I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
No reproduction on other media without the photographer's permission.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Personal reality check, Philip A Dick Haston

Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? Maybe. Was Philip K Dick a sportsman? No he was an interesting an imaginative writer of cracking science fiction. I am a boring sports Jock, who unfortunately is stuck with reality. What is my present reality? Every now and then you have to take stock, so here goes. I am poor at everything! Plus I am poor! I am however happy, maybe that’s what’s wrong. I just had a great time in Malta and made some friends, but I did realize I was not very good at anything physical. Do I want to be? Yes. So access what’s wrong and change it. I have no ambition or goal! So make a goal! Last year was a great one, I did 2 rock climbs of the 9a grade, a mixed route called Cannabis, which is both one of the top for beauty and difficulty in the world, and did enough endurance to do the Tor de Giants trail race. I am not going to have another year like that, it was off the back of 2 years systematic training, and I work a bit now. Since the Tor de Géants race I have done a lot of endurance and neglected my climbing skills, but training has been all over the place, unsystematic and too unstructured. My pulse this year is much lower than last year, but my running is of a disappointing standard! What’s wrong? I enjoy my endurance rather than work at it! My rock climbing is as low as it ever gets, but I really enjoy it, and really appreciate it a lot. My snowboarding and mountain skills are back to where they were, but I don’t like the risk, and I used to love the risk. I have to make a plan, and try and stick to it, or things could get even more erratic! I am too relaxed and fat. I needed to put some weight on after two years of training to give my body a break, but unhappily, I think that holiday is over! So my plan is to get back to above 8a standard climbing, but more importantly to improve in the Tor de Giants race. I can’t really improve at climbing, but at running I am a baby! The rock climbing standard will be easy; lose some weight and just go climbing, 6 weeks max. The Tor is on September 11, 6 full months away, and time to get into a solid systematic training regime. I must try not to over-do it, and get injured. Wish me luck.

First day of the Tor des Géants Photo Lorenzo Belfrond
What is a realistic target for this race of 330 km and 24, 000 meters of  up? It’s 3 Lake district Bob Grahams in one go! It’s such a demanding race that I wont put a number on it, in case I try too hard, instead I will be happy with an improvement, but it will be a big, realistic, possible improvement, that will give me something to aim for. There you go, plan is sorted. Now comes the pain, a  mountain of pain ! An ocean of pain, I will bathe in its turbulent waters and cleanse myself of human weakness. I will become an Ibex, that tough imperial mountain goat, which is the emblem of this mountain region. A proud regal horny old goat, yep just like the old days.  But it’s not the old days, don’t remind me. I am too old for sport, every body says so, I agree most days, and then sometimes, I know that old high standard is just under the surface. So, what to do? Running for three or four days without sleep is fairly tough, so it’s appropriate to take it seriously. I bought a basic heart rate monitor to keep track of my resting heart rate in the morning, as this is the only simple way of assessing if you are overtraining. Running is great, and simple. Running well, is on the other hand annoyingly difficult, and complex!  Your max performance on a given day is asking for several different aspects of training and resting, to come together, like the wind and the tides, to create a personal tsunami of excellence. Running is like climbing, a divine pain in the arse!   

Friday, 18 March 2011

Lost in Translation, by who gives a Bombay Duck Haston

Peuterey Integral versus Ben No comment!

I get some criticism about my work. Surprisingly I do a lot of work, so not surprising that some of it is not 10 outta 10. One of the funniest complaints I get is why don’t I climb in Scotland and do some climbs over there! I live in Courmayeur, don’t you square headed Jocks realize that it’s more beautiful here! One of these chauvinistic nincompoops complained to two of my sponsors and to another manufacturer who doesn’t even sponsor me, they all told the guy to get to Bombay Duck. For the record, I don’t like Scotland very much, and when it is raining, blowing a gale, or in the MIDGE season, I really hate it. I just came back from Gozo and Malta, lovely food, lovely people, interesting climbing and I felt sorry to leave, but as soon as I got off the bus, I went for a walk to look at the incomparable Peuterey Intergral ridge to the summit of Mont Blanc. Wow, Wow, Bow wow ffing wow, you can howl just looking at the beauty of that long long route, it’s a tadge more attractive than Ben Bloody Boring Nevis. God made the Peuterey route first thing Monday morning, when he was fresh after his second triple cappuccino. You can even see where he was shaking and his celestial brush slipped and caused the great gap in the ridge that is the Dames Anglaises, thank god for that over caffeinated miss-doodle, it’s the flaw that makes the ridge ultra perfect. So to that guy who keeps contacting my sponsors, I would call you an idiot but that would be insulting to idiots, if I have any spare cash or time there’s a couple or more places I’d like to go: The Dolomites for climbing and trekking, Norway for real ice, and before I die I’d like to worship the Himalaya again… Hey bonnie lad to be above 7000meters on a starry night with the moonlight sparkling, carrying a snowboard, de ya nay ken?
proper stuff
Oh yes by the way, when I write, Laurence my wife, sometimes finds the words where I’ve lost them in a computer somewhere, she then corrects it and adds some more mistakes-she is French and dyslectic and has a mind that Goggle fish are head hunting. Her ability to make my perfect English look like Serbo-Croate married to Cantonese is admired by the CIA. I am nominally Cockney. Sometimes my “work” then goes on to another web site, or a magazine, and is then corrected by an expert i.e. someone who has spent a couple of years at a state run comprehensive school, and who has failed to get a well paid job since. Once one of my pieces was corrected 15 times, before being inflicted on the public! That short piece earned me 3500 dollars, they could have corrected it more, they could have written it themselves, as long as I get paid, I don’t care. What I dislike is the writing that doesn’t mean anything, or the plain lies you get, like Scotland is Great, it’s not, just read the weather report, it’s ok if you like that sort of thing, you know dull over cast skies, poor conditions generally for ice climbing, flying kites and wearing kilts.
 I read a mag on the plane the other day, it had 60 pairs of shoes ‘reviewed’, and not an article worth reading, triple wow! I think it has the biggest outdoor circulation in Britain, but it does have the commas in the right places, so I guess everything is ok then!  

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Joined Meditation, by Laurence Gouault.Haston

Just done a joined healing meditation for all those people in Japan going through such a devastating time! We are all affected by what is happening, we are all fragile, our planet is fragile, our world is fragile and we should all say a prayer for them and many others people in the world.

Sat Nam

Women, by the worldly-wise womanless Stevie Haston

Laurence walking an 8a!
When I was young, I was brought up largely by women. They were tough, small and of a mixture, artistically and sensibilities wise. Although men were generally absent I didn’t need their so called male influence, as my aunties mother and grandmother had adequate amounts of all those so called male attributes like courage and strength and testosterone. My teachers were women and they were clever too boot, in short I was always impressed by women in general, plus and it was a big plus, they smelled better than men. Things have changed since I was a small boy, most significantly, men now smell like women. But these sweet smelling well-quaffed ‘men’ seem to lack the old masculine virtues and attributes. As a friend put it the other day ‘they still have cocks but they don’t seem to have any balls’, a bit harsh but then she’s a harsh ski de fond girl, tough and uncompromising. Just look at rock climbers now, bunch of hairdressers if you ask me. Gritstone climbers using bouncy play pen mats at the bottom of routes that were done sometimes half a century ago. Or alpinists not going into the mountains unless they have this years lime green super jacket with matching impossible to walk in trousers which costs more than the annual wage of the porter who is carrying their computer with its solar energy hook up to the latest world wide webpage of haircuts for big brave mountain bashers.
When I was young it was normal to hold stereotyped views about women because our society was more stereotyped and sexes were very lets say ‘type casted’. Now it’s different, we, ‘men’ that is, are encouraged to explore our feminine side and like fools we do. So we become pretend women or at best girlie boys, what we don’t understand is that women aren’t girls, they never were, and we have fallen for the oldest ploy in the history of Mankind, or clearly Womankind, cos we have been duped, and have happily gone on with it, cos our egos are out of control. That’s what women have always known, keep flattering us, and we are easy to control. There’s a good boy, good effort, well done, you're such a brave boy. And thus we are chained, thus we are controlled, relegated to watching formula one racing forever, and by god don’t we deserve it.
Laurence on fragile ice, no gear.
When I was young no women had ever run under 2hr 30 mins for the marathon, I didn’t even know that they weren’t actually allowed to run marathons cos they were reckoned too weak! Those guys on the Olympic Fed obviously didn’t know my auntie Rosa. Hey it was long ago, we wore heavy red gaiters and unbelievable amounts of facial hair so we have an excuse right? So what I want to know is whatever happened to all those gaiters and facial hairs? Anyway, understand it was like the dark ages, and women wore things called mini skirts, so no rational thought was possible. When I was young there were no good female climbers, it’s true, don’t ask me why? I loved climbing but you know how can I put this, I like girls you know, so it was a troubling time for me, I don’t like boys, you know the way I mean. So I had to climb with smelly boys and attend art, poetry, and yoga  classes for extra  entertainment, even though I hated that poncy stuff.  But sport and society changed slowly but surely, until now when I can’t really see the need for the differences in grades or abilities between men and women. To use a sexist term climbing has been so ‘emasculated’, mats, gear, safety, that we don’t need to be Hector and Hercules, all hersuit and bulging with muscles, we can be Helen and Heather in a sports bra, if we even need that.
Laurence snowboarding down a steep and icy 6500m
Yes I knew it all along even though I was taught to climb by my granddad a fairly macho hunter type who had no feminine side and smelled of sour wine and cigarettes, climbing is for every one. And so is running. But there is a difference isn’t there, one 9a female climber? How many women under 2hr 20mins for the marathon? As men and women become closer in haircuts, clothes, and demeanor, is it time to stop thinking about sex? Oh I forgot there are no formular1 female champs, darts champs, or great serial killers, so we still rule right, us men I mean? There was a great female sniper as I remember, but we should probably forget about her, clearly bucks the feminine ideal, and there was that British prime minister, what was her name Gengis Plumber, Electrician, or was it Thatcher?  

Sunday, 13 March 2011

In the chair, Al Evans, by Stevie Haston

Who’s in the chair? 
Al Evans is in the chair. In this case the chair he designed. Who is Al Evans, well he’s not just a frou frou chair designer, he’s a great sportsman; a runner, cycle cross loon, a climber, a friend, and most of all an inspiration to me and a thousand others.
 I knew of Al before I met him cos I am a  running nerd, I had read of him in a book called Stud Marks on the summits, if you have a copy of this book you deserve the nerds medal, with oak clusters covered in mud! Like a lot of people in that great titanic tome, he will be a faceless ‘hero’, and I don’t use the word stupidly, I know you need to sacrifice something for the greater good with disregard for yourself. Al has done incredible things and helped generations of runners, he has done this by the prosaic way of blood sweat and tears, by helping his mates attain their dreams and potential. By running hundreds of thousands of miles and cycling more. He has with the help of his wife Joy also run successful enterprises like a climbers café in the Lake district, and finally earned some relief from most of the rigueurs of life in happy but not un-busy retirement in the French Alps. When I met Al he was 56 and he was like a breath of fresh air, I wanted to be like him, Al is now 72 and I want to be more like him. He has now popped into a new age category so he’s a veritable youngster and is winning races again, like the 3Peaks Cycle Cross Race. He’s a very early member of the Bob Graham Club and my mate and owes me a favour. The only advice I was able to give him over the years was to rest more, he eventually took notice and got better, if he took some more rest he’d get better again. So pal get back in that  frou frou chair of yours. And the favour you owe me is to get me off my frou frou arse and get me doing some speed work and some hill reps. See you soon.     

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Malta Marathon, Stevie slowboat Haston

The Malta marathon was great as I expected, but had a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Most north Euros are a bit down in the winter, and need a bit of sun and warmth, so why not do the Malta Marathon? The marathon is on a week end in February, and is only a few hours from certain lucky cities in northern Europe. It’s a good time for jaded runners from Britain, or wherever, to hop on a cheap plane and have a weekend in more clement weather. So it was a bit of a surprise to wake up at 6am on race day with the palm trees bending over backwards in a gale! The night before there had been a rain and wind storm! The night before there had also been a Maltese dinner party to the small hours, and the night before along trip to new friends in Northern Italy! I thought the marathon would be cancelled and was half relieved for my headache! No such luck, the jolly race organizer who had a lovely Scottish lilt to his voice, had us lined up and ready to go precisely on time. He kindly warned us of a couple of puddles on the route, and wished us luck, and sped us on our way. The route started at the ancient capitol of Malta’s M’dina, which is a world heritage site and gorgeous, and follows tarmac via a big loop, and then heads downhill to the opposite coast. You run under the battlements of the biggest fort in Malta before, running or jogging around two bays, full of boats and festive people. Its great, and the marathon is supposed to be a fast one, so if you are interested in getting a good time, go for it. There is a half marathon run at the same time, and a walkathon, these do not interfere with the faster runners, and might cheer up the slower ones. There are lots of local bands on the way, lots of great happy volunteers, and basically everything you might need to help you run the run. I recommend this event more than most, and I will try and go again. Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and of course the keen runners, and walkers.
At the airport the next day, I met lots of runners who were very happy with their runs, and their short stay on the island. By hazard I bumped into the winner Moroccan Mohammed Hajji. He was walking around the airport dragging a huge winner’s cup, his slight frame tilted to one side. As coincidence would have it he was on my plane back to Italy, many people were very happy for him and his fast time of 2 hours 18 mins. He certainly cheered me up, thanks for putting on such a great display of running skill Mr Hajji and you earned every penny of the prize money twice over. The two puddles of water that we were warned of at the start of the race, were in fact sections of flooded road! In  some other countries the marathon might have been called off unnecessarily. Here in Malta most competitors ran along the top of the dry stone wall twice and happily splashed thru the sea washed finish with wet smiles, it added an ethnic eccentricity to the runs. The water may obviously have affected the times a bit, so that fast 2hr18, might have even been a twinkle faster yet.

The Bowline shop, by Stevie Haston

The Bowline climbing shop is in Malta, so if you are visiting and need to replace some gear, it is possible. It’s a well run shop with very nice staff, check it out if you need to.  While I was there Daniel the manager introduced me to Tendon ropes, a brand I was not familiar with. I was given a 10.5 which I have now used
Its very good, having a very robust sheath, which defiantly helps on Malta’s sometimes very abrasive rock. Tendon have an extensive catalogue of ropes some with interesting specs, one for instance has the core protected by an outer core of stainless steel weaving. They have everything from skinny half ropes thru an interesting 9.2 sport rope to caving and rescue ropes. There you go. Check them out!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

1st Malta Bouldering Competition by Stevie Haston Photos By RONALD BALZAN

Bouldering comps are not my bag, but this Maltese meeting of climbers who used a comp as an excuse to pass a friendly day trying hard on some great stone, was very sweet. The Malta Climbing Club organized the event or happening with the support of some generous local sponsors and kind volunteers, they all need a big thank you but I think they know already. The event was held at Wied Hasan a very attractive wave of colourful rock just above a deep water soloing venue, it was ideal and idyllic. I can recommend the place for any visitor and you will pass a great day doing great problems, you won’t regret it. I am hard to please in my bouldering, and this wave of steeply bulging rock had me pleasantly surprised and smiling with a big grin. It was great to do some spotting and help and thus join in and share the joy. I couldn’t help it in the end and did many of the problems  because they looked so good and colourful. The problems were stiff little bulges that were often climbed by a hefty heave and then a precarious mantle to finish. There were two different events an A category for the dudes and dudesses and a B which was slightly easier. There were people from Spain, Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Turkey, Britain, Australia and one old Codger from the Principality of Gozo. I was also pleased to meet the Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for Sport Mr. Clyde Puli who was a pleasant chap, deeply interested by climbers and seemed willing to support future projects.  B Cat winners were Martin Micallef and Tania Ellul and A Cat were Jeffrey Camilleri and Claudine Gatt. Jeffrey Camilleri needs a special pat on the back for being Malta’s best climber at the moment and a stalwart for cleaning and preparing new routes. Malta needs more climbers to help develop its stunning potential as a rock climbing destination and the main idea of the comp was to encourage the local climbing community to be a cohesive and productive group with this little festa of climbing and it succeeded marvellously.  
Amongst the people present were the three Maltese summiteers of Everest who succeeded on their first attempt, a mark of their fitness and resolve. I was brought in by the Maltese Tourism Authority as special guest and speaker at a soiree which took place after the Comp. I was especially pleased to see 40 boy Scouts in the audience who were from the Sliema Scout group who are the oldest Scout group outside the UK. This Scout group was a cradle for budding climbers who were originally helped by the Royal Marines. Anyway the lecture I gave was enthusiastically received by the audience who were mostly unused to seeing snowy mountains, ice climbing, and snowboarding. Naturally I got to know some of them much more over a great group meal and a few beers later. The down side to this was that I was very tired doing the Maltese Marathon the next day, but such conviviality must not be denied at the peril of your soul. Out of our little group two people did the full marathon and one the half, which is quite a pleasing percentage I think. The next day I visited a new special cliff which is secret at the moment but will make the news soon - pull your finger out Jeff and get your project done - it’s a peach cliff. I also visited the neighbouring island of Gozo where I spent some of my childhood climbing. This was in the company of Simon Alden and his wife Doranne and we visited some great cliffs comparing notes and looking at each others secret projects. Simon is the president of the Malta Climbing Club and is keen to promote climbing in the islands for everybody but particularly to bring in new Maltese to the sport. I spent all too brief a time on the islands and very much regret leaving after such a short trip.
 I promised my new friends I’d return and climb, and experience sunny days and sunny smiles. Long live Malta and Gozo, a place stuck in time and space between the Azure of the sky and the Turquoise of the sea.