Lisa Alhadeff: The Benefits Of Cake On Training - Part Three
I’m getting used to the diary writing now, and I hope that it’s provided some entertainment. It's easy to look around me at the other people training at the wall, who all seem very together, and feel quite inadequate. I realise that really, most of the time, what feels like spinning plates to you might look like you’ve got it all together from the outside. And if it appears that you’ve got it all together from the outside… well, you probably have.
I somehow combine efficiency, forward planning, and a logical mind with a slightly shambolic and forgetful approach to life. The two sort of cancel each other out, and if you see someone at the Foundry trailing a climbing rope, half of the day’s clothes, several plastic bags, one containing snacks, and a rucksack, thermos flask and other paraphernalia, and looking confused, there’s a good chance it’s me.
The first day of a machining trial is always fraught with difficulties, and this morning didn’t disappoint. After collecting my tools from the uni lab at 7:30 am, I headed to the AMRC. Two and a half hours were spent arguing with my laptop as to whether a data acquisition box was connected to it (it was), before I finally won (I’m still not sure why). The flipping thing agreed to communicate with the box and the trial commenced. Things ran smoothly until 11:40 am when the air compressor was switched off for maintenance. I gave up and did some writing.
Tonight’s training involves the finger board, followed by boulder projects and some core. This week is apparently a rest week, which means I think I can fit my training into three sessions, which in turn means more sleep and free time. But three sessions? Rest week?
If you know me better still, you'll know that I love cake - more than any other food, I think.
It’s starting to get noticeably lighter in the mornings and evenings. It was light when I left the lab last night. Summer is on it’s way! My finger is sore today, a different one this time. I think that January’s training has been quite hard on them.
I took the E-bike because it’s easier than trying to park near the university. I still feel kind of bad about the E-bike. It feels a bit like cheating to have help from a motor. The thing is, I like cycling, but I’m not by any means a cyclist. I’m a climber. You can be both, but I’m not.
It’s 8 miles each way to the AMRC, and it’s not exactly flat. I train as much as I can for climbing, and I like to go running once a week or so. I take my hat off to anyone who cycles further and still trains hard in the evenings afterwards. Even eating more only gets me so far. I think there’s only so much energy I can expend unless I find time to sleep more. It’s still better than driving from an environmental point of view, and besides, it’s quite a bit quicker than just pedal power.
I managed to cycle most of the way home yesterday with the E-bike switched off. I thought I was just getting tired, but I looked down and realised I was just lugging 25 kilos of bike and battery home instead. Or, as Alistair put it, 'Like a Boris Bike, with more gears'. I had to laugh. What a plonker. At least it doesn't need charging now.
Today was a day of failures. The filament blew in the SEM (oh, my kingdom for an LED electron beam!), so it needed cleaning and the filament replacing. However, after this it decided that it didn't fancy reaching vacuum, and it took several cleanings and re-greasings to persuade it to start again. I know the feeling...
The weather is beautiful today. Cold, but beautiful. Unsurprisingly, rain is promised at the weekend. Of course, the statistics are not on my side here, since there are only two weekend days and five weekdays, but still, it's been a rainy, climbing-free month. I don't really mind though, because I'm going on holiday in 10 days, and I'm 100% confident that it won't rain in Font (for me). Also, my house is waterproof, and there's a horrendous draught in Cape Town, so, on balance, I'll take the rain.
I'm super psyched for training tonight. Who knows why, as I've been feeling tired, but I'm going to run with it.
I have a secret weapon: in my bag is a chocolate brownie. Once I’ve finished I will sit, with tea, and eat it, and all will be right in the world.
Last night’s training was ace. I felt strong, I felt psyched. Having Tuesday off obviously agreed with me, so perhaps the rest week is restful after all. (Turns out Lattice know what they’re doing). The plan for more sleep hasn’t gone so well though, and I spent the night either dreaming that I’d broken my tools or laying awake trying to work out if I’d actually broken them. It’s time for a holiday.
Compared with yesterday, today’s research went pretty well too. In spite of my prophecies, nothing broke and the SEM behaved itself. It did come up with my favourite error message though: 'Time has run out'. A little bit melodramatic I think.
I returned home wet after cycling in the rain, along with a headache brought on from either potholes or too much coffee. Then Lola yowled at me because I hadn’t bought kitten food; I am a terrible cat owner. Cats are melodramatic too, I think. Still, she has biscuits, which are apparently not good enough.
Since I was already wet, tired, and being yowled at, I thought I might as well try and wash the entire week’s washing and start packing up our bedroom. Our house is a long-term DIY project that we’ve been pretending isn’t there since we did the kitchen and living room, but the bathroom is going to fall apart soon. This is where Alistair is better equipped to decompress from the day than I, as I arrive home and attempt to do everything on the list in one go, before I’ve even taken my coat off.
However, I have a secret weapon: in my bag is a chocolate brownie and once I’ve finished I will sit, with tea, and eat it, and all will be right in the world.
I got up, as they say, on the wrong side of bed. I didn’t want to go to the AMRC. I’m tired of this week, and I quite fancied the weekend. I grumped my way down to work. As is often the case, I don’t actually mind being there once I’ve got started. It’s just the idea of working that puts me off in the morning.
I’m primarily campusing tonight, with some conditioning and core at the end. That means I’m going to stride confidently into the climbing wall, trash talk my way over to the campus board, and try to beat some personal bests. The Foundry people always fill me with psyche by agreeing with me when I tell them, half-joking, how energised I feel and how great my session will be, so that by the time I’ve finished preaching I’ve almost convinced myself.
I find basic psychological techniques are extremely effective on me. Perhaps I’m just malleable, but both reverse psychology and simple positive repetition can do wonders. But please, never try saying, 'I bet you can’t do all the washing up'. It won’t work.
Although I struggle with the campus sessions, I did see some slight improvements in yesterday’s training over last time.
I've noticed that with finger boarding I'm performing better on my right hand at the moment, which is odd as I'm left handed, and I definitely have a stronger left hand and shoulder. My left hand also hurts a bit the next day after training, which maybe explains it. I'm conscious that I should be gentle this week before Font.
Since Alistair is away next week, we pretended it was Valentine’s Day. I baked an incredibly tall pistachio cake which required 200 grams of pistachios. We couldn’t get shelled ones. A single pistachio weighs about 1 gram. We peeled a lot of pistachios.
The Font trip is so close I can almost taste it.
The Font trip is so close I can almost taste it - just one more week to get through, and with Alistair planning to go away we've packed the car ready to go. I'm having to wrestle my excitement at riding Le Shuttle (a car - on a train!) back inside me for one more week of training and sensibility.
When Alistair goes away, my attempt to be a fully-functioning adult slips slightly, and dinners such as bacon sandwiches or beans on toast seem far more legitimate than when I'm cooking for someone else. There's something quite liberating about these minor acts of rebellion against my usually over-organised lifestyle. I’ll shamelessly listen to the music that Alistair wouldn't because, as non-judgemental and accepting as he is, there's nothing like dancing when you're alone.
If you know me, you'll know that my definition of rebellion doesn't go far beyond eating pop tarts for breakfast. Someone once began to offer to sell me weed, took one look at me, and had second thoughts. Lying in a tent with my father in France, at the age of 19, I asked, 'Dad, what does "putain" mean?'. He reluctantly replied, 'It means a whore, darling.' I'm the sort of person who steals a pen from the pot at the foundry to write in my training diary, sees a member of staff walking past and says, 'Sorry, I took a pen from the pot,' when they hadn't even noticed it.
If you know me better still, you'll know that I love cake - more than any other food, I think.
But why do I love it so much? Of course, cake is delicious, but it’s symbolic too. The baking of a cake combines art, science, and love. Cakes are baked with hope and expectation - for the people who will eat them and the experience that they'll have. Ever since baking with my mum as a child I've always found it the most calming way to express myself creatively. Baking is something that has got me through good times and bad. When I received a rejection letter from a university, I baked. When I was a teenager struggling with food issues, I baked, even if I didn't eat it.
At university we used to have cake baking nights and take the results to Wednesday afternoon's climbing session. Having a slice of cake involves stopping, taking some time to do nothing but enjoy it. A moment out from the world.
I've baked when I've been depressed, and I've baked in celebration of the happiest moments I have known. Cakes, as I know them, are the edible version of a cup of tea. When I need to fortify myself before a training session, I often have porridge, or boiled eggs, a banana, or some grapes. But there are times that the emotional embrace of a cake is exactly what I need to get me through a session.
Although I like to cook, and I largely eat healthily, I've weighed up the pros and cons and I think, on balance, it's better to weigh a couple of pounds more and train hard than forgo the cake and forgo the training after a long day.
So, I wish you a week filled with happiness and cake, and with any luck, some climbing.
By Lisa Alhadeff