Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No Star Tuesdays

Being a sort who's enjoys scruffy climbing I was pretty psyched to hear about No Star Tuesdays. I wanted to join Zac and the crew this week but it just didn't seem right to leave the dogs behind, especially with a dearth of stars in close proximity where dogs were perfectly accepted. My first round of calls was fruitless. Those I did get a hold of tried to assure me that the whole idea "was awful". As I readied for some rope soloing my wife acquiesced to join me. "Just don't take me up any death scree," her only request. Then Mick called, and our party was now five strong, including the varmints.

We headed up Mill Creek Canyon to something called The Stitches Wall. This, according to the Ruckman guide, had two “semi-popular” routes, each getting a star. Since I’d yet to meet a Utahan who had even heard of them, I chalked this comment up to sarcasm.

Less than 20 steps from the car and we were already on death scree. Well, not death, exactly, but a terrible approach trail that certainly wasn’t synonymous with popular. Mick’s comment upon reaching the crag was “who would bolt this?” Romney then pointed out, just in case we weren’t attentive, that the cliff was covered in wasps.

Not to be deterred, since “insects like me”, I headed up past a route not in the guide. It looked bad, so I figured it would start us off on the right track. It was a bit harder than I expected but, more importantly, the rock was worse than it looked. The bolts ran out and it was unclear where to go. The obvious line was the arĂȘte, but this looked to be about 4th class. Above me was a detached jug just waiting to peel off the wall and, by avoiding this to the right, I would hook up with Itchy Stitches, the wall’s plumb line. Two moves in the latter direction and I was greeted by a wasp nest teeming with action. This incited a hasty, yet calm, retreat, as my rapport with the natural world does have its limits. “No star fucking Tuesdays”, commented Romney.

Having blown my chance, I handed the rack to Mick who headed up the line furthest from the nest. This went swimmingly until just prior to the anchors. “Shit, another nest.” Mick delicately picked his way around it and claimed that in its current condition we definitely didn’t need to count the star it had been given. Romney hesitantly followed but called it quits just under the nest. I quietly cleaned it and then gently lowed down the middle pitch. We toproped this, doing our best to avoid the swarm. While definitely agitated, we were never threatened. We agreed this route was actually deserving of a star. It was good intricate limestone climbing, similar to the Sumo Wall near St. George. I sussed the ‘unknown” route on the back of the formation and decided that 15’ of 5.8 choss wasn’t really worthy of our time. There were bigger fish to fry.

Romney headed off for a proper workout, while Mick and I head to Emigration Canyon to attempt a couple of things deemed “looser and dirtier than the Fisher Towers”. Since the Fishers hardly qualify as rock, I figured these would be good candidates to bring our stars into alignment.

The wall, which is hidden but directly under the condos at the mouth of the canyon, actually looked good. Situated very close to Mick’s lab, he thought it might be a good place to get some mileage during breaks at work.

We started up Dripping Alien Wax, a bolted crack line that the info I found suggested rabies shots prior to attempting. It would not disappoint. After three bolts of decent but dirty 5.11 climbing, every handhold Mick touched rained sand down on me. “Take”. After cleaning the holds, Mick made it to the anchors, clearly unimpressed. Despite having to continuously dodge dislodged rocks I commented that “it looked okay.”

The first three bolts had me complaining about the rock. “You just wait,” said Mick. Sure enough, the top was awful. Even with closely spaced bolts I was impressed with Mick’s lead. Everything weighted threatened to peel from the wall.

Next up was Emigration Escape, A1, or “probably a 5.11+ grovel.” We set up a top rope and Mick promptly flashed it. My attempt was more feeble, especially when a large section of the crack—and a seemingly key hold—began to dislodge. Large enough to kill anything it might land on; I decided to let this one remain an aid route. Forever. I’m quite certain “mileage after work” is not going to be on the agenda.

Mick’s review of DAW summed up our first No Star Tuesday: “worst route I’ve ever done.” There will be more.

I’d like to give a shout out to James Garrett, who provided all of the day’s entertainment. The man is not one to shy away from a bit of suspect rock. I look forward to learning more about him over the coming weeks.

pics: Stitches Wall, above, and Mick getting ready to tackle Dripping Alien Wax

Monday, July 28, 2008

Life After P90X

I spent the last few weeks just riding and climbing--no other training at all. Since my training is all to support a myriad of sports I don't have the same issue as many of our members, which is what to do once they've reached their fitness goals. Conversely, I need to shelve my sports when I make a commitment to train, or at least sacrifice doing them at a high level.

Athletes train in order to facilitate their sports. This means that most of their intense training is done in the off-season. Training builds base fitness and increases the capacity for more improvement once their training transitions to entirely sports specific stuff.

Most of our members began training in order to lose weight or gain back fitness that they had in their youth. There is no goal or agenda other than getting their body to look good or, perhaps, become healthier. So what to do once they reach that point is often a quandary. This was an ongoing topic between one of our original success stories once he'd completed two rounds of the X. He was busy, with little interest in finding a sport or hobby that would take more of his time, and was so fit that his improvements were minimal each time he completed a new training cycle. With nothing specific to train for, he was rather sad.

Of course, this is a dream scenario for most of our clients. But if you stay motivated it's one that will happen to almost everyone. It happens in sports, too. After about a decade of full-time climbing I would train an entire year to improve a letter grade, which is something imperceptible to most people observing the sport. It began to seem silly. At some point you can't help but consider the other things in life you're missing. When training is not your job it becomes hard to find rational in continuing in such a devoted manner. There is a lot to do out there in the world. And not all of it is dependant upon having a six pack.

My advice to our members is always to take a break and enjoy life. See what kind of dreams or ambitions get conjured up in your head. It's a different mindset for someone who, say, was told by their doctor prior to beginning an exercise programs that if they didn't change their lifestyle they would die to suddenly realize that they're fitter than most of the population and things that seemed crazy were now possible. With a world of new possibilities, who knows where your idle mind might lead you?

Athletic goals aren't everyone's cup of tea. If they aren't, having your body in peak condition still changes what you can do. You have more stamina and energy to pursue any endeavor of interest. And, a really cool thing, is that it's far easier to keep your body in top shape than it was to get their in the first place. Doing one round on 90X a year with supplemental exercise in between can be enough to ace every test your doctor will give you.

The type of supplemental exercise you do does matter. Using a bit of strategy, you can keep your P90X fitness at a foundation level with only around 30 minutes of exercise a day. This means that you'll keep your body, most of your strength, and will be ready to jump back into another round of X at any time.

Almost any Beachbody program will do this for you, as will a lot of stuff you can do down at the gym. But we've also designed some workouts that will do it better, because they are designed specifically for this purpose.

This is why Tony is in the process of creating a series of workouts called One on One. P90X is what Tony does to get into peak shape. One on One is how he stays this way. Unfortunately, only one has been released, so far. But as these trickle out you'll have just what the doctor ordered: short, intense workouts to fill your quiver that will help ensure you never lose your base fitness no matter what your life situation is. Next out is Tony's Road Warrior workout. This is something you can do away from home using household items for equipment. Down the line will be a shorter yoga workout and probably anything you can think of because we're releasing them based on your input. So speak up if there's something you'd like to see.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Supplements, Dope, and The Tour, Part II

I'm officially bored of this topic. Well, I'm not really. It's fascinating. But I'm ready for the cycling news to be about racing and training. It's getting better, for sure. A couple of years ago I stopped counting how many days in a row featured at least one doping headline on cyclingnews. This year we've had stretches of weeks at a time. The best thing, I suppose, is that the public is getting a bit more informed about it.

There is no better spectacle for viewing dopers than a grand cycling tour. Bodybuilding and track and field run a close second. One day cycling races a distant third. Next come sports more based on skill, where absolute strength is less a part of the equation.

The reason for this is EPO. Over the course of intense daily training it's natural for the body's red blood cell count to drop as the body breaks down and doesn't have time to fully recover. This lowers your blood’s oxygen carrying capacity and, essentially, your performance ability. For a one day race you can taper and peak. This isn't possible over time, especially when stage races are fast every day (none are as fast as le Tour). By injecting EPO you can offset the nature drop in haematocrit so that, essentially, you're fresher each day as other riders tail off. This is the reason that only 3 of the last 33 grand tour winners have not had some type of doping suspension.

Doping has been around forever, but nothing has changed grand tour racing like EPO. As Greg LeMond said, "You can deal with that other stuff." EPO provides a massive advantage during stage racing.

It doesn't, however, create supermen. They are born. It won't make a club rider competitive with a professional. It won't increase your lung capacity or your VO2/max beyond its natural predisposition. It simply allows you to maintain your peak performance for longer (after reading Elijah's research I should clarify this because EPO usage can ensure you're tapping whatever potential you have aerobically, which is extremely hard to do training naturally, so hard that some say it's impossible to do--David Walsh's Lance to Landis covers this in depth. The point I was attempting to make was that it can't elevate someone with a VO2/max of 60 (good weekend warrior athlete) to 80 (Tour de France rider). Changing your haematocrit changes your VO2/max slightly, but this can also be done naturally by training/supplementing. Among like athletes its advantage is huge. The research provided would suggest that it's also significant in one day races and, certainly, would take a lot of guesswork out of training to peak.)

Here's a good study (thanks Elijah):

Some EPO stuff

Peak performance is possible by natural means. By eating right, training right, and recovering well you can maximize your body's potential (at least to what sports science currently understands). This, however, is very hard to do. Doping makes it easier. If you dope than you don't need to get your diet and training and recovery perfect. Steroids (colloquial name for a lot of performance enhancing drugs) enable you to recover better from hard training, which is most cases is only an advantage over an even playing field.

This is why dopers don't always win. You see dopers lose, especially in one day events, all the time. The advantage isn't all that great. It just stacks the odds in your favor. But in a grand tour, EPO stacks those odds even further; to the point where it becomes almost impossible to keep up naturally.

Supplements are basically legal natural doping substances. “Dope” isn’t always bad--at least as in bad for you. It’s just using medicine to aid recovery. Almost all “dope” has a life enhancing characteristic. It's cheating as defined by a sport. Supplements fall into the “everything that isn’t defined as cheating” category, basically. By definition they are natural but many are synthetic “natural” supplements. Most of the reactions that supplements can be duplicated by eating perfectly. Supplements allow you to eat less well by, basically, condensing nutrition into a supplemental form for easier ingestion, which can also be administered via injection.

Because smart supplementation—and smart doping as well—can enhance your lifestyle, it’s a recommended thing for most people to do. Cheating in sports is defined by sport only. It’s not considered cheating to use EPO to recover from cancer or use a testosterone cream to offset the effects of aging. It’s only cheating when it comes to sport. For most of us, I recommend that we supplement whenever we can, provided that we know what we are doing. Eating well and exercising are the most effective ways to age gracefully but supplements and, sometimes, medicine, will give us more margin for error.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Supplements, Dope, and The Tour, Part I

My friend Heather asked why I wasn't blogging on the Tour this year. I'm not because I'm all about 90X at the moment, but I've also been a bit bored about commenting so much on doping. Yesterday's madness, however, has given me a chance to write about both.

What was looking like a pretty clean Tour got skewered yesterday with a positive drug test for rising superstar Ricardo Ricco, who had won two stages. As the investigation unfolds it seems like it may be a bigger, and more systematic, issue that will lead to more busts. Ricco's team pulled themselves from the race and one of his teammates, who also won a stage, has been implicated. So let's look at three issues: is cycling cleaning up, how much does doping matter, and how is it different than supplementing.

Is cycling cleaner than it was?

The evidence all points to an affirmative. Many teams now have strict doping controls within the team. At CSC, anyone can download physical data of each rider. If blood levels start to get squirrely, it will be noticed.

The biggest evidence, however, is on the road. Racing has slowed down. A lot. Piano (stretches of grand tours where the riders cruise at a pedestrian pace) is back in vogue. Over the 90s and early 2000s the average speed of the peloton was increasing every year. Over the last couple, this has reversed.

Another, more subtle, clue would be riders acting more human. In the old days, grand tour leaders would gain and lose 20-30 minutes in a single stage regularly. No lead was safe because the guy in front could crack at any time. Now, with better training, diet, teamwork, and strategy, this is far less likely. But looking at this years Giro d’Italia we were seeing things that all seemed very, well, natural.

The best example of this was at the final day’s time trial, where the leaders of the overall race where no where in sight of the podium (a far cry from the days when Armstrong and Ullirch would crush everyone through the mountains and then take minutes in the final TT as well). Mario Bruseghin, who won the first TT and came in 3rd overall came in 28th and lost 1:33. Race winner Alberto Contador, second in the first TT, came in 11th. Simoni and DiLuca, who had both made huge solo efforts trying to win the race in the mountains, came in 135th and 112th.

Then there was Ricco. A bad time trialist, he was the only one of the overall race leaders who improved on his effort. He lost more time to the stage winner, but far less to every GC contender.

In the Tour Ricco was riding incredibly well. His attack on the Aspin was like nothing we’ve seen since the days of the Texan. He dropped everyone like they were club riders. He said Piepoli would win on Hautacam and Sanuier Duval then dominated all of the important points of the race. Ricco seemed to be barely breathing while shadowing the GC contenders. Up front, his teammates dropped Frank Schleck the second they decided it was time to go. It was all, as David Millar said, “a bit too good to be true.”
Apparently, they were using a new form of EPO. One of the doctors on the anti-doping committee was surprised they were caught because he didn’t believe there was a test for it yet. He stated that they knew riders were using it, and even which ones, but had no way to prove it. Apparently there was a specific team working on this test and trying to get it ready for the Tour. We may still have more busts. I’d bet against many more. There was one team riding oddly better than everyone else and now they’re gone. We’ll see, but I’m optimistic that the playing field is getting a bit more level.

I’ve got to get to more-pressing work, so I’m breaking this into parts. More later…

pic: Ricco looking astonished at how easy it is to beat guy who aren't juiced.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


With two weeks off after finishing my 90 days I'm pretty sore. The reason is that during my "off" time I began both interval training on the bike and climbing again. Yesterday, Ben and I headed down to Maple and for the first time I flung myself at stuff that's too hard for me. Today, my back, shoulders, forearms and hands feel like I spent the night trying to escape from being imprisoned in some violent godforsaken netherworld (which I did, incidentally--see my dream post).

No matter how fit you get in one arena the only way your body gets used to new challenges is to change and adapt. I have a lot of engrams (neuromuscular patterns) stored from years of climbing so I can always push myself a bit further than I may be ready for physically. And even though my muscles are strong from 90X, sports always require something more specific. So I'm sore, and there's just no way for that not to be the case.

The upside is that my base fitness should be strong. As my climbing muscles and race form come around there will be less chance that I become out of muscular balance. Hence, my chance for injury lessens. Also, because I have a more well rounded fitness base, I should be able to push myself further than normal before I become imbalanced and break down. This is the reason athletes' weight train during the off-season, and exactly why some pro sports teams (Philadelphia Eagles and Montreal Canadians) have instituted P90X for their off-season conditioning programs.

pics: Ben in Big Cottonwood, my new hippie adventure rig, a rare sighting of Romney on single track.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


"Age doesn't mean shit."
- Johnny Gray, after winning the Pan Am games 800m nearing his forth decade

After interviewing Tony for his 50th you'd probably think that he and I both share this same sentiment. And, well, yes, we do--in some sense. It’s also silly to say that we don't acknowledge it. Unfortunately, age does mean shit. Aging and slowing down are inevitable. Fortunately for us, exercise--especially hard exercise--is the most effective way to combat it.

In the interview, Tony nails it pretty well when he says he's in the best shape of his life but concedes that "I'm a little slower." There is nothing you can do about your peak athletic fitness declining as you age. But by learning about your body and training it more efficiently you can continue to improve on your overall physical condition.

As we age our bodies produce fewer hormones. In the simplest sense, this is how we die. Nothing forces hormone produce more than exercise. Even doping (as in anti-aging medicine) can't compete. Nutrition also helps, but exercise tops all. This is because it forces our body into a stressful "survival" tendency where we produce more hormones to offset the shock of the exercise. And this keeps us from aging as rapidly.

This is why many "experts" are 100% wrong when they tell us to slow down as we age. Most elderly workouts stress gentile aerobic work and eschew "dangerous" resistance work. This is generally because they are afraid of advising people to do things were they may hurt themselves. But no sports injury is as bad for you as aging quickly, making this philosophy seem counterintuitive. Resistance work is exactly what we need. The more intensity you can handle the better off you will be. High intensity training forces hormones to release the keep you young--things like testosterone and HGH, the exact stuff that anti-aging doctors will shoot you full of if you pay them are available to you, for free, if you'll do a little work.

Of course age needs to be considered. As we age we don't recover as fast, even with the extra hormone boosts, because we'll never match the amount we produced when we were younger. Our ratio of muscle mass declines each year along with our ability to recover. So overtraining becomes more and more a possibility as we age, making intelligent training cycles more important, as well as become more tuned into "listening" to your body. But if we truly get wiser as we age we can use this knowledge to train more efficiently so that, like Tony says, head into our AARP years feeling like it's the beginning of the beginning, instead of the beginning of the end.

pic: "I can't die. It would ruin my image." – Jack

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Speed King

Hans and Yuji have done it again! Truly unbelievable, this time, as their new Nose record is somewhat off-the-couch and bested a time set by two of the world's best climbers who had been focusing on the record for years. Amazing! Big congrats, guys!

Check it out here.

Pic: Team speed: Hans, Yuji, and Steve Schneider.

Fab 50

Tony just turned 50. Happy birthday, man. Here's part I of a little birthday tribute, which Tony called his 'best birthday present'. We'll have an interview coming just as soon as we can connect our schedules.

What is old, anyway? When it comes to birthdays, we're all just out there chasing Jack LaLanne.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Day 90 Fit Test

Even though I'm not finished with my program I thought I should run through a quick fit test to see how things are progressing. I didn't try and peak for it--I'll write about how to do that later. All I did was skip a workout.


Day 1: 15
Day 90: 31

I did these quickly and quit when I had to rest. I allowed myself to swing for momentum but didn't kip. I didn't come close to locking out at the bottom. My shoulder is bad and years of doing full extention pull-ups (and perhaps climbing) are probably the reason. You should never fully extend a pull-up and it stress all the connective tissue in the shoulder. I could have "rested" and done more. Popular with some, and hard, but I didn't want to strain that much on a bad wing. Plus, I saw a small climber girl in a pull-up contest who could only do 1 pull-up at a time but could fully rest hanging. They had to put a time limit on her. After 20 minutes she'd only done about 20 pull-ups but she could have stayed on forever. Does that count?

Vertical jump

Day 1: 18"
Day 90: 21"

This didn't seem too good but my legs felt like lead as I've been riding a lot. I think my first two jumps were less than 18. Then I loosened up a little. I'll try this rested after the next round.


Day 1: 30
Day 90: 75

At 60 I started taking short breaks in the up position. I stopped at 75 because this, again, seemed like I could go on for a long time and it didn't seem smart on my shoulder.

Wall Squat

Day 1: 2:30
Day 90: 3:45

These hurt from second one as my legs were sore. However, I was able to breathe properly and recover. I could have gone longer but quit because I was going to ride. I was amazed when I passed minute one. More amazed when I found I could shift the tension and recover in a squat position. While I quit prior to failing my legs were a tad wobbly. Actually, they hurt like hell.

Toe touch/reach

Day 1: +4
Day 90: +9

Yoga, man.


Day 1: 15 reps at 30lb
Day 90: 30 reps at 30lb

Could have done more but was starting to swing a bit and didn't want to lose form, especially since swinging curls put stress on the shoulder.

In and Outs

Day 1: 45
Day 90: 125

Quit because I was bored. Since I could rest at both the up and extended position this could have gone on for some time.

Next, I put some Recovery Formula in my water bottles and headed out to Emigration to best my 36 minute time. My legs felt heavy and I never had any explosiveness but rode 31 and change (Blackberry time, since I don't ride with a computer). This was disappointing because I'd ridden an unofficial 28 minutes with a group two weeks back. But that was with a group, which is different since a lot of Emigration isn't too steep, and I felt good that day. But mainly my legs were cooked. They'll be better when I take a recovery week. I've been riding hard almost every day. Not doing wall squats to warm-up might help, too.

Then I came home and had my wife snap a "Lance" photo. I think for this to work properly I need to clip in and pedal, and maybe turn the sprinklers on. But this is probably as close to an after photo as I'll submit to.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What's Colorless and Tasteless And Smells Like . . . Money?

My friend Josh just sent me this under the title, "Awesome".
I would say it's unbelievable but you've heard that from me before. I've been writing about bottled water for quite a few years now. Here's an article from last summer:

And I'm not alone. But instead of helping the issue it seems to still be growing. Some water is selling for a million times its tap price. Ugh.

Along these lines, I recommend the movie Idiocracy. This is the story of a guy who gets sent to a future, where humanity has dumbed itself down to the point where they're dying off because they water their crops with something like Gatorade, which is happening because they corporation had just bought the FDA so it could increase its profits. It's pretty over the top but, the way we're going, the only unbelievable thing in the film is that it takes place 500 years in the future. At the rate we're going this will happen in our lifetime. Sheesh.

Here's the link:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Le Tour

It's that time of year, again. The Tour starts on Saturday.

If you're not already stoked, watch this.

While it's a completely open tour this year I imagine most people's money would be on either Evans or Valverde. On paper, no one else really has a chance. But since neither has actually won a tour you can't really say that either of them will deal with the pressure all the way to Paris without a mistake. In fact, the Tour must be in Valverde's head a bit by now, since he's never ridden it sans mishap of some sort. He's got the most talent, for sure. But talent isn't everything.

Day 90 came and went. Even though I've got another training block coming up I should probably do a fit test, huh?