For better or worse, then, after the injury I turned 2012 into a year that would be more about attacking my greatest weakness (big-muscle strength and power) than anything else, including clipping the chains without falling. Physically, at this moment in time, I’m finally assured that this was the right choice for my body. However, mentally, coming on the heels of the injury, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how difficult it’s been to take this arduous path through this year. I have struggled a lot with it and I’ve wrestled with my confidence (in both my training decisions and my climbing choices) all year long. It’s tough and felt really scary, like I was stepping into a vast unchartered void, to just dedicate myself to the strength training for so long and to not allow myself to be distracted by the temptation of trying to send climbs.
This might not sound like fun or like it defeats the whole purpose of climbing, and I totally agree that it’s not for everyone. If clipping chains is the most important thing and the sole indicator of success and fun in climbing for a person, spending half the year strength training would be a terrible idea. But if (like me) you revel in getting on routes that once had hard moves for you and discovering that – thanks to training your weaknesses – the moves aren’t hard or as hard as they were before, it might be worth it to you. I’ll even go so far as to confess that it almost hasn’t been worth it for me; constantly “failing” even when I knew I was deliberately causing the failure (by putting the training ahead of the climbing performance) was way harder for me to take than I expected it to be. But only “almost,” because as of right now, I’m pretty happy and at peace with that choice I made back in May. I think it was the right one to make.
However, due to my strength-training decision, I arrived here with virtually no power endurance or endurance whatsoever. I felt psyched to be here and to be done with training (strength training, anyhow!) for the time being. But in all honesty, even though I aimed to consider the first month or so here to be the final segment of my training (i.e. the building up endurance/power-endurance levels closer to my strength/power levels), I have to admit that for me this season, those final touches proved a bit more brutal for me to take than they have in years past – probably because of the accumulation of mental garbage and self-doubt that has accrued throughout 2012. But I planned this – planned to arrive with zero power endurance/endurance for the Red. I just wanted to be stronger (in terms of strength and power) overall.
So, to make a long story short – as I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve spent the first month here mainly helping Kevin with his create-a-crag effort here, which is not at all how I expected or planned to spend my season here. But I just figured, “Why not?” especially after realizing the potential that the crag (an addition to the Chocolate Factory) had to offer in the mid- to upper-5.13 range, which the Red can definitely use more of and is the grade range I’m looking to get more solid at here right now. It’s been a great way to gain Red fitness sans pressure, too – just more focused on getting the routes in and cleaned up while building up my endurance and power endurance rather than trying to project something hard. That choice would come once these routes were done, and also, once I started feeling more capable and up to speed in terms of power endurance and endurance again – and those two components definitely needed some catching up to do when compared to my strength and power.
Yesterday’s experience, more than anything else this year(!), showed me that I am far stronger than I was last fall, which is all I care about and want – clear indications that training is working for me, that what I’m doing is right for me. I got on this climb Kevin bolted last year (he started this area last year), a cool, steep 13+. When I tried it once last year, the moves were too hard for me – I flailed and then I bailed. On that kind of a power-endurance route, like lots of the routes here, if each move by itself is at my limit or something I can barely do, I have no chance to link, and I know it. I was shocked this year to bolt-to-bolt the route pretty easily. Doesn’t mean that it won’t be extremely difficult for me to send (it’ll be a reach to do it this season), but does for sure mean that I’m way, way stronger in terms of actual strength and power than I was last fall here. And that is what I wanted to accomplish.
Maybe I’ll send this route and maybe not; if not, it will be just another reason to come back here in the spring season (again, taking the big-picture perspective). I totally fell in love with it, though – it’s an awesome route with cool, flowing and sustained movement on amazing features. It definitely won’t make me weaker to keep trying it; that’s for sure. And I still have most of the other routes around it to try to do, too – so plenty to keep me busy. But I really want to keep a big-mind perspective about this season and not get all wrapped up in the need to send; I just want to have fun and enjoy the process of getting stronger and working my weaknesses, however long it takes me.