Friday, 27 April 2012

When long term goals stop being quite so long term...

Kalymnos -  I want to (but have not yet got round to) post specifically about it, but suffice it to say for now that it was utterly awesome and I have come away totally, totally psyched.

Since getting back, I've been reflecting a bit on the process of setting goals. When I first went to Kaly in 2008, I had just started to enjoy sport climbing as a thing in its own right and not just something to do when the weather was too grim to do trad. Kaly was the turning point - you know, the first time you stand in the limestone cathedral of the Grande Grotta and goggle slack-jawed at tufa jockeys knee-barring their way across the vast roof, THIS is what sport climbing is about, and THIS is why it's not just trad climbing with bolts in. I did my first 7s on that trip - in the Grande Grotte, although admittedly not the jaw dropping gravity defying ones - and pretty much there and then decided that I wanted to focus on sport climbing.

Setting long term goals, proper lifetime BHAGs, is great - you can just let your imagination run totally wild. As is usual for most climbers who discover they can redpoint, do 7a and get carried away, my goal was to climb 8a, which at the time felt totally pie in the sky and I felt ridiculous writing it down. I had no idea how hard 8a actually was or how to go about achieving it, but after reading all of the climbing self-help literature I could get my hands on, I came up with something that looked a bit like this:

Actually the first version was on the back of an envelope and is lost to the mists of time, this one has been a bit tarted up and is from 2010.

Sadly one of the disillusioning things that you learn along the way, is that diminishing returns is a total bastard - 7a to 7b happened relatively quickly, then I trained really hard and did 7b+, I trained as hard as I could for a year and got to 7c, then plateaued out for another year. Things appear to have picked up since, although probably not in a statistically significant, p<0.05 sense, but I did at least manage to get up a 7c+ in Kaly - and though Kaly is famous for holiday grades,  I am at least comparing like-for-like with 2008.

(yep, formerly the easiest 8a in the world, and quite possibly still very soft at 7c+)

Long term goals all get a bit scary, though, when you actually come quite close to achieving what you set out to do and the pressure starts mounting up. Every step of the journey feels harder than the last, and the last step feels hardest of all, if not actually impossible. You train yourself to always think about goals in terms of breaking them down into intermediate goals - but at some point if it's not going to actually become Zeno's paradox, you need to say enough is enough - I am ready as I'll ever be.

If it ever stops raining...