July 9th. July 9th. My first sip of caffeine in over two weeks. Hopefully the white matter in my brain that had been converted to grey matter got a chance to go back to being white matter again. I can see my open window from where I’m sitting. The comfortable bed. The weather outside is finally nice, finally kind of like summer. Does France not have summer? It’s July and there hasn’t been one sunny day since I’ve been here. Clouds and rain and humidity. And raw milk. Yesterday I had unpasteurized milk and afterward felt like Paul Bunyan. I thought we didn’t sell it in the States but turns out we do it’s just hard to find and I’m sure expensive as hell. Here you can get a liter of organic, grass fed, unpasteurized milk — in other words milk in its most simple form exactly as you’re supposed to drink it — for a euro. Why is the US so messed up? Of course, it’s micro filtered. You know the filters you use for backpacking? They use something like that to filter the milk so it doesn’t have a bunch of bacteria in it. But it’s not pasteurized. Continue reading Drinking Raw Milk in Le Mans
Why did I come to Jersey? This is a question I don’t find myself asking myself. I came to get away from my boat, to sleep in real beds, and to go to Europe. So far I have done the first two things. I’m no longer on my boat. I’m in a real bed. And on Monday I’ll go to Europe.
But first, how did I get to Jersey? Or actually first: What/where is Jersey?
Jersey is one of the Channel Islands. It’s part of the UK but self-governing. No one wears masks here except on public transportation and in hospitals. COVID doesn’t exist. Also Jersey is close to France. You can get here by ferry or fly. I flew from Heathrow after flying business class on American Airlines flight 156 from Seattle. It was one of the easiest flights to Europe I’ve ever had. I got on, got situated, ate dinner, watched Saving Private Ryan, slept, woke up, ate breakfast, and then we landed. And then I had a four hour layover in Heathrow.
The key to not wearing a mask at Heathrow is to always be drinking something. Or to always be on your phone. Or to just not wear a mask. While at Heathrow I bought a book called A Theater for Dreamers by Polly Samson. It’s perfect vacation lit. Based on an island in Greece with plenty of descriptions of goats and donkeys and wine drinking and sex. And people getting up at 4am and “only bringing a wine skin and a few pieces of bread” and shit like that which you only read about in books because in reality you gotta bring some water or you’re not doing much hiking.
My stomach is kinda fucked from too much sugar.
I’m gonna go swimming soon.
I’m staying in Jersey for three more nights. Tomorrow I need to change lodging. I can currently hear a seagull cawing outside my room. I just walked back from St Helier along the beach, about 5km. I might see if I can watch Spain vs Switzerland here in a second on TV even though I hate Spain. I love the country. But hate the soccer team. Bunch of whining diving non-men with ugly accents. That said, maybe I’ll go to Spain on this trip. Or maybe Porto. Or maybe Latvia or Lithuania. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. The only thing I have scheduled is an antigen test on Monday followed by a haircut. I’m thinking sort of a high and tight situation, but I’m open to suggestions. Should I get him to shave a notch in my eyebrow? Will that make me look like a gang member?
I don’t understand the people in Jersey when they talk to me. “Right, so you head down to high street, flip a right and keep going till you get to the big toe.”
I followed the man’s instructions, looking for a big toe which actually turned out to be a big toad. That said, people have been lovely here. There are lots of immigrants. Lots of Poles. Gotta love the Poles. I understand the Poles better than I do the locals. Also lots of Portuguese, which makes me wanna go to Portugal. But so far I’ve heard no one speaking French.
It was foggy this morning but now it’s sunny. Can I muster myself to go swimming? The water isn’t terrible. Probably warmer than Puget Sound. I just have to make sure I don’t take any naps this afternoon, because I already took a four hour nap this morning and woke up pretty confused. I headed bleary eyed into the town, and then took a bus to St Helier and went to Ried’s Pharmacy to ask about COVID tests. I wouldn’t need one if I was coming from the US, but since I’m coming from the UK I do need one. And it costs 50 pounds. But what’s the alternative? I’m in Jersey and it’s enchanting and I’m probably about to go swimming.
I either need to change shirts or change lodgings. The staff here is wonderful. I think it’s a mix of Poles and Italians. Cory just called the front desk looking for me and I felt so cool that someone was calling for me even though I assumed it had to do with my COVID test when I got here or something like that. I had the burger with hella ketchup and mayonnaise and aioli and my digestive system was fucked earlier and now I don’t wanna know what it’s gonna be like. Then I walked the town a bit and sat on the little sea wall for a little bit next to the yacht club. People are out tonight. The Old Court House is starting to shut down though. And I’ll probably read my book and go to bed. I can’t decide whether to stay here tomorrow or go to France. I’m pretty sure I’ll stay here. I mean I flit by coming here but I’m not gonna do a bunch of mini flits now that I’m here because I know they don’t do the trick. But I have to change lodgings. And that way I won’t have to change my shirt. Plus England play tomorrow.
Bummed Italy won. I love Lukaku. Gonna read my book and go to bed. If I can’t sleep that is. Stanley Cup at 1am tonight but don’t think I’ll stay up that late. Full English breakfast tomorrow with fried tomato. Then move to the new lodging. Cheap one in town or nicer one in the middle of nowhere? Swim again tomorrow? Party
Good morning friends, lovers. How is everyone doing this morning? If you’re like me you’re sitting on your boat, your laptop in front of you, thinking about where to get your first caffeine of the morning. I’m probably going to go to Metropolitan Market to get my latest caffeine obsession, Phocus. Seventy five miligrams of caffeine from green tea, added L-theanine, nothing else. Well, maybe some flavoring. But no sweeteners, nothing weird. So far I haven’t seen it anywhere other than Met Market, and it’s only $1.99, which makes it cheaper than just about any coffee beverage you’re going to buy, and also cheaper than most energy drinks.
Plus it doesn’t make you feel insane.
Aka it makes you feel focused and calm and ready to do stuff like clean your boat, and organize it, which was what I did the other day.
Yesterday was my SECOND LESSON AT VERTICAL WORLD. FINALLY. JESUS. The head instructor, Andy, who is amazing, (probably) has a lot on his plate, so scheduling has been a bit difficult. But yesterday I had my first class with him, and it was great. It was amazing to work with someone who not only crushes at climbing but crushes at teaching. Because, after all, it doesn’t matter how hard you can climb as a teacher if you can’t impart any of that skill and wisdom onto your students.
God I wanna go to Europe this summer.
We started WARMING UP ON AN OVERHANG, which normally I would never do. Why would I never do it? Because I don’t like overhang, because I’m “bad” at it, and because I’d always assumed you shouldn’t warm up on overhang since it’s hard on your arms. But like, you obvioulsy don’t climb hard boulders when warming up on overhanging. You climb the easy stuff. And in that way it’s kind of like just hanging, except you’re also focusing on technique, and technique when your mind and body are completely fresh.
So we did that for a bit, focusing on creating momentum and leading with my hips, not my arms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We also focused on getting my hips closer to the wall, since I’d been pretty square EVEN WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS BRINGING MY HIPS INTO THE WALL. Basically we focused on this one V1 that had one “kind of hard move,” and did it over and over leading with the hips and getting momentum and also getting the feet set up correctly and then the move felt super easy. Bomb, right? Yes.
After that we went to a V4 that was more my style, aka vert aka started with a traverse aka was more compy. The cool thing about Vertical World that I’ve noticed so far with the bouldering is…..well, I don’t know how to describe it. I feel like the boulders there are more deceptively difficult, and this V4 was no exception. I tried it and flailed on the bottom, then watched Andy do it and was able to get to the crux, and then after discussing the crux with Andy was able to DO the first move of the crux, aka bomb. I didn’t send the boulder, but I learned a lot from it, and felt like I could send it if I was a little more fresh.
The biggest thing I’ve learned since starting to focus more on technique: You’re not going to get better instantly, and it’s still going to be a shit ton of work. John Kettle has a line about “cruising your projects” in his book Rock Climbing Technique, so I basically thought once I started taking lessons and doing exercises from Kettle’s book I would instantly cruise my projects. I thought I’d be cruising V4’s and projecting V6’s and 7’s. Not the case. Not the case at all. And that’s because I haven’t put in the work yet. Once I DO put in the work, who knows. Maybe there will be some element of cruising.
So that’s basically it for now. What a gorgeous day here. I MIGHT climb tomorrow. Might. Might. Might. But we’ll see. Have to listen to the body. Have to go get my Phocus tea.
I have settled into a routine of bouldering every other day, and my body is deteriorating because of it. Detoriating or preparing to get really freaking strong. This is what happened last year: I started bouldering almost every day when my body just could just baaaaarely handle it.
I’d be at work and say to my coworker Bea, “I think I’m gonna climb today.”
“Didn’t you climb yesterday?”
“How’s your body holding up?”
“It’s hanging in there. Barely.”
And then I took a rest for a few days or a week or maybe the pandemic hit and suddenly I felt so good, so strong.
These are the things I need to keep in mind on a day like today, when I go to the gym and don’t send my project and if anything feel like I’m making negative progress. Because even when you’re not feeling strong you can still work on technique. In fact, when you’re not feeling strong may be the BEST time to work on technique, cuz that’s when you need it most.
Still kinda wish I’d sent that blue today, though.
Hurting my hip flexor has made it abundantly clear that my well-being needs to be the primary focus. Screw being able to climb, I just want to feel healthy, limber, strong. If I feel these things, then obviously I’m going to be able to boulder. I’ll be able to do a host of other things, too: play soccer, run, skydive. I would so much rather be healthy and boulder less than boulder all the time and have my body be destroyed. But this is a realization that has taken precisely that — destroying my body — to come to. My knee, my hip, my fingers, my elbow, my shoulder. The moral of the story is: Bouldering is hard on your body. It’s harder on your body than sport climbing. Why do you think the natural progression is to go from bouldering to sport climbing, and not the other way around? It’s because sport climbing you’re doing less intense stuff, just a lot more of it. If you can climb a V3 boulder over and over and over, you’ll be a killer sport climber. You might be the best at the crag on a given day. If you can climb V7 over and over and over, you’re going to be world class. Or at least national class. Or at least county class. Or at least city class. Or at least neighborhood class. Or at least street class. Or at least household class.
I’m tired. I was riding a high from mate about an hour ago but now I’ve come off it. I’m basically waiting to have dinner with friends. Not really sure what to do. It’s cloudy and cold outside. I could take a nap. I could clean my boat, but it’s already pretty damn clean. I could work on my writing project, but I’m taking the day off. I could apply for jobs, but I’m not ready for that, yet.
Maybe I’ll just do nothing.
I am continuing to recover from my hip injury, which was probably an injury in some capacity to my rectus femoris tendon. It’s very tender at the spot where it inserts into the anterior inferior iliac spine.
The injuries as of late have encouraged me to take a closer look at what I want out of bouldering. Not that you have to have an answer for this question, but in my case I think it will help me move forward in a way that minimizes injury and maximizes physical and spiritual enjoyment. Because that’s what bouldering is for me at its zenith: spiritual. My ascent a couple weeks ago of Dirty Dancing V4 certainly felt spiritual, being alone at the boulders, on a cold, windy Monday morning at 7:30am, warming up on a reachy V2, saying to myself, “I’m just going to see if I can pull on,” and then moving up, up, up on the thin edges of Dirty Dancing, finally grabbing the big jugs about halfway up, hauling myself into the scoop. It felt spiritual as I sat there on top of the boulder, in somewhat of a fetal position, listening to the wind. And of course it felt spiritual while climbing the boulder problem itself, as if with each raising of the foot the ground disappeared beneath me.
The injuries have pushed me to explore the spiritual side of bouldering and also to lessen my focus on grades. Read almost ANY article on “Bouldering for Beginners” or “How to Get Started in Bouldering” and you’ll find an author almost yelling at you to “not focus on grades.” I’d read this over and over but never really been convinced. If I want to focus on grades, I thought, I’m going to focus on grades. I’m not going to listen to some jackass who writes climbing articles for Gripped. It’s not like I climb for him, anyway. I climb for me.
But did I really climb for me?
This is where things get tricky with grades.
I’d argue that most of the time when you’re climbing for a certain grade, or at least a decent amount of the time, you’re not climbing for yourself. You’re climbing because of how you look in other people’s eyes, so you can tell people you climbed V5, so you can tell yourself you climbed V5, so you can look at other people who are only climbing V4 and think, Fuck yeah, I used to be one of them. Now I climb V5.
Just to be clear, I don’t see a huge problem with this. There are worse things in the world. There are greater injustices. But FOR ME PERSONALLY, this approach has led to dissatisfaction and, more importantly, injury.
You could climb V10 tomorrow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your experience will be impactful. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll grow (spiritually, emotionally) because of the experience. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you climbed “well.” As I progress on my climbing journey, I’m becoming more interested in climbing “well.” This means having good technique, this means that it feels good to climb, like I’m moving efficiently, like I’m in harmony with the holds and the rock. It’s more of a yin approach to bouldering, instead of the yang approach that is sometimes adopted. You’re letting the rock and the conditions and everything else dictate how you climb, and you’re responding to that and using it to your best possible advantage (which might mean on a given day that you may touch the starting holds of a climb and not even pull on at all). This is in contrast to the yang approach, where you’re trying to dominate the rock, wrestle it into submission. It is possible to do this. It’s possible to even derive pleasure from this. But for me, it’s not a sustainable approach, since granite is generally harder than soft tissue, and after several attempts at trying to dominate a V5 dyno, when your body is whispering to stop, take it easy, we’re done, and the universe is telling you to stop, put it on hold, come back another time, you strain your rectus femorus.
And then you can’t really climb for a month, at which point: Why not focus on technique? Why not focus on moving well? Why not see if you can derive just as much satisfaction from a V1 as you can from a V3 or a V4? Or even climbing your first V5?
I know it’s cliche and I know it’s hard advice to follow, but if you focus on moving well, on process goals, on feeling good climbing, grades will probably come. I don’t want to say they WILL come, because they kind of promise can never be made, and also because if you’re only trying to move well or focus on process goals to get a certain grade then you’re kind of missing the point. The ultimate goal for bouldering for me is for it to be a sort of moving meditation. This is bouldering at its most wonderful for me. When I approach the rock and all else disappears. When I am suddenly seared into the present moment, and things slow down. I notice the way the sun hits a particular part of the rock, or the way a leaf quivers in the breeze, or the way a cloud looks in the sky. And then when I’m on the rock my body is moving in harmony with it. Yes, great physical exertion may occur, but only where necessary. There is an element of play involved. And in fact this is something I should’ve mentioned much earlier in this post. Play is so important in bouldering, and in life in general. It feels good to play with the movement, and that’s how you really learn. You tinker. What would happen if I put my right foot up really high? What would happen if I engaged my thumb more? What would happen if I took off my shirt and screamed during the crux?
And so I try to focus on these things, the things I can still focus on regardless of injury. And I find that by focusing on these things my experience of bouldering becomes enriched, and I become a better climber. I’ll probably climb harder grades, but that won’t be the point. Or at least I hope it won’t. These things are never completely cut and dry, and there’s always some wavering back and forth. Which is fine. All part of the journey.