Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Best Post-Climbing Footwear Ever is More Awesome than You Think

They aren't soled with sticky stealth or otherwise rock-tastic rubber. They dont snug tight with laces or velcro. There's no aggressive down-turned camber. These are straight up classic western boots with a modern twist of style and color. I spent the big bucks last fall on a pair of Ariat Boots hoping to find ideal jeans/skirt/dress footwear. What I ended up with were beautiful purple Showbabys with round Fatbaby toes followed shortly thereafter by Sara's hot-as-hell pink Rodeobaby Rockers. Now... 2 pairs of cowboy boots might seem like a lot for one Little Green House and you're probably wondering what this has to do with climbing so here's the secret: These are THE ultimate post-climbing shoe option. And with two climbing girls in the house we each need a pair, of course.

After a good day on Silent Running, Darrington, WA
These boots are some of the most comfortable, supportive footwear I have ever worn. That they are shiny, sassy, versatile and PURPLE and PINK! is bonus. Well, so what, you say, they're cute but why are these the best post-climbing footwear? Honestly, I prefer flipflops. And my goal is to wear them May through November. Most years I don't make it that far and some mid-summer days in Washington just aren't that warm. But when barefoot just isn't an option, these boots provide a fully covered flipflop feel, but with more support and a style that looks better with a kickass skirt on the way in to the B&G for a G&T.

I have a narrow foot from the mid to the heel, but a wider ball and when I step my arch turns to mush which makes my feet tire out fairly quickly without good support. The width of the round toe Showbabys fits my foot best, but the more classic toe of the Rodeobaby's is also comfortable for all day.

Both pairs of boots are built with Advanced Torque Stability Technology (aka ATS(r)) which is a fancy schmancy way of saying the footbeds of these boots are constructed to provide support and help with better posture. All things I need, especially after a long day in not so comfortable rock shoes. Ariat claims this type of construction also helps reduce fatigue, which I'd support - I can wear them all day without getting achy.

The no-slip rubber soles feel secure and stable on slippery rock at trailheads (or on frosty grass fields while walking Maile the Great). I've come unprepared to hike at the spur of the moment and ended up halfway uphill doing just fine on loose dirt and rock with these boots.

The leather has maintained a well-kept, undistressed look with a little shoe polish help despite the dusty, dirty, muddy conditions I've put them through. They've also been comfortable post-climb in Nevada's foot-swelling desert heat, the City of Rocks in June, and in Washington, well, anytime. I wear them after climbing, all-day at work and they even dressed up my brown wrap dress just fine last year at the AAC's annual "black tie" dinner. Could I ask for a better pair of boots? No.

Yes, I'll be getting a new pair his winter. 3 pairs of boots, excessive? Borderline but some fanaticism is worth it. Y'all git yer own pair now, ya hear?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Less Adds Up To A Lot

Room with a view.
Did we get lazy, or did we realize we were on the wrong road to our respective happy places?

Its really not hard to cross that first possibility off the list. Spend 5 minutes in the Little Green House and, other than the occasional night to veg out and watch Alias, there are few nights during the week that aren't filled with activity and even fewer weekends not packed to the gills.

But every action is a choice. So when did we start choosing to not stay our course of "crushing"? Did we get lazy making excuses because we were just too busy? Maybe it was that tough day back in Leavenworth this spring that left us both a little ego bruised and fearful. Or maybe it was individual personal muck that emerged in spring that - if I can speak for Sara too - rattled nerves and found its way through the cracks to our softer selves. Maybe, over time and with the new perspective we gain each day, we simply realized a number is not what makes happy. (does this sound redundant? I'm sensing a theme here...)

I would like to make a bajillion dollars, but the decent salary I'm paid for a position I worked good n' hard to earn at company I really enjoy working for is more important than any higher paying alternative.

Sure, it would be great to have a bit more stretching room in the Little Green House; at 768sq feet, its smaller than most people's kitchens or garages. But its cozy, comfortable, easy to clean!, has a kickass gear-age, and friends and family feel welcome to come over..whenever.

And yes, I wouldn't mind a couple extra inches to my 5'4" frame, but I duck less often under low tree branches, fit easily on planes, and never feel put out when someone else claims shotgun first.

Maybe less is more? Maybe less = happy...?

Its been a long time since either of us posted. For this first one back, in some ways, I wish I could report that we did make it up Outer Space, Lovers Leap, The Perch and are on our way to the Creek. But we didn't do any of those things. Instead, for me, the summer was filled with plugging gear into 6's and 7's at Smith, finding a new edge in the Sawtooths on a sketchy 4th class boulder field before we even made it to the single pitch of 5th class, and laughing and cursing through my first experience of finishing a climb in the light of a headlamp. It included bailing off of a number of sub-6 routes for milkshakes and pedicures instead. And taking a good friend up his first multipitch route and down his first rappel. All of these, with new climbing partners. Nothing was part of that original plan. And it was all really, really good. So good, it was better than I'd planned.

With fall just beginning, there is no end to good days of rock in the near future. I'm currently in Chattanooga and am eager to try the rock here though I dont anticipate getting on anything above an 8 or 9, sport. Whatever the number, I will be happy and count it as a success as long as its like all those other experiences this summer its somewhere near five point fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011


A couple of Thursdays ago, Teresa and I sat down in the living room for a family meeting. Up for discussion were our weekend climbing plans. The calendar said "Squamish - all on gear" but I was still struggling hard to want to climb at all. The weather forecast wasn't great. It was a long drive. We'd both been burning the candle at both ends, and were wiped out from work and life.

And, this time -- like a year ago when we were making the go / no go decision from a tent in the pouring rain out on the Pacific coast after precious more than two and a half hours sleep -- Teresa pulled the plug on her proverbial camp mat and we packed for Squamish.

The blow was softened by having friends to stay with in Vancouver who helped our weekend feel a lot less like a typical climbing trip and a lot more like a vacation (Thank you, Jason and Ludvina -- the weekend was SUCH a treat). The blow was also softened by the prediction of marginal weather, which reduced our objectives from "all on lead, all on gear" to "climb something" which suited my state much better.

Here's a few of the photos, with more to come.

A highlight...

Starting up Starchek, a run-out, bolted 5.9 at Cheakamus on an airy arete above the river as a party of three. Jason lead the first pitch, then at the belay, Teresa's bold and my pretend bold agreed to swing leads on the next two. Before we'd really thought through the implications, Jason set off to link the next two pitches, then anchored in and pulled up his lead rope.

We wondered, as we got situated for our swinging leads up the next two pitches, if Jason -- our teacher / friend -- had orchestrated that to leave us all alone for a couple of pitches together.

Teresa rocked out the second pitch despite some slabby goodness (her favorite) and exposure (not her favorite) and runouts that she cruised with total calm. I took the third pitch complete with a heady long runout. They were our first multipitch climbing pitches swinging leads, and we both did -- objectively -- great. We got some awesome coaching on anchor technique from Jason, and then Teresa styled the last pitch. It was a lovely warm-up for what turned out to be a lovely weekend.

My last trip to Squamish was marked by a neighboring party's gear-ripping groundfall. One of my climbing partners for the weekend was wilderness medicine trained, and she ran the scene until the pros arrived to orchestrate a helicopter evac.

It's been a long winter of not much climbing after a long last summer and fall of not much climbing. I am not in climbing shape -- mind, or body -- and that's all there is to it. But our recent weekend in Squamish was a blast. I loved the climbing. I even loved the runout lead (once I was safely clipped in to the next bolt). I loved the variety of the routes that we did on toprope ... chimneys, full body movement kind of blocky crack climbing, juggy cracky burly goodness, and a perfect hand and finger crack that helped me remember why I fell in love with crack climbing and started acquiring trad gear and facing my trad gear fears in the first place.

When I feel down on myself for being fearful about gear climbing, and for doubting my ability to keep the commitments I made to T for this summer, I can pep talk myself all I want -- and the bottom line is, it might take me some time to get back at it.

But after wondering aloud a few weeks ago in Leavenworth if ... "Maybe I'm just not a climber anymore..." Squamish helped me remember that whether I lead or not... whether I am "a climber" or not... whether Teresa and I make our goals or change them... what really matters is that I still love to climb. When I take the pressure away, when it's just me, a rope, a great belayer, and a perfect crack or a fun chimney, it's just climbing and I just plain love it.

Yesterday I visited the UW Rock with a friend. I haven't bouldered at all lately, and the routes on the rock have a reputation for being greasy and difficult. Even with an out of shape body, and less than 100% hands, I was in absolute bliss. Climbing even a little, with a bit of sun, fresh air and good company, I was reminded, again, that climbing can be just plain fun. It can be unscary.

And today, I woke up with the tell tale sore obliques, delts, and lats that come with a good little bouldering session. It made me ache to boulder, more, which comes as a surprise even to me -- but a welcome one.

It reminds me that there are seasons to climbing, when I don't do it year round. And this is the beginning of my season, and it's going to have ups and downs, and the downs are worth the bliss.

I stopped in to see friends at the Seattle Bouldering Project tonight to see the progress of their build out -- the last time I was there, the place had been gutted and the climbing walls were only a vision and a drawing. I left with the first member card they issued and am looking forward to their grand opening on May 20th (with hopes of a few sessions before that, if all goes well with their final inspections).

The next few weeks will be a bit of a break from Solo in Tandem... Teresa's on the road for work and then a vacation, and I'm staying closer to home. I'm going to focus on having fun climbing with absolutely no pressure... to see if I can get my body and head back on track through not trying, instead of through trying. Teresa's going to have her own adventures. And when we're both back in town, we'll sit down and plot out the plan for the rest of the summer.

And in the meantime, I can't WAIT to boulder.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The "No Bullshit" Zone

Sara on Twin Cracks @ Classic Crack Wall
This weekend in Leavenworth, Sara and I poured our sweet, winter-softened hearts into the rough, unforgiving, still nearly-frozen granite hoping to find some answers under our raw, abraded skin. We've come to a point on the journey toward reaching our climbing goals where kitchen-table ideals aren't matching the gritty, sharp reality of climbing on real rock. There is no room for fluff. On rock, your in the "no bullshit" zone.

As I stepped into the weekend, I realized its not a matter of can we achieve what we've set out to. We're both strong, competent and, while one of us (*cough...thebrunette...cough*) needs to dust off the cobwebs and remember to manage her tools so as not to be a junk show , I have no doubt we can "succeed." Yes, training and practice help, but strength is no longer the question.

Earlier in the week, questions of our success as a partnership had seeped into my mind. Did we both want the same thing? Could we support the other's dreams without sacrificing our own personal ones? Questions of finding common ground in our climbing partnership flickered in the back of my mind as we drove along HWY 2. Its not that we don't get along. We seem to ALWAYS get along. We get along when we disagree. And we even support one another as we both are learning how shoot it straight and call a best friend we care very much about on her shit without fear of retaliation. We even get along when we're on the receiving end of that calling out of shit.

Slabtastic! Barney's Rubble.
But, despite our similarities, appreciation for each others differences and strengths, care for each others vulnerabilities and fears (especially on rock), I wasn't sure we would make it. We seemed to suddenly want different things for Solo In Tandem.

But then we actually got on that rock. Over the course of the weekend, we placed pro for the first time of the season and got well-deserved sun burns.

I got panicky sewing machine leg on left-trending twin cracks, felt magic on slab, and grunted my way up awesomely angry and wonderful crack that will satisfyingly require a few weeks of healing.

Bestie Climbing Partners
Sara blissed out on a gorgeous twin crack (that same one that caused me panic), had her own mental battle on a bitch of a slab, finessed another with the skill of a ballet dancer, and pushed herself to giggle-inducing limits.

We had lots of time to laugh and soak up the late-day warmth as the sun inched to the horizon. We giggled while working like crazy to start the little fire that could. We offered encouragement and beta, "pulled the weight" when the other needed a mental or physical break, geeked out over Via coffee and ridiculous sleeping bags. And each found our own moments of euphoria. It was in those moments that we realized that our partnership isn't doomed.

 Phew! We are great climbing partners, which is a lucky thing to find in a friend who is also a bestie. We simply needed to remember that, while we do climb well together, each of us has slightly different ambitions and strengths. There's no room to pretend that we dont. Most of the time, it works out. But it's also ok to call big differences what they are and come up with alternate plans so that we can both accomplish our own dreams.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sometimes more solo than tandem

Teresa and I are planning a training weekend in Leavenworth this weekend... a crack here and there has started to show. I’m struggling with motivation in a big, big way. Partly, I’ve been so enjoying my time doing alone things... at my own pace, without having to keep up with anyone else. Alone things feel so different than climbing... climbing has, pretty much, always been about trying to keep up with someone else, or accepting the role of leader and the sometimes welcome pressure of setting the pace for someone else to keep up with.

With Teresa, I really feel that we’re capable of being peers... we climb about the same level; we have a solid base of skills and a really solid grasp of common sense and problem solving; neither of us has to lead or follow; and we have a crapton of fun when we’re out there just the two of us. We just make a really, really good team. And even so, we still have some differences that we are working to reconcile.

I’m struggling to find a place of partnership that is not me doing this for Teresa; that’s not me making commitments or choosing routes or taking trips or climbing pitches because I know that’s what Teresa wants. I’m struggling, hard, to find a place of partnership that is motivated from the inside... to make a commitment to Teresa to join her for routes and trips that I’m genuinely stoked about... that, when we pull the plug on the camp mats at 5am, I’ll be up and at ‘em and ready to climb, rather than laying there wishing for rain.

Partly, I don’t feel like I’m as connected to the “ambition” organ that seems to power most climbers. Climbing is scary and blissful, for me. For me, the baseline is that basic human organism’s natural “WTF” over tying yourself to a rope and setting off up up up something. That’s the baseline at which I can operate right now. I’ve been able, at other times in my life, often motivated by other peoples’ wants and needs, to push myself to accept a higher level of fear in order to achieve someone else’s goal. Once in awhile, I’ve found that motivation and ambition in myself, to achieve my own goal -- although, it’s not lost on me that those times have mostly occurred when I’m climbing with people with whom I do not have a relationship … when I’m a climber and the other person is a belayer and I don’t have as much sensitivity to his or her feelings or needs as I do when I’m connected to my climbing partner by more than just a rope.

I want to climb, I love to climb, but at the first hint of external pressure or expectation or even a request for a baseline commitment from a partner -- which are all a necessary part of climbing for all of us who choose roped routes -- I retreat a little. I feel those familiar sense memories of moving with someone else’s tide -- not because of them, but because of my lack of experience moving with my own -- and hear the voices in my head, of “suck it up,” and “do it for me,” and my own saying “ok, I’ll lead if you want me to,” and the worst, “I don’t care, I’ll do whatever you want.” I feel the unwelcome mix of fear and exhilaration that feed some peoples’ souls, and that leave me just plain exhausted.

The last couple of years, I have become a lone wolf in more ways than I realized. I’m most content, now, in my adventures that are solo -- or -- when the stakes are so low that my partners are not depending on me for their own success. When I get to decide based on my own internal measures whether a certain risk is worth taking, or not worth taking. Maybe that’s just laziness... an excuse. I don’t know. But I do know I’m not the world’s greatest climbing partner right now.

I hate the question, “What does this mean?” because I don’t particularly think there’s an answer... I think that any particular thing that we ask that question about just is, and it’s not about what it means. This quiet day at the kitchen table, I find myself asking... what does it mean for me as a climber, that I want to go have some fun climbing in beautiful places with good friends, and to be outside and push myself in my way, at my pace, but not push myself at someone else’s pace or subject myself to external pressure? What does that mean for me, as a climbing partner?

I guess it doesn’t mean anything. I guess it just is. I guess I will continue to communicate as honestly as possible with Teresa (and my other climbing partners) about what’s going on with me... about where my soft spots and wounds are, and about what I’m genuinely stoked about and what gives me more pause. The funny thing is that it’s not the harder, longer, more committing objectives that give me pause... those are the weekends I’m completely stoked about. It’s just hard for me to get motivated about our training trips, because I know how much adrenaline I burn during those training weekends that aren’t an objective; I know how much fear I face; I know that the prioritization of pushing ourselves vs. having fun is a little bit different for me and for Teresa.

Or maybe, Teresa is right, and we’re both saying the same thing just in different ways when we talk about our training weekends. Maybe I need to quit my yapping and rock climb.

So, we’ll practice this weekend. We’ve got iffy conditions and a plan for two days of climbing (with a compromise stop off to ski a few runs on the way home). I imagine that all this personal angst will be for naught... that we’ll get out there and remember just how much fun we have climbing together. That we’ll each get a little scared at some point, and we’ll help each other through it like we always do. That we’ll find our bliss and come home tired and banged up and happy and remembering why we climb -- individually, and together. And then we’ll pull out the calendar and the guidebooks and start making the ticklist for our next adventure.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Peanut Butter = Climbing Magic

Peanut butter - along with avocados and watermelon - deserves its own food group. I love the stuff. I'm a "grazer", my body functions better with snacks than with big meals and, while I hope to be babelicious on the beaches of Spain next month, I cant resist peanut butter ever, and especially not when I'm out on high-exertion outings. It sticks to my ribs, keeps me from bonking, and eliminates having to eat sugary processed foods. Here are two of my favorite home-made power snacks:

Date thingies
Loni's Date Treats (from a dear friend/kickass climbing inspiration. take one guess what her name is, smartypants)
* 3-4 dates
* Adams crunchy, stir-required, peanut butter (its magic!, has only a few ingredients, and doesnt contain partially hydrogenated oils like most already-mixed PB)
* Pecans

-Slice dates in half, lengthwise
-Spread a small, tsp-sized blob of PB into the inside "reservoir" of the date
-Break a pecan in half, lengthwise and press it into the PB. Voila!
-Store in a baggie or mini-glad tupperware
A bit of healthy sweetness and protein packed into nutty, long-lasting calories = yum

T's Balls of POWER! (shout it, you know you want to!)
* Packet of Jay Robb's chocolate protein powder (or whatever kind you like)
* Honey (i tried it with molasses cause i was out of honey last time; not bad, not great)
* PB (of course)
* Chocolate chips

One ball down, one to be rolled. Delish!
-Dump 1/3 to 1/2 of the protein powder on a plate
-Scoop a small tbsp blob of PB onto a spoon. 
-Use a finger to make a li'l dimple in the PB blob
-Squeeze a tsp dollup of honey into the dimple
-Smoosh 6-12 choc chips into the PB
-Fold outer edges of the PB around the honey/chop chip center so it makes a little ball
-Roll the ball in the protein powder
-Wrap it in a mini-square of plastic wrap
-Put it in a small, snack-sized baggie 
-Depending on the outing/trip duration...i'll eat 1/day on a rock trip, 2+/day climbing Rainier - these saved me on Rainier. Dump remaining protein powder in your oatmeal. 
-FREEZE YER BALLS! (this is key esp. if you're climbing in a warm place - it helps them keep their shape instead of becoming a mooshy - but scrumptious - mess) 
Packed with rib-sticking goodness; slow-energy-releasing protein and some fast-acting, natural sugars

(reposted from a full story on Outdoor Women's Alliance. read more there!) 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And, the video version... Smith Rock, April 2011

Cloud Nine with a Chance of Snow Pellets from Sara Lingafelter on Vimeo.

What I learned from trying to make a little video with Teresa this weekend:
  1. We giggle. A LOT.
  2. We cheer each other on. A LOT.
  3. Maile is the star of the show.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cloud Nine with a Chance of Snow Pellets

We had an amazing weekend of climbing. Still floating on cloud nine, I'm trying hard to temper the feeling just enough to not crash if it fades. And maybe - just maybe - I can keep it simmering on the low-burner to hang onto this goodness for longer than usual.

Sara and I headed down to Smith Rock this past weekend for our second Solo in Tandem outing. While a 12+ hour drive might seem excessive for a 2-day weekend, to me its a small price to pay. Its so refreshingly good to be out there. On the drive back to Bend after climbing Saturday, we both agreed - Smith is one of those special places where we can actually let go of everything that constantly buzzes in our minds 24/7 at home.

Driving down, I was a little worried; rain had been predicted for Saturday. In hindsight, I need to remember that a 30% chance of rain in the high desert is different than a 30% chance of rain in Seattle. What precip that we did get came down in the form of snowflakes and snow pellets - against a backdrop of blue sky and blazing sun. We danced between wearing puffys and wool hats to just jeans, tanks, and sunscreen. That's a battle I'll happily fight again, especially considering it poured at home all weekend.

Heading towards the Marsupials
For whatever reason, its hard to always feel like "me" at home. Its nice to unbury that girl I've hidden under the weight of the day-to-day in places like Smith. The vibe was good, we were surrounded by a great group of friends - new and old. Sending our hardest leads for the season, Sara and I both climbed strong and with calm.

But unfortunately, she got sick. So what started out as a great "tandem" weekend turned "solo" half way through. I wasn't sure I wanted to go solo. But Sunday packed it up and set out with a good friend who's a guide and the woman who flew out from Oklahoma specifically to have him guide her on Smith's warm, orange rock for 5 days. Watching a newer climber learn to use her balance, her feet, her power, was so exhilarating. Do new climbers know that watching their discovery gives us who've been at it for a while bit of renewal for our own love of the sport?

View from the top of the Cave Route
We're home now and its raining tonight. Down booties and fuzzy sweatshirts are the fashion statement in the little green house as we attempt to stave off the cold, kick colds to the curb, and heal slightly shredded fingers. After a 5am wake-up this morning, the effort of the work day has drained me. But it doesn't matter. That feeling is still simmering, I'm at my center having reconnected with all the little parts and pieces of myself, fingertips to toes. Not that I ever lost any of those parts, but sensation kind of disappeared, numbed by the stresses of work and house and life. Being out there, so focused on my projects, with good people I trust, I was given the gift of space and an opportunity to breathe. I couldn't have found that alone (I certainly couldnt have climbed alone). And there's the tandem; I needed that group of friends to have those specific moments to reconnect with the happy, free, eyes-wide girl inside. Its nice to know she is still there even if I lose her every now and then.

Cloud nine. Floating on cloud nine.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

And then there's the non-ass-kicking

Sara here.

I've been pretty mum, since ... well ... Teresa's been kicking her own ass, and I've been sitting. A lot. Writing, some... working, a lot... driving some... but definitely not kicking my own ass. This winter was an intentional time of "rest" for me... letting some injuries heal and stabilize, paying attention (for the first time in several years) to some nagging health things (I'm fine, never fear) and some nagging life things, and indulging my desire to improve my still nascent skiing ability. I've run enough to know I can still run... I've been climbing with Teresa and other friends to work my endurance a bit, but very low key... and I went out for my first shoulder season uphill hoof yesterday and my legs are still very much with me. My lungs and abs will come back, over the course of what looks to be a promising springtime of playing outside. My body has been at its peak of fitness for the last three seasons and this spring, it is not. But, it is healthy, and I am enjoying the play of playing outside instead of the work that's been associated with playing outside the last few years.

I don't have an ass-kicking program (though Teresa has inspired me to do a little more this winter than I would have otherwise)... for me, for the first time since 2009, this year isn't really about ass kicking. It's more about having fun. It's more about finding a place of maintenance, where I can feel both strength and flow (as opposed to the last few years, which have been heavy on the strength). It's about finding the body and pace at which I can look forward to years and years of climbing, rather than working for a body that will let me tick higher on the difficulty scale.

I am looking forward to hiking this spring... to the raspy breathing of pushing a little too hard and a little too fast uphill in the cold, crisp, wet air of the pacific northwest spring. I am looking forward to yoga, to help me maintain my flexibility and my connection with my ability to flow rather than exercising force. I am looking forward to climbing moderate routes with good friends, with whom I may not exercise the ideal style, but with whom I feel safe. I am looking forward to many days on sun-warmed rock with dips in the nearest river afterward.

The car is packed for a too-short trip to Bend this weekend. My fingers are crossed that the weather is a little better than we expect, but either way, we'll have a blast.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Addendum to the Ass Kicking

I can no longer put it off. And I certainly cant hide from it. Its time for my confessional. My training plan has a glitch. A fairly large one.... So much for being perfect.
Self-portrait, OR wall. 10-sec timers are challenging...

It was brought  my attention by my fabulous Solo teammate that I'd forgotten one key part of my training plan. Or at least it was brought to my attention that I didnt understand what part of my training meant: Rest. Yep. Simple as it seem, apparently I dont know what that means. Sara had to lay it on the line... A rest day does not mean mowing the front and backyard lawns, does not mean digging up a fairly large tree, nor does it mean shoveling all the dirt out of and then back into the compost bin. It doesnt mean a hike with the dog. It also doesnt mean cleaning the house, top-to-bottom and then scrubbing all the moss off the roof. Sigh. I guess I had it wrong.

Apparently, the definition of a rest, courtesy of my preferred internet dictionary means:

1. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep: a good night's rest.
2. refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor: to allow an hour for rest.
3. relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. (to this i say "Ha! do you live in the modern world with a job and dead turtles in your backyard?")
4. a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity: to go away for a rest.
5. mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity...
7. cessation or absence of motion: to bring a machine to rest....

–verb (used without object)
15. to refresh oneself, as by sleeping, lying down, or relaxing. (sorry, i dont think i know what this means? in english, please?
16. to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion or labor.
17. to be at ease; have tranquillity or peace...
19. to be quiet or still. (again, je ne comprende pas?)
20. to cease from motion, come to rest; stop.
21. to become or remain inactive....(what?!?!)"

Well. Isnt that interesting? There are a few additional definitions that I did not include, but I think these cover it sufficiently. And blatantly expose my lack of understanding of this simple word and the activity that is supposed to go along with it.

It turns out, my biggest challenge in all of this isn't going to be the bouldering sessions, marathon 20+ lap-to-failure gym sessions, conquering of fear from exposure, longer runs, meditative yoga hours... its the rest that will be the most difficult thing for me to succeed at. I have an old, 1916 house; I have a high-energy dog; I have a job and volunteer obligations; I have friendships to maintain, I have loneliness to battle, I have energy to burn and "shoulds, coulds and woulds" to say no to. What I dont have - or dont allow myself - are times to truly rest. Prepare for the breakdown because this is going to be my true test of mental and physical strength - to resist continuous movement. Give me 50 push-ups! Not an afternoon to fill with..... quiet.

And so I'm revising the plan. Here it is, with revisions. Phew. Am I being a wuss? Or am I finally, as my dear friend Sally would say, "pushing it up" (in lieu of sacking up) and taking on the true challenge?

Now, who wants to join me for few hours of bouldering OR a rest session??

PS - As you can see in the photo, I've been wearing a pair of hand-me-down-lite Evolv XY custom's that I got from Sara. I never thought I'd go back to more "aggressive", velcro shoes - it turns out I have dainty feet with bunionettes... but I'm in love.  Built on the Elektra womens-specific platform, they've got good grip for pulling and toeing in, are comfortable enough to get through a session of 4x4's without agony, and easy off for a break to do crunches and pull-ups. Every shoe has a different last, but when it comes to performance, if these fit your foot, I highly recommend them. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Higher Gear

Alright. No more distractions. No more excuses. "Its too cold," "there's too much snow," "I'm tired," "I should be writing/cleaning/entertaining Maile the Great"...are no longer valid reasons for skipping out. Its time to kick my own ass and get moving. You see, I've got this beautiful machine that carries my mind, heart, and spirit to all the incredible places I want to go to in this world. And, the machine wants to move. Time to shift into a higher gear.

After, oh, I dunno, maybe 3 weeks, of thinking about it (aka lazy procrastination), I've completed my first training plan for this year's climb-o-rama. Time is flying faster than snow falling in our hills these days. Before long, the season will be in full swing. So, here 'tis, y'all. I cant wait to wake up with that familiar, lovely ache in my muscles again, and feel the glow of strength being built.

Yes, strength is important for hanging on in sketchy situations. Despite being a burly girly (in a past life, i'm pretty sure i was a hawaiian rock hauler who built heiau/temples), I know I cant rely on brut force alone. I need strong cardio and endurance to get me to the base of a climbs and to sustain strength through long days and routes. I need a sound, grounded mind to keep my head cool in airy situations that take my breath away. And, I need flexibility in body and mind to adapt to the terrain and conditions we come across. This plan is my attempt to work all of these aspects.

Included in my plan:
  • Hal Higdons free 12-week training schedules for half and full marathons. Whatever your distance, I highly recommend these (along with a running buddy for long, long runs). Hal has helped me complete 5+ half's and a marathon in '09.
  • Drills from friends in the twitterverse. Thanks jrmontag, TaxNerdAtPlay, and The Climber Girl for suggestions. Have one? Send it to me. (I have not read Eric Horsts books yet, but they come highly recommended. As soon as SPL has them ready at my library, I'll start reading and adding his suggestions in.)
  • Practicing yoga on-and-off the past 3 years, I've developed tools for maintaining mental peace and strength in addition to building physical strength. Eiric Ovrid of Yoga on Beacon, has been an amazing instructor for me -or teacher's assistant as he would prefer to be called- helping me to discover my own "teacher within". Whatever my mood, however much energy I have or lack, whatever my challenges are, I leave his class with an elevated feeling of calm, possibility, and optimism. As he says, "Its not good, its not bad, it just is."
    Maile the Great is a fan of OR's new climbing wall.
  • I'm lucky to work for a company that supports my "play." The new climbing wall at Outdoor Research is going to be a big part of my training ground, in addition to our workout room and proximity to the Seattle waterfront for lunch-time runs. 
    Wish me luck or better yet, join me now and again; I'm fueled by encouragement and camaraderie and would love your company. To quote a Sara-ism, "Shitballs."  This is going to hurt so good. Off I go.

    PS - music is key for me and training/working out. My dear friend Rachelle just sent a kicking mix-CD to get me moving and Kevin Rudolf's "Let It Rock" is my current fave (I havent figured out how to share this in a prettier way than the link, let me know if you want it).

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Opening Day

    Teresa and I finally moved the skis aside to dig out our climbing gear last week... we started with a quick night of bouldering, abs, and slackline fun at the Outdoor Research bouldering wall, which is likely to be our "Home Gym" this season until the Seattle Bouldering Project opens. I have to admit... I'm a bit burned out on the existing gym scene. Partly, it's geography -- now that I live and work south of the city, it's hard to get stoked to drive north to Ballard. Partly, I miss the climbing family I had out in Bremerton, and my feeble efforts to settle in at a Seattle gym just haven't "taken" yet.

    When the weather report for the weekend predicted rain for the ski areas, we tentatively started talking about the possibility of a little drive out to Vantage. As the weekend approached, and the forecast held: Saturday, temps in the 40s, low chance of rain, partly sunny... a gamble on Vantage's weather became more and more attractive.

    Saturday, February 5th -- a full month earlier than my typical Vantage season opener -- we got an excited but not super early start. I honestly thought we'd be taking our gear for a drive... I've had freezing cold days at Vantage in March, and when it was still drizzling past Ellensburg, our odds didn't look great. Luckily, we had an iPod full of tunes and the two of us never seem to run out of topics of conversation even after living in a little house together for nearly a year... so the drive went fast, with little attention to the weather. I realized -- while still driving east, before even reaching our climbing destination, I already felt my climbing bliss. My eyes were relaxed and happy, and my smile exactly where it belonged.

    When we reached the Columbia River and the weather was dry, my visions switched from rain and cold, to a vision of Sunshine Wall covered in climbing parties, with line-ups for the moderate routes I hoped to warm up on. I can, on occasion, be a bit of pessimist in my secret head, I guess.

    An aside. If you don't like dogs, this might not be your blog. Maile the Great is likely to feature prominently in this one, since she's -- by far -- the most photogenic of the bunch (no offense, Teresa -- but you and I both know it's true). not offended, its totally true, just look at that face! she's model material -teresa

    Maile did a happy dance for all three of us when we pulled into the nearly empty parking lot. The ground was soaked from recent rains, but Sunshine Wall and the other backside crags generally dry fairly quick thanks to frequent windy days and nights on the Columbia River Gorge side of the climbing area.

    After a two-girl effort to help Maile through the Dog Catcher -- a notoriously not dog friendly downclimb on the trail to the back side crags -- we found ourselves looking out over a dry, clearing, warm-enough-to-take-our-gloves-off day at one of my favorite, most underrated climbing walls in Washington.

    Yes, it's crumbling columnar basalt.

    Yes, it gets used and abused by far too many climbing parties of various levels of skill and style.

    Yes, it can be can't-hear-your-belayer-crap-the-rope-is-stuck windy.

    But on a good day, Sunshine Wall is a little bit of heaven.

    And we happened to be blessed with a Good Day.

    We spent the whole day on 5.8s and 5.9s, each of us taking a turn on lead and also working our currently-non-existent endurance with long pitches on top rope. While we've been friends for a year (Happy Anniversary, T!) this marked only our second time ever climbing outside together, and served as a well-timed reminder, for me, of the best parts of climbing.

    Teresa and I climb without pressure, and with fun. We support and encourage each other; we are quick to praise, and more patient with each other than the average bear when the going gets hard. We pace ourselves. We crack jokes. We coach each other and sing through hard parts of climbs (Me: Extraordinary Machine, by Fiona Apple. Teresa: Just Breathe, by Pearl Jam). Teresa wants me to add that her favorite song of all time is Bryan Adams "The Summer of 69." (please dont hold this confession against me -teresa) Now, Teresa is having an in-depth conversation with Maile about what HER favorite song is.

    The verdict: If there were a song about squirrels, that would be Maile's favorite.

    Back to climbing.

    I am blessed to have a short list of the world's greatest climbing partners, and even more blessed to get to reside with one (and her little dog). From start to finish, this year's season opener was one of those absolutely perfect days I dream about at Vantage. Calm climbing. No pressure. Lots of laughter. No crowds. The sound of quickdraws clanking against each other. Clear views. Climbing without a jacket on. Maile chasing bugs.

    And sunshine.

    If our season opener was any indication, it's going to be a great year.

    How are you starting your season? Share your season opener in the comments. And, don't miss any of the action. We're live on Facebook and Twitter!

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Puxatony Phil Says So

    I don't know if we jinxed the ski season with all our talk of and goal-planning for climbing; maybe we did. Maybe we pissed li'l miss Nina off with our chit chat of things to come in warmer weather when she wanted the show to be about big snow. Or maybe she just really prefers to play with the folks out East rather than us in the PNW. Either way, I don't mind. My skis are already back in the garage. Because, despite what the calendar says, it's spring. And it's time to go climbing. Puxatony Phil said so. I couldn't be happier if you wrapped spring up in a beautiful, lacy new brassiere with a side of wine and chocolate and a sexy sailor to go along with it too and sent me on my way. It's Climbing Season!!

    Since my bud, Pux. Phil said it, and since we were both desperate to climb even if we didn't know it, today we kicked it off. The two solo's of Solo in Tandem officially have blood coursing through their climbing veins again. Halle-fricking-lujah.

    Utilizing the amazing new bouldering area at my work, Outdoor Research, we maxed out; sweaty, with arm shakes kind of maxing out. It felt amazing; I haven't been this sore or in this good of a mood in too long. But it made me realize that, to reach the goals I've made for myself and committed to with Sara, I need to get diligent and busy about this training biz. Training for me needs to be laid out day-to-day and week-to-week. When I ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in '09, the keys to me crossing of that finish line were having a good training schedule and having a fantastic, encouraging teammate. And I already have the teammate. So tonight, I'm putting a training schedule together.

    Having strength, skill, time and endurance goals along with cross-training will be key. I know there will be days that I don't complete my planned workout. That's ok. There will also be days that I'm so jazzed on what I'm doing, that I'll do more. Remembering to rest is another important part of the plan too. Time to get me on my feet and get focused.

    Fueled by an invigorating, inspiring, and a "holy-crap-i've-missed-this-so-much" feeling, I'll be putting together my first "program" tonight in the Little Green House. I'm shooting for 4 weeks first, see how it starts and go from there. I'm a little nervous since I've never set out climbing training this specific before, but I'm excited. I'm excited to share them too and get feedback. (friends, I've just opened the door for ya, feel free to speak up and share your thoughts.)

    Tonic with lemon is poured. Computer on (obviously). Queue Sex and the City Season 4 - its a great "soundtrack" for the background.

    And I'm off!

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Let's Go Hunting

    I stumbled upon this poem by Hafiz of Shiraz in Daniel Ladinsky's The Gift last night. It seems remarkably right-on for Solo in Tandem...

    Hunting party
    Sometimes has a greater chance

    Of flushing love and God
    Out into the open

    Than a warrior

    We are all strong huntresses (and hunters) of rock though we accomplish so much more when we are part of this incredible tribe - even when we go it solo.

    So, lets go hunting. 'Cause I'm starting to get hungry and my diet has been too lean on granite and sandstone lately.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    We're not alone, we're together.

    "What I realized last night as we were all sitting and spewing our hearts out, was that for us, as women, being together is our solo. When else do we get that kind of space for ourselves? When else can we talk freely, honestly, and not fear interruption or ridicule? When else can we sit under the stars, and just be, not 'alone' -- you know, the way men see us when we're without them -- but together? We're on solo from our lives as women. And we love it."
    - From We Are Not Alone, an essay by Alison Watt, in Solo On Her Own Adventure

    We're women. And we like men a lot. We both owe a tremendous debt to the men in our lives... the dads who pitched canvas tents in the yard for us to sleep in during summer nights and who dragged us out camping and hiking when we were surly teenagers.

    The dad who, when Teresa went to go bike around the Big Island of Hawaii, pulled her aside and told her how proud he was, and that he'd always wanted to do something similar but never did.

    The dad who, during a rare late night phone conversation, told me that he'd always dreamed of climbing Mount Rainier, and was so incredibly proud of me for doing it.

    Men have played a part in each of our lives as climbers. Of the partners, friends, and teachers who have been most influential in our climbing lives, many of them are men. And to them we owe a debt of gratitude for the influences they've had. In climbing, and in life.

    And, that said, this year is about climbing with other women.

    Hopefully our manfriends will forgive us... hopefully you men listening to our story won't feel left out... but we've both spent a lot of time cleaning gear and a little time placing it, and we're really excited about working together to learn to be more independent as climbers. Somehow, climbing together, and with other women, feels like the right way for us to work toward our goals.

    (a side note: again, manfriends, I hope you wont be offended. I have learned so much from you. For whatever reason, when it's just the girls climbing is not only a team sport, or about providing the support to get my partner where they want to go. But it's also an individual activity. Climbing with the girls, I feel less like a tag-along - I climb for me, I climb in pursuit of my goals, while climbing with my girls too. It's not mutually exclusive. I can't say why it's different, that's for Psychology Today to analyze, it just is. ~Teresa)

    There's so much emphasis in adventure culture on doing things alone. Epic solos. Solo travel. And that growth and evolution only come from time spent alone.

    We've both done stuff alone. And it's been great (mostly). (and we're good at doing stuff alone ~T) And we'll do other stuff alone. But this year, we're going to do stuff together and with our other amazing woman friends. To learn -- together -- how to be independent. We'll travel Solo in Tandem.

    2011: The Year of Big Ideas

    Teresa and I met for the first time sometime around the beginning of 2010, at the Season launch party hosted by our mutual friends Fitz and Becca. Our paths crossed again later that spring at the Red Rock Rendezvous. I was ... um ... between residences at the time, and Teresa had a room for rent. We've been friends, housemates, and adventure partners ever since.

    When Becca called to ask if we'd be interested in sharing a story for the Dirtbag Diaries Year of Big Ideas 2011, it seemed the perfect chance to talk for the first time about what we've been cooking up around the kitchen table for the last few months.

    We'll unveil all the details in the coming months, but for now -- here's a little bit of inspiration for your year of big ideas in 2011. We're tucked in there somewhere, sharing the nuggets behind Solo in Tandem.