Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Projects and Pain

The painful shoulder in action on a V3/4

Another weekend, another trip to North Wales, another session falling off my project.

The good news is that I can do every move of my current V5/6 project, except the last one (grrr). This was a massive improvement over last week. Surely I didn’t get stronger in a week. No, I think it has a lot to do with pain or tolerance thereof.

I feel that a bit of background on my project is in order. I first spotted a picture of Fagin in the North Wales bouldering guidebook a few months ago. It consists of a line of pockets up a steeply overhanging prow. It sounded like it would play to my strengths so it rose to the top of my list. I’m sure you’re painfully aware of my shoulder injury and subsequent lay off by now, but anyway, my point is that through all of this I have lost quite a bit of strength. I know that I am currently way off my best, but I thought targeting a problem that was a decent enough grade and played to my strengths was a way to make up for lost time.

My first session on it was OKish. The damp conditions were completely against me and I was knackered from a full day out previously. I always find it difficult to justify spending a whole day working on one problem. I may not send it and end up going home empty handed. However if I do lots of easy mileage, I am usually quite spent for the next day. Having more often than not travelled a long way, I feel a need to accomplish something. It’s just what strategy do you go for, lots of easy stuff or time on a project. Actually the whole concept of a project is still relatively new to me. Every problem that I sent has had no more than two sessions. I realise this obviously isn’t the way forward with properly hard stuff and sometimes just getting to the next hold is progress enough.

Back to the problem… I always seem to pick particularly painful ones. This one did have pockets but they seemed to all contain razor sharp edges on the outside and I was moving to most of them dynamically. Owch. I would go so far as to say that more than strength or technique, what I really lost that whole ’zone’ or whatever that you have to go into when climbing problems at your limit. It eluded me for the entire first session.

The next time I decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to let pain get in the way. I ended up bloodied and bruised, but I felt like I gave it a much better go this time. All of the strength training indoors will never prepare you for what you are about to tackle mentally.

If the problem is truly that hard for you, pain doesn’t even cover it. It’s not just sharp holds either. It is the ability to clutch at non-existent crimps, to make massive strenuous moves and then hold them. Indoors, I would have given up a long time ago. It’s just not worth it. You really need to want to it in order to put your body under that much pressure. I think at times I’m not merely struggling with a problem, but fighting a very physical battle with the demons in my head. At the very least I can’t hear them for a few moments. Yet new ones seem to creep in, ‘am I good enough’ and then I fall. I like to think a part of my character is born from these struggles.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the days when you just seem to float up anything you choose regardless of the moves being limit ones or not. I’ve even had both experiences on the same problem. Maybe if I get stronger I will have fewer epic battles. Then again, I suspect I will seek out even more difficult problems.

It will go next time.


Stu said...

If it hurts then tape the shit out of whatever finger is being razored by the rock. Problem solved, no more pain - tick away.

Jenn said...

Thanks for the comments.

I find the equilibrium between taping to prevent my skin from ripping whilst still maintaining enough skin in contact to be able to still feel the hold a difficult balance. I need to be able to feel the holds to know where the ‘good’ spots are. But still – point taken.