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Some progress!

I finally managed to get past the first crux and make it to the halfway rest :). It was quite a battle, so the flashpump got me quickly after the rest, falling at the second crux, 5 moves before the top.

I reached this point last year once, and I realized I need to get through the bottom part (25 move 9a) quicker and with less of a struggle. I’ve climbed the top part (12 move 8c) several times with some pre-pump, but now I arrived at the rest pretty destroyed.

Conditions were okay (see post below), but could be better, and I’m happy about switching to fight mode. I’m still enjoying the process, as well as seeing other people at the crag succeed on their projects! I’ve got some days left, but I would be surprised if this trip will bring a send. I guess I need to get a little fitter, as always ๐Ÿ˜‰

Photo by Toni Mas Buchaca

Conditions, a climbers’ biggest friend and foe

Climbers are ALWAYS talking about conditions. Too hot, too cold, no wind, too moist, too dry, you can literally come up with anything. It seems that conditions are never optimal, and everyone is always complaining about it.

Alex Megos keeps saying that it’s just a bad excuse for not being strong enough, which of course is totally true. When projecting at your limit getting stronger is of course one option, but getting acquainted with the climbing conditions is nonetheless extremely important.

Oliana is a good example why this can be tricky. Asking the locals I was told that ‘Spring is best, because there is wind and shade in the afternoon, and even Summer can be good’. Asking Adam Ondra, he will tell you that he was ‘tricked into coming in Spring, just to find temperatures way too high. Winter for sure is the best’.

So good conditions are not the same for everyone. I felt how good the route can feel like with a winter breeze, but my fingers get numb from the cold, and I have no idea how Adam can climb like that. I also climbed on the route on a 20ยฐC Spring day, where I cannot even do the single moves…

I guess I have two options: Wait for that perfect day where cloud coverage didnห‹t heat up the wall, temps are around 10 – 15ยฐC, and the wind is blowing, OR go home, train and come back stronger ๐Ÿ˜‰

A good day and a bad day

A quick update on how things are going so far: Beast mode is slowly coming, the split finger is healing, but also some hot temps have showed up…

There were some A+ conditions on my second climbing day, and I was super happy to stick the bottom crux. Unfortunately my fingers were too numb so I missed a tricky deadpoint right before the rest. I’ve fallen here twice last year, so I improved my beta, which will hopefully help. From there on I fired it to the top, feeling quite solid on both upper cruxes! Darn, that dyno feels nice if you stick it!

Satisfied that I was finally able to five it a good fight, I tried again the next day, but failed at the lower crux twice. I felt tired already and couldn’t even do a crux link. Conditions really have to be on your side to climb this route.

A little progress, but no highpoint! I’ve taken two days off to heal the split tip, and with the heat today I was already sweating from belaying Marco…

Looks like some good days are coming, so Iห‹ll be giving it all for the second week of my trip!

First touch!

Well, first touch of the season I should say. Most of the holds on Fight or Flight felt exactly like I remembered them. It’s crazy how body memory can make movements you haven’t done in a year feel so familiar!

I’ve been waiting impatiently to be back in Spain. As most of you will know, I’ve come here with one route in mind: Fight or Flight (FOF) in Oliana. needless to see here: graded 9b. Two weeks will give me ample time for a good fight and hopefully some good conditions.

After a week of driving around the Netherlands visiting family without much climbing action I still feel a bit dull, so I’ve decided to take it easy in the beginning, rather than switching to beast mode on day 1 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Arriving to the crag there were quite some familiar faces, and before I knew it I was belaying Seb Bouin sending Pachamama 9a+! It’s great to see someone send (it looked almost effortless) after investing a lot of time in a project. Good vibes right at the start. Going up FOF I was a little nervous on how it would feel, but after a few moves I realized that many of the hard moves actually felt quite ok! Even though I split a tip after 10 moves (here we go again), all moves and most of the sections felt totally fine.

Getting back into a project is all about the small details: the subtleties that make hard moves a little easier; placing the correct tickmarks; remembering the sequencies until you execute all moves automatically. I even changed my beta a little bit, tried some of Chris’ methods (no way for me!) and brushed the top (please don’t make me fall off there!).

Conditions were great, so I gave it one burn, but this ended at the first crux. No beast mode yet… I guess Hulk doesn’t want to come out as often any more compared to when I was 20 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oliana, one of my all time favourite crags

How to know if you’re fit enough?

Nearing the goal you’ve been training for, you’re going to ask yourself the question: Am I fit enough? If (like me) you’ve picked a project you can’t just go and try over the weekend, you have to rely on comparison. This can get a little tricky, but it can give you some valuable insights.

The first option you have is to try routes that you know the feeling of climbing on from a past season. It doesn’t really matter whether you’ve climbed them already or not. What’s more important is that you remember how the moves felt, and compare that with how they feel right now. A problem of course is, that conditions are always different…

Another option is the comparison with climbers you know and train with. Think of your regular training buddies. If all of the sudden they seem to be very weak (or the other way round), it’s seems like you must be doing something right! No big surprise: they aren’t constants either. If they’ve been training for a different goal, comparison isn’t going to help you much.

A last option can be standard exercises. These basically never change, so they come in real handy as a fitness test. If last season you could do a one arm pull up, and this season you can’t, you know what to work on. Other examples are campus exercises you know from the past, hangboarding, front lever etc.

In the end, comparison is not very reliable, but can help out a little. Knowing whether you’re fit is more like a gut feeling, and with a bit of training experience, you learn to recognize that moment when it clicks.

Since I got very close on Fight or Flight last year, I know the fitness that is necessary to climb it. I tried to compare my training and fitness with last year, but it didn’t really work. My training partners were al focussing on something else, there was too much snow to try routes around Innsbruck, so all I could compare on was the standard power exercises, where I didn’t see a change. But hey, I guess we’ll see how it goes soon!

Staying away from injuries…

Injuries and practising sport at a high level unfortunately go hand in hand. It hits some harder than others, but rarely anyone can avoid them completely. Reacting properly in case of an injury sure is important, but even more so is trying to prevent them from happening in the first place.

With half a dozen serious climbing injuries over the last 20 years injury prevention has become a major thing for me. In the section training tips you will find some basics, most of which are ridiculously obvious. Still, I keep finding myself ignorimg them from time to time. An overly quick warmup or refusal to stop training if need be are easy ways to tweak a finger, knee or shoulder. Most of the times these small tweaks will disappear in a week or so, but sometimes they linger on. This brings me to the question:

When does a tweak become an injury?

Before answering this, let me describe the situation I'm currently in: As I'm aiming for a goal that is at my limit I want to train at 100%. This means that choosing the training intensity feels like walking on the razor's edge. Too much will cause overtraining, injury and performance loss, but too little might not lead to succes.

If I'm honest, right now three fingers, one elbow and one knee regularly hurt. And no, it's the other knee this time ๐Ÿ˜• . At the same time I reckon myself injury-free, since I don't have to hold back when grabbing holds and I can do almost every move (including big dropknees). These tweaks are a sign that I'm training at my limit, but they can turn into an injury if Im not careful. It almost feels like a bit of a gamble. On the other side, they keep me vigilant, and remind me to stick to my own rules for preventing injuries.

So to answer the question above, I see the occasional pain or tweak as a clear reminder that the limit is reached, and that pulling harder will lead to an injury. The very clichรฉ 'listening to your body' makes sense after all, doesn't it?

Some years ago I had to tape several finger to climb pain-free

Season two: Changes and plans

Season one on the project showed me many things I could learn from and adapt for this season:

  • climbing 9b is harder than I thought ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • My overall endurance wasn't good enough
  • March and April proved to be the best months for good conditions on 'Fight or Flight'
  • Trying one project only can quickly get you out of shape
  • It's easy to get over-obsessed

Based on these observations (and taking in account some Fall-rocktrips) I made up a schedule for this season. The biggest differences will be that I decided to skip both basetraining (phase I) and the Spain trip around New Year's Eve. This enables me to right away focus on the training that I think is necessary to climb the route.

2019 schedule

You can find a rough timeline for this season in the main Training section (scroll down), where you can see that I started a month later than last year. This worried me a little at first, but since my endurance level at the start was a lot higher than in the first season, I quickly realized that it might not be that big a problem. I really feel that every season of sportclimbing (rather than only bouldering) ups your baselevel by a notch and makes it easier for the next season to get started at a higher level.

Even though I would have loved to make a trip to Spain in December, I decided the days are better spent on training in the gym. It's a little sad, but I think rockclimbing as a preparation only works well if combined with gym training. Most of the time during a trip I just get weaker towards the end, and have to reactivate with some gym sessions. Respect to those who stay fit only climbing on rock!

That said, I decided to make two trips to Oliana this year, two weeks each in March and April. Even though temperatures are higher than in winter, the wind and shadow makes up for it. Plus it gives me enough preparation time.

training

So far I finished my power training (phase II) and just switched to endurance (phase III). I'm not completely happy with my bouldering strength, but therefore my endurance is better than expected. I focussed a little more on getting endurance, which (at least my body thinks) doesn't go together with that explosive power.

I also saw from last year that it's very easy to get too motivated and overtrain. As I explained in my last post I've been busy lately and I felt tired while training. A week of cutting down to 70% and finishing training with still some energy left proved a great idea (thanks Katha...). I'll keep you up to date on progress!

Guess who’s back ;)

Yep, project-9b 2.0 is happening! I’m back to training, preparing, getting psyched, and will be sharing again on this website. Let me explain the six month void on this blog.

As my first season of projecting came to a premature end with a knee injury in April 2018, I put the project on hold until next season (which is now…). I enjoyed my last competition season (my 16th WC season!) and finished my career at the World Championships in Innsbruck in September. Quite the relief, but also a bit melancholic ๐Ÿ™‚ . Katha and I had planned lots of travels, so after being on the road for about three months, I got back home end of November. I must say I was in great crack climbing shape, but I hadn’t been sport climbing too much…

The plan was to spend the entire winter up to April on project9b for 100%. Of course that was a bit unrealistic. I might have written before that I’m doing another Masters at university, which had been on hold while I was travelling, and needed some devotion. Result is that since December I’ve been doing a huge split between lab work and gym training. Doesn’t sound too bad (and it actually works), if it stayed with that. But the usual pro-climber stuff (yes it actually takes time ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), some routesetting, IFSC voluntary work, a part time job I started, and hey, all of the sudden everything became quite busy!

Even though I still dedicate a big chunk of my time to climbing, I’ve never really made it work to focus 100% on climbing. I know many of you face a situation of trying to share work and climbing, so I think the question of how one affects the other is quite interesting. I realize I have more time to train than many of you, but I guess the important question is how much time (including rest) is necessary to accomplish for example a project like mine.

Anyway back to topic, I’ll write some more soon on how I planned my training this season (since there’s quite some differences to last year), and how my plans for the coming months look like.

Project 9b part 2.0?!

I’ve gotten lots of questions about my knee injury and the continuation of the project. It’s been pretty quiet from my side (sorry for that) and I’m happy to see you guys are still supportive! The main reason for my absence here was that I had put project 9b on hold and didn’t really know when I would reactivate it. Now, I owe you a long due update:

First of all, the knee is fine! I should say 95% fine, since there’s still some things I can’t do, like Adam-style dropknees or comp-style mantles, but I’m really happy with recovery. I honestly think it’s the most ‘friendly’ injury I’ve had, especially compared to finger injuries. So from that perspective: good to go!

That leaves the question when I’m going to get back working on it. I’ve thought about that quite a lot since April, and the short answer is: November. I always planned to put the project on hold from May onwards, to focus on competitions, and await conditions. Temperatures are too high for ‘Fight or Flight’ until late Fall, and I have some other plans as well (Yosemite!!!). This made me decide to go for the exact same schedule as last year: Start training in November, get fit through winter (maybe short trips), send in March/April! That is the ideal plan, let’s see how it goes ๐Ÿ˜‰

That gives me a lot of time to build up a crazy amount of psyche for project 9b part 2!

Injury vs 9b: 1 – 0

As you might have seen in my previous post, I’ve hurt my knee on a dropknee. It happened one week ahead of my third Spain trip, and as I was feeling fit again, timing couldn’t have been worse. I wanted to see if it would improve, before deciding on going to Spain or not. It did feel better after a few days, and as the swelling was almost gone, I tested what I could do. Some campus and hangboard training was alright, and even some one-foot bouldering was ok, albeit a little scary. The next day I tested routeclimbing using both feet, and although I could climb up to 8b, there were too many limitations. No high feet, no slight knee twists,ย  and for sure no heel hooks or dropknees. I decided that Spain was not gonna happen.

Injuries

I’ve had many injuries in the past, so I know the procedure.

  • stop training
  • find out how bad it is
  • get diagnosed
  • visit therapists
  • rehab

I’m happy to live in a country where I can visit specialists and therapists without it costing me a fortune. Shortly after deciding to cancel my trip, an MRI showed that both MCL and ACL (knee ligaments) are partially torn. Both doc and physio told me that hard climbing was out of the question for a while, but that straining the knee (and thus some climbing) would be possible wearing a brace.

What now??

I must say I’m quite frustrated that project-9b has come to a halt for a while. On the other hand, I knew from the start that injuries would be a part of the process. I also realize that the injury could be worse, and that I can actually do quite a lot of training. My main concern goes to healing and strengthening those ligaments, because avoiding dropknees in the future is not an option to me. I decided to take 10 days off, giving my body some rest after a strenuous winter. This will enable me to train through summer and fall, as the plan still is to join some lead worldcups.

As for project-9b, it has become so important to me, there’s no giving up. I also saw how close I actually got, and this gave me a huge motivation. I think ‘Fight or Flight’ will have to wait for Fall or next Spring, since it will get too hot soon. I’ll look for other routes that I can start working on (‘Lapsus’ maybe?), as soon as my knee will let me.

As was correctly commented earlier, not only the good times of the process are interesting, but also the down times. I’ll keep you up to date on the rehab!