Date: February 5th, 2019
About Brianna Greene
Brianna Greene is a very good friend of mine who I regularly climb with, so it was an easy choice to have her as a guest on the show after I watched her send her first 5.12a last fall. She’s a bubbly, intelligent, methodical person, and I think that her journey from being a boulderer to a 5.12a sport climber is inspirational on a lot of levels. Bri wrote an article for TrainingBeta about her mental and physical training, and this interview is a complement to that.
Brianna is a 33-year-old software engineer who lives in Boulder, Colorado. She’s been climbing for over a decade, but she spent most of her years bouldering, until a few years ago when she decided she wanted to switch things up. She faced many challenges, including the fact that she suffered a bad ankle injury from a bad catch while sport climbing. She’s also 4’11” with negative ape index, so her confidence in her ability to do longer moves needed some work.
Over the past year, she methodically worked on her weaknesses: fear of falling, fear of being above her bolt, confidence, and physical strength to compensate for her height. All of that culminated in her sending her first 5.12a, The Dope Shinto, in Tensleep, Wyoming. This interview goes into detail about how she gradually worked her weaknesses, as well as the valuable lessons she learned about the redpointing process.
You can follow Bri on Instagram @Briby for more of her story.
Brianna Greene Interview Details
- How her ankle injury affected her lead head
- How she got over that fear
- How she compensates for being 4’11”
- What was holding her back from sending a 12a
- The redpointing tricks she learned in order to send
- The physical training she did to climb 5.12a
Brianna Greene Links
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The author during a trip to Columbia | photo: Juan Diego Reyes
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I talk with climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and I want to remind you that the TrainingBeta podcast is an offshoot of the website www.trainingbeta.com that I started that is all about training for rock climbing.
Over there you’ll find a regularly updated blog, you’ll find training programs for rock climbers that are online and easy to use, you’ll find online personal coaching with Matt Pincus, and nutrition coaching with me. I hope that all these resources together, along with the podcast, will help you become a better rock climber. You can find that at www.trainingbeta.com.
Welcome to episode 120 of the podcast. Today’s episode is really fun for me because I got to interview one of my really good friends, Brianna Greene. She’s somebody who I climb with a lot. We hang out and watch The Bachelor every week with a group of people. She’s a really good friend of mine and we go on trips together.
The reason that I asked her to be on is because last fall I watched her send her first 12a. It was really exciting for her and for everybody on the trip and everybody at the crag, honestly. I’m sure you see that happen where people are just cheering and you can kind of live vicariously through the person who is doing the sending. That’s how it was.
I saw her go through sort of an evolution as a climber because she started out as a boulderer and then she got into sport climbing and she really wanted to send her first 12a, but it took her training physically but also really, mostly mentally, to do it. I wanted her to tell her story about what steps she took. She was pretty methodical about the steps she took to get to that point.
I know very well how important your first 12a is. I remember doing my first 12a and it was a pinnacle moment in my climbing career because it’s this coveted number. I’m hoping more people will maybe be able to relate with Bri than maybe you can relate with some of the super, super strong pro climbers that are usually on the show.
If you do like this kind of episode I would love to hear from you about it and maybe even get some suggestions for other people you think have great stories who aren’t necessarily super duper strong because I find it really inspiring. I hope that you learn something from Bri and I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.
Here’s Brianna Greene and I’ll talk to you on the other side.
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the show, Bri. Thanks for talking to me today.
Brianna Greene: Hi Neely. Thanks for having me.
Neely Quinn: This is my third or maybe fourth interview that is live, ever, out of 119+. For anybody who doesn’t know who you are can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brianna Greene: My name is Brianna Greene. I’m 33 years old. I currently live in Boulder, Colorado. I started climbing I think in 2004 and I mostly bouldered for a super long time. In the past few years I’ve gotten into sport climbing and I’m really enjoying it.
Neely Quinn: Cool. One of the main reasons we’re talking today is I got to witness you doing your first 12a last summer.
Brianna Greene: Last fall.
Neely Quinn: Sorry, last fall. It was a big moment for all of us.
Brianna Greene: It was a big moment.
Neely Quinn: For everybody at the crag and for you, obviously. I think that that’s a big moment for every climber, their first 5.10, their first 5.11, their first 5.12 and I feel like 5.12 is a bit more coveted.
Brianna Greene: It’s a benchmark grade.
Neely Quinn: What did it mean to you to do that?
Brianna Greene: I think before that I kind of had this view of myself of just being an average person that is never going to be super good at rock climbing. I decided that I wanted to push myself and I believed that I actually could achieve my goals. When I finally did my first 5.12 it was awesome. It felt like this huge weight off my shoulders and this huge revelation that I can do what I put my mind to.
Neely Quinn: So what do you think you can do now?
Brianna Greene: I would like to climb my first 5.13a. That’s my goal for 2019. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen because I think that’s a pretty lofty goal but I think I have a better understanding of what it’s going to take to train for that and I have faith in myself that I can actually achieve this goal.
Neely Quinn: That took a long time for you to get to.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, it was a pretty big mental battle for a long time.
Neely Quinn: Okay, let’s definitely get to all that but I want to have people understand a little more about you because, like you said right before we sat down, you’re just a normal person. You were like, ‘People aren’t going to be interested in that because I’m just a normal person,’ but honestly, that’s why I’m talking with you. You are a normal person and everybody – well, not everybody maybe.
Brianna Greene: Hopefully most people.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, most people aren’t professional climbers so what do you do for a living?
Brianna Greene: I’m a software engineer. I started out as a graphic designer. I did graphic design for probably 10 years and then recently transitioned into software engineering. I’m really enjoying it. I love it. I think it kind of suits the climber mindset of figuring out these problems and it also suits my desired lifestyle. I would like to travel more for climbing, obviously, and I think it’s easier to do that when you can work from a computer and work remotely.
Neely Quinn: Is that something that your job will let you do?
Brianna Greene: I don’t know about my current position but I think as I progress in this career and get more experience and have more clout that I’ll be able to get jobs where I’ll be able to be 100% remote. I think it would be awesome to spend the winters in Vegas or something or go to Wyoming for the entire summer. It’s nice to have a home base but I think when you’re in the same place consistently, year after year after year, for me personally it gets a little bit boring. I would like to have multiple home bases, I guess, and be able to climb on different rock.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s like every climber’s dream, right? [laughs] Once again, you’re a normal climber but you’re obviously very motivated and ambitious. You’ve made a nice career for yourself and you’re doing the same with climbing, it seems like. You’re just sort of progressing as a climber.
Brianna Greene: I think for the first time ever. It’s always been easy for me to push myself mentally, as far as career challenges like with school or whatever other kinds of things I’ve wanted to achieve, but when I was growing up as a kid I wasn’t very physical so I don’t think I really learned how to push myself in sports. For a lot of years through climbing I just plateaued and I think a lot of that was mental barriers, just thinking that, ‘I’m never going to be a good climber,’ for whatever reason. Maybe because I’m too short or because I didn’t start climbing when I was five or I don’t have the right genetics, yadda yadda yadda, whatever.
I think just this year with finally wanting to have some success with climbing, because I’ve been climbing for so long, learning how to push myself and push through those mental barriers and really believe that I could change and that I could accomplish my goals.
Neely Quinn: I want to back up a little bit because I forgot that this could be a pretty important part of this interview. You are how tall?
Brianna Greene: I’m 4’11”.
Neely Quinn: With what ape?
Brianna Greene: Oh gosh, I think negative an inch?
Neely Quinn: So you’re really tiny.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I’m pretty small.
Neely Quinn: I’m 5’ or 5’1” and I feel like a giant sometimes when I’m climbing with you because I’m like, ‘Why can’t you reach that?’ ‘Oh, she really can’t reach that.’ That would take a very large lockoff for you to do that and that’s something that you talked about in your article that you wrote about how bouldering is difficult for you sometimes because of that. Do you want to talk about that?
Brianna Greene: I exclusively bouldered for so long and I think maybe that’s part of what’s affected my mental state. I just feel like I can’t keep up with other people sometimes. We just decided, me and my boyfriend and some of our friends, that we’re going to go to Roy in New Mexico. It’s a bouldering area. It’s really great but there is a V4 there that I cannot do at all and sometimes I can flash a V4 but this one, I’m simply too short. It would be a double digit boulder problem for me. It’s just something I can’t do.
It’s hard sometimes for me emotionally. You climb with your friends and you want to be able to impress people and be like, ‘I can do this. I’ve been climbing for so long. I have skills, I have technique,’ but sometimes I can’t even start things or do anything that other, normal-height people can do. [laughs] It’s kind of upsetting sometimes. I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re going to think I suck,’ but really it’s just that I can’t even reach it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Do you feel like that has affected your confidence?
Brianna Greene: Definitely.
Neely Quinn: Are there any things that you do to overcome that?
Brianna Greene: Yeah. I think this year – I’ve had this issue where if I’m at the gym or something and something is going to be too reachy for me I just won’t do it because I don’t want to look silly in front of other people. Like, here’s this V3 and I should be able to flash a V3 no problem but this one, specifically, is reachy and I have to do the splits and then I have to jump out of the splits. That’s really impossible to do.
I think just this year, really trying to focus on my mental aspect and getting better at climbing and having more success, I’ve also realized that I need to let go of what other people think. It doesn’t matter if I can’t climb a V2 or V3. Every climb is a personal journey for whoever is climbing it and if I get on it and I’m successful then great – I learned how to do the splits and then jump out of the splits and that’s making me a better climber. That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter that somebody that’s a foot taller can just walk up it no problem. I needed to realize what’s most important to me about climbing and it’s getting better and becoming a better climber, not looking cool in front of other people.
Neely Quinn: Right, or being as good as so-and-so.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, you can’t compare yourself because every climb is different for me.
Neely Quinn: It’s funny because the other day when we were climbing together I said that I had come to the same realization, that I’m just over comparing myself. I don’t want to care anymore about being embarrassed and therefore I won’t try things because then I won’t fail in front of them and everything.
I had my first moment the other day where I was embarrassed and fearing what people would think and I was actually able to just think, ‘Oh, don’t care!’ and I got on the route and I sent it. Do you feel like you’ve had any moments like that?
Brianna Greene: Yeah. Just this weekend I was climbing with a group of friends and they’re all definitely taller than I am. We kind of were projecting together and there was this fun V6 in the gym and I couldn’t even do the first move because I had to jump to this sloper off of some terrible crimp. I just couldn’t do it and everyone else just sent it and whatever but I was like, ‘Who cares? None of them care that I can’t climb the same thing. All they care about is that we’re having fun together and we’re climbing together.’
It was just kind of fun for me to keep trying over and over again to try and get the move and try to jump and try to do something. It didn’t even matter to me that – whatever. I don’t know. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: I know what you mean. It’s hard to remember sometimes that even if you’re not as good at something as you think you ‘should be’ that people are still going to love you and accept you. That’s something that I’ve worked really hard on understanding.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I think it’s really important. I think with climbing sometimes we all want to get better and we all want to be stronger and that also comes with you starting to get recognition for your accomplishments. If you don’t get that recognition then you start to feel a little insecure about it. You want to impress your friends and be like, ‘Hey look! I can climb the same things as you. We’re all together and keeping up.’ Really, in the end it doesn’t matter. It’s all about having fun.
Neely Quinn: Right, and learning and growing.
In all of the years that you’ve been bouldering – which is how many years? When did you start?
Brianna Greene: I started climbing climbing in 2004 when I was about 18. I think I first started sport climbing in 2012 maybe, when I first started tying onto a rope and first started doing some toproping, so a long time. What’s that, eight years?
Neely Quinn: We don’t need to talk about the short thing forever and trust me, we won’t, but are there any things that you have found are helpful to train or to focus on as a short climber? What do you think you need more than taller people?
Brianna Greene: I think you need everything. [laughs] Specifically, I guess, my boyfriend is a super strong boulderer and he’s really encouraged me to start jumping more and learning how to jump. That’s something that I’m not very good at but I think that is probably going to be the one thing that is going to help me the most. Beyond that, just having a stronger core because you’ve got to really reach up and keep your body tighter.
I’ve been climbing with my friend Shannon a lot and she’s a super strong boulderer and she’s also pretty short. Not as short as me but pretty short. She always calls me out when I forget to use my legs or use my feet. She’s like, ‘You’re not pushing with your legs. You’re not using your hips. You’ve got to really generate momentum. You’re too short to just use your arms to reach up.’ I think figuring out where you need to put your feet and how you need to press with your feet and keep your body tight so your feet stick on.
What else? Just having strong hands. Sometimes I can reach a hold but I can barely reach it and then I’ve got to do a crimp pull-up on it to get my hand on it. [laughs] It’s just harder. You have to have more technique and more strength and more control.
Neely Quinn: So basically what you’re saying is you’re stronger than most people.
Brianna Greene: Yes. I’m like a superhero.
Neely Quinn: And you have more technique.
But seriously, sometimes you must think, ‘Wow, that looked really easy for that guy. What an asshole.’ [laughs]
Brianna Greene: Yeah, like that V4 in Roy. Watching someone who is 5’5” or something get on it, they can just reach out. It’s kind of a wide move for them but they can grab both of the holds. For me, I’m in this iron cross with my arms straight and I would have to press down with my fingertips to hold onto the holds. It’s just impossible unless I was very strong.
Neely Quinn: It’s interesting that you’re saying this about a V3 or V4 because I was talking to Matt Pincus, who works at TrainingBeta, about this guy he’s been climbing with. I won’t say who he is but he’s a pro climber. They were in Hueco and he couldn’t do this V4 they were trying to warm up on. He couldn’t do it. He’s a 14+ climber so I just want to try to console you a little bit that everybody has those V3s and V4s.
Brianna Greene: Well, there’s even V2s that I can’t do. It’s a thing and it does get disheartening and frustrating because you’re like, ‘I climb this grade or I have climbed this grade and here’s this V2 that I can’t even start.’ That’s just how it goes. Whatever. I need to find climbs that suit my body and it’s not about – you have to let go of, ‘I’m sending this grade and I can do this grade.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m going to find the climbs that are cool and fun and I enjoy.’
Neely Quinn: Which can be a process in itself, but you have bouldered a lot and you started sport climbing. When did you say?
Brianna Greene: I think I started in 2012 or 2013.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so there was sort of a journey that you went on from being a boulderer, becoming a sport climber, and why don’t you just tell us the story of how you went from being a boulderer to sending your first 12a.
Brianna Greene: Gosh. It sounds like a long story. I guess it started when I realized that, because I’m so short, bouldering can sometimes be more difficult for me. I had this revelation that there were a ton of shorter women that were really good at sport climbing and I was like, ‘Well, maybe I should try that. Maybe I’ll actually have more success and be better at it.’
I started getting into it a little bit. I started toproping then I started learning how to lead. I didn’t really know anything. I didn’t know how to tie a figure-eight. I didn’t even know what quickdraws were. Totally a newb to the sport climbing thing.
It was super fun and I started leading then I started leading outside. At that point I wasn’t super afraid of sport climbing. It just felt kind of fun because everything felt somewhat easy, I guess. There were no huge dynamic moves, it was more about the journey of climbing and this consistent movement.
I started getting on some 12a’s and I think was able to do all of the movement, just not all at once because I wasn’t used to climbing for so long. It was just I would get pumped, I would get tired, I would fall off, but they felt doable. I never really committed to climbing any of them or sending any of them because – I don’t know. I think I just had this mental barrier that if I couldn’t do it in a couple tries then it’s not worth it. ‘Maybe I’m going to fail? Maybe I shouldn’t try? I’m strong enough to do all the moves so that’s all that matters. I’ll just move on to the next thing.’ I never really put any emphasis on sending.
Neely Quinn: You found success in doing all the moves.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, but it was kind of a false sense of success. I think I was only doing that because I was truly afraid. I was like, ‘Okay, I can do all the moves but I don’t have very good endurance. I don’t think I can actually make it through this whole climb. I don’t think I can actually send it,’ so I think I would just move on and be like, ‘Well, that’s good enough for me. I did all the moves. That means I’m strong.’ I didn’t want to fail, I guess, or I didn’t understand that climbing something hard actually takes time.
Neely Quinn: Did you understand that with bouldering?
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I think so because the moves are so much harder. It takes so much more effort and so much more time to figure out the exact technique. Sometimes you have to get one move just perfectly. I think sport climbing was so different that I didn’t understand how that process worked.
Neely Quinn: So was fear ever an issue for you in the beginning? Like fear of leading and falling?
Brianna Greene: A little bit but not a whole lot. I remember feeling pretty bold and I remember that it wasn’t a super big deal for me. I remember I went to Red Rock for a trip and I think you were living there at the time and I came and stayed with you guys. I ended up meeting this guy who didn’t have a partner so we went sport climbing and he was a trad climber. He was like, ‘I’ve only climbed 5.9 on trad.’
We went climbing together one day and I led everything on this entire wall, no problem. I didn’t even think about falling or how he was going to catch me or if it was going to be safe or anything like that. I was just having fun. I think I just didn’t understand the process of sending. I was like, ‘I just want to get on the rock,’ and whatever.
Neely Quinn: Then something happened to you that happens to a lot of us, including myself.
Brianna Greene: I went climbing in the gym with a friend of mine one day and I was kind of nervous on this climb. Even though it was just a gym climb I got a little freaked out about the movement and about clipping. I was like, ‘I can’t reach this next hold,’ so I fell and I was not that high off the ground. I was just above the second bolt so I think he was afraid that I was going to hit the ground or something.
He gave me a really hard catch with no slack. He didn’t jump at all so when I fell I just swung into the wall like a pendulum and hit my foot on this hold and I snapped a tendon in my foot. It hurt so bad. It’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I knew immediately that something was wrong and I was like, ‘You have to lower me. This isn’t right. Something is wrong with my foot.’
Neely Quinn: So then what? Did you have to have surgery? How long were you out? I know you were on crutches and I know you didn’t have to have surgery but…
Brianna Greene: I didn’t have surgery. I went to the doctor and they were like, ‘Your tendon has a tear or a rip in it,’ or whatever. I was in a boot for a little while but I think after that it kind of hurt for a really long time, I think because after it healed my bone got kind of displaced and it would cause me ankle issues.
Beyond that, I was just so afraid of sport climbing after that because I was like, ‘Okay, now I have to trust somebody else to give me a good catch? I don’t even know what that actually means.’ I still didn’t really understand that much about sport climbing.
I didn’t like that. I didn’t like having to put that much faith in somebody else. I was like, ‘If I boulder I know that I can trust myself to fall in a certain way. Or if I’m going to take a risk, it’s all on me. If I fall doing some weird highball it’s all my fault. I don’t have to feel like I got hurt climbing because my belayer did something wrong and now I’m totally injured and can’t even walk.’
Neely Quinn: It’s a sense of being out of control. When was that?
Brianna Greene: I think that was in 2015.
Neely Quinn: So three or four years ago.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, a while ago.
Neely Quinn: Then you ended up bouldering after that for a while, right? Because you were just over the sport climbing bullshit.
Brianna Greene: Yeah. I was like, ‘If you have to trust somebody else to protect you from injury, I don’t like this. I want to have total control. Bouldering is comfortable, bouldering is safe, I’m just going to boulder.
Neely Quinn: Then what?
Brianna Greene: Well then I kind of got bored, I guess. I would see all of my friends do these really hard sport climbs and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do that and I wanted to become a well-rounded sport climber. I didn’t want to just be a boulderer because it felt like I’m just climbing these little boulders. I’m in Boulder and there’s so much great sport climbing here and there’s trad climbing here. I was like, ‘How am I ever going to become a decent climber that can have all these different variety of experiences if I’m just climbing these little boulders?’
I just became unsatisfied and I was like, ‘Alright, I need to figure this out. I need to figure out how to trust other people. Who should I pick as my belayer? How can I be comfortable with this person? How can I get better at sport climbing? How can I progress beyond these fears?’
Neely Quinn: So you got bored with bouldering and you decided you wanted to be a sport climber but now you have this fear of this person belaying you, which obviously probably took hold in your climbing, right? How did it affect your climbing?
Brianna Greene: I would try to climb on lead and I would become completely paralyzed. I would not be able to climb beyond the next bolt. I would imagine, ‘I’m going to fall and I’m going to die,’ or something like my ankle was going to explode or my leg was going to fall off. I don’t know. It was totally irrational, in a way. I guess it’s somewhat rational because people do get injured sport climbing but any kind of climbing is dangerous.
It was so irrational that I just needed to take a step back and figure out: how can I make this comfortable for myself? What steps do I need to take? What kind of baby steps do I need to set out for myself? I figured I would start leading in the gym and that’s going to be way safer and way more comfortable than climbing outside. I tried and it was still pretty scary to lead in the gym. I felt like I just wasn’t ready for it. It had been so long and I was freaked out. Also, I got injured in the gym so I guess that makes sense.
I started toproping in the gym a lot to get used to sport climbing, just to kind of get high on the wall and partner with somebody and get used to their belay style or whatever. Then toproping, I was like, ‘This is freaky. I’m up on a rope. I’m dangling and I’m really up high,’ but after awhile it was like, ‘This is sort of boring. I need more of a challenge. I want a challenge,’ so I started leading on easier stuff. If I would get nervous I would make myself fall. If I’m too nervous to climb any further, I need to fall. I need to just feel what it’s going to feel like to fall because if I’m too afraid to climb further it’s because I’m afraid I’m going to fall unexpectedly so it’s better to just take a controlled fall.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so what about that fear of your belayer? What happened to that?
Brianna Greene: I decided to start climbing with people that I really trust, like my friends that I know are experienced. If there is someone – like my boyfriend, for example, is a really strong boulderer but he doesn’t sport climb very much. Obviously we’re going to climb together so it was kind of like, ‘I don’t know if I trust you 100%. 1) because you boulder all the time and you don’t sport climb very much and 2) because you’re a foot taller than me and you weigh a lot more than me.’
He was super supportive and he was like, ‘Okay, well let’s just take some practice falls.’ Brennan and I would do some practice falls. I would clip above my head so I’d be on toprope and I would just fall. It would be a super soft, easy fall and I think it was good for him, too, because he’s not used to sport climbing in general but also with a tiny person. He’s 50 pounds or more.
Neely Quinn: That’s a big difference. I would be scared, too.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, it was super helpful and I think I got inspired because I was at the gym one day and I saw this Learn to Lead class and they were doing that exact same thing where they would clip above their head, they would take a small fall, and slowly, once they got more comfortable with each other they would climb above the bolt and they would take a bigger fall. We just started doing that until I was like, ‘Okay, I totally trust him now. I’m ready to just get on harder stuff and climb harder sport climbs.’
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I remember climbing with you at that time when you were getting more confident. You were just taking falls all over the place, unexpected, unannounced, and I was like, ‘Damn! She’s so bold,’ and it was actually really inspirational for me.
Brianna Greene: That’s awesome to hear because from my perspective I was so freaked out I was like, ‘I’ve got to fall. I’ve got to just take a fall.’
Neely Quinn: And that’s something that’s interesting, too. I’ve gotten much better about the fear thing but I struggled for a long time with falling, especially with making myself fall. I would go into a session and I’d be like, ‘I’m just going to make myself fall. That’s the whole point of this session.’ Then I would get up there and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. What is it that makes you able to do that to yourself?
Brianna Greene: It’s hard, you know? It’s really hard but I think it’s just baby steps. Everybody has fear, right? Well, most people have fear and I think it’s slowly pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone until those scary things start to feel more comfortable. It’s like if you clip above your head and you tell your belayer, “Okay, I need to take some practice falls,” so you feel more comfortable, essentially you’re on toprope. They can give you a really short catch and then you start getting used to it.
You also need to develop this relationship with your belayer. You need to learn how to fall with that person and they need to learn how to catch you because you have different weights and that affects how you’re going to fall or how much slack you need to give somebody, how much you need to jump.
It’s just kind of like baby steps. Once you get a little more comfortable with that you can climb slightly above your bolt and be like, ‘Okay, now I’m two feet above my bolt and now I’m going to fall and take a slightly bigger fall,’ until you get to the point where you’re like, ‘I’m totally runout and I trust this person now. I’m going to keep going.’ You can’t get to that point until you take all the baby steps leading up to that point.
Neely Quinn: Literally leading up to that point. Would you say that you and Brennan had a lot of conversation about how he should be catching you?
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know. It’s awesome when your boyfriend is belaying you, at least hopefully it is, because he wants you to be safe, you know? It was definitely a learning process for him. He’s been climbing for a very long time and he’s a very good climber and he has sport climbed in the past so he knows how to belay and all that stuff, but he’s just not very experienced.
When we went to Movement together for the first time and he needed to get lead certified I remember he gave me a ginormous fall. It was a soft catch. At first he was so afraid to slam me into the wall that he would give me these huge falls. I would fall at least 15 feet or something and I was like, ‘That’s too much! You don’t need to give me a ton of slack. You just need to make sure that you jump.’
It’s definitely been a learning process of going back and forth with how it works for us. It’s definitely challenging because we have a pretty big weight difference.
Neely Quinn: That’s a huge deal. He has to be very skilled.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, and I do, too, because when he falls I can’t have any slack out or he’s going to hit the ground.
Neely Quinn: Right. You have to be right under the first bolt and all of the things.
So, it’s one thing with your boyfriend but what about with your friends? I know we have had conversations about this because I think that can be an awkward thing for people to talk about and ask for their preferences.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I think you’re right and I think it is awkward. I’ve just been maybe fortunate to start sport climbing in an environment where the people that I started sport climbing with had already been sport climbing for 10 years and climb 5.13s and have already gone through all these awkwardnesses.
I remember the first time I climbed with you, you were like, ‘How much do you weigh? What are you going to do when I fall?’ I was like, ‘Oh, okay. This is how it works. This is what you do.’ I think it should be that straightforward because if it’s not, that’s how you can get injured. If you don’t communicate with your belayer and be like, ‘Hey, give me a soft catch,’ or, ‘Don’t give me a soft catch,’ whatever the situation is, it’s super important.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. So you went through all of that, you kind of got used to falling again, you found the people that you trust, and you felt a little bit more comfortable. Then what? What happened to your climbing after that?
Brianna Greene: I think with this goal that I had to climb a 5.12, I think the biggest barrier was the mental aspects. I think finding belayers that I really trusted made a huge difference because the first 5.12 that I climbed was in Ten Sleep. It was The Dope Shinto, which is a super fun climb. I had gone there for the Fourth of July so first of all, it was pretty hot and humid and I sort of had allergies and there were bugs so it wasn’t like the best scenario.
I got on The Dope Shinto and Brennan was belaying me and we have practiced a lot in the gym together but I think there was still this level of insecurity for me because he’s so much bigger than I am and we haven’t climbed outside a ton, other than bouldering.
Neely Quinn: Which can be different because of rope drag.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, rope drag and I was afraid. I remember I got on The Dope Shinto and I didn’t even finish the climb because I was so freaked out. I got to the point where I was like, ‘I can’t keep climbing.’
In September we went on this girls’ trip together and now I’m climbing with all these tiny little girls that have been sport climbing forever and have climbed 5.13s and have tons of good advice and knowledge and experience. I think that made all the difference for me because I got back on The Dope Shinto. First of all, I toproped it the first time I got on it because I wanted to figure out all the movement and all the beta but then it was like I just trusted my partner so much more.
I also think there was this level of encouragement or understanding of, ‘I understand what you’re going through. I see where you’re struggling on the climb. I think you can make these small tweaks to make yourself more comfortable.’
It was just a lot easier to let go of that fear, like, ‘Okay, I’m above the bolt. This is the crux. I could fall here but I trust my partner at this moment so I’m just going to go for it.’
Neely Quinn: And you made a conscious choice on that trip to find a project and stick with it and do it, which isn’t really something you had done before.
Brianna Greene: No, that was kind of my goal of this entire year. I started sport climbing maybe in 2015, which is a long time ago.
Neely Quinn: Sort of.
Brianna Greene: And I had gotten on 12a’s before and I had one-hung a few 12a’s and I had never sent anything. It’s just such a long time to not accomplish that goal and I was sick of it. I was sick of myself. [laughs] I’d just been making these excuses and really it just comes down to me being afraid and being afraid of a failure, being afraid of an injury, whatever it is. I just got sick of it. I wanted to send so badly.
It’s interesting because I think when you travel and you go on a climbing trip it’s hard to be in the sending mentality because you’re tired from traveling, you’re out of your element, it’s a different style of rock, you’re not there for very long, but I just felt like I needed to make this happen. I needed to finally send something and finally prove to myself that I was worthy of all these years of climbing and all these days that I go to the gym. I was like, ‘It’s got to be worth something,’ you know?
Neely Quinn: It takes that kind of impetus in you to have the drive and the motivation to stick with something, like the perseverance that it takes is a lot.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, it is.
Neely Quinn: You have to have a deeper reason.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, you definitely do. Sport climbing, to me, kind of feels like Type 2 fun. It’s scary still and I’ve definitely learned how to manage the fear but you have to really want it and push through whatever you’re feeling. If you’re feeling tired or it’s cold or you’re scared, you need to be willing to just face all that and just go for it.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I remember when I did The Dope Shinto one of the days on that trip I was bleeding the whole way up. I literally had blood dripping off of my hand and those are the kinds of things that you have to deal with at that sort of level of climbing. They’re sharp, tiny little holds and you have to just be like, ‘Okay, sorry to the next climber.’ [laughs]
Brianna Greene: Which would have been me. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Right. Sorry, but it’s all those things that you have to contend with and just be okay with.
Brianna Greene: Was that the day that you flashed everything on The Shinto wall? You were like, ‘I just have to deal with my pump factor right now.’
Neely Quinn: That day I just didn’t get pumped.
Brianna Greene: That was amazing. It was super inspiring.
Neely Quinn: It was a good day. It was a good couple days for me but we’re not talking about me. My next question is – I know that when we were all there together and kind of brainstorming with you there were some new ideas that you got about how to project. I think this is really important so what were some of those things?
Brianna Greene: First of all, I think it was just so great to be with you guys. You were all so strong and so encouraging and so supportive of my goal.
My friend Steph is the person who taught me how to sport climb, essentially, years ago. She’s been through the worst of it, I think. [laughs] I remember her belaying me on this 5.10 where I got so freaked out that I put my finger through the bolt and was like, ‘I can’t keep going,’ and she was like, ‘Take your finger out of the bolt, put the draw in the bolt, put the rope in the draw.’ I think it was just nice to have people that have been there for so long and that kind of understand who I am and who I am as a climber.
I definitely learned some new techniques. First of all, I talked to Steph about my fears and there were a couple of 2-bolt sections that were just slightly runout for me. I just got a little scared. I was like, ‘I’m too scared to clip the draw. I have to do this huge move and then get the jug and then clip but I could fall before that because it’s just such a big move.’ She was like, ‘Well you should just put a runner on the draw,’ which is something I had never even thought about. I was like, ‘Isn’t that cheating?’ and she was like, ‘No way! Just make yourself comfortable or whatever.’ That was super helpful.
Leici, our other friend that was there, talked about how to rest and find the best rests and think about how bouldering is so much more comfortable for me. If I find places to rest it’s kind of like these little mini boulder projects that are stacked on top of each other. That was super helpful as well because I think that was something that I, personally, forget a lot when I’m climbing. I need to relax and calm myself down and take a deep breath and just recenter myself before I go through the crux section.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, so how did you do that? Like what tactics did you use to calm down?
Brianna Greene: [laughs] Breathing. It’s still something that I forget. When I climb sometimes I’ll remind myself to breathe but when I get to a section that starts to feel hard I’ll forget and I’ll start holding my breath. I’ll get really tense then I’ll start to get really pumped and then I’ll get more freaked out because I’m pumped and then I can’t clip. It’s just this cycle of getting freaked out and getting more pumped and more freaked out because I’m pumped.
When I did The Dope Shinto I did it on toprope one time and then I felt like, ‘Okay, I got all the moves,’ so the second time I was like, ‘I’m going to send this second-go.’ I just got scared towards the top, coming up to the second crux near the top. I was just too nervous.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, you were over-gripping.
Brianna Greene: I forgot the beta, I didn’t know what I was supposed to grab, I didn’t know where it was okay and it was too overwhelming.
The next day that we got on it, when I warmed-up on it I went bolt-to-bolt and I really took the time to figure out that this is a journey. It’s totally different than a boulder problem for me and in my mind. I’m going to figure out where the best rests are. I need to really take the time to figure out, ‘What is a good position for me to de-pump, take a breath, reset, and remember what the next section of beta is going to be,’ so that was super important.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, I think that taking your last warm-up as a bolt-to-bolt on your project is something that a lot of really strong climbers do and it’s really useful for that reason, just to have everything fresh in your mind.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, it’s becoming more intimate with the climb. That was super helpful, that third time, because towards the top at the second crux there was this huge move. It’s like, ‘Yeah, fine. I can do this move if it’s on a boulder problem but if I’m way up there and I’ve already been climbing for 40 feet or whatever, it’s going to be that I’m too tired to do this move.’ When I was on it bolt-to-bolt I kind of realized that I needed to figure out a different beta sequence for this section. I found a super small secret intermediate hold that I actually added in and that was super helpful.
When I ended up sending it, which was my fourth go, when I got up there to that section that was very cruxy and I’m tired and freaked out and I’ve been trying to calm myself down, now I remember that I have this little intermediate hold. I used it and it made that section so much easier. I think it was super important to go bolt-to-bolt and be like, ‘Here’s my rest, this is the crux, these are the specific holds that I’m going to use. When I come up here and actually send this I’m not going to be confused about what I’m going to be doing. I’m going to grab this intermediate and I’m going to go out to here and then I’m going to clip off of this.’ You need to know what you’re going to do before you do it. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: Yeah, and then do it in your head two times before you go up it.
Brianna Greene: And also believe in yourself. That fourth time, before I got on it, I was like, ‘I’m going to send this thing. This is the one. I’m going to send this thing.’ I felt like it was going to happen. Definitely towards the top when you’re like, ‘Oh god, is this going to happen? Am I actually going to send this? Oh shit!’
Neely Quinn: When you have to actually keep yourself together.
Brianna Greene: I think it’s important. I think it’s something that you’ve talked to me a lot about, having a positive mental attitude and making sure you tell yourself, ‘I got this. I know the moves. I can do this. I just need to follow my plan and rest where I’m going to rest, use the holds I’ve decided I’m going to use, and do it.’
Neely Quinn: Right. One step at a time.
Brianna Greene: One step at a time.
Neely Quinn: That’s awesome and it’s so exciting and I can see it in you right now, how exciting that was for you.
Brianna Greene: It was awesome. It just felt like a weight off of my shoulder. I had finally achieved this benchmark goal that I had been sort of trying to achieve but too afraid to achieve for so many years.
Neely Quinn: So you got to the top and you had achieved this thing. For a lot of people they’re like, ‘Okay, next,’ but did you get to savor that moment?
Brianna Greene: Yeah, for sure. I think it was super important for me because it had taken so long to achieve that. When I first started sport climbing I was capable of one-hanging these 12a’s but I never sent anything. It was more than a physical accomplishment. It was a mental accomplishment for me. I finally committed to doing this, I finally committed to getting good at sport climbing and learn how it works and learn how to send things and it felt great.
Neely Quinn: Good. Well, congratulations.
Brianna Greene: Thank you.
Neely Quinn: So where are you at with things now and how do you think you’ll go about training for your upcoming goals?
Brianna Greene: It’s amazing because sending this 5.12 and progressing in this way has been extremely motivating. That was something I didn’t actually expect. When I decided I wanted to accomplish this goal and get better at sport climbing I was like, ‘Okay, physically I’ve gotten better at sport climbing. Mentally I’ve been able to manage my fears a little bit better.’ Most surprisingly is I’m so excited about climbing right now.
Neely Quinn: Cool.
Brianna Greene: I guess it’s because I’ve been climbing since 2004. It’s 2019 now and that’s a while. There were several years that I kind of just plateaued and I think that was because I would just tell myself, ‘I like climbing because it’s fun. I like the movement. I don’t care about sending.’ Whatever. Still, I go to the gym 3-5 days a week. That’s a lot of time to invest in this sport and if you’re not progressing then what’s the point?
This last year, 2018, when I had this goal I kind of changed my mindset to where every time I would go to the gym I would be like, ‘Okay, what’s my goal for today? What am I going to do? Am I going to focus on power? Am I going to focus on strength? Am I going to focus on endurance? Am I just going to try to get my fingers strong? What am I going to get out of this session today?’ Doing that and then also focusing on this goal and having this achievement is so motivating. It’s measurable progress.
Through the next year I think I’m just excited to continue this progress. Maybe last year it was more about mental and less about physical but I think this year is definitely mental stuff, it’s still a progress. I’m not going to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ I still get scared, for sure, it’s just that I know how to deal with it more. This next year I want to focus more on the physical stuff.
Neely Quinn: And you did do some physical stuff last year.
Brianna Greene: Definitely.
Neely Quinn: What kind of stuff did you do?
Brianna Greene: I think, like I said, when I would go to the gym I would make a definite goal for myself. ‘I’m not going to the gym to just have fun and climb and hang out with my friends, I’m going to train something specifically today.’ I’m either going to work on my endurance or my power or my finger strength, or whatever I think that I’m lacking.
At the same time, having this goal was getting more comfortable leading. I think that did kind of take a toll on my physical abilities because I spent so much time just climbing on easier things, like leading easier things just to get comfortable with leading because leading harder things was too scary. Now I think I can kind of flip-flop that.
Last year the mental stuff was the primary goal of my training and physical was secondary because I knew that I had the physical capabilities to climb 12a but I didn’t have the mental capabilities. Now I’m like, ‘Okay, I would like to climb 12b, 12c, 12d, 13a.’ I don’t think that I necessarily have the physical ability to climb 13a. I think I’m getting close but I think it’s going to flip-flop where the physical training is going to be my primary goal and mental is going to be more secondary.
Neely Quinn: So, finger training?
Brianna Greene: It’s January so it’s only one month into this new goal. I’ve been climbing a lot, maybe potentially too much which you might have seen a little bit because some days I’ll be three days on.
Neely Quinn: Or six!
Brianna Greene: There was one day where I was six days on and I tried to sport climb and that did not go well.
Neely Quinn: That did not go well, for the record. Not a good idea.
Brianna Greene: I couldn’t even climb a 5.10.
I guess I’m trying to figure out my schedule but it’s interesting because this month, these past four weeks, I’ve been climbing probably five days a week which is a little bit more than I usually do. I’ve been training a lot harder during those days. Like Tuesday mornings I’ll go and do – one day we did a 6×6 boulder. You pick six boulder problems and you do them six times each. That was the most exhausted I’ve ever been after climbing. Then hangboarding and sport climbing and on the weekends just trying to project as much as possible.
It’s interesting because I think that’s overdoing it a little too much but I’ve already seen progress in this month as far as getting stronger.
Neely Quinn: Really? How so? Or how do you know that?
Brianna Greene: Yeah. Well it’s snowy outside so I’ve just been climbing in the gym but I think I’m just climbing a lot stronger. Not just this month but looking back it’s like, ‘Okay, now I’m getting on V7s and they feel possible and somewhat easy.’ A few years ago I couldn’t even do a V4. I just notice my entire body feels stronger and I’m flowing more easily through moves. It just feels really good but at the same time I think I need to find more of a better training balance, like maybe not climbing six days in a row and then trying to climb with Neely.
Neely Quinn: I was like, ‘Wow, Bri’s gotten really weak.’ [laughs]
So you’re kind of figuring it out right now.
Brianna Greene: I’m kind of figuring it out and figuring out what’s beneficial. Like you said, we climb together. We went sport climbing and I was five or six days on and I was struggling to even do easy stuff. You were kind of like, ‘This is sort of wasted effort for you because you can’t even do basic stuff.’ I think that’s sort of true. I was like, ‘Okay, I need to make sure that I’m rested so I can push myself to make sure that I can get on these harder 12s or try a couple 13s to see what it feels like and get my body used to these hard moves.’ If I’ve been climbing for the past six days I’m not going to be able to do that.
Neely Quinn: And you made a point, too. You were like, ‘Well, I want to be able to go on a climbing trip and be able to have a larger work capacity,’ basically to be able to climb more days on, so I get it. But then my response to that is that a lot of times if you’re just projecting you’re only going to do four or fives routes in a day so you just have to figure out, I guess, what your goals are and what your priorities are.
Brianna Greene: I think it’s important to be smart about your training and not overdo but also get the most out of your training sessions. I think that’s mostly what I got out of what you said. Yeah, I’m not getting the most out of this training session if I’m falling on 10s and it would be better if I had rested the day before. Then I would be able to really push myself. We were climbing on the steepest climbs and you were crushing hard and you were inspiring me but I was too pumped to even do anything. I think that’s important to keep it in mind.
Neely Quinn: That’s a good lesson for people. Do you have a 13a in mind?
Brianna Greene: Sort of.
Neely Quinn: Do you have a 12b in mind? You’re just going to skip it? What’s the plan here?
Brianna Greene: I did skip 11d. I have never climbed an 11d. I was just kind of making a tick list and picked out a bunch of 12c’s for myself around the area. Some are in Shelf, some are in Clear Creek, and I picked out some 13a’s that I might like to try in Ten Sleep because I think we might go back this year, potentially. That’s still a ways away but I probably need to figure out – it would be nice to find some 12b’s. I still have some 12a’s I want to do around here as well.
Neely Quinn: There’s all the things to do.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, once the snow melts then I can start seeing how I feel and figure out what’s possible.
Neely Quinn: That’s exciting. I can’t wait to watch you send more.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, I hope so!
Neely Quinn: It’s good to see you psyched.
Brianna Greene: I’m super psyched. It’s so motivating to see yourself progress and have success, more than I ever could have imagined, and it feels really good to be psyched about climbing.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, good. Well, thanks for sharing that. Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom. I appreciate it.
Brianna Greene: Yeah, it was fun.
Neely Quinn: Alright, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Brianna Greene. Again, you can find her on Instagram @briby and then she also wrote an article for us on TrainingBeta that we mentioned a couple times. You can find that if you go to www.trainingbeta.com and search ‘Brianna.’ You’ll find that article and it’s basically just a well-written out form of this interview.
If you have any questions for her just message her on Instagram or email me and I can relay the question to her.
Coming up on the podcast I’m going to be interviewing Remy Franklin who is a life coach and a climber. He actually wrote an article for us, too, on TrainingBeta recently about goal setting and picking your goals and sticking with your goals, whether it’s climbing or other areas of your life. I thought it was a really well-written, well thought out article so I asked him to be on the podcast to talk about life coaching and climbing in general. Just how to prioritize and how to get over some of the hurdles that he sees with his clients as a life coach because he works with a lot of climbers. That will be coming up soon.
Again, if you have any suggestions for me on podcast guests I’m totally all ears. You can email me at email@example.com.
Lastly, if you’re looking for training programs for yourself we have tons of those on TrainingBeta. My goal with creating this website was to make training really accessible because what I wanted when I first started this site was for somebody to tell me exactly what to do when I went into the gym and what that would be doing for me. If I wanted power endurance, what do I need to do? That’s what we’ve created.
We have a program that’s just about power endurance. It’s a six-week program that you can do, mostly for route climbers, but we also have subscription programs for route climbers and boulderers. We have finger strength programs. We have a lot of other things in there like advice from Steve Bechtel and lots of other authors. Definitely check that out at www.trainingbeta.com/programs and everytime you purchase anything from us it helps support this podcast and the blog and everything we do here at TrainingBeta.
Thank you for listening all the way to the end. Please feel free to follow us on Instagram @trainingbeta, on Facebook at TrainingBeta, and we also have a training community on Facebook, like a group page. You can find that at www.trainingbeta.com/community. We’d love to see you over there.
Alright, talk to you next time.