The Training Diaries

WHO: me, duh

WHAT: My first EVER training cycle. Yes, ever.

WHEN: I started this past Friday, and will be doing a 4 week training plan.

WHY: Somehow I have gotten away without properly training in my first 13 years of rock climbing, but the time has come. The dreaded plateau. 

When I first moved to Colorado, I improved drastically solely from the increase in the accessibility to the gym, outdoor boulders, and thus, the amount that I was climbing skyrocketed (see: Attitude Adjustment). All I was doing was rock climbing and I was getting better. There was no argument against that, and I didn’t understand why people did any sort of cross training (see: Training snapshot).

However, I climbed my first V10 three years ago, and climbed my first V10 in a session two years ago. Since then, I have climbed 21 V10’s… but only 2 V11’s, both of which are on the softer end of the grade. Climbing a solid V11, and also becoming a solid V11 climber, have been goals of mine for at least a year now. But I hit a wall when it comes to that. I am extremely confident in my ability to climb V10, but something doesn’t line up with V11. Whether it be mental, physical, or likely a combination of the two, I am ready to break through the plateau.

HOW: My weekly plan consists of 2 days cardio with a focus on leg power, 2 days fingerboard max hangs, 1 day campus board, 1 outdoor climbing day, and 1 rest day. Core (5 days) and gym climbing (3 days) are included, with the climbing focused on intentional movement and easier volume to ensure I don’t just get strong and completely forget how to rock climb.

SO, I am super psyched and can already tell that  I am working way harder than I ever have before. The lovely community at the Denver Bouldering Club has been super encouraging and it makes me feel motivated. I know that I am going to get tired and grumpier later, so it’s good to start off in really high spirits.

I’m going to try and keep fairly good records on here of my moods, gains, and general thoughts on how the training is going. In addition, touch on some other aspects of climbing and training (i.e. details of my mental block, weight and climbing, etc.). So stay tuned if you would like to follow along!

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The ins and outs of my dirtbag life

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* Disclaimer: I am a poor excuse for a dirtbagger and am doing it all wrong.

Well, it’s been 8 weeks since I hit the road and still counting. Amazingly I am still at it in a setup that is may be passable for a weekend trip. Let me paint the picture: I am car camping out of a Chevy Cruze, sleeping on a twin size air mattress between the back seats and the trunk, with a gear tent on the side.

Image result for 2011 gold chevy cruze(example image of my car)

At this point, I have gotten this small, front-wheel drive vehicle stuck in both sand and snow and have had to rescue my tent from a fire evacuation, and speeding gusts of wind on multiple occasions. This entails lots of running, cursing, stuffing everything into the car in a haphazard manner, and running away. Whether that be to another camping area or a motel depends on how close I am to a meltdown. The latter occurs when “fuck this!!! What am I doing!!!” is running through my mind.

“I want to go on the road,” I said. “I don’t want to spend the money on a bigger car or a van,” I said. “It’s not that long, I’ll do it out of my sedan and tent,” I said.

So maybe I was a little naive in my perception of how easy or difficult dirt bag life was going to be. Maybe I should have planned a little better, financially, mentally, logistically, whatever. But on the bright side, the way I’m doing this is a hell of a character building experience 😉

And somehow, I’m still not ready to pay rent in an apartment where I get to walk 10 feet to the bathroom, instead of 10 minutes to dig a cathole. Where I get to sleep in a T-shirt instead of two layers of pants and sweatshirts, two sleeping bags, and an inordinate number of blankets. Doing laundry on a regular basis and not wearing the same clothes for 4 days in a row. Because that’s also where I look in the mirror multiple times a day, obsessing over whether I look skinny or bloated. Where I stare at my face and wonder if I’m pretty or not or kinda ok and passable. Where I change in and out of 6 different outfits, concerned about how I’m presenting myself to the world and what people will think about me. Instead, I’m appreciating the nights I get to wear only one pair of pants to bed, when I get to lay in the sun with my dog on my lap and a beer in my hand, and climbing in world class climbing areas, testing myself in ways I have never before.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the most uncomfortable I have ever been in my life. But it’s easy to recognize that this discomfort is a privilege in itself and what I get to experience alongside this discomfort is non-replicable in any other way. Sure, often I wish I had a van, or a bigger car, or a maybe even a house situated perfectly 5 minutes from the boulders… but I don’t. And I’m still doing it.

One Month

Well, a bit over a month has passed since I began my road trip. As you can see, I have done a poor job of sticking to my claim: “I will have lots of extra time to write, so keep an eye out for more posts to come”. But this in itself is a good point of self-discovery.

In the weeks leading up to my departure,  I was confident I would easily improve my social media game. Where before I would struggle to post to Instagram once per week, I was convinced I could easily post 3-4 times per week once I was on the road. No longer would I be bogged down by the 9-5 job, and my full time occupation would consist of being in awesome places doing the things I love. Easy enough to take a good picture almost every day and share it, right? It wouldn’t be hard to write every day and type it up on the blog at least once a week, right?

Turns out, I just kind of suck at social media. But it’s ok that I suck at this, and it’s a useful thing to know about myself. I wasn’t posting to Instagram only once a week because I was too preoccupied by work, online classes, whatever, because now that these excuses have been removed, I still only post once a couple times a week. I just don’t think to give my phone to a friend to take pictures of me. Of the 30+ new boulders I have done in Bishop, I have video of 1 of them. And this is my second post of my first 5 weeks on the road. Ah, well.

What this means? Well, simply put, I don’t express myself through social media the way others do. Posting every other day feels more like a pressure than an enjoyable activity. There is thought that has to go into taking pictures, capturing video, writing posts. It’s a process that I don’t find myself drawn to. It’s interesting to feel this pressure, trying to keep up with athletes who are much better at creating content for more frequent posts because of the way that remaining relevant depends on it. My balance is posting photos twice a week that I am proud of, that depict where I am, what I am doing, and to share with friends and family back home, or whoever is interested. I don’t want to force myself to be an internet personality that I am not. So I will keep enjoying the awesome places I am in, doing the things I love, and occasionally taking pictures.

One Week

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It’s been a week since I arrived in Bishop, and Riley and I are each on our respective learning curves.

On night number one, Riley peed all over the bed but now he knows that the car is home. Similarly, I am adapting to this idea, minus the peeing. What little things become comforting, comfortable, when you live inside a moving box. Stuffed into a sleeping bag, coloring book in the lap, listening to an audio book before falling asleep each night. Trying to create routine without the 9-5, the to-do lists, the steady nature of “normal” life.

Adjusting the attitude. How easy it is to be reserved, non-acknowledging when you are in your regular setting, surrounded by the usual people. How much more open you must become, grateful for any small chatter. Relearning the give and take of conversation instead of dumping your day on someone you know will listen.  But realizing how easy it is to connect to people who are chasing the same passion. Instant understanding and the pleasant surprise of how nice it is just to talk for an hour instead of crawling into your car as soon as it gets dark. Yes, I am learning how to be alone, but also how to be a person among familiar strangers.

The Internet is Scary

The Internet is a scary place.

My Internet “personality” is the culmination of experiences I’ve had on the World Wide Web. I would describe myself as reserved, neutral, and brief. Rarely do I share my opinions surrounding issues of gender, race, or politics on social media, even if these issues are related to climbing. I don’t share in depth detail of my personal life, whether good or bad, on Facebook, Instagram, or even here on my blog anymore. Topics that I openly discuss in the “real world” I tend to stray away from on the Internet.

I’ve been at an impasse with social media. I feel confused by the purpose I want it to have for me personally. I know we use social media to share experiences, inspire and be inspired, create discussion… All of which are positive things. So why the avoidance?

When I was in high school, I made a YouTube video (that no longer exists) confidently complaining about a party and stating incorrect “facts” all over the place. Someone took the liberty to try and put me in my place by anonymously messaging me on Formspring something along the lines of, “I hope someone curb stomps you until your brains are splattered all over the sidewalk.” Of course, my 16-year-old self immediately burst into tears, even though anonymous loser words aren’t “supposed” to hurt.

Since then, I acknowledge that anything I post on the Internet could result in an “I hope you get curb stomped” response. Of course it’s not in any way acceptable, and it may not be in those exact words, but it is a possibility. A possibility I haven’t wanted to deal with. Like I said, I’m completely comfortable and enthusiastic to discuss “controversial” topics in person. But the Internet environment allows people to hide behind their computers and say things that would never be acceptable in public. The more reserved, neutral, and brief I am on the Internet, the less likely a curb stomp comment is. Does this make me a coward? Does it make me human?  What is the purpose of my social media if I don’t share these personal details or opinions?

I’ve decided these are things I would like to hash out while I am on my trip with loads of time to think. Even a longer post like this is more personal than what I’ve shared in the last two years. I want to grow and find a balanced Internet “personality” where I share more and am not so frightened by the big, bad Internet, but still have moments to myself. I suppose this blog will be that journey.

Catch up

It’s been a while, so let me catch everyone up.

2017 was a whirlwind. The two year commitment of my job was approaching and I had yet to think about what my next steps were. Slowly, I started ticking boxes that were more and more committing. Starting with the GRE, enrolling in prerequisite classes, and finally, applying to a Masters program in Health and Exercise Science on December 31, 2017. Now, January 2018 marks my last month of employment in my current position as a research assistant at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and soon I will be entering….

FUNEMPLOYMENT!

What will this consist of? Well, climbing of course. I am moving out of my Denver apartment and into my small Chevy Cruze to tour around the country and climb. The current plan is to start out in Bishop, go to Joe’s Valley, head up to the Pacific Northwest, and then return to Colorado for alpine season. I will have lots of extra time to write, so keep an eye out for more posts to come 🙂

Oh and also I got a dog. His name is Riley and he is handsome.

Training snapshot

Last winter, I was sad. I moved to Colorado at the beginning of alpine season and didn’t quite grasp the fact that it would end until.. it ended.  Suddenly there was snow everywhere and below freezing temps.  Wet shoes. Snotty noses. Stormy weekends meant gym session after gym session. My grandfather passed away. I quickly collected multiple pulley injuries.

Looking back, it wasn’t all that bad.  I was fine.  I mummy-taped my fingers, kept climbing, and made a trip out to Hueco.  The snow started to melt.  More and more weekends could be spent outside.  In the thick of it, though, it felt never-ending.

This year, I decided to be proactive knowing that I could fall into another winter slump.  This time when I went to Boulder Canyon only to be chased away by the 20 degree temps and 20 MPH winds or to Flagstaff to find wet rock, I was ready to train.  I made sure to book myself full and have plenty to work for:

  • Hueco Rock Rodeo – February 11 (followed by a week of climbing)
  • Denver Bouldering Club’s Heart and Soul Competition – February 25
  • USA Climbing’s SCS Nationals – March 10

So here is a snapshot of what the past couple of months looked like for me.

From Dave MacLeod’s 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes:

Who needs to pump iron to climb hard?

The biggest problem with weightlifting in training is the effect it has on people. When used correctly, it is a useful tool and a solution to various training problems, even in climbing. However, those who use it at all frequently over use it and choose their exercises poorly on top of this. So the net result is that weight training hinders climbing performance nearly as often as it helps it…

In general, weight training is not really the most efficient form of training for the vast majority of climbers. Nearly all climbers need to climb more… Time spent pumping iron is time not learning any climbing skills.

Maybe it is because I am some form of lazy, but my philosophy for training is exactly that: climb more.  I have done the weighted pull-up pyramids, the fingerboarding, the this and the that. But right now, I am in a place where I can easily get to the climbing gym and spend 2 or 3 hours purely climbing. This is what seems to work for me and what I believe will make me a better climber. I learn something every single time I climb because there are so many parts of movement that I have yet to master.  There are so many moves I have never done, so many I have never even tried!

Climbing more doesn’t necessarily mean projecting more. Climbing more means training that incorporates power endurance drills, treadwall, volume, etc. This month, I started climbing 5 days a week rather than only 4.

Anyways, here is an example week from last month:

Monday: rest

Tuesday: try to onsight/flash as many climbs from the reset as possible. Project harder climbs. Project on Moonboard then start to cool down and try to flash easier climbs on the board.  This ends up being about 1.5 hours of hard projecting. Short core workout (either TRX or floor exercises).

Wednesday: try and onsight/flash fill-in climbs on reset wall.  Climb on tread wall: 3 sets of 5 minutes on, 5 minutes rest. 3 sets of 5 minute drill [try and complete a climb one or two grades below redpoint level 3 times within a 5 minute period. 45 seconds to complete a climb is good and allows for about 45 seconds of rest between repeats, 5 minute rests between sets]. 3 sets of link-ups: link 3 boulder problems together, up a climb ~3-4 grades below redpoint, down easy climb, up a climb ~2-3 grades below redpoint. This is about 2.5 minutes on the wall, with 2.5 minutes rest.

Thursday: project ~1-1.5 hours. Short core workout.

Friday: rest

Saturday: try and get outside!

Sunday: repeat of Wednesday’s power endurance/ endurance drills

The order of the days really isn’t structured.  Sometimes I projected Tuesday and Wednesday, then did endurance on Thursday.  Or I did less endurance and more projecting on a Sunday.  I wanted to periodize this training in order to “peak” for Hueco, so I climbed about 20 sessions without taking more than one day of rest.  Now, about a week and a half before Hueco, I took two days off from climbing and will lighten up on the sessions until I leave!

I am happy with how the training schedule turned out: I feel like I am climbing very well and also have not gotten injured!! More than anything, I am just happy I made it through the bulk of winter 🙂

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Murphy on a snowy day in Boulder Canyon

Journal Club #1: Nutritional Considerations for Vegetarian Athletes

Almost two months ago, I adopted a vegetarian (well, pescatarian) diet.  This may or may not have had something to do with the incoming White House administration and the new head of the EPA, ahem… but I am not longer eating meat.  I have a lot of questions as to how this diet change will or will not affect my climbing and my interest in athlete nutrition was piqued.  Luckily, I work for the University of Colorado and am fortunate to have access to thousands of scientific journal articles and I have taken advantage of this.  I’ve decided to share my notes and thoughts from the articles I read on my blog in a series I will call “Journal Club” 🙂 Hopefully, these posts will be helpful to others who don’t find them too boring, as I know they will be helpful to me at least for having a place to keep all of my notes.

So with that… for Journal Club #1:

Nutritional Considerations for Vegetarian Athletes; Susan I. Barr and Candice A. Rideout (Nutrition 20:696-703, 2004)

*Disclaimer: it was really difficult to find any more recent publications on this topic!

NOTES

**Key: From the paper/ My comments

Macronutrients

Protein

  • Typical recommendations are 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg/d for endurance athletes and up to 1.7 g/kg/d for resistance and strength-trained athletes… However, the Institute of Medicine recently concluded that the evidence for increased requirements for physically active individuals was not compelling and suggested that the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
    • I consider bouldering to be resistance/strength-training.  So basically one recommendation is double that of the other! After looking at previously logged food diaries, I eat between 80-100 grams of protein per day which is closer to the 1.7 g/kg/d value.
  • It was concluded that a separate recommendation for protein consumption was not required for vegetarians who consume diary products or eggs and complementary mixtures of high-quality plant proteins.
  • However, the issue of protein quality was recognized as a potential concern for individuals who avoid all animal protein sources (e.g., vegans) because plant proteins may be limiting in lysine, threonine, tryptophan, or sulfur-containing amino acids.
    • Straight dairy tends to upset my stomach, so I eat eggs and make smoothies with milk kefir and whey protein.
  • The literature is consistent in reporting that vegetarians’ protein intakes are lower than those of omnivores. However, protein intakes are generally well above the RDA in both groups, suggesting that in most cases adequacy of protein intake is not a concern.
    • Again, I eat closer to 1.7 g/kg/d which is about double the RDA.

Micronutrients

Iron

  • Numerous studies have demonstrated that the total iron intake of vegetarians is similar to or greater than that of non-vegetarians
  • Iron occurs in the food supply in two chemical forms: heme and non-heme.  Heme iron represents about 40% of the iron in meat, fish, and poultry. It is more efficiently absorbed than non-heme iron. By definition, vegetarian diets contain no heme iron.
  • In addition to differences in the amount of heme iron provided, vegetarian and omnivorous diets may vary with respect to other dietary factors that can enhance or inhibit iron absorption.. compared with the non-vegetarian diet, non-heme iron absorption from the vegetarian diet was 70% lower and total iron absorption was approximately one-sixth.
  • Based on these various considerations, recommended iron intakes for vegetarians are increased by 80% to compensate for the reduced bioavailability of iron from vegetarian diets.
    • I take an iron supplement that is 140% of the daily value, which should be plenty.  The only question that I have is that I bought a vegan iron supplement and I wonder if that is any different than a non-vegan supplement. 
    • In regards to other micronutrients, I take a women’s multivitamin 😀

Other Dietary Components

Creatine: A Potential Ergogenic Aid

  • A large majority of the body creatine pool is found in muscle, primarily in the form of phosphocreatine, and serves as a temporary storage site for adenosine triphosphate (ATP). During periods of rest, cretine combines with ATP to form phosphocreatine and adenosine diphosphate. During exercise, phosophocretine is split to yield creatine and ATP, which is in turn used to fuel muscle contraction.
  • Thus a larger body creatine pool could prolong supramaximal intensity exercise and/or shorten recovery time between repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise.
    • Basically, more creatine = more ATP = more fuel for muscle contraction
  • Lukaszuk et al. found that adopting a vegetarian diet led to a reduction in muscle As a group,creatine concentration.
  • Shomrat et al. provided seven vegetarians and nine omnivores with creatine supplements (21 g/d) for 1 wk and assessed anaerobic exercise before and after supplementation. Both groups experienced an increase in anaerobic performance.
  • THese data suggest that vegetarian atheletes who participate in sports that rely on the ATP/phosphocreatine system may experience greater benefits than their omnivorous peers from creatine supplementation. Despite good evidence of positive physiologic effects, however, the need for caution regarding creatine supplementation has been stressed.
    • I would like to find more recent research on this topic.

TL;DR

Conclusion

  1. Based on limited observational data, well planned, appropriately supplemented vegetarian diets appear to effectively support atheletic performance
  2. Provided protein intakes are adequate to meet needs for total nitrogen and the essential amino acids, plant and animal protein sources appear to provide equivalent support to athletic training and performance.
  3. As a group, vegetarian athletes may be at increased risk for non-anemic iron deficiency, which appears to limit endurance performance.
  4. As a group, vegetarians have lower mean muscle creatine concentrations than do omnivores, and this may affect supramaximal exercise performance.

Thoughts

I think as long as I keep supplementing my diet and make sure I eat enough protein, being vegetarian is just fine for climbing! I haven’t noticed any drop in performance since I stopped eating meat, and I might even be eating better now that I am paying closer attention to my nutrition.

Future topics to research:

  • Daily protein intake?
  • Creatine supplementation (next journal club)
  • Vegan iron vs. regular iron

 

Why blog?

As the New Year rolls in, I once again find myself staring at my WordPress site.  This blog that I started during college has found itself abandoned since I’ve moved to Colorado.

A handful of times, I have sat down at my computer with the determination to write a full blog post, proofread it well, and actually publish it.  I choose a playlist to get in the ~writing*~ mood, type a witty title, and… Those sittings quickly turn into me browsing for a new theme (my blog is way pretty now, though), scrolling through Facebook, or shutting my computer and going to watch TV.

Why does this happen?  Laziness?  Apathy?  Fear?  All of the above?

I began this blog after a 3 year break of being burned out from climbing.  I was at a university with a very small, almost nonexistent, climbing community and I needed an outlet. Blogging was an easy way to accomplish this. I didn’t share my URL with anyone; this was essentially my diary.

But the fact is that I don’t need this as a diary anymore.  I don’t exactly have an audience demanding posts (I have about 5 followers, a few of which I am fairly convinced are bots).  I don’t want to write posts that others have already written much more eloquently.  I don’t want to spill my soul onto the Internet.  So why blog?

I guess after a year, I have some things that I want to say and share.  So that is what I will try my best to do…no promises though 🙂

Stay tuned (or not).

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Here is Rory with a turtle on her head.

Obligatory New Year Post

New years are tricky.  A new number to slap on the end of our days and months encourages many to make resolutions, set bold goals, and summon high expectations for what is to come in the next 12 months.  For some this may work great, but this is not the approach I desire to take for my new year.

This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. 2015 was such a dynamic year that there is no way for me to achieve the sheer volume of tangible “successes” in 2016
    1. I can’t graduate college again
    2. I will be staying at the same job
    3. I am staying in Colorado
    4. etc.
  2. Setting goals such as “climb 5 new V10s” puts a number on success and also on failure.  And that’s not how I want to view my progression in climbing.

But nonetheless, the new year seems as good a time as any to check-in and evaluate my lifestyle and climbing performance.  And in turn, make lifestyle related goals 🙂

This might be the first time in my life where I am not in such an obvious transitional phase. In high school, I was working hard in order to get into college.  In college, I was working hard to build a resume for entering the workforce.  Right now… I’m just doing life.  Which is crazy, and awesome and I would like to dedicate 2016 to continuing to do just that.  Sure, I’m not set in any career path and will have to continue to consider life choices such as graduate school, etc. But I am going to enjoy the year of working my job and pushing myself with climbing.

In addition, this might be the first time in my life where I feel like I’m at *~home**~ (soooo cheesy, I know).  Teenage angst made living with my parents during high school… well, angsty.  And in college, my identity never quite felt consolidated.  As in, there was U.Va. student Juliet who went to class and hung out with friends during the week, and then there was climber Juliet who drove out to West Virginia or North Carolina on the weekends and during breaks to climb some rox.  I felt like two separate entities with two completely different sets of friends who existed in two completely different worlds.  But was never completely a part of either of the two communities.  Now I actually feel like I have my place here in Colorado.  So this year, I will continue to ingrain myself in this amazing community and keep exploring what the state has to offer.

And of course, a few climbing, nonnumerical goals:

  • Read more climbing literature
  • Listen to my body more and better understand which pain means what (sore, or injured?)
  • Roll out my forearms more….
  • Keep up with the climbing journal
  • Find a healthy balance between projecting and getting on new climbs

I think that’s a good start.  Cheers to the new year 😀