Wednesday, 13 February 2019

IN WHICH THE AUTHOR NARRATES ABOUT ELBOWS, KNEES, IRON AND SEQUENCES

First of all, the news. 
One year has passed since my last post, that was about my elbow injury, and my toe injury, but also about The Iron, The System, The One Arm Hangs. 
Things more or less kept going that way for months and months, with the joyous monotony - or monotonous joy - of constant progress through The Grind. 
A sudden change happened under the form of a message from no other than Keith, Unclesomebody himself, announcing his months-long roadtrip with wife, 3 years old daughter, and 4 months old daughter. Priorities, you know. We agreed to meet in Val Daone.
With my medial epicondilitis giving small signs of capitulation, I thought I'd better pull my finger out, if I wanted to keep the slightest form of climbing dignity in front of Keith. The thought that I had been out of the game for almost one year, injured, and with a total of four climbing days in more than two years, remained confined to the deepest recesses of my mind. 
Dedicating myself to front-on lock offs on the system, one day, I felt a sudden blade through the medial side of my right knee. 
I quickly stopped the session. Well I didn't, but I switched to side-on lock offs. My knee swelled a little, and four days later I was climbing - or at least trying to - in Val Daone with Keith. 
I managed to climb something, but the real joy was being in a beautiful place, with beautiful rock, with beautiful people. 
Of course I am kidding. 
It was a nightmare. 
Of course I am kidding again. 
It felt really good to be moving on rock again, despite being taped up and clad in neoprene supports as if we were in one of those XXX movies. 
Keith showed no sign of the 10 years passed since the last time we met, in the Dolomites, with James. 
He flashed everything up to 7c and made well clear that some things and some people never change. 
I came back home to The Iron and The Edges, and my knee started improving. 
On an unforgettable day, months after, I realized that I had started forgetting about my right elbow. Fucking bingo. It was over. For almost one year, every fucking morning, upon washing my face, I would feel a sharp pain going from my elbow down through my forearm. Every fucking morning, as the very first fucking thing in the fucking day. A fucking reminder. Now I could start forgetting.
I could finally answer the board call with a light spirit. And a heavy body...
Fast forward a few weeks and I am at some friends' house, playing on the ground with my girlfriend's niece, Caterina. After kneeling down for a few minutes I stood up, and immediately felt something wrong. The following morning it was still there, that ugly sensation of having a tender, swollen and injured knee. 
You guessed it: I had broken my right medial meniscus. 
This story is quite short, I sacked completely the board (I can't pull with my right leg) and kept ironing things out, with some deadhanging and some system boarding using just my left leg. You gotta do what you gotta do. 
Now I've signed for the surgery and am waiting to be fixed. 

All the above has nothing to do with the real reason of this entry, which is the following. 
A few days ago I watched a video that made my eyes bleed. 
It was about a young hotshot "repeating" one of my problems. 
In order to do this, he used all the holds of my problem, and all the holds of the nearby problem. Then he obviously commented on the grade with smugness. 
Now then. 
Leaving aside all the possible discussion about eliminates, one thing really bothers me. People aren't interested in knowing what happened before them. And they aren't interested in knowing if their opinion could be right or wrong. 
Every problem I've put up in the last 26 years, have independent holds. 
So, my proposed grades takes this factor into accout. 
It's quite natural to me to act like this, because if you use the same holds of another problem, the second one ceases to be a different, independent problem. 
Moreover, I love sequences. 
I love to search the way of getting to the top of a small rock using independent holds, and as few of them as possible. I have applied this principle - of using only independent holds - not only to my first ascents, but to every problem I've ever climbed or tried to. Call me a fanatic bastard, an eliminate lover, call me what you like, because I don't care.

People are obviously free to use whatever they like, to get to the top. In the end, if they're weak it's not my problem. 
But, since they like to comment about grades with the presumptuousness of having The Grading Truth, they should get some info beforehand. 
Si parva licet componere magnis, I would like to tell a story that I think explains my thought. 
Years ago, a young, strong climber, started repeating all the old, hidden problems in the 7c+/8a range, put up by Fred Nicole in his home areas decades before. 
He then started commenting that the grades given by the man himself were soft. "How dare you?" surged a sudden protest from the climbing community.
Informed about the issue, Fred was interviewed about it. Being the person he is, he calmed the fuss and said: "Well it could easily be that my grades feel soft. That's probably because I'm not very good at finding sequences, and because, with those problems, I would simply see them and give them just a quick brush. Then I did them all flash or second go, so probably my sequences weren't very refined." 

Now, I am not Fred. But the principle remains. 
I think that when someone wants to make a statement, they should know what happened before them. 
It's quite easy to find every possible information about everything on the interner nowadays, so the question is: do people really want to know what happened before them? 

















Friday, 12 January 2018

A CLASSIC TALE, OR: WHAT YOU SHOULDN'T DO, OR: WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Yesterday I received a comment from my friend Martin Keller, a.k.a. The Silent Crusher, a modest - really, not in the hypocritical way of Jens Larssen of 8a.shit - guy with a regular job, who happens to boulder 8c. 
He complained about the lack of updates over here, and he was right. 
So, here's the news: the news are that I spent a lot of time with straight arms.

My last post was a gloomy one, with the black aura of lack of motivation and psyche looming over me. "Could be worse!" I should have thought. "Could be raining!" 
And rain it did. Not in Young Frankenstein's sense, alas I wish it were. 
A few months of weighted pull ups on a 1,5 cm edge suddenly took their toll under the form of a light niggle on my medial left elbow. 
"FUCK YOU LIGHT NIGGLE!" I smartly yelled, and proceeded to put in a good ol' one arm, back3 session on the incut BM rung. Boy did it hurt me. 
"FUCK YOU TOO, TWAT!" the light niggle yelled back at me, only now it wasn't a light niggle anymore, it was a green monster with eyes full of destruction. 
Cutting my losses I decided to avoid one arm sessions for a while, but my board project was waiting, and I thought it was a good idea to stick at it. Beautiful moves on front2 crimps and the compulsory Hubble-style match on a left hand undercling quickly let to big progress, of the green monster. He morphed into something like the Red Hulk, or maybe a cross between The Hulk and Silver Surfer: something everpresent and omnipotent. 
In just a month and a half I understood that board session were to be sacked. I'm surprised it didn't take me longer to get this complex axiom. 
I obviously stuck to the Iron. 

Session after session I learnt what was good and what was bad. Regular curls? Bad. Hammer-grip curls? Good. 
I took out my copy of Jim Wendler's 5-3-1 and applied its principles to my weight training. I bought an Olympic barbell that is a work of beauty. 220 cm and 20,2 kg of pure, shiny steel. I bought some more plates and started snatching and power cleaning. 
This is me repping 66 kg for 8. 




Ugly, I know, but just five minutes earlier, when doing recruitment jumps, forgetting that I had basic, hard soled shoes on, I landed badly on my right toe smashing it on the concrete floor. It hurt. It's now well blue and swollen. Oh well... 
One day I also found out that, if I keep a straight arm, I can also deadhang. FUCKING BINGO! 
So I went back to my trusty edges, the good ol' 9 mm and the freshly made, oldschool 5 mm. 
I found out that I can one arm hang the 1,5 cm edge, just barely with my left hand; with some kilos added (can't remember how much, I think 5) with my right. I set a PB of 5" on the 9 mm edge with 40 kg on, and did 5" on the 5 mm with 10 kg on. 


I aptly bought some Frictionlabs Unicorn Dust chalk.
Of course, I couldn't neglect body tension. I hit the ab-wheel hard, switching from power session to endurance ones with 2 sets of 50 or one monster set of 100. On the system board, I firstly regained confidence, then - with temps dropping - I went back to testing myself again. I worked hard on the full crimp with great benefits. 
Before hurting my toe, I was also doing foot on campusing with front and back3, front2 and mid2. Life is beautiful. 
Of course, my elbow still hurts a bit, but less than before, and in the meanwhile I got stronger. 

There you go. 
Take home lesson: you shouldn't be stupid. You should be smart. You shouldn't injure yourself. You should train around your injury.















Thursday, 24 August 2017

HOW THINGS ARE: A REALIZATION

2017 had started in a very good way. On a freezing and sunny early January's morning, I found myself going to a new, for me, bouldering area. Eyes on the prize, I managed to climb a 7c in a few goes and split a couple of fingers. With a migthy 4° in full sunshine and a crimpy roof, things do not come much better. 
Fast forward a few months, in April I had climbed a four years old board project, something that I had sometimes thought I would never climb. Four years trying a problem that played to all my strengths, mean that it's probably quite hard and I felt it like a monumental achievement. Possibly the hardest thing I've ever climbed. 
Then I made a mistake. I went back climbing. High temps, baby skin, lower back pain and other trivial excuses couldn't make up for a generally terrible climbing experience. 
I repeated this mistake again and again until this past weekend, after which I decided to face the cold, hard truth: I have come to the end of my rock climbing career. 
I have an enormous desire, a need perhaps, to perform. Possibly, to outperform others in terms of strength and power. But mostly to outperform my own self. I've come to this moment thinking that I would keep progressing despite age, work committments, injuries. And to some extent I have, but simply not on rock. 
There is a gap, between what I can physically do in a safe environment, and what I can climb on rock, that is embarassing. 
But most that anything else, I feel that I've come - close - to the end of my physical potential. 
Two of my best weapons, that have granted me so many climbs, that is crimping and heel hooking, are no more such. 
Crimping has become quite hard to bear, and at times unbearable. My fault, obviously. You can't spend session after session on front2 full crimps on the small BM edge without being handed a pricey bill at some time. Not if you're 45 years old, anyway. After boning down on some proper crimps, the upper side of my index fingers DIP joints gets so painful that it hurts to do simple, everyday's life tasks like using a fork or a knife, or twisting a car key. It is frankly terrifying. I think that, simply, the connective tissue between the bones has gone. 
Heel hooking has become nearly impossible, for both the state of my knees and of my hamstrings. After a couple of serious heel hooks I start to limp, the pain becomes unbearable and I feel that, should I push on, something big and serious is going to break for good. After yesterday's heel hooking - four tries in total - today I can't bend my right knee past 90° without feeling a stinging pain and without the knee collapsing down. 
Luckily, as I said, I can still perform: only, in the safe environment of my board, where heel hooks are impossible. Full crimps are still a problem though. 
I need to get familiar with the fact that I can't climb hard on rock anymore. 
I have my board, my BM, my various one arm edges, the Lattice Edge and so may other toys to enjoy. And I can enjoy them at their full potential, with a long and boring warm up, fans and air conditioning to make the best of the given conditions and a plethora of paraphernalia that I simply can't have out there on ze rocks. 
Plus, physical problems aside, I don't know how to climb anymore. I've never been Mr. Technique, but fuck me, now things are ridiculous. I lost any movement fantasy and intuition, and all my climbing skills are: plant foot on small foothold; become a steel beam; get next positive hold. I can't move on anything else. 
I get frustrated if I can't climb hard. And I don't like it. 
It's been good, even great, until it lasted. 
In the past, I had already understood that I was mainly a board climber and a trainer, but then I've had some good success on some hard things and this led me to think that maybe it wasn't over yet on rock. 
I was wrong. 
Climbing hard on rock now would involve so many complicated things that it's basically impossible: from the choice of a suitable problem, to the time to try it, to getting good conditions, to motivation. 
I am a bit sad, but not so sad. 
As long as I can climb, or keep trying, my board projects, progress on the dead hangs and move big amounts of iron, I am happy and I feel that I still have a lot to give. 
I can now dedicate my full self to the most useless pursuit of Strength.