Category Archives: 8b+ Challenge

Old Dogs New Tricks – Day 141 – Re-test – Back on the horse…

Ok so in truth I’m 5 months in and probably nowhere near where I wanted to be. (see the challenge here)

And there are extenuating  circumstances: niggling injuries, bigger injuries, climbing trips, moving house (plus lots of visitors to said house), finishing my second book and possibly most of all an inability to not go climbing when surrounded by rock. But as i am finding out going climbing doesn’t necessarily make you a better climber – or at least it doesn’t bring you any closer to unrealistic goals!!

But as we all know ‘extenuating circumstances’ are just excuses wrapped in flowery prose. So as I sit in front of Tom’s house with the dread of a kid who hasn’t studied for an exam I know that I would mark myself ‘must do better’ even before I started.

Below the new Lattice board...

Below the new Lattice board…excuses have no currency here…

The test doesn’t budge, you can’t fool it, there’s no leeway, so I am hoping at least the training I have done – probably 25% of what Tom set me – helps. And I mutter the right things to him and Ollie before the test, and in truth I have found the whole thing great. The Lattice boys, Tom Randall and Ollie Torr, certainly did their side and provided me with a brilliant springboard. It’s not their fault if the client doesn’t dive deep enough.

I warm up, taking more time this time, knowing what’s coming. The test was brutal and I am trying to delay it a bit. However, the bonus now is that the new Lattice board is smoother, cleaner, more skin and finger friendly. I am getting psyched. I really want to climb on it.

First up is the hang test. Like the first time I can only do this on my right hand as my left is buggered so I strain and pull and managed 5 secs with 6.5kg then again with 4.5kg and fall a bit short with 3kg. I’m happy, last time I had one go in me.

Richie 1

Simple but effective. A 20mm edge a stopwatch and some weight!

Then to the main event, the Lattice board. Tom explains in more detail this time how he and Ollie derive the results – it’s clever but it washes over me as the adrenaline builds and I set off.

‘Stop’ I’m three moves in and Tom’s voice brings me to a halt.

‘Why are you using three fingers on your left Richie? You said you weren’t injured.’

I thought I’d got through, bullshitting that my baby finger (which is pretty bad) wasn’t too bad and in the intervening weeks since my FB post was basically OK.

‘I told you, you can’t do the test if you’re injured.’

‘But i need to know’ I protest ‘and I’m sure I can do it with three.’

Tom’s cross over from mate to ‘coach mode’ is quick and he brooks no nonsense. I plead to no avail but Ollie pipes up with an idea. They’ve got a work around. I do a 7:3 hang test. Possibly even more brutal but not going to stress my left hand and they can get some useful results from it.

Ollie counts me down as i hang, 7 seconds on my right, then rest 3 on my left. Repeat ad nauseum as they say. Even though it’s a destroyer and by the 6th ‘maximum’ I am screaming with pump I’m happy to be able to do something. Each block of ten hurts more but I grin and bear it and try to mentally ‘beat’ my previous time.

7 on 3 off....

7 on 3 off….

I collapse. With one super pumped arm and one unstressed baby finger. Job done.

Tom puzzles over how to get useful results....

Tom puzzles over how to get useful results….

Sitting round the table at Tom’s after crunching the numbers they show me my new graph. Set against the last one it makes for reasonable reading – more recovery, more stamina and in general a bit better. However, interestingly Tom’s take is most crucial – there is adaption, I am trainable!!!

He’s quite pleased. There’s something to work with and he goes into a huddle with Ollie.

‘OK Richie, the truth is we can’t condone climbing on an injury, so the only way to continue is to have time off and train weights rings and core. Ollie’s the man for this so meet him on Wed morning at ‘the Works’ and we’ll start again.’

Phew, the adventure continues…

 

 

Old Dogs New Tricks – Catch-Up Blog #1 Otinar – Training week 3 / Overall week 4 (Feb 22nd – 27th)

Ok so here’s the first of my ‘retro-blogs’ as a catch up to where I am at with ‘Old Dogs New Tricks’…

Otinar – Training week 3 / Overall week 4 (Feb 22nd – 27th)

Ok so we left our hero (me btw) on the horns of a dilemma – a late, light session on my board the day before I was going away had left me with a very sore strained arm (or worse).  So the question was; to travel the 700km with the injury or to cry off and stay at home doing a  bunch of stuff that you need to get on with:  we were due to move house and I needed to finish my new book, so the temptation was pretty high to stay.

However, on the other hand I’d been climbing for 5 years with Jairo and never been on a trip with him…could I let him down at the last minute…??? Fuck!!

So I went. And we headed down towards Jaen – a short 700km or 9 hour drive – in Jairo’s motorhome. My arm was sore, strained and un-relentingly not good so I spent the time on the back watching movies being pissed off and massaging with my ‘Arm-Aid’ which seemed to help…

The team...Jairo, Juan and me...

The team…Jairo, Juan and me…

What made it doubly bad is that we were heading for Otinar and I’d been super-psyched for the trip. This is a ‘new’ venue which had a bit of a reputation, a mega steep cave with a bunch of 7s and 8s and nothing easier than 7a+ across the crag. With air cold, crisp and spring-like the 5 minute walk-in was get everyone breathing hard and there was a tangible excitement in the air. There were 6 of us and I’d decided to be cameraman for the day to rest an arm that seemed no better – a sore ‘pulley’ from the palm to the elbow.

EL COLETA 8a

The crag was very, very, very steep…Jairo on La Coleta, 8a,

On arrival the crag was decidedly well, brutal, not to put too fine a   point on it. It was really steep, even the warm ups were really steep and the hard routes were super steep. It made my arm twinge just looking.  However, the guys dived right in and set about mauling the warm/ups…then set about the main course.

Not the most aesthetic of venues set mainly above a huge goat pen the routes were very steep and it was inspiring as Miguel first then Jairo set about some of the most overhanging lines. My palms were sweating as Jairo gamely battled his way up, via a biiiiiig pump, a 7c which overhung 10m in it’s 23m length…I decided to make the most of the day and get some photos as I’d brought my ‘proper’ camera but after 4 shots the battery went – things weren’t going my way..

Day 3 started better and although my arm felt really sore I was determined to give it a go…then came a migraine so I went back to the van to lie down. Three days in and I hadn’t touched rock…after a sleep and a rest i felt a bit better and so wandered off and stretched in a ruined barn…the glamour!!

My 2nd 'rest' day...a bit of stretching...

My 2nd ‘rest’ day…a bit of stretching…

Day 4 – The dark side - After more ‘arm-aid’ i was ready to climb – and climb I did, like a big fat spanner. Warming up on the 6b+ part of very steep 7c (the easiest stretch of rock by far) I was nervous, static and slow. Feeling every day of my age I felt terrible, heavy and dulled – and somehow disappointed that the three weeks of training I’d done hadn’t turned me into a worldbeater. Then I pulled stupidly, forlornly onto the 7c, and ‘dogged’ the moves…it felt too hard, I felt too old and my frustration at my injury boiled over into cursing (not been known before) as I slumped on the rope. After I rest I then found myself falling off the next easiest route – a 7b which took an unlikely line – and a dark cloud descended!! Bad day at the office…

The bright side – However, I took solace watching an incredible French couple: him a 60 year old ‘lean, mean climbing machine’ and her a female version. They’d been there a few days and their modus operandi was clear and precise, he’d try and onsight and if he fell, work the route perfectly and send first RP. Then she’d go next following his instructions to normally execute a perfect ‘beta-flash’…now none of this would be of interest except that they both looked as old as the hills, they were doing this on routes up to 8a+ and they climbed so efficiently that it was a joy to watch. Very much a lesson in clever climbing and what you can do despite a few years…

55 year old French woman takes on silly steep 8a route and wins...

55 year old French woman takes on silly steep 8a route and wins…

Day 5 – Felt better. The clouds and cobwebs of day 4 had gone and I made a determined attempt to warm-up at the crag…And after some stretching a bit of use of Jairo’s mobile fingerboard and some rubber bands I got back on the warm-up – which, to my astonishment actually felt like a warm-up! Psyched I did it again and then climbed on into the 7c – carefully, testing all the holds for maximum efficiency and best body position – trying to channel Jerry Moffat’s matra ‘work it hard – send it easy’.

A redpoint ensued but cold hands put paid to anything and the rest afterwards only really made me more nervous. It was burly 7c and the likelyhood was I wouldn’t do it…however, as I launched into the crux sequence – a series of (for me) long snatchy moves off good holds – it just about clicked and despite a few, almost costly, moments of hesitation I slapped, stupidly pumped, onto the last jug. I’d got a send!! (something I’ll come back to in later Blogs).

I chilled for a bit and enjoyed watching Jairo send his 40 metre 8a with numb fingers and a lot of work, amazing effort.

The last night became more fun, I’d done summat so could relax a bit and as the G&T’s went down and the night grew longer the injury faded from my mind and the whole trip became better!

Ticks/Points of interest: 1 x 7c for 1500km of driving. And a typical ‘me’ route, bouldery and very cruxy and short…fun but nothing gained apart from the knowledge I hadn’t improved after 3 weeks. Watching the French couple showed that there’s life in old dogs and that clever outweighs strong!!

Lessons learned: Mates are more important than climbing and if you go you will get something done…and even if you don’t, go for a run, take photos, belay your friends and enjoy seeing somewhere new…oh and make sure your battery is charged…and use your mates for motivation and if you are injured don’t bring them down by moaning…

Score – 1 x 7c…Weight – 72.5kg

Did you know your mates laugh at you if you warm up at the crag...

Did you know your mates laugh at you if you warm up at the crag…



At my local training facility big with a few different angles to go at...

Old Dogs New Tricks – Day 27 – The Training #1- Slow and steady…

It’s been about two weeks since I started Tom’s program and I thought I’d give it all time to breathe before I put down my thoughts about my first ever training plan.

But let’s rewind…

I had made my challenge: to climb 8b+ before I turned 50 (giving me a year) and Tom Randall (maybe out of pity) had agreed to help. So I dutifully turned up at his Lattice board training facility and put myself through what turned out to be a pretty gruelling test. 

The easy bit of the test...

The easy bit of the test…

So when Tom handed me my plan about a week after I my test I was initially a bit taken aback…there were reams of paper and those kind of things I normally back away from…but also there didn’t seem that much to do. So I played at it for a day or so getting my head into gear – seeing how the facilities I had matched up to the program; trying to get used to the idea of being indoors a lot more that I had been and looking at my week and planning (something I’m not great at!).

Back to school...

Back to school…

Then came the phone call: I needed to clear a bunch of stuff up with Tom and after leafing the sheets and doing a few of the exercises i had some (as they turned out to be) stupid questions!!

First question: ‘After I finish my day’s set training can I train?’

Now this may sound like a stupid question but I after I had done the first exercise on the list for ‘Conti’ I wasn’t tired…so what’s a boy to do?

Train hard…that’s the thing isn’t it, get trashed…go home tired!! The answer…a resounding no…’We’re building a base, you need to get the basics in place before  you can get onto the strengthening and power sessions.’

Training-Tablon

Second question: ‘In which case can I go and try my projects’…
A sigh and a second ‘No’ and ‘We’re building a base…etc etc etc’ Then the concession…’Ok you can climb but only up to 7a/7a+’…and then gently – like he was talking to a small child rather than a 50 year old child – ‘Richie, we’re building something, we need to lay the foundations…if you’re body isn’t ready when you try to train hard it’ll fall apart…sound familiar?’

And it did sound familiar, the tearing of fingers, the tightening of muscles leading to spasms which stop you for a week…or two…the distant memory of various physios marvelling at how my twisted and knotted body still functioned…

‘Ok’ I conceded a lightbulb slowly turning on in my convoluted all-action bull-in-a-china-shop mind…’slow and steady wins the race’

Let’s see how that goes…!