Monday, 31 March 2008

Font post-match analysis part one.

I’ve just(-ish) got back from four days in Font. I think four days is all one needs - I cut the last day short due to trashed skin (down the sides of my knuckles, rather than the tips as usual - what have I been doing??) . The joys of the intensity of bouldering meaning that a mere 4 hours a day for 4 days is plenty.

This was a last minute trip (literally, the ferry was booked about an hour before I had to start driving to catch it), requiring a lot of driving on my own and a petrol cost I don’t even want to think about (there are big numbers and BIG numbers). But I was inspired by the forest and my friends, and frustrated sitting at home whilst everyone else was going away, so…. Well it was worth it, despite afternoon showers sometimes hampering my style. Meeting up with friends, climbing in the forest, it’s all good - leave Sheffield at 8 pm, drive through the night, sleep on the ferry, arrive at the Eagle’s gite at 9 am and have a strong coffee pressed into my hand, chill out, and go bouldering! Simple pleasures…

Further, my elbow held up surprisingly well. Sure I was living on ibuprofen and trying to look after it with ice, massage, and warming up, but I also climbed plenty, pulled hard, and didn’t feel held back by it. I’ve been off the ibuprofen for two days now and it’s feeling a bit tweaky in certain movements but not that much worse than before. Sure I’ll have set the healing back but I think it was worth that, too.

This general climbing/elbow success includes climbing the hardest problem I’ve done in the forest, and quite possibly the best too: El Poussif. This was a good challenge but also a great, genuine inspiration - I’d seen this problem on my first visit to Font a few years ago, wandering around Isatis with Jim and Dense from UKB. It looked awesome then and it looked awesome on this last trip - a subtle, sinuous, bulging, flowing rib (quite a lot like Brad’s Arete at Eagle Tor, cross with a, errr, crocodile!). Not only that, it climbs as good as it looks - beautiful, flowing, switching movement, leading to a captivating mantel crux that tests the body in under-used ways. That is, if you DO IT RIGHT. I had a look on (link above) to remind myself of how stylish it is, and what do I see on the videos?? All sorts of inelegant, deviant and obscure methods, that usually seem to involve avoiding the true start, and/or a lot of slapping and lanking past the crux. This is really not on. Yeah sure, occasionally some method might be a fraction easier (one of our team found a good gaston method for the start), but it really is missing the point of the problem - the line leads you to climb it in a certain way where the flow of the climbing matches the flow of the line, and trust me that is the finest way to do it:

Left hand on sharp side-pull, right hand palming off a faint mound, left foot on obvious big hold. Pull on leaning right, smear right foot, and bring RH into sidepull crimp. Switch to leaning left, RF on higher smear, LH to faint dimple over bulge. Switch to leaning right and bring RF through to good nick on rib. Layaway up to get pinch with RH and bring LF through to decent nick in face. Paste RF on high smear and switch to leaning left in order to turn LH into palm down on faint dimple or just above. Start pressing out into mantle, then press some more…..and some more… Then fall off and make vow to take up yoga. Repeat above steps… Eventually get LF onto smear below LH palm, find a balance point and reach for sloper with LH. Keep laying away off RH pinch to bring RF up and reach finishing jug.

THE AUTHORISED SEQUENCE: Accept no substitutes!

Actually this might be the second finest tick I got on the trip. The best being on-sighting the drive from Dunkerque to Font AND the drive back from Font to Dunkerque. No wrong turns, no getting lost (unlike some regular visitors *cough*), and all on my ownsome. Big ticks…!

Back to El Poussif… One thing I should have done was got a video of myself doing it (incidentally I watched a Swedish dude try it with a similar starting sequence, which reinforced how good the sequence is). I think there might be photos. But not enough photos and not enough videos. This has nagged me in the Font trip. I had a camera, a load of beautiful problems, and lots of people milling around, and I got no bloody photos. What am I playing at?? This is the ideal opportunity! Am I supposed to be a photo whore or not?? I’m not going to get guidebook cover shots or magazine spreads by not getting photos of myself posing and preening. I’ll be losing my narcissistic edge, sheesh.

Still, the climbing is good ;)

Monday, 17 March 2008

Injury time.

Well I’m definitely injured. The tweak in my elbow is a tear in the bicep tendon where it joins the elbow bone, caused by tweaking it on one particular move down the wall a month or so ago, and accentuated by not resting it enough in the weeks following. I’ve been to see Ozzy at The Clinic, Sheffield’s foremost sanctioned torturer aka physio, who gave that diagnosis but was confident - particularly since it seems to be an acute rather than chronic injury - that it would heal soon. In the meantime I’m restricted in what climbing I can do, and have to be particularly careful not to aggravate it (as I did on a gentle circuit down the wall the other night).

So I’m writing about being injured. Should I turn this into a blog of shoe-gazing woe, the blog equivalent of whining, soul-dampening indie music?? Droning and mumbling on about the mundanities of one’s life and luck and lack of climbing, without any concern for how bland it all is??

Perhaps not eh. It DOES dampen my spirit, but that’s for me to deal with! It is what it is (pushing oneself physically whilst climbing being so intensive) and I just have to work with it. No real way around it, and I can still potter around, especially on trad. In fact, recently I managed some wonderful routes like The Phantom at Gradbach Hill and Flashdance & Blinding Flash down in Torquay, so I won’t complain. Though, I miss the social scene down the wall, funnily enough!

What is of some interest to me is that I seem to be getting more injured these days. Two tweaks in two years, as opposed to one A2 pulley injury in the previous 4 years - it feels quite odd to be “injured again”. A function of getting old? Or of just pushing myself harder? Or maybe or just climbing a lot while doing less “balancing” physical activities? Or probably all three. A lesson to be learnt: I should be taking this increase in susceptability on board, and being more aware of it. Prevention better than cure and all that.

Another plus side, all my previous injuries, I’ve recovered from and got back to feeling as strong and fit as ever. This one too, I hope.