Happy, surprised and and psyched: Old Dogs New Tricks Day 5 #2 – The Results

In the end my results from my bruising test (see Blog here) were delayed a bit longer as Tom and I went down to the Schoolroom to talk to Ben Moon and for Tom to have the chance show me a few key exercises on the TRX etc before I had to head back to Spain.

It was interesting to hear Ben’s take on it all. He’d been in the same position as me about 24 months ago – getting himself up off the sofa (not literally like me) to jump right back into the world of hurt that is top-end climbing. Ben being Ben he ended up with a 9a ascent. Slightly more than I was aiming for and his grade jump was probably less than mine but in a lot of ways I felt that what he’d done was similar.

His take was very simple – he loved it and he missed it and because of that it was no hardship to start training. Ben had always trained and trained hard – and methodically. This time was slightly different as he’d approached Tom to try and get him an edge: his goal was in sight but eluding him, could Tom’s input give him the vital few % that he needed?

Chatting to Ben at the Schoolroom..

Chatting to Ben at the Schoolroom..

Naturally Ben loved training and so he wasn’t phased by the work; Tom had added some volume and he was struggling with time but his advice to me was simple – enjoy it and put the time in and you’ll see the rewards. As he knew me well he also added the caveat of avoiding injury and taking it steady – he’d seen my ‘bull in a chinashop’ personality up-close a few times and was keen to point out that slow and steady wins the race!!

So, plucking up courage I asked him the $64,000 question; would I get up my 8b+?

Another smile, another hesitation, and another slightly embarrassed silence followed (much like that of Steve McClure); then Ben, sounding like he was trying to convince himself, came out with an elongated ‘Yes’…a yes which to all intents and purposes sounded like a no…However, Ben did firm his yes up and was a bit more positive but repeated the caveats of injury and overenthusiasm before tailing off.

I hadn’t climbing with Ben in 15 years so it was great watching him in action again, seeing how much effort he put in and as ever he was strong and smooth on the board as he sent a set of intervals. Jealous!

Heading back to Tom’s I sat about as he fiddled the figures eventually pulling up my ‘dashboard’ – a summary of my results in the form of a series of ‘speedometer’ like dials. Tom smiled as I looked at them, realising by my face that I was pleased with how they looked but had no idea what they meant.


I asked him to help – and to summarise for a layman. Cracking a smile he told me that the best summary was just to say that the results were better than he thought the would be and that, in his opinion I had the basic materials in place to climb around 8b/8b+ with a bunch of training. There was no obvious weakpoint, no trapdoor, which my body had set – even my stamina which I thought of as terrible wasn’t that bad.

Happy, surprised and  and psyched I felt some relief too. I had thought that I wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get back there but it was good to have it confirmed. Flushed I pushed Tom for his view on my chances; and he said that I could do it.

Pushing harder I asked what chance he’d give me, ‘put a number on it’ I said – unblinking he thought for a minute and softly replied 25%…

Old Dogs New Tricks – The 8b+ Challenge – I am a 49 year old climber who is trying to better myself by trying to climbing 8b+ from my carrent grade of 7b+ in the year before my 50th birthday. 

See more here

Bruised, battered, but happy – Old Dogs New Tricks Day 5 – The Test

Waking up too stiff to move I have just realised how much work is ahead of me.

My challenge – to climb 8b+ in the 360 days before I am 50 from my current grade of about 7b+ – rests on my ability to try hard enough and Tom Randall’s ability to set me a program. Yesterday, during Tom’s unique, specialised test procedure (giving him the information he needs to set me a program) I cottoned on to the fact that I may have to try a bit harder than I was hoping.

The first test, deadhanging with weight or assistance, was OK and he figured that I hadn’t moved too far from a very rough test he did on me a few years ago while I was actually bouldering a bit.

Style strength technique...compare and contrast Mcclure vs Patterson

Style strength technique…compare and contrast Mcclure vs Patterson

However, the second, a series of circuits on his ‘Lattice Board’, designed to test aerobic and anaerobic activity and other things was brutal. Increasingly pumped with forearms and fingers screaming I struggled to complete laps then struggled to complete moves. Each move isn’t difficult (as Steve McClure put it it’s ‘E6 2A’) but once you’ve done a ‘maximum’ the next series which Tom puts you through, with what seems like progressively smaller rests, start to hurt.

On the Lattice Board

On the Lattice Board with Tom shouting it out…I was proud of my 72 moves…first go!

I was pleased with my first go and I posted what I felt was a reasonable number of moves. But then came the repeaters. Tom sent me off again with a target he’d set (a % of the first go) and again this went OK. But with two minutes rest the third ‘lap’ started to hurt….and the fourth lap really hurt, I started counting each move out loud to give me an edge.

And suddenly what I was also noticing was that there was a psychological element creeping in. How hard am I willing to try…how much do I want it….how long do you put up with the pump…one more move? two more moves? Five more moves?

The last go was really hard, like setting off on a repoint immediately after getting a solid good go. Counting again, 15,16,17…each move harder than the last…then legs not going where you want them to wrong feet causing more pump…32,33,34…then boom!! Sagging onto the mat breathing hard arms unable to move, bust but happy!!

Strangely enough it was nice to be pushed, to be taunted by Tom’s stick which moved like a metronome in front of me. ‘Up, left, right, down’ Tom’s voice leading me on. I started to realise that I hadn’t actually trained properly for a long time and in some senses that was fun – I always enjoyed training but in other ways it was worrying; can I do this again…fifteen years later??

And it occurred to me that this small test was in someways a mini-version of the next 12 months…I would have to have this intensity but without getting injured or losing my psyche.

Steve McClure had joined us halfway through the session and it was a bit bizarre being watched by one of the best sports climbers ever, someone who’d on-sighted my grade goal two weeks previously in Chulilla. Perhaps it helped – who wouldn’t want to try hard with him watching. Afterwards I collared Steve about my chances and his face was a picture. He evidently didn’t want to be negative but at the same time didn’t want to bullshit me…’maybe’ was his considered opinion when I asked him if I’d do it…

Steve McClure on his 172 move circuit...

Steve McClure on his 172 move circuit…

Even so, I was proud of my efforts in the test and it did leave me with a good feeling about my climbing –at least I could still try hard – I just had to see if the results matched up to my goals and whether Tom would give me the thumbs up or thumbs down!!

Form filling and interviewing me afterwards; current grade, style of climbing, lots of probing about my motivations and goals as well as explaining a bit more about how it all worked, Tom was giving nothing away. ‘I’ll need a few hours to sort out the results’ he said deadpanning and with that i was left hanging.


Adding some vital statistics…

PS: It was really interesting watching Steve on the stamina test after me for although he did 100% more than me when he did start to fail it was his legs and his foot placements that went first. Exactly like mine.  Not sure that this proves anything but it was very interesting…

Old Dogs New Tricks – The 8b+ Challenge

Sometimes you have to put yourself out there and accept that meandering along isn’t enough. So, turning 49, I have decided to give myself a challenge to go from my current grade, around 7b+, to do an 8b+ before I turn 50.  One year…

49th birthday presents - inspiration, application and recuperation..

49th birthday presents – inspiration, application and recuperation..

There are many reasons for this: the stark and sharp reminder of mortality of my mum passing away last year; the second (partly brought on by this) was the nagging feeling that first time round I never actually sent what I could have; and the third was a fascination to see whether new training methodology could help me to achieve my goals.

I am a climbing lifer, 38 years and counting, and during the 90’s was pretty good for a spell: I climbed E8 on grit, 8a+ in limestone (close to 8b+) and bouldered 8a.  Yet just I was setting myself for some harder stuff in 2001 I managed to tear my shoulder and spent 2.5 years out with injury and two operations. A spell away from climbing followed as the spectre of another injury (and a totally screwed arm as the doctor warned) and I moved to Spain to try surfing instead.

Old school training mode...

When we were strong…old school training more at the original School

Yet working in climbing I never escaped the scene and over the last 5 or 6 years am happy to call myself a true climber once again. Yet at the same time it’s clicked that my ‘golden-age’ is well behind me (my hardest grit route was 20 years ago) and I’ve realised that dining out on ‘once was’ after all these years makes me a has-been!!

Hence the challenge…

There are also lots of inspirations for me setting off on this and chief amongst these was working with the UK Para-Team during my last year at Wild Country. The dedication of people like Sianagh Gallagher, Dave Bowes, John Churcher and the rest of the team in dealing with the hand they’d been dealt made me look in the mirror…and not massive stoked on the ‘middle aged man who’d been cruising for a while’ that looked back I decided to get off the couch.

Fat 1

You too can have a body like mine…’looked in the mirror and saw a fat middle aged man looking back at me…’

Obviously there are others who have also made me look up; Ben Moon kicking ass again at only 3 months older than me, my old mate Dave Stainthorpe doing his hardest route at 64, Steve MacClure at 45 still pushing limits, Karin Magog quietly getting on and sending 8b, Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker and Jairo for their never-ending psyche, Caroline Ciavaldini’s determination and watching Shauna crush (obviously)…

I have a feeling this won’t be easy; and judging by the reactions of quite a few mates it seems other people don’t either. But if it were easy everyone would do it…goes the famous phrase.

6 kilos to go from there...

6 kilos to go from there…

Luckily, (through blackmail and more) I have access to some of the best climbers in the world to help me to do this and so over the next year I am going to follow their advice. Chief among these will be Tom Randall and I am hoping that with his direction and working efficiently will cut through the chaff and I can stay the course. I am very interested to see if structure and science to make up for a 49 year old injury prone body – whether structure can provide ‘shortcuts’.

Shit or bust...bust!!

Old, injury prone and fat…can training properly help…?

Because however well I climbed in the past, and though I trained really hard, my training was haphazard, had no structure, no method and certainly no ‘goals’. However, I was having fun (which GimmeKraft stick on top of their list) and there was a pleasure in cranking at the School in my heyday which I have possibly never bettered: but the question remains what could I have done if I had followed a plan?

Finally, to spice things up I am going to add a financial penalty – if I don’t make it I will pay £250 to the Para Climbing Team…and I wish to extend this possibility to everyone out there please sponsor me for a sum that you’ll pay to the Para Climbing Team if I make it…!!! (as safe a bet as you’ve ever made)…

The GB Para Team

The GB Para Team – as inspirational a bunch as you are likely to meet…