Wide Boyz Blog

Monday, 20 June 2011

Luck, Injury and Peak Performance

How the relationship between injury, luck and performance plays out over the course of a few months can be totally random - the line that we tread along these is so very thin at times. I've always liked the golfer, Gary Player's quote:

"The more I practice, the luckier I get"

I'm not sure that this works always though, if I take the last month of my life into consideration. It's seemed more like "the more I train, the unluckier I get." This is probably completely untrue, but it certainly has seemed that way. Or maybe I'm just getting paranoid about the ensuing trip to the US and not blowing out on some ridiculous bodily malfunction.
Unlucky once.....

First injury to crop up was a chronic heel injury that once put me out of climbing for 2 years. It's never come back (touch wood) until this month! 2 back-to-back sessions of heel-toe bathanging hanging with sit ups, resulted in hideously painful heels again. I thought it was due to the excessive "invert time" intially, but in fact it turns out that these new offwidthing shoes that 5.10 have sent through the post are rather aggressive on the heels. It's all ok though.... a week of iced peas and flip flops have brought me back.

Photo: Pete on the weighted hangs

Unlucky twice.....

Secondly, I was trying some double fist stacking laps down in the cellar and boosh, I'm out of the crack, on my back and nowhere near the mattress. Cue swollen elbow and no armbars, deadbars or dyno wings for a while. How do I miss 3 matresses and a million boulder pads?!

 Photo: No more Deadbarring for a few weeks!

Unlucky thrice....

The third instance really was a killer for me. A real moment of "have I blown the next 6 months of climbing for myself here?"Pete and I decided to take part in the Edale Fell Race a couple of weeks ago. Pete, because he's a local lad and he's done it every year (why??!) and me, because I'm an idiot. The race went pretty well to begin with, considering that we're complete fell racing punters - note that Pete wears headphones whilst competing (wtf?!) and I considered doing it in a hoodie as it was cold. We hit the top plateau over Kinder somewhere around 40th position and sustained the level of exhaustion until the drop back into Edale. At this point Pete started to run down the track like a madman and I followed like an old man. At the final steep section of wet slope I slipped over a couple times (my road running trainers didn't seem to be very adept at wet grass) and on one particularly hard fall I thought to myself "careful here old man, this just isn't worth it. Take it easy." Of course, I got up and instantly fell over again.... POP. Oh shit, the knee had gone.

 Photo: Team Wide Boyz not having a clue....

Well, what am I moaning about? I had to not work or climb for a week, see some consultants and physios in the hospital (they gave me some fairly reassuring news) and get to know my pack of iced peas very well again. Apparently it's my ITB, the tear is only minor in all liklihood and the pain is only temporary. Problem? Nah.... not any more!

So it's back to the training once more. Psyche is running high and I'm can't wait for another beasting. Pete's coming round on Thursday for a massive cellar session. Bring on the pain.

Photo: Self-talk and motivation at your finger tips

In fact, it's only midnight - time for a quick session now.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Super Jam

With a trip down to Cornwall planned, most people would be thinking of beautiful granite slabs and walls to climb. However the only route that I desperately wanted to do, was the route, which if asked to be climbed, most people would say they’d rather go and stand at the very North end of Sennen on a wavy day and wait for the tide to come in; strange one really! This little number; Super jam, is probably relatively unheard of maybe due to the fact that it is only E5, the fact that you probably never see anybody on it or possibly because there are harder graded routes of this style in the country such as Ray’s Roof and Gobbler’s Roof. (I’d only heard about and seen it when I saw some photos from the BMC international meet).

Being only E5 I couldn’t believe how flared the final section of crack looked. No wonder nobody went up there out of option, it looked horrendous; but that’s what I liked about it and went up optimistic that I could onsight it.

The start is simple, reaching off big undercuts to bomber hand jams. From these I flicked my feet above my head into the flared pod and engaged some stacks, just one shuffle leads you to the lip turn where you somehow have to get your whole body from completely inverted to the correct way up in the space of about a metre. I spent about 10/15minutes on the onsight wondering what to do; right foot in, left foot in, wide ponying, trout tickling, invert torpedo. I actually managed to get the good hold and pull round the corner on it, but my right foot had got into the most ridiculous position it cammed in so hard I couldn’t get it out. I looked back into the crack and actually wondered whether it was still attached to my leg. 

After some more ground up battles, a sore right ankle, 2 tape rolls later and a bored Katy on belay I decided to pull on and check the foot placements. 30 seconds later the sequence was solved. The route was stripped and 30 minutes later lead, to what became a much more enjoyable experience as the sensation of nausea, full body pump and tomato heads is a natural and pleasant feeling for me now.

This route emphasized even more then ever to me that grades of offwidths just mean absolutely nothing at all. Most are harsh or sandbags, simply because not many people climb them and the people that do climb them, know its all about the effort that is put in on these puppies that counts. Whether it is VS or E7, you’re usually just more relieved that it’s your second that has to go through what you just did rather then being happy with what you actually climbed! (I had to ab because nobody wanted to follow)

In comparison, I thought that Super Jam was similar in style but harder then Ray’s Roof with a broader array of offwidth skills required.
So, does that mean Jardine’s original grade of E4 for Ray’s was actually correct or Super Jam is a super sandbag?
Or does it mean you should get over to Staffordshire and get the tick before some offwidth gangstas come over from America and say it really is 5.11?
It probably just means to never trust the grade and instead trust the width…(whatever that means?!?!?)

Thanks very much to Pete Saunders for this last photo “Resting on Super Jam". © PETE SAUNDERS


Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Dyno Wing

I was out at Burbage South a while back doing some private offwidth coaching with someone (yes, I know - who'd pay for that you ask??!) and spotted a rather intriguing problem. Down on the normal boulder circuit is a rather nice flared crack which can be climbed as a simple 2 move problem, which teaches the art of double fist stacking. A good problem in itself - but as soon as you see the boulder opposite, the running jump into the crack reveals itself... well, it did to me!

The Dyno Wing is a tricky nut to crack for sure. It requires a certain belief that you won't rip your entire tricep off and also that chicken wings really are as good as a belay. I really had to convince (or is that fool?) myself of this whilst staring at the jump, but if you go and have a go you might get a nice surprise. Think of it as the next step up from Giggling Crack.

Think like Johnny, land like Johnny, feel like Johnny.........

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Randall of the Hump

In Pete's words....

It was maybe 3 years ago when I first met Tom, although it seems longer than that, having been on many trips around the UK and abroad. Or maybe it just seems longer because of the amount of crack climbs I’ve had to suffer from being his partner.

I think the only crack that I had climbed before I met Tom was The Vice, which was tough and the very first time I tried it I couldn’t actually pull off the floor (no joke). So, in reality I wonder why did the climbing partnership stick? Well, really I’m not sure…but what I do know is that he is probably the best climbing partner I’ve ever had (maybe ever will have?).

Being well known for his crack climbing prowess and obsessed by this style it was only a matter of time until it would probably rub off on me. Really it was actually inevitable, because climbing with someone who has now climbed London Wall 32 times and had a replica of Greenspit in their living room instead of a television, maybe it was impossible not to. However it was one type of crack genre that Tom was particularly engrossed and excelled in, and that was the 5+ inch variety, or more specifically…the offwidth. I quickly got enticed.

I knew very little at the start, but puntered along trying to make it look like I knew what I was doing, (accumulating lots of scar tissue in the process,) whilst Tom looked comfy and restful in double fist stacks and hanging by his feet. Over time he taught me the way - showing me that hand jams, stacked hands, knee locks and chicken wings were all better than the Dalmatian suitcase-handle holds that go up the Five Ten wall at The Foundry.

So what is it that makes him pretty flipping good at offwidthing and often leaves me thinking ‘oh crap now I’ve got to try and second that pitch…why couldn’t he just have fallen off, then we could have all gone home…?’ Maybe it’s the tenacity and ability to push past the sickness and pain, or maybe it’s just his high class bush whacking skills? (I’m not sure)

Or perhaps it’s the list of offwidths that he crushed with relative ease, Ray’s Roof, Cedar Eater and Gloves of War. Personally I think it’s his ability to eat chocolate bars in an invert position half way up Thai Boxing, the hardest offwidth in Europe.

So where has this offwidth obsession lead him? To The U S of A in September. BOOM.

Anyway I feel like I was far too complementary in the above text, so in summary – He floundered on Ray’s Roof, looked shaky on Gloves of War and puntered Thai Boxing ;-)

Peter of the Wide

By Tom:

It’s always a bit of a tricky thing trying to start a blog. It’s like you’re starting a new chapter in a book – and when you start, I think it’s always nice to have a bit of an introduction to the people involved in the story. As Pete and I have climbed together for a few years now and have done a huge amount of climbing together we thought it might be an idea to write a little introduction to each other. That way, we can tacitly take the piss out of each other and hopefully the other person won’t notice too much.

Many people know Pete for his general all-round trad climbing – he’s bloody good at it, so no surprises there! However, I think it’s actually his wide crack skills that he should be best known for. He’s repeated or established pretty much every single hard offwidth crack in Europe and as yet, none have withheld his shuffle*. Many good climbers would be happy with ticking Ray’s Roof alone, but when you’ve soloed this as a warm-up, done choss E8 offwidth, repeated Thai Boxing twice in a day and put up beefy test-pieces like Gloves of War…… well, you know you’re cooking!

Loads of people think Pete’s climbed these routes because he has this innate talent for climbing and that’s he’s as strong as an ox. Well, they’re wrong…. (well about one part anyway…) It’s actually his massive bloody-mindedness to never give up on anything and 100% commitment that truly wins through. It’s probably why I’ve enjoyed climbing with him so much over the years as it’s awesome to have someone who’ll get so psyched. It honestly doesn’t matter what it is half of the time. We’ve done deadhanging sessions at the bottom of crags in -10 degress, spent hours trying to climb V0 boulder problems upside-down, created a million variations on Technical Master in the pitch black of night and it’s all been amazing fun!

There is one weakness in Pete though. A true Achilles heel. Just ask him about The Holy Grail Grade Chart and The Walk of Life…. Oh shit, I’ve said it now.

* Shuffle can also be replaced with; Randy Hump/Trout Tickle/Invert Torpedo/Greek Toe

Welcome to a very WIDE blog.

Many people who know me or Pete or even both of us will know a certain obsession gets in the way of our normal lives…. Yup, Offwidths! We’ve both had a bit of fixation about these strange wide cracks that everyone else hates for over 2 years now and in many ways the whole process has been building towards one massive finale.

A mega tour of the USA – a MEGA WIDE TOUR!!

We’ve travelled over much of the UK and Europe to repeat and establish the hardest routes there are in this genre over the last couple of years. This pilgrimage has taken in classics like Ray’s Roof, Thai Boxing and Gobbler’s Roof to name a few. Unfortunately though, we’ve pretty much reached the end of the journey for what Europe has to offer and now there really is only one destination that cannot be avoided. The location of some of the most famous offwidths in the world and home to the very highest calibre of offwidth climber – the Grand Old USA!

Our trip to the USA for a 2 month Wide Tour this year will be documented by Hotaches and Alstrin Films to hopefully create a visual experience never before seen…. The story will be following our training and climbing exploits back in the UK before following us westwards over the Pacific. This blog will hopefully keep you all in touch with what we’re getting up to in preparation for the trip and also the epics that we undergo whilst out in America.

Neither of us have written a blog before, so apologies in advance for any major “blog gaffs” that we make and we’ll try to keep it fairly light-hearted! We’ll be posting up the tales of hardcore training, trad shuffling, Pete moaning and me falling off lots (that’s how it goes usually anyway…)