It’s about time I sat down and wrote something on my neglected little blog. The plush times have certainly come and gone and if the last post’s tone is any indicator as to my state of mind then we should all be worried.
In lieu of that dreadful Red Rocks trip write up I must issue an apology to any and all who read it including myself, which negating the fact that it sorely needed a grammatical edit the content was also drastically maligned in its attempt to convey the actual reality of the trip-which was a positive one I must assure you. I wear my failures on my sleeve and my gripes and insecurities are fair game when it comes to exposing them on social media. SO, in hindsight, my hindsight needs Lasik surgery. In short, and as an addendum to the tone of my last post, I just want to say that Red Rocks is an amazing sport climbing and bouldering destination (duh, tell us something we don’t know) and if you haven’t been there yet then you should go. But prepare yourselves for a never ending city, a labyrinth of concrete, an entanglement of obnoxious and unnecessary signage, a bi-polar environment, fragile rock, and sun. But also be prepared to climb on some of the most fun problems and routes in the country. I was obviously upset that I didn’t climb better and my performance as compared to others is something I am habitually insecure about, but when I think about the logistics of the trip, who I got to spend it with and the things we got to experience together I can’t help but smile and want to go back immediately.
Rehab is a lonely dark room lit only by a small flickering candle of hope. After my return from Red Rocks my arm was inflamed to epic proportions and I vowed upon my return to Seattle that I would discontinue my normal training routine in favor of rehabbing my arm (whatever that means). So for the past month that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. It started slowly and uneventfully and now has blossomed into quite a nice relationship with a thera band, a jump rope, a hang board, and of course a never ending regiment of core exercises. Why does no one write about their rehab process I always wondered? Well, now I know the painfully contrived and somewhat dedicated answer to that mundane question. Because rehab is not exciting, unless of course if you are the one engaged in said rehab and you see improvement week to week (and even then it’s pretty fucking uneventful). I have for almost an entire month now not climbed at all. I did sneak out to World Wall 1 a week ago to break my no-climbing rule and it was well worth it. Not only was it worth it, it was actually completely rejuvenating and necessary to boot.
We had been experiencing some fantastic January clarity as far as the weather goes. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and the temps were CRISP. The wall was as dry as I’ve ever seen it and washed free from our little chalky paw prints. I was a complete wreck mentally and found myself having a back and forth debate WITH myself over whether or not breaking my rest period was going to be a good idea i.e. helpful. I timidly warmed up on Psychowussy and besides my frozen hands all felt in good order. Next was Aborigine and still, no pain. I hesitantly picked my gear up, bundled up my rope and plopped down underneath Chronic. I let out a deep nervous sigh and began climbing. I rerouted through Californicator and sent, and I was stoked. Still, no familiar twinge in my arm during a lock off, no sharp pain on retraction. It was as if I hadn’t been injured at all. I was just shy of beaming with psych. I was so stoked I decided to keep it going and ran a lap on Softliner even continuing into Flatliner and falling midcrux. It didn’t matter, I was so happy to be climbing again and pain free no less. The last burn of the day was on Technorigine and it went historically well. I paused at a jug high up on the route. I looked through the loop my arm made between my chest and my bent elbow out at the valley that snaked its way below, my view terminating at a distant snow covered mountainside. The sun was left to bake the opposing valley wall and the brilliant blue above beckoned me to keep levitating upwards. I wanted to oblige but I had to call it a day. We were the last ones at the wall. Shutting her down. My lovely partner had sent a new project, I had gained some illuminating perspective on taking time off, and we both enjoyed the feeling of getting away with murder a.k.a knowing what it feels like to climb on a perfect day in late January in the Pacific Northwest on DRY rock.
Besides the unexpected treat of getting outside and climbing at my favorite wall it’s been all routine. Consistent, boring, predictable routine. And a small amount of bouldering in tennis shoes, heehee. My arm has gone from feeling like it’s never been hurt at all, to agonizing pain in some positions, to a mild pain upon flexion. It’s baffling and frustrating and in the end I want to just rewind about 5 months and start all over. The signs were not really there, but in some cases they were. I’ve touched upon this already so no need to go down that path of self-shame and longing to change the past (like I said earlier, my hindsight could still use some hindsight). The longing to climb, to train hard, to prepare for the ‘dry’ times and the encroaching start of yet another seemingly nebulous season is so intense at times it puts me into a mild malaise when I think about how weak I will be when it finally does start to dry out. Or I start to wonder if my arm will ever feel strong again, all of these thoughts are counterproductive of course and do nothing to address the problem/s I have in real time so I keep trying to fill my head with positive affirmations that focus on the concepts of healing and repair.
Accepting that you have an injury and that you need to rest is not easy; and in fact as climbers I feel like we have some built in neurosis surrounding the acceptance of such facts. Admit it, when you’re on a good training cycle, you’re feeling strong, and maybe you’ve ticked a few projects its damn near impossible to pay attention to that small twinge in your shoulder, or that soreness in your pulley. We are like toddlers that are fighting against the dreaded yet inevitable ‘nap time’ syndrome. I went through a terrible slump the first two weeks of my rehab where I basically just sat around and ate a bunch of pizza and drank a bunch of beer as if these were the two prescriptions I needed most to heal my arm (they weren’t). But I needed some time to mourn the loss of my routine, and then some more time to develop a new one.
After sluggishly pulling myself out of this post-trip and post-freedom haze I began down a (hopefully) irreversible path to regain my old fitness level and maybe obtain a new level (?). I decided that if I wasn’t going to be in the gym for three hours working on power endurance, ticking off laps on the circuit board, running circles on my 4x4, or recruiting new fibers on the campus board then I would need to shift gears and fill that three hours with other activities that would ultimately help me re-enter the world of climbing. I also needed to devise a strategy to shed that pizza/beer weight without having to log countless miles running in the dampening madness that is the dreary PAC NW winter season. Unfortunately part of that plan included having to break up with my favorite twins IPA and Ridge Pizza and start eating smaller and smaller meals (nutrition being just one of the things that fluctuates sporadically in my life). I also made new friends with a jump rope and a timer. I changed the way I approached these work outs by believing that what I could accomplish was going to benefit me in other ways (hopefully 5.14 ways).
Now when I show up to the gym I spend almost all of my time in the back weight room doing a lot of core (600+ abdominal contractions) planks, corners, ab roller etc. I blend this with a healthy dose of weights (mostly curls and military press) and ring work outs (inverted rows, fly-aways, archery pushups) and to get that heart rate up and burn calories I jump rope for 2 minute blocks and usually end up doing 8 minutes’ worth of jump roping (which I know doesn’t sound like a lot). I also do shoulder and elbow strengthening exercises with the Thera band and medicine ball which I’ve grown quite fond of. Literally the number one fear I had going into this rest/rehab period was losing all of my finger strength. So in order to quell those fears somewhat I decided to start a hang board routine to supplement the fact that I can’t really climb. My injury is such that I’m able to do repeaters and dead hangs without causing any further damage to my arm so I’m jumping back into that pool again by getting pumped stupid by doing 7/3 repeaters and by doing 30 second dead hangs (no added weight – yet).
And while all of this sounds good, and it is (for now), I still have the maddening desire to climb. Our trip out to World Wall after a mere 3 weeks off was nothing short of bliss, a small taste of what I want every day of my life to be like (as unreasonable as that is). I’m trying to harness this isolated motivation and wield it in order to generate a new momentum towards healing my arm and at the same time making myself stronger and more resilient to future injuries. The ultimate goal is to come back healthy AND stronger. It’s not difficult to follow a rehab plan and it’s not difficult to grasp the desire to want to heal my arm in order to perform well in the future, what’s difficult is changing the mind state I’ve had for so long about my preparation for climbing.