Tag Archives: Old dogs new tricks

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.


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…

Old Dogs New Tricks – Day 11 – Man with a plan (and a folder)

Sunday 7th Feb – Day 13  (Unlucky for some)

So after plugging in my results, checking out the answers to my questionnaire, (and stopping guffawing at my insane goal), Tom sent my training plan through on Thursday. But having only given it a once over on Friday morning I only got down to studying it to day.

It’s a hefty spereadsheet filled with coloured boxes and the next thirteen weeks of my life marked out. It’s a new world for me and the biggest shock is that I actually have be proactive and plan my weeks – it seems obvious in retrospect but I was hoping that everything would be laid out on a plate!!! I suppose however, great a trainer Tom is he can’t know when I have the time spare to actually train…

Back to school...

Back to school…

The other part that I have to consider (and didn’t think about) is planning for the activities – I need to make traverses and problems of the required standard for the various activities: AnCap, EnCap, Split Continuity (whatever those are) And the downside of living out in the countryside next to the crags is that there’s no climbing wall nearby to quickly jump on pre-set routes of the required grade.

So Sunday was spent fiddling around at my local wall playing with holds, trying to figure out what a 6b traverse on a verticalish wall is and generally trying to get back into the indoor swing of things. It’s been a long time since I have done anything indoors and it’s all a bit confusing…and hateful!! LOL

Anyway a little confused but plenty psyched I now have a training folder and an iron will to do myself proud – the first statement is a little more true than the second!!!

I’ll be calling Tom to fill me in on the ins and outs and it’s session time Starting Monday!!!

This is for me to remember everyday:

My body's going to be in trouble...

My body’s going to be in trouble…

Thanks to www.betamonkeys.co.uk for the laugh..I’ll need it!!

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…