How Boring Can It Get #2 | Road to Recovery

Got on the ferry. Was in one of the outside lanes on the lower level. Second to right outside lane. First car. When you’re the first car in this lane they let you go first so the other lane has an easier time getting out. But that’s the only car they let go first from that lane. I’ve always envied that car.

Drove through Pioneer Square and onto Dearborn, parked in the main lot by SBP Poplar. Went inside and asked if I could start my session a bit early since there weren’t many people. They had a lot of the top part roped off cuz they were resetting it. Went downstairs and warmed up on the bike with my puffy jacket on. Five minutes. Then went into one of the bathrooms and changed into shorts and put my knee sleeve on. Kept warming up by hanging, first a full hang, then a shoulder-healthy hang, then scapula pull-ups. Then did the deepest crimps they have for like 10 seconds.

Chalked up my hands between hangs. Climbed a yellow to start things off. Yellows are unsatisfying because they’re super easy and you feel like you’re doing them wrong cuz you can skip tons of holds. Then did a red. Then maybe a green and another red and finally at some point a purple that I’d done the other day. Did the red in the corner with all the square volumes and noticed an orange starts in the same place and goes up using only the volumes. There were only like two or three people climbing in the Northwest Room.

Sort of tried the first move on a black. Eyed up the orange in the corner. Tried the first move on an orange slab that had a really crimpy start. Eventually after climbing for a bit decided to try the orange in the corner and knew I had to just send it, that I couldn’t fall from the top or even from halfway up. Started up and it was easy, though. Lots of great edges to grab onto on the volumes and the finishing hold was a proper jug. Decided to quit while I was ahead. I felt great after sending the orange. Peeled the tape off my right middle finger and then just sat on the pad for a bit, lying down. Watched a girl send a purple that starts off with a mono. Well, a two-finger pocket. Kinda wanted to try it but one of the fingers you need to use is the finger that’s kind of injured. Watched people for awhile and then got up and got my stuff together and slowly walked out. Contemplated watching the setters from the up top viewing area. Saw a guy setting a black that had a jump start and a girl setting a purple with a left heel hook that looked sexy. She was wearing a sweater. Upstairs apart from the setters was pretty dead. Maybe 10 people total. If that. It was hard to tell how many people were in the main room. I walked to my car and got in and got on Dearborn and then drove to Chipotle in U-Village. Got a bowl and ate it outside. There was a lady out there who I thought was crazy but was actually just waiting for her granddaughter. Then I drove home.

Seattle Bouldering Project Fremont: A Preliminary Review

Hello, friends, and welcome to a preliminary review of Seattle Bouldering Project’s new Fremont location. Why “preliminary?” Well, because I’ve only climbed there a few times and since I’m still injured I haven’t been able to push it too hard, PLUS I still haven’t climbed upstairs on the beautiful aretes and freestanding walls. But I have used most of the facilities. I’ve climbed downstairs. I’ve used the fitness area. I’ve used the hangboards. And so at this point I feel adequately qualified to give a preliminary review.

Let start with……location. The location of SBP Fremont is, in a word, spectacular. Right off Stone Way. Walking distance from downtown Fremont. Walking distance from Gasworks. And even closer walking distance to Upper Walls (SBP’s OG Fremont location that opened pre-pandemic). So, when you’ve sent all the hard blocs at SBP Fremont you can hop skip and toe cam over to Upper Walls and send all the hard blocs there. And then when you’ve sent ALL the hard blocs and ripped your shirt off and screamed at passerbyes you can walk to downtown Fremont and get a ridiculous matcha latte at Milstead, and then keep walking to get the best pizza in Seattle at PCC (bold claim I know but don’t fight me on this). Or, in the summer, you can project pinks till your fingers bleed and then go wash them off with a nice swim in Lake Union (provided you’re cool with getting typhus). In short, the location is good.

But who really cares about location, right???? I mean you want it to be easy to get to, but when it comes to a climbing gym what really matters is how are the blocs, right? How is the setting? What are the walls like, the holds like, the ground like, the movement like? You want to know all these things and more, because you’re a discerning boulderer.

Well, so far, the walls and setting and holds are pretty much exactly like SBP Poplar, just, like, newer. As I’ve said, I’ve only climbed downtairs, so I’ve yet to sample the roof upstairs or any of the spire-like aretes. Also since I’m injured I can’t just walk up to blues and huck my carcass at them; I basically stick to the reds and greens, the occasional purple, and today I even tried an orange. But so far I’m super stoked on the setting and the climbing in general (I mean, it’s exactly like SBP Poplar, which is amazing). Great movement. Interesting climbs. One thing I MIGHT say, and maybe this is crazy, is that at least in the downstairs of SBP Fremont things seem a LITTLE easier than SBP Poplar. Maybe that’s just because I’ve gotten better from watching so many bouldering vids while being injured, or maybe it’s because it’s actually easier. I tend to think it might be a little easier since right now I’m basically hucking myself at the wall like a one-legged bonobo. But I could be wrong. I could very easily be wrong.

Next we’ll talk about the fitness area and the hangboards and moonboards and the overall layout. Fitness area? Smaller than SBP Poplar. Hangboards? Less of those, too. Moonboards? Fucking gorgeous and brand new and one day I’ll get on them but for now it’s like I got all these brand new blocs why am I going to go to a climbing gym and get on a fucking moonboard?

One thing I love about the layout is the viewing area up above, since I like to go up there and just kind of watch people climb and snatch beta and just generally be around bouldering. And this viewing area is great for that. They have a viewing area at SBP Poplar, too, but the Fremont one is way better. I’ll be up there with my litte notebook writing down things like, “Right hand out to the tiny crimp, then bump to the better jug,” etc etc.

One question I do have: Are there no bathrooms downtairs??? Did I miss them? Because that might be a slight oversight. At SBP Poplar there are definitely bathrooms downstairs, and they definitely come in handy.

Lastly, what’s the VIBE like at SBP Fremont. What’s the AMBIENCE like. How do you feel when you walk through the doors? Well, if you’re me you feel pretty fucking great, because you always feel pretty fucking great when doing anything even tangentially related to bouldering. And the vibes in SBP Fremont are good. I can’t decide if there are more crushers there or at Poplar. I feel like it’s a wash. There are a lot of lower-level boulderes at SBP Fremont, but there are at Poplar, too. There’s a lot of sitting around, chilling, laughing, talking. For some reason SBP Fremont seems a little less familial, for lack of a better word. Like, it seems like people are kind of less homies at SBP Fremont. Maybe that’s because Poplar is the OG SBP or maybe it’s because Poplar has (had) the cafe or maybe it’s just because of the pandemic! Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.

In conclusion, SBP Fremont is awesome and I’m happy I renewed my SBP membership so now I have access to all of their wonderful locations. I do wish the hangboard area was a little bigger at Fremont and I do wish they had another warmup bike, but hey, small potatoes.

I mean, when you just wanna project polyurethane perfection it’s all pretty much small potatoes.

Happy crushing.

Stuck in Second Gear || Chilling on the Road to Recovery

Chilling on the boat OF COURSE. Contemplating doing some job applications and also checking on the Amazon and Duolingo apps I did like a week ago. Amazon said they would DEFINITELY get back to me, but the only thing I’ve gotten so far is an email asking if I’d like to be contacted about “other jobs.” Is this an extremely oblique, obtuse, tetrahedral way of telling me I didn’t get the first job? Is it because the ad said they explicitly wanted “NATIVE” Spanish speakers and other than having lived in Bogota for three months and knowing a decent deal of Mexican slang I’m not technically a “native” Spanish speaker. What is a “native” Spanish speaker anyway?

I ran a mile in 7:08 this morning. This is my fastest post-LCL injury time. My previous was 8:27 and the fastest before that, though it was at least half a walk, was 10:57. My next goal is to break the seven-minute barrier. The problem is, much like my childhood ’91 Honda Civic, I’m stuck in second gear. I can’t crank it up to third gear because I haven’t cranked it up to third gear since getting hurt. Third gear, in case you’re wondering, is just below fourth gear, which is a sprint. Third gear is more of a canter. Second gear is a trot/jog. First gear is, of course, a walk. I think I probably COULD crank it up to third gear, but I’m afraid the clutch might get stuck or the accelerator might get stuck and next thing I know I’m streaming around Green Lake with my hair on fire and I blow an o-ring. Much of this injury is probably psychological. Today felt like a triumph, but it also felt pretty easy since I was just running straight. It’s the lateral movement that scares me.

Yesterday I went to SBP Poplar and renewed my membership. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but yesterday I had coffee and when I have coffee all bets are off. After coffee I fairly instantly got in my car, made a reservation for the next available climbing slot, drove across town (I wanted to check out Poplar since I hadn’t been there for awhile even though I was right next to the Fremont one), renewed my reservation, and started warming up. I did five minutes on the stationary bike. I hung for bit, doing scapula pull-ups and also the deepest-set crimps they have (my goal by the end of the summer is to be able to do a one-armed pull-up on the shallowest crimps they have). Then I finally started climbing, first a yellow, then a red, then a couple greens, another red, feeling like a red was tough and hating myself for it, and then, at the end, flashing a purple. I was PYSCHED on flashing a purple but it also had no business being a purple. And I wasn’t even going to write about this because “flashing a purple” makes it sound like I can climb again, when the truth is I’m terrified the whole time I’m climbing, I might be messing my knee up, it’s probably not advisable, and I don’t want to get my hopes up. When I climb right now I cannot fall. I have to do climbs I KNOW I can do, and then I have to downclimb these climbs. No heel hooking. No chucking to holds I’m not sure I can make. In a way it’s really good for my climbing because it forces me to be super precise. In the words of Jimmy Chin, “No mistakes today.”

I need someone to come visit me on my boat because when I don’t have visitors it slips into a state of relative squalor. Dishes go unwashed. Detritus piles up on the bench seat across from me.

It’s gloriously sunny (see: partly cloudy) and I’m going to pressure-wash the boat. The most exciting part of this is I get to wear my Xtra Tuffs, which aren’t that tough because after like a year they already had fissures in them. Apparently when they started getting made in China they became “not so tuff.”

Hmmmmmm, what else. God, I don’t want to do these job applications. Writing cover letters is painful. But at the same time I need to do something, I’m destined to do something, I can’t just sit on my boat. And going to the climbing gym for a terror-sesh once every few days isn’t quite cutting it.





Always One Foot on the Ground || Road to Recovery

I have a secret. I’m not sure I should tell you because I’m afraid you’ll go and tell my physical therapist and the next time I’m there for a normally glorious session of massaging and warming up and doing lateral walks I’ll instead just get chewed out. Obviously I’m going to tell you, but I need to work up the nerve, first. Because it’s a bit embarrassing. I mean, it’s amazing, but it’s also a bit embarrassing.

OK I’ll just tell you: I sent a red today.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Mark, you damn fool, now you’ve ruined everything. Your physical therapist told you not to climb. Now you’ve opened pandora’s box and you’re going to be at Seattle Bouldering Project every day, you’re going to be showering there, you’re going to be up in the rafters, looking down at everyone, writing down beta. You’re going to hang out by the campus boards and grunt at people. You’re going to spot people who don’t want to be spotted.

Etc, etc.

But friends, I was desperate. So give me a break.

Here was the situation: I was in North Gate, which is not a great place to be. Dark night of the soul type shit. I got a FocusAid from Whole Foods on Roosevelt and next think I knew I had my phone open to the SBP website and I was making a reservation for not but a half hour in the future. Then, in a dreamy daze, I found myself guiding my Subaru towards Stone Way, towards the gym. I found myself putting my mask on. I found myself stooping down to get my temperature taken by the little temperature taking machine. I found myself in the changing room, humming the song “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor to myself.

I never loved nobody fully
Always one foot on the ground
And by protecting my heart truly
I got lost in the sound.

Next thing I know I’m exploring the space a bit, nodding to people like I know what I’m doing there. I find myself drifting towards the hangboards like a boat who’s lost its anchor, getting closer and closer, and then touching the wood of the Beastmaker, and then hanging, and then doing leg lifts, warming up on the bike, and then — AND THEN — and this is where things get blurrly, this is where I started to black out a little, or at least brown out, AND THEN, I find myself in front of the climbing wall, sitting down on a bench, PUTTING MY CLIMBING SHOES ON, my beautiful Miura’s, thinking, Jesus fuck these things are tight, I’m going to lose a nail, and then I find myself touching a handhold, a yellow handhold.

And then I find my body rising.

And my spirit rising too.

Upward and upward it went.

Until I touched the top hold with two hands, and started floating back toward the ground, like the seed of a field maple, back and forth, back and forth, until I touched the pad.

And that was that. First climb in over two months.

And then came the feelings of regret, of shame. Should I have done that? Did I just put myself in grave danger?

And then I climbed a red.

Let me just say the following: SBP Fremont is fucking awesome. SBP in general is fucking awesome. They have their shit dialed. God, what beuatiful routes they set. I love the circuits, I love the space, I love the vibe. Though what I took from today’s session was that there are a lot of good boulderers nowadays, and I felt kind of humbled, check that, intimidated, check that, depressed, by how good everyone was. “Oh my god, I wanna like, climb V8 this summer outdoors.” “Bro, first of all that’s never gonna happen. Second of all you MIGHT climb V4 again but will probably actually just be injured the whole summer, and third of all the only one sending V8 outdoors is me. Slash V10.”

Although really, do the gym rats ever climb outside?????? That dude you see wrecking the moon board, does he climb outside? No. Probably not.

And it breaks my hea- hea- hea- hea- hea- hea- hea- heart.

And it breaks my heart.

K, anyway, not climbing at the gym for awhile. At LEAST two weeks, or when my physical therapist gives me the green light. Or the yellow light. Or when I accidentally go to Northgate again and find myself desperate. Because I think most people find themselves desperate when they go to Northgate. Or is it just me?


Should I Get A Job? || Road to Recovery

Bit of a strange morning. Is it a strange morning? Making eggs on the boat. About to have some tea. Not Hop Tea, for a change (though I do have one in the fridge); this is Spindrift’s Half Tea & Half Lemon. Five calories, only contains carbonated water, lemon juice, and brewed black tea. As opposed to non-brewed black tea. As opposed to tea in powdered form, I guess.

Yesterday I was watching this video on the boat:

Meet Drew Ruana, crusher from (I think) Redmond who grew up climbing at Vertical World. Recently he decided to say “screw it” when it came to competitions and do more climbing outside. He then proceeded to crush almost every hard boulder in the vicinity of the Denver Area, where he currently lives. If you haven’t seen it yet check out him climbing Box Therapy V16 (!!!!!?????):

The best part of this video is undoubtedly where he stands on top of the boulder at the end yelling “Let’s go!”

ANYWAY, the reasoning I’m MENTIONING this Drew Ruana INTERVIEW is because he SAYS something in the interview that RESONATED with me (me): He said his climbing actually got BETTER from being in school and having less time to climb, since that meant when he DID have time to climb he was always full bore and super stoked.

This is exactly the situation I experienced last spring during the lockdown and also when I was working full time. BEFORE lockdown I would take the bus to SBP everyday after work and climb for a bit, and after lockdown I would VERY OCCASIONALLY make forays into the wilderness to project hard (see: easy) blocs. This was the first time I ever climbed outside. My first ever boulder outside was Car Door Traverse (the guidebook calls it a V1 but it’s definitely a V0 and in J-Tree wouldn’t even be a V0 but rather on the YDS). The trips to Gold Bar and Index and Leavenworth became a bit more frequent as the pandemic drew on, and this was also when I was at my most psyched and at my strongest. Well, I actually don’t know about most psyched (or strongest for that matter but we’ll get to that). I’ve always been pretty over the moon psyched on bouldering. But this time period was when I, for instance, hiked ALL THE WAY up to the Clearcut Boulders by Gold Bar during a downpour just to see if anything was somehow dry, took refuge under Summer Solstice V3, and even gave the first couple moves a few burns. I would never do that now. Not in a million years. Mostly because I know how far the hike is and I know that if it’s raining in the parking lot shit’s probably gonna be wet.

I guess what I’m saying is maybe I should get a job. Not to contribute to society or feel better or make money or any dumb reasons like that, but because it might make me climb harder. You see, when you have a job, it makes it all the more easy to take the all-too-hard-to-take rest days. When I’m somewhat healthy, it’s very hard for me to take rest days. Rest days feel like lost days. My Czech friend (are we still friends????? I think he had a baby. Haven’t heard from him for a while) famously said, “Rest days are part of training,” which, bless his heart, is wonderful wisdom.  Rest days are so important. Your body and tendons need time to recover. You get stronger during the rest days. But it’s also so damn hard to take them, cuz like, why rest when you could go drool over some granodiorite jewels in the East Miller River Valley or caress the handholds on a gorgeous V5 in the Icicle Canyon? Ideally I would climb every day, not long sessions, but every day. Why not? As long as you don’t push it too hard there’s no reason why you shouldn’t climb every day. But if you get a job then on your rest days you have something to do. And then when you CAN actually climb you’re so incredibly stoked.

I don’t know, friends, I’m gonna have to think about this one.

Not that I can climb right now anyway cuz the knee is still on the mend, but it’s coming along, and the physical therapist I see next week is a climber, and I’m going to threaten him — I mean, ask him, if I can start easy gym climbing soon. Just yellows and maybe some reds and the occasionally overhung, kneebar-necesitating white.

You know when you sit down to write a blog post and you completely forgot what you wanted to say? I kind of feel like that right now. I feel like there’s so much other stuff I wanted to talk about. But I guess it will have to wait till tomorrow. Until then, try hard.

– Wetz