maandag 21 september 2015

Crash, crush!

Another strength training cycle is finished! For thirty days I religiously followed the training plan and it seems to have paid off. A few weeks ago I already wrote that even though the first sessions weren't good - number 2 being soul crushingly bad - a promising upward trend became visible after five trainings. The sessions that followed absolutely blew my mind: in terms of volume training number 6 was the toughest I've ever recorded and all the following trainings surpassed the previous. The volume graph below (in red) shows the rapid volume increase through the cycle compared with the previous cycles. After ten trainings I've set personal records on the added (and total) load for every single grip position (see second and third graph). I am amazed! After the 'big crash' this summer I set my hopes on reaching old strength levels again and didn't dare thinking about actually crushing them.

This is the first quantifiable result since I started recovery and it seems that through the course of the past thirty days I've fully reached my old (finger) strength levels again. Now let's hope the measured gains will translate well into power and increased climbing performances… Campus training is up next and I hope to get out on the rocks soon again!

Workout volume and time under tension per training (explained here). A rapid increase in volume during the third cylce is visible. The last five trainings exceed volume levels of previous cycles. Note that season 1 and 2 are hardly comparable, due to the much lower T.U.T. in season 1. Season 3 shows improvement over season 2 for similar T.U.T. though.
Added (or substracted) load per grip position (the exact excercises are described here). Personal records on all grip positions were reached. The figure below shows this also holds for the total load, which includes effects of body weight fluctuations.

vrijdag 4 september 2015

Relapse, return

Just after sending my project 'Super Surfer', my life was thrown upside down. I started feeling ill on wednesday and found myself on the intensive care by saturday. Luckily the days of absolute misery that followed went by in a bit of a blur. One thing was made very clear though: if Michelle hadn't dragged me to the hospital, I would have died. Possibly on the same day. My liver was failing, my kidneys were failing, my brain was failing and my blood values were dropping like a brick in free fall. Not good. Although I was promised at least a month in the hospital, the doctors released me after a week. To this moment they are failing (and still trying) to identify the cause of my relapse, but after five days of intensive treatment and administration of a high dose of prednisone I started recovering rapidly. Two days later I slept in my own bed again. And for a few weeks, that's what I've mostly done: sleeping. Initially, even reading was too much of an effort. I got pulled through by Michelle, who arranged to be at home and take care of me for weeks.

As psychologically provoking and cathartic the experience may have been, I somehow fail to write down anything meaningful about it. I try to remember and to forget simultaneously. Most of all I want to feel healthy and strong again. It's severely testing my patience… After ten days at home, exactly three weeks after climbing 'Super Surfer' I tried climbing on my woody again. It was terrible: I couldn't finish a single boulder. Even the warmups of my previous trainings were too hard. I felt miserably weak. I was miserably weak. Since then, I did some sort of rehabilitation training on almost every single day: yoga, light crossfit, long walks, bouldering, anything to get back into climbing shape again. Gradually the intensity increased and after three weeks of rehabilitation I climbed a 7b route in Teuto again. Although still a long way from 8a, it was a massive confidence booster. I deeply enjoyed the following weeks of holiday, being able to enjoy live, to walk with Michelle and the dogs for days in Luxembourg and even do some more climbing in the lower half of the 7th grade. Higher 7's felt completely impossible though.

I will need one or more full training cycles to get back to my previous shape again. When work started two weeks ago, I kicked off a new cycle and began with strength training. Anticipating disappointment, I started with low loads. I was disappointed nevertheless… Because fingerboard trainings are very quantifiable, the results left little doubt about the fact that my initial performance sucked big time. Perseverance is paying off though and after two demoralizing first trainings I got the hang (pun fully intended) of it again. Now, five trainings in, it seems I'm on track to reach the high points of my previous season again. I'll be back!

dinsdag 16 juni 2015

Project done

On any other day I would have been happy to go home satisfied after climbing a 7c route. Today it turned out to be the warmup. I just climbed an exit variation to Alien (adding a slightly harder, more sustained top section) to familiarize myself with the first crux of my project after a three month break from it. On the way down I checked out the second crux. Visualizing the moves every single day of these three months proved to be a powerful exercise: nothing felt rusty and I could redo the moves instantly with great precision. The next time my feet left the ground I baffled myself and climbed the project. Before I set off, Frans convinced my to set up my camera already, after I announced my intention to film some of the later attempts. I really didn't see it coming and the resulting absence of redpoint pressure may have contributed massively to my success…

Anyway, thanks to Frans there's a video. Because it shows me applying a small amount of chalk before entering the second crux, I feel I have to elaborate on that first and share the statement that I've written in the video description on vimeo:

"Although sector Schinder seems to be a place where Teutos no chalk policy is commonly violated, using magnesia is not allowed. This makes the hardest moves on Schinder unclimbable, which led to the decision of using a very small amount of chalk before entering the second crux of the route, as can be seen in the video. Friction+ cream got me through the first crux. I've cleaned my traces afterwards. The big chalk stains that are visible in the video were there before I arrived: what you see is my first attempt on the route in three months."

As I sit down writing, it slowly dawns on me how much time and effort it took to get here. 'Super Surfer' (see below for a brief history of the route) combines the hardest sections of sector Schinder, home to the toughest routes in Teuto. I started climbing on Schinder in the summer of 2011 and after several session I climbed 'Banane', my first 8+ (7a+). One year later I battled through 'Die Hexe' 8+/9- (7b) and 'Alien', my first 9- (7b+). The crux of Alien remained a very low percentage move (I stuck it only incidentally and have fallen off it beyond count) and it took nearly two more years before I climbed the direct start to Alien in spring 2014, climbing straight into the crux without using the left side of the wall. According to Teuto local Andreas this variation is a 9 (7c). A month later, again after several sessions, I climbed 'Banane' without the big block as a foothold: 'Banane ohne Rampe', my first 9+ (7c+). All that remained now were the combinations. I started trying the Alien-Hexe-Banane combination, but failed to climb in throughout 2014. The Alien crux spit me off on most attempts and whenever I got through, I lacked the power endurance to make it to the hands off rest on the block of Banane. I couldn't even imagine climbing it without the block.

In november 2014 I - unknowingly - made the most important step towards the ascent of Super Surfer: I bought the Rock Climbers Training Manual by the Anderson brothers and made it my personal training bible. After one cycle of strength, power and power endurance training I returned to Schinder and made it to the block on my very first attempt. I was shocked. It turned out to be more than luck: I haven't fallen from the Alien crux once this spring (and climbed it about six times). Suddenly the thought of climbing the line without the block became realistic and an obsession was born. I immediately started trying it, but failed to stick the dynamic dead point near the end. More power endurance was needed. For three months I left the project untouched and did another cycle of strength, power and power endurance training. Yesterday I finally felt ready to try it again. I was right. Four years after climbing the easiest route on Schinder, I've climbed its hardest combination. What I never expected, was to climb it in one attempt. I'm still shocked. And deeply satisfied.

A brief history of Super Surfer or the 'Boerenjongens' project:
The idea of climbing variations and combinations on Schinder isn't new. Already in the early 90's Enschede locals Jan Martin Roelofs and Peter Horning started doing it. In 1989 Jan Martin calimed the first ascent of Banane ohne Rampe and a few years later (date unknown) Peter climbed a combination of Alien and Banane ohne Rampe on toprope. Jan Martin repeated it later, also on toprope. It is listed without a name in the topo as a 10- and I later learned that Jan Martin and Peter referred to the route as 'Boerenjongens'. Whether they climbed the direct or easier left start of Alien I do not know. In the meantime the routes on Schinder have been rebolted and a lead ascent became possible. Nevertheless, to my best knowledge the route never saw a repeat or a lead ascent. Not until yesterday.

vrijdag 5 juni 2015

An ode to joy

After a winter without outdoor bouldering somehow my approach to the activity changed. Rather than chasing grades and trying the hardest boulders I can find, I find joy in climbing the lines that appeal to me, regardless of their difficulty. Although it's probably just a phase and I'll get sucked back into chasing higher grades at some point, for now I like it this way. It's uncomplicated, free from frustration and very playful. Maybe that's exactly what bouldering is supposed to be: the ultimate expression of hedonism.

In that spirit I spent a truly enjoyable evening bouldering, waking and relaxing with the dogs. I tried to capture it with my camera and although the girls are so fast and energetic that most of their action happened off screen, I did get some great footage of them as well. Every time I watch this video it puts a smile on my face, I hope you'll enjoy it too:

At one precarious moment a hold broke. Ten points if you spot it!