Improving My (Rock) Climbing

Rock ClimbingOver the last few weeks I’ve read a bunch of articles about getting better at rock climbing. There’s a lot of ideas and information out there from a variety of credible sources, which I’ve now sorted my way through and turned it into a fairly decent plan.

I’m going to continue doing lots of bouldering, because I can get a good workout in a short time, and I enjoy it loads, and enjoyment is key to motivation. I’m going to try to climb V1s really well (maybe downclimbing them too) before I start thinking about harder routes. Climb better, not just harder.

I’m also going to stop climbing really hard routes (so currently around 5.10b for me) as often (maybe just try one or two per week), and concentrate on climbing 5.9s really well. And I’m going to do more “silent feet”, “low hands”, “pause over each hold”, “smearing with one foot” drills. I read about another drill where you have to get your arms dead straight after each move to teach you to find economical positions to climb/rest.

Climbing Exercise: The longer the time a climber spends with arms bent instead of straight, the more tired critical pulling muscles become. Climbers will find that straightening their arms is easier if they also turn their bodies. Work with climbing partners on a specific route that’s relatively easy and has lots of big holds. Attempt to find a way to turn those hips into the wall for each move, alternating from side to side, the whole way up — while also keeping those arms as straight as possible. This will likely involve a lot of back-stepping, as well as having one foot off of the wall or simply smearing/front-pointing for balance.

And to improve my endurance I’m going to climb laps of routes that I find challenging but not mega-hard. So that may mean Krista belaying for a little longer as I’ll want to climb a route, get lowered, climb it again, repeat.

I figure if I do all of that then my ability to finish the harder climbs will improve naturally.

Reflecting on Ixta and Orizaba

I’ve been back from Mexico for 10 days now, so it seems like a good time to write down a few thoughts about the trip. Let’s start with the facts.

Fact #1. I summited both Ixta and Orizaba.

Fact #2. The summit was irrelevant. As Steve House said “Climbing is about process, not achievement”.

We had perfect weather, good preparation, a strong team, and three of the best guides on the planet. Despite that, I struggled on Orizaba. Really struggled. And I’m thankful for that struggle. I enjoyed the fact that the outcome wasn’t in any way certain. I’m glad that the experience pushed me. The experience of “running out of ability” has stripped away any complacency or self-deceit I may previously had, and allowed me to understand what I’m capable of. I know with a fair amount of certainty where my limit was on that day, and it was… right in front of my nose. Because of that experience, next time I’ll be stronger.

I’m proud that, although I was surrounded by a safety net of guides and climbers who were (on paper at least) more experienced than me, I felt self-sufficient on both a technical and intellectual level. Yeah, it was good to have so many smiles and supportive words from the others on my rope team, but if there’d been four Matt Caves tied into that rope, we’d have all got to the top. That’s important to me. The desire and motivation to get to the top came from within. The unwillingness to give up came from a genuine desire to climb as hard as I could. Not from fear of failing and definitely not from the guilt of letting my teammates down (although I did discuss the possibility of me not getting to the top with the team). Whatever anyone may say, no matter how close someone may be to me, nobody cares about my successes or failures as much as I do. On hard days like that, I climb purely for myself.

I’m left with two unresolved issues. Firstly I suspect, but don’t yet know, that Heisenberg’s theory may have come into play. Simply by getting close enough to the limit to be able to see where it was, did I move the limit? Was I genuinely at my physical limit, or was I just pushing into previously unvisited areas of discomfort? Time will tell.

The other unresolved question I came away with is this…  Would my sentiments be the same if I’d failed? I think I know the answer, but we’ll have to wait for the next failure to find out.

Update! Mexico Team Summits!

From the IMG news blog and expedition coverage:

We’ve been following their progress on the SPOT Tracker that George is carrying and it looks like our Mexico Team summitted this morning around 5:30am (PST). It’s not official until everybody is down safely but everything seems to be going as smoothly as George anticipated.

We’ll have a full recap after they get down to Puebla and have had a shower and a beer!

Tye Chapman

http://mountainguides.com/wordpress/2010/11/10/mexican-volcanoes/mexico-team-summits/

Needless to say I am thrilled and again, overcome with amazement! There was news that a climber (male) had decided not to go for a summit bid. Obviously they did not mention the climbers name but did state that it was not a health issue.

So.. I say, If it was Matt.. my message to him is – I commend you for making the right decision for you. If it was not Matt my message then would be – HOLY SHIT! YOU DID IT! WOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

If all goes well I should here from him today. One down, ONE MORE TO GO!

General boredom and an update from IMG.

This is what happens when your partner in crime goes away.

I get bored hence I write a lot more on the blog.

Yup.

Blame Matt for this folks.

Perks to this? .. none really. Although my landlords fed me dinner last night. actually delivered me Chili to
my door and it was really good. Im going through our blog quite a bit, reliving some adventures and looking
at some breath taking pictures realising how fortunate we have been this year.
OH and I had the balls to request Barry Blanchard as a friend on facebook .. and he did! *Pause for reaction*

What not to do while your partner in crime is away..

Listen to soppy a*s music and look at the blog and pictures. It does not do you (or me) any good and gets you
all girly, emotional and soppy. Which is nice in doses but I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

Now that my hammy (for those who don’t know Krista language that means my hamstring) has healed up a bit I plan on doing some bouldering this week. Treat myself to a few sessions as now I am going to dedicate more time at the climbing gym!

Great news on Matt! IMG has posted an update on the Mexico Team. Check it out:

http://mountainguides.com/wordpress/2010/11/09/mexican-volcanoes/mexico-team-set-ready-to-climb/

Wishing the team a great climb!

With all this said I think I will call it a night!

My ultimate challenge, running a half marathon.

If you saw me run earlier this year you would think someone was beating the shit out of me. I could barely run 5km and I sounded like some dying animal every time I took a breath.

*Fast forward a few months and a 15km race under my belt*

I will admit. My training for it was not the best. A couple of mid runs, a few short runs and only one long run a week or so before my race. The long run was 18.5 km and I felt pretty good so I figured I could dig deep and throw in the last few kms.

Running your first half marathon is a big deal. Matt is my number one encouraging coach and a chance had come up for him to climb some mountains and it fell upon my run. As much as I wanted him there I thought about it and told him to go for it. We both can do something amazing and celebrate upon his return.

I had my parents, my twin sissy and her husband, Brad there for support. It was an emotional few days to begin with as Matt had left early Saturday morning for his Mexico expedition. I headed up to Markham and started to mentally prepare myself. I was up dressed and forcing a bit of food in my tummy Sunday morning. I was anxious, nervous and pumped. I had some amazing words of encouragement from Matt on my blackberry and my sister was just a pillar of whatever I said went. Brad stretched me out and got me ready.  I actually choked up a few times before the start wishing Matt was there. He was there really. I had certain things he would say would just pop up in my head while I was running along. Kept me going.

The weird thing is, is that the run itself was a complete blur at one point. I don’t remember much from the 12-15km mark. I do remember my friend Ceri, popping up and running with me at 11km and then again at 15km which was just a great boost for me.

18km mark I did well.. but fatigue started to set in. I had to dig really deep and keep pushing myself. My legs could keep going it was my mind that was tired. I got a message from my sister at the 19km mark which choked me up. She said “Look at you! Seriously, look at you! Fucking brilliant! You’re my hero! You can do this – You are blowing everyone away!!!” I just kicked up my pace and went for it and I didn’t stop. I past by Brad whom I didn’t even recognize I was that focused. Saw my dad as I was entering the last 0.5km and gave him the thumbs up. I heard my name being called over the PA there egging me on and one last push and I crossed the finish line.

I did it? I f*cking did it!!! I didn’t even see the woman trying to put the medal around my neck. Medal on my chest and I immediately went to my sister and started crying. I was overcome. Amazed at my accomplishment, amazed at the support from my family, and wishing Matt was there. I could imagine him running the last couple of km’s with me egging me on, pushing me and I just kept crying. a half marathon under my belt before I
turned 30.. and I did it!

The race event had offered breakfast for the runners. YUM. I walked in, smelled eggs and nearly barfed. There goes breakfast. The bananas I took did me just fine. Brad stretched me again after the run. Bath, food, bubbly, and I was relaxing still in shock over what I had just done.

I messaged Matt over blackberry letting him know I finished and my time! if I concentrated really hard I think i could have heard his “WOOOOOOOO” all the way from Mexico City. I don’t think I can even explain the excitement and words that were exchanged between the two of us. What I do know is that we both will have massive smiles on our faces when we next see each other.

What did I learn from this? That basically I have the ability to do whatever I want to do. That sometimes I am stubborn enough to push through mental barriers and push myself to the limit. As well, that I have NO desire to do a full marathon 🙂 21km for now is enough. I now know that I can do this. I will do it again.

For now I will ice my hamstrings and relish in what was one hell of a race and a well deserved medal.