Trad Leading

16 Mon, 2011 § 1 Comment

I thought I was a boulderer.  Does this really make sense?

[Binou’s Crack, Indian Creek, by David Finch]

I like the short, intense aspect of bouldering, so anything on a rope starts to feel long & never-ending rather quickly.  I can’t help myself though.  Recently, I have fallen for the challenge of overcoming my fear of trad leading.

It is difficult to put into words the satisfaction & confidence (& delirious excitement) gained when placing my own gear into the cracks, nurturing trust in my ability & coaxing my body to climb above these placements, pushing myself the entire length of the crag.

For me, trad (short for traditional) climbing is a head game.

The routes I touch when leading trad are not physically limiting to me.  I choose grades completely within my abilities.  Each move is well within my range.  I know I can do it, but often, I won’t allow myself to know it.  I let fear kick me off the wall.

The urge to retreat is strong — I want to give up & lower to the ground — as the “what ifs” & “I can’ts” echo in my head.  When I climb on, through this fear, I learn something about myself I get to take off the wall & carry with me:

I am stronger than I think I am.   I am capable of much more than I give myself credit.  I do not have to live in fear or stress.  I do not give up.

You don’t have to climb mountains (though you might like it if you try), but I challenge you to find something that is hard, something you have to work for, & push yourself.  It shouldn’t necessarily be physically limiting but mentally challenging.

In those moments we push through the constraints of our minds, when we go beyond what we previously thought we were capable of doing, we are liberated & rewarded with a glimpse of our true selves.

There is only room to grow, only room to expand, so stop limiting yourself.


How do you push the bounds of your mind’s self-imposed limitations?

I Boulder

10 Tue, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m a boulderer;

or rather, I boulder.

[on Tranced Out & Dreaming in Ibex, Utah by David Finch]

Give me a rock with a few, fun, strenuous, limit moves, I’m content to fall off it for hours.

Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Because I don’t like falling.

Actually, I don’t mind falling; it’s hitting the ground I dread, even from a short distance.  Considering the bad ankle sprain I earned after one of my first gym bouldering sessions, this is a reasonable fear.

Even before a boulder starts to approach true “high ball” status, I might burst into tears in my desperation to top out.  In these moments, I’d give anything not to hit the ground; I’d much rather be taking my fall tied into the end of a rope 60 feet up.

So why boulder?

Bouldering strips rock climbing to an even bearer, rawer state.  Little equipment is required.  If I was truly a purist, I’d be climbing naked, chalkless & shoeless.  Once I step up to the rock, “the mechanism clears”: it’s just me…the rock…my body…moving with the stone…yielding to its permanence…pushing the bounds of my own limits.  There is no physical reward at the “top” — no significant or measurable height achieved; no bird’s-eye view — only the victory of inner growth, the submission of the ego (beaten down by falling over & over again) & a connection with what is truly greater than all else.


Bouldering isn’t the only rock climbing I do; but when I need to touch rock now, the most natural tug leads me out the door with a simple pair of shoes, a pad (or two or three) & a little chalk.


Where do you find presence?

Indian Creek & Our Damp Solitaire

27 Wed, 2011 § 10 Comments

Our new route to Indian Creek, Utah is one of my favorites.  Monument Valley is stunning & diverse.  Even though driving home & back to “reality” can be disheartening, I can think of worse views.

[photo by David Finch]

Clouds, often responsible for creating nice, filtered light & ominous skies for photos, plagued much of our camping trip.

[by Allie]

Rainy days meant fewer climbing days, because wet rock should not be climbed, though many choose to ignore this common sense & decency law.  The weather treated us to a lesson in Being & patience as we were left to fill more days than expected with “rest day” activities.

One morning we took advantage of National Park Week & the waived fees to trek into Canyonlands.  We intended to hike to the confluence of the Colorado & Green Rivers.  The longer-than-anticipated, already quick-paced hike was cut short when we turned & ran 3 – 4 miles back to our little, awaiting Eisley.  I would definitely call this an advanced running trail & hope we actually make it to the confluence next time.

Another rainy afternoon, we retreated into the tent for card games.  Much of our time was spent reading to each other though.  We took turns reading chapters from Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, beautifully written & highly enlightening.  I was tickled (yes, tickled) when Dave asked me to read aloud to him.  The simple act of sharing a book felt fresh & intimate, especially because we were immersed in pages so fresh with passion & intimate with love for the desert.

Though the rain spoiled some of our “plans”, it offered us time to reflect inward, connect outward & recognize its precious presence in this beautiful desert.


Do you ever read aloud with others?

Spring Dreaming

18 Fri, 2011 § 4 Comments

Can you be homesick for a place that felt like home for only a brief time?


Can you miss people you only knew for three weeks & could hardly communicate with?


Can we go back right now?


Yesterday was a bit grey & overcast; it got me thinking about where we were a year ago.

It sure doesn’t feel like Thailand was twelve months ago!

With our anniversary approaching, I thought maybe I could share some highlights from our trip…next week.

I also want to share an amazing workout move Dave created…so watch for it…tomorrow [or later tonight actually].

I know I am lame to post “going tos”, but while everyone else was out for St. Patty’s Day, Dave & I were climbing our little hearts out at the gym last night…& I was  too exhausted & in too much pain to type, & it was too dark to take photos of his move.  I hope it gives you a couple things to look forward to though! 🙂

Bouldering felt amazing — other than the MASSIVE flapper I got!  This is always tricky business: should I just cut the skin off & move on or try to nurse it back to reattaching?  It’s a thick enough piece, it might just do it…if I have the patience to nurse it…& if it starts to heal before tomorrow’s climbing trip.  Hmm, I probably should have just cut.

Hope you had a fun [pain-free] night.



Does the back & forth Spring weather have you daydreaming of past or future vacations?

Quatro Obsession

5 Sat, 2011 § 6 Comments

I did not want to…

I had the motivation…

but no energy.

I even laid on the weight room bench for several minutes & thought about falling asleep while Dave worked out.  I am not proud to admit this.

I have not been feeling great this week; I think it is just my…well…anyway, I hope I am not coming down with anything.  I have definitely not been getting enough sleep, & it is catching up with me.  Sometimes your body just needs rest — BUT

exercise boosts your immune system, so I kicked it into gear with an on-the-fly workout.*

High Intensity Interval Training using body weight exercises & the treadmill executed around 4 minute segments, which just happened.

I did each exercise for 4 minutes total before moving to the next = 6 rounds each: 10 second rest, 30 seconds maximum effort.


  • Dips @ the dip station
  • Skater Lunges with hop & knee up [alternate sides between sets]
  • Burpees [true burpees with full push up & jump]
  • Hanging Knee Raises on the dip station

I finished off by joining Dave on the treadmill for a 4-minute splits run.  Splits & intervals are the only way I can run on a treadmill; otherwise…boring.  I do not consider myself a runner by the way.

SPLITS [this would be considered a split right?]

  • Speed 7 ~ 60 seconds
  • Speed 8 ~ 60 seconds
  • Speed 9 ~ 60 seconds
  • Speed 9.5 ~ 15 seconds
  • Speed 10 ~ 15 seconds

Followed by a 4-minute “cool down” of a fast-paced-Speed 4-walk at an Incline of 4.

Actual cool down: decreased speed & incline equally every minute for the last four minutes ~ 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2.

Stretched. Aww.

The sweat was worth it.  It took me a second to find my land legs.  Funny how the treadmill does that.

Apparently 4 is the number of the day.  Last night my pizza had 4 toppings too — wait, scratch that — Dave & Marisa had yummy sun-dried tomatoes & artichoke hearts I added last second to kick it up a notch.  Glad I did.  I piled caramelized onions, mizuna greens, mushrooms, thyme, a few sun-dried tomatoes & artichoke hearts on pre-made spelt & sprouted grains crust.  Once out of the oven, I drizzled each slice with a little truffle oil & sprinkled with a dash of sea salt.  Pizza nights rock.

Now we are hitting Priest Draw to boulder.  Earlier I thought I would take blankets & an extra pad & curl up while Dave climbed, but maybe I will make a goal to send a V4 — wait, we are hitting the Bat Cave — scratch that too.

*Always warm up for ~5 minutes before working out.  Mine varies but usually includes 30 seconds each of walking in place high knees, jumping jacks, running in place high knees, heels to butt, lubricating various joints with unloaded movement, arm circles, etc, followed by a couple, short, light stretches.  My true stretching follows my workout.


What are you doing this weekend?  How do you decide whether to push through with a workout when you are feeling sub par?

“Nothing Tastes as Good as Being Skinny Feels”

16 Sun, 2011 § 14 Comments

Love My Body part I

I had already felt like crying the day I read that quote.  Its endorsement nearly pushed me over the edge.  I had been looking for motivation…but not of this genre.  My favorite workout blog had been back up & running for awhile now; I was shocked it had taken me this long to check out the new layout.  This counsel from a fellow follower threw me deeper into the shallow body image paradigm I was struggling to overcome.  She attributed the quote to Kate Moss.  As a responsible blogger, I should verify; but I just cannot bring myself to read anymore concerning this mentality.

I had worked so hard to establish & feel good about my body.  Recently, I had started falling into old habits, such as comparing.  I won’t be fit until I have abs like that.  My arms aren’t good enough until they look like hers. I went online looking for motivation & was hit with self-deprivation.

I continued to browse over workouts & new features, like photos & posts from followers about their progress.  One woman shared her amazing journey, then nearly negated everything she had accomplished by focusing on what she “still needed to get rid of” [her lower tummy pooch].

I wanted to hug her & shake her & tell her to not be self-deprecating & disempowering.  Be proud of what you have done!  Be proud of how strong you are! I scanned comments & though she received a lot of congrats, the only mention of the tummy pooch comment offered her “the trick”.

Only one half serving of fruits, no sugars, no grains & no breads per day.  Try this for a couple of weeks religiously, & you should see a reduction in “puffiness”.  If you keep going, maybe you can kill off the pooch.

I understand limiting sugar & processed grains, but all grains & almost no fruit?  As someone who relies on crucial energy to do what I love to do, my body needs these foods.  Isn’t it more important we eat a balanced diet, nourishing our bodies?

Needless to say, I needed to switch paradigms…before I got stuck in a place I did not want to be…a place that makes me very unhappy.

So what to do?  For me.  Right now.


Focus on appreciating how strong & healthy my body is.  Appreciate what it can do.  Commit to making it stronger.  Treat my body lovingly.  No deprivation.  No comparisons.  Remove the focus from how I look to what I can do.  Some of the strongest, most athletic people do not have the “perfect body” look.  Our bodies are amazing, capable of so much.  Why do we struggle with feeling the need to perfect our bodies through appearance?  Why not through performance?

[We did not get any photos this weekend but decided to return here to work this traverse since it was one of the driest areas.]

With the cold weather & the snow [& an over-priced climbing gym], climbing has not been possible the last couple months.  My body & mind have missed it.  With 40 degree days, we jumped on the chance to touch rock this weekend.  It felt good to test my body & connect with the earth.

It felt just as good to nourish it rather than deprive it.

I started my days with fueling foods,

like barley & lentils mixed with Natalie’s Spicy Thai Chili, which is delicious & packs some heat!

I listened to my body’s cravings; Uncle Sam cereal with raspberry kefir & a sprinkle of cacao nibs was one of these.

I kept it going while out & about with even more random creations.

[I will share more of these little guys tomorrow.]

I feel like I nearly sunk into a superficial pool but was able to wade to the shores of a healthier mindset.  Did I make it on my own?  No.  I will share more of that tomorrow as well. 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed your weekend as much as I have.


Are you happy about your body?  Is your own body image paradigm a healthy one?

A Better Body Mentality

13 Thu, 2011 § 6 Comments


I felt strong.  I felt healthy.  I felt good about my body.

I went to Vertical Relief, the sole climbing gym in Flagstaff, for the first time.  Dave & I took a break mid-day & spent our lunch hour bouldering; then we headed back in after Dave got off work for a couple hours more of climbing plastic.  The gym is…ok.  It is smaller & more expensive than what we had in any of the SLC gyms.  I guess that is why monopolies are not a great thing.

Even if the gym itself is not what we are used to, it is still a gym & it has been months since I have climbed.  Plus, they do have a horizontal roof which preps us for This.  I savored pulling myself up those walls until my skin gave way & ripped a lovely blister on the inside of my knuckle.  That’s a good sign to call it, especially when we plan on climbing this weekend.  It is supposed to be in the high 40s!  Wa-hoo!  How sad is it that that feels warm now? 😀

Post climbing snack was a pretty strange craving of raspberry kefir & spelt grain toast with avocado & paprika.

But you just have to listen to what your body wants.

I am listening to my body, treating it right & appreciating everything it can do.  Right now, I do not care what my body looks like.  My body is beautiful.  My body is strong.  It becomes more beautiful & stronger every day.


What makes your body beautiful?

Cobra Inspiration

6 Mon, 2010 § 3 Comments

Meet my Cobras.

My favorite climbing shoes.

La Sportivas are the glass slipper of climbing shoes; at least for me they are.  I have a slightly high arch, & they fit like a glove.

Initially I was too sensitive to the thin midsole of the Cobras, but I quickly fell in love with being able to “feel” the rock through the shoes.  They are respondent & just aggressive enough whether I’m on overhanging routes or steep boulders.

Before Sunday they were just typical climbing shoes, except that they said “DEMO” all over them — but I would never complain about a pair of brand new climbing shoes that  I scored  for $25 last winter.  No, not me, I am definitely not complaining.  Especially about my favorite pair.

On Saturday Christine mentioned something about my random “DEMO” shoes…& I’m not sure which of them had the sudden stroke of genius, but Dave or Christine suggested I write other words all over them so you wouldn’t even noticed DEMO.  Actually, that was just a good idea, I had the stroke of genius ;).  I wouldn’t just write any words.  I would write strong, meaningful, inspiring & motivating words — words that would help me stay mindful of my intentions while climbing.

I was never one of those girls in jr. high who wrote on my shoes or jeans, but it’s never too late to start I suppose.

I considered writing one word each time before climbing…but I got excited.

I did leave a little room to add more though should inspiration strikes.

This whole idea of rewording my Cobras occurred after I sent “the warm up“.  Remember when I panicked & bailed a couple weeks ago?  This time I took a deep breath & thought “just climb”.  Rather than getting nervous, I looked for the next hold & kept moving.  Where I froze & crumbled before, I saw the holds that were there, extended & felt my way through with ease.  No over-thinking or blame shifting my way off this time.  It felt great to overcome my former hesitations & just enjoy the climb.

[Not “the warm up”.  This is me top-roping Solomon about a month ago.]

While we have been staying here, Promised Land has felt like our home playground.  A beautiful weekend of climbing was a nice way to say “goodbye” to the area.


Did you have a fun weekend?

Do you have any thing that motivates you or reminds you of your intentions or goals?  [Like my word shoes]  What words drive you?

The Zone

23 Tue, 2010 § 1 Comment

Have you ever been In.the.Zone?

Your body & mind are working just hard enough that everything comes together without overloading.

Your focus narrows & time seems to slow.  Your mind & body connect, making micro-responses you may not even be conscious are happening.  Your heart is racing but not at the verge of bursting from your chest.

It is your instincts at their most efficient.

In the audio book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell refers to this as the “optimal range of arousal”: when your heart is beating 115 – 145 bpm.  He talks about it in the most extreme cases, such as a police officer responding during a gun battle with an assailant, to the less-than-lethal circumstances, like the mindset in which Larry Bird played basketball.

Dave & I have talked about this zone as prioritizing perceptions: tuning in to only the imminent.  Obviously, we relate to it most in terms of climbing.

I have this theory that in order to harness this “optimal range of arousal” & be able to “control” it — or at least not lose control — you have to visit the zone often & work on not going over it.  Like anything, you have to train in order to be prepared when you are faced with those situations.  You have to be willing to put yourself in a state where your heart races, your body is at its limit & your mind teeters between complete focus & utter disarray.

This is Solomon — one of the best climbs.  I am far from sending it clean, but it is a perfect project in the physical aspect.  It kicks my butt.  Next door is Golden Idol: a good “head” project for me.  Even though it’s easier, a couple of the clips are sketchy [definition: feels unsafe] for someone my height.  All I think is “if I fall before that clip…I’m going to hit that ledge…”  This sort of thinking doesn’t work.  I have not fallen at these spots on top-rope; but when I think of leading it, I’m so afraid I will.  I need to change the way I approach this climb.

After my mental disintegration on the warm-up climb last week, I’ve been trying to figure out how to overcome hitting “the wall”.  I think I need to put myself outside of my comfort zone more often & work through it.

I’m anxious to get back our there, get into the zone & work through my fears.


Higher intensity on the rock isn’t the only thing consuming my mind lately.

I have seriously been craving pancakes — buckwheat pancakes to be exact — then Natalie made pretty pumpkin-infused, whole-grain ones Saturday.  Oh yeah, we were definitely making pancakes Sunday.  These would be the perfect fuel before climbing.

Pumpkin Buckwheat Pancakes

The rain spoiled our plans for climbing, so these became our rainy day pancakes.  Pancakes make everything better…even a drizzly day.

These almost didn’t happen though.  Somehow the buckwheat flour I scooped from the bulk bin — or thought I scooped — didn’t make it into our grocery bags!  Yes, I panicked…but quickly realized I had buckwheat groats.  Phew.  I was already going to grind quinoa to make flour; why not grind buckwheat as well?

It wasn’t as fine as buckwheat flour you’d buy at the store — more of a meal — but I’d say it worked just fine.

Initially I wasn’t sure what I thought of these dense, grainy, not-so-pretty pancakes — my homemade flours probably lent to the texture — but adding a little pumpkin butter between layers sweetened them just enough.

You can find the recipe here.

Other than making my own flours, I used almond meal instead of corn flour.  I also didn’t have molasses on hand, so I just left it out.

I’d say one craving has been satisfied…now if it will just stop storming so we can climb…


What are your rainy day solutions?  We played “Ticket to Ride”, then Dave & Christine rocked out on RockBand.

Do you like to push it outside your comfort zone in terms of sports & recreational intensity?

The Rest of My Day

17 Wed, 2010 § 4 Comments

So what did I mean yesterday when I said “most” of my day flowed smoothly?

After establishing my intent to see things for what they are, not let anything get to me & just work with it, my day went smoothly…I was happy…mellow…calm.

I was like water & the day flowed

until I hit a wall while I was about 40 feet off the ground.

I got off to a bumpy start on the warm up [not the actual climb above] because it was more awkward than I had expected.  I winced & wined but pulled through.  I was at my 4th bolt, debating which path to take over a ledge, & — BAM — I slammed into the wall.

It isn’t a “physically challenging” wall — this climb is well within my physical capabilities — it’s psychological.  I’m sketched & afraid; my head isn’t in it.  When I hit this wall, there is generally one of two ways to handle it:

A. Shift the blame to someone else, like the “bolters” who needlessly exaggerated the space between bolts or the fact that “we haven’t been climbing routes enough to feel confident” or onto my “belayer” because he’s not sure which way the route goes & I convince myself he is getting impatient [which is never the case].

I am focusing on the past, which obviously isn’t useful.  Then my brain jumps to future prospects, one of them being falling.  Now that’s all I can think about.  So of course, I fall…or give up, which actually feels worse.


B. Accept that I am the one climbing, I can’t change the situation of the rock, bolts, etc. & only I can do anything at that instance.

It is not the ego’s sense of “I” here.  It is accepting that I always have a choice in every situation I am ever in.  Only I can really do anything about it.  It is submitting to the presence & not glancing sideways, worrying about the future or the past, which are generally negative thoughts.  What can I do now?

Monday, I succumbed to choice A & gave up…left to freak out about the fact I just bailed on the warm up!  😦

After talking with Dave, I realized the moments I break through the wall, I am usually muttering something to myself like “I am totally lost here [on this climb]…”I have no idea what I’m doing”…I actually laugh…& think “oh well”…risk it — just go for it — “I’ll figure it out”.  If I don’t, yeah I fall, but only a few feet.  I’m not going to die.  I don’t think about falling; I only think about how I am climbing at that moment.

Life is a lot like this when we hit “walls”.  We can go with A & focus on everything except the task at hand OR be present & own it.


Did I tell you what Dave’s “intention” for the day was?  To make me laugh hysterically.  I thought this was a worthy intention 😉 & couldn’t help but be anxious for its execution.  If I knew it was coming though, it wouldn’t work, right?


He succeeded.  More impressive yet: he made me laugh…hysterically…only moments after I had been crying over the climb.  I know he’s beyond amazing.  You don’t have to say it. 😉


Not only will I start the day off by “shaping intention”, I will take a moment before doing things like climbing & determine my intention for that experience.  I did this a couple times while climbing with my friend Polly, & we always had “successful” experiences.  I’m not sure what else to do, but I hope this helps.

What do you usually do when you hit the “wall”?

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