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!

woensdag 3 juni 2015

Font again

A very short update, because right now I lack the time to write long stories here without sacrificing valuable training time... Too much work again, I hope next year is better. During the Ascension weekend I visited the bouldering Mekka of Fontainebleau again. I hadn't been there for years and needed (still need, to be honest) to get used to the specific, technical style of climbing. Although I only climbed a handful of low 7's, I haven't enjoyed bouldering this much in a long time. Font truly is one of the best climbing areas I've ever visited. I should visit it more often!

Below is a short video I cut from the rather random footage I managed to shoot there. I should have spent much more time to capture the beauty of the forest, but I didn't. Next time maybe... Nevertheless the video doesn't fail to convey the great atmosphere and the fun we had.

In the meantime I've started training power endurance. Gradually campus training started to have detrimental effects on my body. It took only a few hints to make me change gears and progress to the less injury prone power endurance training: a split middle finger tip that got deeper and more painful with every training, a flapper on a pinky and a near flapper on the other, a slowly developping nagging little pain in my wrist and elbow and a mild inflamation in a collateral ligament. Although I''m fully aware that a more sensible person may have stopped a few trainings earlier, I am mildly proud that I didn't stubbornly stick to the plan a let go of a few more campus trainings to prevent more serious injuries. It is motivating though to start working on power endurance, knowing it'll get me in shape for some hard route climbing in the summer. The first training was and absolute disaster and reduced my forearms to pulp even before finishing the first circuit, so there's a lot of room for improvement. That's good, right?

dinsdag 28 april 2015

New season!

I still don't really know why I didn't write a decent wrap up for the last season, because in the end it wasn't really that bad. Although I didn't get outdoors nearly as much as I had wanted to, I climbed enough to discover that the disciplined training I've put myself through this winter is paying off and I am getting stronger again. Honestly, that's quite a relief after the absolute lack of results since April last year. After the initial (and undeniable) gains of installing my woody I got stuck in doing the same bouldering routine over and over again, which turned out to be equally effective as flogging a dead horse. Totally unnecessarily though, because essentially I have a luxury version (it has a window) of the dark and damp training dungeons that got British pioneers like Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt to the top of their game 20 years ago. It feels like only now I'm learning to use it properly with the help of some fancy training books offering the latest insights in climbing training. Somehow it seems though that said heroes like Moon and Moffatt were doing awkwardly similar things long before these books were written...

Ode to old school! Released in 1996, 'The Real Thing' was the first ever real bouldering movie.
Don't forget to watch parts 2 and 3!

Anyway, let's talk about me. I still haven't bragged about the last Teuto session halfway March and it's already a while ago since I shared how far my ego drifted off during the preceding session. It's baffling how little is needed to feed it! During the last session, my confidence got another boost. By failing. Now that's a rare thing. Usually failure frustrates me beyond reason, but this time I had no expectations whatsoever and got surprised by falling on the last hard move of my intended summer project. Twice! Reality check: the last move is a real bitch. It's a very powerful, technical deadpoint that requires accuracy. Although I can do it consistently when rested, it's horribly hard to do when fatigued and it's right at the end of a 16 move power endurance sequence. There can be a really long way between falling on the last move and doing the last move here… Nevertheless it's right on top of my goal list for the next season!

Fast forward to today: as I am writing this, over a month of the second training cycle has past already. The mentally draining strength phase is done and I've started working on power already. I carefully logged my trainings again and the results are quite insightful. I've described the training before, so I'll go straight to the results. Below are the graphs displaying the data from both season 1 and 2.

Time under tension (T.U.T., i.e. total time spent hanging) and Volume (integral of total load over time).
Added load per grip position (negative load implies weight was substracted). Grip positions are listed in chronological training order. The 'front 2' grip position (middle and index finger) has been added to the routine in season 2. The plateau on the 'Big Sloper' position is deliberate as the purpose is to warm up the elbows and shoulders (and not injure them).
Total load equals body weight plus added load and is used to calculate training volume.
Boring details (skip to Summary for the conclusions):
Having to build on a previous season brings the difficult choice of the starting loads of the first training. In the nearly three months between strength cycle 1 and strength cycle 2 detraining occurs: some strength is lost and it's unrealistic to expect to pick up right where I stopped. The aim is to surpass the previous highpoint at the end of the cycle though. Having no real clue what to choose, I varied the drop a bit per grip position: on the '4 finger open' hang I didn't drop weight at all, on 'front 3' I dropped 8 kg, on '4 finger half crimp' 6 kg and on 'mid 2' 4 kg.

To explain the additional drop for the last three after two trainings, I have to admit to making the stupid mistake of neglecting the advice of sticking to a 30 day regime of hangboarding exclusively. I broke the discipline already after the first training by squeezing in an outdoor bouldering session in Avalonia. I climbed six 7's in a day, but payed for it during hangboard trainings 2 and 3. They were terrible and I felt so weak that I decided to drop weight on the mentioned hangs after training 2.

Based on the results, it seems that dropping more weight is better: for the '4 finger half crimp' and 'mid 2' positions the weight drop was small and I only matched the highpoint of season 1. I wonder if I would have surpassed it if I hadn't gone out to Avalonia though… 'Back 3' had a slightly bigger drop (6 kg) and surpassed the previous season by 2 kg, 'front 3' had the biggest drop (8 kg) and the biggest gains (6 kg). The '4 finger open' positions seems to contradict the trend with no drop and a progression of 6 kg as well, but I think this particular grip position did benefit a lot from the campus training I did after the first strength cycle. With that in mind, it's spectacular that the 'front 3' grip has progressed 6 kg as well, especially since I did complete the 'front 3' hang on training 10 and failed to complete the '4 finger open' hang.

Because of the drop in load, a corresponding drop in training volume is expected at the start of a new cycle. It doesn't show up here, because the T.U.T. was increased by adding a new grip position to the routine. On this position ('front 2') I hit a brick wall during the last five trainings and wasn't able to progress anymore. I have no idea why. Next season I'll start with an even lower load and see what that does.

The implications now, for those interested in hangboard training themselves and for future me, who should really, really read this before starting the third hangboard season:

  • Stick to the program, don't do anything that interferes with the hangboard trainings. That means no hard climbing: the forearms get two full rest days between trainings. I did an hour of crossfit training for arm, core and shoulder strength and injury prevention on every first rest day, which seemed to work fine.
  • Drop back in load significantly from the end of the previous cycle. Make sure it's high enough to be able to surpass the previous high point at the end of the cycle. Next season I'll try to drop back 10 kg. With a possible progression of 2 kg per training, it should be possible to match the previous highpoint during training 6. That leaves 4 trainings to try and surpass it.