Sunday, 10 April 2016

SON OF S.A.M.

With the powers granted by all the fucks that I don't give about what's going on in the climbing world, thereunto enabling me, I hereby officially command that the Board season be considered over, and as a consequence I order that the Summer of S.A.M. commence, where S.A.M. stands for "Singles, Anabolism, Metcon". 
Getting the front two crimp I immediately feel that something's wrong. And I refuse to admit it. I refuse to admit it because I have convinced myself that today I am going to climb one last project before the arrival of Spring and high temps. I mean, higher temps. After one week with up to 26,5° a sudden couple of cloudy, rainy days have given me renewed hope. I've been struck by luck and I must take advantage of the bitch. 
I have slept until late after a very tiring week, I have eaten well and I have done my usual, loyal general warm up routine. Then it's time to awake the fingers. Big slopers, 35°, big rungs back3, big rungs front3, small rungs back3, small rungs front3, small rungs front two crimps, one arm the incut rung. Fingers are ready. Time for some recruitment. A dumbbell complex with low reps, at full speed, is followed by some cleans and some snatches. The speed is there. Time to rest. I am ready. "One shot, one kill." I say to myself as I leave the ground for yet another moment of glory. 
That's why, when I feel the crimp, I refuse to believe my sensations. I start sliding off and I barely make the second move. I crimp the motherfucker out of the hold, cut loose (I mean, seriously, what the fuck? I thought the times of cutting loose were over!) and in disbelief fuck the feet sequence, then, like a hippo rolling in the mud, I try to get the next hold and I'm on the mats. 
Jesusfuckingchrist, this is shit. I am shit. I am a shame for climbing. 
Maybe 21° are still a bit too many for this project, that I've trying for a couple of years now, and for the last 8 weeks... 
I keep my calm, because I know that on this planet there's only one thing that's stronger than my body, and it's my mind. 
I go through all the moves, sometimes sticking them, some others not. 
I rest. 
I feel, with complete sureness, that liquid chalk is a disadvantage in these conditions. It forms too thick a layer on the skin, and that's why I slid off. Temps aside. 
I start again. This time, it's one shot and one kill. Not. But I make it to the third move. Moving in the right direction. Keep moving. I feel strange sensations when moving my feet, time to check the shoes. The soles are dented. Session after session the footholds - despite being slightly rounded - consume the sole in the same exact spot, and after some time a dent appears. And it changes everything. Out comes the file, and as I've done dozens of times, I start filing the dent out, cleaning all the small ridges in the rubber, making everything smooth and level. 
"One shoot, one kill." Bang. I get to the last move of the crux and fall with numb fingers. Excellent. This was my personal best on the problem during the past weeks, with perfect temps. Numb fingers mean switch fan from 3 to 1. Rest. 
Everything goes as programmed, I am a machine. I execute perfectly, not a single hesitation, I am static, strong motherfucker. But the last move is hard. 
Three more times I get to the last hard move, maybe the hardest of the problem. And three more times I don't manage to seal the deal. 
I keep trying until I feel that I have no more chances. The season is over. I set the last move with a different hold, a generous 2 cm finger jug, and I immediately fire the problem as a consolation tick. But the season is over. 
I feel that I've done everything I could, to climb it. But it simply was too hard, at least for the day. Attaboy. Boy done good. 

At the end of the Summer, last year, I decided that I would dedicate myself completely to the Board during the Autumn and Winter. I decided that I wouldn't set any new problem until I'd done all the existing projects. What a great decision it was. The real thing. 
I stuck to my program and went through many projects that I'd set in the past years, and methodically climbed them one by one. I found myself stripping some holds that I had added when the original sequences seemed impossible, and I found myself climbing those problems as I had set them years and years ago, when my imagination was limitless and I didn't care about doing them. It was all about the perspective, all about the future. This future became real, and moves that I had imagined became moves that I was performing. 
And it's all about this. Nothing else. Getting to know that with some time and dedication, I can climb stuff. Nothing else. 

I became particularly bitter and cynical about the "climbing world" as of late. Many of the things that I read seem to me incredibly ridiculous, and I feel surrounded by attention-seeking behaviours of all kinds. Problem is: I know everything. I know when people cheat, I know when people use grades to belittle others, I know hypocrisy and I know envy. 
I would have never imagined it, even few years ago, that one day I would have felt so far away from "mainstream" climbing, and at the same time so happy about my climbing and my attitude. 
The Board. The Beastmaker. The Iron. Just these. So happy. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

ICONOCLASM

I've been thinking about this thing for years now, and maybe it's time for me to get rid of it by sharing my thoughts. Maybe I find out that I'm not alone. 
As it's easy to imagine, I've spent quite a lot of time in climbing gyms during the last ten or fifteen years. 
It seems to me, that many Italian climbing gyms suffer from a very clichéd behaviour. 
The usual pattern, at least for the gyms that I've regularly been to, is that a strong climber at some point decides to open a gym, or to go and work somehow at an existing gym, maybe setting, maybe coaching. 
Let's not take into account, for the purpose of this post, the not so irrelevant aspect that many of the guys who do this aren't qualified neither to set nor to coach. I mean, officially and legally qualified. Like, they attended a course, passed some sort of evaluation, got a qualification. 
Let's not take into account that many simply apply to others the kind of training that worked for themselves, without reflecting over the circumstance that they may have been training for decades and are not novices that want to go from 5c to 6b. 
Let's overlook this all. 
What always left slackjawed, is the fact that, in the gyms that I know well, there is always a star, a leader that all the climbers worship. 
I am always shocked by how everyone seems to be needing a boss to which refer, and whose words are thought to be taken as absolute truth.
I've seen things, that you people wouldn't believe. Groups of beginners destroying themselves on a campusboard for hours and weeks on end, because the rock star gave them a training plan. 14 years old, 40 kilos talents ripping their muscles with weighted pull ups, because the rock star wanted to test their strength level before coaching them. Groups of 10 novices following the rock star like dumb prisoners, each one with a crashpad on their shoulders, as the leader tries all day his dangerous projects, brushing a couple of rocks nearby to make the children play when off spotting duty. 
I've heard every kind of amazed, adulatory and self depressing comment about the leader: "I'll never be as strong as he is." "He could be in the national team if he wanted." "Only he, can climb this." and so on. 
I despise this servility. 
A strong climber that operates in your gym, is just that. He's not a leader, a life guru, or someone to worship. He could be someone to admire, if he deserves it, and when he deserves it. 
I wonder why these people always need a chief. 
To me, climbing has always been about the highest form of individualism, a radical behaviour that follows the rule that you are always alone on the rock. You may be tied to another person, but when climbing, you're alone. You're alone because you only have the responsibility of your own actions, and of the consequences that those actions can have on the other person. 
We are always alone on the rock: if we want to kick down a rock, we can do it; if we want not to clip into the bolts, we can do it. Because we are alone and no one can stop us. But if the rock falls on the head of someone, or if a nasty fall puts everyone at danger, it's only our fault. There's no sharing in climbing, there is only putting together small bits of individual effort. We share the experience, but not the climbing. 
This individualism was immediately evident to me, because before starting climbing, I'd always participated in team sports. 
All I knew was that everyone was stronger than me, everyone was better than me, and that I wanted to become stronger and better than all those people. 
My friends and everyone who was stronger than me, were more targets than role models. I copied what they were doing, maybe even their attitude, but only to have an easier target to destroy.
They were still friends and brothers in real life, though.
Even now, despite struggling to stay attached to the sport with everyday's life committments, I have no gods, no leaders, no models. 
There is a huge difference between esteem and idolatry; between matter-of-factness and self-deprecation. 
I don't know what people like in this attitude. Maybe it's because they think that some of the leader's golden dust will rub on them. Maybe it's because they like to shine with mirrored light. 
In doing so, they accept and embrace mediocrity, because they accept that they will never be as good as their duce, their leader, their god. They could progress, but... they will never be like him. Or her. 
I would like that these people kill their idols. 
I would like that they shine of their own light, strong or feeble, but theirs. 
I would like that they say: fuck you I'm not spotting you all day and carry your pads. 
I would like that they take the risk of wanting to get stronger and better that anyone else, or at least as strong and as good as humanly possible for them. 
But no, for them it's better to be part of a crew. It's better to hide behind a star and be happy to be their friend, their follower, their crashpad caddy, their belay slave.   
I don't even want to spend a word about the other side of this Janus' mask. The Leader, the Guru, the Star. 
Jesus fucking Christ, guys. Get a fucking grip. Have some dignity. 
Be great, be shit, but be yourself and not a pale face in the crowd of worshippers. Become your own god. Become your own model. Become your own target. 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

USUAL START OF THE YEAR POST. OR NOT?

It's the time of the year in which we tend to look back and do our math.
I was going through a few posts from last year and I bumped into the concept of sowing and then - hopefully - reaping the fruits. 
Fact is, if you don't sow you can only reap what Nature gives you, you have no choice. And Nature could also give you nothing. Or very little. And this very little could be reaped by others. So, you'd better sow. 
I kept sowing throughout the whole past year, and it's been oh so fun! 
I had never thought I could still take such a great pleasure in training. The weights. The Iron. Man, the Iron. It's so good, and it can do so good to you. I'm a bit bored about sharing all the details, about going on for ages on why you should sprint, hip-hinge, jump, snatch, etc. I still read about people training for sportclimbing by swimming, or cycling, and I'm fucking bored. I still read about people trying to lose weight by intermittent fasting, or keto-diets, without thinking for a split second in terms of quality of the weight you lose, of body composition, of relative strength, of fat-loss instead of weight loss, and I'm fucking bored. All the info we need to get smart training, at least under my perspective, that is the perspective of a nearly 44 year old male obsessed with strength, is out there. Feed the wolf that you want to grow stronger. 
Anyway, during last year, I not only rediscovered the Iron under new forms, I also found that I could devote myself to The Board even more. After a boiling Summer that I spent doing all the above mentioned, one day I took the decision that I was not going to set any new problems on my board, until I had climbed all the existing projects. 
It's been so far a great choice. A foolish choice, but a foolishly right one. 
I realized that I had the perfect bouldering right there, at a 5 meters walk from my kitchen.
I had projects that really intrigued me, with idiotic sequences made only to be at the exact limit for that problem. I found myself climbing projects that I had been trying on and off for years and it's been great. It's been stressful, also, like on rock. Hard projecting, or siegeing, is a mental task. To climb one particular problem that I had set more or less three years ago, I had to keep trying just that single problem for four weeks, four sessions a week. If you do the math, it's quite easy to see that, had it been on rock, with me being able to climb outside no more than once a week if I'm lucky, it would have been impossible. Not to mention weather conditions, driving, and so on. 
I completely abandoned the idea of being a climber, I fully embraced the idea of being a trainer, and I found that I've never lived climbing so happily. 
It could seem trivial, but really dedicating all my time to the board is at the same time an extraordinary relief and stress. 
I walk by my board dozens of times every day. It's always there. The projets are always there. It is always dry, and with fans and air conditoning I can make conditions perfect for most of the year. The holds are always grippy. Basically, you can only stick at it, put the hours in, and perform when it's time. At the same time, the only way to climb a new thing is to get better and stronger. You have no excuses. There are no techy escapes, you can't change anything. It's great really. After a couple of specific projects that I climbed with a lot of dedication, I needed to take one week off from climbing, because I was mentally exhausted. Now tell me, who needs rock when you can get stressed in the comfort of your home? 
Eventually, right in the middle of this new way of living climbing, I found myself on rock. 
Eventually, I also found myself climbing some old projects and opening a few new lines. 
Eventually, I had a lot of fun and satisfaction. 
The first post of 2015 was about two lives that I had lived and also about a beautiful trip to Cresciano. This first post of 2016 is also about a trip to Cresciano, in the very same days of my last visit one year ago. 
I had my sights on two problems, and the magnificence of my failure has been, well... magnificent. I barely tried one being stopped by a move that I judged morpho and reachy, before reminding myself that shorter climbers than me had iced it. Blame the glassy holds and feet... 
But when a door is closed, often a window is opened and I saw that window open and got in. Switching from glassy holds and heel-hooks to clean, crimpy holds and feet, I immediately felt that a new love was born. 
On the second day of the trip, I behaved well and saved my skin and muscles. I climbed the classic "Un Uomo Un Perché", a beautiful and hard 6a. I rested a lot and then found a nice one move wonder to the right of "Slopey Traverse" called "Dragon Fly Power", 7b. It was a great feeling to find myself on top of a new problem for once. 
So we went to the sector where we all had our projects. The athmosphere was great and I was happy and ready. On my third go I climbed "Frankie Minchia" 8a+. And I had and have no words to describe it. 
Riding on the wave of this unexpected success, on my last day we went to Chironico where, after a few tries and after saying "There is no way I am going to do this move!" I climbed "Vitruvian Man" without the chipped hold. 
Bliss. 
Sow. Be patient. Reap. 
There you go, a year. 
I really think that only by getting rid of rock climbing I can now enjoy rock climbing. I know what I can do with the right time and the right conditions. I know that when I complain about greasy holds and soft skin, it could be an excuse but often it's not. I know that I am just a trainer, a board climber at best, and that I need to be lucky to climb on rock. 
In the meanwhile, I started sowing again. 
Pics now.