07 April 2015

Fritz Tips? (Tip #3) Staying Healthy

I've been getting a lot of inquiries to write about finger strengthening tips and injury prevention. I've been lucky enough to slip through my career so far without having any detrimental injuries. Of course I can't speak medically, but I can definitely write about what I do to stay healthy/recoup, and hopefully that helps!

1. Cut back on booze. Alcohol dehydrates tendons, and leaves them vulnerable and more susceptible to injury. Also, increase water intake. Even if you think you're getting enough, try to drink more. 

2. Invest in a massager... A finger massager, a forearm massager, a foam roller, etc. I have all of the above, and they work wonders.

3. Water water water. And food.  Did I say drink more water? Something that's more of a recent additions to my current training habits is diet. We need food to live. Ceasing intake of food leads to muscle deterioration and, like with too much alcohol, tendons become weak and susceptible to injury. The changes I've made have been nutritional. I still eat a TON of food, but before I was all about Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, and In-N-Out. While I still enjoy indulging in these delicious things, it's in far more moderation. I've kicked it up with the veggies and proteins, and toned it down a little with carbs. My favorites are salmon and asparagus, tuna and zucchini, and for grains it's brown rice or quinoa. When I do find myself suddenly in the In-N-Out drive-thru line having no recollection of how I got up there, I'll get my #2 animal style wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun.

4. Muscle Work and Support. Whether you think it's a placebo effect or not, I'm a big fan of kinesiology tape. The Pro-Tec kinesiology tape is my favorite, and even if I feel just the start of a minor muscle tweak, I tape. It reinforces the muscles at their insertion and origin points, and leads me to feel more confident in yarding on 'em. I also massage on a regular basis. After long approaches, it's a foam roller, and for the glutes and hammies, or I'll lay on a massage ball, like the Orb.

5. Stretch. Yoga is something I do not excel at. Actually if I'm being completely honest, I absolutely suck at yoga. I've been trying to do more of it, because as one of the tallest girls in the competitive climbing game, I find myself stuck in scrunchy positions pretty often, and the need to be more flexible is imperative. If I can't make it to 8:30am yoga with Liberty because it's too early for me, I'll sit on the floor and stretch while I watch The Walking Dead at night. Evening stretching is a good winding down process for me, with the stress of watching zombies and gore, I feel it really evens things out.

6. Strengthen. To be honest, my hangboard workout is more about strengthening to prevent injury than it is strengthening to send. I pulled a tendon in 2012 and the road to recovery was frustrating. Learning a new hangboard routine that wasn't about isolating fingers, but about strengthening them as a whole, was a big discovery for me. Now it's an almost-daily part of my life. I never do less than three fingers at a time, whether it's front three, or back three, and I do multiple different positions and hold depth. I train open-handed and bent fingers (not full crimp with thumb on top), and it has helped me significantly.

7. Recover. I rest A LOT. Some people may think I'm lazy, but obviously I know what I'm doing... haha. Seriously, though, if we push our bodies six days a week and only take one "active" rest day, it leaves us no chance for our muscles to rebuild. Climbing and working out break the myofascia in the muscles down, and if they're not given proper time to reconnect and heal, they can never get stronger. Also, even if you're skeptical of jumping on the Gnarly band-whey-gon, that stuff works wonders for my recovery. A big ole chocolate whey shake after a brutal workout and the next day I don't feel like I got hit by a train.

That's about all I have for you guys as far as my personal injury prevention/recovery goes. As always--totally feel free to write if you have questions! Seriously, though, do it. I have all the answers.

02 April 2015

Tokyo Ramblings

I mean, I spent most of my time in Japan climbing. Indoor, outdoor. This is but a tiny blurb from my time over there. It was an interesting time, climbing-wise. I'd been to Japan before, and absolutely loved it. This time I had the surprise pleasure of seeing an old friend, Yumi, from my first trip in 2008. This trip I was climbing with The Legend Yuji Hirayama, Akiyo Noguchi, Sachi Amma, Alex Megos, and Toru Nakajima.

Climbing in Japan with Akiyo has given me the opportunity to get to know her as a person, and not as a competitor I only see occasionally at World Cups. We went training together and climbing outside together, and it hasn't felt the least bit competitive, as it sometimes, even often does with other [professional] female climbers. (Not just professional... But this is an entirely different topic.)

My perception of Akiyo is that she doesn't want to beat me personally; she isn't trying to be "the best." Obviously in competitions, that's a different story. But here, I honestly don't think she could care less about me even being around. (From a climbing standpoint. It was awesome spending time together as normal humans!)

Akiyo truly just wants to get to the top. Of everything. When she pulls on, she's a machine; effective, focused, calculated. Her efforts are inspiring, she tries harder than almost anyone I've ever seen. If she falls, I can tell she's already focused on her next attempt, at trying even harder. Which is insane, because I was sure she'd just expunged every ounce of effort she had...

That's personally what I find the most impressive. That someone can constantly be giving 110%. Sometimes I honestly think it's something I might be incapable of. Trying hard every single move, every single attempt? That sounds exhausting, and more in the mental sense than the physical. Magical things happen when I try hard, like this year's ABS Nationals for example. But truthfully, my climbing style has never called for all-out effort. I'm flowy, and dynamic, and I choose climbs that cater to that style. I pick moves that don't always call for a lot of tension, because I know it's a weakness. Basically I'm not that strong, but the act of climbing is easy for me; it always has been. And trying hard is hard. The more I climb outside, the more I realize how important body tension is. It takes a multitude of effort to make the body work like that when it isn't used to it. And mine really isn't used to it.

This year I've agreed to compete at Toronto and Vail again, and climbing and training with Akiyo and Megos over my two weeks in Japan has inspired me. They make me want to work hard. Akiyo was flashing things I was projecting, cruising things I couldn't get off the ground of. I'm not sure if it was circumstantial; jet lag, off week, etc. Or if she's currently exceptionally fit. I question how I was ever competitive with Akiyo physically; how I've ever been able to beat her. She's a beast! Albeit the entire time I was in Japan I felt tired, and eventually spent my final week battling a cold, even on an on day, I don't know that I could keep up. I obviously have my work cut out for me this spring if I want to hang with the World Cup big dawgs.

The climbing over there was a bit hard to get used to. Yuji's The North Face Cup was fun, and the problems varied between physically burly, and having technically finesse. I apparently totally underestimated the strength of the women's field over here and didn't even make finals, which was a bit disappointing. By "a bit" I mean quite. I tried to try hard. I wanted to put on a good show and really didn't want to let Yuji down, but especially I know these things happen. After the event we went on a "Rock Tour" and even the outside climbing felt a bit strange to me. Maybe climbing solely on sandstone for the last year left me completely worthless on having to deal with granite. That shit is slippery. And sharp!

Yes, I found the climbing in Japan difficult, and the grades stiffer than an appropriate metaphor. (Retrospectively, I think I had a similar experience on rock in 2008 as well.) I had a hard time convincing my body to engage, and, truth be told, the hardest thing I did the entire trip was approximately V7, while Akiyo was climbing everything in her path, including this rad little V12 in only four goes. She wanted to climb and project things with me and I felt bad and ashamed that I physically couldn't work on the same climbs as her. We did end up eventually climbing this fun little riverside V6 together, so that was cool. She was super positive and motivating, and it was nice to have a boulder to ourselves with such a big crew on the Rock Tour.

I can't help but imagine the things that must have been going through her mind watching me struggle on V8's, hell even V5's. "This chick won World Cups and climbed The Mandala??" Yes, Akiyo, I swear! I think I'm good at rock climbing..? Didn't I just do The Swoop? Why does this always seem to happen to me more than everyone else? Am I sounding whiney enough yet? Newsflash: rock climbing is hard. Sometimes it just is, and we don't know why. As I mentioned before, it's always been a natural thing for me, and not being the best is quite the blow to the ego. It's only the last few years I've found I've really needed to step up my game. This trip to Japan was another eye-opener to me, to just that fact. I am definitely not complacent with mediocre.

08 March 2015

No Ragrets

I just found this little gem of a journal entry in my phone from January 23rd. Oldie but goodie?

"I recently watched this funny movie called "We Are The Millers." There's a scene in which a baby thug gets punched out by Jennifer Aniston, but not before being questioned about his chest tattoo: NO RAGRETS.
"No regrets? None? Not even a letter?"

Anyway, you ever have those moments? The palm-to-forehead, how-did-I-ever-get-this-far-in-life ones? Yeah, me either. Peasants...

If you were thinking this was going to be some super deep "live life to the fullest" post, I'm sorry. This is about the epic four hour journey from Las Vegas to Bishop. And if you're thinking that there's no way a teeny tiny little four hour road trip could ever be epic, think again! I'm about to prove you wrong.

This drive is usually a piece of cake. I've probably done it thirty times; it's brainless. Sometimes I'm brainless. This time for some reason, I neglected to gas up in Beatty, Nevada, the halfway point. Which would have been fine, were I not towing the trailer...

Turning onto highway 266 we had roughly 95 miles of gas left in range, and 85 to Bishop. Which again, would have been aside from the (adorable) twelve-foot ball and chain I was dragging up winding mountain passes. The strategy was neutral on the downhills and low RPM's on the up. But then, a miracle! 'Next gas 58 miles.' I could crush that, even with the extra weight.

Except 58 miles came and went, and we saw nothing but Joshua trees. Twenty-seven more miles to the Shell in Big Pine, and my range read twenty. Still manageable, I thought, as we crawled up to a 7,300 foot summit at 15 miles per hour, guzzling away, blasting 90's pop songs and singing along for a half-assed distraction that honestly wasn't really working. That boiling hot stress knot you get in your upper shoulder area was making a screaming appearance.

Time came to make a decision with 13 reading on the range and 26 miles to go. When Effie said, "May the odds be ever in your favor," in The Hunger Games she obviously never had to tow a 1200 pound trailer uphill twice as far as the gas tank would allow. My odds sucked.

I sit here now, writing this as my car thirstily gulps regular unleaded. My trailer sits on the side of the road 26 miles back on Highway 266.

We coasted down into Big Pine in neutral for the last seven miles, with the range at zero. It's 10pm, and I have to drive half an hour back the way I came from, collect my home away from home, and then carry on up to Bishop. And I feel like a f***ing idiot. It's experiences like this that make up our life stories, right..?

Let me slap an "AJ Tip" to the end of this: When you have the opportunity to get gas right before driving off into no man's land--GET IT."

02 March 2015

The Swoop Project

Wow. What a crazy process. No wonder Woods and Beal named the Grandpa Peabody Proj "The Process." That's exactly what it is.

I was initially dragged down there to try a classic V5 to the right called "Tiger Lily." When I say dragged, I mean almost literally; it takes a lot to convince me to climb something of moderate difficulty. And I hate classics...

Tiger Lily, V5

(Kidding.) Tiger Lily is awesome! So awesome I had to do it twice. We'd heard from Southern Nevada Guidebook author, Tom Moulin that the arete left of Tiger Lily hadn't been climbed, and while taking a peek at that impossible-looking thing, I noticed that there were very obvious, perfect holds, spaced perfectly apart, on the black and orange striped face left of the arete. It looked stunning immediately; an obvious line, albeit the landing would be horrifying. The entire boulder sits up on this pedestal, and the landing zone for the Swoop Project was right where the pedestal ended and droped off, while also featuring an giant obtusely-shaped boulder (sharp end up, of course) smack in the middle of the drop off.

The line was dubbed the Swoop Project for multiple reasons, the first being that the crux was a sort-of 'arm pogo' dynamic jump move off a left hand crimp to a slopey rail. I would drop my right arm, and violently swing it upwards trying to gain a little extra momentum on take-off.

Reason number two, was that every time I went out of town (which was a lot over the last few weeks) my friend Seth would text me and tell me he was going to go swoop my project if I didn't hurry up and come home.

Of course I have a list as long as a grocery receipt of potential names for new climbs, but I'm so particular, I want a name to fit perfectly with a boulder, especially if it's a decent line. (If you know me personally, you know I'm particular about much more than just this...) As soon as it became known as "The Swoop Project" it was basically over. After I did it, I tried thinking about calling it something else, even saying names out loud. Ultimately I just kept referring to it as The Swoop, and so did everyone else, so the name just stuck. Now I'm pretty fond of it.

As I mentioned above, t's a really interesting process doing a first ascent. I've said before, Critically Acclaimed was spoon fed to me, and I have the utmost appreciation for that. But this was different; it was so personal. I've been joking that I 'raised it from an egg,' but that's exactly how it feels! It was like I created art. Or something. I created something. It's all very hard to explain, and fills me with overwhelming pride, and biased feelings, haha.

I felt an immediate connection to this line. It grabbed me and inspired me right away, regardless of presumed difficulty. I was driven by it; every time I would leave town, I couldn't stop thinking about returning to Vegas, trudging back down into that canyon, and trying again.

I had no idea how hard this thing was going to be. All I thought when I saw it was, "wow, I bet that goes!" I wanted to do it even if it ended up being V5; in the most cliche'd meaning possible, it just looked cool. I'm still not sure how difficult it actually is. I've been trying to compare it to other similar climbs in the area, taking into consideration the amount it took me to climb them and The Swoop comparatively, and taking into account size and style.

Photo: Max Moore

This problem is going to feel significantly harder if: you're short, not dynamic, not strong on crimps, contact strength is a weakness, etc.
It will feel significantly easier if: you're taller, good at jumping, have strong fingers, and especially all of the above.
Would this warrant downgrading? Probably not. I'm trying to consider the general climbing population, and base the grade off the average, not the select with the aforementioned advantages, who probably don't even know what V10 feels like anymore. Besides, this is just a suggestion.

The thing about doing something first, is that even if it to turns out to be easy, you really have no idea at first if it's even possible. No one has done it before you. You're the pioneer, the person who makes it possible. That's a crazy feeling. I can't even imagine how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin felt.

Every failed attempt I was thinking, "Man, does it go?? I have no idea!" As soon as someone has done it, you know it can be done, but until that point it's all a mystery. And to be the person who unlocks it, the person who says, "Yes, this IS possible." That's awesome.

Photo: David Beaver