Living near the route and focusing solely on it, Keenan found himself constantly ruminating on it—it took over his rest days, too. He obsessed over his waves of progress and regression on the route. After weeks of trying out different beta, figuring out what to commit to, watching video of himself to help him work out specific moves, he came to a big conclusion: “I think that a lot of times I kind of hosed myself with my confidence, or lack thereof.”
He explains. “That's something I've been really trying to work on, is believing I can do something. I feel like I don't believe I can do something until it's already basically there. Whereas I think a lot of my friends who are really good at climbing believe well before it’s obvious that they can do it. I have to be at the obvious stage—I think that really holds me back.”
Keenan takes inspiration from the 1970s book “Creative Visualization,” that he scrounged from his dad’s garage. “The best mind-opening line in it for me was, 'Anything that happens on the physical plane must first happen on the mental plane.’ ” he says.
In the end, Keenan found that tuning into his own style of climbing—bolstered by his newfound strength and power from training—pushed him over the edge. After over-analyzing how long to rest on one specific move and picking apart how to be efficient, he found himself feeling exasperated. “There is a side of me that was like, ‘Sport climbing is not supposed to feel necessarily super hard on the wall—I'll still try hard, but it's not supposed to be forcing it. It's supposed to be this flowing thing.’ ”
Out of frustration, he ignored the plan he’d made, and instead said, “Screw it, I’m just going to go into bouldering mode.” Yelling through most of the sequence he’d been struggling on, he pumped up his adrenaline and ended up finishing the rest of the route in a much more powerful, controlled way than he imagined he would. It felt out of the blue, he says.
Following the odyssey of climbing Empath, Keenan is psyched to see where his hard-won newfound strength and knowledge will take him.