On March 22nd, a crew of GWPC Climbers ran through the streets of Oakland as part of the Oakland Running Festival. GWPC member, Ari Oppenheimer talked a bit about the group's race for the Touchstone Blog.
Anyone who has dedicated any real time to climbing knows just how incredibly fun it is. The pleasure to be had in moving upwards weightlessly transcends all disciplines and distinctions in the climbing community; it is what unites us. Many people walk into climbing gyms looking for access to an activity that can compliment weight lifting or other (regular) fitness activities, but stay for climbing–realizing that they haven’t touched a weight in months.
But climbing’s “funness” is a double-edged sword. It is so fun that it’s easy to overdo it and get injured or burnt out. To keep the psyche high and your body healthy, it’s important to take small “excursions” from climbing. For a small crew of climbers at Great Western Power Co, the Oakland Running Festival was one such excursion.
Despite the casual, “excursion from climbing” approach that the crew took to training for the race, (almost) everyone walked away feeling great with either a PR or a solid debut half-marathon. Bianca Taylor and Mike Maloney both crushed it, running 2:18 and 1:37 respectively for their first half marathon. Distance running veterans Valerie Ann, Sarah Winter, Melanie Barnes, and Maxine Speier had solid performances, running 1:49, 1:58, 1:52, and 2:15. And I managed to limp away with a time of 3:17 and an overall position of 38th for the full marathon.
After the race, Maxine and Mike met me back at Great Western to recover with a sunny rooftop foam-roller session and a few sausages at Rosamunde. Even though our psyche from the race was running high, and despite our engagement in activities that stemmed from running, our conversations rarely departed from climbing. While we were running the race, and while we walked around Oakland with our bib numbers, it would’ve been easy to assume that we were just a group of runners. But the reality is that we are, and always will be, climbers.
By guest blogger and yoga instructor Avram Pearlman
In yoga, there is a concept called the edge. Think of it as the limit of your practice in the present moment. Even if yoga is not part of your weekly routine, visualize a place between reaching a little farther and falling over while stretching. This place is your edge.
Another way to think about the edge is to do an image search for yoga on the Internet. You get these pictures of people doing amazing things, and you can imagine trying these things. There will be a point where you just can't get your leg into that position you see on the screen no matter how hard you try. The bad news is your edge is somewhat closer than the edge for the person in that picture, but the good news is it might not always be that way.
The edge is not unique to yoga, think about a boulder problem you are working on that keeps making you look like a barn door at the gym. The moment we fall when bouldering, on lead, or even on top rope is the moment right after our edge has been reached. Perhaps what defines us is our personal sense of what we can and can't do. What is it about ourselves we can find when we are looking so closely at our limitations?
One of the great things about the edge is it exists only in the present moment. Your edge is not stationary, and was likely different years ago when that 5.9 got you so pumped it was your last route of the day. When the edge becomes clear, we can look back, measuring how far we have come and start inching forward.
Perhaps when we know our edge we can approach it slowly, and work on reaching beyond in a constructive way. When the edge is reached, we are clear and focused. Sometimes the greatest possible outcome is to know this place and push the envelope little by little. Breathing, nothing else exists besides you and that next move.
Perhaps when we get to this point, there is an awakening of the self to know what is possible. Perhaps this question might sound familiar: Why? Why do I always loose my balance when I stand on one leg? Why does my hand always slip off that third hold on the V6 I am working on? If it's my flexibility in yoga, or if it's my balance on this sloper that I can't hold onto, then my work is clear. What can I do to get past this point?
Awareness is a great start, but action is the key to success. If you know your edge, then you have a clear view of your limitation. Now it's time for some hard work. And I don't mean throwing yourself at your project repeatedly without thought, instead ask yourself how you can work on your limitations in a constructive way. Is it possible to look at the problem from a different angle? Maybe it's not your hand on the sloper, but the position of your feet...
The greatest reward comes from doing something previously thought to be personally impossible. Challenge yourself but don't get discouraged. The feeling of success that comes from pushing this edge is beyond measure.
Avram teaches Yoga at Great Western Power Company in Oakland, California. Be sure to check out one of his classes! Thanks so much for contributing Avram!
Great Western Power Company is starting off the New Year right by forming a team to run in the 2014 Oakland Half Marathon on March 23rd, 2014. GWPC will be selecting 10 lucky members and paying for their entry fees! "After seeing the huge success of the running program and training team that came out of the Berkeley Half Marathon, we couldn't resist forming our own team," said GWPC manager Jeremy Yee. "We're so psyched to be able to support our members and have some fun at the same time!"
The Oakland Half Marathon course will take runners around the heart of the city, and will start just blocks from the gym! Ari, a GWPC and BIW staff member, noted that even though he grew up in Oakland, he's still constantly shocked at how 'friggin' big of a city it is. "I’m psyched to see a lot of it on foot!"
The Half Marathon isn't the only options for runners who want to strut their stuff around town this March. The event also includes a marathon, a 5k, a 4-person relay, and a kids run. The Oakland Running Festival was voted "best marathon" in the Pacific West Region by Competitor Magazine's online readers and social media followers from around the country!
Ari will be heading up an optional training runs for the 10 lucky runners and anyone else who'd like run as a team. The running group will begin running in late January. "I wanna keep it pretty casual," said Ari. "We’ll probably alternate between long trail runs during the week and hard track work on the weekends, often followed by [optional] beer."
When asked why he was started the running team, Ari replied, "I like running and pushing myself, and sharing that experience with others."
by January 31st! Good luck!
CrossFit V16, Great Western Power Company’s new CrossFit affiliate, is in full swing at the Oakland gym. For the past three weeks, Oakland gym program manager, Rafael "Raf" Vega has been working as the new program manager, developing and creating the work-outs that the instructors are teaching from. To celebrate the new affiliate, there will be a member’s BBQ this weekend.
Rafael Vega photo
“As an affiliate, my objective is simple: I want to build a community of amazing athletes, bound by sweat as thick as blood,” said Raf. Raf, who lives in Emeryville with his wife and two year old child, has been teaching Crossfit classes at the Oakland gym for over 2 and a half years. Raf and the CrossFit V16 instructors will be teaching up to 8 classes a day during the week as well as classes on the weekend. “Now that CrossFit East Bay is moving to a new location at Jack London Square, I have the opportunity to stay behind in their old space —inside Great Western Power Company, a climbing gym in Uptown Oakland— and start my own affiliate. It’s a chance to do more of what I love on a larger scale, as the head honcho.”
Rafael Vega photo
On Sunday November 17th, Crossfit V16 will hold a grand opening BBQ for members at GWPC from 12:30 to 3:30. Bring anything you’d like to grill or share. The grill, some food and drinks will be provided.
Recently, GWPC manager Jeremy Yee headed to one of the world's best bouldering destinations with a crew of Touchstone members and employees. Located on the East side of the Sierra, Bishop hosts an amazing collection of granite and volcanic bouldering.
Photo by Darrel Cheung
Read more: Manager's Favorite: Bishop Bouldering
Austin Zimmerman, who has been a smiling face behind the front desk at Great Western Power Company and Berkeley Ironworks for a little over a year now, recently took a trip to Lost Rocks and shot this short bouldering flick. Lost Rocks is located in Northern California, near Arcata. "The original plan was to spend a week driving down the coast and climbing at a new spot every other day," said Austin. "However, keeping true to our road-trip track record, we found it too hard to leave the Lost Rocks and decided to spend the entire week in just the one area instead."
The footage was taken with a rebel T2i. "We shared one camera and focused on climbs that we could do quickly and repeat several times for extra angles," said Austin. 95% of the footage is hand held except for the intro scene which was filmed using a Joby tripod with Cineskate wheel attachments.
Austin said they made the film for mostly for fun and to get a little practice filming and editing climbing movies. "My girlfriend, Emily, and I got a camera about two years ago for a road trip that we took across the country. About a year ago I started getting more interested in photography and videography and since then I have devoted most of my free time to making movies."
Check out their flick and get psyched on California coastal climbing!
Lost Rocks from Austin Z on Vimeo.
Team bonding is a science, and one that we don't take lightly here at Touchstone. This Summer Jeremy Yee, the manager of Great Western Power Company in Oakland, lead his staff on a 10.5 miles torture slog, otherwise known as the Tough Mudder Race. The whole team crossed this finish line with arms linked and camaraderie high.... but it's what happens in between the starting line and the finish line that brought them closer. Read on for first hand accounts of the Tough Mudder from each competitors perspective.
Jeremy Yee - After 4 hours and 10.5 miles of scaling 12-foot high walls, crawling through submerged or buried tunnels and something else called an 'Arctic Enema' (sounds amazing, I know) we'd finally reached the last and final barrier. Locking our arms together, we collectively braced ourselves for the conclusion of our ordeal; hundreds of dangling wires, each charged with thousands of volts of electricity (10,000 to be exact).
I kept telling myself "I didn't sign up for this!", except the truth was that I did, voluntarily. I even paid money for the privilege of subjecting myself to this "challenge" (ed note: torture). If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard about Tough Mudder yet, it’s the probably the largest of a growing wave of hardcore obstacle course races that essentially serve as grueling, endurance-based adult playgrounds… ones that require participants to sign a death waiver.
Founded by a former British counter-terrorism agent, Tough Mudder was made to combat the monotony of other endurance races like marathons and triathlons by adding cramped & buried tunnels, mud pits, wall climbs, fright inducing jumps, and live electrical wires. As philanthropic as it is challenging-to-its-competitors, each race donates a portion of its proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, raising over $5 million.
My team was composed of some of the best & brightest that GWPC has to offer. I was joined by fellow masochists "AJ" Andrew Jackson, Stephanie Jim, Zev Gurman & Jon Kennedy. Using the underrated technique of alternating between running, jogging, walking and complaining, we completed the course at the Northstar California resort in Truckee, CA in just over four hours.
The challenges were extremely fun, and just challenging enough to give competitors a sense of accomplishment (or failure). My personal favorites were the Arctic Enema (basically a dumpster full of ice that we had to wade through both partially & completely submerged), Everest (a giant quarter pipe – you had to run up the ramp and vault up to the lip), and Just the Tip/Berlin Wall, where we got to show off our climbing skills!
John Kennedy -There where a lot of good things about the race. I was psyched when I heard the race would be in Tahoe. Going in, at least I knew the race would have some good views, and fresh air. The whole race for me was really fun, especially since we didn't take things too seriously; making jokes and laughing the whole way. My favorite obstacle had to be "Everest", the 12' quarter pipe that you had to run up and top-out. Go Team!
Zev - An object's properties can only be measured through direct interaction, and that interaction tends to alter the state of said object. We all know this is true. From science....or something. As climbers, we reach out to our limits in order to measure ourselves, and in doing so, we (sometimes unwittingly) expand our limits. Whether we're sending our first V-Hard or climbing a new wall, as climbers we welcome new challenges as new metrics by which to measure our inner dimensions.
When our awesome manager, Jeremy, asked what kind of mud run we'd be interested in, I knew that we had to run a Tough Mudder, because we had to test our limits. (For science!) Everything else on the list was just too short or too painless. Though the crowd was a little bit more bro-y than anticipated, the challenges were tough, and the course was muddy. Thousands of volts, hundreds of feet of mud, a few ice baths, and 10.5 miles later I reflected that I had explored new limits that day as I explored a familiar refreshing, hard-earned adult beverage. Most of all I was happy to be exploring those new limits with friends. In the same way that climbing a few new pitches with a partner makes that bond stronger and exposes new bits of his/her character, working through the Tough Mudder with Andrew, Jeremy, Jon, and Stephanie brought us together as a team more than months of working side by side could have. I never would have run that thing on my own.
Stephanie - Tough Mudder was overall one of the toughest things I've really ever done. It was one of those courses where you really have to be physically and mentally fit - both of which, I'm ready to admit that I'm not. But now that the dust has settled, I am so happy to have finished it. Even though I feel weaker than usual, I found I do have inner strength to pull from. I loved all the climbing-related challenges because I got to show a lot of men that women can be strong too! I really liked the monkey bars because even though I was definitely hesitant to do it, it was like riding a bike and finishing that challenge brought me back to the days when I was queen of the playground. Finally, doing this with my amazing coworkers just made me feel all warm and fuzzy - maybe some of those fuzzies came from from our finale challenge where we linked arms and ran through the 10,000 Volt Chandelier of Pain (aka, "Electroshock Therapy"). Although it was painful, it was a fitting symbol of our unity here at GWPC: we started together and ended together. There's no better feeling than that - except for maybe piggy back rides from your boss in the partner-carry challenge.
Andrew - I felt like this race was a real team building experience for us all. I felt like this race really reinforced the rapport that we have as coworkers & teammates. A lot of the obstacles required you to lend a helping hand (or even just some encouragement) to your fellow Mudder, and we seemed to do really well in those ones. That's why my favorite obstacle, was the log climb ("Lumberjacked") where you had to climb over the top of a log that was suspended about 6-8' off the ground. We really had to help one another out on that one. All in all, I would definitely do the Tough Mudder again... Minus being electrocuted.
Jeremy - The bottom line – it’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. You can push yourself as far as you want... and then some, but the odds are very good you’ll come away with a smile on your face. I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship with my coworkers as we emerged from our icy baths, or whilst charging down the mountain and screaming our battle cry for all to hear.
....I guess you had to be there.
Every Spring and Fall, Great Western Power Company, our Oakland location, hosts “Girlz Climb On”, a climbing adventure program for young women, administered and organized by GirlVentures. Since they have another session coming up this Fall, we decided to check in with the GirlVentures Team to learn more about this amazing program!
Can you describe your program (Girlz Climb On) to someone who isn't already familiar with it?
GirlVentures’ signature after-school program provides meaningful one-on-one mentorships and rock climbing experience for girls in grades 6-9. Trained female volunteer mentors and girls meet after school for 2.5 hours a week for twelve consecutive weeks at two Touchstone ClimbingGyms, GWPC in Oakland and Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. These mentors coach girls on both climbing skills and the transference of character-building experiences of climbing into girls’ broader lives. Girls learn trust, perseverance, self-confidence, communication/self-express and team collaboration. They enjoy improved self-esteem and gain access to a nontraditional, male dominated sport that is financially inaccessible to many families.
How many kids do you service in this program? Are there any requirements/qualifications to participate?
We serve 20 girls from 6th-9th grade (10 at GWPC, 10 at Mission Cliffs) twice a year during our fall and spring sessions. There are no requirements for participants except for an eagerness to learn!
Are there scholarships available for families who cannot afford the program fees?
Yes! To ensure that ALL girls have the opportunity to participate in our programs, we award financial aid to two-thirds of all participants.
What types of skills do the girls typically learn? Is it just a climbing program, or are there other elements to it?
Each week we work on developing technical climbing skills: everything from tying a figure-8 follow-thru knot and belaying to techniques like smearing and edging. We also focus on issues that connect rock climbing with a strength a girl already has or would like to improve on like building relationships with friends, trust, leadership, self-expression, working as a group, communication and resolving conflicts. We begin with a one-day ropes course at Fort Miley, practice indoors for 10-12 weeks, and conclude with a weekend outdoor climb at Castle Rock State Park.
Where do your program mentors come from? Is there a way for interested members to get involved with this program?
GirlVentures mentors are a diverse group of women from all walks of life and climbing experience. Generally, we seek mentors who have the following qualifications, though they are not required:
Coaching, teaching or mentoring experience with adolescents
(informal experience with friends & family counts...) Diversity/anti-oppression training or experience
(women of color strongly encouraged to apply) Passion for empowering young women
(i.e.: a desire to share your belief that girls can do anything) Climbing/belaying experiencing
(if you have belayed and/or can climb a 5.8 or higher we are already impressed)
Strong candidates without climbing experience are considered IF they are able to commit to taking a belay class AND practice climbing at the gym a few times prior to the start of the program.
Touchstone members can certainly get involved! Interested members can learn more about the mentorship role and commitments here. Girlz Climb On for mentors begins on September 16, 2013 and for girls on September 21, 2013. The program runs for 10 weeks from 4-7 p.m. on Mondays at Mission Cliffs and Wednesdays at GWPC.
Working at the front desk at the gym means you hear this question a lot. 'How do I find a belay partner?' While bouldering is easy to jump into, finding a belay partner to rope up with can be more of a challenge. "It's such a shame when people cancel their membership because their belay partner has moved or is injured," said Berkeley Ironworks staff Monica Aranda. "Especially when I know we get requests for belay partners nightly. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't be psyched for a new climbing partner!"
Stephanie Jim, who works at Great Western Power Company as the Kids Camp director, is trying to tackle the problem. "When I was younger, I loved watching the TV show Cheers," said Stephanie. "It made me happy to see a place where someone knows your name. I see this gym as my very own Cheers. It's a not just a work out facility or my job, it's a community. I want everyone to feel like a part of it." This was the motivation behind 'Partner Parties'; fun events where members and guests can meet new climbing partners.
If you're interested in participating, the next Partner Party at GWPC is on May 22nd from 6pm-8pm. If you're a member, swipe your magical membership card and you're in! If you're a guest, simply pony up for your day pass and no one will be the wiser. To get started, head over to the smoke stack in the middle of the rope walls. There, you'll find snacks to lure you in, and new friends to keep you coming back for more!
"One you pick up a partner card, and write your name on the top," explains Stephanie. " For each new person you climb or belay with, you'l write their names down and check in at the partner table to get a raffle ticket." Boulderers are also encouraged to come out! For each new person you meet in the bouldering area (ie. give beta to, high five, etc), add their name to the card and exchange it for a ticket. Raffle winners will be announced every 20 - 30 minutes. You'll win anything from a t-shirt to a chalk bag!
This is just one example of the fun events that Touchstone employees put on for their communities. "Wouldn't it be great if the minute you stepped into the gym, you recognized 5-10 friendly faces that immediately made you feel at home?" said Stephanie. To find out more about the upcoming Partner Party at GWPC, be sure to check out the Facebook page and invite your friends.
Other partner finding events are on the calendar at The Studio in San Jose, Berkeley Ironworks, Mission Cliffs and Diablo Rock Gym. Find new partners and make the gym a place where everyone knows your name!