Just before leaving for my holiday to Barcelona a friend remarked that I was the only person he knew who was crazy enough to be excited about spending 2 weeks abroad training in an indoor wall. I prefer to think of it as psyched!
The purpose of the trip was to catch up with my coach at Freebloc climbing wall and spend 2 weeks training under his watchful eye. I'd sneak in a couple of days cragging at the weekend too, but that wasn't really the main event.
How to describe Freebloc? It's like a British wall on acid. A torture chamber ready to break your willpower and your body before you've even begun. The easiest angled wall (affectionately known as the slab) is 20 degrees overhanging, and everything else ranges from 30 through to a full-on roof. There are more holds per square metre than you ever would have thought possible, and every corner is filled with weights, ropes, elastic bands and other training implements designed to put the fear of god into you. The noise is also incredible - the Spanish like to shout when they climb, and the air is often filled with the sounds of people giving it every last ounce of effort. I absolutely love it!
Freebloc's proprietor and coach-extraordinaire is one Salva Serrano. This guy seriously knows his stuff. I've been training with him for 3 years now and his knowledge of sports science, climbing training methodology and technique is phenomenal. He sends me weekly training plans when I am back in the UK, but training with him in Freebloc is infinitely better. Having him put me through my paces pushes me far beyond where I thought my limits were, and having one-on-one help, advice and encouragement when you are fighting to stay on by move 30 of a 60 move circuit is invaluable. Every session I go away buzzing with psyche and a head full of useful things I have learnt.
And so on to this trip. Week one was fairly relaxed by Freebloc standards but still left me feeling quite tired. My training is periodised with each cycle including an easy recovery week, and this happened to fall on week one of the trip. On Monday we had a bouldering session, and Tuesday some long circuit work (and by long I mean LONG - 85 moves of energy sapping goodness that left me short of breath and wanting pass out mid-way through). The rest of the week was mine to do as I pleased, but chiefly rest up and chill out before a weekend on rock.
On Friday Stu arrived for the weekend and we hot-footed it out to Cornudella de Montsant. Grand plans to leg it over to Riglos and do the classic multi-pitch route Fiesta de Los Biceps went by the wayside as storms were forecast for most of northern Spain. Instead we had to make do with climbing between the showers at Margalef, Siurana and Masriudoms respectively. Grand plans to crush everything in sight also went by the wayside as I quickly realised I was chronically unfit. This year I really wanted to get the boulder problem Ben's Roof done at Raven Tor so we had favoured strength training over "pilas" or fitness and it was becoming painfully apparent what this meant. Three moves up a route and I would be boxed out of my tree, unable to recover on big jugs. In a slightly disheartened state I messaged Salva on Saturday night - "pilas fatal :-(" don't worry, came the reply, we are working on that next week!
And so on to the semana dura, or hard week. This is always my favourite week of the training cycle. It leaves you exhausted at the weekend and barely able to climb, but with an eye firmly on the prize of long term improvement it always seems worth it. So pilas, or fitness, was the name of the game. Day one was a gruelling session of laps on an 8b, 7b+ and 6c respectively topped off with some lock-off work on the fingerboard at the end. Essentially, climbing 'til your eyes bleed and then climbing some more. This kind of training is so much easier when it's done with someone else to shout encouragement, point out holds and occasionally take a small amount of weight to help you through a move.
Day two was campus Wednesday, my favourite day of the week. Salva had told me to take a rest day if I needed it and I had some concerns about how my skin would hold up in the June heat, but psyche got the better of me and I couldn't stay home. Big mistake! Huge! Warming up I felt good, but when I tried to pull on to the campus board I could not move. At all. Campus Wednesday Epic fail! I struggled to the end of the post-campus power endurance training, wobbled my way home from the tube station and collapsed in a heap on the bed. 16 hours to recover and counting.
Day three, Thursday, dawned with tired muscles, a drained body and a shed load of psyche. Such is the joy of training at Freebloc. Over breakfast I discovered that my beloved stam veins, so useful for warding off the impending pump and which had all but disappeared over winter, had come back with a vengeance. I couldn't wait to get down the wall to show them off to Salva. The day's session involved quite a mixed bag of bouldering, 2 finger pocket strength work and circuits. Nearly all the session went well except the 2 finger pocket work - one look at Salva's aghast face said it all: this girl is weak! One reason that I come out to visit Freebloc several times a year is to give Salva feedback on how the training is going, my strengths and weaknesses, what needs work and what doesn't. After failing spectacularl
y to move on from the warm-up holds to the main event, we were both left with very little doubt as to where we should be focusing next. By the end of the session I was exhausted, skinless, sad to be leaving and psyched out of my tiny mind, my head buzzing with new things to work on and ways to improve. There aren't many holidays out there that can give you that!
Salva is, in my opinion, about the best coach out there and Freebloc is an amazing wall. I feel lucky to be still be training here even though I no longer live in Barcelona. Anyone who is out in Catalunya and looking for a place to get strong should look no further - Freebloc is where it's at.
Mil gracias Salva y hasta la próxima vez![gallery link="file" orderby="title"]