Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Strangest Secret

If you've never seen The Karate Kid, go rent it tonight! Here's one of my favorite scenes:

(Classic, Mr. Miyagi V4)

What do you take from this scene? What does it mean? Are we all good at kung fu?

What I see is: painting the fence isn't a chore. Neither is sanding the floor. It's all kung fu. Everything is kung fu.

Everything is also basketball or painting or singing. For me, everything is climbing. It all depends on what you're into.

I don't want you to get confused. I'm not saying that climbing is everything (although, some might say otherwise). I'm saying that everything is climbing. Everything you do is related to climbing. How you sit or how you help someone move a heavy table (should you open crimp or close crimp? Lift with your legs? Straight arms or lock it off?).

Earl Nightingale may have said it best in his book, The Strangest Secret, where he says, "We become what we think about most." In other words, if you think about being a writer, seriously, and honestly, then you will probably become a better writer. If you think about food all the time, well... you'll probably get fat. And if you think about climbing while you're deciding what to eat, you might eat a little healthier. 

(Good thing I wrestled for 12 years... otherwise I might not have climbed this thing!)

Basically what it comes down to is building habits. And habits come in all different forms: muscle memory, attitude, strength, creativity, psych, bravery, quickness, accuracy, determination, just to name a few. It doesn't matter where you learned to have a positive attitude, if that is a habit that you have developed, it applies to climbing as well as anything else, for good or bad. Sometimes habits are good and sometimes they are bad. 

A friend mine likes to say, "how you do something is how you do everything." When I tell this to people, they tend to get defensive. I'm not really sure why. My best guess is that people like to think they have more control than living a life controlled by subconscious habits. However, I think this statement is extremely true and completely relevant to everybody, especially people that are passionate about something. How you brush your teeth (not the physical act of brushing them, but the thoroughness, the care, or the frequency) is how you take care of your car. Is your car vacuumed? Do you floss? How often do you wash your car? How often do you go to the dentist?

So what's the point? Yeah... we develop habits, big deal.

If you don't notice your habits... you can't really change them. Even good habits need to be noticed. Noticing good habits will allow you to understand why something is working so you can make more improvements or even apply that habit to another aspect of life. 

(Nice habits Jen!)

The crazy part is, we are all developing habits for everything. It doesn't mean they are good habits though. I am developing terrible habits to be a hockey player! No biggy... I don't think about hockey. I think about climbing.

Gaston. Gastoff. Gaston. Gastoff.

Just some food for thought. Keep on thinkin about what makes you happy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bishop (Try Hard)

It all started 5 years ago during Dead Week, Spring term. A slight schedule change forced me to pull three all-nighters in a row, through the weekend, to finish my final projects by Monday morning, precisely when my professors stepped foot in their offices. That was, by far, the earliest I have ever finished a term of school... ever. Coincidentally or ironically, I received the highest grade in my class for my paper, "An Observation of Uncle Tom's Cabin through the Ideas of Henry David Thoreau," which I handed in during the wee hours of that beautiful, Spring morning so I could rush home, hop in a car and head South... I don't remember much about that essay and I didn't even actually read all of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The important thing is that I got it done.

But what could motivate a person to stay up for 3 days straight? To persevere? To think so much? To try so hard? To drink so many Redbulls? Why not just give up? 

Well... I'll give you three guesses but you will only need one.

(A picture says a thousand words. Photo by: Jen)

Bishop Bouldering!

Obviously, something about Bishop has brought me back. Year after year I find myself East of the Sierras, getting motivated and trying hard. 

Five years ago, after my all-night crusade to finish my responsibilities for the term, James, Justin and I hopped in the 4runner and headed South. It was a great trip. One that I will never forget. We had the boulders to ourselves. We had the best camp site. The place was empty! 

That's because we were there in JUNE! Don't go to Bishop in the Summer.

The temps were way too high. We greased off the sharp, Buttermilk crystals and tore our fingers up! We also didn't have a guide book. So, not only were were greasing off sharp granite in 90+ degree weather, but we were greasing off the lamest most un-classic problems at the Buttermilks.

But how things have changed! This year, we set our sights on some of the most classic problems Bishop has to offer. Even better, we scheduled this trip with Andrew and Cameron Thomson from Team Rogue, and planned to meet up with the Bend Endurance Academy and the Multnomah Athletic Club climbing teams.   

(Beautiful, 60 degree day, looking South at the High Sierra Mountains)

 (Early Sping in the Sierras. Misty... cold... crisp)

(Spring time... makes things pretty)

I spent the previous six months, since my last trip to Bishop, mulling over the Bishop Guide, reading about prospective problems to try, searching for "my style." Eight problems made the list; all were three-star problems (classic). Of those eight, five of them got climbed. 

Right out of the gate, day 1, I finally red-pointed Greenwall Center *** (V6). Last November, on this problem, I bruised underneath my thumbnail because I got it stuck in a crack when my foot popped off. Since then, over the past four months, I've watched that bruise slowly, week by week, work its way to the end of my nail. Ironically, the last bit of discolored nail was clipped off the night before I climbed Greenwall Center. And it all comes full circle! 

(How much better can it get? Greenwall Center (V6) Photo by: Jen)

(Through the crux... don't mess up! Photo by: Jen)

I also had a lot of fun helping Cameron work through the lower moves of Greenwall Center. And, hey, she made it as far as I did last November... looks like the send train will be comin back to Bishop for some unfinished business!

The send train made a stop at the Iron Man Boulder as well. Of course it did. Iron Man is like the Grand Central Station of the Buttermilks. Everyone goes there. Everyone tries. Everyone falls. Except one guy... he walked up to Iron Fly ***(V9), pulled on, did the crux dyno, topped out, and walked away. Who was that guy?! Anyway, aside from him, everyone tries the Iron Man Traverse *** (V4), and everyone falls at least once... usually on the last move! 

This is where we met up with the MAC team and the Bend team. All the kids were working hard on the traverse and having a good time. We even told some jokes:

What is Chris Sharma's favorite kind of car?

Answer: a PASSAT! 

There were other jokes, but they were either too inappropriate to repeat or not very funny... even the Chris Sharma one is questionable (for funniness). 

Jen laced up her velcro and gave the classic traverse some good goes as well. 

(Jen, mid crux on Iron Man Traverse. Photo by: Me)

While everyone was having a session on the traverse, I began working an old project (Iron Fly) that has left me hobbling away with injuries in the past. A year ago, during my last spring break trip, I pulled my hamstring and tore a ligament in my left knee on this problem. This year, healthy, and stronger than ever, I climbed Iron Fly (my first official V9 ever)! 

You know that feeling you get when you work on something for so long that when you finally climb it, it feels super easy, like you didn't even have to try? Well, Iron Fly wasn't one of those moments! I tried a lot and I tried really hard. Sometimes trying hard is worth it.

(Mid-crux on the "static option" Iron Fly *** (V9) photo by: Jen) 

And since this blog seems to be geared toward "trying hard," I want to make a quick note on that topic:

I'll be the first to admit, I don't try my hardest all the time. I sometimes give up when things get hard or painful. I get nervous, my muscles and joints get tweaky, or sometimes my mind just isn't in the right place. There are hundreds of reasons why a person can't or chooses not to try their hardest. Some people are more competitive or have more practice trying hard. Some people just don't care... either way, my real concern isn't about whether someone tries hard or not, it's about when and why.

Over the years I've learned that you can't make yourself try hard on a whim, on the spot. Because, if we break it down, "trying hard" isn't really about that specific moment and choosing how hard you want to try. Trying is about motivation. It's about how bad you want it. It's about why you choose to do what you do. Therefore, trying hard at something is a decision that has to be made in advance, before you pull on to the rock. That could be any time before - 2 seconds, the night before, or an entire week before... your whole life.

After you pull onto your route, that's when things get tough. Our mind begin to waiver and our genius brains start talking - "Just give up... it's easy." "If you say take, you won't be in pain anymore." "If you fall you are going to flip upside-down and your brains are going to splat all over the wall. How embarrassing!" We make excuses and don't try our hardest because we don't commit... we have commitment issues. So, the crux, the moment we need to try our hardest is typically the moment we lose our perseverance.  

To prevent this, three days prior to leaving for Bishop I spent a few hours at the gym working out. I was by myself, after hours (the only time I can blast gangster rap at the gym and and not have people look at me funny). My goal wasn't go get some great workout or do like 100 pull-ups. I wanted to get my brain ready for some tall, scary, committing, Buttermilk classics. That night, I had fallen off of one particular problem, at the top of the 16' cave, over and over. I decided that enough was enough. I wasn't going to spend my time "kinda trying" anymore, throwing myself at this problem carelessly, without thought or intention. I took a break, turned up the music, sat down in front of the problem, closed my eyes and told myself, "100% commitment to the moves. Enjoy the difficulty. Don't waste another attempt without intention." 

Notice, I didn't tell myself I was going to "try harder," or that I was going to give it "110%!!" Because in my opinion, trying is lying. Telling yourself you are going to "try" is giving yourself an excuse for when you fall. How hard will you try? What does try even mean? Three tries? A Tri-try? Will you try hard? Super hard? Will you TRY? or just try? Instead of telling myself to try "harder" I decide to commit and find something to enjoy about the hard parts of the route. I mean, after all, don't we climb to challenge ourselves? Well... we might as well enjoy the challenge! And finally, if you really are committed and ready for the difficult stuff, why not focus your attention on your intent to climb the route that attempt, not the next attempt. There is no next attempt... hopefully.

Turns out that wasn't a "quick note on trying hard" at all! Thanks for sticking with me. (Oh and by the way, I climbed my project the next try. Then another project. Then another.)   

But what happens when you don't climb your route? Here's an example:

Soul Slinger *** (V9)
(Patina crimp to right hand pinch!)

(Left hand to crimp, right foot up... fall!)

I wanted to climb Soul Slinger so bad! I tried a bunch. Tried and tried really hard... I didn't get it. But you know the cool thing about climbing? We fail so much more than we succeed. We fall and fall and fall. Sometimes, all we do is fall. But then, every so often, something strange happens. Things come together and planets align or collide or whatever, we black out, and suddenly we're sitting at the top, pumping our fists, clapping our hands, yelling "woooohooo!" or "Touchdown!" I love that feeling. (Don't actually yell "Touchdown!" Please.) 

Unless you flash most of the problems you try you will inevitably fall more than you succeed. It's just how it goes. Here is what we looked like after we all got our asses kicked by Juniors Achievement (V7) (I'm just out of the frame but looking very much the same): 

(Our friends from the Rogue! Hey guys! Photo by: Jen)

Oh yeah, and again... This time by Robinson's Rubber Tester (V0):

(Eventually I ended up at the top... barely. Photo by: Jen)

But all the falling is worth it for the ONE time you make it to the top! It's funny how things work. 10 minutes before scumming my way up this V0 (in very poor fashion) I climbed my second V9 ever (second try)! Hhhhmm... maybe I should figure out how hard to try, and when to try harder. This is Moonraker (V9):

Psych! Moonraker was downgraded to a (V8),  I discovered two days later. So, this is Moonraker (V8):

(Heel and toe hooks)
(Big span to a big foot swing)
(Smeary heal hook)
(Cross to a sloper)
(Crawl through hole)
(Finish by looking at something down to the left and smiling like you just saw a chipmunk riding a turtle)  

Sometime you win, sometimes you lose!

Jen didn't seem to have any problem finding things to climb that were her style. Here is a picture of Jen on Inner Sanctum (V2):

(Magazine cover?? Photo by: Me)

As the sun drifted below the Sierras, so ended our first day of trying hard. Yeah, can you believe it? That was all in one day! We headed down the hill, back to camp, where Andrew made us some bomb hamburgers and fries! I always say, nothin' beats a beer and a burger after a long day climbing... except maybe two beers and a burger.

I'm gonna skip a couple of days from our trip (with the exception of a few pics) because we didn't really climb a lot. We ate food, walked around town, took a shower, looked at rocks... you know, climber type stuff. We did however, head up to the Happy Boulders with Cameron. She crushed it like usual... She is really fun to climb with! Cameron gave everything she had on Hand to Hand Combat (V7) and fell on the very last move! Very inspiring to watch. It's often more inspiring to watch people try really hard and fall then it is to watch someone walk up to a V12 and climb it no problem (it might be impressive, but not inspiring). Long story short: Cameron rocks!

Then we found a little friend:

(Hey buddy. Whachadoin? Photo by: Jen)
(Doesn't look so mean... )

(Amazing sunset right after the rattlesnake. Photo by: Jen)

We prepared our last day, made dinner, and went to bed. 

Our last day was perfect!!! Blue sky. Crisp. Windless. Hand-warmers. We warmed up and headed straight for our projects: Fly Boy Sit (V8) and Fly Boy Arete (V5). We arrived to the tune of a dozen or so Bay-Area climbers blasting Girl Talk from a portable stereo with a MASSIVE 12+ pad foam pit. Portable climbing gym. I could handle that. Might as well have a bunch of pads for the scary finish to Fly Boy which you'll see in the video a little later. 

Jen jumped in on the Fly Boy Arete party. She looked strong! Crushing the first half but falling at the crux moves. Here's Jen in action:

(All those pads are definitely necessary... Jen falls sideways, 15 feet all the time)
(Really cool left hand hold. Even cooler when Jen is grabbing it!)


Shortly after Jen's attempts on Fly Boy Arete I ended up retro-flashing Fly Boy Sit. A retro-flash is when someone climbs a problem or route on their first go, after not climbing it for long enough to forget everything about it (AKA Amnesia-flash... I made that up). However, during the last, big move, my spotter hit my foot as my feet cut. Newb! However, like I always tell the team kids, "Always honor the dab!" So there was nothing else to do but try again. Booya! Climbed it again!

Our last day going good. I felt like I was on fire. We drank our blue Poweraid to recharge:

(Product placement?)

Here's a little clip of what happens after we drink blue Poweraid:

(I get a little weird... and I start climbing things. Enjoy!)
Looks like the Poweraid worked!

We ventured up to the Pollen Grain Boulders and had a go at a few classics up there. Here is Jen on Lydia's Mouth (V3):


(A star-fish!)

I highly recommend checking out the Pollen Grains if you haven't been already. There are some very high quality problems along with some high quality solitude. We ventured down to the Happy Boulders for our last little foray. Although our skin couldn't handle much more..

(Bye Buttermilks!)

Basically, we drank beer and tried to boulder... didn't work so well. I mean, the beer was great. Nice cold amber ale... yum! We even had the Happy's to ourselves and the conditions were getting good. However, our skin and our bodies were thrashed. Jen worked on Mister Witty *** (V5) and I tweaked my knee on Disco Diva ** (V9). 

(Workin the crux on Mr. Witty)

(Gettin close!)

It got dark... then we went to Taco Bell (the second best meal after a burger and beer)! My finger tips were too sensitive to hold my taco and the hot sauce stung my sun-burnt, chapped lips. The high desert ain't no joke. It's high and it's a desert. It's easy to get dehydrated (which is why we drink the blue drank). 

It's hard to say good-bye to a place that has shaped my climbing style so drastically. And it's hard to notice, in the moment, just how powerful an experience is. In retrospect, this trip has been a benchmark in my climbing career. I've stepped out of an old way of thinking and into a new mindset. I have a new standard of what is possible for myself and what commitment means. Thank you, climbing.

We drove home casually with Bagbalm and lotion on our finger tips to try and ease the pain. We made a few stops, threw a stick or two:

(Great way to loosen up during a long car ride)

We crossed back into Southern Oregon and we felt re-inspired. There is work to be done. There are rocks to be cleaned, routes to bolt, boulders to be climbed, and friends to try hard with. And when we start thinking about all of that, this happens:

See you guys out there! =)