Friday, December 30, 2011

Preparing for the Storm.

Frank always said that in order to sail in stormy waters, one must first build a strong ship.

When we started training for the World Championships in Trampolining, we asked Frank to coach us and he started by taking us off the trampoline for about 8 weeks and conditioning us...

There was hell to pay when the head of Trampolining in Ireland discovered the Dublin based gymnasts hadn’t bounced in two months or so. No matter, because when we began training on trampoline again, each of us fulfilled the very maximum of what we were capable of to the tune of what seemed to be a very precise plan that Frank had devised. Our bodies were just very well prepared.

At the moment - I wouldn't stop climbing, and do conditioning for 2 months... though the thought occurred to me a while ago to stop climbing and finger board and campus (only) for three weeks in an attempt to strengthen my fingers, I was quickly discouraged from that. My technique and simply my climbing need a lot more work.

It seems to be the case in any sport that when one tries to up one's game, the body starts to break down. I've been on a slow but steady course of improvement over the last twelve months, and I suppose with the new year looming, there's always an inner will to want to do better.

I think that's human nature!

There won't be much change about what I'm doing at the board. It seems to be working for me and I like the track I'm on. I usually try to fit in 3 or 4 training sessions at the board each week. When it goes well, I milk it, when it's going badly, I do sit ups. It's outside the board time that things need to be shaken up!

I'm really looking forward to this year. I have a positive feeling that I can improve my bouldering, it's nice not to feel stuck I suppose.

I think upping my ability on rock is going to be about 3 things:

Eating right

Sleeping right

Training right

Those 3 aspects mean investing in my body.

Buying the right food and eating it... it even sounds obvious as I'm typing it, but I'm terrible at it. I'll happily survive for a day on 12 jaffa cakes and then wonder why my training the next evening didn't go so well. Also, I want to start drinking a lot more water... Again - I'd usually have tea with my 12 Jaffa Cakes and am probably existing as a very dehydrated person on a day to day basis.

Going to bed before midnight... I don't know why I do it, every night I sit up and do nothing when I could be sleeping, then I've to get out of bed at 7am for work. My muscles always feel terrible when I don't get enough sleep.

I think I'm pretty good at going to the board and training with a plan... but that plan never has an end aim... I do problems, then I do sit ups and then I go bouldering at the weekends. I think there needs to be a focus on what I want to get out of my board sessions - maybe I'll break them down into 6 week chunks or something with an aim at the end of each - must read up on that again!.

Hitting the ground running in the morning with a session in Wicklow... here's to a strong ship in 2012... I'd quite like to sail through a few storms!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Self Preservation.

Had a lovely session in the Co op this evening with Shane, Ron and Howard.

It marks the start of my 'get stronger' come back!

Got shut down on almost everything and I noted that I'd lost finger strength and all my power was gone... Unconvinced, Ron questioned me and asked... In a week?

Ok, I was probably being dramatic - but I believed myself... which is worrying...

Ron later said something like, it looked like my core was protecting itself as my mind went for moves and my body didn't respond as it normally would.

Never the less, I had a good session, and a good laugh with the guys - Shane brought 'After Eights' and Ron brought jellies.

Ron has a nice new project on the 45 that involves big moves through big jugs that we all fell off because of too much turkey.

I look forward to sending it.

Having met Frank earlier for a bite to eat and having had such a lovely session at the board, I came home with a big smile on my face :)

Wren Day

As we drove to the Glendalough boulders yesterday, I further highlighted my City Girl upbringing to Shane as I demonstrated total ignorance to the tradition of 'Wren Day'...

He laughed at my lack of knowledge on the subject... I'd never heard of the tradition before.

I promised I'd google it, and while I won't admit to spending too long reading up on it - I did land on Wikipedia and here's what it's all about:

"Wren day also known as Wren's day, Hunt the Wren Day or The Hunting of the Wrens (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín) celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephens Day. The tradition consists of "hunting" a fake wren, and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers or strawboys celebrate the Wren (also pronounced as the Wran) by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional céilí music bands, parade through the towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys."

It all sounds like madness to me!!

Shane said 6 months of living in the country side would sort out my lack of culture!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Sack of Spuds

After a week off, I feel heavy.

Some say that a week off is good for one's climbing, but I really don't think my body responds well to it at all.

Today I was psyched to get out on rock after finally getting over my back pain. The rain fell in fine misty sheets as it so often does in Glendalough Valley.

Quite honestly, I'm sick of sitting under boulders waiting for the rain to stop.

We chose our problems well though and I had a smart little tick at the beginning of the day.

We warmed up in the Ruins area which is composed of some nice warm up boulders scattered in amongst the ruins of buildings inhabited by god knows who, god knows when.

The lake that began to form about a year ago beneath the 'Plum' boulder seemed today to have expanded, but it's not actually a permanent feature, so it's a case of see how it is on the day.

I started well actually - the aretes of the Plum boulder caused me little bother and I was quite psyched to head over and try 'Another Duffy Problem' (6c). I tried it a year ago during a night session with Diarmuid, James, Dave and Ped etc and was shut down totally...

The aretes of the Plum boulder are nice balancey vertical chilled out climbing... not too taxing and nice little warm ups -

'Another Duffy problem' is an over hanging monster of a first move and I realised just how out of shape I am. I felt like a sack of spuds.

Barry and Kev sent the problem like it was childs play and it left me eager to get back to the board and get strong. I want off these pain killers and onto getting in shape again.

Shane was eager to try Quality Control (6c) so we headed over in the direction and the lads set up camp. Kev immediately went over and got on White Arrow (6b). I almost flashed that problem on the same night I'd been shut down on 'Another Duffy Problem'.

I was keen to get on it again and dragged my boulder pad over. Paul followed and the two of us worked the problem. I seemed to feel sluggish on everything - lock offs, throws, tension... the lot... I've to regain it all.

I had 3 attempts and said I'd leave it, I felt pumped and didn't want to throw the rest of the day away on that one line. Paul then sent the line and admitted himself to a dab brush of the pads - but in no way did the dab aid his send and it was enough to spur me on for one last attempt. I had to crank at every move but I did it, and had to wonder about the psychology of seeing someone do a problem right before one sends it oneself.


We moved over to the Egg boulder and Barry tried his as yet, unrepeated 'Egg Traverse' (7b/7c?). He did well on the first attempt, but came off as the rain ruined the holds.

Shane had stayed over at Quality Control (6c) and Paul went over to see how progress was going - Shane had sent the line!! Fair dues!

I was psyched to try Tims Mantel (6c) - I know I can do it, and I thought it would be a good little confidence booster for my first session back.

Then it really started raining.

No go.

Barry got back on his traverse and fell between the pads onto a rock off some wet holds. I was worried about him, but he walked away ok in the end.

We all huddled under a rock and waited for the rain to soak everything and maybe pass over. I just thought, GIVE OVER!! This Winter season has been marred by rainfall at the weekends, which is the time when most people are out and about to climb.

Piss off rain!

After a muddled session on 'The Cherry' (during which I went off to establish the moves of 'Afro Left (7a) in my head) we all ended up over at Big Jane and some of us worked Andy's Arete (7a+)... in the wet and some of us worked 'The Grove' (7c) ... in the wet.

Finally we went home.

This week is going to mark the start of a major effort at the board to improve my climbing further - today has only been fuel.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Adam Ondra... Crushing and Screaming.

Richard Ashcroft was incorrect.

Shane... Chilling.

Yesterday had all the makings of a Christmas bouldering meet.

I knew I couldn't climb - I could barely walk.

There was no way, however - I was going to miss being around my friends at my favorite boulders on Christmas Eve.

The Doctor had supplied me with a sufficient cocktail of pills that have completely deadened the pain in my lower back. I sent a text to Kev on Friday night asking for a lift to Glendalough and he said, 'no problem - can you walk?!'

I said yes, The drugs have worked, they've made it all good.

Admittedly when the full compliment of the midlands climbing club arrived in Rathmines to pick me up (Shane was driving) there was still a niggle and I worried that the cold and hanging about might make it worse... when push came to shove though... I didn't care.

We got a last minute call from Shane O Donovan who said he couldn't start his car... The guys did some rearranging of the bags in the back seat and squashed everything into the boot to accommodate Shane.

No man would be left behind!

To my delight, the walk in loosened up everything in my back and I spent the day hopping from one boulder to the next taking photos of all the action.

It was cold, there was a good baltic wind... but most of all - it was dry.

I was so very jealous I couldn't climb, but the banter and seemingly endless activity took my mind off my misfortune and I ended up having a really good laugh with a bunch of boulderers that just love what they do!

Tim and Chris warming up on the 'Pathside Traverse'

When we arrived Tim, James, Diarmuid, Dave, Ped and Jeff (who I just met yesterday) were warming up on Big Jim. and I crossed the river to say hello, and found out that they were pretty much finished there and were headed back to the pathside boulders to see what the craic was.

Chris, Kev, Shane, Shane, Paul, Sean and Juan were warming up around the Egg Boulder and when the lads all came back across the river to join us, the fun seemed to really get going... All the while - it was really damn cold!

Ped... Leading his troop

Kev coming down off the Egg Boulder

Ped off in the Scree

The gang all split off as everyone had different boulders they wanted to try. Diarmuid, Dave and Jeff all went to check out 'Squamish' and it was maybe the only boulder in Glendalough that was damp and seeping. Dave seemed hell bent on giving it a go - but no matter how much chalk he mashed into the wet holds... there was no grip to be salvaged and finally he and Jeff had to give in... there would be no send of that boulder on Christmas Eve.

Not to worry and the lads found this gap between two boulders that they decided would be a fantastic new problem. they tried and tried to squeeze their way through it using knee bars, chicken wings, head jams, but seemed to come away with only scraps and scratches.

They loved it!

Dave told me that the gap was in fact the 'Chimney' he had dared me to try on my first night bouldering session nearly a year ago!! I'd actually never seen it in daylight and memories of a terrifying top out in the pitch black of midnight came flooding back to me!!


There was a short stint on Pascals where the guys lost lots of skin and Kev topped out the stand start. Soon after though, Tim, Diarmuid, Jeff, Dave, Ped and James all had to go...

Tim legging it home

I made my way back over to the others and a session on Superstars had got underway. Shane O Donovan had wanted to finish it off and yesterday, he made very short work of it indeed. The contorted shape of the first move made me wince a little as I thought of the state of my back and how far away from being able to assume that position I was.

Shane topping out on Superstars of BMX (7a+)

The guys tried and tried, and soon settled on leaving it be and heading around the back of the block to try the 'Nu Rails' (6c).

I was packing up my stuff and Sean came along and took a few attempts on the line. He had a few nifty little hand moves that I've not seen used before and he sent the line quickly. Very cool to watch!! I'm psyched to get back on that line when my back is finished it's nonsense.

Sean and I headed around to the Rails Boulder and I took a nice vantage point to get some good shots of the lads catching the opening hold. My favorite photos are the ones of Juan in his christmas jumper!

After the session on the Nu Rails we headed over to the Big Jane Boulder which meant another river crossing. My back had loosened up splendidly well at that point and I had little bother negotiating the rocky rocks and jumps that make up the way across the rushing river. It's always a case of... keep a calm exterior so as not to let the guys know I'm bricking it inside as I step from one poorly angled unstable wet rock to the next, then walk away from the river without looking back as if to further illustrate that it doesn't bother me what so ever!!!


What then began was an onslaught on Andy's Arete (6c). The guys tried and tried, in the rain to hit the stand start and kept being spat off. It's such a frustrating problem for those who are more than 4ft tall.

In the end Shane O Donovan sent it first (I think!) followed by Sean who let out a massive cry of satisfaction when he hit the top. He was having trouble keeping his foot on the stupid little wet crystal and so I told him about Barry's method, which enlists the technique of an unnaturally high foot placement. He gave that a go and exclaimed with delight that it would work!!

He is, I think, the only other person (aside from Baz) I've seen send the problem that way!!

When Sean finished sending Andy's Arete he said something like, ok now I can accept it's raining! The rain had in fact been pouring down in sheets for about 20 mins or so, making the send of Andy's Arete all the more impressive...

Even more impressive still was Michael's send of 'The Groove' (7c) in the rain and the fairly substantial wind!! I asked Chris what grade it went at because I thought - having looked at the ease at which Michael did it, that I might like to project it myself... eh, ok - 7c... maybe next year!!

Michael topping out on The Groove (7c)
Good news for me is, all the anti inflammatories have worked and my back definitely feels good enough to try some bouldering tomorrow... Psyched to get out!!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Today was supposed to be gift.

My new company circulated an email last Tuesday that said we'd be finishing on Thursday instead of Friday. I was over the moon at the prospect of another day's bouldering before Christmas.

Then my slip disc went.

Yesterday evening the pain got so bad, I got myself into a taxi and headed to my doctor. It was a spur of the moment decision and I rang the GP on the way. I arrived and he said it was an acute disc... whatever that means...

He said he was going to give me a couple of injections, and I said 'hang on, injections of what?!'

He said morphine and I said eh, no, explaining to him that I had been taking Neurofen plus pills (as directed on the box) over the previous days. Good job I told him about the codeine in my system...

He sent me off with some drugs that would chill the muscle in my back and stomach which were locked in spasm and said he'd be in touch about organising an MRI next week. I got home last night and took the first dose. Lay down on my couch and fell asleep for 3 hours, woke up and went to bed.

At 13.45 today I woke up. It was a lovely rest but even I am unsure about being asleep for nearly 17 hours. Though I like to gloat about my ability to sleep for 14 hours... 17 seems a little unnatural.

So a third day of lying on the floor is in store for me - and I've only one thing on my mind.

Being well enough to walk into the boulders tomorrow.

My back does seem a lot better today, but today has been stolen from me as I read of bouldering sessions happening, and received an invite to head out to the blocks last night from Naomi - all I can do, is study the carpet of my sitting room and try and get my back, back into shape for some fun tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Annual Waggies Extravaganza (ish)

Dec aptly titled the night.

Boulderers met in Wagamamas last night for a festive Japanese meal. I hadn't been in years and was really looking forward to it!!

I met Dec and the legendary Seamus who, I had been told, built the Co op and on the day it was finished, as he cycled home, and only yards from the board, fell from his bike and smashed his wrist. The story goes down as one of the worst luck tales I've been told!

Great to put a face to the name!

We were soon joined by James, Mark, Dave, Jenny, Paul, Jane, and we all stood around as the staff tried to find a table that would seat the lot of us... we got in the way of everyone and the more we got in the way, the quicker they seemed to want us to sit down!!

Diarmuid arrived in soon after and the banter was brilliant craic.

I challenged Mark to an eating competition... why I don't know... I don't eat much and Mark towers over most people - He's at least 8 foot tall! ;)

Well, I didn't even make it to dessert leaving Mark and Dec most unimpressed!! Mark ordered a dessert wine and the lads all seemed to have cheesecake of some sort. I thought the idea of plum wine for dessert was a great one, so I ordered myself one too.

Rocket fuel.

Dec guessed it must have been about 20% alcohol... so my glass of dessert wine did several laps of the table as everyone helped me drink it!! Very tasty indeed, but went straight to my head!!!

We bailed from Wagamamas and headed towards Keogh's pub and Mark and Dec bought rounds for everyone. We found yet another spot to stand in the way of everyone - but the place was jammed, so the corner we were stood in was a lucky find... though looking back - it was probably clear of people because it was at the top of the stairs!!!

No bother to us though!!!

It was a really lovely evening that lacked only one thing.


We didn't want him to be totally left out of the proceedings though and so Dec called him from Wagamamas earlier in the night and put him on speaker phone in the middle of the table...

He could hear us and we could hear him so Mark took the phone up to talk to him and Tim said 'I knew I shouldn't have answered!!!!'

As I went home last night, getting out of my seat on the Luas, my back twinged big time. I stepped forward and I almost buckled with the pain. I thought it was just the few drinks I'd had, and I was overreacting.

Walking home... had to stop half way and wait for the pain to die down a bit.

Woke up this morning at 5am in crippling pain. managed to get myself organised for work, though I couldn't put my socks on and could only manage to wiggle my feet into a stupid pair of slip ons.

I've had a slip disc since I was 16 and fell on my neck on the trampoline. I slipped the disc in my lower back and sprained my neck all in the one go. It hasn't bothered me in about 2 years, but when it goes, I'm totally out of action.

As I walked my back loosened up marginally on the way into work but when I arrived and sat down, I couldn't get back up again.

They said to go home, and I basically had to tell them I couldn't get up!!

I took a few strong pain killers and about an hour later - I got up and headed home.

I'm now lying on the floor of my apartment...

For the foreseeable future!


Sunday, December 18, 2011


It was really cold today. The wind was blowing.



The roads were icy today and the cars parked along the way were covered in frost.

I strolled out to meet Shane at 8.15am this morning. It was only getting bright when I was leaving, which threw me a little... I don't usually get up until very late in the day at the weekends if I can help it. On Friday night I had slept for nearly 14 hours.


There was a worry in my mind that the boulders, like the cars parked along side the street I was walking down, would be covered in frost.

Kev said that as long as there was a good wind, the boulders would be clear of frost.

On the way down in the car Kev and Shane told me about the very exclusive 'Midlands Climbing Club'. I was intrigued and ask if I could join...

No girls and you had to be from some place called Athlone, or nearby...

This very exclusive club appeared to have only 3 members... Shane, Kev and Paul. I plead my case all day but had no success!!

During the day Tom arrived along and before long the Shane and Kev asked him where he was from... Mullingar he replied...

and he was in!

I said I'd visited Athlone once... which should be in my favour if nothing else?

Before Tom arrived we had warmed up in the ruins and the rock was very cold indeed. My fingers were numb as I climbed my first couple of problems. By the time I was topping out, I just had to trust that my hands would stick... I could feel absolutely nothing.

We had met Shane O D. on the way in and after warming up he began to try 'The Plum' (6a+). As he did it began to rain a bit and it was blamed on me because I called it!!

Note to self... evening if it's actually raining... never say the 'r' word!

Shane easily sent 'The Plum' in the rain and we moved on over to the 'Big Jim' boulder across the river. It was dry when we got there and we all blasted through all of the problems (with the exception of 'Barry's Problem' which I'd like to tick this season but didn't work on today, simply because I couldn't warm my hands up enough).

I struggled with staying warm and some where along the way Shane Mitchell's tooth started hurting him.

Never the less we moved over to Rhythm and Stealth (7a) and all gave it a go. The compression move in the middle is very difficult for me when I can feel my fingers, so the total lack of sensation in my hands saw the line spit me off time and time again. I just couldn't stick the move.

Shane and Shane made good progress. Shane Mitchell has a wonderful technique of a single all or nothing throw to the crimp up high. No messing.

Tom arrived along as we were moving on from Rhythm and Stealth. We headed over to 'Superstars of BMX' (7a+) and Tom stayed around Big Jim for his warm up.

Over at Superstars and Shane Mitchells tooth ache seemed to get worse and worse which left him out of the initial action. While he came to terms with the pain, Kev Shane and I started on the arete beside Superstars - it's an easy warm up, and a good way to get a feel for the boulder.

I was happy-ish with my efforts on 'Superstars' today. I can definitely pull on now, and my right foot is nearly in place each time. I think I might have placed it on the hold once (momentarily) today. Progress is progress and in the world of bouldering, every last bit of progress counts.

Shane looked like he might finish the problem as he slapped for the top once and only narrowly missed out on sticking it.

He pulled on easily each time and it seemed unfair to me that he didn't send it in the end. We all moved on from Superstars when our sides and shoulders couldn't take the pain anymore.

Around the corner to the Nu Rails (6c) and again, I easily made the opening move but my foot slipped because my shoe was wet because it had started to rain again. I never came close to it again, as my energy was spent for the day.

James arrived along in the middle of our 'Rails Boulder' session and admitted to missing the early start because of a 14 hour sleep that he'd had...

It's not just me then! Other people sleep for that long too!!!!

After a good few attempts on the Nu Rails and not before it began to rain again and Shane slipped and cut his ankle and I took a knuckle wrap that left everyone wincing as I was spat off a crimp , we decided to head off.

Shane and James stayed working the problem and me and Midlanders headed off from the boulders of Glendalough.

It was an honour and a privilege to be brought climbing by such a prestigious club.

James divi's up his Toffy-Pops