Training – 2

Wharton’s win at the Ouray Ice Comp got me thinking about things I already knew. After some cragging with him and Brian McMahon – Josh and Brian did the awesome first ascent of The Flame, and then a new route on Shipton Spire a few days later, in Pakistan in 2002 – Brian and I got to talking. “Josh has always been bolder than me and he’s always been a good technical climber,” Brian said, “But he’s gotten so much stronger and better it’s amazing.” We’d just watched Josh cruise 5.13s in Eldo; we’d both been on the other end of the rope with Josh on huge alpine climbs; and about 10 days later Josh won the Ouray Ice Comp. Absolutely awesome, and Josh, also a terrific human being, has earned every bit of it. Brian’s words could have been my own, and I nodded my head and smiled. Josh not only climbs a ton, but has really upped his game from training his ass off. Training works.

Josh campusing at a lunch stop on the drive to Askole, on our 2004 Pakistan trip.

Through pushing yourself, you make what feels hard now seem easy later – both in fitness and in technical climbing. Gains happen both physically and psychologically. For trying to be a complete climber, I’m talking about going long when you’re building up to mountain-day fitness (I mention a bit about my different phases or times of emphasis in my initial training post) – when, after awhile, eight, then twelve, then fifteen hour days feel reasonable. And then doing them consecutively, which would wreck you previously, suddenly feels reasonable. Talking going hard with intensity of training sessions, pushing yourself through lung-busting and muscle-searing intervals. I’m also talking about pushing on more difficult climbs.

The latter has long been my weakness. We tend to focus on the things we already do well. It’s hard to step out of that comfort zone, swallow your pride and push into realms where you feel like a total rookie. For me, that means harder technical rock climbs. And, for sure, what’s hard for me is cake for some of my friends. But that’s OK, we all have our limitations, and good climbing and training partners help and support you while you improve. I’m lucky to have such good friends.

And the time demands can be rough – I don’t get paid to climb, and my work deadlines pile up, sometimes slip, I hit most and beg for forgiveness on others. But climbing is a big priority for me. It keeps me sane and I love it. Even more than margaritas – but a good Corralejo Blanco marg sure tastes fine after a hard day of training. I digress…

Scotty D, my longest-running climbing partner, sending his 5.13 project in Lyons a couple summers ago.

Anyway, yeah, I’m decent at running up 5.easy fast, and I tend to move OK in the mountains. But by finally forcing my sorry ass to climb harder as part of my training, not only does it open-up more climbs to me by expanding my skill, but suddenly my perceptions of 5.easy shift. Just like with the fitness training – you make what feels hard now seem easy later.

My late friend Micah Dash made an impression on me after his trip to Trango Tower (often called, incorrectly, “Nameless Tower”), next door to Great Trango Tower, in Pakistan. He, Nick Martino, and Renan Ozturk blazed up the 3,000 feet of hard technical rock climbing in a mind-blowing 12 hours, but retreated on the easier ice and mixed ground leading to the summit. Though bad weather had moved in, Micah, refreshingly, dismissed the obvious excuse when we talked and told me that they simply weren’t comfortable enough on the icy stuff to motor up it. I was amazed, given how they smoked the rock. It reminded me of a couple of things:

1. We all have our areas of expertise and our areas of weakness.

2. Our weaknesses are what hold us back.

3. It takes a strong person to address those weaknesses.

And so it inspired me when Micah returned from that trip and worked on improving his ice and mixed climbing – he wanted to be an alpinist, not just the excellent rock climber that he already was. He didn’t just talk about it, he made it happen – no excuses.


Below is my poorly detailed training log for the last 10 days or so. This would be a cruise for some people, harder for others – it’s important to individualize your training. Right now I’m working on high intensity fitness and skill development (“What skills do you have, Napolean…”) while keeping an eye on how I feel so as to avoid injury. Maybe some of this will give some ideas for your own training. I’m happy to explain my notations and abbreviations, and anything else.

12/31/09            climbed that ice/mixed thing out at Rock of Ages with Mark Kelly. Exc little outing (about 6 hrs CTC), good to remember how to do the sketchy stuff

1/1/10                  trail run/pwr hike with pack into Eldo the back way (i’m a cheap bastard…) — maybe 45 min? go to Rincon wall to meet Josh and Brian. Just a little climbing, but some hard – TR work on Evictor (12+ R – I excel at top-roping R-rated routes….). damn, doesn’t take much of that to work me.

1/2                        easy day. Dry Tool system board/bouldering, 5′ w-u on board, then 2:30″ on with :30″ rest x 4, w/ 7.5, 12.5, 7.5, 0 # added. Also did 10′ finger board workout – great time efficient stuff from Metolius – modified (made easier) advanced one.

1/3                        ski tour in Park w/ Jenna, ~3.5 hrs RT. Great day.

1/4                        intervals on Gem Lake Trail (steep run), to some specific landmarks I have (for first 2 intervals). Snow/ice made footwork tricky. 5:18 on (run hard as can), 2:40 off(rest). 5:36 on, 2:30 off. 5′ on, 2′ off. Then 3x:30″ on, 15″ off. HARD. Then easy/short dry-tool bouldering at gym on way home.

1/5                        climb at Rincon Wall, cold, but got on hard stuff (incl TR work on Evictor again…suddenly seeming maybe possible eventually…). Ended up being good day. With Brian & Kierra, Tommy & Becca, and Jenna.

1/6                        much needed rest. Getting back into training hard and trying to climb harder tires me out. Intensity is everything.

1/7                        ski tour in park, 1 hr, good aerobic pace. Then to Rod’s Gym (our local garage gym; Rod Willard’s old place — props to John & Patti Bicknell for keeping it Rod’s Gym), did good warm-up with weights and body wt exercises, then high intensity circuit:

3 rounds (no rest between exercises or rounds, going as hard as possible) of:

1. (clean barbell from floor into:) 10 Front Squats, 10 Lunges (5 ea leg, alternating), 10 Push-Press; w/ 60-70# BB (not sure how much our bar weighs; I’m about 142#)

2. Turkish Get-Ups, 40# DB, 3 each arm

3. Air-Dyne sprint 1.5 km (not calibrated, but takes like a minute or so? RPMs >90; if dip below, then penalty sprint to >95)

12:38 (shit, I think; forgot to record my time) — Freakin’ hard by the end. work up to 4 or 5 rounds = brutal.

Then to rock gym, about 6 pitches up to 11+ (mostly easier; tired). good day.

1/8                         quick ski tour with Tommy at Hidden Valley – about 45 min uphill, exc little workout, solid pace (with him, of course…)

1/9                        Quarry Wall in Golden with Paul Gagner – moderate uphill approach. Then 7 pitches, 5 @ 5.11 or more. Good stuff for short day. OS attempt @ 11+/12- crack, one leader fall. Fell once on each of 2 5.12 TRs. Close.

1/10                        feeling total body fatigue and specific upper body fatigue. But will rest Mon for big-ish climbing day Tues, so did hill running intervals. 7 x 2′ on/hard, 1′ off/easy

1/11                         great day of rest. Climbing tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Training – 2

  1. Great blog Kelly! some of the most thoughtful, and (funny!) writing I’ve read for a long time. More power to yer elbow – hope to be reading a lot more. 🙂

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