get angry, onion

Climbing lessons – from a Burger King Whopper:

I’ve been falling on this project for quite some time. Atreyu has already taken much longer than anticipated and I’m still not done. Be the angry onion. There are levels to climbing performance, as I’m sure there are in any sport, which require us to change dramatically before passing. Before such a change we feel a plateau in performance. That extra little bit of juice needed to edge past this lull in progression can come in a variety of ways, such as increased training volume, training intensity, or mental focus. As far as performance stimuli go, mental focus has been the most interesting to me as of late. Enter the ‘angry onion’. I think sometimes about the last little bit of business on Atreyu, this big-ass throw to a crimp after what amounts to a pumpy 5.13a. Its hard to motivate for that throw. And that’s lame. That makes me a wanker. As if climbing isn’t hard enough without your mind preventing your body from doing what it should, I’ve sabotaged myself for more than a few days by letting my thoughts get out of control. Yeah, the move’s hard. Sure, I’m tired. What do I expect? It’s a hard route and representative of the style of climbing I enjoy most. There’s nowhere else I would rather be than confidently throwing for that hold after climbing through some of my favorite moves on rock. And I know I can do it. So what’s the problem? Answer: I haven’t been the angry onion. The next level waits for me beyond my current mental stage. Before I get to climb harder routes I need to own this one, and this route is summarized in one move – that long, right-hand throw around a gently rounded bulge to a positive crimp. When I get angry enough to set up for that last move, hands matched on that sloping rail, and kick up knowing – knowing – I will hit and hold the crimp, then I can move on. It’s going to take a little more focus. I’m going to need to be the angry onion for a minute.

…and this one’s rad too:

last water, slow lane

I took another hit of Albuterol before getting in the pool last night. It made a little bit of a difference. My 100m free times were a touch faster than usual, but any good feelings I may have experienced from that were eclipsed by the level of talent of the human fishes next to me. Apparently yesterday was the day abnormally fast swimmers chose to workout at the Los Banos Community Pool. They were fast. I am not. Though I felt good for me, I got totally smoked, and realized I am a fat loser. Actually, that’s not even accurate – there was a fat guy there who was faster than me. I’m whatever is worse than a fat loser. Maybe I’m fat on the inside.

da numbers:

  • 400m easy free/zipperswitch
  • 6 x 100m free @ 2:30
    • coming in between 1:35 – 1:40
  • 200m IM
    • This hurt. But that’s good cuz I’ve never finished an IM in long course. Yay! – Here’s a cookie now stop sucking.
  • 300m kick

total distance: 1500m

last water, kick or treat

Lots of kicking last night. After a quick 1000m of freestyle, zipperswitch, zipperswitch with fly kick, and butterfly, I kicked for 500m. That’s probably more kicking than I’ve done for quite some time. It felt good, and kept feeling better the longer I went. Note to self: do more kick work. By about 200m my legs were cramping, but that went away before 350m. Towards the end I felt like I could go forever, until they closed the pool. Rad.

opportunities for growth

Me peeling off Desert Shield.

Micah getting all introspective on a high-ball in the Hall of Horrors Area.

Another personal growth opportunity on Shakin’ Hands With the Unemployed.

Justin on Satanic Mechanic.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Tyler Durden would crank at Joshua Tree. Don’t think it takes some kind of supreme discipline to put your mind in a place where climbing dangerous routes makes sense. Joshua Tree’s climb-or-die style can only be mastered by a total dumbass. Forget about everything – your health, the plants at home that need water, the cats and/or dogs that need to be fed, medical bills – and just climb. Be that amoeba, that single-celled, singularly focused creature put here to do one lame thing: to climb this rock in front of you. Maybe then this trip to California’s high desert will be therapeutic instead of traumatic.


There are consequences to falling at Joshua Tree, and the technique needed to scurry up her insecure slabs is no forté of mine. I fully expect my money’s worth for developing this skill. Clearly the park rangers never tire of scraping human sacrifices off the desert floor – they’ve permitted bolting yet banned electric drills. My final opinion on this rationale is yet unformed, but I will say: those who excel at this style of climbing are truly men. Unless they’re women. Now I’m confused about strong women and gay men and how they would fit in to that.

lunch water, breathing easy

Mary and her glass chamber.

Biking with Ungerer.

My favorite pulmonologist: Dr. Ungerer.

I saw Dr. Ungerer earlier in the day. He’s still rad. After putting me through his typical battery of breathing exams, we discussed some lingering affects I may experience from last year’s lung trauma. Of specific concern was prolonged muscle weakness, as Ungerer mentioned a recent study has detailed strength impediment in young patients who have spent a week or more in intensive care, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) symptoms such as asthma. Muscle weakness has not been an issue for me for several months at least (I assume patients with debilitating strength concerns are not climbing as much as I’m climbing) but lung utilization might not be what it should. Ungerer explained to me the process by which a lung is "hardened" in response to severe pneumonia, how alveoli may not function optimally in such a presentation. We determined medication in my case may be beneficial but certainly not necessary, perhaps for use prior to exercise, in my case swimming, to counter-effect exercise-induced asthma. So he gave me an inhaler that I used later that day before my swim routine. It worked. I can’t say I was skipping across the water but lung capability was undeniably improved and so were my times. There is a concern I have regarding long-term use of any drug. However, my use of an inhaler is not guaranteed for long-term, as a completely healthy lung would not benefit from this medication, nor is its affect today really that dramatic. To quantify its affect, I will say it improves my swimming performance between 10 and 15% – noticeable but not mind-blowing. A competitive swimmer bumping against the inside of his potential performance envelope would surely be grateful for an improvement of that scale but I can do fine without it. So I don’t know – I might use it again. I might even use it regularly for a while. Regardless, the inhaler does not provide me an enormous ergogenic benefit.

I was so pumped up about the prognosis Ungerer gave me that I went climbing at Vertical Heaven after getting out of the pool. The climbing session also was rad and left me totally knackered for the day. Between Ungerer’s stationary bike exam, swimming, then climbing, I was tapped out – good Wednesday.

last water, good times

Last night’s pool session was pretty good. Butterfly feels good, my freestyle is all stretched out from zipperswitch drills, my legs are hammered from lots of kicking, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable throughout the duration of my routine. I did 1300m. Good times.

loads of climbing this weekend

This weekend was a seriously rad climb-athon. Owl Tor Saturday, Echo Sunday. Actually, the Tor kinda sucked because I put in 3 more burns on Atreyu (5.13b) and was spit off 3 more times. But Elijah, wasn’t Saturday the seventh day this season you were slapped off the last move of Atreyu? Why yes, I believe it was. No one’s more bummed than me, believe it – I would like very much to send that route straight back to hell. It’ll have to wait. It might have to wait a very long time if the weather turns, as typically happens in January. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind that much. For letting Atreyu get in my head like this I deserve to spend a couple months thinking about what I’ve done, or not done. My relationship with this route has grown out of control. It subtly planted this seed of doubt between success on Hard Boiled (5.13b) and redpoint ambition for Strictly Ballroom (5.14a?). If not for Atreyu, I might be generally content with my climbing progress this season, or be feeling good about my recovery from last year’s hospital incident. If not for this one unresolved item, I could be strutting around with an unbearable arrogance about me. So thank you, route from hell. Thanks for keeping me grounded in thoughts of my own inadequacy. Perhaps everyone should have an Atreyu in their life. Or maybe I should change it’s name to White Whale. What I should really do is get my ass to the chains so I can quit whining.
Enough. Sunday was rad. Sunday was truly a rad climbing day. I gave Echo Cliffs another chance. My last visit to this gem of the Santa Monica hills was with Phil, like 6 years ago, as I was going through this odd condition with one of my arms where any climbing whatsoever made it instantly pumped and effectively unusable. Well, I hated the place anywayz. We got on Buried Treasure (5.12d), which I thought, along with the crag in general, sucked in an indefensible way. Specifically, the hike sucked, the rock sucked, whatever work was done to manufacture the routes sucked, and it was too hot. On my return visit, it was still hot, but I saw the place in a new light. The hike still sucked but the routes I got on were brilliant. And I felt pretty good. Daniel Kovner and Jaime Neilson showed me around. As I know from bitter experience, climbing with folks you like is half the fun. Dan and Jaime, whom I met for the first time that day, are super rad. After warming up on some OK-ish 5.10d, we got on No Remorse (5.13b). SUPER RAD. Dan sent the thing last season and looked proud on it Sunday despite his recent return to fitness from an elbow dislocation. After watching Dan’s moves, Jaime and I bolt-to-bolted it. Then I got on a second time to one-fall it. Well, kinda one-fall it – in an effort to not pee my pants at the top, I two-fingered the cold shuts to clip the rope. I know, I know. As if I hadn’t climbed to exhaustion already, Jaime gets on Immaculate (5.12a), flashes it, pulls the rope and hands it to me. So I gotta flash the thing or I’m thinking Dan and Jaime will figure out I’m this turbo-wanker. So I flash it. And leave my last ounce of dignity up there. We finished the day on Shiva (512c). Again, very rad route. Cleaning it: not so rad. I would like to get back on her when it’s not dark. I would also like to scramble the 45 minutes back to the car with a headlamp.
Maybe Saturday’s Tor session wasn’t a total loss. I put in some good Hilti work on my new route: 4 new holds, like something the lord made. Progress on this new testpiece is going swimmingly.
Oh yeah, and Andy cranked. He decided not to flail with me, opting instead to send both No Skill (5.12c) and The Natural (5.12c) for his first time. Success like that is rare at the Tor. She’ll remember Andy’s indiscretion, for which we will all pay.

last water, better every time

Wednesday night’s pool session felt good. And it’s about time. I wasn’t too psyched on swimming for a couple months there. What with winter weather and reduced sunlight hours, I was contemplating leaving the water indefinitely. But after a few positive sessions I’m glad I stuck it out. Wednesday’s focus was on freestyle, stretching out my stroke, finding a balance in the water where I can pause after the catch while not feeling as if I’m fighting to keep high in the water for a breath. The result was a strong 6 x 100m freestyle set with splits around 1:40. That’s not bad considering freestyle has not been a focus lately. And to keep the intensity down with the pace up is a clear improvement over last week’s iteration of this same set. Another benefit to smooth, focused technique is to relax me. When the pool feels comfortable I stay in longer and look forward to the next workout. If you’re going to perform a sport a few times a week for 20 years, I believe you need to find something enjoyable in it’s execution.

da numbers:

  • 400m easy free/drills
  • 6 x 100m free @ 2:30
    • times: ~1:40
  • 50m fly
  • 50m easy free
  • 300m kick

total distance: 1400m