Friday, 30 March 2012

LEARNING


In the pics, my new problem at Amiata.

I'm learning a lot as of late.
I'm learning a lot about training, and about how my body reacts to training.
But I'm learning a lot about myself, mostly. Yesterday, for example, I understood that I am a completely different climber than I thought I was, or at least I have become that in the last months? Years? I don't think so, I think I've always been this way, only I was hiding it, behind a mask from the others and behind a different attitude from myself.
I found out that I am obsessed by grades, basically.
The pleasure of moving effortlessy and gracefully on rock? Bullshit.
Being in contact with mother nature and my soul? Bullshit.
Having fun? Meeting people? Bull. Shit.
I climb for the grades.
Not really, I climb to progress and to always push my limits further, but in climbing, grades are the consequence.
I found out I've always been this way.
When I was a child, in the Summer one of my favourite pastimes was trying to traverse all around my parents' house, without falling off. Whenever I fell, I had to step a few meters back from the wall, then run towards the wall and jump from a line I had previously drawn, to catch the external windowsill of a window and resume the traverse from there.
When I grew up, I used to play basketball, because I already was so tall. Well, I thought "If I'm short I can try and jump more" and I started training in the gym. At 15 I could leg press 135 kg, and I kept training my legs for my entire career, because all I wanted was to become able to slam dunk. I never managed it, but until my ankles and knees gave up, I kept trying.
I used to ski. Getting the first chairlift at 8.00 in the morning, my desire was to draw the first lines in the pristine snow. But they had to be straight lines. I'm a very calm driver, but I was a mental skier, completely addicted to speed. After a bad crash, I came to a different view.
Shall we talk about cycling? I basically grew up on a roadbike. Going around for sure wasn't enough, I had to go to the sea, 110 kms of Tuscan hills, if you please. I was 16 the first time I did it, with just a 0,5 liters flask of water and a phone coin in case of troubles. Then I started wanting to go fast. I started training and training until I could sprint the 2 kms of straight road in front of my parents' house at the sea, and average at least 50 km/hour.
I think you start getting the idea...
I don't like to take it easy.
Then I started climbing.
After a few years, with my best friend Andrea we decided that there was no reason for us not to try the harder routes of our local crag. They weren't for Gods. Their bolts weren't golden. We put ourselves to it and we did them all, up to the magic grade.
Before, my life had been already ruined by Patrick Edlinger and his book "Grimper", which at the end featured a few charts trying to put together training feats and climbed grade. One of the tests was on a 1 cm edge. Patrick said that 28 pull ups on it, meant sport 8a on rock. The fact that he was climbing full time didn't occur to me, and I never rested until I did those damn 28 pull ups.
Then it was one armers, then lock offs: did I ever think that fully locking off for 1 minute on a 1 cm edge could be a bit useless? Never. That was the idea, the aim, and all that mattered. The fact that at that moment I was climbing 6b+ never seemed a contradiction to me.
I think you definitely got the idea. My worst fears are now reality, climbing is not the aim in itself anymore, it's just a way I push my physical - and somehow mental - limits. This saddens me a bit. All poetry is lost. The magic is lost. All that remains is the battle. I can try and make poetry out of the battle, but it seems hard to do...
This is why I am so intrigued by trivial (no offense) challenges, like fingerboarding, or campusing, or deadlifting. Oh, deadlifting. I am so eager to start it. These activities are very simple and very easy to be pushed to the limits. Training has become a goal in itself, and it's not a coincidence that in the last weeks I put so much effort not only in the physical part of training, but also in the mental part. Standing under the Beastmaker, trying to feel the hold before touching it. Or sitting under the board with my weightvest, eyes closed, visualizing my body gliding between holds that in the previous set I was barely able to link together without the vest on. I love this shit.
I have been trying for a lot of time to understand my feelings towards my ex-project. I was very puzzled because I clearly felt no interest in it anymore, after getting a few times to the last holds but not topping it out. Why didn't I care about completing the problem? Because, I know now, the project wasn't the aim; the aim was to try and do something light years beyond my ability. Climbing the problem should have been the consequence and the result of my real goal. I found myself in a Limbo, in a no-man's land. Getting all the hard part done, and not climbing the problem. I got stuck in between, and I still am, because I want to climb the problem, but I don't desire it as I desired it before, because I have already reached my goal, that was to perform at another level, both physically and mentally. The pure will power that I lack now, makes it very hard to keep going there again and again, also because it's still very hard for me. I lack the mental edge.
I keep going there, though. I went today, and I had fun, also because I nearly did it again despite 23°, but that's exactly the difference: I was having fun. I want to be clear: having fun is OK. But battles are not won by having fun. Personal records are not beaten by having fun.
This is also why I lose interest when I quickly do the moves on a problem and then for one reason or the other, can't put it together. I move out from my target and I get lost. I confuse the aim and the climbing and I am clueless.
I really don't know if a single word that I've written makes some sense, or if it's just another self-delusion. I really don't know. I know that I am feeling more and more free, by letting go and accepting to be a prisoner of my own self.
I don't think writing this makes me happy, but I feel that doing what I do makes me happy.
Of course not everything is just black and white as I've put it. I have fun while climbing; I enjoy getting to the top of problems; I love to take it easy and spend a day doing easy things. But then again, just before packing my stuff and heading to the car, a small thought appears in the back of my mind and tells me to go and try something hard. Because it's what I like.
I feel really lucky that I have my small board, the Beastmaker, and all the strange ideas that keep me going and struggling.
Today, for example, I went to Amiata and opened a new problem, that I called "Lore's One Armer". I'm sure you understand...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

INVOLUTION

I haven't done much after getting back home.
I went one day bouldering, refusing for once to go to the roof. I went to try an old testpiece from my friend Luca, a compression roof that I go back to every few years, after forgetting that it's too wide for my span. Well, not really. My problem is that I'm too short for a crucial toehook. Not really again. My problem is that I am not strong enough to do it with the sequence that I have to use. I try to use the official sequence but can't, so each time I think "Well it's hard but I can give it another go" and each time I come back home thinking "I'll never do it". We will see. On the plus side, I managed to do the moves of the original traverse, that is without toehooking. I know that unless you are a moron you can't ban toehooks (or heelhooks...), but I originally conceived the problem as a lip trip, then resolved to the toehooks because I couldn't do it otherwise.
I found that with some squeezing and cheating (over the head heelhooks and lame tricks like that) it will go. I only need to find a spotter because on my own I could not committ.
Then I wanted to rest. Well, I couldn't.
I am still very excited by deadlifting, but don't want to play this card at the wrong moment. I can still climb for a few more weeks, despite temps in the 20's already by daytime, so I want to wait for the really hot temps to make a big change and start going to the gym.
I haven't lifted but I have pulled. I've had a couple of very good sessions on my wall, with one system only session that left me really worked, especially my biceps. Note to self: it's not smart to spend 3/4 of a three hours session on underclings, "Hubble" is NOT on the ticklist (for the moment).
I found the pinches particularly hard, maybe for the friction, but finally reached an old goal of mine, wich I haven't particularly trained for, to be honest, but that finally came: deadhanging the small pockets on the Beastmaker, back2. My ring fingers have sustained many injuries in the years, and probably the respective lengths of my back2 aren't perfect for making them strong, but spending a few minutes to find a correct placement, I managed to do 3 hangs with 6 kg on!!!
Success!!! I was feeling tired after the warmup on the wall that day, so after a couple of problems I sacked it and went under the BM, putting in this very rewarding session, doing three sets on each hold type with my weightvest on. I also did 25" on the small pockets front2 half crimped, still with the vest.
Now I am very tired, and I think I have to be smart and take it a bit easier next week.
On a side note, I found out that it's very important to keep records of the training, and also to make videos. In one system session, I did some lock offs, the same exercise I've done so many times, but this time it felt strangely hard and precarious. It took me another session to perform it with satisfaction, but still with some serious effort. Later one day, I watched one of my training videos, about that very same exercise, and I found out that I was using the same starting holds, but I was reaching different holds, that were more than 20 cm further apart. That's why if felt hard!!! Because it was!!!
Lesson: before cry and despair take some time and reflect. And always, always keep records of the training.
All right.
Finally, coming to the post's title.
I am undergoing an involution. One day, it occurred to me that climbing is getting more and more deeply personal for me. It's getting so intimate that somehow my climbing attitude has taken a distance from normal climbing. I realized that often I don't care much about getting a problem done, I care about doing something that I thought I couldn't do, or that seemed that way. I think this is why I am so addicted to deadhanging. It's very simple, and it's easy to set goals and to fight for them. It's less complicated than driving to a boulder for sure!!!
On rock also, I understood that I am addicted to doing something that I want to do, REGARDLESS of climbing a problem. If I am attracted by a move, the move is the goal, and not the boulder it's attached to. I can do the move, and drop the problem, and it's perfectly fine for me. It's hard to explain it, this is what made me want to blog today, but in my mind this thought was much clearer.
I don't know when this involution started, but I'm feeling it. For example, I should be very excited by reclimbing the traverse without the toehooks, because that was my goal years ago: well, I am excited, but not as much as to make me want to drive there at any moment. The other day I did all the moves at the end of the session, and this gave me joy. This was the goal, and not specifically the problem. The goal was doing moves that I could not do a few years ago. So now I have to transfer the specific, real goal, to another goal, the problem. Completing the problem is something to be done, something that I want to do, but more for completeness than for myself.
It's exactly what happened with the roof. Once I found myself on the last hold, my goal was reached. Climbing the direct line coming from my start. I didn't believe I could do it when I saw that line. Now I have. I haven't toped out the problem, but this is completely different from my goal. I will keep going there for sure, for completeness, and for training, but I am fine.
I noticed this involution in other aspects of my climbing. After Michele's videos about Amiata, those areas, and the roof especially, have seen many visits from strong and famous climbers. Well, the more others come, the less I want to be there. I think that they are coming only because they know that now there's a very hard problem there, Michele's 8b+. I seriously doubt that they come for different reasons: after all, in the same boulder there was already an 8a/+. Why noone came for all these years? Because 8b+ attracts more than 8a/+. As simple as that.
So I have spent the greatest part of one climbing year under that roof now, going more and more deeply into myself. I shook hands with the monster in me, and with the hero. I met the fool and the sage. I laughed and I swore there. That is one sacred place for me, it's the place of madness and cure.
I don't want to share it with someone who's there for one number on the internet.
I don't know where this path will lead me. I don't even know if in two days I'll write another entry laughing about this one.
But really, I feel that I am climbing and training more and more for just myself, and so I am very very close to freedom.

In the video, below, back2 on the small pockets, with 6 kg on. Another small, useless goal that made all the difference. For me.
video

Thursday, 1 March 2012

REALITY BITES!


In the pics, something to keep me warm, and the beast at work in the torture chamber.

"Fuck Italy" pretty much sums up my recent thoughts.
I went to the roof yesterday with my friend Filo, who was with me in UK as well, and it's been a good day, but only because of his company. I missed being at Stanage, pounded by a cold wind, and I missed being at Parisella's Cave, drying up holds.
I did not expect to come back home and find temps already in the 20° range.
The season is over.
I had one go on "Futurismo", and it felt good, but pain was really too much: shame because despite being tired, after more than ten days of climbing or training with only one day off, my forearms were responding well, and I didn't feel pumped.
Subsequent goes on the other problems with my weightbelt on proved impossible, I needed to squeeze too much on the hot rock to stay put, and pain was really unbearable. Whatever I want to do on rock in the close furure, must start very early in the morning.
I came home from UK really, really tired. My last day spent in Font was amazing, the clue is to be guided, without focusing on climbing hard on your first - and only - day in the forest in a year. I met a good bunch of Brits, some of them I had previously met under the roof of Parisella's Cave, and I had a very very good day.
I felt happy and in peace.
Now then, I need to change something.
I ache. I really ache. My fingers are OK, and my elbows also (touch wood), but my back, lower back, lats and knees are sore. The knees especially worry me: in the morning I barely can walk out of bed, and can't sit down without leaning on something. My body is not telling me something, it's yelling it.
So, I think I can still manage a new problem in an old area, the original version of what years ago became "Tailgunner". I could not climb it how I had imagined and resolved to use a few toe hooks that now I want to eliminate: this area is still under the snow, being in the deep shade, so that's still on the go.
Apart from that, I'm sure - at the moment - that this year I don't want to face another summer like the last one. Going to the boulders in boiling temps, falling on easy problems and getting angry is not for me. I want to keep training and go climbing in specific, good occasions. We will see if I can manage to keep the promise.
Moreover, last summer I had the project in my mind. Now I don't have this stimulus anymore. The line is there, I have done it many times and only need to top it out. It will happen sooner or later, and if it doesn't happen, the only thing that matters is that this project propelled me towards the best climbing form I've ever had. The progression is the only thing that matters to me, because it's certain. Once it levels out, it's time to move.
I want to go surfing again.
More than one year and half has passed since my last time in the water, and it's time to get wet again. Unluckily, surf spots now are super crowded, and gone are the good old times when I shared perfect sets only with my buddy Jac.
I have to time perfectly my reentry, because I don't want to spoil it with bad vibes and idiots. To start the ball rolling, today I used a birthday gift card to buy a new thermal rashguard to wear under my wetsuit, and also new gloves. I always hated to surf all rubbered up, and often paddled in with no booties even in full winter, but this time I want to be as comfy as I can get, because I surf for the joy, and because I'm fucking old and creaky.
Which leads me to another subject.
The other day it occurred to me that, besides a few occasions that I can count on a hand's fingers, I normally boulder with guys that are at least 8-10 years younger than me.
I never think about this, because I really don't care much about my age, but the fact is that I have that age, and my body does. I have come to the conclusion that my project of an endless progression throughout my entire life, with maybe a little plateau around the 90 years old mark, could be a bit optimistic. I think that at the current moment I am at the peak of my overall climbing capacity in terms of power, technique and skills on the rock; I know that even if this doesn't translate into amazing performances, with some more time to dedicate to the rock I could still do well in different areas. This last trip to UK and Font proved it, especially Font: I know I can do well in Parisella's, but having good goes on vertical 7b's in Font after few tries is a very good progress.
This age issue leads us back, in a perfect ringkomposition, to the fact that I ache and I need to change something right now. I have trained and climbed hard since mid September, and if I want to keep moving on I need to vary.
Hence the surfing.
But I also want to focus on dead lifting. I am thinking about a possible training schedule for the late spring-summer-early autumn, revolving around two weekly session in the gym (one session doing my usual weights routine and the other doing just dead lifts), two weekly sessions on my wall (adjusting the session to the feeling), and one weekly session on the Beastmaker; then forget about the rock until it gets cool again, and surf in the weekends when waves roll in.
This plan revitalized my mojo and gave me a decent psyche.
Last but not least, I want to thank once again all the friendly faces that I met during this trip. I always felt at home wherever I went, and this is why I keep coming.