MSR boulder 2012
What can i say. It was hot in the climbing gym last night #gunsout #bouldering #training #rockclimbing #gym

What can i say. It was hot in the climbing gym last night #gunsout #bouldering #training #rockclimbing #gym

Competition training, training and more training

A couple of months ago I really caught the bug for indoor bouldering competitions. As someone who has predominantly climbed outdoors I really thought that I’d never get too involved with indoor climbing. But I think I just love the tactics, the skill and the precision behind competition climbing. So to aid this I thought I’d get a little bit of help in the form of some coaching from Tom Lloyd at my local bouldering centre RockOver Climbing.

I’ve never had any sort of coaching to raise my climbing game but I felt it necessary to pick up some useful insight on competing.

The first coaching session went really well and Tom took me through the tactical side of competing. We also identified a few of my weaknesses: mainly my lack of power-endurance or the ability to create maximum power for sustained periods of time. So power endurance training twice a week was added to my ‘homework’ before the second session. It was a massive shock to the system during the first week or so, but after that I really started to see some small gains in my power endurance, especially on the overhanging problems.

This first coaching session also taught me some vital skills about reading boulder problems and pacing and ordering problems. After all, the way to get maximum points in a competition is to complete a problem on the first attempt.

In between the coaching sessions I’ve been setting my own ‘Mock Comps’ and I must admit they are really helping. My scores are rising slightly each time and I’m setting harder competitions as the weeks go on.

Session 2 of coaching was hard! I was given a number of ungraded problems to complete in a limited number of tries. I didn’t do very well. I felt knackered after the first few attempts and was falling off all over the place.

After this we identified a few technique weaknesses (my footwork being the main one). Then it was more ‘homework’. This time it came in the form of a brutal fingerboard regime to add into my training schedule. Thanks Tom!

I’ve seen a few gains already from the fingerboard sessions and it’s early days yet. So I’m feeling positive about my final coaching session. My overall ability has improved drastically over the past 3 months so all the hard work seems to paying off.

Photo by Kat Loveday

Homemade dairy and wheat free treats

Here’s a couple of brilliantly quick and easy dairy and wheat free snacks that I’ve been making recently. I tend to take them on long days out climbing or even down to the climbing gym for a mid-session energy boost.

Chris’ power flapjack

First up is a dairy and wheat free flapjack that I’m labelling as “Chris’ power flapjack”. Mainly because it’s a great mix of protein, good fats and carbs. The pumpkin seeds and peanut butter supply the protein and fats and the apricots and sultanas provide the sugar (as does the golden syrup and sugar of course). They’re really quick and easy to make and I even bagged myself 3rd place in a recent office “Bake-Off” with them. I was pipped off the top spot by a cheese and onion pie and a coconut cake!

Ingredients (makes 12-16 Squares)

  • 150g/dairy free spread
  • 100g of soft brown sugar (or Demerara sugar)
  • 2 teaspoon of peanut butter (I used the whole-nut variety)
  • 1 tablespoon of golden syrup (This can be adjusted to taste and to diet, as I don’t like my flapjacks too sweet)
  • 150g of apricots and sultanas
  • 50g of pumpkin seeds
  • 225g of porridge oats
  • 1tsp of vanilla essence

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C (150C for fan oven) / Gas mark 3.
  2. Melt the spread with the sugar and golden syrup in a pan or microwave
  3. Stir in the apricots, sultanas and pumpkin seeds and the vanilla essence 
  4. Mix in the oats until they are coated with the wet mixture
  5. Pour into a greased baking tin and compact down with a fork. You want the flapjacks to be around 3cm in depth.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown
  7. Cool in the baking tin for 5-10 minutes before slicing into squares with a knife.
  8. Turn them out of the baking tin when they are completely cool, as they tend to break apart if they are still warm.

The Raw Brownie

It’s is a bit of a strange concept I know. I first read about this recipe on a raw food blog called Oh Lady Cakes. They only consist of a few ingredients and no baking. They are so tasty and free of any added sugars or fats. So they’re pretty much a guilt free treat I’d say. The main ingredients are dates, walnuts and cocoa powder.

Ingredients (Makes around 20 bite size squares)

  • 170g of whole walnuts
  • 450g of Medjool dates, pitted (dried dates work just as well)
  • 125g of cocoa powder. Use a good quality dark version
  • 70g of whole or ground almonds
  • A pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Place the walnuts into a food processor and blend on a high setting until they are finely ground.
  2. Add the cocoa powder and salt. Pulse until they are combined.
  3. Add the dates one at a time to the food processor while it’s running. You should end up with a mix that looks a bit like cake crumbs, but when pressed, will easily stick together. If the mixture does not hold together then add more dates.
  4. In a large bowl mix the date/walnut/cocoa powder mixture in with the ground almonds.
  5. Press into a lined baking trade. Place in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to eat them. They are easier to cut when cold.
  6. Dust with a little cocoa powder and enjoy. 

Climbing in Spain was an amazing experience. I didn’t really know what to expect, having never even been to the country let alone climb on its rocks.

The climbing was excellent; interesting, sharp, painful, varied. I climbed tufas, cracks, edges and everything in between.

My trip lasted 10 days which flew by. My climbing partner Dan and I stepped off the plane in Alicante, picked up our hire car (the manliest of cars – a tiny, red Fiat 500) and drove to The Orange House. We dumped our bags there and went straight to the closest crag Sella. Tired from being up since 3am we thought we may as well tie in and do some easy climbs to get to know the rock.

Day two was also spent at Sella. This time we had a full day at our disposal. And I soon discovered how sharp the rock in the Costa Blanca can be. The weather wasn’t particularly on our side, as we had a sudden downpour whilst we were on some easy warm-down routes. Dan bore the brunt of this when it suddenly started raining hard as he was halfway up a 25metre polished crack climb. Within a few minutes however the rain had passed and the rock seemed to dry very quickly indeed.

I spent day three at the sun trap that is Alcalali. It was busy due to a Spanish bank holiday but we managed to climb some really beautiful climbs (Yorkshire Lads: 6b and Windle Poons 6c).

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Tufa climbing at Alcalali.

The first and only rest day came on Day four. We spent the day amongst the American tourists in Guadalest and then took to the beach at Benidorm. Benidorm is so hideous and tacky. The beach was quite pleasant though.

Back to the climbing action on Day 5. And the second trip to Alcalali to bag the 3 star 7a climb called “Akram the Terrible”: a fun line involving a big dynamic lunge that was right at the full extent of my arm span. A pretty successful day all-round really. Climbing all day in the sunshine always brings a smile to my face.

On day 6 we conquered the mighty 1000ft Penon de Ifach. We chose the classic “Costa Blanca” route: a nice, fully bolted, 7 pitch 6c+. The last pitch was the 6c+ and involves a wild swing out of a cave with only seagulls and wind to keep you company. I’d recommend this route to everyone. I know it’s not some epic traditional route but it still felt like a mini adventure.

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Pitch 7 on Penon de Ifach. Just after exiting the cave.

Day 7 was a bit of a none starter at Echo Valley. It was about 24 degrees and way to hot and polished for any hard climbing. A bit of a wasted day but my body was already hurting from the from the previous day’s climbing.

Back to Sella on Day 8. I bagged the 7a “La Cosa” and then ran out of time and steam whilst trying the 7a+ next to “La Cosa”. Quite a nice day and it wasn’t too hot.

We met my friends James and Caroline on day 9 and just went to do some chilled out climbing at Pena Roja and Alcalali. Didn’t really get much done but it was nice to hang out with them and chat to some Spaniards.

We climbed the amazing “Parle” on the sea cliffs at Toix on day 10. An easy route but one that began with a 55metre free abseil through a hole in the ground. Straight down to the sea below. Pretty epic. This was followed by a few single pitch routes on the main crag at Sierra de Toix; where I cut my finger open quite badly on a route. Not good.

The final day allowed us just 2 hours to go and climb a couple of projects that we’d eyed up at Alcalali. For Dan it was a beautiful tufa climb. And for me it was the 3 star “Heaven Can’t Wait”. Dan unfortunately failed to climb his route cleanly and I didn’t do much better! I tried to on-sight my route but got confused half-way up. I Sand-bagged my way to the top but then had no more time to try and climb it clean. So we had to then rush to the airport to leave for the cold weather of England. Next year I’ll be back on it, as it was an amazing route with some great moves.

I’ll hopefully be back next year to Spain and will be climbing harder than ever over the next coming months, as my trip abroad has really fuelled my passion and enthusiasm for the sport. Now all I need to do is plan out my next trip for 2013. Fontainebleau maybe?

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I think the cheesy smile sums up my trip really. Amazing fun and so rewarding.

 

España in 5 days time.

Less than one week to go until I’m jetting off to Southern Spain for some Costa Blanca rock climbing action.

The training is therefore tapering off this week. I’ll be doing two indoor climbing sessions and possibly a fingerboard session. And after sticking rigidly to my training plan I’m glad to be taking a couple of days off at the end of this week before heading out to Spain. I will also be eating really well this week and might even throw in a bit of carb-loading 48 hours before the trip so that my energy levels are nicely topped up. Perfect, an excuse to eat lots and lots of food!

I’m climbing the best I’ve ever climbed at the moment. So all the training must be paying off. But we’ll see what happens in Spain, as I’ve only managed to get out climbing on real rock a handful of times this year. And only one of those occasions involved sport-climbing.

 On a negative note, I have developed some quite painful knots in the middle region of my back. This led to me having a rather painful sports massage last week, which seems to have done some good. Tim from Global Therapies worked on my back for an hour and despite causing me an incredible amount of pain during the massage I think it’s done me some good.

After the massage I bought a hard rubber ball that I can lie on and do a bit of self-massaging. It seems to be working, but quite slowly. The good news is that the back pain isn’t affecting me when I’m climbing. It only starts to hurt when I rest. So I guess the solution is to keep climbing and don’t stop?

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My first sport climbing trip of the year (in February) wasn’t entirely successful. I had troubles with route finding due to spending too many hours climbing indoors.

Wheat and Dairy Free Cookie Recipe

It’s always hard to treat yourself when you have food intolerances. I always feel really guilty if I eat anything with wheat or dairy in, no matter how small the food is.

So when I find a recipe that sounds like a nice guilt free treat then I usually have to try it out.

This one involves the use of chickpeas, stay with me here because they actually taste surprisingly nice. Also, chickpeas are a great source of zinc and high in protein so they make a great post-exercise snack.

My friend Lizzy showed me a great website that has some really nice and simple recipes on. Some are even wheat free. The website is called Texanerin Baking and worth checking out.

To make 12 cookies. (approx 6cm in diameter)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin of Chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 165 grams of whole-nut peanut butter or almond butter.
  • 80 grams of honey (I used golden syrup and it worked just as well)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (you can buy gluten free baking powder from most supermarkets)
  • 90 grams of dried fruit pieces. The original recipe called for chocolate chips. I made half the cookies with dried fruit for me and half with chopped up Terry’s Chocolate Orange for my house-mate. Anything goes really.

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 175°C / 350°F. Combine all the ingredients, except for the dried fruit/chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth.
  2. Stir in the dried fruit/chocolate chips. The mixture should be very thick and sticky.
  3. With wet hands, form into 4cm balls. Place onto a greased baking tray or parchment papered tray. Press the balls down slightly to form cookie shapes. Bake for about 10 minutes.

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Ok so mine came out a bit “rustic” looking. But they tasted great.

Rejuvenate… and Climb On!

Products that keep you climbing even when your skin says “no”!

Last weekend I managed to get out for two days of grit stone bouldering. The weather was glorious and the conditions were great. If you haven’t climbed on grit stone before then I highly recommend it. Beautifully sculptured rock, amazingly complex boulder problems and interesting top-outs make for some great bouldering and traditional climbing experiences.   

But be warned, grit stone has a tendency to ruin the skin on your hands and more specifically your fingertips. The skin on the fingertips gets worn down by the sandpaper like texture of the stone making them quite painful and very sensitive. Do not attempt to hold a cup of hot tea after bouldering on grit stone!

Skin naturally regenerates by itself, as skin cells are constantly being ‘born’ all over the body. There is a wealth of products out there that claim to speed up this process and a few are aimed at outdoor sports enthusiasts. Over the past few months I’ve been using the two most popular brands:  Climb On! and ProBalm. My local climbing gym RockOver sells both which has made it convenient for me to try out both.

I usually apply a skin repairing product before I go to bed at night and also twice throughout the day whilst at my desk in work.

Climb On!
This is the first skin repair product that I bought. I was a bit sceptical after a friend described it as being “a bit of a gimmick but hey it might work”. But I’m pleased to say that it does work!

Its all-natural ingredients; beeswax being the most prominent, are kind to the skin and offer sweet relief from abrasive indoor and outdoor climbing sessions. It soaks into the skin quickly without leaving your hands greasy. I even use it on chapped lips, which is handy for those cold winter days.

Probalm
Firstly, from a purely aesthetic point of view (I am a graphic designer after all) Probalm’s branding grabs my attention much more than Climb On! It’s also better value for money. At RockOver the ProBalm is £1 more expensive than Climb On! but you get double the amount.

ProBalm has in my opinion a more pleasant smell than Climb On! This could be due to the Jojoba Oil and Grapeseed Oil contained within it. The only downside to this is that I find my hands are left quite greasy for an hour or so after application. It could just be that ProBalm doesn’t absorb into the skin as much as Climb On! It does repair the skin quite well overnight but the lack of fast absorption means that it rubs off your hands quickly during the day if you’re chained to your computer like me.

We shall see what happens on my trip to Spain in a couple of weeks which will involve long climbing sessions, day-after-day. Both products will get heavily used between my climbing partner and me so hopefully they’ll live up to expectations.  

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Ouch: My hand after a particularly harsh indoor bouldering training session.

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3 weeks until my trip to Spain!

I now have 3 weeks until I make my first ever trip to Spain for a climbing holiday. I say holiday, but there’s probably not going to be much sun-bathing and cocktail drinking. I’ll be there to climb as hard as possible!

I’m off to the Costa Blanca and staying at The Orange House with a couple of friends. I can’t wait for some sunshine, good food and most importantly some time off work!

Over the past 3 months I’ve been building up my finger strength and technique by training as much as possible. I felt that my finger strength was really holding me back from improving my climbing. My climbing has improved so much over the past 3 months. It’s amazing when all of the training is pays off. 

Now, 3 weeks before the trip it’s time to ramp up the training in order to really make the most out of the trip.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’ll be doing for the next 3 weeks with regards to training. I work full-time so my training is done after work and at the weekends.  

Monday:
5-10km running
45 mins of light fingerboard training
20min core workout.

Tuesday:
4 hours of indoor Sport-climbing. Focusing on power endurance improvement.

Wednesday:
1hour of fingerboard training focusing on finger strength and power.  

Thursday:
30min Pilates during my lunch-hour at work
2.5 hours of indoor bouldering. This is broken down into 1 hour of power training and 1.5 hours of power endurance training and campus training.

Friday:
A much needed rest day.

Saturday:
5km morning run
6 hours of indoor sport-climbing focusing on power endurance improvement.

Sunday:
3 hours of mountain biking
1 hour of fingerboard training.

The aim is to work as hard as possible up until 3 days before my trip. I’ll then take it easy and do a bit of cardio work on the final 3 days whilst eating well. I should hopefully then be as fresh as possible for the trip.

I’m starting to put together a tick list for my trip. I’m a complete newbie to Spanish climbing so am open to any recommendations for routes and crags. Find me on twitter @Chris_J_Seed and let me know about any routes that I need to do whilst I’m out in the Costa Blanca.

Fuel for the intolerant

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A couple of years ago I discovered I was intolerant to dairy and wheat. Although it was nothing too serious I decided to take the leap and made drastic changes to my diet in order to alleviate some of the discomfort I was experiencing on a daily basis.

I take my sports pretty seriously, I love nothing better than being down at the crag or road cycling around the beautiful English countryside. Taking this much exercise however takes its toll, and as any athlete will tell you staying properly fuelled will keep your performance at its peak.  

My wheat and diary intolerance started to become a bit of an issue when it came to staying energised for my sports. I can’t reach for a big bowl of pasta or flapjack like most people. I find the energy gels too expensive and quite frankly a bit vile, and there is a limit as to how many bananas one person can consume on a 6 hour climbing session or an 80 mile bike ride.

What I was really looking for was something solid and tasty that could provide me with the nutrition I needed to keep my energy levels up during a good work out but that was free of gluten and lactose. 

Wheat and dairy intolerances are pretty common these days, but you’d be surprised how little products there are out there suitable for someone with these allergies. I’m going to share on this blog some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way and encourage any other allergy sufferers to let me know their tricks too.

About a year ago I stumbled across 9bars. These snack bars made up of seeds, soya and vegetable fat instead of the usual chocolate, flour and butter you see in so many cereal bars.

As well as being packed with simple carbohydrates for fast acting fuel, the 9bars include around 10grams of protein (depending on the variety of bar). The protein contained in the nuts and seeds help with recovery of muscle tissue, which for me is a massively important factor, as it means that I can train for longer and recover between sessions.

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I’ve participated in a few cycling sportive events where 9bars were offered at the re-fuelling stations. Combined with fruit and water the bars gave me some much needed fuel to get me through the rest of the event whilst racing against my younger brother. I beat him! 

9bars are approved by the Coeliac Society so I know they are kind on my allergy ridden system, added to that they’re easy to open up with cycling gloves!

Images from Lizzy Holroyd