Rally Racing with Robert Werk

Stage 1 (By Dagger Slade Media)

Stage 1, Photo credit to Dagger Slade Media

Rally racing is an adventure packed motor sport that will fuel your adrenaline rush, while simultaneously requiring a mind clear enough to calculate risk and make quick decisions. It is similar to the lure of climbing in that regard; it pulls people to an edge.

The best place to start discovering any action sport, is to learn what exactly it is. To do this, I met with Robert Werk, who has been active in SCCA racing with his rally team Slow Roll RS, which you can follow at: https://www.facebook.com/SlowRollRS. They are a team that started in 2014. Rob has a lot of experience to offer, and he has a sometimes humorous, always interesting, and comprehensive way of sharing it.

Rob has always been someone who loves cars and driving. It was a passion that started as a baby being lulled to sleep by the soothing motion of a car ride, and has progressed over the years into his full commitment to racing. It is clear that this form of racing is something he really enjoys, and the community surrounding it feels like the accepting, welcoming kind that many people spend their lives searching for. In a time that can seem bogged down by negatives, this activity creates not only a useful outlet, but brings people together who want to support each other and help each other out. There is a strong sense of respect among people involved, and since it is an activity really anyone can participate in, it attracts a wide range of people.

If being the one in control of the wheel doesn’t appeal to you, there are other roles on the team that are crucial and require different types of skills that may be more suited to your interest. There’s a place for anyone who wants to be involved. It’s a great way to have fun year round.

Getting Ready for Stage 1 (L to R_ Andrew Benson, and Robert Werk) (By James Kancewick)

Getting Ready for Stage 1 (L to R: Andrew Benson and Robert Werk) Photo credit to James Kancewick.

 

Climbing Together: What is the type of racing you do? How would you describe it, and how is it different from other forms of racing? 

 

Robert Werk: I do Stage Rally and S.C.C.A rally cross. S.C.C.A rally cross is mainly autocross. Autocross is a race around a parking lot around cones. With rally cross they go around cones except it’s in a grass or dirt field. There are also rally sprints, but to understand rally sprints you have to understand what stage rally is, because rally sprints are abbreviated stage rallies.

Stage Rallies take place on public roads, many of them are dirt. They close off short sections of road, though they’re not always short, but sections of road that you go as fast as you can on. Between each of those you drive on just public roads with your race car to get to each stage. You have a set amount of time for these transits, as they’re called, and there are penalties for arriving early and there are penalties for arriving late. Actually the penalties for arriving early are larger than arriving late, which totally messes with my German upbringing where if you’re early you are on time, and if you’re late you are, as they would call Dummkopf.

It is an exercise in precision and teamwork in terms of the driver and the co-driver, and that can be what makes rally very different from let’s say another form of off road racing like desert racing. In the Baja 1000 you have 36 hours to go 1200 miles, whereas in rally you have maybe 100 special stage miles, and then in between each of those you have a set amount of time you have to get there in or you get penalized, and there’s penalties for speeding and so forth.

Below is a sample course map to give all the visual learners an idea of what the set up might be like. 

stage 1 and more sample

Sample from The New England Forest Rally Spectator Guide. Rally America National Championship Round #6 2016

Climbing Together: So it’s not really getting the fastest speed so much as getting the best time?

Robert Werk: Yes, because each special stage you are not going wheel to wheel with anyone, not usually anyway. They send you off one at a time. Usually at a minute or 30 second intervals. That should give the person ahead of you enough time if they’ve done their organizing correctly. You shouldn’t catch anyone but you shouldn’t be caught by anyone either. Usually the etiquette is that if you’ve seen you’ve been caught, you pull over as soon as you can, in a spot that’s safe, so that the people can pass. It’s not necessarily you vs everyone else, its you vs. the course. You’re running the course a lot differently than other people are going to run the course.

Climbing Together: What are some of the penalties?

Robert Werk: They mainly have to do with time. If you arrive to a time control early, you’ll get penalized. Let’s say you get there a minute early, they’ll add a minute to you time. If you arrive a minute late though, they’ll add 10 seconds to your time. Then you have services along the way that are scheduled services that have a scheduled amount of time, as well. Everything is timed and you have to meet those times. If you’re late getting out of service because you broke your car more than your crew can fix, you get a penalty. If you are early getting out of service because you didn’t break your car enough, damn it, you get penalized. A lot of times getting out of service early is pretty hard. You have to really be trying to get that penalty.

So all that time and keeping everything on schedule is really the co-drivers job. They are in charge of planning the routes, I mean the routes are already planned, but looking at the routes and saying okay, well we’ve got to get this far in this amount of time so how much time does that leave us to go to the bathroom? Change a tire? Fix a problem with the car? You know, before we’re late. What speeds do we have to go, and so on and so forth. Directing the drivers attention.

Climbing Together: Is it always two people in a car? 

Robert Werk: In stage rally, yeah. It’s always two people in the car. You have your driver and co-driver. The co-driver really gets all their work done before the rally even starts. They have that hardest job of planning it, knowing what the services times are, what people’s phone numbers are, making a sort of a movement plan of getting to the rally. The driver’s job is really just to drive. The co-driver even basically makes sure the service crew is doing the right things to the car, and helps prioritizes that. The service crews job is to get the car back out on stage on time and fixing any problems.

Climbing Together: Is there one you like doing better? Driver or co-driver? 

Robert Werk: I like being a driver. I like driving. I always have. Even when I was a little kid. When I couldn’t sleep, as a little baby, they would just plop me in the car, and take a trip around the block and (snaps) out like a light. I like driving, and I guess, I also like being in control. I don’t like having it out of my control. It feels strange sitting on the right side of the car rather than the left. I’ve never tried to co-drive, but I can tell that I’m not suited for it. It takes a very special kind of person to want to sit in a car going 80 mph over rocks and through streams and stuff, and past trees…sometimes into trees, without being in control of the car. Just reading “okay, you’ve got this turn coming up, remember!”

Climbing Together: How do you find a co-driver or someone who would want to do that?

Robert Werk: Well, there are actually a lot of people out there that co-drive. For New England Forest Rally, I found my co-driver, literally, I went on Facebook to the New England Region SCCA Rally Sprint and Rally Cross Facebook Page, and said I need a co-driver for New England Forest Rally, and I would like them to have a little bit of experience reading notes. It is a lot harder than it seems. A guy named Andrew Benson said alright I can do it. I have done a couple of rally sprints, and I was getting the hang of it, so I’d really like to do New England Forest Rally. I was like alright, let’s do this. I would have preferred someone with a little bit more experience, but on short notice you have to take what you can get and it just so happened to be that Andrew and I actually worked pretty well in the car together.

Climbing Together: Is it easy to find a co-driver? 

Robert Werk: It can be. It can be easy to find someone who would like to co-drive; who would like to sit in the rally car and go 100 mph through the woods. It can be hard to find people who are good at it, if you don’t have the right connections.

For instance, I did a rally sprint renting one of my friend’s cars. It was sort of on the spur of the moment. On a Wednesday I found out he wasn’t able to run in the rally sprint because he had another commitment. I think he had to go to a wedding or something. I was like okay, I’ll rent your car. Now I just need a co-driver. It so happened that Ryan Symancek, who also helps out with the drive series and does other online productions on Youtube, was like sure, I’ll be your co-driver. He was looking for someone to sit with. I was like okay, let’s do this.  On a Wednesday morning my weekend went from going and watching a rally sprint to competing in it, and it was a whirlwind. We didn’t have a service crew. It was just me and him and we got through it.

Getting the Car Through Tech (By Dan Colburn)

Getting The Car Through Tech (Photo by Dan Colburn)

Climbing Together: Do you provide your own service crew?

Robert Werk: Yeah, you usually have to provide your own service. For stage rally, Rally America says you need at least two. Then after that you have to start paying for your service crew, it’s like $10 a person, it’s not much. I’d say its important to have at least 3 people to work on the car, and another person that can run and be a messenger/errand boy for everyone to get food, water, parts, tires, whatever. That person to run and grab a tool if they have their hands full and can’t get away. That is the optimal number. The minimal number is 3.

Climbing Together: If you don’t have a crew, can you get one there?

Robert Werk: They have a pool of volunteers. People will volunteer to work in the service area. You can rely on those people. Rally is a lot like climbing in a way. Certain climbing communities, you can go to a crag and just walk in with a rope, draws, your harness, and shoes and be like “Can anyone give me a catch on a climb?” 3 or 4 people will be like oh, yeah, sure. Then they’ll be like “you wanna go catch me on this?” That’s sort of how rally works. You see someone has a problem or something, lots of times you go over and check, see if you can help. The guys on my service crew, on the second day they were helping out on everybody’s car. That’s the kind of environment rally is. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed.

_Repaired_ Car Ready for Day 2 (By Robert Werk)

Repaired Car Ready for Day 2 (Photo by: Robert Werk)

Climbing Together: Are there people who take advantage of that, because there are some with climbing?

Robert Werk: Oh, definitely with climbing. Climbing is a pretty large community because the entry level, yeah it’s expensive for the gear, but you think of the entry level to a motor sport that’s even higher, so your pool is a lot smaller. Really it’s a nationwide community, once you start doing stage rally, because it’s pretty expensive. It’s two days, that means you got to get a place to stay, you have to feed people, you got to get gas. That’s just the race, pre-race that’s another three days tacked on in front of that. It’s pretty expensive, but still it’s the cheapest motor sport. But that’s like saying a Ferrari 458 is the cheapest Ferrari. It’s still expensive.

Climbing Together: If someone wanted to try it out before fully investing are there ways to do that? 

Robert Werk: There are. With it being so expensive, the best way to do it is to find a cheap car on craigslist. If you are mechanically inclined awesome, if you’re not you’re going to spend a little bit more money to get something that’s running and not a ball of shit to begin with. Go to S.C.C.A rally crosses, look for what region you’re in, because S.C.C.A, I know the New England Region, they do a great job. They are always on time. Yeah they start early, but you get 10 runs in. Sometimes that’s the easiest thing to do.  Get a cheap car, if you don’t have a cheap car already. Get a helmet. S.C.C.A has loaner helmets, but if you don’t want to wear a loaner helmet, get your own helmet.

Go to rally crosses. That’s it. See if you want to drive around on dirt. If nothing else, if rally cross is good enough for you, you have a good social circle. If you decide, okay I want to keep going with this, you can take that car, put a cage in it. Fiddle with your brakes so you can fit 15″ wheels and gravel tires on it. Get the appropriate safety equipment, and look at the rules for Rally America, NASA Rally or the newly formed American Rally Association and see what sort of safety equipment you need. Get off to the stages or off to rally sprints. If you don’t know if you want to invest your time in a full rally build, they are places that will rent you rally cars. Team O’Neil will rent you rally cars. I don’t know if DirtFish will rent you cars, but a lot of the rally schools will let you rent a rally car.

Climbing Together: What do you need to get specifically for the car?

Robert Werk: To start off, honestly, what I’ve learned is stay away from cheap upgrades to your suspension. They are cheap and aren’t going to stand up to the abuse. You’re better of going with stock suspension, the suspension that comes on your car. Depending on the car you get, you might have to fiddle around with the brakes so you can fit the appropriate size wheel. I know I had to do that, it took a lot of headaches but I did it. The internet is a wonderful thing. I would tell you the best cars to get are Hondas, Toyotas, Subarus, and to be honest, I think that would be it for ease of maintenance and just the plethora of spare parts out there. Those are the best ones. Hondas, you could go to a junk yard and get an engine for like maybe $100.

Climbing Together: Are there people who try to race anything or are there restrictions on what kinds of cars they can use?

Robert Werk: A lot of people on the grassroots size, that are a private tier or just starting off, really have older cars. A lot of them are Subarus. Some people with BMWs, older ones from the early 90s and late 80s. They are a little cheaper, there’s lots of parts out there, and they’re not super powerful. In rally you don’t necessarily want the most powerful car, you want a car that you can control, that’s not going to send you into the trees. I know Rally America doesn’t let you start off with a turbo. Same with any front wheel drive type things. You really want to go for something that you can go to a junk yard and take parts off of any Honda. Same with Subarus and Toyotas, to a certain extent.

Climbing Together: Is that because you go through parts fast?

Robert Werk: Yes. Rally is not a question of if you are going to crash, it is when and how bad. One of the rules of rally, for your first rally, is that you need to take a spare of everything in the wheel well; brakes, brake pads, control arms, brake lines, things like that. There’s going to be different things you are going to have to do to certain cars to make them stage worthy, or make them more stage worthy, I should say. That’s dependent upon each car.

I know with my car the wiring harness goes between the engine compartment and the fender. The plastic in the wheel well just isn’t very beefy, so I had to put heavier duty plastic into the wheel well. Make sure the wires were up out of the way, just in case you shred a tire, you aren’t taking out your wiring harness and then your car just doesn’t want to move. It’s amazing how that happens. In terms of just getting your car ready, there’s always the internet. If you think you’re the first person to rally it, you’re probably not. People rally anything from the Honda Fit to the Subaru STIs. You can rally pretty much anything.

Climbing Together: What is going through the crashes like?

Robert Werk: I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I’ve been in a fair number of accidents that have been single vehicle accidents. They’re honestly not that bad. Like this past one, I kind of knew it was going to happen, and it was just like I looked over at the trees as we were sliding into them. “What’s the worst that could happen? Where’s it going to hit? It’s going to hit the back. Okay, there’s not much in the back. Oh, well. This is the best we could hope for.” And if it wasn’t going to happen like that, that’s why you have a roll cage. I didn’t have enough time to try and make it not happen.

I think I was more frustrated than anything else when I got into the crash. It was one of those things that I knew shouldn’t have happened, but it happened, and I didn’t know why at the time. It wasn’t til later my co-driver actually had a go-pro and had filmed it. I watched the film and was like Oh! Okay, now I know what happened. It’s really not that bad with all the safety gear on. You get spun around and you’re just like “son of a bitch, come on.” I think those weren’t my exact words.

Stage 2 Crash (By Nathan Sockalexis)

Stage 2 Crash (Photo by: Nathan Sockalexis)

Climbing Together: The crashes look really intense. Is there a high rate of getting injuries?

Robert Werk: If you look at the videos of rally crashes on YouTube, they look really intense, but those types of accidents don’t happen super often. Most of the accidents that you’re going to see or get into are relatively low speed and not very dramatic. If you look at the accidents on YouTube, that’s not representative at all of what most of the accidents are. Most of the accidents are someone goes around a turn and they hit mud or something they didn’t expect, and they slide and hit a tree. That can mean the end of your rally or it could mean you just got to get pulled out of the woods.

Mine I was fortunate enough that I just needed to be pulled out of the woods. Very rarely do you see roll overs and stuff like that with body panels flying everywhere. While those are interesting to watch, that’s why you have the roll cage. Injuries can happen. Thankfully from every injury or any death, they learn something new. They always update the roll cages after incidents like that and do a very thorough investigation. Safety really is the most important thing when you’re doing something like that because there are going to be accidents. I wasn’t even the first person to go off that day. We’re well prepared for them, as well prepared as we could be. As long as you pay attention to the safety measures, things should be fine. Should be. They can go very bad.

You can get a concussion, which is why they recommend getting seats with the side head braces. When you get into an accident, your head goes pretty much everywhere. That’s why you were a Hans device, which basically holds the helmet down on your head, so your neck doesn’t snap forward and you separate your skull from your spinal chord. That’s never a fun thing. Apparently if your skull gets separated from your spinal chord you die. It’s not a personal experience I’ve had.

They take safety very seriously.

Climbing Together: What do the events normally look like? Do they have spectators or different things going on? 

Robert Werk: It depends on where you go. Europe loves rally. That’s pretty much how a lot of drivers start over in Europe. They are in high populated areas because people want to watch. There can be lots of spectators and the crowd control over in Europe isn’t always the greatest. Spectators can get injured. A lot of people will go out to a rally, have a few adult beverages and maybe not be as mindful of their surroundings. In the United States, between Rally America and NASA rally sport, NASA rally sport is a much smaller scale event. There’s not as many spectators. Whereas, Rally America is a little bit larger scale and there are a fair amount of spectators. Nothing like over in Europe, but there are pretty big crowds. Some stages they allow them out, and some stages they don’t allow any spectators on. Usually the stages where they do allow them out, they have controlled areas for them that are far enough back from the road and taped off so people know where they are.

It’s hard to spectate a rally because you can only be in one spot.It’s down a road from one point to another. I think that’s part of the reason why it’s not as big here. With the advances in technology and remote controlled drones and cameras and things like that and how many people have go-pros, it really has become a lot easier to make those sorts of things happen. If you look at how the World Rally Championship markets, and uses those media devices to let their fans watch rallies. You have to pay $5.99 a month, but you can access the on board cameras of just about every single driver, you can access cameras around on stages to watch a single driver go through a stage or watch everyone go through a single point. It’s really become a lot more accessible, in a way. That’s what the American Rally Association is trying to do.

Climbing Together: Are there a lot of events? Is there a certain season?

Robert Werk: The nice part about rally is that it takes place on any surface, so our season is January to December. There is snow drift, which takes place on snow. Then you have a bunch of other rallies all the way through the years. Right now there’s 6 rallies each year in Rally America, and NASA has 13 or 14 in different locations. All year round. We’re one of the few sports where weather rarely has us cancelled. If there’s lightning and stuff and it’s dangerous for spectators on stage, sometimes they’ll call it. Lots of times it’s spectate at your own risk.

A tornado or hurricane might hamper it. A blizzard depending how bad it is, but rally cars are meant to go all terrain.

Climbing Together: Is it more challenging in the snow?

Robert Werk: Yeah, it is because you really can’t go as fast. Any power advantage that you might have doesn’t amount to much. It can be more difficult because you have to stay focused and you don’t necessarily know what’s under a snow path. It could be ice or it could be dirt and the grip is going to be very different depending what it is.

It all depends on if you’re prepared for it.

Some drivers enjoy it because it’s a lot easier to slide the car, especially at slow speeds. It’s enjoyable to do something with less risk, especially when you get to slide around. It depends on the driver.

Climbing Together: Is there a hierarchy of professionalism?

Robert Werk: You have Rally America, which is down here. Then there’s the Canadian Rally Championship and the European Rally Championship, and a few recognized championships. The World Rally Championship is way at the top. There’s a hierarchy of drivers within each those championships. You have the grassroots guys who are just starting out, who nobody knows about. Then you have the guys who have a manufacturer backing, which is kind of nice but at the same time, then it’s very much a job.

Climbing Together: What types of things do people get for being a winner? How do you win?

Robert Werk: You win by having the lowest accumulative time. That you get on the special stages, because technically everyone should have the same amount of transit time. It boils down to what did you do on the special stages. In the United States, you get a plaque, a little trophy. That’s about it. You might get 50% off or your next entry fee free to the next rally or something like that.

It all depends upon the class of car that you are driving. There’s the open class where anything goes.You basically make a 4 wheel drive car and you can do whatever the hell you want to it. If you do forced induction on it, you have to have a restrictor on it, which is just a restriction on the inlet to lower the power. Or you can do what they call super production, which is take a factory four wheel car and rally that. Usually those are your STIs, Mitsubishi Evos, and stuff like that.Subaru has a contingency program within super production. They give you on the national side, like $2,000 if you win and $500 if you come in like 3rd, on the regional side it’s like $500 if you win the region and like $200 if you come in 3rd.

There’s a little bit of money but that’s not really going to get you a great car or anything like that. It’s going to pay for your gas to get there or your next entry fee. There’s not much money in it, until you get to some of the World Championship type things. Then you have sponsorship deals and stuff like that.It’s all over. It may not be the sky’s the limit like Formula 1, but most of the professional drivers in that are pretty well paid.

End of Rally (By Robert Werk)

End of Rally (Photo by: Robert Werk)

Climbing Together: Are there people that put together their own rally races?

Robert Werk: There might be, but they would be non-sanctioned rally events. I don’t know about any of those. They might exist. I don’t know. But I know,there’s a lot to organizing a rally in terms of getting closures on roads, when you can do that, posting three months ahead to the people who live on that road. “Hey the road is going to be closed at this time.”Even then people will claim “oh, you never told us.”It’s like you’ve known for 3 months. You were at the town meeting, we’ve been going door to door handing out flyers, we’ve been posting them everywhere, we put up big signs, we sent you things in the mail and your e-mail. They’re like “nope, never got them.”

It takes a lot of organization to plan that. Sometimes it’s on private land where some of the special stages are. I know New England Forest Rally takes place on a lot of logging roads, so talking to the logging company and seeing if we can use this. Sometimes they say “yeah, sure you can do that” and sometimes they say “No, not this one, but you can go on this one” because that’s their business and they need to use those roads.

Climbing Together: How do you practice or get better?

Robert Werk: Go to rally crosses and rally sprints. It’s really what you need to do to get better. As a driver, practice listening. There are several rally games out there. The dirt series is out there and the WRC series of games which is out there. The lesser known one that’s probably one of the better to practice driving cars, Richard Burns rally. Which is an old game, but the physics in it are pretty brutal. Finding actual time to practice is difficult. That you would have to know someone who has a gravel pit or know someone who has a bunch of dirt roads on their property. There are places that do, but those are few and far between. You don’t want to go out onto a public dirt road.

Climbing Together: How fast do the cars usually go?

Robert Werk: It depends on what car you’re driving, but typically your average speeds are right around 65 to maybe 70 mph, because you are going down a dirt road, your car isn’t super light weight. Yeah okay you take out the interior and you add a roll cage, but you’ve got a spare tire, extra tools, fire extinguishers. Whatever you’ve taken out, you’ve at least put as much back in. You’re not a super light car, so you’re not going to go stupid fast. If you’re going literally 100 mph on some roads your car might tear in half and you would never be able to make some of the turns because you’re on a loose surface and it’s just not going to happen.

Climbing Together: What got you started?

Robert Werk: Every since I started driving, I had seen little bits and pieces of rally races and thought that it looked cool. During high school I had other commitments, like school and track and cross country. College about the same. It moved into the back of my mind. It wasn’t till after grad school when I started looking at different kinds of motor racing again. I had gotten into trophy trucks and the Baja. I was like what would it take to do the Baja 1000 in class 11. I couldn’t really find any good 1970s or 60s Beetles around that I felt comfortable tearing apart. They were too nice or just so rusted out that it wasn’t worth trying.

Then I saw a video of an interview with a guy who took a $500 BMW, threw a cage in it, and went rallying. With that same $500 car came in 3rd place at a World Rally Championship event down in Mexico. I was like “$500! I’ve got $5oo. I can do this.”So my adventure began. I brought a car, learned how to drive stick, and learned how to work on a car too. I had really no mechanical knowledge before I started doing this. I knew how to change oil and put windshield wiper fluid in. The first modification I did to my car was brakes, and I got this Wilwood kit. You had to take out part of the factory mounting position so the Wilwood caliper would sit correctly. I had to use an angle grinder, which I had to go buy an angle grinder and file part of this bracket down. The whole time I’m doing this, I’m like “Don’t screw it up. Don’t screw it up…I don’t know what I’m going to do if I screw this up.” I didn’t screw it up, but also I found those brakes were far too big to fit under 15″ wheels.

It’s an interesting sport and if you’re into learning new things, then rally is a great sport. You have to be creative sometimes. You break an engine mount, but you don’t have an engine mount with you out on stage, figure okay, well I guess I can use this ratchet strap because my engine probably doesn’t weight 1500 lbs. You use that instead. That’s actually what Bill Caswell did in rally Mexico and he still came in third cause he’s a freak. Talking about the Bill Caswell story, you should probably always mention you probably are not going to get those same results. Bill Caswell had been racing in other forms before he did that. You’re probably not going to find some $500 beater and end up taking it to the WRC. That’s a very rare thing to happen. Expect more of the results to just have a really damn good time.

Climbing Together: Is it common that people usually do different types of racing too?

Robert Werk: A lot of people do more than just rally. A lot of people go to the track nights that race tracks will have. They’ll do auto cross. Some people will do the American Endurance Racing series, which largely take place on tracks, I think. A lot of drivers look at rally as a starting point, and a lot of drivers who look at rally like something that looks like it might be fun to do. I always thought that rally drivers were some of the best drivers in terms of controlling a car, and keeping it on the road and being damn ballsy on tiny little back roads that you would probably want to go 20 mph on, like “yeah, I’m going to go 80. Oh, it’s snowing? Whatever. I’ll just slide the car under this bridge where my car just barely fits through, sideways.”

There’s a saying: A Formula One driver sees 10 corners a 1,000 times, a rally driver sees 10,000 corners once. It’s a more interesting sport than just going around in a circle. And wildlife playing a huge part. Like I had to dodge a moose. That was an interesting experience. I came around a corner on the third stage of the second day, and I see this moose head peeking out of the brush. I was like “Did someone bring a moose head out here? Trying to freak people out?” All the sudden it starts moving and I was like “nope, that’s a moose!” It runs out onto the road and I had to swerve more than I wanted to to avoid it. I was like “Moose!” and my co-driver was like “whaaat?” Cause he is just looking down at the stage notes.That was impressive. There was a photographer there too and I still haven’t seen pictures of that. It came up off the road and ran along side us for a little bit and then turned back into the woods.

My ultimatum with myself is if the car is totaled I’m done. I can’t afford to get another car. I just brought a house. I’ve got a needy dog. If the car is totaled I’m out.If the car is fine, I’m in it. Occasionally I’m flirting with this very thin line between disaster and just barely making it. I think that’s also what makes it fun for me. In a way it’s like climbing in that you flirt with this edge. If you free solo anything you flirt with it more, but even lead climbing you flirt with an edge between disaster and it being something really awesome. You have to weigh those risk. People look at climbing the same as rally in that it looks really dangerous. It can be, but you take a calculated risk. Think what the risk and reward are. I can take this corner at 80 and it can be really awesome, or I can take it at 60 and it will still be kind of awesome, but I’ll make it through. What’s it worth?

Leaving for Stage 1 (By James Kancewick)

Leaving for Stage 1 (Photo by: James Kancewick)

Climbing Together: Is there a certain age or type of person it appeals to?

Robert Werk: It goes across a lot of different people. The people who are competing in it are all different types of people, young, old. The guy who won New England Forest Rally was in his late 60s. It’s one of the few sports where women are in the same playing field as men.

Climbing Together: Who wouldn’t like rally?

Robert Werk: I guess, if you’re worried a lot about getting into an accident, then maybe rally is not for you. If you are a driver and you have a really nice car you are afraid of wrecking, rally is not for you.I’m sure there are plenty of people it wouldn’t appeal to. People who, I don’t know, don’t like loud noises.There are people who just don’t like climbing. There are people who just don’t like anything, but then there are also people who work actively to not like anything.

Climbing Together: Any physical hold backs that would stop a person?

Robert Werk: If you have a heart condition or something like that you’d want to be pretty careful what you do and how much you do.I guess each person has to weigh that. Do I care if my neck hurts? Some people might really care. Some conditions might stop a person.

Climbing Together: Who would be well suited for it?

Robert Werk: If you like driving, rally is a great sport because even if you don’t like driving fast, there are time/speed distance rallies. Literally, all just transit. You are going to be going quick-ish on less than ideal surfaces, but you’re not going to be going all out. You don’t need a roll cage.

People who like planning, like my mom could have been a really good co-driver. She likes adrenaline, and she also likes to plan. If you enjoy that, you might make a good co-driver. Especially if you can keep calm in high pressure situations and just read notes. Like you’re sliding around a turn at 60 mph and you don’t have the wheel and you can calmly read through. It’s hard to find those kinds of people, and you can make a good living being a professional co-driver and you don’t have to be in the lime light.

Climbing Together: Is there anything you know now that you wished you had known at the start?

Robert Werk: I guess some of the etiquette. What your responsibility is as the driver in getting a car prepared and starting off. I guess, that’s different agreements between different people, but if you own the car you are responsible for getting the car ready. There were times when I was frustrated with how much it was costing me and not getting any help with it. I asked people if they could help out, but it’s like no, it’s really your responsibility. I wish someone had sat down and said it’s your responsibility, if you want to start a team, you’re preparing the car. Because I looked like an asshole a little bit, which that is what it is.

Climbing Together: Are these things unwritten rules? Or could they be found?

Robert Werk: They’re sort of unwritten rules, because different people reach different agreements. It’s one of those things. You don’t want to dick people over in a community that is as small as rally is. If you dick someone over, which thankfully I’ve never done, the rally community will make it very hard on you. Like if you rent someone’s car and crash it and you don’t pay them for the car, for their loss, word will get around. It will effect how easy it is for you to continue in the sport. It’s the golden rule. That’s probably the easiest way to do it. If somebody crashed your car, would you want them to pay you for it? Yeah, I probably would. It’s a lot of common sense. If you’re one of those people who will try to weasel out of certain things just because legally it’s okay, rally will bite you in the ass. It might be legal, but good luck getting into rallies.

Climbing Together: Is there anything else you’d want to add that I didn’t ask you?

Robert Werk: I think anybody who gets into rally, you’ve got to have a few screws loose and you have to be willing to not care too much about how your car looks. If you’re worried about having a really nice car, rally is not the sport for you. If you want to wash and have a shiny car, no.

If you think you have to have a multi million dollar team, you don’t. You can do rally on a pretty extreme budget, but also don’t keep track of a budget, in like a spread sheet, because you will go insane. If I actually tracked how much money I put into my car and am going to put into it to get it rebuilt, I’d probably go nuts and not eat forever. I’d just be like I can’t afford to eat now. Know that it’s going to cost you money, and be prepared to spend that money. If you really think it’s worth it, then you won’t care.

When I crashed, I looked at it as a positive. Now I get to rebuild it and make it better. Now I have an excuse to do that. Try to turn it into a positive. That will help hugely in rally because rally will beat you up. We lost the back glass in that crash and we were just dirty and smelly and had to be up all night fixing the car. It was an adventure, but it was great to see people helping each other. When we had to repair the car and do an all night service, it wasn’t just my service guys. Other people showed up to pound out dents and contribute wires, or tape, or tools, or wielding, or parts. When they are down and out, we’ll do the same for them. That builds confidence and good friendships.

Day 1 (From L to R_ James Annis-Cockfield, Joey Levesque, Dan Colburn, Robert Werk) (By James Kancewick) (1)

Day 1 (From L to R: James Annis-Cockfield, Joey Levesque, Dan Colburn, Robert Werk) Photo by: James Kancewick

Thank you Rob for your great answers and wealth of knowledge. This sounds like a fun adventure to get involved in for people who are creative, adventurous, and love driving. I appreciate your time and thoughtful words. For anyone who is reading, please feel free to share comments of your own experiences, or ask any questions that weren’t asked. I’m sure I can get the answers to you. Thanks for reading. I hope you had fun doing so! 

 

Will A Popularity Gain Shift the Culture of Climbing?

Official word has been let out that Climbing will be in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. You probably already know of this because the media attention has been huge. There are people strongly for this, strongly against this, and a whole bunch floating around in that area of uncertainty. You’re entitled to whatever opinion you have, as there are valid pros, cons, and areas of uncertainty. I’m not trying to take anyone to battle, because in full disclosure I support this but I’m not a huge Olympics fan. I never watch the Olympics and I’ve never cared one way or another about them, but I do see positive aspects that could emerge from it. I don’t want to rally you into one category or another. However, one thing that I keep hearing over and over is that the Olympics will cause this increase in popularity that will shift the culture in climbing from all that is good about it. Will it though?

People are protecting climbing like a favorite book. Like that book that just reaches into your soul, gets you on a level that no one else does, and makes you feel like you are not alone in the world. You worry that people will talk about it with a totally different interpretation than yours and it will sound like complete blasphemy because this isn’t just a story, this is a piece of you. I totally understand. I have often been quiet about books that had this effect on me for the same reason, but then I kind of thought of it a little different.

Fight Club, written by Chuck Palahniuk, holds a lot of meaning for me. Recently, I’ve been hearing teenagers have it for required reading in high school. I think back to those days of English class were these pompous know it all kids made every book about the bible or repressed sexuality of some sort. I cringed. I did not want want to think about a bunch of teenagers ripping apart a beloved work to sound ultra intelligent while missing out on the whole real meaning. Then another thought hit me, if this was required reading when I was in high school, maybe I would have actually engaged more. I’d have the fiery passion to lash back with my own thoughts and interpretations, instead of just rolling my eyes while the students do this to classics so boring I never even bothered reading them anyway. It would have shaped my life to be exposed to things I could really connect with earlier on. There were a couple books in high school that engaged me enough, and when I did say something, it brought up some really interesting points. It encouraged the more silent types to have a voice, and challenged some of these other views in a way that made class fun. I mean some of these kids are just saying this stuff cause they think it’s what teachers want to hear.

At the end of the day, having different insights and interpretations into things will either help people grow, or you could walk away saying “Man, those assholes just don’t get Palahniuk like I do,” and continue on your day. It doesn’t change your right to interpret it or enjoy it. Honestly, we can put all we want into Fight Club and the author says he wrote it while bored at work. None of us really “get” Chuck Palahniuk, because only he really can. We all have different ways to see it and that can help us form deeper connections or go about our day. Climbing is just a person moving up a rock, or plastic. When you stop and really think about it, there’s nothing actually there. However, we come to it with feelings, experiences, etc. that craft our love for it. It becomes so much more to each of us individually. What I get out of it will not be exactly the same as what you get out of it or what anyone does. That doesn’t change how important and real it is to each of us.

People say surfing and climbing shouldn’t be in the Olympics because they have cultures that aren’t really the Olympic type. Sometimes adding to a culture can be a positive thing. I remember when I was a teenager, I started skateboarding. It was the most in love with anything I had ever been. I got on that board and everything in the world just vanished. As someone that battled with depression, being bullied, teenage angst, anxiety, and managing a chronic medical condition, skateboarding was pure calm and release from it all. I felt truly connected to something. I didn’t care if people liked it, made fun of me, or whatever. It was just mine. My thing and my special time. All that mattered was the sound of those wheels rolling across concrete, the rush of wind to my face, and that totally peaceful area I was brought to. Without skateboarding, it’s honestly hard to imagine making it to where I am, as sappy as that sounds. Nothing felt better. I was obsessed. I went out every chance I got, sometimes even risking going in poor conditions like rain. I feel like all my words fail to adequately describe it. I remember when I got a Steve Caballero board in Philadelphia, he was my fav. at the time, I slept in the backseat the whole ride home with it wrapped in my arms. My brother made fun of me for being the biggest dork, but I just loved everything about it. I remember while girls in my school were crazed for boy bands, I had a complete starstruck meltdown when Bucky Lasek emailed me back about a school report I did.

Having said that, I am far from what skateboarding “culture” was about at that time. For starters I’m a female. At the time I got into skateboarding, I couldn’t name one professional female skateboarder that I knew of. I watched the movie Grind, which had people making fun of the one female skater for even trying and the main characters who were nice to her, were at the same time blown away she was actually a skater. It seemed unheard of. Even today, I’m far from psyched about what female representation looks like in that sport. Also, at least at the amateur level, skateboarding was known for being a “bad boy” sport. It was heavily immersed in street culture. Skaters were the ones you had to keep an eye on because they were trouble, skipping class, and usually involved in drugs or small crimes. That’s what outsiders thought. While I got along great with the guys that skated at my school, they all fit right into this negative stereotype. I was a very good girl. I was honor roll, dedicated to doing well in school, law abiding, morally upstanding, and completely straight edge, as they’d say. When I tell people I love skateboarding, they think I’m joking. When they finally come around to taking me seriously, they say it’s weird because I just don’t look the type. People who are into it because of the love of it, usually embrace and accept me because we have a common bond and that’s all that matters. I’ve made fast friends through this. People can try to say I’m not of the culture and I don’t belong, but I can easily argue that type of interpretation means they don’t get it either. It should be about the love of it, and not being a certain stereotype of a person, right? Especially in these alleged rebel type sports, wouldn’t destroying labels actually further the purpose?

You can say I’m out of the culture, but you can’t argue I don’t love it as much as anyone else who does, or that my experience with it is unreal or different because I don’t fit the mold. The fact that I come to as a different person, didn’t shift the whole culture. The skating culture wouldn’t know who I was whether I fit properly or not. I had friends who tried it because I liked it, but they didn’t get that same feeling and they moved on to other things.

Sure, the Olympics might peak the interest of a different group of individuals. Those new individuals may try it. Either they are going to try it and think meh, I’m not into this and stop, or they are going to feel that rush, that pull, that obsession all climbers felt and become a real climber. The Olympics might introduce people to a sport, but they aren’t going to keep doing something they hate because the Olympics are just so damn cool. I mean really, I don’t know anyone that thinks the Olympics are cool and cutting edge. People like them and go crazy watching them, sure, but it’s not where trend followers are grasping their ideas. Unless there’s something I don’t know.

Ultimately, people who become obsessed with climbing might be different from you, they might have their own interpretation of what climbing is, but they aren’t less of a climber. They’re just coming at it in a different way. They aren’t taking away your right to view climbing as you want. You can still be the climber you want to be and get all the same stuff from climbing. They are just following their own passion and trying to enjoy life like you are. We tend to think of it as shrinking our area, but there are so many undeveloped areas out there. Having more attention might bring better stuff, like people investing more in checking/replacing bolts, people developing new areas, etc. Chances are people inspired by the Olympics will just stay in the gym and train though. I mean they are known for being those completely dedicated, all work and no play types, which are well suited for gyms.

Studies show the Olympics do increase people’s interest in athletics and exercise, which is so important for our obesity and laziness rates. It makes people more healthy. However, there isn’t a direct correlation for individual sports. So watching cool sports like climbing, skateboarding, and surfing, which will engage youth, will make them more likely to run around, go to gyms, try out sports etc. It won’t necessarily make them all hard core climbers.

Again, you can continue disliking the Olympics and the idea of climbing being in them, but I, personally, don’t think this is going to mess with climbing culture. It might create a new sub culture. We already have issues of trad vs sport, outdoors vs gym, competition vs all other climbing forms, etc. Chances are high all of climbing will stay the same, but now we’ll have Olympic climbers vs comp climbers vs trad vs alpine vs sport vs bouldering vs ice, etc. Things in that regard, will likely just carry on. What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment agreeing, disagreeing, or just adding your own uniqueness. Just keep it respectful.

 

 

Adventure Activity of the Month: Scuba Diving with Danny Gunn

Danny Gunn

Photo by Danny Gunn

Scuba diving has always seemed to me like a fascinating activity to try. The ocean and it’s whole ecosystem are gorgeous and unique. There seems like endless opportunities to explore and discover new sights. Since it is an activity that I’m not very knowledgeable about, I reached out to a friend from Australia, which I imagine to be a glorious place to pursue the hobby. In the interview below, Danny Gunn shares some of his experience and knowledge about scuba diving. I have included photos he has taken underwater. Danny Gunn’s photography is stunning, and I would highly recommend following some of his other work as well by going to this website: http://dannygunn.smugmug.com. He has a fine eye for capturing nice lighting, movement, and nature.

Climbing Together: What led to your start in scuba diving? 

 

Danny Gunn: It’s kind of a strange situation because growing up I was terrified of water. We had a swimming pool in the house I live in and I would either stay in the shallow end or have a rubber (inflatable ring) that would keep me afloat if I went into the deeper end. I eventually got over it when I was about 10 or 11 years old but I was never a good swimmer. However the idea of exploring places appealed to me and it was something to try so we (my now-wife) decided to give it a shot when we were in Thailand and did our PADI Open Water course and then immediately after did the Advanced Open Water course. It just went on from there.

 

Climbing Together: What kept you going? What do you love above it? 

 

Danny Gunn: The answer to both of those questions would be one and the same. That being – the thrill of exploring new places, or even the same dive site but seeing different marine life, or exploring different areas. The ocean is huge so there is a lot you can see on one dive that you don’t see on the next because you might be 5 or 10 meters left to where you were and there is a whole new area to explore. The second being that it is peaceful. It’s you and the ocean and nothing else. There are no phones, no talking and really no noise aside from your breathing. You can pretty much shut off your mind of all the external happenings in your life and just enjoy the 45 minutes or of being alone beneath the ocean seeing wonderful marine

 

Danny Gunn 3

Photo by Danny Gunn

C.T: What places have you gone to dive? 

 

D.G: I’ve been very lucky in this regards as I have dived in many different places all over the world, this includes Melbourne, Australia – where I live as well as New South Wales and the Great Barrier Reef within Australia, and outside of Australia; Vanuatu, Bali (Indonesia), Thailand, Borneo (Malaysia), Jordan, Malawi, Zanzibar, Mexico, Honduras, Belize.

 

Mexico has been my favourite place to dive, specifically Cozumel. There was so much to see there, including Turtles, Eagle Rays, Moray Eels, and there were apparently Hammerhead Sharks however I did not see them which was disappointing.
C.T: What are your favorite things to see or discover? 

 

D.G: New marine life I’ve never seen before is exciting. I remember diving in Malaysia and I saw a Cuttlefish for the first time. It was swimming and it’s camouflage was working which was really awesome to see, but when I first saw it I had no idea what it was and thought it was an octopus.

 

C.T: Are there any lessons you learned through it that would be valuable to share with someone interested or just starting out? 

 

D.G: Don’t be deterred or overwhelmed by it all. Especially by people with more experience than you. You’re not going to be good at it from the first lesson, no one is. Like all things in life, it takes practise to get good and thankfully, with scuba diving, the best way to practise is to go and do it and you’ll see improvements each and every time.

 

C.T: What would make you recommend this activity to someone else? 

 

D.G: think the freedom you get from diving. Being away from it all and seeing a different part of nature that very few people get to see. It’s also a nice challenge to yourself to your mind and your body without having to push the limits of yourself. There are very little risks and the rewards are worthwhile.

 

C.T: Are there goals you have for diving in the future? 

 

D.G: I would love to be involved in Marine Research and conservation but it is unlikely that will happen and I have reached where I want to be in terms of certification as a Scuba Instructor (non-teaching though). Now I just want to see different parts of the world and the marine life it contains.
I still have a bucket list I want to check off in terms of animals I want to see – including Whales, Hammerheads, Whale Sharks, and places I want to visit.

 

C.T: Is it expensive to get into? What would someone need to start? 

 

D.G: It’s not cheap, unfortunately. At least to begin with. You need to be certified – although you can do a try-dive with PADI (not sure with other agencies) which is basically a ‘try before you buy’ where you go through the basics and do a shallow dive at the end of it. But your Open Water Certification isn’t cheap, and that is what you need at a minimum to go proper diving. However once you get passed your certification you’re set to go and I would recommend having your own mask and flippers and subsequently diving after that isn’t too bad, though it depends on location but I would say it is roughly $80 – 100 for a double dive on a boat, and cheaper for shore dives.

 

If you do invest in your own equipment, diving is cheaper as you don’t have to do equipment hire so long-term it works out but it really depends on how often you want to dive.

 

C.T: What are some things to be careful of when diving? 

 

D.G:There are some key points all divers should really remember:

 

The first, and most important, one being is you never ever hold your breath while diving. Prolonged breath holding can cause embolisms.

 

The second being know your limits. There are a multitude of factors that come into play the deeper you get (eg; you go through air quicker). Don’t be a hero and don’t do something you are not comfortable with, or not trained for. Diving is mostly safe, but like everything else, accidents happen and a lot of it is due to stupidity.

 

And the final thing is to not touch the marine life/corals. This will be something told you to from the very beginning but it is imperative you leave everything alone. There are a lot of health risk to both animals and humans by touching them, and the ecosystem is fragile. People may feel like they are not doing anything wrong but it is best to simply leave it be and look with your eyes.

 

C.T: Do you have a particular experience you could describe and how it felt, or what you saw? 

 

D.G: Possibly the first time I saw a Shark, which also happened to be the first time I saw a turtle. I was diving at Coffs Harbor which is located in New South Wales. Almost between Sydney and Brisbane. This was one of the first times I had been diving since I got my certification and we knew there was the possibility of seeing a Grey Nurse Shark (they are harmless Sharks, incapable of biting humans). I’m not sure how long we had been under the water for but I was facing one way and about 10 meters away my wife was looking at me and then she pointed behind me. I turned around and there was this great big Nurse Shark which was absolutely awesome to see. Apparently it had challenged me when I was facing the other way (challenging is they will swim at you and then veer off at the last second, they usually do this if you are higher or at the same level as they are in the water, being below them establishes them as the dominant animal). I can’t describe how it felt, it was just remarkable to see a shark in it’s natural habitat for the first time. It really did not care we were there and just went about it’s business and I felt at the time that people who feared sharks were really missing out on seeing such a graceful creature.

 

C.T: A lot of people love outdoor activities for mental benefits such as relaxation, problem solving, a natural high, etc. Does diving provide any of that for you? What are some benefits to it? 

 

D.G: Diving provides a lot of time to yourself in some respects. Underwater you get a chance to get away from your phone, people talking, work and just in your own mind exploring or searching.

 

There are also some nice health benefits as it does provide good exercise which is low impact. Most of the time you don’t even feel like you are doing much but you feel like you’ve had a bit of a workout afterwards.
Also, who doesn’t like going for a dip?

 

C.T: Is there anything that would make diving not a good idea for a person? 

 

D.G: Not really. If you have any medical conditions you will need a doctor to sign off before you can do anything diving related, which is standard. Otherwise it is really more to do with the person and if they really want to give it a go.

 

C.T: Thank you Danny for all your insight and excellent answers! It sounds like scuba diving is a great adventure to try. Have fun in your future explorations! 
Danny Gunn 2

Photo by Danny Gunn

Should You be Training or Climbing More?

The idea of training to get better at climbing is really taking off. The science hasn’t necessarily caught up to what exactly works or doesn’t work, but you could easily find a hundred articles, climber’s blogs, videos, etc. that offer an idea of what works for one climber or another. There has been a trend in professional or advanced level climbers signing up with personal trainers to become overall better athletes too. This is exciting and interesting to see. In fact, just going into a local gym I can see posts of personal trainers offering to help climbers advance. Sometimes I question how qualified said trainers are, and sometimes I can handle it. The point being, training is a hot new topic. It’s an easy bandwagon to jump on too, because people crave that progression. When you first start climbing, progression is quick for most, and then reaches a point where it isn’t so quick. The problem is that some newer climbers might be perceiving their plateaus as such a bit too prematurely.

In numerous articles, the advice a professional climber gives newer hopefuls is “just keep climbing more.” This is most likely met with eye rolls, sighs, and the idea that these climbers must just be holding out on their great secret. I’ve been there before too.They aren’t necessarily wrong though. I’ve been climbing for 5 or 6 years, and while I’m not going to proclaim myself an expert, I still find new moves I’ve never done before all the time. There are a bunch of climbers who say the same. Just the act of climbing exposes you to different techniques, different moves, and different ways to look at a problem all the time. I’ve seen a lot of people, sort of give up early on this natural learning, and seek out training. It’s sad because we climb for the fact that climbing is fun, so we should let ourselves have fun with it. If you really want to train, that’s fine. Training can be fun and rewarding, but there are some things you might want to consider first.

  1. Are you really climbing a lot? I’ve seen posts or heard comments from people about how they climb all the time and they aren’t better, so climbing must not be enough. Sure, that conclusion could be true, but what is climbing a lot to you? Sometimes when I hear this, the person is referring to the fact that they’ve been climbing once a week for a year. Sure, a year of climbing does sound like a long time, but once a week might be what’s not cutting it. I know for me personally, switching from just climbing once a week as a friend hang out activity, to seriously climbing 2-3 times a week was enough to see sudden progress. Most work outs or athletic activities encourage you to do them a few times a week, with respect to the body needing to rest sometimes. Most sports team practices are a few times a week, and most workout plans will tell you a few times a week. You also want to consider what your climbing time is like. Are you talking with friends and hanging out, while giving a few tries on whatever climb you decide to work on together? Or are you really doing a variety of climbs? I’m not saying these things are wrong. Some people don’t have a lot of time to climb due to work and whatever, and sometimes hanging out with friends is awesome. I love to sometimes project with others and just goof around. It’s just that if you are climbing once a week and hanging out with pals most of that time, you can’t blame just climbing not being enough, because you’re not really getting the most out of just climbing. Dedicating an extra day or setting aside a time when you can really focus that is separate from the fun, casual friend day, might be more helpful than getting a personal trainer or setting up a training regiment.
  2. Have you tried projecting or working on weaknesses? When I was still starting out with climbing, I was progressing fast on crimps. I have small fingers and a healthy weight, so they felt effortless to me. I got through so many grades by just finding higher graded crimp climbs. Then I went through a period of time where I had difficulty with my fingers hurting. I maybe was pushing them a bit too far, and I had reached a crimp plateau. So I backed off and dedicated myself to slopey climbs or pinches. They were holds that didn’t really put a lot on my fingers, so I could still climb without worsening the issue. Also slab climbs because they are more about feet. My climbing felt like it had plummeted because I absolutely could not climb as advanced of grades in other holds. At first, it was discouraging, but then it was empowering. I felt so much more pride when I was able to do something out of my comfort zone. I was making progress again because this was a new area to see gains. After spending more time on these areas of weakness, my overall climbing was significantly better. Partly because I could do different kinds of climbs, but also because I was strengthening different muscles. I had stronger shoulder muscles which just helps with everything. A lot of climbers climb to their strength. This is fine if you are goal oriented and want to work in that strength. If you are someone wanting to progress and be an overall good athlete, advancing your weaknesses through exposure can go a long way. It can make you better at your strengths too. I also added projecting to this, because I have seen a lot of people who want to get better, but don’t really try a particular climb much. They will give all of whatever grade a try and then either be happy they got the climb in a few tries or claim they are weak and need to get stronger. To some degree you can progress this way, because you are still climbing. However, if you really put in the time to figure something out, you can be surprised how much that helps. In making the jump from V4 to V5, I found a climb that I really loved in the V5 range. It was hard, but the first move was possible. It was fun and exciting. I worked on it steadily for a month or so. 3 or 4 times a week, going to work on this problem. I hadn’t done a V5, but I just made up my mind that this one could be the one. I think I did maybe a move or increment of movement further up each time. It was a SLOW process, but I did it. I learned new movement, I figured out things I just wasn’t doing right, and I made it more efficient. After all that, I sent it and it felt pretty easy. When you finally send something you’ve projected it, it can feel almost anti-climatic because it will just get easier. You are figuring out better beta, gaining muscle memory, and mastering techniques. Essentially, by climbing this one climb more, I got better at climbing. Getting the next v5s didn’t take as much work. You get the confidence of knowing you can do something in that grade, and you learn things that are helpful for that level.
  3. Are you using good technique and footwork? Are you making excuses? I am an average height at 5’7, maybe a little on the shorter side. I also have a negative ape index of like 3. So I climb with the span of a 5’4 climber. There are plenty of times where I could easily say a move is a tall person move. There are times I have to move very dynamically to something others just reach. There are times I might stack pads for a starting hold, because if someone else can just stand there and reach it to start, is it cheating? But at the end of the day this would be an excuse, and this excuse would just limit me. So I can say I’m too short, or I can figure out another way. There is always another way. Maybe it is doing a dyno, maybe it’s getting better feet, maybe it’s doing some weird crazy move I can’t even explain, but there is a way. I recently did a climb that for many is a little rock over reach up, by needing to do a full to crimp dyno and campus to the next move. I did it though, and it felt amazing. Sometimes I think my weird beta is more fun than what others can just do. If you are trying to figure out these ways instead of making excuses, you are advancing your climbing. Learning proper techniques and better footwork, is something all climbers need more of. It’s something that can really advance your climbing. It’s also something that training won’t necessarily get you, unless we are talking foot drills and such. Spending some time on a problem instead of giving up and throwing out the I’m too weak, I’m not good enough cards, can help a great deal. To some degree you need to learn techniques. Reading about them, watching climbing videos, practicing different movement, etc. can all help. Practicing them will get you better.

I’m in no way down playing the significance of training. There are a lot of different ways to train, and I’m someone who loves training. I do hang boarding, campusing, weight lifting exercises, etc. If you want to train, by all means. It’s just important you aren’t ruling out the benefit of getting in mileage. Especially if you are a newer climber. Seeing progression from grade to grade start to slow down, doesn’t mean you are hitting your limit or you aren’t good enough. As grades get harder, progression slows for all climbers. In the beginning, you start out really easy because you don’t know your full capabilities yet. As you get into harder grades, more is required and that more is going to take time to learn. Before beating yourself up and jumping to training, try out all the different things with just climbing that you can. Climbing is what you want to do anyway, right? It’s where the fun is. Take time to enjoy the whole process, and try not to be so intensely outcome focused. There is a lot to enjoy in the learning and growing.

Happy First Day of Summer!

boats

Summer is a time known for relaxing, soaking up the sun, and getting outside. Since today is the first day of summer, it’s also the longest day of the year. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy that sunshine. A more unique aspect of this particular summer solstice, is that it will be a full moon. I look forward to heading out with the camera and seeing if I can get some nice pictures of that. Moon photography has been an interest of mine lately.

moon

One of the best things about summer for adventure enthusiasts, however, is that it offers ideal conditions for a new set of activities. The obvious thought is water sports like surfing, wake boarding, paddle boarding, etc. If you are a climber, the conditions aren’t the best. Sweaty hands and friction don’t mix well, but you can use this opportunity to catch up on some much needed training, explore the world of alpine bouldering, night climbing with headlamps, or you can just suck it up and enjoy hanging out in warm sun giving it your all.

We’ll be working hard on training for the fall temps through out the summer. I’ll keep you posted on new training ideas. I’ll also be exploring some new adventures with the adventure sport of the month. Featured for July will be diving. I’m excited to learn more about that!

What are some summer sports interest you have? What are you psyched to accomplish in the warmer months? Feel free to leave a comment and maybe we’ll feature your sport or activity of interest in one of the upcoming blogs.

Whether you’re out and active, relaxing by the pool, or working hard to earn money for the stuff you love to do, I hope you enjoy this pleasant summer day!

blue jay

Sean McColl: Competitive Climbing

sean mccoll

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook. Vail World Cup Bouldering 2016.

I’m thrilled and thankful to have had the opportunity to ask Sean McColl a few questions about competition climbing. I really appreciate his time and thoughtful responses. The fact that he responded isn’t completely surprising since Sean has a strong dedication to his fans and interacting with them, but it is still wonderful. Recently, he started creating live stream training videos, in which he puts forth a lot of effort to answer all fan questions and leave viewers with worthwhile information. I recommend checking them out, if you haven’t already:  https://www.facebook.com/seanmccoll1987/videos

He answered a couple of my questions on the live stream video, which prompted the idea to take a chance on an interview. Below, I’ve included a couple of my questions from that as a brief example.

AnnalisaHow do you know when you’re a hundred percent recovered or not?


Sean McColl

Sean McCollYou will never know… the struggle is real. You have to do a lot of hit or miss testing. Because my season is generally April -> November, I am usually tired from over training in the first month.

It gets easier over time.

AnnalisaWhat is the heaviest weight you can do a pull up with?
Sean McColl I think I’ve done 120% my body weight. So I’m about 60kg, I’ve done it with 75kg on my back. I once did a one arm pull up holding a 20lb weight. Maybe it was 15..
sean 3

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook.

 He does an incredible job of responding to everyone or close to everyone, so there is a lot you can learn from watching the videos or reading responses.

Sean McColl is a 28 year old climber from North Vancouver, Canada, though he currently resides in France, and he started climbing back in 1997. Sean is friendly, energetic, and a strong competitor. According to http://seanmccoll.com/about, he is a 3 time overall World Cup Champion, the only competitor in history to come in top 8 in every discipline, 8-time Open Canadian National Champion, America Ninja Warrior Contestant, and much more. His hardest outdoor sends consist of V15 and 5.14d (9a). It’s safe to say that Sean McColl knows a thing or two about hard climbing, and competition climbing in particular. With his positive attitude, valuable information, and creativity, he is motivating to watch. He does a great job and looks like he is having a good time.

Climbing Together: When climbing in a competition each attempt matters a great deal. What is your thought process when you first look at a competition route? What do you try to figure out first, and how much thought do you put in before touching the starting holds?

Sean: As a competitor, you are always trying to flash the boulder. That is why sometimes we take so much time preparing for our first attempt. On something like a coordation or jump boulder, sometimes we need to try it 4-5 times to get the feeling for it, but our flash and 2nd go attempts should be very productive.

 
Climbing Together: About how far in advance do you decide whether you’ll enter a competition and start preparing for it? Do you feel like you’d only enter if you were ready, or is having the experience valuable enough to just try them all either way? 
Sean: I plan my season at the beginning of the year, so in January/February I have a very good idea of how many events I’ll be doing In the season. This will vary from competitor to competitor but I believe I am doing the most comps of any competitors on the World Cup circuit!
 
Climbing Together: If you face a route that seems like it might be too challenging or you can’t figure it out, what goes into the decision to conserve energy or give it your all? 
 
Sean: Generally, at the level we are at, you never think a move is “impossible” just that you might have read it wrong. Spend a bit more time making sure you are doing the right thing, look for small tricks or things to make it easier and do a quick efficient try.
 

Climbing Together: Can you share an example or two of lessons you’ve learned when competing that might be helpful to someone looking to get involved?

Sean: Being a good competitor is not about doing the hardest moves imaginable but being able to problem solve and think on your feet. You must be able to route read, get into the mind of the route setters and do any “style” of problem. Have fortes and weaknesses are not a problem so long as you work on your weaknesses.

 

Climbing Together: Being able to travel to all these different areas and countries to compete sounds very appealing. Do you have time to enjoy the areas, embrace in the culture, or explore them? If so what are some things you are drawn to when entering a new place?

Sean: I can enjoy the areas I travel to as much as I want. Sometimes I like exploring the city and cultures, other times if I’ve already done it, I just skip it and rest for the next competition.

 
Climbing Together: Watching you in these past competitions has been really great. You always seem to have a good attitude about the climbs and have a lot of fun with them. Of course, your climbing is very strong and inspiring to watch as well. What are some goals or things people can expect to see from you in the next few months?
 
Sean: Although my schedule is not a secret, I don’t share my goals with the general public unless I want to. One of my goals will revolve around the World Championships in September.
 
Climbing Together: As climbing grows as a sport, there are a lot of areas being explored like training, nutrition, access, how far climbers can push the next grade, etc. Is there a certain area you are particularly interested or excited to hear more information about?
 
Sean: I am interested in seeing how fast the sports science catches up to our sport. That is to say, I want climbing to get more geeky, there is so much information about athleticism out there and not much is used for climbing. In the coming decade, the best climbers won’t just be good at climbing but very good overall athletes!
Thanks again for your time and all the great answers! Good luck on your future endeavors. We can’t wait to watch what you do next. 
sean 2

Borrowed from Sean McColl’s facebook page. Vail World Cup Bouldering

Video to Watch: Bouldering Albarracin Spain

As you may know, Climbing Together loves sharing things that supporters share with us. Partly in order to do our part in promoting the climbing community, but also our supporters happen to be super talented. This video is really well made and the climbs look awesome. It makes me want to get on a plane, go there and try them out. The rock looks incredible. Climbing videos are great, because they are motivating and they can teach you a lot. Seeing what techniques work and don’t work for other climbers can be applicable to your own climbing. Thank you for sharing this incredible video Mikkel Lima! Keep up the good work making great videos and climbing hard.

Climbing Requires Individual Risk Assessment

Although there are certainly things in life that are widely believed by most people to be safe or unsafe, there are a lot of things that fall into a more individual area of assessment. For the most part, climbing as a whole can be considered one of those things. There are a lot of different types and styles to climbing, and each individual climber has different perceptions of what is safe or unsafe to them. For instance, I’ve known people who feel confident and secure bouldering, but are terrified on ropes. I’ve known people who can comfortably take big risks sport climbing, but get nervous on even relatively simple trad. Then there are people like Alex Honnold, who can free solo while feeling secure and stable, and others that feel he is constantly putting his life in danger. Everyone has a different sense of risk, and different thought processes in why. That is okay and it makes sense. No one knows your body, your limits, and your abilities like you do. For this reason, I encourage people to be mindful and understanding of other climber’s needs to maintain their own ability to assess appropriate risks.

This has been on my mind lately due to a few events where people have tried to impose their individual risk assessments onto my safety. I thought it might be worth sharing my perspective in these situations, because it might help others keep an open mind or consider their interactions more carefully.

In the first scenario, I was working on a bouldering route at the gym. It is one that is at my limit and challenging to me. It happens to be a boulder on one of the higher walls in the gym, which I normally avoid due to fear, but I wanted to safely push myself. This wall also happens to be slightly overhung. I was just a couple holds from the top when I fell. Due to the overhanging nature of the wall, and the dynamic move I used to go for the hold, I fell back quite a bit further than anticipated and half of my body missed the crash pad. Luckily I had a spotter who reached in to protect my neck, and nothing happened. This didn’t stop me from continuing the climb, but it did make me think that having a second pad to cover the area I actually fell was wise. I didn’t want to move that first pad, because the start was pretty tricky and there was just as much chance I’d fall closer too. With the two pads arranged how they were, I continued my efforts. I fell several more times at that same area, and fell perfectly. The second pad was just what I needed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the climb in this session. When I returned to it later, I placed my pads where they were before. I felt safe because I had taken this fall so many times now and knew the pads were right where I needed them to be. That security was important to remaining uninjured, but also mentally it made it easier for me to try hard. I felt I was safe and could climb fearlessly.

I started positioning myself for my climb, when a man came over and started moving my second pad. I jumped off the wall, and was ready to say I was using it, when he said “oh are you using this?” I said yes, and thought he would drop it and this would be the end of the story. Instead, he tried convincing me that using both of them was unsafe. I calmly told him how I fell from the top and that I needed a pad there. He proceeded to move my pad around anyway, telling me at the very least I should position them better. I had them overlapping and he thought this wasn’t good. As someone who has had an ankle injury from falling on the edge of the pad, I prefer them overlapped. I could understand his point, but I knew where I was falling, and how I was falling. I knew my set up worked for me. I can understand the desire to help, but if someone is able to tell you they know what they are doing, you should accept they understand what’s best for them. It would be different if I was a new climber that looked baffled and didn’t know why the pads were that way, or if when asked about it I agreed I didn’t know. I let it go and tried to tell myself he was just attempting to be helpful. Helping someone is fine, but there is a line. Then another man came over and pulled the second pad in a different direction too. He wasn’t using it for anything, but apparently disagreed with the way I had them and the way this other man thought they should be. You can have a difference of opinion, on your own climb. As the person climbing and the person knowing the fall, I need to be the one to decide where they go for myself. If I had fallen the same way I fell those four other times, I would have landed either where there was no pad or with my neck between two pads. Neither would have been good for me. If you are thinking that maybe this was an issue with my hogging pads, I can assure that wasn’t the case. The gym was almost empty and there were tons of other pads available. In fact, ones were available closer to where they were climbing than mine was. This was all because they thought they knew better than I did. They weren’t on the climb though. Who knows if they’ve ever been on that climb or if they’ve ever fallen from that climb. I, however, had.

Another time, I had stacked two pads because my crux was a dynamic move to the top out. This climb was in a corner, so the rectangle shape of the pads was a bit awkward, and the overlapping helped me feel like I had complete coverage. Again, I knew my fall well and where I was landing was good with my set up. A man walked up to me and actually just started making fun of me for being “too scared,” and implying I was some kind of wuss. I just ignored it. People can think what they want, but I’m not suffering through another sprained ankle and months without climbing because someone else wants to call me names or ridicule me. I just shrugged it off and said it worked for me. Then he tried lecturing me that two pads is somehow strenuous on your knees and bad for you. He said he would feel so much more afraid with two pads. That’s fine. I’ve never heard of having more cushion to your fall being worse for your knees, but if he feels unsafe with two pads that’s his prerogative. What if I started making fun of him for using only one pad? It is the way he feels safe and the way he feels confident, so it would be just as stupid for me to do that. I can’t even count how many injuries I’ve seen happen because of poor pad placement. It’s something that is important to me and that I put a lot of thought into. If I don’t feel totally safe and secure, I wouldn’t be able to climb. Also, since I have had to deal with a few ankle injuries that have caused me to feel more nervous when falling, I take lots of practice falls on climbs to make sure the pads really are safe how they are. I’m not saying I’m an expert on all pad placement, I’m saying that I’m becoming an expert of what my body and mind need in terms of pad placement. I’m becoming an expert of my own risk assessment. Each person will fall in a different place depending on what their individual crux is, the size of their body, how they are going for the hold, etc. So where someone else falls and needs protection, might not be the same.

I’ve seen situations where people who are like V10 climbers will do a warm up V0 without a pad, and someone will rush in to provide one for them. Most of the time they don’t get angry per se, because it is clear the person means well. It is often still annoying to them. I don’t want to discourage helpfulness, but I do want to encourage understanding someone knows their own risks. It’s important to respect a climber’s knowledge of what they can do and what they might need.

If you see a climber struggling hard on a climb and looking like they are about to fall where there is no pad, by all means ask them if they want you to move it over for them, or spot them, or do something to help. Just also be respectful to the fact that people have different ways of assessing risk. I saw on a forum today that people were arguing over whether a person should use more than one pad. I think this up to the individual and their situation. It needs to be. If someone is on a long traverse, that is probably going to need a few pads. If someone is doing a highball, they probably want a few pads. If someone is scared to death of another ankle injury, like myself, they might feel better with a couple pads. If you are in doubt and worried about a person, I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking if they had their pads that way for a reason. I saw someone doing a climb once, and I knew people who fell off the top almost always fell a few feet back into a certain spot. I noticed there wasn’t a pad there and I didn’t know if they knew the top was like that or not. I just went up and asked before they climbed it. I told them the experience I and some other people had with that fall, and if they knew what the top was like. In this case, they didn’t and they were grateful for the advice, but if they did, I would have respected that and backed off. Maybe the beta they were using didn’t put them in that position I was in. It’s not a problem for people to want to help.The problem I have is with people talking to each other with disrespect, making someone feel wrong for what they know works for them, or just doing what they want with their set up without asking.

It comes down to respecting each other, but it also comes down to valuing individual risk assessment. These situations are what applies to me, but there are other types out there. You can start a conversation and learn someone’s thinking about it, but understand that they know what is an acceptable or unacceptable risk for themselves for the most part. The exceptions of course are with children, misuse of gear, or knowing for sure the person lacks knowledge. If you are an adult with kids, you probably can assess risk better than them. Children aren’t developed enough to really process all that. If someone’s completely misusing gear in a way that is cut and clear dangerous, feel free to offer some words of wisdom to help. Be respectful about it, but let them know the risks they might not be aware of. If you are bringing your friend to the gym who has never climbed before and you know they just have no clue what’s what, then feel free to help them along. I guess my final thought is that it’s really about how you approach it. Are you being honestly helpful and respectful, or are you being a pompous asshole about it?

What do you think? Would you agree or disagree with this?

Adventure Activity of the Month: Trail Running

trails

A few years ago, I motivated myself into running by signing up for a mud 5k. I always hated running, but there are said to be so many benefits to it. I wanted to see if running would improve my overall health, but the thought of the treadmill is enough to put me to sleep. With the mud run date looming in the not so distant future, I was able to set goals and really get running. I hit the treadmill before climbing, and ran with my dog down the street. I started to realize that after the initial dread and mental pushing, it felt enjoyable. I felt really good after doing it, in fact, the after run is one of my favorite feelings. The day of the mud run was intensely hot and trying to run in that heat was straining, but the obstacles were thrilling and pushed me forward. Particularly when the obstacles involved running through freezing cold water or cool mud. If I could run obstacle courses each day, I’d probably be excited to run. Running every day would probably be good for me too. Having a physical done while training for the mud run, I witnessed the benefits. My cholesterol was down, my weight was down, and I was super healthy. The doctor said to keep it up. I really thought I would.

Post mud run the motivation became a lot harder. I couldn’t imagine getting through a 5k that wasn’t an obstacle course. I kept up running on the treadmill by testing out different motivation methods. I listened to books on tape, I listened to adventure sound track music and imagine myself in high stakes action mode, and I caught up on TV shows. It all worked for a while, and each time I thought I was set. I always felt great after running too, but getting to the gym felt near impossible. I just hated the thought of running. Eventually, I just more or less stopped. I run for a warm up, but never long stretches of time. I’d much rather hike, and it feels like just as much cardio.

A few friends of mine are into trail running and have claimed it to be entirely different. I found this a bit hard to believe, though the idea of being in nature did seem more appealing. One day I was on a steep downhill while hiking, and my knees hurt bad. I started picking up the pace and they felt much better. Before I knew it, I was in a full run and it was exhilarating. My heart was pounding, my face was flushed, and my legs were getting faster and faster. All my focus was dodging roots and large rocks, being careful of my balance, and watching my step. It was sort of like mini obstacles to jump over, or step on in a certain way. It was fun and it felt amazing. That was the first time I had understood what people might mean by a”runner’s high.” I wanted to do it forever. If I said, “hmm…I should run the trail,” I felt psyched to go. It was much different than my strong mental resistance to the gym. In fact, today I started thinking about running a bit on the trail near my house, and I couldn’t wait to get out of work to do it.

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As you may notice in the photos, my nearby trails are far from strenuous. They are easy hikes and very easy trail running paths. I am, after all, just starting this new activity and want to be careful to avoid injury. However, they are so much more beautiful than any view you’ll get on a treadmill. The lighting, the trees and plants, the birds and butterflies that soar by, and all the amazing sights nature brings, make this a visual joy. The rocky paths somehow feel much better on my feet and soul than the daunting pavements and concrete. Trail running has enticed me, a complete anti-runner, and I’m sure it can do the same for you. Even if you struggle a bit to get started, walking on a trail is still a better work out than walking slow paced on a treadmill or pavement. So you can still feel good about the moments you need to slow up and catch a breath. There is also reward with the incredible views you get when you reach little summits.

Let’s look at some of the perks to trail running, both scientifically and in my experience.

  1. It’s good for your body. With all the benefits to your cardio vascular system, running is sometimes known for not being the greatest because of the impact on your knees, shins, ankles, and hips. Trail running is actually said to be less of an impact because there is some give when you hit the ground, and there isn’t when you hit the hard surfaces of treadmills and pavements. So if you want to run, trail running is probably the best option for your knees. In my experience, this rings true. I run downhill on a concrete bike path and am sure to suffer shin splits. I run downhill on the trail and usually feel fine. According to runner’s world, it’s also good for many forms of tendinitis, which climbers are all too familiar with. It also makes your muscles for maintaining balance and control stronger. Just be careful of ankle injuries from rolls. It’s good to start off on easy trails. On top of all that, it is also good for building up core and leg strength. Trail running helps build up a lot of things that you need for climbing, it seems.
  2. It’s good for your mind. This is probably easy to guess by the simple fact that being out in nature is said to be good for your brain in so many ways. It offers a chance to embrace that strong connection with nature, and escape all the stress of your hectic day. Nature has a way of healing many stresses, concerns, and in some cases mental health problems like depression and anxiety. It makes me feel full and calm.

rock path

These benefits are ones I’ve felt to be true. I start out on the run with my focus on the path before me. It is one of the few times in life that I fall easily into being absorbed by the present moment. My mind is cleared of all other thoughts and I see nature in a new way. I see the golden rays of light filtering between the trees in a hazy glow. I notice the intricate patterns of roots, rocks, twigs, and leaves.My chest is heavy from the efforts, but the pain of it is rewarding. I feel peaceful and blissful with each jump, step, and dodge. The feeling is indescribably fun. Each time I need to stop for a break, I find myself eager to recover so that I continue forth stronger. It never gets boring. There is always a new sound, a new obstacle, a new feeling. At the end of it, I feel worn and worked, but also proud and satisfied.

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The trail doesn’t need to be difficult in order to see benefits. You can pick flat dirt that is mostly free of rocks if you want. You won’t necessarily be getting all the balance and stabilizing workout, but you will still be able to enjoy the feeling of being in nature. It will still be less impact, good for your heart, and all that stuff. I encourage you to give it a try. If you’ve been trail running before, leave a note in the comments to describe your experience. Do you agree or disagree? Where are your favorite trails?

trails

 

Congrats Shauna Coxsey!

It’s certainly not a secret that I consider Shauna Coxsey to be one of my absolute favorite climbers. She is an inspiration to me, and motivates my own climbing progression. I was thrilled to hear that she won this year’s overall world cup champion. Watching her in the world cups has been mind blowing! These are some seriously hard boulders, and she flashed so many of them. Her strength looked unreal, and made these boulders seem effortless. She was also appointed MBE, which is Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for her services to climbing. This award is given to those who have made a significant achievement or important service to the community. This award comes from her efforts in founding and organizing the Women’s Climbing Symposium, her role as Climber’s Against Cancer Trustee, and being a BMC Ambassador, British Mountaineering Council. She is the first British female to climb V12, V13, and V14 grades. At the young age of 23, she has accomplished so much in her life, and so much for the climbing community. There is probably a lot more to come too.

There are many reasons to admire Shauna Coxsey, as a climber and as a person. In honor of her big wins, I will attempt to lay out a few of my personal reasons.

  1. She shows that progression is possible with hard work. Everyone wants to be a better climber. There are so many forums and discussions where people desperately search for an easy answer to climb harder grades. There are also a million excuses people give for why they can’t get better. Too old, not enough time, hit their peak, injuries, etc. etc. There are even some professional climbers that seem content with accepting perceived limits to their climbing ability. Not a lot of people want to really put in the effort training, because they think it’s not as fun as climbing. You can test it your own gym or at your crag. Ask someone if they want to be a better climber, they’ll likely say yes. Then offer an intense training plan, and they’ll be like “oh, yeah…maybe,” looked pained, or straight up say no. That’s okay. Not everyone needs to be top athletes, and just having fun climbing is totally fine. Shauna Coxsey, on the other hand, has spent some time dedicated to training hard and it shows with these impressive gains in her ability. She also always looks like she is having a lot of fun with it. I remember, when I first started watching world cups and saw Shauna. She was obviously a good climber, because making it into world cups, to semis and to finals, are all impressive feats on their own.However, she was easy to miss among powerhouse climbers of the time like Anna Stohr. Regardless, there was something about her that caught my eye. Now, she is winning the overall title and so many of those climbs were flashes. She went from a good climber to an amazing climber by really training and working hard. There is no way to miss her now. If someone can do that at their limit level and at the overall limit level of strong climbing in the world, imagine what could happen with your climbing? There is so much room for progression if you put the work in, and that is really inspiring.
  2. She is a good role model. Shauna is a great role model in a lot of ways. Recently I read an article about women in sports using their sexiness to sell. There are some females athletes whose social media looks more like porn than an athlete’s page. People have argued some females seem more popular and supported based on looks than talent. I won’t get into a tangent with this because there is so much out there already. What I will say is that Shauna is not afraid to be herself and seems so confident in who she is. She is a beautiful girl, but the talent and personality is what she really highlights. Her social media looks more like your best friend’s page. It’s covered in silly pictures and fun posts. It also is about showcasing her talent and sunny, positive personality. She is a person that is well liked, and well liked for reasons you want to be and can aspire to.She is doing a lot for the climbing community in general and for female climbers. She seems like a good friend, kind person, and very dedicated to her goals. Her passion for climbing is apparent, and she puts in the effort, no excuses.
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    Borrowed from Shauna Coxsey’s facebook page

    3. She is fun to watch. No one seems to climb quite like Shauna. I’m always so impressed by the unique movement she comes up with, and her ability to stick seemingly impossible things. Some of the positions she finds herself in are crazy, but it’s always entertaining. It has really encouraged me to think outside the beta box with my climbing. When stuck, why not try something seemingly ridiculous? It’s part of learning and you might be surprised what comes from it. Everyone does things different, and there are times that beta no one else could use has been what made me successful on a route. Her posts on social media are light, goofy, and put a smile on my face to see. She also will like, retweet, or respond to comments fairly often, which is nice. I would say that, in my personal experience, Shauna, Sean McColl, and Joe Kinder are really amazing to their fans in terms of this responsiveness. They are all people whose personality shines through strong too. I admire the fan dedication. Of course, I’m bias as a fan.

     

    4. She could be an excellent resource/learning tool. Training is one of those things that is kind of foggy in the climbing world. A lot of climbers are following training programs, but the question of does it work is hardly answered. A lot of climbers struggle to explain why their training works scientifically, and sometimes it’s hard to know what part of that training is really working. Then there are a bunch of climbers who just climb a lot, or have really awful training/diets and somehow still power through. Training has a long way to go in terms of being useful, quantifiable, etc. Shauna might be a good step in unlocking some training knowledge. She follows a training plan that is more advance and structured than many other types (ex: just climb a lot, or do things on the campus board), and is done with a coach who would know some of the reasons why those work outs are good. Those work outs obviously work since there has been strong and noticeable progression in her climbing.

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    Borrowed from Shauna’s facebook page

     

    These are just a few reasons why I admire Shauna Coxsey. There are so many more out there. She seems like a genuinely amazing person, and I look forward to seeing what else she accomplishes as her career in climbing continues. Congrats to her on her huge accomplishments! She has worked hard, and deserves them. She is definitely a climber to keep watching, if you haven’t been already. Feel free to add your own reasons for liking and being happy for Shauna in the comments below.