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Training

Brain Training

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Brain Training

In the world of Rock climbing there are different levels of riskiness when you climb large walls. Top Rope is the safest, being secured for the entire climb, safely protected by a rope at the top of the climb. Next is Sport Climbing, or "Lead" climbing, for this type you take the rope up connected to a harness and clip the rope thru carabiners that are clipped to bolts drilled directly into the wall. Lastly we have "Trad" climbing (Traditional), this is the riskiest type of rope climbing  because you rely strong metal pieces that you place into cracks in the wall. The reason Trad is the riskiest is because it relies on the climber's knowledge of how to place gear correctly. If it's placed incorrectly and you take a fall, there's a chance for it to pull completely out of the wall and send you plummeting to the next piece of gear....or the ground. 

Something I struggled with when I first starting "lead" climbing outside was my mental game. I was pretty spooked on sport climbing anything outside for a while until I forced myself to overcome my fear. Trad climbing is a whole different monster of because the risk is there that the gear you place might come out when you fall. I've had kind of a love / fear relationship with trad climbing, where I really want to be a strong all around climber, but am nervous about taking the plunge into leading on trad. 

Quads were on fire after this one

Quads were on fire after this one

Going into my 8th week of non stop climbing and traveling, I heard about a guy in my training program taking a trip out to the Witchitas for some Trad climbing. He gladly let me tag along for the trip and we headed out early Saturday Morning. We got slightly lost in our search for "The Narrows" and we were lucky enough to tack on some mountaineering training into our Trad day...I choose to stay positive about our 20min detour. 

After arriving to our wall and consuming several Peanut butter blue berry bagels (The official food of a climber who forgot his food) Zach got geared up and ready to rock on our first climb of the day, a 5.6. The climb was a Dihedral crack where the smooth face of the wall meets in a corner of the side of the cliff. Zach cruised up the climb placing gear every 6-10 feet or so, what we refer to as "plugging it up" with gear. 

Zach placing some gear in the crack. 

Zach placing some gear in the crack. 

After Zach finished the climb Amanda "cleaned" the route on Top rope. I had danced around with the idea of doing the route of Top rope first just to get the moves kind of memorized in my head before taking the leap into actually leading the route on Trad. But I remembered my first time sport climbing outside, and how I had wussed off a 5.9 because I was too scared to fall. I knew I had the strength and the climbing knowledge to climb this route, but this would be a test of my mental fortitude. So I racked up and dove in head first. 

The climb is pretty vivid in my mind, as well as my thoughts while climbing, so I'm going to pull the curtain away and show exactly what goes through my head when climbing something that gets me a little spooked. 

I walk up to the first moves of the climb, check my knot on my harness, chalk my hands, grab the first hold and pull myself onto the face. Zach had told me on the ground that I want to be placing gear every 6 feet if I could. He had this kind of look on his face that was like "Well I hope he can do this". I get up to the first ledge about 7 feet high on the wall, and pull my sling from my back to across my chest to see which "Cam" will fit the crack best. After some messing around with it I get in a spot I'm comfortable with. I notice that it takes way longer than clipping some carabiners on sport climbing, and that my right leg is pretty tired already with a hot sensation hanging out in my thigh. I keep going on up, the feet are a little more slanted than I was expecting on a 5.6, and it had me taking some extra time placing my toes on specific spots. I throw my left hand high up on the next ledge and mantle onto the top of it finding a nice spot to place gear from. This was probably 10 feet above my last placement so I made a mental note to try to place a piece about neck level into the crack and another piece a full arm's length above it. I'm feeling slightly spooked at this point so I increase my focus by putting some thought into my breathing, letting everything else fade out with only my exhale filling my ears. I get about 8 feet up from my last Cam placement and get situated in this indentation in the wall. At this point my left foot is secured on a slightly slanted ledge but my right foot is completely smeared against the flat face of the wall. I pause for a moment and look down at my last piece of protection 8 feet below me.

There's a point my mentor Mario talks about when you do large multipitch climbs  he calls "The Point of No Return", meaning you've gone too far up, there's no way to down climb...Going up is the fastest and only way to get down. This realization hit me about 40 feet up this wall, There was no stopping, it was game time and I needed to move quickly and precisely to avoid getting too tired to climb this route. I plugged in a Cam into the crack about belly level and got a higher foot to place another one in a small roof crack above my head. I continued to the right side of the roof crack pulling myself onto the face of the wall. I noticed an "X" had been marked with chalk on a deep jug which means "DONT GRAB ME - I MIGHT COME OFF THIS WALL AT ANY POINT". However this jug...was the best jug of all time.. and the X had been placed weirdly and could've easily been meant to mark rock in the roof. I decided to place my left hand lightly in this jug, while getting a high right foot and grabbing a small ledge with my right hand. Delicately walking both feet onto the face of the wall, I grabbed a cam from my sling and placed it in the crack about eye level. I could see the end of the climb just 30 more feet up this wall I had climbed 60ish feet already.

I traversed over probably 5 feet and mantled onto a small ledge. I stood up carefully on the ledge, glancing over my left shoulder looking at my last piece about 9 feet down and to the left of where I stood. I leaned forward into the wall taking my hands completely off the wall for the first time in 70 feet. Simultaneously thinking, "Man it would suck to fall right here and whip into that roof" and "Is this what Alex Honnold feels like when he was free solo'ing El Capitan". I careful twist my hips to the right and step carefully across this half a foot wide ledge, using nothing but my feet and balance to get me across. I got over to a bulge of rock with a nice side crack in it and placed another piece of protection. My legs were pretty tired at this point and started to shake, or what we call "Elvis Leg". The top was only 15 more feet up this, and very featured with gigantic blocks of stone protruding from the otherwise clean face of this wall. I recognized that this would be the easiest part of the climb and didn't waste a second, feeling a surge of joy that I had only a few feet between me and my first Trad lead, I flew up the last section of the climb. 

I grabbed the top of the wall and clipped my "PAS" (Personal anchor system) to the bolts at the top of the climb and yelled "OK I'M ON ANCHOR" down to Zach. Something I try to keep in mind whenever I'm climbing is that you're not done until you're back on the ground. A lot of climbing mistakes happen because people get hyped up at the end of a route and forget that it's still dangerous until you're on the ground. I lock my carabiner, untie & feed the rope thru the chains. When I'm safely back on the ground I'm ecstatic. The feeling of being scared and overcoming it while you're in the moment is like no other. 

I've done a lot of sport climbing in the two years I've been climbing, and even done a second ascent on a 5.12, but I don't think anything I've done can compare with my 5.6 Trad lead. Something about being nervous about something and the laser focus you get because of it just makes it mean more. I meant to put a GoPro on my head before I went up, but completely forgot, and I didn't get any pictures of me climbing it because I think everyone just wanted to watch how it went haha. I almost like that a little more than having photos or video, because I'll always remember my first time trad climbing on a cold, windy, day in Oklahoma. 

The view from the top

The view from the top

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Hitting the Wall

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Hitting the Wall

First of all...Pun intended..

In Climbing everyone talks about "The Plateau". In running you might hear it as "hitting the wall" in reference to when you're running a long distance and you hit your breaking point. The two things are different slightly, in climbing your "Wall" is more of this looming number that is seemingly impossible. 

I've had Bouldering Plateaus & Rope Plateaus, for bouldering it was the famous V5-V6 gap that many climbers struggle with as they turn from moderate to serious climbers. On Ropes my first "wall" was the 5.11 - 5.12 chasm that seems impassable to most. 5.12 is the antagonist in most rock climber's push to climbing harder, and it fights back hard for sure. 

When you're first starting off climbing, a 5.12 seems physically impossible, the moves are usually very technical and the holds aren't the best. I have heard countless times "Dude, I don't know how in the world you do those 12's". The answer is that I couldn't and sometimes still can't do them, I have to keep climbing them to get them.  One day I just decided to start climbing 5.12s and I sucked at it, like hardcore... but that's the point. Rock climbing is funny, in that you can climb 5 moves of a 5.13d and fall and have learned more than "On-Siting" fifty 5.11s. My mentor Mario says all the time; "At some point you don't get any stronger, you just get smarter." and it's so true, I mean I train all the time to get stronger of course, but the time I put into falling over and over again on 5.12s made me smart enough to send them now. 

In climbing if you're not failing constantly, then you're not training right. I remember watching Mario climbing a route at Reimers Ranch in Austin on my very first climbing trip, it's called Pay the Pump and it's a 50 foot roof, and I thought to myself "That is absolutely impossible, he is a mutant" and now I've gotten the full roof pieced together (Check the vid). It's not like I waited 5 years to go try out this insane 5.13b, I went out and worked the moves over and over and over and over until I memorized every intricate heel hook and jug hold. 

Basically the morale of the story is nothing in climbing is given to you. The best part of it to me is getting to go out and surprise myself when I try something I think is crazy hard and I get to climb it into submission

Myself sending "Ghost Dancer" 5.12a, a project from 2016 that I came back and sent February 2017

Myself sending "Ghost Dancer" 5.12a, a project from 2016 that I came back and sent February 2017

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How does Trent Train?

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How does Trent Train?

I train like a lot..like 5-7 days a week usually, if there were an 8th day I'd be training on it, that's how much. I'm not like epic strong or anything, but I can walk up to 5.12a and get it in 1-2 tries most the time (most). I've also been known to climb anywhere between 30-50 routes in an hour or two if I really push. I've had a slight dip in training during 2016 because of a weird relationship thing that made me re-prioritize what I wanted to do, and now we're back grinding in the gym. Despite that I've kept pretty good fitness for 2ish years now, and climbing is my main tool. 

I used to get asked a bunch, "How did you get so strong so quick" and I would say "Black Magic...aka Mario's stripper name". Mario is my coach, he's my homie, my bro, my mentor, and the dude who makes me feel the pain 2-4 days out of the week. Mario runs a training program called ClimbFit, and it's basically what the name sounds like; Climbing and Fitness. Mario's been climbing like since forever and is well known in Dallas and every other southern climbing area, he is the climbing dude of Dallas. I met Mario my first day rock climbing and was in ClimbFit on my second day of rock climbing, So my secret to how I got so strong is that I started off my climbing training right off the bat. 

One of the most important parts of climbing is CORE!!!! we all love a good core burn and we focus 40-50% of our workout time to our core training. Crunches, Bicycles, 6 inches, "L" sits, Kings chair, Toe touches, you name it, we do ALL the core, and we do sometimes 2-3 sets of it. It's one of the main reasons everyone in the climbing gym has a six pack. 

The second thing we focus on is upper body strength. Before I started climbing it was laughable if you asked me if I could do a pull up, now I can bust out 50 in 5 min. We focus on what's called "Push-Pull" meaning Pushing and Pulling. We'll do Pushups, Spiderman push-ups, Burpees, Battle Ropes, Plate pushers, Pull ups, Chin Ups, One arm lock offs, Negatives, Frenchies, Dips, and the list can go on and on. 

Climbers usually have to hike to their climbing destination, for example last spring we had to hike 3000 vertical feet up a cliff side back up to our camp site in New Mexico every day, I was dying. Because of this we don't skip leg day. We focus primarily on a lot of squats with weights, but some of our other workouts segue into legs as well, like Burpees & Jumpees. We'll also do Box Jumps, Power Jumps, In-out squats, and a variation of other type of squats. 

Those are the big 3 we train every day, but as a climber you also have to strengthen your fingers. This is a delicate process as you're not actually adding finger muscle (Fingers don't have muscles), but rather strengthening your tendons. Tendons are delicate and amazing at the same time, they can hold your whole body weight off of a few finger tips, but can tear if you over work them. Because of this we train finger strength once a week and sometimes two times if we're feeling good. This usually involves a small wooden board called a "Beast Maker" they're specifically made for making your fingers stronger and they're awesome. The workout varies on the strength of the climber, but i'll usually use the "Beast maker 2000". I'll get all 4 of my fingers on the smallest crimp and do 7 seconds on with 3 seconds of rest in between for a minute and then repeat for 3-5 sets. 

Climbing is one of the those sports that you just get fit no matter what, as long as you climb. It's great because it provides my brain with constant stimulation and new problems to figure out. It's pretty much just play time fitness, and I think that's awesome. 

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Knowing & Growing

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Knowing & Growing

I was sitting next to my friend and mentor Mario Stanley the other night and thought to myself, I didn’t know this person even existed last year, and now he’s one of the most influential people in my life. And that led to further thought of how much I’ve changed and how much my life has changed in a year. For one thing I wasn’t as fit as I am now. My hands would shake when I would hold my phone for too long. I was super self conscious about how unfit I was, and it’s embarrassing being a guy and not being strong enough to do certain things. I think I had maybe 3 friends that I kept in touch with out of all the ones I had in high school, and even then I would barely hang out with them. I was infatuated with the idea of being rich enough to do whatever I wanted. Wealth seemed like the only thing that mattered in life. And perhaps the worst of all of that, I had no idea what I wanted. 

    Knowing what you want seems so simple, but I’d wager that most college kids have no idea. I don’t even know what I would want as an end goal, but I do know what I want right now. I have a few puzzle pieces to puzzle that takes a lifetime to finish. I don’t think you can accurately know what you will want 10 years in the future. We all change, especially in youth. All I can hope for right now is that I can set a solid base for what my 30 year old self might want. 

    I’ve never thought of myself as an impressive person. I get asked now by new friends that I climb with about how I’ve progressed so quickly with my climbing. I tell them it’s “Mario Magic”, meaning I owe it all to my coach Mario to put it simply. Inside my head i’m thinking how in the world am I impressive to someone? Even friends I haven’t seen since high school have commented on how much stronger I’ve gotten. I’ve never been in a situation before where I’ve been impressive to someone else, and it’s really weird.

    It’s also really strange finding out what I want. Even though I don’t have an exact vision of what I want 10 years from now, I know I want it to involve climbing and the outdoors, and that’s 100% more than I knew last year. The funny thing is that, what I think I know now will be 100% less than I’ll know next year. I suppose it’s just part of growing to be constantly changing who you are. I just hope 10 years from now I can be good enough to inspire others to be great.

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Climbing, the sport for those who try

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Climbing, the sport for those who try

I started rock climbing in the Fall of 2014 during a depressing time in my life. My last semester of school was pretty horrible, I was working a job that I didn't like at all, and a relationship with a girl that I had been seeing for a while ended. It was looking like nothing was going my way and that It wouldn't be going my way for a long while. On top of all of that I wasn't sleeping well, I had all my energy at night and none in the mornings. It all came to a head when I was sitting in my dad's office asking for advise about what I should do about not being able to sleep well and being so unhappy all the time. Luckily I have a father who can give it to me straight and he told me to stop feeling sorry for myself and to find something to throw myself at. He had been telling me for a few weeks to start rock climbing because it's a good way to work out without feeling like you're working out, and with my personality I usually have to trick myself into doing something that's hard but benefits me in the long run. That night after work I went to the closest climbing gym alone and in my mind I knew that I was going to make this work no matter what. Luckily enough the gym I went to has a training program called "Climb Fit" ran by a very charismatic coach, Mario Stanley, and I really think that if it weren't for Mario I would not still be climbing today, he really made climbing a do-able thing for me when it seemed like everyone who climbs is already good at it, which is the complete opposite of what climbing really is. 

A year later I'm still in Climb Fit with Mario working hard on becoming the best rock climber I can be, but I've learned a lot in a year. I've met new people who are also trying to better themselves which is an incredible thing when you think about it, these people could be spending their time at home watching TV and eating a microwave dinner, but instead they're in this loud gym, ripping their fingers on plastic holds training to either get in physical shape or to get in climbing shape to get outdoors on real rocks. Climbing may be one of the few sports that anyone can be good at. It really all depends on the route but if you train enough, and put enough effort into it anyone can climb what they want, it doesn't even really matter how tall you are. If you've ever seen a youth climbing team then you know that being tiny is almost better than being tall in climbing. There are even amputee's that climb, even professional climbers that are missing fingers like Tommy Caldwell who just climbed the Dawn wall in Yosemite. Climbing is a sport for people who have passion, who have mental discipline, and that try hard for the things they want. ANYONE can be a rock climber, it just takes the want to do it. I think that's why I love it so much, it's because everyone that's in the gym wants to be the best climber they can be. 

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to to great.
— Zig Ziglar

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