Thursday, 31 January 2008

Point of contact?

I recently received an email from a good friend who I don’t get to see very often. If you asked me what makes this person such a good friend I probably wouldn’t be able to answer it very convincingly at all. Never hung out all that much, never lived together – I don’t know really, I just feel that I can talk to this person more openly than I can with most and I enjoy any and all contact I have with them (usually via email from all over the world). While reading the latest mail I had a realisation of sorts – I was reading away, taking it in, enjoying the picture being painted when it finished with the most simple but most profound two words – I’m happy. That’s the whole point of it! Keeping in touch I mean… that’s why I do it! I had never thought about it or realised this before but every time I read a mail from this (or any) person I was constantly weighing up the tone and situations in my head to decide if they were happy – kind of like wanting the good guy in the movie to win. I have always wanted things to be going great for them despite not being in any position to do anything about it if they were not... other than listening and trying to cheer them up. Well this time it was laid bare for me and I was chuffed! There it was – everythings honky-dorey and AOK. Great!

Monday, 28 January 2008

North Wales Vids

Neal asked about new vids.... so heres a few from youtube - thanks to doylo99

Anyone feeling weak yet?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Dry Rock 2008!!

Dry land is not a myth! I've touched my first rock of 2008 and it felt good! We headed down to check out Pantymwyn - our local steepness only 15 mins from my door. I suppose i never really took to the place before because it was too hard for me to get much use out of... but i am now seeing the small, quiet venue as kinda idyllic! Flat landings, steep rock, hard lines, riverside location and quiet! What more could you want?

Having not really done too much here before i was keen to test myself on a V7 i last tried probably two years ago and it felt Nails! Proper desperate and right at my limit (probably slightly beyond it actually!). Nothing too technical, just very steep and powerful with two cross overs and some small holds - basically theres nowhere to hide on these problems if you're weak. Reach, technique or balls wont get you out of having to be able to crank!

To my surprise, i flashed the problem first go, comfortably hanging the crux holds and even cutting loose to hang one-handed from the hold at the end of the crux sequence - it didn't feel right! i could pause on the hardest move to try different ways of holding the crux 3-tip-pocket before deciding the openhand it and reach left for the inverted letterbox pinch. Very weird and very good! something must be paying off!

Slightly lost (i had planned on spending quite some time and energy working this problem) i repeated the sequence a couple of times to make sure it wasn't fluke and went to examine some of the more beefy lines. 3 major problems begin out of a kinda big hole in the roof and all rely on a crucial pocket to gain the lip of the roof before splitting off their separate ways. The crucial hold seems to be a drainage point and was soaking - nothing my pink flowery rag couldn't sort out though! so after drying the hold and chalking up i had swiftly notched another V7 onto my belt by hanging the swing on the lip then campusing 3 moves to match the finishing hold on "Pantys down". Excellent! I now had a choice between what i know are going to be project worthy lines... the sit start to Be Ruthless at a powerful V10 or the foot free campus spectacle that is Thug Mentality V9, possibly leading into Mental extension, a V9 in it's own right resulting in Thug Mental V10/11! (check out for some history on the grades and how they're settling). If you've watched the video of the mutant known as Sam Cattell arms only-ing through these problems you might get the impression that they're full of jugs - they're not! The first Big campus cross-over is actually to a sloper and i spent the remainder of my session working this trying a variety of sequences, some involving feet, some not - all powerful - I'm home!
After we'd packed up it was running time and handily, our favourite big hill overlooks my new favourite local bouldering venue :) up to Moel Famau for a soul destroying 14 miles over undulating forestry tracks, all the while thinking about movement over the rock and happy that i HAD gotten stronger somewhere along the lines. I have some projects!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Well Nige and Neal have put their heads together and come up with something special. I like to think of that magical moment of conception they experienced as the scene from Tenacious D when KG and JB have the Butt baby – only the lads made a website and it’s actually gonna be useful and have a purpose and not just be a misshapen doll covered in fake excrement and blood. You with me? Good!

They’re trying to instil some motivation and direction into Irish climbing and offer people the golden opportunity to bypass all the mistakes they’ve made or heard about and learn from their experiences and shortcut their way to becoming a better climber. I know theres no real shortcuts but by avoiding what doesn’t work and focusing on a direction and aim suggested by someone who has learnt through experience I believe people can make great advances much more quickly. Their fledgling site is up and running and makes for some interesting reading – lectures, seminars, masterclasses, tuition, training advice, injury, nutrition, mental tactics… they really can offer quite a bit! And trust me they’ve been through it! Theres not much I can add to their growing site other than show my support and maybe add my 2 cents in about their respective bio’s. If you take the time to find and read about the lads you’ll get two very distinct, possibly contrasting pictures of the guys (especially if you don’t know them). Well heres what I have come to expect from them. Nige’s bio reads very focused, proud, logical and factual. He states what he’s done both academically and in climbing circles and reinforces all this with a career CV that backs it up. Just like him, he’ll not just send a route or problem he’ll crush it! (and probably pause to grin before topping out!). Straight away you know this guy knows his stuff and is passionate about climbing. He’s not all bouldering and sports science though – he has racked up like the rest of us and has had his fair share of epic days out on multipitch routes and seacliffs! Great craic, honest and wealth of information on all things body and climbing related. Like all people who’s advice you want to trust, he takes it himself and is never without a list of current targets he’s working towards achieving by a certain date... And also like everyone else he responds just as well as anybody to some well timed and sincere motivation or encouragement to fight through the last few crucial seconds of pump in order to latch the good hold above a crux section!

Neal? Haa! Neals bio paints the picture of some mysteriously funded hippy, climbing, snowboarding, travelling bum thing! And although a lot of that can apply, theres a calculating mind at work behind it all. He’s had to graft hard to fund his trips away and earn his experience and has never lost his motivation to improve and sample harder and harder climbing around the world. He loves to train …. Only slightly less than he loves to climb and as a result he’s been trying and researching different approaches and routines to climbing training on himself and any easily motivated bystanders for as long as I’ve known him (which is quiet a while considering he sold me my first ever harness and rock shoes for my 16th birthday!! Jeeze!!).

Long story short, the lads know their stuff and have always been nuts about rock and the movement over it (…and how to move over blanker and smoother pieces of it through training!). Plus they are optimistic (or insightful) enough to try things their peers would consider too hard or demanding and as a result of which they have achieved grades in multiple disciplines that could be considered top-end. I can see that it’s the same motivation and optimism that has fuelled this venture and I think any medium that acts as a vehicle to expose more irish climbers to these lad’s infectious lust for the sport and need for improvement is a great addition to the web’s climbing resources. If they can get me up a couple of 8a’s just imagine what they could do for someone with some ability!?!

Good stuff lads I’ll be expecting the cheque in the post, right?

Overdue Running update

Well I’ve been running up to 60 miles per week now for months and it’s feeling good. I’m seeing new PB’s for training runs on courses I now well and have been running on for years and the recovery required for each run is seeming less and less. A circuit that used to take up to 37min I ran last week at 5:30am in just under 32mins! I am likeing it! Saying that, good or even great training is no substitute for regular racing as I’ve found out. The first race I’ve ran in a long time was the Wicklow Town 5km race on St. Stephens day. All excuses aside I felt I ran well but was lacking the race sharpness and the ability to push myself through pain that you build up from regular races. I had more speed and fitness than ever before and I felt fine afterwards but couldn’t really give it everything as I was fairly congested and coughing up all kinds of snot and corruption along the course at every opportunity – I even had to stop at one point against a wall to clear myself out! All that said I had a great first 3km and was up there with the pack running through in under 10 mins before the problems began. I know theres a good 5km time in me this year! Once back in North Wales I hit the net checking for any and all local road races. I found one in Manchester that takes place every month and went to it. The course records suggest that it’s a hard course and they weren’t wrong. The course takes in 6 tight hairpin bends which effectively slow you down to near walking pace in order to get around them , making the race feel like a series of 800m interval sessions requiring you to build your speed back up to race pace again from scratch! After the first lap I knew I wasn’t racing this for a good time anymore, it was now just a race for position and with that in mind I finished 2nd and put 30seconds between myself and the 3rd finisher. Happy with that but more happy with the extra bit of toughness the two races had awoken in me – I felt I could fight a bit harder in this race than in Wicklow – it was less of a shock to the system. Since that race the running has taken a backseat due to illness, torrential rain, snow, and schoolwork. Ah well, life goes on… we’re still training.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Overdue Climbing update

Well this one will be fairly easy to type… theres been absolutely nowt climbing happening of note in my life lately other than training and going to check out Andy and Maeve’s new bouldering wall in Dublin while back home for Christmas. I’m feeling the strain now I’ll have to admit and can see myself hanging off some rock somewhere in north Wales this weekend. It’s not all doom and gloom here though, not by a long shot! The training at home has been going well and I’m still seeing improvements all the time – they’re not huge great big leaps but even the smallest sign that im progressing at least tells me im moving forwards and not backwards. What kind of improvements? Well after Spain I realised that between the running and the stamina sessions on the wall my stamina had improved and I was onsighting more and harder routes than ever before. For me that translates to 7b+ onsight (although in France earlier in the year I narrowly missed out on a 7c onsight! Got it second go!). The main weakness I was finding now on the harder routes at my grade was a lack of raw power.

I decided I needed to begin to re-introduce some footless campusing back into my training and more bouldering. So with that in mind I changed how I’ve been using my board over the last few weeks. I’m doing more pull-ups and campusing and just generally using smaller, more intense holds – all on the back of a slightly reduced endurance building set (80+ easy moves with feet on). The little adaptations have begun to shine through… I started doing sets of 10 pull-ups from the large campus rung and now do I do13. I could only hang for a max of 20 seconds or do 3 pull-ups from my tiny edges – now I can hang for over 40 and do 5 pull ups repeatedly. And having done no footless campusing in years meant that I had to cut right back – I started doing 1-3-5 and matching at the top – now I can do 1-1-3-5-5-3-1-1-3-5-5-3-1-1-3-5-5-3-1-1-3-5-5-1-1-3-5-5-3-1-1-3-5-5. That’s 5 sets of 1-3-5 with reversing. But the best sign of improvements is that I can now shake out while campusing! While doing a set a while back I felt my left hand was close to opening so I hung by my right, shook out the left and kept going! Chuffed! I think what I’m taking from all this is that the key to progress is to keep up with the mundane, un-impressive, boring work and watch the tiny improvements build into something you can apply effectively to sending routes.

Saying all that, I visited Andy’s wall over Christmas and felt decidedly weak in comparison to everyone back home. I think it just shows the positive effects of regular bouldering sessions both in and outdoors. That seems to be all the Irish climbers are up to – bouldering. Glendalough, Portrane, DCU, UCD. Wherever they do it it’s giving them a sharpness they need to crank through short cruxes. Having not bouldered in yonks I feel that I have the tools at hand to do the problems (finger strength, shoulders, core, technique) but the process of squeezing everything out of each muscle group in order to send a boulder problem felt a bit rusty. I think you forget how to crank! So now I know I need to get out on rock more and apply the training in a more sport specific way – sounds good to me!


Well we made it to and through Christmas and without boring anyone who actually reads this too much I’ll try and give the highlights

The ferry! We missed the cruise sailing due to car troubles and ended up on the dreaded swift (also known as the vomit commet!). the ship had to take a substantial dogleg north to combat the prevailing winds and then turn south to Dublin once under some shelter from the irish coastline. It was comic! Like some sort of scene from an early Monthy Pythons film. The Scene looked something like this…. Imaging you’re sitting in an old cinema seat. The screen is a large plasma only 10 feet infront and there are about 30 similar seats arranged around you. Behind you is the café stroke bar thingey and the side walls are windows looking out to see and it’s dark outside. The background noise is a low mechanical hum or whirr…. Either way it’s completely surrounding you and dampening every noise. Santa Claus 3 is on the screen but the volume is not loud enough to hear it clearly so you have to concentrate on engaging your hearing to make it out. It’s the evening before Christmas eve and the ferry is nicely busy. Now then, the rocking and swaying begins to build and before long the ship is listing and bouncing around like a good thing. People take the hint and before long everyone is seated and pensive… then the puking begins… only a little at first, the odd muffled barff into a well positioned sick bag … but just like the rocking, this builds too… before long outrageously loud hurling can be heard coming from children and hardened, well-fed truckers alike! The occasional splash as someone cant be bothered to find another bag and just involuntarily purges themselves all over their table or across the floor. The crew go round passing out tonnes of bags as the captain announces the shops and bar areas are closed. The puking continues as does the sound of crockery and merchandise clattering in their storage. Eventually the circus subsided into some sort of exhausted normality but just when you think it’s over, the ship changes direction to make the southward leg to Dublin and with that it erupts again with extra gusto – the change in the ships motion obviously having dire consequences for the suffering punters! It was interesting…. And no – me no heave!

Christmas was great, I love Christmas – I now realise how fortunate I’ve been to make it to 25 and still really, really look forward to meeting up with my family and friends. I read somewhere that in order to truly appreciate and understand your own culture you have to be extracted from it and submersed into another. Well I feel that now when I come home. I feel familiar and comfortable enough in my surroundings but also critical enough to really take in the changes both for the better and worse that are happening around my hometown in my absence. Mostly I find I just really appreciate what can be found on my doorstep at home in Dublin! The places, the parks, the people, views… the atmosphere. I loved the morning runs down to the coast and back before the city began to wake up. The TV and radio. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was my lack of time to meet up with people I really wanted to. I barely made contact with anyone outside my immediate family all trip but I suppose that’s alright every once in a while. There are some people that I’ve seen Far to little of and I really do need to sort that out!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Back from the Holidays

Well i've well and truely ignored this blog for far too long! Man i've been busy between Estyn inspections in the school before christmas and then all the panic that goes along with having birthdays, christmas, mountains, races, training, meeting up with friends and family and traveling by ferry!! But i'm back now and have loads to type about...

More to come!