Mid December of last year was more or less when 2018 kind of started for me. Each year I try to force a week to ten days of rest from climbing to let my body relax and also to reset my mental energy for the coming season. I ate delicious food at my parents house. I went on long hikes in Boulder's beautiful backyard with Zeke. I sat in the sauna. I read. I started an 8a.nu account. I was kinda bored.
By all means 2017 was massive for me. I essentially did no training at all, but spent months and months of time on the road and on the rock which was exactly what I needed. Any residual sense of burnout from '16 was long behind me once I committed to traveling and exploring. I put faith in the work I'd done years before and tried for an intimidating goal of climbing ten routes 14d or harder, which, proudly, I succeeded at.
I had laid some kind of foundation but for 2018 I really wanted to improve
. Ideally that improvement would result in climbing 9b, but honestly more than anything I just wanted to feel like I was making progress. When you've spent years fine tuning your training and inching towards your personal best, massive breakthroughs become less and less realistic. You start to aim for the smallest increments to motivate you.
During my downtime in December I started building a plan. I sat down with the incredibly knowledgable Will Anglin of Tension Climbing and kicked ideas back and forth. I met with my friend and the one who really showed me the light originally; Mark Anderson, co-author of the Rock Prodigy Method. We met in Golden and joked about training and progress. I had several lengthy phone calls with Steve Bechtel from Climb Strong and his training ethos really spoke to me. I built a training program and schedule together with Steve that, aside from a few tweaks and some changes on the fly, I would stick to for the following several months.
I would have about a month for the first 'trimester' of the program. I absolutely love training. I love how much I can escape the world when I'm plugged into music and focused on the next hang or the next boulder problem. I think I might put an even greater level of mental intensity into hitting my training goals than I do climbing outside. But, all of this motivation would never exist for me if there was not a clear objective. I need something on the horizon to help me push through a particularly gnarly session and to give purpose to the monotony and torture of training.
In late January I went to Austin, Texas to see a new place, meet new people and climb at a fresh crag. I thoroughly enjoyed the two week trip, and importantly, it provided a reprieve from the weeks spent in the gym. I felt a bit run down throughout the trip, but I was happy to climb a handful of incredible, hard routes in the Austin area. The climbing there is physical and demanding - more like long boulder problems than sport routes. During the early months my training was focused specifically on power, so this area was a perfect compliment. I obsessed over their tacos and met a group of very supportive and stoked climbers in this Texas mecca.
When I returned I buried myself again in the climbing gym. Throughout these cycles I largely decreased my usual focus on finger strength, and used that extra shoulder energy for dynamic movement and heavy strength exercises. 'Jumbo Love' was my ultimate goal, and I knew that finger strength would definitely not be an issue after trying the route in 2016. For me, the difficulties on Jumbo Love are primarily defined my movement, not hold size. The route is very reachy throughout. I can't add length to my body but I can try to make larger moves feel easier - and that was my aim.
After the second 'trimester' was completed I made Joe Kinder's amazing 'Bone Tomahawk' my stepping stone. This route is bouldery, very steep and physical. The holds are generally good. The clips are hard and the movement is hard. Aside from its length (it's really around 40-50 feet of climbing), it would be a perfect test for my training. I did the second ascent of the route but the send was quite a bit harder than I had imagined. For sure some of my time invested was reacquainting myself with climbing outside, but still it felt hard. I also climbed 'Re-Up' some days afterward, which was super motivating because I had tried that link up some years ago and it felt kinda rugged.
I began the third cycle in my training with a few days of pumpy climbing in the Cathedral intermixed. I had planned on a number of training sessions through April but at this point I could feel that things were starting to come together. I felt snappy from the training but my stamina was beginning to extend beyond 10 or 20 moves. I combined boulder problems to make 35 move giants in the climbing gym.
When the weather looked warm enough for me to start trying I cut the cycle off early and started the mission to Clark Mountain. If I've learned anything over the last four years of training it's that everything must be done by feel. Learn what your body needs and when - never be afraid to substitute or lengthen a session. Learn the difference between training stress and pain from injury. It's stated so often that it seems cliche but, listen to your body.
I campaigned at Clark for roughly a month. I think I had around 11 days in total on the route this season but the process to sending really felt like it started with my obsessive planning back in December. Hopefully there is a lesson hiding somewhere in this summation of my process that speaks to you, and maybe it's just what you needed to start planning (...or not!) for your next big mission.