The Journey || Road to V∞

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.

 

Kind of Hungry, All of the Time

I think I’ve figured out the perfect diet: You just wanna be kind of hungry — all of the time. At least during the day. You definitely want to be kind of hungry during the day. Because here’s what most people do: They eat a big, carb heavy lunch, and then they spend the rest of the day chasing the dragon like a goddamn drug addict. Caffeine. More carbs. Sugar. Anything to get them back to normal! This was me, my friends. I was this person. I would eat a big lunch, maybe a Chipotle burrito, maybe a Chipotle burrito bowl, maybe a sandwich, maybe some sushi, thinking I was “healthy,” and I kind of WAS healthy, but then I’d spend the rest of the day fighting a losing battle.

Solution: Just be kind of hungry, all of the time.

How do you do that?

Don’t eat too many carbs.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even the kind of science you’d use to make one of those baking soda and vinegar volacanoes. It’s just: How do I feel when I eat this? OK, now how do I feel when I eat that? Yesterday was a perfect example. Yesterday, despite my best intentions, turned into a “carb loading day.” I did not plan for this to happen. I was just listening to my body, and my body was saying: Put some fucking rocket fuel in me, Mark, I’m trying to blast off. So I had some veggie crisps with guacamole dip, and about 30 minutes later the tiredness set in. I spent the rest of the day chasing the dragon, its tail always just in front of me. I went to Cafe Fiore at about 4pm and I got a fucking ALMOND MILK LATTE. That’s how desperate I was. And it sort of worked, if it weren’t for the near emotional breakdown it caused about two hours later (I have a rule: Never buy airline tickets when I’m super caffeinated. So I didn’t buy airline tickets yesterday, but I did schedule a COVID vaccine. I had to do SOMETHING).

Fast forward to today, when I’ve been more vigilant about my midday carb intake. A little bit of coconut cream in the morning with my tea (trying to get away from dairy): 1 gram net carbs. An Urban Remedy matcha bar and a hop tea before physical therapy: 6g net carbs. Then, after physical therapy, “splurging,” a FocusAid by LifeAid, 9g of carbs but so much other bomb shit in it, like Alpha GPC and a slew of other nootropics guaranteed to make my spirits high and my neurons sizzle. Then, back at home, a tin of tuna mixed with harissa sauce, celery and onion. Maybe like 2-4 g carbs (I’ll have to look up the onion). So so far today I’ve had about 20g of net carbs, it’s 2pm, and I feel great. I don’t feel tired. I don’t feel sluggish. I don’t feel like the only thing I want to do is lie down. In fact, the only thing I want to do right now is drink another cup of tea and take my sister’s dog — aka the love of my life — for a walk. And then maybe come back and eat some more tuna.

Just be kind of hungry, all of the time.

Why do you think dogs have so much energy all the time? Because dogs aren’t kind of hungry, all the time — dogs are super hungry, all the time. My sister’s dog just ate and already she’s looking at me like, “You are a terrible owner. You are starving me. This is abuse.”

Dogs don’t count carbs. We count their carbs for them (unless you’re one of those asshole owners who overfeeds and never exercises your dog and your dog is obese, but I’m not really talking about you. You’re bound for hell, anyway.)

I’m not going to be one of those assholes who says to NEVER eat carbs, all I’m saying is that you’re probably eating too much of them. I challenge you, for one day, to keep track of your net carbs. Not even to limit them! Just to keep track of them. And then keep in mind according to some people the sweet spot for weight maintenance is between 100-150g a day (depending on body type, activity level, the strength of the kroner, etc). I would be surprised if you’re not surprised with the number you come up with at the end of the day. Write it down. “XXX” grams net carbs. Now stare at the number for a moment. Don’t be afraid of it. And then, “How could I have cut down those carbs a bit?” Maybe substitute the tortilla chips for some celery sticks. Maybe substitute the apple with peanut butter for celery with peanut butter. Maybe just substitute everything you eat for celery sticks, since celery has about 0g net carbs (celery has just as much fiber as it does carbs).

In conclusion, I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, I’m just another dude like you who wants to feel good. And my experiments lately with trying to eat about 100g of net carbs today have led me to these findings. Maybe they’ll work for you, maybe they won’t. Except they probably will. They’ll especially work when you stop eating hamburgers and start eating more celery sticks. And when you’re just kind of hungry, all of the time.

Not Forcing Anymore

I have great news: I’ve decided not to force myself to blog anymore. I’m no longer a “blogger.” I’m just a guy who writes sometimes on the internet. This is wonderful, wonderful news.

And now please allow me to repeat all the wonderful news from yesterday.

Yesterday woke up and immediately surveyed the hand situation. Wrote in my journal, “Fuck my fucking right hand is fucked up,” which, looking back, is an impressive use of the word “fuck” in such a short sentence.

Oh, real quick, what does “not forcing myself to blog anymore” mean?

It means that if I don’t want to write I don’t. Like, if I don’t want to write for the next fucking month, or the next year, or ever again, I don’t. I only write when I want to. So I give up on the dream of being a “blogger” and what I really need to do is give up on the dream of being a “writer” and what I really need to do is just give up on dreams all together. OK, well, maybe not that. I like to dream. Dreaming is actually one of my favorite things to do. Dreaming connects me with my inner child.

Anyway.

Yesterday.

Yesterday I went to physical therapy at 9am. Blair, the main physical therapist, did an assessment on me as soon as I arrived. She tested my leg strength and also laxity. She said, “[The left leg] might be a little more lax, but I’m also just really sensitive to this stuff since I do it a lot.”

Then Brandon and I went to work. We added some new exercises, i.e. hopping up and down on one foot (like jump roping but without the rope), and then we did that thing where you have half a ball on the ground and you jump sideways onto it and land with one foot and kind of bounce off it and land on your other foot. I’m terrible at explaining shit. Basically when Blair did my assessment she said, “At three months the ligament is pretty much healed. So one of the biggest obstacles now is psychological.” And then, turning to her team, “We can get him jumping around and doing more lateral movement.”

More lateral movement.

I’m healing.

I felt pretty elated after physical therapy. I went to Whole Foods on 65th and got a matcha bar by Urban Remedy and also a Hop Tea. Then I went back to the boat, and then after chilling a little more I went to go walk around Interlaken but got distracted on the way by getting a coffee at Cafe Appassionato. This was mostly hopefully for digestive help. I think all the collagen I’ve been taking has made things a bit clogged up. So I had the coffee, which sort of worked, and then went to Interlaken via Montlake. In Montlake I ran stairs for awhile and then I hiked through Interlaken and then back to my car in Montlake. Drove to Chipotle in U Village. Walked up to UW to see the cherry blossoms, which were gorgeous. And then finally went back to the boat yet again.

I didn’t hang out with anyone yesterday. Well, that’s not completely true. I helped my friend H lower a table from his old balcony using rope because he couldn’t get the legs off the table to fit it through the door. But we didn’t really hang out.

Today I’m ostensibly fasting. Till 6pm. We’ll see if this actually happens. Lately I’ve been a terrible faster. I have the willpower of a golden retriever. I’m not climbing today, though I might climb on Sunday. We’ll just see how the hand is.

 

Fire Up the Two-Stroke

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I need caffeine.

Gonna take the boat out today for the first time this season. Got ‘er semi gassed up. Don’t have any snacks though; that’s a real problem. The snack sitaution must be remedied. I actually looked at google flights today and thought hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm where could i go right now. Like not tomorrow. Like right now. Like I get on the light rail to the airport in 15 minutes and fly somewhere in the caribbean again and start drinking alcohol again and just spend a week rotting in the caribbean. Sounds pretty fun.

OK. So. The people at the Leavenworth Haus are officially offering no rent till May. Should I move there. What’s the status on the knee? Well, still not fully healed. Not even close. I keep thinking it’s kinda close, then I’m like nahhhhhhhhhhhh probably gonna be another couple months. So frustrating.

I need more caffeine fuck I’m addicted.

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Failure to observe what is in the mind of another has seldom made a man unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy. – Marcus Aurelius

My therapist told me she liked Marcus Aurelius when she was in her teens. If you like Marcus Aurelius in your teens, what do you then graduate to? Joan Didion? Noam Chomsky? No, Noam Chomsky is probably somehow basic, too. Sartre????? No, so fucking basic. The plays of Henrik Ibsen????? Then again, she didn’t know who Karl Ove Knausgaard was, and Karl Ove Knausgaard is not basic, there’s just no way.

Maybe he’s kinda basic.

Who cares.

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And amino acids.

He’s like a poor man’s Sean Bailey. Similar style, similar hair.

I’ve been posting pretty much daily for the past month and I want to keep the streak alive.

I just don’t think it’s healthy. A few years ago Clara made me SWEAR to her not to write for a year (I was allowed to journal) and that was one of the greatest years of my life. I did journal. But I didn’t write any fucking blog.

This boat leaves in one hour and 18 minutes. I’m going to go out and fire up the motor. See if it works. It’s a two-stroke Johnon. A two-stroke Johnson! My boat does about 5 knots at a really good clip. I have no idea what the hull speed is but she’s covered in muck from sitting all winter and she hasn’t had a haul out in about many years so her bottom is just covered in algae and all sorts of other stuff. The rudder, god you would cry if you saw the rudder. It’s a green mess of flora. I should probably get out the brush and brush it, but I’m too lazy.

My forearms are absolutely shredded today.

Ok that’s about enough of this. I’m going to go do some chores, aka maybe clean boat, aka probably not, aka maybe do some light yoga, aka try to fire up the two stroke.

– Wetz

An Interview with my Dream Boulderer Self

Freshly 37 and with the physique of a malnourished puma, the author rests between attempts.

This interview was conducted on March 24th, 2021 with my future boulderer self and has been edited both for content and readability (winky face). 

How old are you? 

I just turned 39.

How long have you been bouldering? 

I started when I was 36. About halfway through being 36, so I’ve been bouldering about two and a half years.

And you just sent your first double digit boulder? How was that? 

Yes, I’m super stoked. It was actually a week ago today that I sent Chutzpah, which is a V10 near the town of Index here in Washington State. I was so stoked. I’d been working on it for about six months. It’s a cool boulder because it’s on super polished river granite and just a very aesthetically pleasing line with cool holds.

Amazing. How did you get to where you are now in bouldering? Did you ever imagine you’d be sending tasty double digit blocs? 

Actually, sort of yes. A couple of years ago at the age of 37 I was living in Seattle and just sort of decided to dedicate my life to bouldering. Like, put as much of myself into at as possible and just see where it took me. Kind of surrender to it, I guess you could say. When I discovered bouldering I had never felt that passionate about anything in my life, and I just had this feeling that if I completely gave myself over to it, even though it didn’t totally make sense and I wouldn’t necessarily make any money from it, it would still be a good idea. And around that time was when I also decided that it was kind of my life goal in bouldering to send V10, though I also have another life goal which we can talk about too.

What’s that?

Well, a while back I kind of decided that if I could ever send The Method in Squamish, then my bouldering life would be complete.

The Method?

Yeah, it’s a V12 in Squamish. I’m not sure who put it up but I first saw a video of Jason Kehl doing it.  Have you seen it?

I think I know it. Is that the one with kind of the slab start and then some pretty heinous slopers? 

Exactly. I’ve been to it to look at it a few times. I’ve sort of sussed out the beginning slab moves. Like, I know I can get to the slopers, but that’s where it gets pretty gnarly. Getting to the slopers does not mean you’re sending it. But yeah, that’s kind of the new life goal. Send The Method in Squamish.

Awesome. Let’s back it up a little though. You told me earlier that after a year you’d only bouldered V4 outdoors? Which is pretty good, I’d say. But how did you go from V4 to V10 just a year and a half later?

That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it. You’re a good interviewer. Cute, too. OK, so, yeah you’re right after a year I’d only bouldered V4 outdoors. Actually, I’d only sent ONE V4 outdoors, this crazy lowball in Leavenworth called Toto. And then I got injured, which we haven’t really talked about. I partially tore my LCL and probably messed up my meniscus, too. But once I got healthy from that, or rather when I was recovering from that, is when I really decided to give my life over to bouldering. Like, everything revolved around bouldering. I think the main difference was before I was kind of like, “Well, I’m gonna boulder as much as I can, but like, I should probably be doing other stuff too.” And now it was just like, “OK, I’m going to live my entire life around bouldering, completely unabashedly, and just see what happens. Like, this is what feels natural, and I’m just going to give my body and soul to it.”

So then I started eating better, I started climbing more, I even sort of got a coach at one point, and I also move to Leavenworth for part of the year just so I could be closer to tasty granodiorite pearls. When I really let myself just get wrapped up in bouldering I started making pretty steady gains. V6 came pretty soon, and then all the sudden I was projecting some V7’s and sussing out some V8’s. Like, there were still plenty of V5’s that I couldn’t do, and I was by no means a V7 climber, but I was projecting a few. I knew they would go eventually. And eventually they did.

Nice. Did you train, too? Like fingerboarding or any kind of weight training? 

Not really. I mean, I’ve always done hangboarding for warm-up. But I’ve never done campus boards and the only thing I have around my apartment are those little Metolius holds that you can attach rope to so sometimes I’ll just walk around my apartment crimping like 10 or 20 pounds of weight. Nothing crazy, but so my body knows: “OK, we’re going to be crimping a lot now. So better get strong.”

But also diet! Diet has been huge. And watching bouldering videos and learning different techniques. Sometimes I’ll just go to the gym and do one boulder over and over and over and over until I’ve learned the absolute most efficient beta. Sometimes a heel hook will appear where there wasn’t one before. And then a couple days later I’ll do that again, just over and over and over. And watching videos was huge for absorbing some good technique. When you’re watching Jimmy Webb and Nalle Hukkataival all day, you’re going to start trying to imitate them.

What advice would you have for someone starting to boulder?

None, really. I mean, I’d have some advice for someone who’s been bouldering for a little while and already pretty into it. I’d say, “Whatever you love about bouldering, do that. People say stuff like, ‘Train your weaknesses.’ I say, ‘Fuck that.’ Do you want to train your weaknesses? Then sweet, do that all the time. But do you just want to have fun and climb on stuff that you like to climb or do dynos all day? Then do that. If you love bouldering enough, you might actually WANT to train your weaknesses. But don’t force yourself to do anything. That’s how you lose the love for it, and that’s how you get injured.”

At least that’s my take on it.

Awesome. Well, we wish you the best of luck on The Method and all the boulders to come. Thanks for sitting down with us. Any final words?

Yes. I’d like to thank my sponsors Patagonia, La Sportiva and Metolius. Their support has helped me get to where I am today. Thank you to you guys too. It’s been a pleasure.

-WW