No Barriers

IFSC Lead Climbing World Cup Finals

September 30th, 2012 – Personally the most inspirational day for rock climbing since the day I started (fall 2009). It’s always pretty inspiring watching someone better than you at anything. I’ve climbed with top climbers from Mexico, Bulgaria, Korea, and the US on separate occasions – and those days peaked the ‘getting psyched’ energy level for me. Oh, keep in mind that ‘climbed with’ usually means attempting stuff they climb, talking with them afterwards, asking questions, learning from them… basically anything that involves getting in their way and distracting them from their workout. Anyway, this was a special day because it wasn’t just one pro climber to watch and learn from – it was the top 8 guys and 8 girls from around the world. Luckily, I picked a pretty awesome seat for me and my friends and got the finals lineup all in one shot.

Yeah. Pretty lucky considering I chose the seat so we wouldn’t break our necks. I saw the opportunity, took the shot, then sat back down. Then it hit me. This wasn’t just another “Oh that’s cool. I should take a picture. *CLICK*”

So much greatness in one picture. The top 5 world-ranked competition sport climbers for both guys and girls are all in this picture.  Rankings def don’t lie – each of the top 5 guys and girls landed a finals spot of the 8 available. OK – I thought it was cool…

But what it really made me realize is how balanced rock climbing really is. (We) shorter people always complain about our disadvantage and good we’d be if we were 4 inches taller. Just look at the size differences in the picture – the taller climbers make the shortest ones look like children. As a size reference: the shortest guy, Ramón Julián Puigblanque, is 5’2.5”; the girl in yellow, Jain Kim, is 4’10”. Oh yeah – they both got first place in this competition.

There is no optimal size – Ramón crushes his 6 ft competitors all the time. There is no optimal age – it has been said that mid 20s are a climbers peak ages but ages from the finals alone ranged from 18 to 31 (Ramón). Ape index is said to be an advantage but Adam Ondra, top boulderer and sport climber in the world, has a negative ape index. There truly are no barriers in rock climbing – embrace your body, your dimensions, and just climb.

IFSC Lead Climbing World Cup – Atlanta 2012

The time has finally come… I have been waiting for this day for over a year and a half since the word first got out. About 80 of the world’s strongest sport climbers under one roof. Did I mention that this roof also happens to be my climbing gym and less than 7 miles from where I live? Why would I not be excited? Stone Summit and climbers in general in the area are pretty blessed to have to opportunity. Keep in mind that this is only the 3rd time that an international climbing comp such as this one has been held on US soil out of the last 20 or so comps.

To make things even better, my friend who is also competing put in a buttload of free tickets in my name for both days of the comp. I didn’t realize how many until I checked in at will-call.  I already got my tickets but I guess my less-willing-to-go friends can go now. Thanks a bunch Francesca Metcalf!

Yeah I def got more than I needed.

More photos to come…  ^_^

sponsorship what what

Über late on this one I know.

This def should have been posted at the end of June – but this event sparked a re-energized fervor for climbing and hence, the lack of blogging…  my b

Long story short: at the end of June, I got word back from Mad Rock that I am officially a sponsored climber and ambassador of their products!  It was Friday, June 25 at 4:30 – of course I remember the details, who wouldn’t imprint this memories into their brain?  It was without a doubt one of the happiest moments of my life.

Now keep in mind that this is not the full-on, salaried sponsorship (typically involved with promotion and product development/testing) with free worldwide travel and competitions and whatnot.  That is every amateur athlete’s dream.  What I do have is the next best thing though.  2 free pairs of shoes a year – which is the average number a climber goes through in a year (unless you are outside 5 days a week or just have horrendous footwork).  swag.  Major discounts.  But the main thing is that all the necessities are free.  I couldn’t ask for more – basically living the average climber’s dream, and sooooo thankful for it.

This def came at a good time too.  Just on the verge of fully breaking the V7 plateau and going full speed ahead to 8s.  This year has gone by fast.  Went from projecting 6s to flashing 6s.  Went from taking multiple days to complete one 7 to completing multiple 7s in one day.  I have only done 3 V8s to date (that rhymed) but that will change soon as well.  Eagerly looking forward to this year’s climbing season and the progression that is to come.  Also excited to meet some new Emory climbers – hopefully the kids will take it more seriously this year once they learn their coach is now sponsored?  I dunno, we shall see how things go.

Oh yeah – first set of goodies came in.

Say hello to my new toys: Concept 2.0 (left), currently my favorite shoes, and Mad Rock’s newest release, Demon 2.0 (right).

^_^

con·fi·dence

Without a doubt, people know that rock climbing is pretty physically demanding – but one thing non-climbers often don’t see is how mentally demanding the sport is. Now I’m not talking about the mental fatigue you get when you do too many sudoku puzzles. You do a couple sudokus and you stop because you don’t want to think anymore – that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m simply talking about a little thing called confidence.

It’s what we lacked when we were younger being introduced to new things. Learning new sports, what do little kids says when they inevitably fail? ‘I can’t do it.’ The pouting starts. They get all sad and crap. Their whole day is ruined. Sounds pathetic, right? But it still happens when we are all grown up and is one major reason for lack of progression.

I’m sure we have all had our “super psyched” days where we finish something awesome and for the rest of the day, we bask in the “confidence domino effect” : ‘Holy crap I did that? Dang I finished that too? Man, today is the best day ever!’ Ok, it doesn’t sound as cheesy as that, but that is exactly what occurs upon boosted confidence typically following the completion of one route. But sadly, the opposite occurs just as easily.

This is when you don’t complete a problem and think about how much of a better climber you were __ days ago. This is when the pouty, whiny kid in all of us comes out and says ‘I can’t do it.’ This leads to failure upon failure. Why? Having failed already, we doubt our capabilities and don’t put forth that 100%. Instead we think – ‘That move is pretty hard, I don’t think I can do it.’ That negative thought automatically puts you so much closer to failure than you realize.

When you climb, you need to climb with a positive mindset and having 100% confidence that you can finish the problem. That means committing every move and trusting in your capabilities that you will stay there once you touch the next hold. If you keep thinking about how you might not make the next move – you don’t commit yourself, you lose energy, you won’t get anywhere near as far in the longer reaches, or you don’t exert nearly as much strength to hold on to the next hold (which all leads to falling).

Why is it that when you complete a hard route you have been projecting for a while, you can do it flawlessly soon after? It goes from a route where you think ‘I want to get that but it’s so hard’ to ‘that’s whatever, I already did that.’ Did you get that much stronger? No. You just have the full confidence that you can do every single move in the problem because you have done them previously. For maximum progression – this needs to be your mindset for not only climbs you have completed, but for climbs you haven’t completed.  

When Alex Honnold free solos all that tall crap, he knows that he must have this positive mindset because if not, it will only make him closer to falling, and well, death. He climbs knowing that every single move is well within his ability and without hesitation. That is why rock climbing is so mentally demanding. Full confidence in your abilities and skills as climber is the difference between success and failure. The Little Tank Engine that Could wasn’t playing around. Be positive. Climb with passion. Climb with

con·fi·dence – belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities

 

 

Learning to ‘Take It Easy’

My bad – been away for a while. I kinda lost the urge to blog once I got my free shoes! I took it a little slow this spring due to wrist pains in my right hand. It got to the point where I couldn’t hang on decent slopers because of sharp tendon pain. It was a bad time for it all too with all the competitions going on. So those 3 months or so I didn’t see much progression. Climbers know how hard progression is with injuries. It is infinitely worse than grade plateauing at full strength. We want to get better, but the only way to do that is to keep climbing. With an injury, it is just common sense that it will only get worse with more climbing. What does that mean to a climber? No climbing = no progression.

We know we should take it easy or stop altogether to give our ligaments/tendons the time needed to fully heal. Boring! What are we supposed to do instead? Run? Heck no, I chose an anaerobic sport for a reason! So what do we do? We tell ourselves that we are going to take it easy and climb easy stuff. This leads to more boredom which leads to climbing at our regular difficulty which leads to more injury. Basically, injuries stay and progression comes to a standstill.

It really takes a lot of discipline to take it easy – but if you really want to see progress, it is a must. This not only involves climbing much lighter but also taking measures to aid current injury and prevent further injury. In other words – stretching. It’s as simple as googling stretches for the injured location and actually stretching. But it is that discipline thing that you have to worry about…

For the month of April, I couldn’t take the halt of progression any longer. I would get spat off of V4s if there was a sloper needed for my right hand. I decided to actually take it easy and not just say it. Looked up stretches and exercises and actually followed through. I learned that I had symptoms of tendinitis in the wrist. Because the closing muscles for climbing are ridiculously strong and the open hand muscles are that of normal, inferior and weaker beings, our tendons try to overcompensate. Hence, the tendinitis. The solution was just rubberbands to strengthen opening hand muscles whenever my hands were free. I also wrote the alphabet, uppercase and lowercase, with my wrist in the air to stretch them at all angles. So boring but so worth it.

In no time I was back to 100% and crushing harder than ever. Before the tendon injury, I was at consistent V6s and a few V7s. Within the last week, I flashed a couple V6s and climbed more V7s than I have in the past 6 months. Progress? I think so. I’ll let you know once I break this V7s plateau. Excited as ever to climb and to see progression.

So take care of your bodies – muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Be disciplined. Do what you can to prevent annoying injuries and follow through. Be patient, climb smart, and crush hard. You are only as good as much as you devote yourself.

How I Got a Free Pair of Climbing Shoes

So about 3 weeks ago, I made a blog post titled “F**king shoes!”  I didn’t really expect much from it except some ‘likes’, maybe a comment here or there, or perhaps a few followers.  The following day, I received the following email and comment on my climbing blog (on the ‘About Me’ page if you want to see for yourself):

I like your last blog post. I would love to get you into another pair of Mad Rock shoes. Please send me your mailing info, contact info, along with model and size. Thanks for the honest insight.

 

~markmyhsieh

Mad Rock Climbing

12878 Florence Ave

Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670

This was, by far, the awesomest email/comment/4sentences that anyone has EVER written to me!  It was on the same level as getting into college or getting a job.  Yeah.  I was that excited.  The 6 hours of sleep I was planning on having turned into 3 due to the excitement.  I mean, how often do you get expensive, free stuff?

So 2 weeks went by and couldn’t help but think it was a fake.  I know it sparked some controversial arguments, but what kind of person fakes the best comment ever from a real person and a real climbing shoe company?  Expecting it to be a scam for over a week, my excitement was replenished when I got a knock at the door.

Thanks Mark Hsieh from Mad Rock California for the awesome gift!  You are a good guy.  Thanks for the Concept 2.0s!  I even slept with them on last night to speed up the break-in process before the comp on Saturday.  Let this be a lesson to all you bloggers:  keep blogging.  keep climbing.  stay passionate.

Competition 1

2012 is going to be a great year for growth.  And nothing is better to see progress than a little friendly competition, right?  Time to take on CCS (Collegiate Climbing Series) in the South East division.  First comp was Feb. 11th at University of Alabama  – Birmingham.

The Emory car left at 6:00am for an ETA of 8:30am, which is just in time for the 9:00am start.  As ignorant Georgians, we were completely unaware that Alabama was in Central Time Zone…  Got there an hour earlier than expected but I guess its better to be early than late.

Walking up the stairs to the climbing wall, this caught our eye and stopped us in our tracks, jaws dropped:

Well it may not look like much- but they have a whirlpool AND a lazy river in their REC center!  Those are things that make people who hate swimming go to the pool.  Ok a little off track – sorry.

So the format of this comp was best 2 top ropes and 3 boulder problems in 3 hours.  Format was considered to be crap due to all the boulderers lacking the endurance to send some rope routes.  I was one of them.  Definitely had to downgrade just to squeeze 2 routes in before the time was up.  Luckily, other boulderers had the same problem so t’was all good in the end.  It just means we need to be more all-around climbers…  NOT. Bouldering all the way!!!

First time competing in the advanced division and was pretty happy with the end results – finished in 3rd place!  What annoyed me though was that I completed a hard boulder problem (10 minutes after the time was up) that would have put me to 1st.  But it is all good – still placed.  I just need to work on power endurance and space out my climbs.  Successful comp indeed. What did I win?

What’s in the box?

Freeze dried ice cream sandwiches!  WIN.

Next comp = Clemson University on March 3rd.  Let’s do this!

“F**king shoes!”

Its all too common to hear some dude at the gym yell that out after their failure on a route they almost sent. On the inside, I laugh at every single occurrence and occasionally, I walk away to laugh out loud. I find it hilarious watching grown men pouting as they remove their shoes and throw them on the ground – what are you, 8? Perhaps you are fortunate enough to not have whiny dudes bouldering at your home gym, but at Stone Summit, there are a select few who use this as their “go-to excuse.”

Looking around the bouldering room, one shoe, without a doubt, is the most commonly worn shoe. La Sportiva’s Solution. They are $170 shoes that are pretty awesome apparently (I wouldn’t know, I have never tried them). I notice that many of the V2-V4 climbers rock the high-end shoes – Solutions, Miuras, Testies, etc. I guess I can see why: “Why not invest in the best shoes on the market for the sport you are so passionate about? After all, they will make you worlds better.” False.

I remember this one dude falling on a V4 midway through the route. First thing he does: sits down, unstraps the velcro, angrily pulls off his shoes, and slams them on the mat while yelling, “f**king shoes!” Yeah. Tell those $160 Miuras who’s boss.

Look up to my header image at the top of the page. You see those shoes? Those are Mad Rock’s Phoenix. I am proud to have paid $35 for my shoes on clearance at REI. I find no shame in having crappier shoes than most gyms’ rental shoes. (One of the girls on the youth climbing team asked me while we were working a V8 together, “Why are you wearing rental shoes?”) I find it funny that it would cost more to resole the shoes than to buy a new pair.

So you aren’t paying for skill-in-a-box when you buy those high-end pairs. Spending $150+ won’t make you more technically skilled or supply you with more power. They are shoes. On the shoe box it should read: “Good footwork will yield best results.” They will make your climbing better if you are a good climber. If you have crap footwork, you will do just as well if you use rental shoes.

Do you think good runners need the best shoes on the market? It will help if they are already great runners but giving them to a crappy runner won’t make them amazing. Do you think a pro tennis player needs the best racket to beat you? No- give them any racket that works and they will still destroy you.

So why make excuses? Unless your toes are hanging out of your shoes, you sprayed Pam on the bottom of your shoes, or you are wearing sneakers while climbing, blaming your failure on your shoes is not acceptable. Why do I continue to wear my $35 shoes? Because I’m poor and they work. Ill make the upgrade when I surpass my V7 plateau. If this is you, do yourself a favor and put the nice shoes away for a little while, buy a crappy pair of shoes, and work on footwork. Not only will your footwork skill vastly increase but you will have a good pair of shoes waiting to be used for their intended purpose: skillful climbing.