the levers of progress are so different from what I’m used to. Over the past two years, I’ve not really been able to train as I’d like due to injury, so most of my climbs have been trad. I missed hard bouldering and hard boulder training intensely, and have relished the last four months of it. The past three sessions on the project have been the culmination of it. Last session, I held the crux sloper. Tonight, I touched the next hold. If I hold that, I’m on terrain where I would only fall If I made an stupid error, which is just as well as it’s getting into soloing territory up there!
On a boulder, so much extreme effort and focus is distilled into millisecond adjustments of movement and timing. There is very little room for finding what’s necessary during the climb itself. This is the land of the intuitive. Recording that you’ve made a movement decision only just keeps up with actually making the movement. Conscious thought is way too slow and clunky. But it’s not intuitive adjustment out of thin air. It’s adjustment of a model of how the move should go, and how the effort should be timed and focused that’s been refined hundreds of times in your mind. At the level where the real enjoyment comes, it’s a heuristic process of visualisation; you don’t always know why something is right, you just feel like it will be.
To illustrate this blog post, I scrolled through the video of the attempt, shot on my compact propped on a stone. Looking through it, frame by frame, it hit me that I have a record of several movement decisions in my mind’s recording of the move, for every frame of video. 30 frames/sec is too slow! How great is it that movement on rock is so subtle, and that the mind is so expertly geared up to analyse and refine it. You can see how it gets addictive eh?
Hopefully I have the program sussed for that final hard move, and weather, and muscles allow me to get back to it in a few days time.

Friday 25 March 2011

Homing in

Best session yet on my highball project in Glen Nevis today. Wow it felt nice to be able to get up to that crux again, and this time have space to attack the move. Trouble was I think I need a session of getting used to falling from there so I can focus properly on sticking that sloper. Thankfully I seemed to be missing the boulder in the landing zone and rolling in the grass. 
It didn’t help that I left a mat stashed at the crag from yesterday but someone had nicked it. I think a backwards fall onto that boulder could be a rib breaker without at least 4 pads. It’s a bit too much of a trek for 2 trips or carrying that many from the road. It sucks that you can’t leave a pad overnight well covered with rocks without someone nicking it. You always hope climbers wouldn’t do it. They even took the foot towel out of it and left that behind.
Tomorrow I’ll have a day of prep for the next session. Come on!! Time to home in and get down to proper battle. Still no idea if it’s realistic for me. I’ll only know once I stick the sloper if the next move isn’t totally impossible on the link. It feels limit for me on the rope, just having pulled on at the crux. Soloing Sky Pilot next door I realised that falling on the British tech 6b territory above the crux is not an option. I’m not sure how I feel about going for it if I linked through the crux when there by myself. But then, you’d have to, wouldn’t you?

Monday 21 March 2011

Afternoon on Stob Ban

Hours of sleep have been gradually increasing over the past couple of weeks as Freida settles into life in the outside world of day and night. So I was keen to get more than just training done and make it out onto the hills before I missed the snow completely. I headed out by myself as early starts are a little hard work just now and went for a nice afternoon climbing something new on Stob Ban. 
Sadly my intended route was in the process of falling down due to the warm spring winds, so I headed off up the buttress with no particular aim except to enjoy the movement on snow, rock and turf. I mostly soloed, which I enjoyed a lot. But the rock was quite loose and turf not completely solid, so my rope and the little red belayer came out for a pitch.

Would be nice, but not today in plus 2!

Getting my rope-solo system a little more slick. Long way to go there...

Back on the board, things have been going really good. I’ve managed to surpass my previous strength PB by a good margin and feeling highly excited for the coming rock season. The cumulative effect of simply clocking up the hours on the board all winter long seem to have prevailed. Excellent.
Too early to test it on projects just yet. I tried today but ended up taking my climbing gear for a nice walk in the rain. I did nearly run over an Otter on the way home which was the highlight of the day (seeing it, that is!).

Saturday 5 March 2011

Review: Racing Weight quick start guide

Matt Fitzgerald’s first text on weight optimisation for endurance athletes is a first in it’s field and understandably a best seller-  it’s a rather essential book to have if you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete. Because there is so little well written and scientifically based information on weight management in sport generally, it’s also pretty essential reading for climbers too.
There was only one snag - climbing is not an aerobic endurance sport. Some of the information in Racing Weight was directly applicable to climbers, but the bulk of it still needs some interpretation to shoehorn the principles onto a completely different activity.
On first glance I thought that Fitzgerald’s sequel  - the Racing Weight Quick Start Guide might be not much more than a commercially led follow up with recipes and plans that follow directly from the ideas in the first book. Actually I think it could be better titled, as it’s not just that at all. ‘Quick Start’ actually refers to his ideas for weight loss at the start of a training cycle for endurance athletes. The whole premise of Racing Weight was that endurance athletes who dieted hard to get to their fighting weight would end up offsetting gains by the consequent loss of training intensity. However, even endurance athletes have time in the foundation phase of the new macrocycle where they can afford to absorb this, and they can adopt a more rapid weight loss program. This means a very different strategy.
Conveniently, this fits in a lot better with the types of schedules climbers tend to do. This book answered many (still not all!) of the lingering questions I had on weight management for resistance/anaerobic athletes like ourselves. Taking advantage of some key research findings in the past couple of years, together with his clear and very well constructed writing, Matt has produced another essential piece of digest for everyone whom this subject concerns. 
Most of the really ‘juicy’ scientific information that it’s in the first book fits into about 30 or 40 pages. But It’s well worth it for that understanding in my opinion. The extensive section on foods and choosing them for different situations is really excellent too, and I’m fairly sure the same information cannot be found anywhere else in such complete form and so well tailored to the intended audience.

I got some copies ordered for the shop straight away! It's right here.

Friday 4 March 2011

Must get light

Two frustrating but still good days on my highball Glen Nevis project lately. A persistent split tip is demanding a break from tiny sharp crimps, just when conditions are getting brilliant. Nevertheless, I worked out some more sequence tricks and feel my arms and fingers have reasonable power. There’s only one ingredient left really - must make my body lighter. It’s getting close to time to switch from training to performance mode.
Hey, I’m still nowhere near doing the thing. But I can see that I could be. Time to focus. For now, it’s laps on the board with split fingers taped. 
The moves feel brilliant - I can see they are starting to flow. I know I’m climbing them close to as well as I can, it’s just pure strength-weight ratio on the crux move now.