Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Endless Analysis #1: The Damage Done

It's Thursday, and I'm feeling halfway decent after the Endless Ascent. Over the next week or two I'm going to go through a few different categories of experience I had during the recent 24-hour climb for the dZi foundation: Damage, Math, Nutrition, Training, Gear, and other stuff as I think it through. The whole experience was one of the best of my life, and one of the worst (funny how the two ends of the experience spectrum are so close sometimes...). I can't stop thinking about it! Again, a huge thanks to everyone one who helped out, from the people on the bridge at single-digit hours in the morning to belayers to friends to the dZi, thanks! James Biessel photo to left, thanks!

Anyhow, here's a list of the damage done:

I keep having bad nosebleeds, and my lungs are still sore. After about 12 hours of climbing I started nose-breathing a lot, a trick I learned from Kim years ago. Breathing only through your nose is a way to stay roughly below your anaerobic threshold, and it moisturizes the air going into your lungs a lot more. I did this from about hour 16 on because I was already coughing some; I've noticed this problem before when going really hard in the winter for more an hour or two, but it was worse in Ouray than I've ever experienced, likely due to the huge load and time span I was asking out of my body. So I started nose-breathing, which worked great, but the high-altitude cold air really thrashed my nose and lungs instead of just my lungs... I think that although the relative humidity in Ouray is probably pretty close to the relative humidity in Canmore the actual quantity of moisture molecules available is likely lower due to less oxygen etc. to hold moisture in the air... Someone with better science than me feel free to step in, but the end result is that my nose and lungs are seriously thrashed. Both are improving, but still a little annoying. Interestingly, I found this on the New York Time site today.

No blisters! I climbed for about the first 16 or 18 hours in my Scarpa Phantom Lite boots. I've used these boots a lot, they are super warm and comfortable for me. But the soles of my feet started to hurt a lot after about 14 hours. I'm mostly blaming my sock selection; I normally wear these reasonably thick socks, but for some reason I wore a little thinner and lower quality socks, which compressed out more. I switched them out after 16 hours and put on the fruit boots and new socks. After the event I couldn't walk in my bare feet on hard floors, it was just too painful. Still hurts, but not too bad.

Yeah, I'm gonna lose a fingernail. It makes typing painful. Whine, whine, but it's funny how much much one fingernail can hurt! I don't remember what I did to cause the blister disaster that's seeping out from under the nail but there it is.

Hand blisters
I have never, ever heard of anyone getting blisters on their hands ice climbing. I switched gloves something like nine times in 24 hours, maybe more, but I've got blisters from ice climbing. I never would have believed it possible.

Harness rash
Not too bad, but tight pants are out for a bit. I think I did most of the damage in the last hour, when I wasn't taking the time to adjust my clothing properly. That's really important! I have had worse rash aid climbing for a few hours really.

Bloated, painful and hard like rocks for two days after the climb. OK now, but I'm not going to be doing calf raises or climbing ice for a few more days. Nope.

Sore hands
Back in the day when I was sport climbing a lot I had a sure-fire system to figure out how messed up my hands were: if I couldn't close the pads on my tips to the joints on my palms I was over-trained. I still can't do this. Creaky tendons, no "injury" pain, but seriously worked.

Right Knee
I was asking for a pretty quick lower when possible, and boy was I getting it! Amazingly, 194 laps I only had one "bad" drop moment, and I banged my knee pretty good during that moment. It's OK, but I feel it walking around for sure.

I think I looked up for tool placements and down for foot placements so many times that I just wore my rubberneck out. Better, but I had about the range of motion of a lineman for a few days.

Weird eyeball ding
During a training session a guy unintentionally knocked a small piece of ice down, and I looked up just as it hit on the white part of my eye. That's still hurting, but getting better.

Dehydration: I drank at least 18 liters of water during the event and four more after, but I wasn't even close to hydrated until 24 hours after the event... More on this in the nutrition section, I think I blew the hydration thing a bit.

Sore pretty much everywhere! I waddled through DIA on the way home on Monday, but I always feel like this after pushing too hard.

But I'm definitely "OK" overall, which surprises me. I have had some chronic problems with my elbows over the years for sure, and I was icing every night for months before this event. I was mentally completely prepared to tape my elbow at 90 degrees and keep climbing, or do anything it took to keep moving. In fact, while training I repeatedly thought about how I was going to keep moving on one foot, with one arm, whatever I had to do. When I could just keep climbing with no deep chronic pain or shooting new pain I was really psyched! More on training in a later piece, but it worked well enough to keep me moving, and I don't think I did any lasting damage to my body on this effort, or at least nothing new.

I hit the gym last night for a light workout (ten minutes rowing then 30 of yoga stretching, followed by five rounds of thrusters, pullups and situps, a combo I like), and then a slow skin up a local ski hill this morning before taking a few runs. So I'm OK.

PS on the Math--My personal belief is that Pic of the Vic, the route I was on, is at least 40M high as Vince Anderson's excellent guidebook suggests and my personal experience backs up (you couldn't TR it with a single 70, the rope is well past 1/2 when lowering in on a 70M). Others think it's 45M or maybe a bit more. Me, I'm going with the lower number of 40M until someone actually measures it. It's better to err on the low side than the high side in this sort of thing I think.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Endless Ascent Ends

I'm back home, sitting at a desk and trying to type with (seriously) blisters on my hands and a fingernail on my right hand that protests every time I use it to hit a key... Who gets blisters on their hands ice climbing? I've never heard of it before, and would not have thought it possible...

But the 24-hour push is done. Over the next few days I'm going to write more about different portions of the climb, from the nutrition successes and failures to the physical damage to the training and so on. There's just too much to put into one post, and I had a lot of time to think about things while doing the climb...

The main thing I'm feeling this morning is that I was incredibly lucky to be involved with such a fantastic group of people. Twenty three belayers, three "team managers," the dZi, the hundreds of people who showed up in small or large groups to cheer and keep me moving, so much incredibly positive energy from so many people. Today there is just no room for anything but an incredible sense of appreciation for everyone who was even in the smallest way involved with the Endless Ascent. What I'm going to remember most about the whole experience is not how much ice I climbed (I'm actually not at all sure about that number, lots of different route height guesses, comedy), how much it all hurt, but how lucky I am to be part of the community of people who came together for the dZi and the climb. It was a swirling mix of enthusiasm, support, shared love for the Ouray Ice Park, and excitement. I am deeply humbled and thankful for the experience, it will effect me for the rest of my life.

More later, my finger has had it with typing and it's time for another liter of water and another nap. Thanks, thanks, and THANKS!