Monday, March 31, 2014

March 24 - 30

Mon - Climbing Gym
          Today was my ninth day climbing out of the last 10 days, seven of those with Joe, including today. As such, both of us are starting to feel a little accumulative fatigue and niggles in our shoulders, wrists, forearms. Only three of those nine days have been outdoors, but even on days I've been climbing outside I've often hit an evening session at the gym; with this morning's snow showers, Joe and I took yet another trip to Movement.
          Despite the flurries, the gym was surprisingly and pleasantly deserted. We suspected this might have had something to do with Spring Break, but it was a pleasure to not have to wait for any routes and to basically have the run of the place. My skills are still mediocre to most, but I've become secure in my current abilities and am pleased to continue to see a gradual improvement. I will be largely absent from Boulder for May through September, so next month is likely the last pass I'll buy until next fall, but I've finally grown to enjoy the gym as a valid way of getting out and using my body when the lower extremities are preventing any other kind of activity and conditions are preventing getting on real rock.

Tue - Anenome Ridge (0:44, 1200') + climbing gym
          Today was the first truly 100% pain-free run I've had since the first week of January. It's amazing how momentous that feels. Most of all, it makes me realize just how debilitating chronic pain can be to both the mind and body. I cruise up Sunshine Canyon on the buttery single-track that I refer to as the "Cali Trail" because of its exceedingly smooth, buffed-out tread. I've raced enough in California (American River, Miwok, Western States) to know that trail builders in the Golden State will not tolerate neither rock nor root :-) The run back along the ridgeline is glorious---Spring is inexorably making its inroads, much to my delight, and my euphoria at being able to run without a hitch in my stride is palpable. I feel fat and out of shape, but the pure kinesthetics of running never fail to induce joy.
          The past two weeks I've been conducting a new set of physical therapy exercises to strengthen the musculature of my hips---specifically targeting weak glute medius muscles---and the diligence seems to finally be paying off. The exercises are tedious, awkward, and time-consuming (30min, 3x/day), but most of all, require a focus and specific attention that I hadn't been applying before. If done with a lack of focus, it is very easy for the over-developed, stronger muscles in the hips (as I understand it, in my case, these are the psoas and tensor fasciae latae (TFL)) to take over for the weaker glute medius and just perpetuate and reinforce the very cycle of imbalance that we're trying to correct.
          In the evening, Joe and I hit one final climbing session at the gym before he flies to Alaska tomorrow. It was a pretty weak effort on both our parts---the fingers and arms are just thrashed at this point and need a couple days off.

Wed - Mt. Sanitas & Anenome (1:08, 2000')
Another completely pain-free outing, but the second bump up to the Anenome Ridge just about did me in. I am unfit right now. In the afternoon, I had my third physical therapy appointment with Bob Cranny. I feel like I'm really learning stuff here about what I need to do to stay healthy long-term. I suppose, like most things, it will come down to whether or not I can exert some discipline.

Thu - Mt. Sanitas (0:55, 1600') + climbing gym
          I get up early today to snag a lap on what is probably Boulder's most popular peak before frantically biking to Movement for an 8:30am rendezvous with Caroline. The ambiance on the mountain this morning is unexpectedly rich---low clouds are swirling even on this diminutive summit---and the early hour means not many people are out with their dogs just yet.
          Later in the day, I download and watch Seb's latest installment in Kilian's Summits of My Life chronicles. I think it's really good and improves on some of the things that I felt were slightly lacking in A Fine Line. I have the utmost respect for Seb as an outdoor filmmaker---if you haven't already, definitely check out his antics in I Believe I Can Fly (Flight of the Frenchies) and Petit Bus Rouge. I like how Seb brings a playful-bordering-on-madcap sensibility to what people are doing in the mountains. Only because of his own athletic capabilities is he able to so evocatively capture some of the most cutting-edge pursuits.

Fri - Green Mt. (1:43, 3000')
To my surprise, a skiff of snow fell overnight, so I change my plans from scrambling to a pure running outing. The fresh flakes over the bulletproof ice on the Ranger trail offer sufficient purchase for my 110's lugs on the uphill, but the downhill proves to be a different story; the trail seems better suited for ice skates than running shoes. There's an occasional murmur of infirmity in my hip on the downhill, but it doesn't seem too serious. Nevertheless, it's a good reminder that I'm not out of the woods yet and that after almost three months the tenacity of this bullshit isn't going to vanish magically. At this point, I've probably gotta just commit to making hip exercises a part of my standard routine, even once everything seems solid.

Sat - As I jogged down the street this morning I detected a recurrence of the slight but nagging pain in my upper, lateral left leg (same old shit) from yesterday morning, so I stopped and walked back home. Earlier in the process, I probably would've continued to run through this, but I know now that that doesn't work with this particular ailment. It's a fairly glorious spring day, but some persistent clouds at least partially assuage my angst at not having an available climbing partner for getting on some rock.
          Earlier this week I finished DeLillo's Libra, a novel that fictionally embellishes on most of the known facts about Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination (Oswald's birthday was Oct 18, hence the sign in the astrological title). Despite the rather obvious themes in the book about the difficulty of making sense of the world, in the evening, in an attempt to do just that, I watch a pair of documentary programs online regarding the JFK assassination. One is a Nova special that examines the forensic ballistics (seems to support a single shooter), and the other is a Frontline biopic on Oswald (most aspects of which made it into DeLillo's work). It feels good to finally learn some things about one of the most notorious political events of the 20th Century. It all seems particularly pertinent with the 50th anniversary of the assassination a few months ago and the current kerfuffle going on over in Russia/Ukraine.

Sun - First Flatiron+Amphitheater (1:13, 2000')
          The hip seemed to respond positively to yesterday's rest, so this morning I bike up to Chautauqua for some leisurely scrambling. I resolve to hike the whole day, but I have a hard time heading uphill without really putting some effort into it and getting a sweat going, even if I'm not running. All the ice has finally melted out of the approach, though, and I'm happy to step onto the rock with a dry pair of shoes for once. This lends itself to particularly efficient footwork and I scamper up the 1000' face in 14m45s in stellar conditions---almost calm winds and pleasant temps despite the cloud cover.
          After downclimbing, I decide to hike down to the Amphitheater on the descent for a quick circuit of three of the four Roach Classics there---I scramble up the South Face of the 2nd Pinnacle, downclimb into the Amphitheater itself, and then tick the 5.5 finger crack on the West Face of T-Zero before finishing with a summit of the First Pinnacle via its exposed Southeast Face. The last 30' of this one always garners my undivided attention. Even a short outing like this, with no running, does so much to improve the tenor of my day.

This is a song from my second-favorite band ever (a very close second), TV On The Radio:

TVOTR's lead singer, Tunde Adebimpe, has a side-project called Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band. Massive Attack recently did a couple remixes of some HWBMB songs that I think I like even more than the originals:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 3 - 9

Mon - Green Mountain (1:33, 3000') + climbing in the gym
Nice and warm day out on the mountain this morning, feels like spring. Today I was randomly listening to Broken Social Scene's first real album You Forgot It In People, which was released in late 2002, but I didn't get around to it about a year later. Anyways, it kind of took me by surprise that I'd been listening to the album for over 10 years. It's (still) really good and there was a time when I would've placed BSS as probably one of my top-3 favorite acts---they're easily still in my top-10.
          I saw them live twice, both in 2011, the last year they were together. The March 2011 show in the Boulder Theater is still the most expensive music ticket I've ever bought ($37) and I remember feeling quite ambivalent about paying that much, being used to paying ~$20 less for a show. It was absolutely worth it. Most indie acts I've seen are $15-20 and will predictably play for 60-75min, take a short break, and then come out and play maybe a couple more songs as an encore before calling it a night at 90min of entertainment, tops.  The BSS show in Boulder was unlike anything I'd ever seen. They played non-stop for two and a half hours and with infectious enthusiasm the entire time. One of the best shows I've ever been to. Here's a performance of a classic track from them from a brief get-together of theirs last summer.


Tue - Green Mountain (1:38, 3000')
I have an acupuncture appointment this morning, so I'm on the mountain earlier than usual, which is always a treat. I love running at sunrise. Just as I'm leaving the summit, I bump into my friends Homie and Bill. These guys happen to be two of my biggest inspirations in the mountains. Like myself, both are simply average climbers (though Bill leads harder than anything Homie or I could), but their enthusiasm and appetite for the mountains is virtually unparalleled.
          Homie's attempt on the Colorado 14ers speed record from a couple years ago is legendary, and Bill has continually concocted logical and interesting climbing projects that only require moderate technical ability but heaps of endurance, planning, and resolve. Bill has co-authored a book about speed climbing, directs the Tour de Flatirons scrambling races each fall, climbed 100 pitches in Eldo in a day, and linked up all 53 of Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classics in a long weekend. When I did the Glacier Gorge Traverse in 2012, Homie and Bill's trip report was my main source of information. Both men have absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of Colorado climbing and mountaineering, and beyond being directly inspired by their actual mountain endeavors, it's the way they approach them with such enthusiasm and energy that really gets me excited. Ultimately, they're living examples of the fact that you don't have to climb 5.12 in order to have innumerable fantastic and satisfying adventures in the mountains.
          Bill parts with a cheery, "I see you've been going to the gym a lot, we should climb together some time! I usually go at 6am; it's great, hardly anyone's there!" Before I turn to start descending, I chuckle and sheepishly reply that I'm usually either still sleeping or just sipping coffee at 6am, so that seems pretty unlikely.

Wed - AM: Green Mountain (1:39, 3000') + climbing in the gym
           PM: First Flatiron+Green Mountain (1:42, 3500')
Now that I'm back running, my sleep is more regular and I wake up earlier. It's a much more natural pattern to be in (rising with the sun), and today it affords me a brilliant display of alpenglow combined with a fresh layer of sparkle on the Boulder peaks and Flatirons, which I'm very fortunate to be able to view from the comfort of my apartment window, coffee in hand. The run up the mountain is slowed by the 3-4" of fresh snow and is further hindered by my breaking both of my Microspikes early in the run (they're an old pair). I descend past the First Flatiron to scope the conditions, and though it's wet in a few key spots, I'm confident that it'll be dry enough for a safe scramble this afternoon.
          After the run I head to the gym for a couple hours of climbing with Caroline. She's just returned from a few weeks in Catalunya, taking pictures of climbers and doing a little climbing of her own. Caroline is a far better climber than me, but I always enjoy watching what it looks like to be proficient on the plastic. She's extremely precise with her feet, deftly executes energy-saving adjustments in body position, and generally floats up the wall. For some reason, I seem to climb better in the gym with her than with anyone else because I fully accept that she's on a different level and I don't waste mental energy comparing my own (woefully lacking abilities) or getting frustrated when I can't match her on the wall. It feels like a fruitful session.
          Spring is in the air this afternoon and I decide to test the hip a little with a second outing. My legs are heavy and unresponsive on the run up to Chautauqua, but the hip feels good, so I resolve to just soldier through it and hopefully start building some fitness. The trail leading up to the First is an alarmingly sloppy, slushy mess, so my shoes don't initially offer the best friction on the rock, but within a minute or two I find a great rhythm despite having to be attentive in a few damp spots.
          Back on the ground, the warm afternoon has made the snow and ice on the trails pleasantly tacky, and I enjoy good footing sans Microspikes. On the way down, I spontaneously pop into the Amphitheater at the base of Green and scramble a couple easy 100' routes on the east face of the West Bench to just further revel in the warm, calm gloaming. Maybe all the time in the gym has been worth something, as when I first tried these short lines last November I remember being a bit apprehensive; tonight I'm thoroughly warmed up and they're a nice little tag at the end of a great evening on the mountain.

Not a bad view for morning coffee and a book.
Thu - AM: First Flatiron+Green Mountain+2nd Pinnacle (1:56, 3500')
Ugh, so tired. I was bonking pretty hard right from the beginning this morning, so it was a pretty desultory outing. The extra time and vert came in the form of tagging on a scramble of the south face of the Amphitheater's Second Pinnacle (one of the four Roach Flatiron Classics that is in the Amphitheater) as I was descending the mountain. It's a nice route with a funky chimney and an airy pull-up on a huge horn to gain the worthy summit, not your typical slab-mongering.
          After the run, I have yet another acupuncture appointment with Allison. I feel super grateful for all the work she's put into getting my trending towards health. Not much has been working on this particular injury, but her diligent trigger-point therapy seems to be the key thing that has finally gotten me back on the trails.

Fri - AM: Green Mountain (1:37, 3000') + climbing in gym
         PM: Green Mountain (1:39, 3000')
I linger over my coffee and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test about 20min too long this morning, and as a result just miss the available window for scrambling the First before the incoming snowstorm. My brain is by far at its peak comprehension abilities before 10am, so every day I try to take advantage of that with 30-40min of reading before I hit the trails. Today, though, as I leave the door at 7:15am the clouds are just beginning to wisp in over the summits of Green and Bear and during my run to Gregory Canyon it starts raining. By time I reach the 6000' level or so the rain has turned to snow and on my run back down the mountain to my apartment, my 3oz jacket is just enough protection to keep me on the pleasant side of uncomfortable.
         After an afternoon session in the climbing gym with Joe, I'm excited to head back out into the elements again for a second lap on the hill. Something about inclement weather always stokes my motivation and due to appropriate apparel choices the evening romp is a real pleasure; I'm doubly stoked to find that my hip seemingly obliges the day's rigors as well.

Sat - Green Mountain (1:51, 3000')
Though the snow was sticky last night, cool overnight temps have rendered the footing sugary and unconsolidated, making for a sloggy uphill. This is countered, however, by brilliant sunshine and rapidly warming temps. After the morning lap, I spend the rest of the day visiting my two sisters and two nephews down in Colorado Springs, highlighted by a stroll through the Garden of the Gods. My nephews turned one year and six months old this week, respectively, and their rapid progressions into little human beings is rather amazing.

Compression for post-holing protection and a tight calf Saturday morning.
Sun - AM: Green Mountain (2:05, 3000')
          PM: 1st Flatiron+Green Mt. (1:14, 3000') + climbing in gym
Today is by far the nicest weather day of the year so far---temps were near or right at +70F---and I took full advantage. There was still a little lingering snow on the First Flatiron, so I instead tested my hip with a longer circuit of the mountain, descending down Bear Canyon and coming back on the Mesa Trail. The hip is in a weird place where it doesn't seem to be getting any worse, but it's not really improving either. Descending is still the most troublesome, but overall, the acupuncture seems to be keeping things in check.
          In the afternoon, the incredible weather begs for further enjoyment, so I bike up to Chautauqua and lace a quick lap on the hill, including a really on-point scramble of the First Flatiron. My footwork and coordination is very precise for the entire outing, and I carry this directly into an indoor climbing session with Joe as the sun is headed behind the mountains. We crank through what turns out to be probably my most productive couple of hours in the gym of the whole year. I'm able to comfortably climb routes I usually fall on, and it's a nice end to a full day and week of activity.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Feb 24 - Mar 2

Mon - First Flatiron (:58, 1600')
There was still a little lingering snow on the slab this morning, so I had to be very deliberate in many spots---a slip anywhere on the First would be highly unpleasant and easily fatal in a lot of places---and the trail back down to my bike was its usual hideous mix of snow and ice. So it was a slow lap. I should really just bring Microspikes for the trip back down the hill, but also don't want to unnecessarily dull them. Typical spring-time concerns.
          Despite the day quickly warming to somewhere near the +60F mark, time constraints forced me into the convenience of the gym for a couple hours of climbing with jLu. At least the pleasant weather meant no indoor crowds. Jenny was intent on leading more routes (in the gym it's really easy to just stay on top-rope and keep trying stuff beyond your ability), so we headed to the most overhanging wall and grunted our way up juggy but strenuous routes where falling typically meant dangling in the air instead of slamming into plastic. I continue to feel mostly like a fish out of water there, but every now and then I'm able to experience an extremely fleeting sense of flow and ease. Heavy emphasis on fleeting.

Tue - Climbing Gym
Leg had some twinges in it, so I just headed back to the gym today with jLu. It sucked. I'm finding that climbing, like running---like any activity, I suppose, where a concurrent engagement of mind and body is required---follows a rhythm of inexplicable good days and bad days. Of feeling sometimes "on" and sometimes very "off". Today I was really off. Struggling on top-rope on grades that typically serve as warm-ups. So it goes.

Wed - Pretty low ebb. Bad mood all day. An unsolicited bit of advice: don't construct your coping-with-life mechanisms around something as capricious and physically abusive as running up and down mountains. 

Thu - Took another day off, due to indecision. Joe was heading out for a run with our friend Jeff Valliere, but before that we got a cup of jav together at Trident. I've been pretty bummed lately with the now seven week hiatus from running, so it was good to sit down and solve some of the world's problems with Joe. Joe knows me well enough to tolerate my bitching but then predictably counters with the unflagging optimism and stoke that is the hallmark of his personality. My leg still hurt when I walked out of the cafe, but thanks to our conversation I felt a little more in control of my mood, capable of sprinkling in bits of positive attitude. His is a valuable friendship.
          Later in the morning I had another acupuncture appointment with Allison (I also submitted to the needling on Tuesday), and it was hugely beneficial. Allison was able to finally get the musculature in my hip to respond a bit and the short session induced some instantaneous improvement in the pain levels in my leg. Improvement which unexpectedly and encouragingly remained through the rest of the day.

Fri - 1st Flatiron+Green (1:14, 3000')
Temps are moderate this morning, but it seems a bit breezy as I bike up to Chautauqua. This isn't an issue until I emerge from the First's east face onto its North Arete and begin the final traverse to the summit. I usually dance up this section in a veritable trot, but today near-constant gusts from the west force me into an anxious cower as I try not to get blown from the rock. Things are even worse on the downclimb (which descends a ramp and ledge system on the western and southerly aspects of the rock), but once I'm back on level ground I enjoy a comparably pleasant march to the top of the mountain.
          The gale on the slab's summit reminds me of a line from the DeLillo book I read this week, The Body Artist, "There's something about the wind. It strips you of assurances, working into you, continuous, making you feel the hidden thinness of everything around you." This is something I've felt innumerable times---most often above treeline---even when not on exposed, death-fall terrain. Wind is psychologically unnerving; it unfailingly makes me feel desperate and vulnerable. On the descent I'm ever mindful of my hip, but---much to my joy---it registers nary a murmur and I'm able to jog pain-free back down to my bike.
          In the late afternoon, I meet Joe for a couple of quick pitches on the Elephant Buttresses in Boulder Canyon. It's our first time climbing together outside in several months, and once the sun drops behind the mountain things get surprisingly cold in a hurry, a reminder that, despite the day's warmth, it's still winter.

Sat - Green Mountain (1:24, 3000')
When I wake up, the cloud ceiling is low, but it hasn't started precipitating yet. However, after the hour that it takes to drink a cup of coffee and get suited up, there is already 2-3" of snow on the ground and it's dumping down more. This makes the usually trivial pedal up to Chautauqua an adventure in itself, and I flounder a few blocks before the trailhead, locking my bike on a random street corner. I enjoy fresh tracks on the mountain, though, and when I arrive at the summit I am greeted by a solitary set of footprints and the singular magic that occurs when you unexpectedly break through a ceiling of clouds. I've really missed the trails these past couple months and getting to experience the local peaks in their frosted beauty. I guess the silver lining to injury is that the mundane is injected with a freshness and renewed appreciation.

Sun - Green Mountain (1:34, 3000')
The single digit temps and icy streets convince me to try running to the mountain instead of biking. The forecasted high of +40F seems unlikely until I get to 7500' or so on the mountain and it feels as if I've suddenly stepped into a warm room. The air even takes on a certain mustiness, and as I gain the ridge an opaque ocean of gray clouds spreads out below me. Winter has its treats. Running back down the hill, though, crossing the temperature threshold is like dropping into an ice box and I quickly re-don my jacket and extra gloves. Much to my delight, the hip feels like it is almost strengthening with the extra time on my feet and I finish back at my doorstep more optimistic than I've been about my running in a long, long time. Maintaining the momentum of my health in an upward trajectory will require constant vigilance, however.

Longs Peak
Haven't been up here in a while...
The Third