Monday, November 16, 2015

Magic Wood and Margalef

After spending some quality adventure time on the Long Trail, I moved straight into a few months of getting back to the basics with my training for running.  I noticed at the White River 50 this past July that one thing I was severely lacking, compared to runners who finished just ahead of me, was basic speed.  For quite a while during that race, I was running in a train with two other girls and it was pretty clear that while we were all temporarily going the same pace, that pace was much easier for them than it was for me.  So I took three months to focus on speedwork:  sprints and strides, leg and hip strengthening exercises, and plyometrics.  Word of advice, go easy on the plyometrics if you haven't been doing them regularly--I was nearly broken after my first, and highly overenthusiastic, session!

The three months of speedwork were mostly a success.  I got a new PR in the mile (5:49 in a road race), and I could see that my stride had improved.  But although I truly love going to the track and running short fast repeats, one thing that is missing from a steady diet of speedwork and road racing is variety.  So, it was time for a climbing trip.

I arranged to meet my friend Dave at Magic Wood, in Switzerland, for a few days of bouldering, and then we would drive from Switzerland to Catalunya for about 10 days of sport climbing at Margalef.  I'd never been to Magic Wood before but it only took about an hour at the crag before I was telling Dave that we had to come back soon.  The climbing is just excellent there.  There are a lot of problems with rough landings, which normally isn't my thing because I'm very protective of my ankles, but the amazing rock quality made it completely worth it, plus there were plenty of problems to try that had perfectly good landings.  I surprised myself by getting up a 6C called U Boot, and then had a day to spare to go around trying other problems that looked good.  This was one of them, although the sit start was a lot harder than it looked and will need a return visit!

Photo:  Dave MacLeod
  Dave had even more success there, seeing off his 8B project much earlier than planned and then topping that off with another 8B on the same night.  We also had another type of success:  beautiful weather every day and super scenic running.

After Magic Wood it was time for some Margalef action.  I've got a 7c (5.12d) route there that I've worked on occasionally over the past few years, but this year I had decided it was time to do my best to get it done, and I trained specifically for it for three months before the trip.  I arrived in Margalef knowing that I probably hadn't managed to get trained to anywhere near 7c but that it would still be fun to give the route a try.  The first day was...not promising, to put it mildly.  It was still way too hot for climbing at the crag, my route was far steeper and harder-looking than I remembered it being, and I had forgotten how difficult it can be to block out the noise of the vans, dogs, and climbers at Laboratorio in order to still get some climbing done.  I was so discouraged that I told Dave that I might be making this a running holiday instead of a climbing one...which to be fair is no bad thing since Margalef is also home to my very favorite running trails in the world.

Fortunately, the second day on the route brought a lot of improvement.  It sounds a little ridiculous to talk about improvement when I still couldn't actually do any of the first three moves on the route, but I knew there was now a tiny bit of hope.  Those first three moves are the crux, and there are several possible methods of doing them, so I spent a long time experimenting with different options and finally found one that looked like it was going to work, courtesy of a video that I found online of someone doing the route in a particularly unlikely-looking way.  Unfortunately, by this time, there were only two days left in the trip, and one of them needed to be a rest day.  On the last day, I pulled on and did the crux first try.  I fell off soon after, came down, and had another go--and made it to the last of the hard moves.  I knew my sequence was a bit uncertain here, so I spent a long time trying a section of about ten moves or so, and Dave supplied some key beta that got me a solid chance of getting through that last hard move.  But my arms had nothing left, and my day was over.  Time to go back ASAP...