Monday, 30 May 2011

LOOKING WITH NEW EYES

WARNING: this entry is long. The short version is: I found out some of my old problems are hard; I found a new connection under The Roof (my own private Parisella's) and I started training again. On the other hand if you feel confident enough to challenge my writing obsession, prepare yourself a big cup of tea, take a big bag of cookies and dive in my mind. Thank you anyway.

One of the (many, I know, and I'm a bit sorry for that) things that I complain about on this blog, is the lack of reference in terms of the difficulty of what I try or climb. This is the problem of climbing on one's own and opening new problems in areas that are seldom visited. Everyone has experienced this, I'm sure, even the big names. There's a line from this video that keeps resounding in my mind: just because something feels hard, it doesn't mean it is hard. Blimey, if James says so, I'd better believe it.
So, I drive a couple of hours, I brush a problem, I struggle on it, then after x tries or days of effort I do it, and I am clueless. I mean, I can probably tell if it's in the 6th grade or in the 7th, but not much more.
So, when my problems get some attention, I'm always glad and afraid at the same time: glad because it's like being a proud father when something yours is appreciated, and scared because if something is easy and felt hard that's not good. The much feared downgrading is always behind the corner, and sometimes it's used to establish a hierarcy between the persons, not between bits of rock. I already blogged about this here.
These past two weekends, the Amiata blocs have seen the appearence of a strong team of pullers, tearing the problems apart. I am very glad because my lines are appealing, as it seems by the number of repetitions they get, and because what felt hard is not really easy.
The problems I've put up in the various sectors in the last two years are in the Font 7b/7c+ range and that's not bad after all.
One other thing that is sometimes hard to accept is being crap at finding beta. I never seem to be able to pick the easy sequence, and this clearly makes a chaos. But when a problem gets five repeats and none with your sequence, you're an idiot, but a proud one. The battle is my battle against myself: there's no one else in it. It's an endless battle, I cannot win and I cannot lose unless I give up: a thing that I just don't do. The battle in itself is the aim.
Finally, I have to take some serious rest. My sciatic nerve is still causing problems, my calf is painful and my thigh and heel are still a bit numb: not good. I have climbed a lot on this injury, and despite being happy about it, I clearly asked too much from my body. I need to recover before starting the summer training. This is being postponed because I kept climbing, but I also kept spending far too much time in my car, driving. In some of the past weeks I have been to Amiata three or four times a week, and each time means almost 300 km of Tuscan roads. It's tiring and very costly also. I can't do it anymore, I have to select few, good climbing days: just like past Sunday with my visiting friends. I climbed for a full day (a rarity nowadays!!!) repeating many problems, included some harder ones.
The amount of energy I can obtain for a group of nice, happy and psyched friends is enormous. It's incredible.
I have to thank my friends for this: they came and they appreciated my problems, even if short, lowball, or eliminates. One of my closest friends commented that one problem was "a new world", and he defined me "a purist with a British vision"!!!
So, I can look back at things I have done years ago with new eyes: our past is not a prison of things set in stone; it can be understood under new perspectives; it can be interpretated and reshaped. It cannot be cancelled of course, but we can learn and we can get rid of the bad bits of it.

Then: after one week off and a period generally focused on climbing with no structured training in it, I am back to the program. I have a short term goal and a long term one. Plus another one in the middle.
I need to build up some serious power endurance, to climb my two projects, that are in the 15/20 moves range. I have another project, a short one of just 5/6 moves, but I think that it will benefit from this kind of training, because there's a good amount of pure power training in, as you ma see if you analyze closely the picture.

So yesterday I found myself under the roof again, this time to do laps on the easier lines. I took the chance to refine my sequence for the project, finding a way to avoid the cut loose and subsequent swing out left once gotten to the jug that marks the start of the hard bit. Promising.
Anyway yesterday I had the worst conditions I've ever found there in 10 years: it was literally suffocating. The previous days' rain had completely saturated the air and the total lack of an ventilation forced me to go down the final step of madness, taping my battery powered fan to the roof to cool down a crucial pinch, as the picture shows. It worked. Madness pays off.

Anyway it was a hard session: I started sweating from the first lap and didn't stop even during the long rests. I had to do 4 laps of a chosen line, for 4 sets. I decided to try the 7b+/c sequence that Keith put up years ago, but then found something new: I found out it's possible to connect the new project's start with all the hard part of the 7c!!! YES COME ON ANOTHER LITTLE PROJECT!!! It's something around 7c/+ into 7b+/c. I have no idea of what it translates into, but it's cool and hard. Paranoically I thought I was going to do it first go, but I was so far from the mark!!! Just the project's start felt very hard and I could not climb the new line, but I decided to use this new problem as the first lap of the 4. Wow, what an error!!! It's too hard for even one go, and this left me very tired for the following three goes on the 7c. Obviously I could not complete any of these goes, but I stepped back on immediately after falling and kept going to the top.
A 30 minutes rest passed in a breathe and I had to go again. This time I nearly completed the new line, only to slide off from the crucial heel placement (having my heel still a bit numb from the sciatica didn't help): it's hard, I reckon 7c+/8a. Whatever.
This second set passed again and it felt better, despite my aching skin (Antihydral next time!!!) and my forearms the size of a Zeppelin. Again I did not complete any of the goes in a oner but I think that's exactly the point here: going beyond complete failure and fatigue.
Another 35 minutes, another cup of coffee, supplements, and heavy heavy breathing. A rain storm was loudly approaching.
This time I decided to stick to the chosen problem from the first go, without trying the new project and it paid off: despite being at the 9th go I crushed it, then I almost did it again on the following go, but didn't managed to get to the top of the problem on my third go. It was clearly time to go home!!!
What did I learn from this session? Firstly that I enjoy so much this shit that I probably am REALLY nuts; secondly that for my projects four goes on this line are too much. The problem I used is 12 moves long; 4 laps make 48 moves, more than twice my projects; I know that now I rest when I jump off the top of the problem and I crawl back under the roof to start again, but I am afraid that it's too much volume that hinders the power aspect in the hard moves of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th go; moreover, I was totally empty after the 3rd of the 4 originally planned sets. So, from next session I will do three laps for four sets: that will pack up still 36 moves, with hopefully still a high emphasis on power. A quick talk with The Guru tomorrow will be necessary.
So this is it. On a final note: I found a nightmare on the road back, a hell of a storm, to which this small video doesn't do justice.

video

Well, if you've made it to this point, without throwing the pc out of the window or cursing the author, give yourself a pat on the back, accept my thanks and gratitute and enjoy the rest of your life until the next time I'll steal your time from it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

CLIMBING IS FUN!!!

Last Saturday I went climbing. Climbing is fun!!! It's so different than waking up at 6 am then spending hours trying a project. When simply climbing, I felt free again. I didn't know perfectly every move, I didn't know how exactly every move should feel: how hard, how painful; every move, even on problems I have done hundreds of times, felt new and I was curious again. I was even free to fall, free to forget my coffee, free not to drink accordingly to the nutritionist's advise, free to be amatorial. Not that I did it, I behaved as professionally as I could, but I was free not to.
Still, I miss the battle. I enjoy the battle.
On Monday afternoon I was so charged that I wanted to pop up at the wall and check out the 45° wall that they have built. Luckily I phoned The Guru before, and he informed me that the new wall is very smartly kept with no holds on. After knowing this I still wanted to go to the wall, but since I didn't manage to find neither a flame thrower nor an axe, I didn't go. I ended up in a dark garage, with a small 45° board peppered with holds that all face the wrong direction and a Beastmaker.
You don't need much more to have a great session.
Despite climbing well on rock, I don't feel very strong as of late, and some water retemption from my - very light to be honest - creatine supplementation, contributes to make me feel a bit fatty and weak. Not all is true, and although I'd like to be ripped and to lose some fat, I still want to concentrate on training at the highest possible intensity. We will see.
At the end of the session I tried a couple of tests on the Beast: one success and one failure, as the videos below show.
I will visit Amiata in the weekend, with hopefully a new sitter added to an old problem. The idea for the summer is: get strong and climb hard (d'oh!), not necessarily in this order.


video
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

SATISFACTION

In the pic, the sunset from my little green room.

I wonder which kind of person I really am. It seems to me that I am a calm and patient guy, I don't like stress and I am not aggressive.

Despite all the above, instead of simply taking the joy of having reclimbed the roof in all its length, adding the first two moves at the beginning of this year, and leaving it in peace forever, I put myself into situations like this one, in which I get very stressed, I am under pressure and I become very aggressive. I always raise the level of my committment, and this, apparently, collides with what I think my true nature is.
So, in one of these excalations in tension, Monday afternoon I got home at 4 pm, I took the van and drove to the project. I got there very late due to a traffic jam, which didn't help my relax, and started warming up with just some light left. I was tired, but kept going, it wasn't too hot because now the trees have leaves on, and they shelter the problem from the sun, creating a nice little green ceiling. I dubbed this athmosphere "The Little Green Room of Madness", and in it I am as comfortable as a man can be. I am at home.
Soon enough I had to take out my head lamp, because it was getting very dark, but despite everything I managed two good goes, in one my right foot slipped off due to lack of core tension, in the second my left one gave up due to an even bigger lack of said tension.
I slept in the van and the following morning, or to be honest just a few hours later, I was there again. I felt very tired. When the alarm went off, all I could think about was to keep on sleeping, and this should have told me something. To be honest, I felt shocked in realizing I was so tired, I shouldn't have been, in my plan. My plan didn't contemplate the fact that it was my third consecutive day on the problem: Sunday morning (another very early start), Monday night, Tuesday morning. My fingers were feeling stiff and my skin ached a bit. I don't want to think what it would have been without Antihydral...
Having some light helped alot, and I went through my usual warm up, that I finish by doing the moves of the problem from the last one to the hard dyno. As of late, on many many attempts, my right heel has peeled off. The placement is awkward, downsloping and polished; when I get there strong, it stays put, but the slightest weakness in my body means I can't keep the tension.
I pressed on and had another very good go: I did the move very well, then I got to the pinch... and my entire body gave up. I was projected down and out, and it was over. My fingers were in pain, and even with good skin, I clearly was so tired that I couldn't move. I packed my stuff, drove like a madman for two and half hours and was at the school on time for my 11 am class.
This problem is hard on your whole body, it squeezes out every drop of core tension you have, all the strength you have in your body. When I fall, I chalk up and go back on, usually being able to complete the sequence: just a small rest on the ground seems to do magic, but doing the whole thing in a oner is a completely different thing. It's a dream come true, being able to perform the dyno after the first ten moves, something that only some weeks ago was still the unridden realm. That's why I am satisfied.
So, I almost did it, but didn't do it.
Now it's very hot, and I really need to give my body some rest. I started having some niggles in my lats, my back is very tired, and last Monday I also managed to compress my sciatic nerve, so despite the antiinflammatories taken, I still have my left calf, heel and back of the thigh a bit numb. 'nuff said.
So I want to take a couple of weeks to cood down, then I will go back on a serious training plan. I want to keep going regularly to the roof during the whole summer, because it's be the best way to keep the feeling, and the closest possible way of training for it, given the dramatic lack of climbing walls here.
So this is it. I am happy, I have improved and I have given my best.
In this video, the images from what you've just read.
Thank you all for the support in the past weeks.


video

Friday, 13 May 2011

BACK TO THE PROGRAM!

In these small videos, courtesy of Ru and John (thank you guys), some great moments on British rock. In the first one, Llanberis Pass. A nice arete on the roadside boulder, and my flash attempt on "Bus Stop". I am very proud of that last one. I was tired, and I chose it because it's shorter than "Jerry's Roof", for which I clearly felt I had no power endurance. It went fine, at first I didn't feel secure on the top out, and on one go I bailed on the move to reach the lip. Neither Ru nor Jim understood why, and to be honest I didn't as well. Ru, wisely, suggested me to climb the top on its own to get comfy on it, but suddenly, before even having a decent rest, I felt that urge growing up inside me, the urge to cut the crap and do the problem.
And so did I. I am very happy because the guys were happy that I had done it properly, and when in being happy you make someone else happy as well, it's just the best feeling in the world.
In the second one Burbage, and "The Terrace": what a nice little gem of a problem!!! It really climbs brilliantly. Another great day, so typical. We got to The Peak only to find mist and fog, but when we went back to check the rocks, the skies cleared up and we were given our chances!!! I really had to dig deep, the previous day I had had a monster session at The Hangar with Tom and Rich, and the final tests on the gym's Beastmaker left me super psyched but also a bit spent!!!
I can still recall the rollercoaster of emotions, after missing the good hold on my best go. Happy for icing the move, and devastated by my punter's mistake. Was I going to be given another chance?

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On another note, after my crazy last weekend, I decided that I had to work more seriously for the project. Despite doing again the moves on last Sunday and climbing the problem in two halves, the first hard move of the original line is still very hard. OK, before I wasn't even close to doing it, and now I have done it three times, but I need to do it again to finally get to the top, so, breifly, I want to get there as strong as I can be. This means only one thing: training.
I went back to the Beastmaker, doing two very close sessions on Tuesday evening (two handed max dead hangs) and Wednesday morning before work (one hand max dead hangs, short session); then on Wednesday afternoon I went sport climbing (led a short juggy 7a+ four or five times). Today I still feel worked, but not as I was expecting; with two days off to fully recover, tomorrow morning I'll have a very early start and I'll go there and finish it off.
I dont' know if you've noticed it, but before I wrote I led a route. It's not a typo, I really led it, I mean putting the rope in the quickdraws and all that. It felt great. I was super relaxed, maybe because on a 10 meters route there are 100 bolts, but really, it was great. I know I am still a pussy if I have the bolt below my feet, but I don't care about it that much: sport climbing is just a fun way to stay fit for the moment, and on my project routes I know I'll do fine because they are super bolted.
I want to finish this entry with something important, the only important thing: my joy when I almost did the project. It's been incredible. No wonder it took my whole person, body and mind, and it deposited it in another dimension. I was screaming, jumping around arms in the air, and I was the greatest. So I want to keep the joy of the moment, above all the other important things that I have learnt from the following days.
It's all about the joy.

Monday, 9 May 2011

THE FUTURE IS NOT HERE YET: ONLY MADNESS IS HERE.

My ascent of the roof extension is not valid. I did not complete the problem.
I was wondering why I woke up at 6 am on Sunday morning, instead of having a lie in in the glory of my success: because I had not succeeded, I had failed. My body knew what my mind refused to accept: despite doing all the hard part, I failed on a move and fell. I had never fallen there before, and when I found myself on the ground, my joy for having done the moves I had never done before took over and I found myself running around screaming, arms up in the air. I mistook the joy of progression with the joy of success. This rush of emotion and adrenalin kept pumping and before I could realize it I was already at the market buying a bottle of Champagne to celebrate.
I needed to succeed to take the pressure off. I fooled myself into thinking that because I never fall on those moves, I could take the tick; well, I can't.
Sometimes in the past I have been a bit self indulgent, not caring about dabs or not toping out on problems on which I was scared or simply lazy.
This time is different. This is one of the greatest challenges of my climbing career, and I want to do it properly.
What shocks me, is how fragile my mind is on this matter, and how I managed to convince myself that I had done it. It took me two days to realize it, it happened finally this afternoon while I was driving home. I could not be happy anymore, my desire was still there, unfulfilled, and the beast was still hungry.
It's shocking really.
I think one of the factors of this foolishness is that I knew I needed to detach myself from the problem, to finally climb it, and I think that my mind took this great chance to release the pressure, and behave just AS IF I had done it, to make me relax and do it properly in a close future. In this process I lost myself, something went wrong and I completely deluded myself, and my closest friends and loves. The process of acting AS IF, to detach from the problem and finally climb it, has worked fine for me in the past, but this time it took over. I lied to myself for one split second, and then it all crumbled down. Unluckily, saturday I also had forgotten - on purpose? - my camera, and being on my own, no one could prove me wrong. Luckily, I finally proved myself wrong, and I am so happy.
I wanted to make this gift to my girlfriend, also. Coming back home, for once, with a great success to dedicate to her devotion for me and my obsessions.
It's so simple when I think about it: you either got to the top or you didn't. How could it be possible to get lost between these two simple alternatives, still is a mistery for me.
But the joy was true. Only, it was a joy for progress, not for success.
This is really a journey inside myself, my mind, my obsessions, my weaknesses and my worst demons. I learnt something new about myself, and what I found out is a monster.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

THE FUTURE IS HERE

Today I just went there and did it, first go of the day. I don't think I'll ever forget waking up this morning and seeing 6.09 in the clock. I tried to get asleep again but in 0,1 second all I could think about was the extension, so I went there and I did it. Today everything was different and I will try to talk about it sooner or later.
I called my line "Futurismo". As you may know, Futurism was a strong cultural, political and artistic movement of the early years of 1900.
As you may also know, this movement is very controversial, due to its militarist ideas and relationships with Fascism, so I feel the need to clarify why I chose this name.
Obviously it's not a tribute to Futurism; I simply chose this name because I think that my problem shares with Futurism the same characteristics: it's violent; it's completely self centered and, most of all, it's deeply wrong!!!
I would like to address you all to a couple of tunes whose words keep bouncing in my mind since this morning. Here you go.