Tuesday, November 18, 2008


At my home gym on any given day, it never occurs to me that other people might be watching what I am doing or how I am climbing. I never really even thought about the judgment. In comps I am aware people watch, but never have felt like it was anything but watching, like watching a game on TV.

Last night at Allez Up I caught not only myself noticing others watching, but I caught myself caring? Not sure why, was it insecurity, a new environment, a want to impress or what? But it affected my performance negatively for sure.

This was a valuable lesson for me. No one should feel judged, but we all judge. It is Ok to be aware of it, but you cannot let yourself care, if you do, you will attempt on some level to perform to whatever expectation you think they might have of you and this will lead to pressure, anticipation of outcome and a lack of focus on the move at hand.

I always tell people I am helping to develop as a climber that you have to sequence a problem from the start to finish in detail, every body movement, then visualize yourself doing each move and repeat this until the movement is imprinted on your brain. For comps this whole process needs to happen in seconds, maybe 30 at most. Once this complex and strenuous mental exercise is complete, you need to do the exact opposite, shut off your active brain 100%, trust in yourself that you have the movement committed to a deep level of your non-conscious brain (like the signal for your heart to beat) and execute one move at a time with instinct, reaction and feel guiding you.

Once you achieve this you will enter that state where time does not exist and you are truly in the moment, things happen, but you will not remember them. This is the state where you will achieve you most fulfilling moments in life. It is so hard to replicate at will, but once you achieve it you will spend the rest of your life pursuing it at some level. Climbing seems to be my way of finding that flow.


Sore today, not sure if its the inevitable cold I am fighting or the climbing last night after taking a long break?

When it comes to training it makes me wonder what an optimal rest period is, too long seems worse that too little in many ways. I also always wonder if you should train through a sickness, I usually do. Decrease the intensity and duration, but keep up the frequency and difficulty. I find this works quite well for me, but some days I wonder if it keeps me sick longer.

It seems to be about optimization. I don't care that I get a cold I just care how it affects performance. I find I stay sick longer than most, but keep my performance around 80%, where as if I stop completely, I get over the cold quicker, but the period off usually means it takes me an equivalent time to start to feel strong and smooth again climbing wise. So, in the end I find it takes less time to get back to 100% performance, by climbing smart through a cold or flu than to take time completely off and try and make up for it after I am better. Although utilizing this method I do seem to feel the cold symptoms longer, but performance wise its better. This goes against conventional wisdom but really seems to work for me individually.

The other thing I find is cold meds help climb through the symptoms (unwisely for sure) ,but dehydrate me really badly. So, I drink tons of water and OJ.

So tonight, Advil - Cold and Sinus lots of H2O, hot tub and bed early. Tomorrow, climb hopefully.

Allez Up

Just back from Allez Up in Montreal. It is the first time I have bouldered to speak of in a long time. It sure showed, I felt awful, pumped, weak and shaky. I don't understand how in such a short period of time you lose so much. It really is a chore staying in optimal comp shape. Too much or too little climbing really throws you off your optimal performance. I find the better climber I become the more I notice subtle changes in performance.

There are 2 tour de blocs on this weekend one in Halifax and one in Burlington at a new gym. I really want to go to Halifax but I don't think there is any way to make it. Before I would always drop everything to go no matter what, but thats not possible right now for the first time in my life. Instead I am just trying to maintain until the NACC Starting Dec 4-7. It will be a huge challenge to stay in shape for that comp with everything going on and all the travel. I am super motivated, but at the mercy of scheduling. At home I can always get to the gym, away it is always challenging. If I get to go it will be a blast!

No expectations, right now is day by day and trying to enjoy each no matter what comes along, that way in hard times even the little things seem great. It a good perspective, yet hard to maintain.

Allez Up is a Neat gym in the heart of Montreal. It is big on rope climbing but the bouldering wall built in 2005 for nationals while crowded has nice angles. The route setters there wish they had better holds to work with they tell me, but they seem good to me. It nice to be able to climb routes I haven't set for a change. Great flash practice.

Here is an old pic from the last time I was at Allez Up for Natioanls in 2005. Finals problem #1, I believe?

Monday, November 17, 2008

NACC coming to Montreal

The countdown is on to North American Climbing Championships held in Montreal early December. It should be very interesting for Canadian climbers.

There have been hardly no rope comps in Canada at an adult level in the past few years leaving a very inexperienced field to represent Canada. It will be mostly familiar bouldering comp faces who decide to pick up a rope and try it out. Many of our team have a lot of bouldering experience so hopefully the power will translate over to the rope.

I am anxious to see how the logistics of the comp turn out. I heard absolutely nothing about western regional qualifiers but attended the eastern qualifiers. We in Canada are at a bit of a disadvantage since our country is so large. Funny it seems but what it means is there is little annual crossover between east and west in the way of passing on hard earned experience with things like comp organization, route setting and logistics. This is hopefully something the CEC will be able to help with over the next while.

Anyway it turns out it will be good for the comp scene to hold such a big event here in Canada. I am hoping for the best!

Anyway you slice it the Canadians will be the Best Dressed Team, just look at those Uniforms. Sharp eh?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


1) Something I have observed, which has held true almost all of the time, is that if one is introduced to climbing outdoors on gear they automatically see top roping as reserved for only routes which they are scared to lead and a as of copping out. This just seems to get inexplicably ingrained as you struggled to get better. But this also leaves those climbers with sense of striving and appreciation of the limited resource of naturally protected climbs.

Those who find climbing through a gym seem to think there needs to be some sort of progression from top roping for a period of time, to sport leading then maybe to trad later. Which, although is arguably a good idea safety wise, I always find they never can make a smooth transition from sport to trad. Most are unwilling to scale back route difficulty in transition to get comfortable on gear and consequently don't ever really make the transition. These climbers are almost always scared to fall on gear and usually are mistrusting of the whole climbing system.

2) All trad climbers should spend some more time clean aiding to learn how well gear really works and in which situations.

3) Most trad climbers plateau at 10+. This is because thats the grade where you typically can't just stand on your feet to place gear, you actually need to be able to hang on place quickly and keep moving. Most trad climbers are not confident enough to place a piece quickly and trust it and move above it or are not strong enough to hang on steeper routes to place the gear at all because...

4) Most trad climbers should boulder more often to get some more max power. This allows them to be father from there max threshold placing gear and hence pump out less quickly.

5) When training routes in gym trad climbers can benefit from exaggerating the duration they hold onto each hold especially while clipping. Any monkey can quickly clip a pre-hung quickdraw, most can't (on a steep route) access a placement find the correct size cam, place it, check it, reach back down for a runner or quickdraw, clip the draw to the pro then clip the rope to the draw without pumping out. This is because on a steep route they are forced to hang onto one hold for a longer duration therefore cut the flow of blood and oxygen to their muscles for a longer period then they are used to. The pump causes panic, apprehension and "fallure", fear of falling and therefore premature failure to send.

6) All climbers can benefit from specific training.

7) The best climbers enjoy the process of climbing, getting to the top is secondary, the process of movement when executed properly just happens to lead you there.

8) Most climbers fail in the head far before in their body.

9) Goats know what they want and take it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


For some reason I rarely find it hard to motivate myself to climb and train, even alone. I was climbing last night at Joe Rockheads with two good friends after spending the last few days, all day, at the hospital here in TO with my Dad. All I had was about an hour, but it seemed like just what I needed to relax and blow off some steam. Despite the fact I should have been exhausted - and was, I had no problem climbing and probably would have climbed all night if time would have allowed.

This motivation is not suprising, I had not climbed in a few days and needed to get my mind off everything etc. But what really sets the motivated apart from the infatuated, is the ability to stay physced for years, climbing a lot in a gym and mostly alone.

Why some people are this way is something I have been thinking about. Where does the drive come from, how do you create it and more importantly maintain it. The maintaining is where most fall short and in my mind is the reason most people reach a certain level and get no better. You recognize the cycle, you just came off a strong fall and vow, like a guilty Christmas Christian on January first, that this year you will train all winter, get super strong, carry through spring when the sun warms the walls and then maintain for the bug infested Atlantic summer and be superhuman (insert name here) by the following fall.

However, once the initial infatuation with the gym and all the sports bras you slack off, you still manage to climb a few times a week for the winter, even maybe till spring but then as it gets hotter the bbq's and beer distract you. Right at the worst time you justify the break to "let you tendons rest" in preparation of you upcoming fall crush, next thing you know fall is here and you are right where you left off last year.

How do you fix this? How may times have you heard people complain that they are sick of the same routes at their local crag or the route turnover in the gym is too slow, or a piece of tape fell off "yellow and black with an X"? Be careful you can't climb yellow and black with an X without knowing which piece of tape fell off cause the route wont be the same. Oh wait..... imagine that a new route. Wow, could I climb a route with a different sequence or add a foot to a route I could not do to make it possible to work, or remove some feet from a route thats too easy? How about making it tracking or only use jibs and features for feet. Maybe outside I could do a link up or see how many routes I can do in a day or try down climbing routes or lead what you would normally top rope or top rope what you would lead or focus on movement or breath and see what that does. I could go on the possibilities are truly near infinite.

Point is everything in climbing and life is PERSPECTIVE. Thats my word for the day. Learn to change that at will and your life will change for the better. We cant do it all the time or even most of the time, but conscious effort will lead to huge gains. Even the most hopeless situation has hope even if small you just need to see it. Look hard its there.

Everyone will hit rock bottom with climbing, life, motivation and physc, when you do, change you perspective, switch your angle, modify your attitude and approach the situation again. Do this an a whole world of possibility will open up to you.