I lost a friend last week. She was amazing and I want everyone to know about Linda.
I met Linda six years ago in the Planet Granite Masters Class. She always climbed levels above me, but was never too busy to encourage me as I worked on my projects. She was a magnificent climber.
Linda shaped my life with our friendship. One such example was the following exchange (to the best of my memory):
Zack: “I really want to get better at climbing so I can climb with you” Linda: “You are a coach, how would you coach yourself to get better” Zack: “I would hire a coach, it’s really hard to coach oneself.” Zack goes out and gets a climbing coach and gets better at climbing and life.
There were adventure trips with her to Yosemite (multiple) and Bowman Lake up in Tahoe. I remember a boulder adventure to Castle Rock. There were an appearances at my birthday parties and just general tons of fun and laughs.
The collection of stories that runs between our lives is complex and this is just a taste. What I’m failing to convey is the caring emotion she brought with her. The kindness and compassion that moved me and inspired me. The connections between me and others that are stronger because of her compassion and involvement in my life.
I’m going to miss her terribly. To all of those who had the pleasure of knowing Linda like I did, I’m sorry for your loss. To those of you who didn’t know Linda, I’m sorry that you didn’t get to meet her.
I reserve the right to update this post as more pertinent details about this amazing human come to me.
My life has been shaped by this microscopic little virus called Novel Coronoavirus. It’s a small little virus that is changing our world. It is changing the way we see each other and treat each other. It is effecting our relationships in so many different ways, and it is also negatively effecting our economy.
I am worried on so many levels. I’m worried about what this means to our human relationships. I’m worried about what this means to my career as an acroyoga instructor. I’m worried about how this is affecting my roommate dynamics.
In years we may forget what happened, so here is my interpretation of what happened. This is from my perspective, and not to supersede any truly researched document. This is from the middle of the pandemic, it is not over yet.
In late 2019 a virus emerged in China. This virus was in the same family as the common cold and flu. As we moved into 2020 it was suggested that this virus might be something more deadly than the flu, and it might be spreading, but it was still happening in China and not in the US. The news was reporting on it, but all the reports were on the spread and not very many were on the effects of the virus. I remember trying to google what the symptoms and duration of the virus were. There was no information on that. It was all about the spread. It made me feel like the news was playing into the hysterical nature of the spread and missing the actual effects of the virus. I’ll admit I did not take it seriously, my perspective was that it was a new version of the flu, and that death rate was not as severe.
Then the virus jumped from China to the US.
I went from not understanding the virus to being ordered to keep distance from people. All the Acro groups that I was involved in were looking at suspending classes and events. My work was issuing statements about working from home if we experienced any symptoms.
At this point I remember believing that this virus was only really deadly to a small subset of people: the elderly and people with conditions that already weakened their immune systems. To everyone else it was just a regular flu. It wouldn’t be bad if it I got the virus. I would get over it in a couple of days, maybe a week, and then have the antibodies in my system.
My company officially started working entirely remotely (closed down the office) on Friday March 13th (last day in the office), and there were only five of us in the office on that date. The official Shelter In Place order went out the next week. That first week I remember checking the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara Country Department of public health for information the number of cases and deaths in both areas. None of the numbers seemed to make sense for how much we were isolating ourselves. The stock market began to feel the effects of the economy being shut down. One of my roommates kept talking about how unprecedented this was. Things became more and more surreal.
I leave my house for the necessities like grocery shopping and exercise. I don’t have close interpersonal contact with anyone other than those living in my house. Connection and communication is done through phone calls, Google Hangouts, FaceTimes, and Zoom meetings. Fitness has been small in house workouts or bikes or runs. Everyone has had to find ways to cope with the situation. Personally I have invented a bunch of projects and tackled them vigorously. Everything from cleaning my room to scanning old photos. The only way I can stay sane is by finding something to do around the house.
Generally, for the most part I have felt hopeless. The Shelter In Place is now extended through the month of April. More and more people are being laid off from work. This creates an interesting space where there are some really great people out there looking for work, but there are less and less jobs out there for them.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that the Shelter In Place is the right thing for us as a society to be doing. I’m disappointed that it took me so long to agree with the order. I still have concerns about our future, but I’m surviving in this plan. I have found what I need to do in order to keep myself together. Wish I had gotten here quicker than I did, but at least I’m here now.
Like the great Mr. Neistat, I have taken a very long break from writing daily. Having something important to share with the world is hard, and honestly, I don’t. There is nothing overly important about me. Nothing super unique about the way I think or what I experience, so finding something to write and share is not easy.
So on with the unimportant things I can share with you. Lets talk about the tooling I use every day on my computer that helps me get through all the work I do every day. These are tools that I’ve come to trust and when I go to another machine that doesn’t have them, I can get very frustrated. Here’s a list:
Flycut – This is a keyboard manager that allows me to have a history of my text clipboard. This is super useful when you might need to copy multiple things.
SizeUp – This is a window manager. I have they board shortcuts managed. Only gripe is that the up spaces gets in the way of the Xcode change between .h and .m so I have delete that mapping. Other than that, this piece of software is a saver.
Sublime Text – This is what I wish the Mac text editor app was. Sometimes I even use this as a pass through to paste things into google or excel so it looses the format. I used to use text mate, but switched to sublime text and now it is a requirement.
There are many other little pieces that I use on a daily basis, but these three tools make the a Mac usable and without them I have a pretty hard time. Some other things worth noting:
As an adult life gets in the way. You need to clean (we actually hire someone to clean our space), you need to take care of your stuff, you need to process the events that occur. Life is full of change but if you spend all your time processing the change, you won’t change yourself.
Changing oneself isn’t an easy thing.
It takes time and effort.
What is stopping you from change?
I’m not even talking about a dramatic change. This post is inspired by finishing a book about self improvement and committing to try and make space for the changes in everyday life I want to make. Here are a couple:
• Learn to cook
• I’ve been baking for the drop zone (yes, I’ve started sky diving, more on that later). In the process of learning to bake, I’m learning about the appliances and equipment we have in our kitchen. My cooking is limited, but I’m enjoying it.
• Clean my room
• I’ll admit, I have too much stuff. Some of it is great to have, some of it just takes up space, both in terms of what is going on in my brain and what I need to manage. Cleaning my room means figuring out what stuff I really love and what stuff I don’t and trying to cull my crazy collection of stuff.
• Get in Shape
• Part of this is diet, and learning to cook will help, but I’ve put on a bunch of weight as I’ve gotten older. Some of it is really helpful for ballast while balancing people on top of me, but my belly gets in the way when trying to do some L-Basing Acro, and it would be nice to be lighter to climb harder things.
• Figure out me
• I do a lot of things. People are often surprised at the amount of stuff I do. What people don’t know is that I often do things just to do them. I need to spend some serious time investigating what I enjoy. What I would like to do for me.
The point is that while completing a change might be complex and intricate, requiring countless hours of toil, starting to change is just about deciding and doing. It doesn’t need to be giant. In my head, starting to change is about intention. Even before the action, you need to derive your intention. Using this intention is the only way I can think to motivate myself. Why do you want to make the change? Write down your answer and check every day if that is really where you are. If it’s not, either you have a new reason, or that change wasn’t for you. You don’t need to share the reason with anyone. I’m not sharing all my reasons here.
Anyway, I, personally, live in a space of over contemplation and want to shift it to a little more action. Maybe this will inspire you to figure out what you want, maybe not.
For those who don’t know, I’m a little obsessed with AcroYoga. I found it about two years ago and I’m a certified Acro teacher now and teach at least two classes a week (hoping to pick up a third).
There are already a bunch of really great resources out there for finding classes. Acromaps.com is one of my favorite. The problem I’ve found is that is often challenging to figure out what is current and what isn’t. I’ve gone to acromaps to find jams and hangouts that just don’t exist.
To that end I’ve created a website called bayareaacro.com. It is a simple website with a curated list of Bay Area AcroYoga classes. It is by no means comprehensive, does not include San Francisco or the East Bay (though I’d be open to changing that if someone wanted to the curator for those areas).
This book is worth the read. Even if you read this whole post, I won’t do it justice.
Valorie is special. She led a team of female gymnasts to a national title without ever being a gymnast. Coaching something you’ve mastered is one thing, coaching something you’ve never done is a whole level up. Valorie talks about how she got into the field and how she learned how to be a better coach. How she realized that skills she needed to teach her athletes weren’t quips, but were the same life skills she had used to be successful in her life.
Here are some of the key concepts I took away from the book:
Choose Happy – You can choose to be a happy person or a sad person. Instead of looking at all the faults, choose to be happy.
Act “As If” – Acting as if you are a healthy person can lead you to be a healthy person. Sometimes stepping into the role before you actually are the role will help you get there.
Gratitude – This one is huge for me. Everyone I know has been talking about gratitude recently. I’ve started a 10 things a day list and am pretty happy with how far I’ve come in reframing my life here.
Personal days – This is a concept that I have at work but have never thought about in athletics. Respecting the athlete to have personal practice days where they need their time. I believe Coach Val gives athletes 3 days per year, but the athlete can ask for the day or the coach can suggest an athlete takes the days and there are no consequences for missing it.
Just to wrap this review up. Reading this book was very inspirational to me as an athlete, coach and human. I would recommend this book. I’m not sure if it will be the first book I’d recommend to everyone, but Miss Val has lead a very inspirational life and I enjoyed getting to know more about her experiences, coaching beliefs, and funny stories.
Last weekend was the annual Battle for Bolts at the Planet Granite Belmont location. It’s a 12 hour overnight climbing competition. I was unable to attend the Belmont one last year, but I did do the Portland one. This was my first Belmont B4B, and I entered it with great anticipation.
12 hours of climbing
You get bonuses for climbing at least 1 climb every hour
Climbs are rated by level.
You must climb the whole route form bottom to top without breaks for the points.
You may only do a roped route 10 times throughout the night.
You can do bouldering problems 20 times.
You can only do each climb at most 2 times in a row to allow for more people to get the wall.
About my experience this year
This year I was part of team D-AR-E To Be Great! with Linda. Our set goal at the beginning was still to be there at the end. Basically, not get Evan to kick us out of the space. For those of you who don’t know, Evan is the gym manager at Belmont and my cohost on my podcast South Beta Podcast and as manager of the gym there was some serious concern if we would survive the full night together.
Last year I had spent the day before the event driving up to Portland. This year, I spent the night before at a corporate party, and the day before watching a roommate compete in a ballroom dance competition. The point is, I don’t have a good track record of starting these events well rested.
I was not rested for this event and it showed. I was able to climb the first couple of hours, but did much of the time talking to try and pace myself and annoy Evan and his staff. I have taken some real time off from climbing in the past couple of months to focus on family, rest, recovery and travel. This meant that my hands were not ready for 12 hours of climbing and within about 2 hours of climbing I was really feeling it. By the morning, I was down to doing about 1 climb an hour to try and preserve my hands and make it through the night.
Last year, there were 14 people in Portland at B4B. This year there were nearly 60 people at the Belmont gym. This was awesome, but because of the bigger crowd I didn’t feel as connected to the group. Last year, at Portland, the entertainment throughout the night was less involved in actual climbing. We had a milk crate stacking event, a dance off, and a donut eating without hands competition. This year we had a table climbing competition an obstacle course traverse. Both of these were very tied to the climbing and thus for those of us who are not high level climbers it was harder to be competitive in the events.
Other than that, I only have one other gripe. There was supposed to be headlamp climbing, but because people forgot to bring their headlamps it was cancelled. As someone who went out the day before to buy a headlamp so I would be prepared, this was a little frustrating.
At the end of the competition, while they are finishing up scores, they do a bunch of raffles. Many prizes are given away. This year I won a carabiner, which was a consolation prize, but I was stoked. This is a prize I will actually use and thing that I actually wanted.
Conclusion and Lessons
This year was a ton of fun! I’m very glad I spent the majority of my weekend on this event. Yes, the day after is spent sleeping and recovering so it really is most of the weekend. The Belmont staff was great, and put up with my shenanigans and didn’t kick me out, and I’m grateful for this.
For next year I want to focus on the following:
Make sure I get as much sleep as humanly possible the night before.
Relax and meditate before getting to the event, it is hard do it there, there is a lot of noise and not much quiet.
Condition my hands before the event. Trying to climb 12 hours without really attempting to climb for more than a couple of hours in the weeks leading up to it is a bad idea.
Pro tip: (learned from Linda) bring a clipboard for your score sheets. Bring healthier snacks. They provide some really good snacks, but not as much healthy options.
Pro tip: (learned from Linda) Bring a Jumar for belaying. It helps take stress off the hands.
Bring warm socks to wear between climbs. It really helps to keep your feet healthy.
Our team finished with 2930 points, in the Advanced division. Linda did the lion share of the point scoring, scoring more than 3 times as much as I did. Still, she only did about 20 more climbs than me. Still, very proud of our work and can’t wait until next year and this super special competition.
This is from a very old project notebook. Two project notebooks ago, actually (for scale, I finish one of these every couple of years). I’m often reticent about sharing my thoughts. I don’t think they are important. Who cares what I’m thinking? I barely care what I’m thinking. I write it down and take notes so I can look back at it, but I almost never do.
What this note says is that it is not for us to determine what is really the story. We share what is going on and slowly a story evolves. The story can’t show up without the seed content. Maybe our lives are interesting? Maybe we have more to share of interest than we know.
I’m not a video guy. I don’t shoot much video. Yes, I see the world going in that direction and I believe that someday I will shoot and edit video, but today I don’t. Today, I have my words and my camera. I will use them to share where I am.
Here’s what’s on the docket for today:
Tomorrow is my bosses birthday. He is a great man, very hard to read, and very reserved. I’ve known him for about 3 years at this point and in that time frame he has started drinking coffee and beer as well as buying a bike and trying a bunch of new sports. For his birthday, I’ve decided to get him a boot she full of Sol, his favorite beer.
Acro On Friday
I haven’t been to Friday Acro in forever. I’m hoping to make it today. My body has started to get overly tight. I need to work on getting it lose again. Hoping to work on flexibility and strength and stability in the acro, even if it is beginner.
Hack Day Planning
We are doing a hack day next week at the office and I’m responsible for planning it. I’m close to having everything figured out but I need to get decorations and trophies tied up. I’m sort of thinking about printing out some desk signs to get people knowing about what is upcoming. I’m still thinking about my hack day project.
There are so many photo projects on my plate that I feel more than a little overwhelmed. I haven’t touched my family pictures form Thanksgiving. I have a bunch of acro pictures from the summer to process. I have instagrams to get together. I have some unsplash photos I want to put together.
There is another blog post coming, on Battle For The Bolts, be ready!
This weekend is a catch up weekend. Hoping to chill out a bit and catch up on all the pieces that are top of mind.