Getting to the end of the year now and things are all wrapping up nicely in preparation for 2023. Firstly, I finished off the Goose Island programs I was working on over a week ago. Managed to crank out a lap around the island SWIMMING in just over 30 minutes. Felt pretty bloody alive after that and fairly chuffed with myself. Now I’ve tamed the ocean, or at least feel more comfortable enjoying the water as opposed to playing on top of it in sailboats and kayaks I’m thinking I might give surfing a crack at some stage now too.
Secondly, my legs are starting to work properly again and I now believe that they can get back to full strength. I was starting to lose hope there I’d cooked them forever. Sore shins, weak muscles, weird crunchy noises in my knee. BUT that little bit of strength work I’ve been doing each week (lunges, pistol squats, calf raises) has turned on the neurons in my brain and told my legs to WAKE THE FUCK UP. Rise and shine boys, it’s running time. I ran for 6/7 days last week with no pain and even managed some intensity. The game with running now is to ride the faint line between going too hard too soon with my training and stressing out my bones or going too cruisy and getting bored and stressing out my brain that I’m not doing enough. Luckily for me, I now trust the data enough from my Suunto watch to help guide me in when I’m keeping fit, training productively or going too hard.
Thirdly, pool season is well and truly in full swing. After my couple of weeks hiatus it is now good to be solely focused on working at the pool over the next few months. Morning laps has been enjoyable to be apart of and as my social circle expands in Quorn I have more and more people to talk to on pool deck. Plus, now that I’m a big dog ocean swimmer flapping around in the calm pool waters of Quorn and Hawker is no biggy for me so I’m more than happy to jump in and provide a rescue (even though the likelihood of this is very low…)
Fourthly, after almost 12 months of hosting people at Huia Park through Airbnb or cash in hand (sorry Mr.Taxman) I’m pretty happy with how things have gone on that front. 28 different ‘bookings’ all up across the year which averages out to just over once a fortnight I have someone stay with me for a couple of nights. Reviews have been kind on Airbnb and pub meals and wine have been enjoyed as other treats on behalf of my guests. Still haven’t had full visitation from all my immediate family but there is still time in 2022…
But enough about things going well and wrapping up nicely and reviewing 2022. The real meat in this sandwich is that last week friend of the blog, Brodie-san, came up for a climbing trip at Devils Peak and Moonarie.
Now I’d been off and on with my climbing training through September/October. I was feeling OK-ish strong. I repeated a favourite route of mine at Redcliff early November without too much trouble. The ego was high as a result. And when ego’s are high, they can only go down. Cue a couple of weeks of being lazy with climbing training whilst sailing and swimming around Goose and I had retreated back to the strength of 25 year old Fraser…
Now if you’ve been reading closely you’ll know from Point Two that I’ve already realised the value of strength training in waking up my legs. Going climbing with Brodie for a couple of days at Devils and the Moon really rammed the concept of how good it is to feel strong and alive. And climbing is the best way to get that feeling.
Day 1 was an easy day at the back of Devils. A Sunday morning, little bit of humidity in the air and a lot of cobwebs around. Brodie was having a crack at a Grade 25 he’d tried before and was getting shut down by a single move. I was getting put through the ringer on an old Grade 25 I’d done before but made some connections on it. I felt unfit, weak and heavy as I slumped back into the rope. Climbing used to feel easy. Running used to feel easy. Now both feel hard and like shit. I thought I was still doing ok, I ran 115km only a month and a bit ago and just swam around an island! Things were on shaky ground as both Brodie and I were taking hits to our ego’s. Brodie’s climbing has improved immensely indoors but he was now struggling to transfer that to outdoors (albeit it was only one move shutting him down).
As time moved on in the first day things were looking grim for any success. The sun creeps it’s way closer and closer to the back of Devils and climbing in it, when there’s already a bit of humidity in the air, is difficult. So, like in all good fairytales, just as the sun was approaching Brodie’s climb, he finally pieced together the move that’d been holding him back and grabbed the send. In another fairytale moment, he realised it’s 1 year and 1 day since I ticked that climb and we’re now the only two people to have done it. Over in my world, I gave up working my 25 and went on the hunt for a Grade 17 crack that I hadn’t done before. Despite it looking not too bad, I ended up bailing off it and taking a killer blow to the ego for the day. Grade 17 used to be my jam, but this thing had me on toast.
Day 2. Back at Devils, this time in the arvo on the rarely climbed East face (out of the sun in the afternoon). An exploratory Grade 5 up the guts was cool and enjoyable to warm up with before I attempted a Grade 15 traverse under the peak of the Devil. It was a little sketchy as I had some comfy old climbing shoes on but I got there in the end without too much excrement in my jocks. Brodie managed to follow even in his big approach shoes. Both of us thought it was a bit stiff for Grade 15. On checking the guidebook later it actually turned out to be a Grade 17. Hmmm, maybe my climbing isn’t dead…
A grade 5 and grade 17 climb wasn’t what we were there for though. I’d suggested to Brodie it’d be good to see him try the grade 24 ‘Whip Me’. Hardest climb on the East face and probably hasn’t seen any action since it’s first ascentionists over thirty years ago. It’s a pretty straightforward line that finishes in an airy overhang where you have to almost cut loose and surpass the lip with a spicy finish. The name ‘Whip Me’ may also hint at the possibility of taking a big whip (AKA massive fall) too. But seeing as Brodie conquered his Grade 25 nemesis only twenty four hours prior and seeing as he’s now a guru boulder ‘Whip Me’ got whipped by the young man first shot. Hardest trad onsight for Brodie, kudos all ’round. Pressure was on for me to follow and Brodie built an anchor big enough to hold the Spirit of Tasmania showing he had full confidence in his climbing partner… On current form his estimation of the probability of me succeeding first shot as well was probably correct (A: It was low). However, there’s nothing like a ‘anything you can do, I can do it better’ type motivation going on for me to drag myself up a climb. Brodie’s five point anchor was in the end not needed as I too made an ascent first shot. The confidence was being rebuilt slowly but if I was really back, I’d have been looking for the opportunity to lead it. But at least I was taking a step in the right direction.
Day 3. The big day. Heading to the Moon is a great day no matter what the plan is. Today our plan was to have a test run of ticking all of the ‘Recommended Climbs’ up to Grade 18 in a single day. It’s almost 35 pitches and a 1000m of climbing which would normally be about 3-4 days worth of climbing. Doing it in a single day though, we both thought, would be frickin sick and a good challenge. Off we went then from Quorn at 6am, and were climbing by 7:50am. Me being still low on climbing capability and knowing Brodie’s form, absconded from leading to allow for maximum speed from Brodie. Seconding is great, it’s low stress, but it also rams home the fact to me that I’m not where I once was which doesn’t sit great. Yes, I know, I was aware of the sacrifices I had to make to climbing to improve my running and I really enjoyed running well this year but it’s hard to shake off the knowledge and feeling of how great it is to be a bloody good climber (especially when I’m not running so well at the moment).
As we climbed classic after classic, I was being reminded of how easy they all use to feel when I was in peak climbing mode. Again, not so good for the headspace to keep thinking, ‘you used to do this easy’. I used to sing songs, talk smack and enjoy just swinging around while climbing. It got to about 3pm in the arvo, both of us pretty tired and aware that we wouldn’t be ticking all the climbs we had planned for me to have what alcoholics refer to as ‘a moment of clarity’.
If I kept climbing thinking about and believing that it used to be easy and I’m no good, then that’s how I’ll climb. I’m in control of those thoughts and the way I perceive my performance in the outdoors. Every time I recognise that belief in myself is the only thing that matters when trying to perform in the outdoors, I tend to do better. I was focused on the WHAT I was doing (climbing shit) instead of focusing on the HOW I wanted to do it (see last week’s post…). So, instead of climbing and hoping that I’ll be better someday, in a claritous way of thinking, I started to pretend that I had the belief of yesteryear. I can find the flow I used to have as a climber ONLY if I let myself flow. I can’t keep putting blocks in my head worrying about how weak I am and expecting myself to climb with ease. No no no, we need to be putting on an accent, having a laugh and commentating the fuck out of my climbing like in the good old days to get back to being a better climber. Maybe my commentary is a form of ‘don’t take life so seriously self-talk’. Like Austin Powers getting his mojo back, it took me two and a half days of climbing to finally feel good about my climbing. Sure, I didn’t get any stronger in that half a second of brain power but I at least got more confident in my movement. Which led to enjoying the final days climb and heading back to Quorn with another step in the right direction.
Day 4. With a bit more confidence under my belt I had another crack at my old 25 and gave it a good shot, found some easier beta for next time, but didn’t tick. Not that that was important though. Importantly I was now stoked on getting better to tick it, rather than shying away from the fact that I was old and decrepit and would never get back to full strength. Brodie-san continued his strong trip by jumping on a new 26, found some moves, had a play before we both called it a day and an end to the trip.
It seems funny to acknowledge since buying a house in Quorn to be a better climber and runner and general outdoors person, all I’ve improved is my running. Yeah yeah, I’ve learnt and improved a great number of skills around home ownership, maturity, writing, settling into a new town etc but fuck that to be honest, what really counts to me is HOW I’m living and being a good runner and average or below average at other outdoor things things is not really living Barry (in my opinion). Those four days of having Brodie around are how I envisaged spending most of my time at Quorn when I first bought my house but I’ve found other distractions occupying my time (running and working). My mojo has had a kick up the pants right at the opportune time at the end of 2022. Having felt crushed and defeated from a lack of overall body strength in my running to being awakened and energised from climbing and feeling strong during those four days I now remember what’s it like to be both a good runner and good climber. Remembering the Outdoor Athlete dream of mine is a great way of trying to manage all the different pursuits I have and each time I drift away from that in pursuit of just one sport, the wheels tend to fall off elsewhere. Perhaps I’m like a set of car tyres. Keep them balanced and rotated every 5,000 km’s and you’ll get 50-60,000 km’s out of them. Be lazy, forget to change things up and after 30,000km you’ll be forking out for a new set of tyres. So, in what can now be seen as a somewhat serendipitous moment, as Brodie was heading back to Adelaide on Day 4 and I was now alone with my good thoughts about how good climbing is and trying be a better balanced athlete, the local mechanic gave me a ring to let me know my car was ready to be picked up after it’s service. I guess its’s time to take the Triton on the highway again…