Archive for Training & Fitness

What’s 3 hours travelling between friends?

Although I have been climbing for a few years now, I would say that it is only since I discovered how poor my performance was in last years Para climbing BMC Competitions were that I have really been working on upping my game.

So, when a friend and fellow blind climber shared on Facebook the BIC Festival (Bristol Inclusive Climbing) I found my interest spiked.

Checked the calender…. It was clear.

My climbing partner in crime was away with a Cub Scout group.

And being over a month away, the train fare was less than £15 return.

With all those ducks in a row, there was just on thing for it….. I was going to Bristol.

Fastforward the month (to Friday 1st September) and it was time to set the alarm.  My bag was packed for the day, my tickets were printed and I had apt reading for the journey.

The direct train from Fareham to Wales, via Bristol had even gone as far as to allocate me a seat (thanks to the kindness of strangers I was able to find my seat and settle for the trip)

Just under 3 hours later, the announcement on ithe train said ‘We are now approaching Bristol Temple Meads” and just in time as Miss Fizz was beginning to become unsettled.

We got off the train, found her a comfort stop (the platform guttering) and we were on our way,

I had a 1:1 session booked in as part of the festival in the afternoon, so for now with Fizz by my side we were off to explore Bristol.  Being a place we have never explored before, with the sun shining there was no time like the present.

Along with Google maps and a need for a Starbucks, we set off.  We walked along the canal, we walked amongst the many building projects and we found our way around the busy roads and numerous complicated crossing to get to ‘the shopping district’. Where my faithful guide sort out and found said required Starbucks.

The Climbing centre hosting the festival was Bristol Redpoint.  Which was uncharacteristically placed within more of a residential area than many other climbing centres.  So with my trusty phone, I worked out the bus route, running maps along the journey (as the bus had no audio descriptors of the journey). Although the driver had assured me she would let me know when it was my stop, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.  And as luck would have it; oven with my poor sight, I was able to see the climbing centre as the bus passed it (the bus stop was just past it)

Photograph of the outside of Redpoint Bristol

The sun was shining and I soon discovered that it was not just the centre of Bristol that had busy roads and complicated crossing … Espeially for a blind girl and her guide dog!

But again, the kindness of strangers found us being walked across the road and traffic stopped by a kind hearted delivery driver that was partly the cause of the terrible crossing conditions as he was parked up ready to make a delivery.

We made it safely across and into Redpoint, where Fizz instantly recognised a friend.  The wife of the fellow climber who had originally shared the BIC information on Facebook.  He, John as a VI climber was sat in the midst of the festival chatting to visitors and participants about the para-climbing community and the bmc team, which he is part of.

The staff at Redpoint had clearly undertaken disability awareness training and were very helpful, yet not in a patronising way.  I was guided by a friendly guy who was explaining the changes in floor textures, the areas we were walking through and finally the festival sign in area before handing me over to his colleague to chat with me in more detail.

All the staff I encountered were incredibly friendly and a female member of staff kindly showed me where I would find the toilets, before explaining the room layout to me.  (A point which is often overlooked)

So, freshened up and kitted up I left Fizz ‘benced’ to a tale where she was able to play with both John’s working guide dog and retired guide dog while I went and enjoyed a 1:1 session with an instruction called Tom.

Tom was very easy to talk too and we chatted about my climbing experiences, my sight and my hearing.  He then asked me a question I didn’t expect,

What would you like me to challenge you on today?

So, we had a bit of fun, I tried a bridge problem, where for the most part my feet climbed up the walls to the left and right of me, with the odd quick foot touch on the wall in front.

Panaramic photo of a bridging climbing problem with handholds on the central white wall and foot holds on the left stone affect wall and right white wall beside a railing

Tom put me on a wall with a much higher climbing grade on slab to see what I could do.  Turns out I pulled off one of my highest grades yet (with the acception of the final foot hold)

Image of the wall grading detailing sand holds equal 5+

Image of the 5+ Graded wall (which grading I was unaware of when I climbed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he even ran through some memory traversing with me.  Where my feet could go on any hold, but my hands were only to touch the green holds and in a particular sequence that was almost like playing out a song to achieve the right moves. (Sadly no photos of this)

It was an amazing day and one that (writing this 10 days later) actually helped me greatly with my first Comp of the season at Ratho

A simple question

Watching the Para-athletics, makes me wonder:

Would I be a Climber if I could see?

It’s a simple question; but honestly not one I can answer.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter about ‘can I?’ ‘Would I?’ or even ‘Should I?’ Because I can’t see and I can climb.

My sight & hearing loss has made me who is here today, it’s not about what I can’t do.

it should ALWAYS about what I CAN DO.

Yes I like most have wishes and hopes of things I want to do; but as yet haven’t.  I am also human and long for the day that I can see and I can watch my children playing on the other side of the park.  But, I am a realist and know that there are some hopes and dreams I will never have come true.

But life is for living, something that I can’t do if I sit too long and dwell.

A little over SIXTEEN climbs isn’t THAT much!

… In one day, with each of those climbs topping out at 14m, doesn’t make a 225m climb sound TOO difficult, does it?

Or is it wishful thinking on my part?

Either way, there is no backing out now.  The posters have been printed, the wall booked and my climbing partner (in crime) has agreed.

So, on May 3rd I shall be climbing the equivalent height of The Cheesegrater; otherwise known as The Leadenhall Building, the 225m office building that towers over its closest neighbour (and another building who’s height I have climbed) The Gherkin, 30 St Mary’s Axe.

Time to ‘earn’ my hearing aids.

Poster reading "Climbing a cheesgrater, having conquered a Gherkin."

If you would like to show your support, you can donate HERE

Planning, plotting, working and wondering …….

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The Cheesegrater is going to have to wait

An image of the London Skyline, showing The Cjeesegrater with The Gherkin to the right and The Lloyds building in the foreground.

All the climbing of 2016 has taught me so much more about myself as a climber, I am going to need to work on my technique dramatically if I am to turn my 1st place into a Team GB place.

This doesn’t mean that I am giving up on my fundraising, now more than ever I want to show my worth and EARN my Resound Hearing Aids, but with my climbing partner currently our of action, as the post title suggests ‘The Cheesegrater is going to have to wait’

Just days before Christmas, my climbing partner in crime underwent an operation for a hernia, one that has left him unable to train for a minimum of six weeks.  So with him not even being able to go to the gym until mid-February, let alone climb.  I have made the decision to postpone my climb.

Yes, I can climb with another partner.

No, I am not sharing my climb with ‘climbing partner in crime’.

But…… He is my motivator, my muse and my forceful “not let me down until I have reached the top” coach.  It wouldn’t be right to climb without him as my belay.

The new date is looking like late March, early April.  But no date is being set until the whole of ‘Team T’ is fit enough.

First a gherkin; Next a Cheesegrater !! is where I wrote about my challenge back in October, it was hoped that the climb would happen later this month, but health comes first and so, I am going to be cheeky and link you to the Crowdfunding page that has been set up for me, ‘HelpTeeHear’ where you can see why I am doing all of this.

My world is getting quieter in addition to darker and I’m not happy with it, not one little bit.  I want to be able to keep me, my independence and my love of technology that helps me to do all this.

So, my shameless plug is above, please take a moment to have a look.

And in the meantime, follow me for more updates on the climb and my other adventures.

 

 

Another church and The Angel of the North….. Was it a sign?

Round 4 of the Paraclimbing series for 2016, the final in this years competitions, another great location and my chance to shine.

Newcastle Climbing Centre is set within the walls of an old church, one that was much larger and steeped in more history than that of the Climbing Centre in Manchester.  A building that fed my love of design, my ‘eye’ for detail and my passion to climb.  What more can a gal ask for?

The day started with a stressful tummy, a fear of failure and without my faithful Fizz, a feeling of falling flat on my face…… Which given my already bruised and broken face, would not be a good look.

Anyway, I’m stalling; Dispite the nerves, the worries and the irrational fears, I did feel more confident, I had trained with a different mindset, I felt more prepared for this comp, maybe it was the return to Calshot or the long break between Round 3 and 4, who knows?  My confidence was noticed.

Fellow climbers who took the time to great me and speak to me made comments to this; I am not able to see my competitors, VI’s don’t really have ‘a look’  I could recognise some of the other competitions, one for the beautiful head scarves she always wore, one for the her blue/turquoise coloured hair, one for the sound his crutches made and another for her bright and bubbly hello as she spoke with everyone who walked past her!

I had found myself able to make more recognitions as the series had progressed, but not with any of those in my own category.  I don’t think I ever spoke more than 3 words to my own competition.  Not for lack of trying, but when you can’t see someone and they can’t see you, the introductions don’t happen naturally.

The climbs were set, this competition saw me undertaking climbs that my partner in crime didn’t, as with Edinburgh, different routes had been set for different disabilities, to enable each climber to work with their abilities, not to be disadvantaged by them.

I set myself a personal challenge, I challenged myself to ‘just go for the hold’ not fear falling, instead reaching for it and letting the rope do the work if I didn’t get it.

This worked well on all 3 of my climbs,  I made the moves, sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn’t.  But as I only got one shot at each route, it enabled me to gain more points, it also gained me a rather large bruised thigh when I came off the wall and hit a volume !!

The boulders were interesting, with three tries for each I was over the moon when I got the first route first time!  The 3rd wasn’t so clear cut, my balance or rather lack of it let me down, but I gave it my best and even though each of my 3 tries scored the same points I could walk away knowing I had given it my best.  My 2nd boulder started off wrong footed, so my second attempt saw me improve, although not gaining anymore on my 3rd shot.  My points added up, my points beat those of my climbs in Edinburgh, Manchester and London.  I finished knowing I had given it my all.

I didn’t know how many female VI competitors were in the round, I just knew I had beat myself.

So, to hear my name called out for 2nd place in my catagory was a shock!  Yes I was 2nd out of only 2, but it didn’t matter.  I got to stand on the podium and I got to bring home a silver medal to add to my two bronze.

My partner in crime was also awarded a medal, he ranked 3rd in his category.  Unlike me, he was 3rd out of 5; which given that the pair that came 1st and 2nd hadn’t dropped more than 7 points between them, the boy did good!

After the round 4 results and podiums it was time for the series winners to be  announced.

The series winners were different; series winners had to rank in at least 2 of the 4 rounds, this I found difficult to  understand, but basically it meant that not all of the categories gained a series ranking due to lack of competition.

In the Female VI category 3rd place was read out, the winner wasn’t actually at Newcastle to accept their award, then came 2nd, this was the girl who had come first in Newcastle.

“And First place for the 2016 Paraclimbing series female VI goes to ….. Theresa Osborne-Bell.”

I didn’t believe it, I just stood, I was pushed upto the podium and completely dumb struck to be handed a trophy!  I was in total shock and amazed they had called my name.  I found myself shaking, I struggled to hold myself together, I just about made it back to the crowd before being unable to compose myself any more and I found myself quietly crying, tears of pure joy!

I am still in amazement of what I have achieved in the last four months, the experiences I have gained from climbing in different locations and the friends I have made in that time.

 

UPDATE:

And now one week on the 2017 team has been announced, I am not in the list.  This is ok though, I learnt a lot during the competitions and now have 9 months to train, to be a stronger competitor next year……. Now to fire off an email to Santa for a Beastmaster hangboard.

I will be watching the team, following some of them through this year and build myself up, both physically and mentally to be ready to hit the ground running come September 2017 !!


 

First a gherkin; Next a Cheesegrater !!

September two years ago, I set about climbing The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) in the form of a relay climb at Calshot Activity Wall … My climbing partner did it too, he had a harder challenge I feel, as he took it on wearing a blindfold.  Together we set out to climb the 180m (591ft) between us, but having done that within 3 hours, we upped it to challenge ourselves further and finished 5 hours later; just before the wall closed for the night having climbed the height EACH.

It has been an odd time since then, I have trained with my now working guide dog Fizz, moved house and  discovered that my hearing is failing me along with my sight.

My climbing style has changed and these last few months I have found myself thrilled by the enjoyment of competing and moving my climbing forward to include bouldering and  it just top-roping.

This leads me into my next challenge. In December I shall compete in the final heat for the Team GB Paraclimbing team, which is no mean feet, and most definitely not something I would have dreamt was possible just six months ago.  It was through contact with The Molly Watt Trust, a charity that supports those with Ushers Syndrome that I made contact with John Churcher, a fellow climber who has both a visual impairment and a hearing impairment,  who just happens to have been on the GB team for several years.

Molly Watt (an inspirational young woman) has done lots of work with and around raising awareness and support for people with ushers Sydrome and RP (the family that my eye condition belong to)  She is a big believer in technology and has been using for some time Resound Lynx digital hearing aids.  These hearing aids are fully compatible and work with an app on an iPhone to be adjusted, directions and tested.  They also work as headphones to listen to music and with the addition of a small microphone enable her to be hands free to make and take calls.

I am not always so, but I try to look for the positives and I decided that if I was loosing my hearing, if I had to go through all this, then I wanted to do it in the most comfortable and least obtrusive way.  But at just under £5,000 for a pair, that isn’t going to be easy.

My climbing partner and dearest friend Simon set up a crowdfunding page, I wasn’t keen and felt ‘odd’ asking for friends to help me pay for these.

SO…… I have decided to do something to EARN the money from my friends and family, in the form of sponsorship.  And this is where the ‘Cheesegrater’ comes into it.

That is the nickname given to The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, the 225m (738ft) building that towers over The Gherkin; as is shown here:

Image showing the London Skyline, The cheese-grater is on the Left, with The gherkin on the right and The Lloyd Building in front.

So, the challenge …… To climb this height, all 228m of it, that is a whole 45m MORE than The Gherkin or 147ft in old money!

The tallest straight wall at Calshot is 14m (45ft) meaning that it will take 17 climbs up the wall to complete the equivalent of the buildings height.

Sounds simple when I break it down like that.  But I know I have lots of training ahead of me, and a date to set.  But I hope that you would agree, it is worth a little bit on sponsorship money?

The fundraising page: HelpTeeHear is up and running, so feel free to pop over and have a look, it shows the hearing aids in much more detail.  I would appreciate your support.

 

Time to be a princess……

I am far too old to be believing in fairytales, although I do enjoy a nice chilled Sunday with the kids and Disney’s Tangled…. So, for a few moments I want to indulge in the fantasy of Flynn Rider and my own wonderful White Stead.

Ok, so the moment is over and here I am finding myself without a cast iron frying pan to beat off the baddies and most definitely no white stead to rescue me from these great heights.

But I am in a castle…. Of sorts.

And I am up high…. Kind of.

But this is most definitely not a Disney film, I am most certainly not Rapunzel and I do not have magical hair the glows when I sing.

Instead I have the third round of competing to become part of the Team GB Paraclimbing to take part in.  And a pretty amazing building in which to do it!

Exterior image of The Castle Climbing Centre, showing the 3 tall towers of this previous water pumping station, part of the original design that gave it its name as a castle

Yet again, the designer in me is amazed by the location of the climbing competition; which has been my calming and relaxation technique to save me any full blown panic attacks.

This building in particular has hit a cord, being bought over 20 years ago from The ‘buildings at risk’ register, the team have worked on following the buildings design and when money has allowed, additions and alterations have occurred.  While keeping many of the original features of the building in place.

Image shows climbing walls between and around original brick features of the water pumping station

I could continue….. But for now I will move on to the real reason you are hear, reading this;  How was the competition?

In a word “challenging”

More so than I expected, more so than I think I could have prepared for.

This competition felt different, it was a week day and the climbing centre was reasonable quiet, this leant itself to another issue…. That those competing had time and lack of obstructions to watch those on the routes.

The general rule of thumb when climbing is

Nobody bothers with anyone else, they are all concentrating on their own next move or climb.

Image showing climbing walls with competitors in the background around the bouldering problems

But now there was an audience, on each climb and boulder problem.  There were supporters and there were the critics.  Both could be quite terrifying.

This was my third climb out of three in the series, but as yet none of those I had competed against in my category had climbed against me.  This was no different in London!

Even with my sight I was beginning to recognise other competitors, some had been at all and some just two out of the three, a good report was beginning to build with those who had met before, for me many quizzed me over my lack of Fizz!  Having decided that travelling up and back to London in 1 day was too much for her; as her work would be minimal.

Blindness and sightloss can be a very lonely disability, yet I have always found that ANYONE at a climbing centre is welcoming, supportive and doesn’t question differences.  So when meeting with some of the other VI’s, both male and female, I found myself questioned by my own peers.  Not all, the man who gave me the courage to attempt this; Mr John Churcher and his lovely wife have been great to talk to; get information from and are very supportive.  But especially in London, I found it very difficult to ‘mix’ with others from the VI category, I didn’t feel like it was a “mixing with the enemy” issue, it felt like some of those  competing weren’t looking (pun intended) to be part of Team GB.  A concept that is completely alien to me.

Yes, I am competing for me, for my personal challenge; yet I am competing to join a team, to work with, not against others.

You have probably realised by now, my emotions and ‘feeling’ effect my thoughts and sometimes lead me to distraction; that is what happened in Manchester, (round 2) but it wasn’t going to happen here, not in London.

So, feelings aside, I climbed my arse off!  I beat my own personal score from Manchester, yet found myself standing again on the 3rd podium.

Image of me standing on the left of the image on 3rd place podium spot.

My pride took a beating when 2nd place went to a 12 year old; although not as bad a beating as I had thought when the points details came out.  The competitive side of me was over the moon to discover it was just 6 points between 2nd and 3rd.

Image of the podium, including the 2nd and 1st place winners of the VI female category

It was a harder climb, it was also only 10 days after Manchester.  So for now, I have seven weeks to prepare for the finale….. Newcastle just before Christmas !!!

Time to get some serious training in.

 

 

 

Round 2 Rollercoaster

It has taken me some time to write this, and as I type this I am travelling to London to compete in Round 3.

exterior image of The Mancester Climbing Centre, looking just like a church.

Manchester was a fantastic climbing environment, the inner designer in me was in love, the church looked very much like a church from the outside, and even though I had seen interior images on the inter web, I didn’t expect it to have as much if not more character on the inside.

How I was wrong…….

interior image of a large circular stained glass window at the far centre, with a row of ceiling lights, arched rectangular windows to the side and climbing walls wrapped around and in amongst the building.All of the ‘churchie bits’ that were on the outside, like the large stain glass window at the alter, the solid stone arch of the doorway, the monolithically door frames and doors, along with most of the stone.  It was all there.  They weren’t hidden behind fake walls with holds on, they were worked around; they were in some cases ‘peeping’ out from behind an area, allowing the light to filter through and stream mixes of colours on the walls and the climbers; just as I could imagine it had done on the congregation when it was used for its original purpose.

interior image of Manchester Climbing Centre, looking up to a large stain glassed window, above a brick archway, exposed brick and pillars are seen along with a light coloured climbing wall to the left, with different coloured holds and decorative features.

The building oozed character, charm and beauty.  While at the same time taking ownership of its role as a climbing centre.  The walls weren’t out of place, the chalk dusted floor that comes with every climbing arena was perfectly at home.  The bouldering walls, sat snugly in the rear of the church, that you were lead to by solid stone steps and solid banisters.  The design was deliberate, it worked with the buildings original design, instead of against it.

This climbing competition was going to be different, not because of the building, not because I had a clearer idea of what was needed of me, but because my climbing partner was also entering the competition (all be it a different category to me).

He was going to have his own climbs to concentrate on, his own issues to overcome and his own exhaustion to deal with.  To say it put me in state of anxiety, fear, panic, that I was ‘on my own’ would be an understatement.  I felt trapped between a rock and a hard place.  I want for him to compete and have his chance, but at the same time I wanted him to be focussed on helping me. (for which I felt and still feel guilty and selfish for)

Different competitiors in Edinburgh had been given different routes and problems to solve, which was fair.  After all, some of the competitions had physical disabilities, that would make a difference to the way in which they climbed a route.  So, it was with this in my mind that my fear and worry had grown.

Manchester was however, a very different centre.  There were different climbs for different competitors, but as luck would have it, my route problems were the same as my partners.  So we were both able to work with each other and with the use of his iphone 6s, I was able to watch him climb and offer support.

The climbs were misleading though; from the ground, the descriptions of the holds were large and simple, yet when up there, on the end of a rope with only one shot of making the moves needed, it turned out the holds weren’t simple.  Yes they were large, but held no grip for hands or fingers.  it was like trying to climb with only your feet, not something I was too successful with.

So, the building was beautiful, the experience was amazing, but the result…… Well, that is the bit I am not too happy with, the sort version is I came 3rd.  A result that I have not been happy with, a result that I have played over and over and over in my mind.
A photograph of the winners in the female VI category, I am stood on the 3rd block, which is not clear as Fizz my guide dog is stood directly in front of me.

I am not going to make excuses, I wasn’t happy with my performance and it showed.  My only saving grace in my ranking for my climb was that there were 5 competitors, and the 1st and 2nd place in my category went to women who had previously climbed for Team GB.

I didn’t ‘see’ this at the time, I also didn’t ‘see’ that several of the VI climbers were actually aided by laser pointers.  A gadget I had never considered before.  But this got me thinking……

One of the male VI’s also has a hearing impairment, so he uses hearing aids and it is through these that he hears his guide talking to him with a small mike.  So the 2 climbers that made use of their remaining vision by following a laser light, were just receiving a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for the climb.  Not a cheat, not an unfair advantage, but a supporting role from a floor bound guide.

The one part of climbing competitions that I have found the most difficult is that you only get one shot on a top rope climb.  No second chance if you start off on the wrong foot.  So for me, someone who climbs through feeling and smearing the wall, picking the wrong hold half way up can be the difference between getting higher and coming off.  Most of the climbers, even those with limb amputations can plan the route and get an idea of what and how to climb from the ground.  As a VI climber, maybe it is time to start thinking and climbing differently.

On to round 3….. just 10 days later, although that is actually today.  Off to climb in a castle in London !!!

 

Ding Ding … Round Two

Sitting in the car, driving along in the dark with nothing but the blur of lights on the motorway.

And where am I off to?

Manchester!  Not for a coffee, not for an exhibition, but for round two of the BMC Paraclimbing 2017 qualifiers.

Having found myself in a quarry in Edinburgh just over a month ago, tomorrow I shall be finding myself inside a renovated church.  Otherwise known as The Manchester Climbing Centre.

Last month was a different kind of nerves, last month I never knew what to expect from the competition.  Now I know the expectations, I know just how hard I need to work on each of the problems.

And the small matter that in Edinburgh I walked away with a glass trophy and 1st Place in my category.

This has almost made me feel more apprehensive, I MUST do better, like I MUST beat my previous placing.  Although, I’m not sure how I beat 1st Place !!!

So, wish me luck and I shall update tomorrow …… If my hands allow me that is.

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