Thursday, May 30, 2013

5:00, 175, 12b, Pfalz Point

In high school, and early on in college, I weighed around 175 pounds. Climbing wasn't something I took seriously yet. I was a competitive runner and cyclist. I had very little upper body muscle, never carried a big backpack and hadn't developed overly large calf and quadricep muscles quite yet. I was running fast (not exceptional but fast nonetheless) times for most middle distance running events - :53 for the 400, 1:59 for the 800 (half mile), 4:10 for the 1500 (4:26 mile), 9:10 for the 3000 (9:47 for two miles), around 16:40 for the 5k (5:20/mile) and 27:30 for the 8k (5:30/mile).

After high school I fell out of the running habit and delved deeply into all types of climbing. In college, while lifting and cycling a lot, climbing, and frequently partying, I edged over 200lbs. Running became something I did only for fitness. Compared to the average non-runner, I maintained great running fitness. However, anyone who's trained significantly for any sport knows that there is an immense difference between unfit and fit for competition. Yes, I was way more fit than someone who just jumped off the couch, but I wasn't fit for any sort of highly aerobic pursuit.

I gained comfort as a climber. My weight dropped down from 202 to 190. Tons of mileage over rock, road trips, and winters devoted entirely to ice climbing helped solidify my skills. I developed a huge climbing fitness base that has allowed me to gain fitness quickly now, or focus on projects even though I haven't been climbing a ton.

Three winters ago, while approaching Cannon Cliff with my friend Michael Wejchert for what was to become an unsuccessful attempt at Omega, I noticed that I had developed greater aerobic fitness than in past winters. Toting gear all over the Catskills to establish hard new mixed lines had helped increase my cardiovascular fitness. I decided to piggyback off of that fitness - I began running again.

My training was on-and-off that year. I ran a few local X-C races and attended a few track workouts, but didn't train consistently enough to get fit for competitive running. I wasn't getting out enough to develop a base. Consequently, hard efforts made me sore and very tired. This inhibited my training progress.

Two winters ago, I was bouted by Hydropower (an M9- mixed route in the Catskills) during my onsight attempt. At the same height as ice, and four feet away from a restful stem, I let go. The effort left me sore for more than a week. I vowed to return, smarter and fitter the next season.

Last year I ran more. I shaved time off my local 5K pr (personal record) and attended a few more track workouts. I climbed less, but became more pointed about my efforts. As a result and despite a real lack of climbing fitness, I managed to have a few very good days (redpointing a few 12a's and many 5.11's), always after climbing road trips that left me feeling less nervous about falling.

This past winter I was really deliberate about my efforts. I really didn't have any easy recreational climbing days. My guiding days were easy, and my recreational days were always focused on a project, or on improving my fitness. As a result I ticked off a few projects (Hydropower went after 3 tries) pretty easily, even though I didn't put in that many days.

This spring I've started to take running much more seriously. I'm training and running multiple days per week. I'm attending track workouts weekly, and racing when I can. I'm careful not to overdo things though. As a teenager and twenty-something I never listened to my body. Now I know and feel when I need a rest, and I heed the signs. I'm not afraid to take a few days off. During my second X-C race this season, I knocked 25 seconds off last year's p.r. During 400's and 800's on the track I'm training at around 5:20/mile pace, nearly 30 seconds faster than last year's mile pace.

By the end of this year I'm hoping to run a 5:00 mile, something I haven't done since high school. My partner told me she'll catch my whippers if I weigh 175. I'm 183 right now; off to work I go. I've continued to climb a few days a week, and despite feeling out of shape, I still manage to climb decently. If I focus my efforts, I'll likely be able to send a few of my 5.12 projects at Farley before the season is over. I just registered for the 10-mile Pfalz Point Trail Challenge on the Mohonk Preserve in September and over the next week I'm going to work backwards and figure out a training plan that will have me in good shape for that race.

Now for the long-winded point of this post. The successful pursuit of activities that require top-level fitness isn't a given. Even the best natural athletes benefit from training. Training requires a concerted effort and almost immeasurable, devastatingly hard work, over long periods of time. There will be hiccups along the way, and injuries are a real possibility, especially if we're not careful about training as we age. However, I've noticed that other things in my life tend to fall in line when I have a training regimen. I have more energy for daily tasks, sleep well at night, and feel good about myself. So, the next time things feel really hard, remember that the goals are helpful and the rewards are worth the effort.