Sunday, July 26, 2009


I left work at 7:30 Friday night after 5 straight 12-hour days. It's been this way for months now, and there's no sign of relief. I drove north on I-91 heading for a weekend of climbing with friends in New Hampshire...wondering if I was pushing myself to do too much...

Still dressed in business clothes, the tension in my back and neck was not dissipating fast enough. I was hungry and had a 3 hour drive in front of me. I drove into northern Massachusetts and stopped for supplies, dinner, restroom, and a change of clothes. By the time I was getting on I-91 again, the transformation had begun. I was no longer a I was a rock climber on his way to meet some very cool friends. The ride was long, but I was greeted by an old friend when I pulled into the weekend retreat. Matt told me about the anticipated arrival of his first child, and I was happy to hear the good news. Neither of us had arranged for a climbing partner, so it looked like we would be partnered for the weekend. Life was good!

Inside, I saw some old familiar faces and some new ones. In the morning, I was greeted by even more new faces. There was some ackwardness amongst us while we tried to get to know eachother. While I was still very tired from the week, everyone seemed anxious to get to the rock. I didn't understand the rush because the rock was still wet from the previous evenings rain, but we headed off nontheless. The trip leader, Natasha, asked if Matt and I would take two young ladies with us since they were relatively new climbers and didn't know the area. We were happy to oblige as we had both been new at one point, and now it was our turn to give back. The girls were college-age, so it was like climbing with my daughters. A little awkward, but we were all there to climb, and climb we did!

Matt had not climbed in awhile, so I did most of the leading. I led an easy first climb since the rock was wet and I wasn't sure what the girls could climb. I put up a second climb, somewhat harder, 5.9, and was feeling pretty good. Matt and I watched the girls to assess their skill level. I continued to push myself on harder climbs, but was careful to pace myself to get through the day. Sophia, one of the new climbers, told me she wanted to try following a 5.10 (harder climb), so I led one of my favorites, Lonesome Dove. It seemed surprisingly easy to me, and I enjoyed the balancy, thin moves as I moved up the clean rock. Everything seemed good, and I found myself being much more pleasant and sociable as the day went on.

We did one more climb and then headed back toward the car. It was great to hear the voice of an old friend call out my name in the parking lot, and I was able to chat with Larry for a few minutes before we headed into town for beer.

Back at the house, friends gathered to tell their climbing stories over chips and salsa and their beverage of choice. The pizzas arrived and we toasted the Chief and Dennis in traditional style. We thanked Natasha and others for their efforts on this trip, and the room was buzzing as we all told stories. I chatted with a couple from India who I hadn't met previously. We talked about running, climbing, and interestingly...about their arranged marriage. They had only met for 15 minutes before they were married 1 week later. Amazing! They've been happily married for 8 years...maybe we should try it in this country!

By the end of the evening, I don't think I had a stressed nerve in my body.

There wasn't much climbing to be had today as we woke to rain. A few of us tried bouldering, but the options were limited. I was still quite tired, and decided to head for home. I wished Matt luck with the new baby, and said goodbye to old and new friends alike. Heading down I-91 was a much different drive from the one coming up on Friday evening.

I was transformed from a stress-ridden being to one in peaceful coexistence thanks to the company of friends. The climbing was excellent on Saturday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...but the social aspect made it that much better.

I'm at peace tonight as I type this note. Wishing you all the best for a wonderful week, and hoping we all get to spend time with close friends very soon!



Sunday, July 12, 2009

The life of a Super Hero

As my good friend, EuroMan, would say,"The life of a super hero is not easy!"

Working 12 hours each day is starting to wear on me. This week has been rough! I worked most of Saturday and part of today as well, so not a lot of playtime for Bonzo. I don't mind the hours, and I love the job, but the stress gets me all out of whack! Time to adjust...

Lately, if I can get in 3 good runs each week, I am happy. This week, the Goat dragged me out for runs on Tuesday and Thursday night, and I was glad he did. He's now on vacation with Seabiscuit, his girlfriend (not the horse), so I had to fly solo today. My stress level was as high as it's been in awhile, so I was hoping the run would do me some good.

I planned a nice 9.5 mile loop, and set off at a snail's pace. One year ago I was feeling giddy as a thoroughbred entering the gate at the Kentucky Derby (since it was 1 week prior to the Vermont 100). Today, I felt like the weekend warrior that I have become. I consoled myself by saying that I had 2 good runs this past week, and the Goat seemed to think I was flying on Thursday. Still, 20 minutes in and I was still huffing and puffing. I was tight, and the air felt thick and warm. Nevertheless, I knew it was doing me good.

I enjoyed being alone for a change, running at my own pace, feeling the stride start to become more natural. 40 minutes in and I was still feeling tightness in my upper body. Hmmm, perhaps I need to run more...back and chest muscles are tight from climbing and work.

I told myself to press on and things would improve. Sure enough, as each step went by my body, mind, and spirit felt better, stronger. Concerns about work seemed to disappear, and I was pushing the pace. Magically, the tightness was gone.....but we all knew that would be the case.

The last half mile was sweet, and I enjoyed some well earned water back at the car. It was a great run...not because I ran fast...the pace was average and the effort was above average. It was a great run because it paid huge dividends. It got me back to where I needed to be mentally and physically. I am thankful that I can run, and appreciate everything about it.

Now, back to being a super hero...As Green Lantern would say, "In brightest day and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight....beware my power...Green Lantern's light!"

Ha! Have a great week everyone! ...And for those of you running the Vermont 100 this weekend, may you realize every goal and dream you have in your mind and heart! Tear it up!



Monday, July 6, 2009

A week to remember: A.K.A. Northeast climbing vs. climate change

Vacations...most people take a vacation to relax. Me, I need a day to relax AFTER my vacations.

I spent the past 5 days rock climbing in various places, and partying with friends between rain drops. It was good!

One of my climbing partners, Natasha, says that we are "Adrenaline Junkies", and I think she is right. Yesterday, I was barely awake until it was my turn to lead a climb. The climb was not terribly difficult, but the protection rating indicated that it was not a very safe climb if you fell (Rated "R" like the movie rating: X is bad, G is good). The person who was gearing up for it decided not to do it, so I roped up and led the climb. Afterwards, Natasha said, "You look awake now". I not only felt awake, I felt ALIVE! Everything was more in focus and I had a smile on my face.....

A couple hours later, I was falling asleep on a ledge 70 feet off the ground. I wanted to lead a hard climb, and the day was getting long. I was trying to wait patiently for my turn on the sharp end of the rope, but I'm not so patient. Finally, near the end of the day, it was my turn, and I threw myself at Ants Line. I had led this climb on two occasions, but the last time was about 3-4 years ago. I was curious to see if I had the guns to pull through the crux this time around. Since everyone was seeking shade on this day, I had a decent crowd of on-lookers as I negotiated my way up the steep open book. I was pleased with my stemming and gear placements, and all seemed to be going well. I dropped a big cam in just below the crux roof, and felt pretty good despite the lack of decent feet and my arms were starting to tire. I started into the move, but felt myself getting tired. I backed off a little, but realized I couldn't easily down climb to a decent stance. At that point, my friend Mobes, shouted, "Come on, you know what you have to do..." He seemed to have no doubt in his voice that I would make the move. With that positive reinforcement, I took a deep breath and pulled through the crux with my friends all yelling silly things like "Yeah, you go Dude!" Such things that are music to your ears when it is directed at you, but may seem silly when you hear other people yelling it at their friends. I finished off the last 30 feet of the climb and was basking in my adrenaline rush. After I lowered off, "Natasha said, "Good job, you look human again!" Wow, am I that much of an adrenaline addict? ...or was it the stress relief from a good workout?

Either way, I quickly went and flashed another hard climb on toprope (no real risk of injury) and then spent the rest of my effort on a climb that was at my limits in terms of finger strength for the day.

It was a good end to a great 5 days of climbing.

As for the the other 4 days...It all started with some sport climbing at a local crag with Mobes and Natasha. On that day, I did an on site lead of a new 5.9/10 sport climb that got me thinking it could be a good week.

On Thursday, we only got in 1 short climb due to the rain in the Adirondacks, but we persevered through the rain on Friday to bag some great climbs. The rock dried quickly in between rain bursts and I managed to lead an easy classic, The Sword, and then we toproped a new 5.10d (hard). I flashed the 10d, and started thinking maybe I had my Mojo back. Hmmm...this could get interesting. Despite the on set of more rain, I was damned if I was going to stop climbing now that my mojo was back. We would just climb something moderate that we could hopefully pull through if the rain got worse. Ged let the first pitch of a classic, and I started on a long thin traverse with sparse protection. I was fine until I got to a wide wet streak that was quickly turning into a river. I clipped an old manky pin and went for it knowing that conditions were just getting worse. I finished off the climb with a smile on my face which was flush with adrenaline. Ged had terror in his voice as he shouted to me as he followed the pitch. I had a sick smile on my face knowing that I had just won a hand of Russian Roulette once again and listened intently as Ged played his hand.

After rappeling off the climb, the light rain turned into a full on downpour as if the Gods were saying, "OK, you've had enough fun for one day". The rain continued all night and into the next morning.

A few of us decided to head south to the Gunks, since the weather forecast showed no sign of relief and we wanted to climb. My days off are precious these days and I needed to get my fix.

After driving 3+ hours, we were back in action at my home crag, and life was good. I found a nice cam stuck in a crack and managed to get it out...a nice piece of booty to replace the pair of new shoes I seem to have lost. We got a few good pitches in, and I led a climb that I had never been on. It was scary looking, but much easier than advertised. Natasha and Mika seemed to think it was harder than it's grade, so I started thinking, "Maybe I really do have my mojo back".

That night we had a great happy hour and dinner in New Paltz. I saw several old acquaintances at the crag the next day, and life was good.

Yes, we're back to the point where this tale started.

It was a good trip despite the fact that we didn't get to do much climbing in the DAKS. I love the new DAKS guidebook (Thanks Dawn!) and am glad it didn't take too much of a beating from the rain. Can't wait to use it again! Had so much fun hanging out with Mobes, Arie, Natasha, and the rest of the gang. Mobes brought a case of Black Label, and beer never tasted so good at Happy Hour. Haven't had that beer since college.

My fingers are hurting as I type this note. I guess a rock climber knows that had a good vacation when that happens...

Hope you all had an awesome 4th of July!