Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Managing disappointment

Calico Jack St Bee's South Head

This blog and my ambitions are all about the journey; getting from where i am to the mythical heights of Fr8a - though apparently 8b is this years 8a but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

It's not all going to be positive progress and when you seem to be heading in the wrong direction you need to look at the map and not just listen to the sat nav everyone else is following.

One thing that does help is writing things down. It makes you think about what you're doing right and wrong and to spot trends. I had a crap session at Kendal on Sunday. Picked 3 new targets: 7a slab, short overhanging 7a and a 6c+ on the big wall, but nothing of note happened. I got close on the two 7a's and they should go soon, which feels good, but my arms felt empty on the day. I could crimp on the slabs but any steep ground just pumped me out.

Same has happened today. A bit of a hopeful trip to St Bee's South saw damp conditions and a lack of zip put paid to my aspirations of the V4 extension to Red Whale, a V3 dyno ( Bottomless arete ) and Godzilla, an awesome highball V4 arete.

I did lots of lower grade problems, and on-sighted a fantastic V2, Calico Jack, so the day wasn't a waste by any means but i felt so much stronger and more precise last week at Eskdale. Any kind of longer problems really made me fight the burn.

Definitely more me than the conditions to blame - i could even mention my really thin skin from last week as an excuse, but i won't. A good think on the way back to the car led to the revelation that climbing 3 times a week, running 3 times a week and a fat loss diet at the same time isn't a good combo. Time for a look at my map.

Fat loss is still the major priority so the diet + running stay. Guess I need to head for quality not quantity in the climbing. But fitness or strength, or somewhere in between ?

Just ordered Dave Mac's new training book so maybe he will have the answers. I think i know what i need to do but i'm going to ponder over the next few days.

On a happier note the big fat loss plan is going OK. I've got leaner but heavier. Body fat is down from 24.9% to 23.5% in a week with a corresponding increase in muscle. Result ! I am however 1/2 kg heavier. Go figure. Not too fussed about the weight but as long as the lard is being stripped I'm happy.

Got a weekend away from home and the kids coming up. Booked in a hotel with full fry up breakfasts and 3 course dinner already paid for. Am i going to get my money's worth and try to eat my own weight in sausage + bacon like i normally would ? Can i partake in a pub lunch without a real ale or 4 ? Am i going to take a pair of trainers for a quick morning jog or will the planned excess intake of port destroy my resolve ?

This could be the first big test of how much i want that 8a.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Lard of the pies !

Nice day out today with Rob aka Jeff from UKB. After a failed meet earlier in the week we finally got together before the predicted bad weather tomorrow. Rob's up here for his 'baby moon'. A new concept to me but it's basically have a little holiday before the baby arrives and ruins your life for the forseeable future.

Rob had got out a few times during the week while his heavily pregnant non climbing wife was abandoned in various strange towns ( even Whitehaven poor girl ) to look round or stayed at the hotel. I think i know who's had the most fun on their babymoon.

Went to Eskdale granite at Fisherground. I'd forgotten how rough that stuff is. Lasted about 3 hrs before my skin gave up and the rain started coming in down the valley.

Nice flapper on my pinkie, which is going to take some time to heal, and my fingertips were seeping blood through the skin.

Had a great time though and did some classics:

as well as problems up to V4. Quite pleasing really and got them 2nd or 3rd go. I also on-sighted a V3 and got a couple of pumpy lip traverses done:

What have i learnt from today ?

I'm not climbing 'pretty'
I need to heel hook more - and better
I can still do slappy problems
I still can't do fingery problems
I am still crap at sit starts

Biggest lesson of the day is that it is possible to drive past Gosforth pie shop without stopping off for a chicken and mushroom with a scotch egg for pudding. It was close though ;0)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Analyze that !

When you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses you hope to find something you can work on to make a big improvement. I wanted to look at my climbing + body this week and see what my baselines are.

Inspired by talk of power/weight ratios and the recommendation of a particular brand of body fat scales i bought some to look at the damage i've done during my lay off + Xmas.

Did i find what i hoped for ?

Oh yes - and no.

I am officially a chubster with 25.5 % body fat. I don't look/feel that fat but another reading shows i hold my chub around my organs rather than under my skin. This may explain why i've always been quite 'square' in shape and my stomach has always stuck out a bit. I always thought it was my over developed abs pushing out ;0)

On the plus side in the last two weeks i've lost over 2 kgs just from dieting, yes i was even fatter, and since the thaw i can now start running again. Dieting is driving me nuts so i can now relax that, a bit, and get pounding the trails again.

I also got some one to film me climbing at Kendal. It was my warm down climb and either a 6a or 6a+, despite what the commentator says, and it is weird to watch myself like that. I was really conscious of being filmed and the pressure of trying to get everything perfect meant i probably made more mistakes than normal - but not that many more.

Anyway here it is in all it's glory:

So many mistakes i wasn't aware of. I was trying to take my time but my god it's slow. 4 minutes !I am missing footholds, flagging/twisting the wrong way, clipping in the wrong places and not looking at my clipping. I'd worked on that last one as well but i seem to have forgotten it again. Serious thought needs to go into steep wall technique. If you don't know Kendal wall it gets steeper the higher it gets and the top half is probably about 25 degrees overhanging.

So in summary my analysis has revealed a bit too much ( literally regarding the weight) but i know the basics i need to correct now.

Going to film myself on a climb that's at my on-sight limit next time and see the horrors that reveals.

The truth hurts sometimes i guess but some good work + discipline over the next few weeks should have massive effects.

For posterity my baselines are:

Big wall on-sight - Fr6b
12 mtr wall on-sight - Fr 6c
Outdoor boulder on-sight - V2
Weight: 73.6 kgs
Body fat: 25.5%
BMI: 26.1
Muscle: 36.5%

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Sweet & Sour

These excellent Winter conditions everyone has been harping on about have so far eluded me. Banned from having any fun over the Xmas hols by Mrs Biscuit and then kids off school due to the weather. Bah !

Finally got the chance today. I fancied a nice easy solo to start the year and was considering Trough Gully, Newlands Hause or something on Brown Cove Crags. As it turned out i went to Buttermere Sourmilk Ghyll after a tip off it was in mint condition. I've never done it before, it's easy, bloody long and 3*. Result. The tiny walk in meant i coud fit it in and do some DIY to get more brownie points :0)

Crampons on almost as soon as i got out of the car ( I'm sure i saw DR Hilary Jones practising on it ) had my hopes up. But was the noise i could hear the wind or the Ghyll ? Both as it turned out. Winds gusting about 50 mph on the tops and take a look at the 'mint' conditions:

Doesn't look too bad from there does it ? Have a look here then:

On Saturday that ice met in the middle and was fatter than - well me at the moment i guess.

Not sure if i made the right decision but i ploughed on anyway. I'm still here so i guess it wasn't a bad decision. Good practice was had at pecking thin ice, clearing poor ice and delicately dancing my way up rotten ice. Lots of good soft plastic ice around though if you could find it. I soon stopped banging and hacking away and started thinking about what i was doing. I even got a little mixed in higher up. In fact conditions got worse higher up and the walk down was a nightmare of powder and spindrift.

Think i'll wait until the next freeze before i venture out again.

Better than doing the wallpapering though and it'll have burnt off a bit more podge so not all bad.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The perfect day ?

What makes the perfect climbing day ? Bouldering with mates in the sun, but with perfect friction? Quality new problems you've never tried before ? Looking out over the sea at a snow covered Isle of Man and Scotland. Performing like a donkey on roller skates but not really caring 'cos you're back doing what you love and you realise just how much you miss it when you can't ? For me it's all of that and being back touching real rock for the first time in months - and getting a bacon and egg butty on the way back to the car to top it off.

I didn't believe my ( eternally optimistic ) mate who told me at the wall on Thursday that St Bee's was 'awesome' at the moment. -7, according to my car, doesn't sound awesome to me. But the seed had been planted. The planned trip to kendal wall was cancelled and the result was ....awesome !

Decided to check out the 'new' South head problems - wrapped up like Michelin man. The walk in wasn't promising. St Bee's slippy green stuff with ice is not a good combo. Took us ages to get there.

We walked past Sectors A-C without knowing it. This may be due to me forgetting the topo, us staring at our feet for fear of falling over or because there isn't much there. We got to Sector D and were impressed to be honest.

The problems that I could do were really good fun. Short 1 move dynos, pumpy traverses, technical aretes. Everything in one little spot. It had a slightly different character to St Bee's North - more open. The harder problems really do look amazing. Some superb improbable lines, really striking aretes and lip problems. Need to get strong - quick !

We ( or rather Mario ) added an extension to Red Whale ( a 2* V2 ) coming in from the right as far as possible. Heel hooking, swinging and flagging galore. I may be biased but i reckon 3*. It's an obvious extension so i would be surprised if it's not been done before.

Even better it gets the sun early at this time of year. The layers soon came off and we were roasting. In the end we left as the problems in the sun got a bit greasy.

It's well worth checking out and remember to stop off for a butty at Hartley's caff on the way back for the perfect end to the perfect day.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

We're supposed to have 60,000 thoughts a day....

but why are they all about food?

Totally un-able to do any cardio outside due to snow and cold so am trying to lose weight through diet. Being stuck in the house all day surrounded by food is causing my day to appear like a montage from a  channel 5 special - 'Fattest man in world may die if he ever eats again.'
I constantly pick up of tasty grub only to sigh loudly and put it back - most of the time anyway. Food is everywhere.

I'm going for small portions spread through the day and have knocked booze on the head since New Year's Eve. Not missing that too much at all but i can't stop thinking about food. I reckon i must be a secret fatty. I'm not craving bad food but my portion control has always been way off - my Dad was a feeder what can i say :0) 

Was supposed to go to the wall during the day for an easy climb around to get back into it. Cue school closing due to weather and a distinct smell of piss emanating from my chips. Food on the brain again ! Would i eat a portion of piss covered chips ? Won't be opening until next week and weekend is taken up with a DIY project.

Looks like i'll have to stay in staring at food for a while longer.  Big respect to the man Stevie Haston.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Back to it - kind of

My life of late has looked like this:

Chest infection
Swine flu
Chest infection
Worst case of the galloping trots anyone has ever had - EVER
Sinusitis - doesn't sound much but it was agony

I've not climbed productively since September. I finally got back to it yesterday with a 2 hr session at Penrith. Predictable results were a lack of fitness and timing/fluidity. Less predictable was that my arm + body strength seemed OK but i had lost a lot of finger strength. This has always been a weakness and those hours spent dangling off my Beastmaker in the utility room seem to have been frittered away through inactivity.

Fitness was shocking and i failed on a 6b and a 6a+ at the end when i just gave up. A very steep 6a felt, well, very steep and it used to be my first steep warm up route.

Forgetting all that it was just a huge relief to be back climbing with no set backs and i loved it. I've had 2 false starts in the last couple of months so i'm going to take it easy. Felt fine today so fingers crossed.

Going to work out my 'baseline' over the next week or two and take it from there.

One baseline assessment i'm not happy with is my in-ability to fit into my jeans. They look like mine, they're in my wardrobe so they must be mine, but they don't fit like mine. My harness had also been adjusted during my absence.

Goal number one is weight down from 76 to 73 kg by end of the month. Running outside is too cold at the minute and makes my old man's lungs seem to want to lurch out of my body. In order to get some exercise in i tried this idea from Tommy Caldwell. Circuit Training.

I didn't fancy the intensity of just 3 exercises today so i did:

press ups 10
back raises 10
pull ups 5
dips 5
crunches 10
pistol squats 3 each leg

10 minutes gave me 4 run throughs and i certainly felt it.

I then had a mince pie with brandy cream. FFS Andy FOCUS

8a or die ?

A thread on UKClimbing has changed my life ! It's not often you can say that.

One of many on the same subject - Can anyone climb sport 8a ?

In particular one reply from Adrian Berry:

"If someone is reading this and fancies taking it on, this is how you do it:
... focus your training on one route - forget everything else. When you've done this, add a grade and pick another - train the weaknesses that are stopping you - redpoint it and add a grade etc. Keep going until you do an 8a. Starting at 6c - I would estimate about 3yrs. Stay focussed and it's inevitable."

It cuts through the bullshit really doesn't it ? I'd always had excuses to keep the nagging voices at bay. If the voices become too loud I drown them out with talk of how i am just about to commit to start seriously thinking about figuring out a training plan to get me up that 7a/E3 if only I wasn't so busy.

I've always wanted to climb harder than i do - E1 and Fr6b, the odd golden moments on E2's and 6b+ - but not many.

2009 had been the usual trot along in my comfort zone apart from one or two notable events. First I increased my bouldering grade from near poo inducing effort to tick the odd V3 to doing my first V5 and V6 in the same session 2 weeks after my first ever V4. How ? Getting in with a motivated group of good climbers who showed me how to really try and dig deep. Seeing the massive extra return you get from giving that little bit extra was eye opening - as were the grades.

Second I had a coaching session with Gaz Parry whilst on holiday in Spain and ended up on-sighting Fr6c. I had a sudden realisation that i did have the tools to climb hard(er), i just needed to get them out of the box. I think the tools were hidden in the bottom of the box and the box was at the back of the shed under all that crap that's in there just in case you need it one day.

Back home i cracked on with my usual plan of action - carry on as normal, expect special things to happen, then make an excuse when they don't.

Being on the UKClimbing.com fit club thread for the last 2 years has shown me the difference between those who hit goals and those who don't. Less time talking and more time 'manning it up' and actually doing.

So why haven't i been doing ? It's taken me a lot of effort to figure this one out, but it's basically as follows:

1) Scared of failure
2) Scared of success
3) Scared on the end of a rope

Phew that feels better off my chest. Thanks for listening ! Seriously though i do have issues with success and failure which i've only realised in the last year whilst taking our recently adopted children to therapy. It's been good for me as well as them :0)

I think it's the thought of taking those 3 issues on and winning that is what has clicked inside me.

I can't get the time on rock to improve my trad grade for the foreseeable future. Sport climbing can be improved without needing so much time on rock and i've really enjoyed the red-pointing i've done. The whole process appeals to me here and now, and is achievable, so that's what i've decided to focus on.

Adrian's post just hit home at the right time. I've had the worst run of illness ever in my life and haven't climbed properly since the end of September. I have missed climbing massively and i want to be better than average.

I want that 8a and all it will open up for me - which will probably just be 8a+ ;0)

Maybe it's shallow but my life my rules and it's what i want! It may end up being like plastic surgery. You think it will make everything better but when you get it done things are still the same but you've just got a bigger penis. I'm just hoping the journey will be a bit more enjoyable than that - and won't involve surgery on my privates.