Saturday, 30 May 2009

BACK ON THE CONTINENT

Here I am again on Terra Firma. The weather is gorgeous, sunny but with a cold wind, and I am facing again all the same problems that I left home two weeks ago. I don't think this is the right place to talk about this, suffice to say it's always very difficult to get some climbing. Anyway, the overall Elba experience has been quite satisfying, alot of work naturally, but that's good, and no climbing, and that's not good. The gym managed to keep my head together, I really don't know what I could have done to employ my free time without some iron plates to move around, that made a big big difference. I have learnt that I need to excercise almost every day, and that means climbing, training for climbing or (sadly) pumping iron. I don't find satisfaction anymore in aerobic stuff, I need to use my muscles in a powerful way. Here's a couple of pics of the villa and the garden where my classes were taught.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

CAPITULATION


I give up. I won't try anymore to climb while here. Today I hiked in the woods for almost two hours, while searching a sport climbing crag where I climbed 15 years ago, because I could do some bouldering there.
So, from tomorrow, it will be just weights and weights.
On the way back, while in the car, I received a phone call from my friend Filo, enthusiast about new Amiata discoveries. I am happy and sad at the same time, because I wish I had been there with them.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

NAPOLEON

One week into my island life, a few things needed adjustments, a few others definitely not.
Let's see them. I have a fully conditioned mansarda in the villa, all for myself: wooden beams in the ceiling, nice warm cotto italiano on the floor, I have not worn any proper shoes in a week, since the last time that I went bouldering, and I'll return on this later. Then, I teach three of the four students that are here, and this means alot for me, both in terms of money earnt and, not less important, in terms of trust. On the matter of the teaching, I am realizing what a golden life I live in the Florence school: there I teach young girls (and the random guy), that are a nice company, an even better sight, and most of all are, despite all the difficulties of working au pair while studying, lightning fast to learn.
The drawback of living here now is that two of the students are a grown Austrian couple, and I am experiencing how hard is to teach them. We don't share any common language, and it's very very difficult to make them understand not only the grammar rules, but moreover the structure of the Italian phrases. Anyway it's a good challenge, and when we were at the restaurant yesterday night with the school's director, and they ordered their dinner in a proper, polite Italian (even if a shy one) I was proud. I was even happier when I discovered that my dinner was on the school's expenses, second time in a week. Success.
What needed fixing, as you may have thought, is the climbing. As the most loyal readers may remember, I had been here bouldering in January 2008, and despite the horrible weather I was immediately psyched. A hill covered in granite boulders is something that pleases the boulderer's eyes. So, I was disappointed when my eyes were filled by tears when, on my second trip to the boulders, I found out that the problems that I had done the previous day were the only ones that were doable. In one year the Mediterran vegetation has grown so high and thick that it's now absoultely impossible to get to the bigger boulders. NNFN.
I tried to get to a very nice bit of granite, only to discover that it was going to be a major epic, trying to navigate a steep hill jungle with my two pads (the landings are rough, with rocks all under the main boulders), while also trying not to kill myself in the process. The bushes are thick, sometimes chest high and covered in a strange white foam (WTF?), and sometimes they turn into nasty plants full of pointy thorns. I gave up. When I sat down to drink some water in the +30°, a half centimeter red tick walked through my pad. I went away, thinking about taking my revenge in autumn, when hopefully the bushes will be less in bloom and the temps more gentle. Januay must be perfect, considering that anyway in the shade the bouldering was amazing even if the sun had shone all day long on the red rock. Bliss.
What probably doesn't need much fixing, though, is my climbing. I am enthusiastic. The only day I've climbed I've only done vertical, easy stuff, and it felt great. I dare to say "I was definitely again on my feet!"
I did one other couple of problems, precarious moves around an arete, and really they felt very very good.
So, how do I spend my time now without bouldering? It's very simple, I spend my time playing my bass in the mansarda, and lifting tons of iron in a rusty gym 200 meters from the villa.
A few thoughts about weightlifting and training for climbing.
The major advantages of weightlifting are that you are allowed, if not forced, to admire yourself in the mirrors. Every good pumper knows that the mirrors are to be sure that you are performing the excercise correctly (every good pumper avoids the machines for the free weights), but every good pumper knows that few things are more precious than watching oneself while training and thinking "I am on a good path" or "My inner pecs are a bit underdeveloped compared to the outer ones" or "I am amazing!".
The crossover pumper (the one that go to the gym as a pause from climbing) takes also great pleasure in secretly watching the "real" pumpers' reactions to the crossover pumper feats of strength when training the back muscles. Usually these mute wars of nerves take place at the Pulley, or at the classic Lat Machine. The crossover puller has to avoid Flat Bench competitions and especially Leg Press ones. Oh well...
Finally, again on the matter.
Every time I hit the weights, lately one cycle of 8 or 10 summer weeks every year, I realize how easy weightlifting is compared to training for climbing. All you need is to be concentrated. It's so simple, unidirectional. Even if you're preparing for Mr. Olympia, as complex and severe your routines may be, the only thing you will ever have to do is grab some iron and move it in two directions for a number of reps and sets. Nothing more.
The enormous complexity of climbing, on the other hand, doesn't need to be talked about here. Power, power andurance, endurance; isometric, concentric, excentric efforts; explosiveness, speed, fluidity; technique; dozens of different grips and prehensions; slabs, roofs, overhangs.
Well, for a moment, it's good to kick back and relax. Grab a weight, move it around, have a shower and go for an aperitivo.
Last but not least, a final thought.
I usually need a good night's sleep to feel good the following day, rady to give battle to the world. Let's say at least 8 hours, but 9 is better. In order to achieve this, I usually run on a tight schedule during the working days. Let's say, start to get ready for bed (shower, coffe machine, dresses for the next morning...) at 10 30, in bed at 11, alarm at 7 45. This obviously doesn't live much room for good tv shows, cinemas, concerts, some good books, or a decent walk in the city centre to worship the totty.
Well, some time ago, I stayed up until midnight to watch a film until the end, and when I finally went to bed at 00 40, very very late, I thought "Oh, well I don't care if I'm very tired tomorrow, because I don't have to train nor to climb."
So, in shock I realized that climbing and training are the milestones which I measure my life to.
Love it or hate it, that's how I roll now.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

THE MIDDAY ENLIGHTMENT

I went to take the car, in order to park it closer to home in the usual third row out of the parking spots, and since it was previously parked in front of the gym, my thoughts immediately went to the tape affair.
I finally realized the idiocy of my behaviour.
I had taken for granted that someone had tried my problems, had badly failed, and in an impetus of anger and envy had ripped off the tape. I had also thought that it was meant to be a personal offence to me, made by someone who knew they were my problems.
It didn't dawn to me that maybe someone had seen the problems, had crushed them into tiny bits and judged them not worthy, for example.
Briefly, I realized I'm not the center of the universe, not even of the gym. Noone cares about what I do, what I climb, what I set and what I tape. This is what maybe I dream about: being under the spotlight, being secretly observed, envied and imitated by poor souls who search a model in myself. Well, this is not reality. People look for better models, and even if they don't need models they certainly don't care about me.
I went in and took my tape with the "envy?" writing off. I am happy noone had seen it (the gym was closed) and I am happy I understood something good.
Peace.

FINGERS, SEA, TAPE

Went to the gym yesterday, despite having promised not to, but yes, I've sinned again. I nearly scored my first time on a sport route in years, but the guys were already gone to the crag and a two hours drive on my own just to go and get terrified on a toprope wasn't an interesting option. Next time, though, I definitely want to go, but with the added pleasure of sharing the drive and the usual verbal abuse which is always a good habit.
Then, the gym. I've spent the last three or four sessions setting new problems, and trying or dong them. They are usually hard so I get really tired just by trying the moves and after a few redpoint tries I have to take big rests. So the process is to tweak them, adding one foot or a crucial intermediate, so that I can complete them, and then go back to the original sequence. I found this process very useful, because in completing the problem you get a good motivational boost, and also, more important, you can exactly do every move with the exact amount of effort. You learn the problem, you save energy on every move.
This is, I think, what I lack the most now. As I joke, I often say that I use the same energy on 6a's and on 7c's. Well, it's not that false. When I see The Guru climb, I know that he uses all his body, he has the sensibility to grip the holds just with the minimum power enabling him to hold them, and leaves the rest on the feet. So this should be my aim. Naturally, I fully understand that not moving out of the 60° wall in the last month, this sensibilization process will take a while...
Anyway, now my left ring finger is a bit painful, and I can't blame it. Talking about fingers, yesterday while driving in the traffic, one car cut the way just in front of me, so I honked and waived my hands like the national costume is, only to receive a middle finger from an eight years old girld in the back seat. I wanted to chase the car to tell the lady driver that now she had to step up and take her daughter's responsibility and back her up, but I didn't. One smart thing done. Success.
The vulgarity that youngsters are capable of, is miles beyond anything I could have done at their age. Well, young ones have no respect, seasons have changed, years ago here there were only fields. Stereotypes.
Finally, tape.
I taped the problems that I'd set in the gym, as of late, because they were nice problems and fun to try for the dedicated ones, obviously a bit on the hard side of the scale.
Yesterday I found the tape ripped off, but only until arm height, clearly the use of a ladder to complete the job was too much. So I collected the ripped tape, that was on the ground, I taped it to the wall with a bit of new tape and wrote on the tape "Envy?"
I know a few people in the gym think I am an asshole, but really I don't care. I'd like to know who ripped the tape off, and why. I don't think the gym's owners, because they don't care and they're not stupid. I think someone who knows me. But really, the poorest of lives...

Friday, 15 May 2009

ONE, TWO, THREE, IN THE PLACE TO BE.

Sunday I go to Elba island for two weeks to teach italian.
The school is this:
The swimming pool is this:

Fo' shizzle ma nizzle.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

EVOLUTION

Back in tha day, climbing shoes were noisy.

video

Monday, 11 May 2009

SUPER MARIO!

Well, two hours and maybe some more to get to the Amiata Top are well worth, if every time I go there I have such fun. I really don't know, maybe it's the cool air, maybe the amount of new lines to be cleaned, or maybe it's something else, but it's just great.
Yesterday Fabio was there for the first time, so I gave him the full tour, doing the usual problems with a few new eliminates, like the new established "Super Mario", which is a left hand variation of "Il motorino di Mario". It's a cool little problem, and a deep lock. Going dynamic should give a different idea of the difficulty of the problem, as a bit more of reach should. Anyway if you're curious come here and do it, I like to go static lately, when I can.
After a couple of hours playing around I rested for a while, and then got very psyched to give another go to "Il traverso del cinghiale" while Fabio was trying the short version, so I set off and crushed it with terribly cold hands: the pain that I experienced after the send, was something that will surely remind me to warm up my fingers before a go, after a long rest.
At this moment I was already a bit tired, the previous day's session in the gym was starting to make its presence felt, but after some more rest and alot of chocolate I put the pads under my other project, the one where I still had not done a single move. It felt great, I managed to find a new sequence for the last move (3rd), and crushed it twice in a row. Then I tried the second move which is absolutely hard in the quintessential sense of it, and then I tried the start. Again I fully understood the inner meaning of the world "hard" but, again in a single moment where all the power of the mountain concentrated into myslef and every other form of energy was left down, as after a nuclear blast, I managed to leave the ground, to set my two feet on the rock and to try and execute the move. S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
This is a great great encouragement. I hope the holds won't break (small flakes under a roof) because the moves are absolutely brilliant.
Somehow this project came down from the world of the impossible into the world of the "impossible that one day I could do" (thank you Grimer).
I am so psyched that I really want to go and train today, but I won't. The finger is fine after yesterday, and so it must stay, so no bullshit gym today.
I am at the point at which I feel improvements at every session on rock. Probably I am close to my training potential of the moment, so I think that every small gain that I have indoors have a much bigger spin effect on the rock, where I can't climb that much. While it's ever more difficult to obtain such gains, their reward on rock is enormous and well worth the fatigue.
What else?
Oh, Elba island. Going there next weekend until end of may. Today I had a chat with one other teacher who spends there the entire summer (lucky bastard), and she told me that it's very beautiful, that if I like I can teach my classes outside, in the garden, and that in the afternoon, when I'm finished teaching I can do whatever I want "while the students chill out in the swimming pool".
Whatever I want...
Like chilling out in the swimming pool, for instance.
Enjoy Fabio on "Dolce e caffè" and myself on "Super Mario".


video

Saturday, 9 May 2009

YYFY

The finger is quite fine. Success, maybe taking a huge amount of antiinflammatories and arnica and ice, plus the not serious injury made a good mix.
Talking about mixes, I would really like to treat myself with a nice aperitvo tonight, I may seriously invest 6 euros in a good cocktail teamed with peanuts, chips, slices of pizza, crostini, bruschetta, some pasta, ham and cheese omelette and all the things that it's now good fashion to offer in the good bars.
I should have been in Siena getting drunk with my friends tonight, but I chose to play it safe and stay here and go to the gym. I've almost completely cut the alcohol lately and I'm fine with that, one beer once in a while or a couple of glasses of wine are well enough to get me immediately tipsy.
The gym was deserted, I was all alone and thought how much this sense of dedication makes me feel good. I taped my injured finger and started to warm up. Well, going to the gym in the early afternoon, instead that late evening, does very good to your form; a few other things that also do very good to that, are being saturday, sleeping more and not working. D'oh.
Anyway I did some fingerboarding just to try some tests on good edges, then started climbing. I had plenty of time and that's another great thing. I've found out that the good sessions are: when you have so much time that you can rest, chill out, chat, and in general not to be bothered about said time, or when your schedule is so tight that you motor on with an eye always to the stop watch and another to the clock, like for lunchtime sessions. You get there, you quickly do your thing and you go away.
When you have time but not too much it's not that good though, like when I go to the gym let's say at 6,30 pm. You think you have time, and you do, but then you start being a bit casual with rests, and so on, and you soon find out it's already 9,30 pm and you still haven't done what you wanted and you don't want to stay in the gym 'til 11 pm.
Anyway, I climbed well and did two of my recently set problems, one under the 60° and one under the 45°. I had already done them, but cheating. Yes, cheating. I have set a new rule for my problems, and that is that you can't use the volumes, for example, in compression, or for your feet. Only the holds count. So I did again these two problems without passing through the volumes and they are defo harder. I am very happy. I also got very close to the third one, but at the time I was tired.
Amiata top again tomorrow. Psyched.
Enjoy this stupid video of the session, when you're alone you can be a fool without having to pay any price for it.



video

Thursday, 7 May 2009

SIGH...

A strain to my left ring finger marked the early end of tonight session. Sadly, because the vibes were great, with a good bunch of friends giving their best on each other's problems. Nothing serious, I know, but obviously I immediately got very sad because I couldn't play with my friends anymore.
I resolved to do three series of 4 one armers with some help from one finger, then a few front levers and I came home.
Next sunday should see a big posse head to Amiata Top for some brushing and pulling. I hope to be fully recovered and with loaded guns.
The last note goes to the last idiots that I started to meet during my daily bike commute: these idiots spend the entire winter in gyms, doing lots of cardio and probably spinning, so when the sun comes out in april, they feel the urge to use their dust covered bikes. Sadly they also need to prove, in the streets, that they are fitter than you, and they can go faster. Usually these troglodites sport technical gadgets, like special clips to keep their pants off the chain, or super hybrid bikes, with a road bike frame, big tires, a flat handlebar, super sylicones saddle, 3x7 gears and so on. Their pleasure is in finding another biker, with an average bike sans gears, and a bag on the back, and speed in front of him. Sometimes I am that other biker.
Well, this is what I think about the bike-idiots: you are a sad bunch of idiots, who spend 300 euros a month to go to the coolest gym in town, where you can park your Porsche in a safe place, but you lack the balls to use your transexual bikes in full winter, sun or rain, hot or cold; you come out when spring is fully blown and the totty is sweaty. (Oh I love spring!).
The most pathetic thing, though, is that you may think you are fitter. Ha! on the gym's swedish parquets maybe, on the flat roads of the city centre maybe.
I bet you have never experienced the adrenaline of spendig a near 0° clear february morning going up and down on steep Tuscan hills. Well, I have spent my youth on a bike, and with some dedication: at 16 I could leg press 135 kilos.
Therefor, you idiots out there, beware. I can still kick your fatty ass out of the saddle.
Here's to the totty, anyway.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

AS PROMISED...

Don't expect too much, it's just a chronicle.

video

THE SEED IS PLANTED

Thursday night I entered the gym and was instantly caught by a heavy depression. I wanted to be elsewhere, possibly on my van, speeding north towards Ticino. It wasn't to be, so I tried not to whine too much and to send my problems. Well it wasn't to be either. The only satisfaction came from a few good tries and from the fingerboard, where I found out I can still crank a bit. I am very happy because in the past winter I managed to almost reduce to zero the difference between my left arm and right one., at least in terms of finger power. My shoulder feels fine and I can try and train one armers again I think.
Anyway, saturday I climbed in Sasso, all alone, in very good conditions. I had the boulders entirely for myself, and I had lots of fun. I started feeling lethargic and heavy, plus I found out I developed a bit of a strain in the back of both knees from extreme heel hooking, so naturally I chose to try two problem that include hard heel hooks. I repeated "Spigolo Calibani" third try, then I moved up the hill and repeated,third try, also "Fagiano Seduto", a nasty nasty problem that I seldom repeat. So, in this less than a hour of playing the crusher I did a 7c and another 7c/+. Happy, I drove home, where I lately found out, quite to my surprise, that my knee injuries had somehow misteriously gotten worse.
Yesterday I went to Amiata top, where, trying to fight the rain, I destroyed the traverse of last saturday, first go. Obviously I had to skip the heel hook that could have helped the final part, and sent it with the original drop knee. Success.
After that, a quick sandwich gave me the energy to finally embark in my next project. The boulder is beautiful, the holds small and the moves are brutal. It will be hard. I brushed just the excess dust away and tried the first move:it's hard but steady. Then it's darkness. A darkness of ghosts, of shadows who can lock off a small two finger pocket, swap feet on poor footholds, and cross through with the left hand to a crimp,then lock it and get another crimp right hand, to gain other long, powerful moves. Oh it's so beautiful, shame a bad landing makes it quite hard to try it on my own.
Soon I should post some footage of a few problems and of the potential of the place. Rest today, train monday.