And see where we've gone over the past 30 months
(For those who aren’t in the know, I posted a page about climbing and the mental and physical struggle that a climber fights through in order to 'scend their climbs. I promised an update, so let's get to it!)
So Let’s Hit Rewind: Part I was a nice little update on the state of the beer brewing at n00b Brewery. It seemed natural to then update everyone with one of my other creative energy outlets, climbing. It's been a while since I've talked about climbing, if you're not counting all of the photos I've been posting lately. A lot has happened in that last year and a half of climbing, and over the course of those 18 months I found a worrying theory had started to form in my head in regards to my climbing. . .
I needed to stop drinking so much beer. . .
So now it’s time to speak about climbing! And I’ll start off by not talking about climbing. I know I said I would talk about climbing. Shut up. This is my blog. I’m going to talk about climbing by not talking about climbing by talking about my fat ass. That’s right. I’ve got a fat ass. Or at least I had a fat ass. Sort of. I’m not, and never have been morbidly obese, but I’m most definitely still not thin. I’m over the normal weight range for someone of my height and build. I wasn’t always this way; I’ve usually been of average build, if not a little gangly. I’ve always stared rudely in wonder at people who have become morbidly obese and wondered how they could let that happen to themselves; not because I am disgusted by who they are or their physical appearance but because I know it’s unhealthy and if I ever got to the point that I was that unhealthy I would want to make as much of an effort as humanly possible to not be that unhealthy. Also, it fucking hurts! I never even came close to morbidly obese but I could still feel the negative physical effects of that extra weight, so how could someone who is even heavier than me be comfortable at any time, ever?? Those thoughts were bouncing around in my head by at least the time I was 18 years of age, 6’ 2”, and weighing in at 175 lbs. So you could imagine my surprise when over the course of the next 7 years I would become a docile little home body that became quite active in the beer revolution we’re currently living in. Comfort zones? I had them. In spades. And those comfort zones led me to being 215+ lbs. By the time 2010 rolled around, with barely any idea about what to do with my body except run every now and then. So I have a little bit more of an understanding of those that struggle with their weight, albeit not in as extreme of a situation as others have found themselves.
I'M A CLIMBER DUR BURLY GASTON CRIMP DUR DUR DUR
So a drastic change in my health needed to happen. Along comes Dan "Hero of the Day" Durakovich to save the day, as Dan is wont to do. Dan starts rock climbing, Dan finds a climbing gym and gets a membership, Dan gives Chad one free guest pass per month, Chad decides to nut up and buy an annual membership to said climbing gym, all of Chad's physical problems are now solved. Sort of. Almost. My thoughts up to that point are documented in the post from 18 months ago, The Never Ending Climb. But there were some issues that started to niggle after that post. Although I was becoming more and more dedicated to climbing, it became more apparent that the facilities at the climbing gym Dan and I had started at, Hangar 18, were severely lacking. Climbing as an isolated exercise isn’t conducive to losing weight. (Or at least, it hasn't been in my case. When it comes to weight loss I'm constantly told that everyone is different. Psh.) It’s anaerobic to a certain extent, but bouldering's duration is usually too short to take advantage of that anaerobic state, and bouldering is mainly what Dan and I were taking part in. The small bit of extracurricular exercise that could be performed after climbing was almost nothing. There were a few weights, and a chin up bar. That was pretty much it. There was a very nice climbing technique wall, hang board, and campus board for climbing technique, but climbing is not a one trick pony kind of exercise. It’s a full body activity that requires a great deal of control over every bit of your well-trained body. Having some pumped biceps and some little twig legs isn’t going to help you become a better climber. It’s just going to help you campus around like a fool. And no one wants to be a fool. Seriously, I can't stand fools. . .
The lacking facilities, and a few other reasons (Seriously, Hangar, get a fucking A/C), brought up the idea of switching gyms. Touchstone gyms had recently opened their LA Boulders location and we decided to jump ship. We’d lose top roping, a feature available at Hangar 18 in South Bay, but we would gain a few very important features that would make all the difference. First of which is showers. FUCKING. SHOWERS. I can not tell you how big of a deal it is to climb for a few hours and instead of driving home sticky and gross, TAKE A FUCKING SHOWER AND FEEL COMFORTABLE. That makes all the difference in the world. Secondly, a full gym. Treadmills, rowing machines, weights, kettle bells, battle ropes, all of the things. Sure, the cost was well over twice the cost of a year at Hangar 18, but the drive was a fraction of the distance and that full gym came bundled in. It definitely became one of the more important features at LA Boulders that contributed to the way that I climb now.
For a while in 2013 I recorded my weight. I had some notion of getting a scale and recording my weight to see what I could do about it. It didn’t really get too far; after about 4 months I found that my weight wasn’t going anywhere and just climbing wasn’t burning enough calories to lose weight with my diet at the time, and I grew frustrated and annoyed with the weight tracking and quit. But I did get the heaviest weight that I’ve recorded for myself: 217 lbs. When I decided to start getting serious about losing weight and now had the gym amenities to take advantage of to make the plan stick, I used the 217 peak weight to decide upon 200 lbs as my goal for weight loss. 17 lbs doesn’t sound like much, but considering that I’m climbing walls that are sometimes 25 feet, multiple times per climbing session, I think that lugging around even 17 extra pounds adds up, and losing it would definitely give me a small bump in climbing performance.
To get up to the top. . .
. . . lose what is holding you down
So began months of running on treadmills, ab class after ab class after ab class, climbing technique and resistance training with the oversight of my excellent personal trainer, Daniel “Manwich” Durakovich, better dieting habits, and most important (If not incredibly saddening):
I had to start drinking less beer.
That one hurt. Still hurts. But it was necessary. And it has paid off. I can say, quite proudly, that as of just recently I’ve achieved my goal and for the first time in at least 6 years, I’m less than 200 lbs. As of this writing, I’m actually down to 192 lbs.
I feel that the effect has been dramatic. I’ve noticed a huge upswing in my climbing ability. I’ve felt that I can now hold my own in beta discussions and climbing ventures with other climbers that I had in the past felt were very far ahead of me. I’ve gone from feeling that I was a solid V4 climber to regularly testing myself on V6 climbs, and recently I’ve been cutting my teeth on V7 climbs! And none of that even compared to what happened when Dan and I made our first trek out to Joshua Tree.
Joshua Tree. Just a pile of rocks.
Outdoor climbing is generally considered by most climbers I know to be a bit tougher on the rating system. (Remember though, ratings are essentially bullshit. They are a general idea as to what the setter or the climber that got the first 'scend of the climb thinks is required in terms technique, endurance, and strength to ’scend a climb. It really has no baring on whether you can climb that climb, or whether someone else can’t.) What would normally be an easy rating in a gym can be incredibly difficult outdoors. Joshua Tree is known for its amazing climbs, all of which are rated very hard.
A V2 in Joshua Tree is apparently a V4 elsewhere, kind of thing. Or so I’m told. I’ve only been to Horse Flats, Ojai, Black Mountain, and Stoney Point otherwise. So I’m not calling myself an expert in the matter, but it has been explained to me by reputable climbers as a tough place to climb. And the first trip out to Joshua Tree I was climbing V4’s with the rest of the group and was able to enjoy every bit of the day. Dynos, reachers, crimps, all fell to my awesome new techniques and strength. Who’d have ever thought that taking my weight and diet seriously would help with my physical goals???
Grry on Thin Face in Horse Flats. Yes, I know we're talking about Joshua tree right now.
And that trip to Joshua Tree opened the floodgates. Whether with the friends that I’ve made while rock climbing or even just Dan and myself, the outdoors have beckoned. As I previously stated, Horse Flats over and over again. Then there has been Black Mountain and Tram, Ojai and Stoney Point. If you’ve not been looking through my Facebook photos, either due to lack of permission or because you’re a poor Facebook friend that’s on the verge of being removed from my Friends List, you’ll have seen a good dollop of photos from outdoor climbing adventures filling up my news feed. But it’s hard to describe, even through photography, the experience that climbing outdoors can deliver.
Foli on Zack's Roof in Horse Flats
I once told Dan, “I think that climbing outdoors has made me a better climber.”
That’s obviously bullshit. Or at least, I believe it's now bullshit. The basic act of climbing in a different location doesn’t actually provide a miraculous uptick in climbing prowess. But what would probably have been a better statement of how our first outdoor climbing trip to Ojai affected me is, “I think that climbing outdoors has opened my eyes to a more constructed appreciation of what climbing can be for me.” In a climbing gym, your regimen of climbing, technique training, and exercise are liberating of the fat cells that live upon your body and beneficial for the skills and techniques that will become more and more important later in your climbing career.
Grry's right heel on B1 V4 Traverse >
< Jason improvising a crack route
But indoor climbing can also be restricting in that you’re required to follow the setter's problem and you’ll find yourself practicing technique session after session, fighting yourself and the setter that placed the holds.
This isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, it’s a strengthening tool. It helps you think like the climbers that have climbed before you, who already have their own experience and appreciation for the sport of rock climbing. It builds climbing character, so to say. And you’ll find yourself a better climber for taking the time to struggle inside of an indoor climbing gym.
But climbing on natural rock brings you to a lower common denominator of man versus nature. It is literally yourself finding a way to place your limbs, muscles, weight, and mental acuity in such a way as to bring your body up a rock until you find yourself on the top of the rock. It is a process wherein you find your own physical and mental self against the Earth at one of it’s most basic forms: the rocks and dirt that you’ve walked upon your entire life. It’s rock that has been weathered. It’s eroded by water, wind, heat, and ice. These boulders, towering peaks, and general pile of rocks have been around longer than a good majority of us can comprehend, and yet I’ve found myself staring at these natural structures with the pure intention of moving myself up them. Yes, many of the climbs that are outdoors will have been discovered by other climbers and yes, you will find yourself placing your hands where others have struggled before, but the rock and the weather are what dictate the holds, the clarity of the sky will dictate your comfort level, and the fresh air will act as the blanket across your day that keeps you smiling, whether you even notice it or not.
Grace beta with a right heel on Nipple Eraser
I said 18 months ago, “. . . you are with a sense of completion that's been lacking since you started this course. It feels better than the fist pumps flyin' when you hit the floor. It's completely satisfying; completion.” And I thought that as a newcomer to the gym environment, that aerial fist pumpage after ‘scending a challenging climb was the epitome of what the climbing experience could be. But when the fist pumpage is the result of yourself versus the granite or sandstone that you’ve pitted yourself against, in rays of the sun or the shade of the clouds, the wind sweeps the sweat from of your face as you scream to the birds that inhabit the pines keeping you company, the climb becomes more than just yourself versus your own body versus another human’s suggestion as to what a climb can be. It becomes a challenge that is more intimate, and it becomes a challenge that allows you to adapt and evolve against a natural formation that cares nothing of how you found it, where you found it, who has been there before, or what you think of it. The climb becomes man versus nature, more than man versus himself. And when you succeed, it isn’t because you’ve overcome someone else’s idea as to how or why you should be climbing, it’s because you’ve ‘scent a rock and found a way to bring yourself up the rock. At the summit of even the most basic of climbs you’ll be smiling in the breeze, clean air heavily pumping into your lungs, and a backdrop that leaves you feeling small, and yet, strong.
Infinitely more enjoyable, infinitely more rewarding.
The fact that climbing has become more rewarding and enjoyable has left me more time to enjoy taking photos of other climbers and the environments we find ourselves in, more time at the top of a boulder for a uniquely framed shot, more time to prepare for a dynamic throw that's about to happen, or when it's closer to the end of the day, more time for cracking open cans of craft beer with friends while enjoying the climbing of others. (There’s not much better than a beer after a mid-afternoon ‘scend) A more physically inclined mental state has improved the climbing experience greatly, and in the end, solidified my own opinion that the sport of rock climbing is the perfect mix of mental fortitude and physical exertion that I personally needed to become enthralled in a physical activity. And for someone like me, where everyday social interactions can be awkward and meeting new people can be a struggle, I've found that the climbing community is far more welcoming and open than the musical community, the brewing community, or even the Magic: The Gathering community. (Dem nerds is FIERCE) If you ever need beta advice, climbers are always willing to help. If you're headed outdoors, they're always willing to lend a ride. Trips are in small groups of other like-minded climbers that aren't just interested in who can climb the most intimidating rocks, or who is the more advanced climber. Climbers are interested in having a fun time finding ways to move our way up the rocks that we find challenging and interesting. It's been both eye-opening and a little heart warming.
But I of course would never admit that.
Apparently, we all LOVVVE right heels. . .
So now it’s time,
just like last time,
to get back on the fucking rock.
Sometimes, life gives you lemons. Sometimes they're rotten. Sometimes, life kicks you over, and shoves those rotten lemons into your mouth, jamming your mouth shut and pinching your nostrils until you're forced to swallow. Sometimes, life. . . you get the point.
Paul Thompson has had life kick and punch him around ever since I met him over 8 years ago. And that's a lot of kicks and punches to take. Where others I've known have become bitter and angry, jealous and immoral, Paul has instead stayed true to being kind, caring, and fun. He's helped me through Irbe's problems, mentored my IT communication skills, and at the end of the day is always smiling and laughing when we have a beer (or three) together. And in return I've given him tips on the more superior operating system, annoyed the shit out of him with my selective OCD and oddball grudges, and once I drew his face.
Paul is a constant reminder that people can be good, even when the odds seem consistently and annoyingly stacked against a human. And I'm glad to have him as not only a coworker, but a friend.
Oh, I also once sang Queen's Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy to him in front of our company. That was great.