Saturday, July 24, 2010


After a day of whining and moaning over my pulled muscle, spent largely behind this laptop looking at Yahoo’s news section for the 30th time, God spoke to me through the Devil himself, and the Devil’s name is Mark Twight.

This is the last time this blog has my pen until I am reconciled with the Devil himself, however long that may take

Sunday, July 4, 2010

How Bad You Wanna Climb (and is the wife ok with it)?

If you live in the Midwest, there has to be a reason. It could be your job, your family, or it could be you have just dropped climbing, and living near the mountains fell off the priority list. Some of you may be like an Iowan surgeon I know who has never dropped his commitment to climb, and trains religiously in his barn that he converted to a rock gym and ascending the huge trees around his property. But most people who wander into Midwest Mountaineering after years away from the game have had other things settle into that space out back in their priorities where climbing once resided, and like all roots in the black dirt of the Midwest, they grow deep. And why shouldn’t they? Good jobs, strong marriages, children you love more than life itself…its all there to make life as wonderful as it is.

But aggressive climbing, as you remember it, requires a level of commitment much like unto surgery, consuming your life to a certain extent, and it has a similar divorce rate. So is it possible to become anything more than an REI-clad guy trudging around the rotten rock quarry looking for someplace to hang a top-rope without dumping your marriage and/or the Midwest? I am convinced it is, and guys like Steve Edwards, one of my personal heroes, is living proof.

It starts by establishing where you want to be, and in what timeframe. Why is P90X so dang successful in its marketing? Its because it infomercials the end result. What needs to take place is an infomercial in your head of the leanest and meanest you, and how much you are willing to pay to get there. For me it has been a stepwise process of brutal honesty, and putting myself in places that would painfully dig out of me what I really am willing to make happen. The Ruth Glacier this last May was the pivotal piece of that process, taking me out of anything I do normally and thrusting me into what I have been telling myself and everyone I know that I want to do with my free time someday. There is no escape from that atmosphere, and taking a break in the tent only makes the avalanches sound louder. At the end of that trip there was no doubt in my mind that I was committed again to climbing, and the freedom that came from that realization put the smile on my face that made my wife willing to let me do that trip again. I also knew and understood that I needed to dump another 15 pounds and to do some real work on multi-pitch big-wall if I am going to take it where I want to go.

With the right vision in mind it all becomes details. Raw cardio is a must, and it happens about four times per week, preferably before dinner. Core strength has to have its place, and I rely on Tony every night when I do P90X, no matter how late it is (and I got done at 1:30 this morning with KenpoX, just in time to shower and hit the ER again). What about the wife and kids? Well, the wife promised me that if I quit swearing she will start training with me, and holy smokes if the two boys don’t think P90X is the coolest thing on earth. Sounds like quite a transition, huh? It was. It is. And the wife is cool with it not because I am holding climbing above her and the kids, but because a very real part of me has come alive again, and she sees me energized about being alive.

Tomorrow I will add a new addition to the backyard playstructure/boulding wall, and this next weekend we're camping at Devil's Lake, and climbing like banshee's...not a bad family outing, says I.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cornfed To Thoroughbred: Surviving Midwest BBQ Season

The Midwest is the best place on earth to be a doctor, for every wrong reason. There is no lack of business, and its all due to what goes into people’s mouths. To be fair, beer and smokes take their toll as well, but I honestly would be out of a job if it weren’t for the corn-fed diet that predominates. Its ubiquitous….its every weekend that somebody from work is grilling out…it tastes pretty darned good (yes, I love Johnsonville’s brats)….and its out to get YOU. Don’t believe me, huh? When’s the last time you had grilled chicken breast with a side of grilled squash and some low-fat bean medley at a barbeque? I have yet to see it in the Midwest…and part of me says I’d never like to see it change, for the same reason I am happy that punk bands are still alive and well: its pretty dang good if its only once in a while. But its every weekend around here, and every year that I live in the Midwest I amazingly drop about ten pounds once it gets too cold to grill out anymore.

But you and I we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate. –Bob Dylan, Watchtower

If you have taken the time to read this, you’ve made some life choices already, and likely need only some empathy, some props for sticking with it, and some ideas to keep that ball rolling. But someone out there may be like my buddy Jeremy with whom I skied and climbed off of Alaska’s Ruth Glacier last month. I told him in February that I was getting back in climbing shape and going to the Ruth if it killed me. True to his nature, Jeremy committed then and there, telling his wife they would be in the Twin Cities the next day, buying a Stairmaster. That Stairmaster got more use in three months than most get in their lifetimes, even if owned by folks that train a lot. But the most impressive part of his transformation (and I looked for a better word than the cliché, almost sermon-worthy word ‘transformation’, but none could hack it), was his choice of foods. He called me and asked for a diet plan, and I made it pretty simple, taking a lot of what I have learned from P90X and adding in a bit here and there for the cardio that mountaineering requires. Its basic, but its complete. If nothing else call my bluff and try it for a couple weeks. I'll eat corndogs for a week straight if you try it and don't feel better and perform better...and this is Iowa, where corndogs are taken seriously.

Total calories per day: 2070
Protein per day: 110 grams (500 calories)
Fat per day: 50 grams (450 calories)
Fruit per day: 2 servings (140 calories)
Greens (lettuce/spinach): 4 servings (60 calories)
Colored Veggies (carrots/tomatoes): 4 servings (120 calories)
Complex carbs (whole grain only!!): 8 servings (800 calories)

Protein is lean white chicken breast or turkey breast, or whey protein mix; Clif builder bars are good too, just cost a lot of cash and you have to take into account the carbs/fat in protein bars; NO dark meat, no processed meats. Eggs have too much fat.
Fruit is a medium sized apple, orange, or banana
Fat is one tablespoon of olive oil. Nothing else is as nutritious and can be as satisfying.
Complex carbs are whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and occasionally brown rice. Kashi Go-Lean crunch cereal is allowed.
Free night is once a week when between 6 and 10 pm anything goes, within reason.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I blame you, Steve Edwards...

Steve Edwards, you jerk. Right as I am falling back into one of my post-climbing trip "I need to recover a bit" phases, I stumble across your P90X bit on Facebook, and the fire is kindled once more. That spirit of what got me off my can during my early married life in Madison, WI and back onto vertical rock haunts me once more.
The Ruth Glacier was a horrible wakeup call, as I well expected it to be. As always, I felt as though I had not even brought a knife to that gunfight where technical preparation was concerned, but vigorous cardio and every last bit of rock I could get my hands and tools on paid off, landing me into some of the greatest climbing and ski touring I have seen in years.
But now its time for the truth that even I am not wanting to read back tonight when I stumble back to see this again: the vertical preparation was lacking, and it affected how aggressive I climbed.
So on that note, I start Flatland Vertical Landscape, a blog for creating the ultimate flatland alpinism training strategies for some of us poor souls bound to the midwest.
Treadmills on max incline (mine does 50% so I'll be a moment), pull-up bars in position, wallets out for the rock gyms, and get me the number for those guys selling the hypoxic training get-ups: its time to climb.