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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl


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First time for everything

My mom is not a huge fan of my recent rock climbing addiction, but I always try and assure her that it’s really one of the safest things I do. I swear that sliding down a snow covered mountain on two sticks is ten times more dangerous than climbing and bouldering at a climbing gym. Yet I somehow did manage to give myself my very first ever rock climbing injury last night. It’s the first climbing milestone that I have not been very excited about.

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The glory days when I could use all my fingers.

Of course my injury occurred early in the evening before I even had a chance to at least have fun and get in some good climbs. I had gone to Thrillseekers after work to meet some of my friends for bouldering and top roping, and I was upstairs warming up in the bouldering cave with Anne and Abby. To be fair I was doing a pretty bad job of warming up that evening. I normally do a few warm-up laps on a practice wall on the first level, and since I found myself in the bouldering cave I just did a really easy V0 problem and then went straight for the V1 that has been my recent project.

IMG_5579Thrillseekers. Don’t be fooled by how ghetto it looks. I love this gym!

The V1 project included a few “crimpy” moves. Crimping is climber jargon for a type of hold that is too narrow for your entire hand and instead requires reliance on finger strength.

andy using a crimp grip 1Crimp grip.

I don’t know exactly what happened (obviously I was not paying enough attention!) but I was holding on to the crimp hold when my foot slipped off one of the foot holds. My hand stayed on the crimp hold as I kind of awkwardly fell off the wall, placing pressure on my fingers that were holding the grip. I came off the wall and immediately had this weird shooting pain from my fingers up to my elbow. It hurt to bend my fingers, and I sat out for ten minutes.

One of the people in my climbing group helped me tape my fingers on my left hand to give them more support, and I got back on the wall and tried to do another problem. No dice. I couldn’t put pressure on my left hand on any holds that weren’t easy jug holds, which basically eliminated everything in the bouldering cave. I headed downstairs to my normal warm-up area to try doing my usual warm-up route. I felt okay until I reached for the one overhanging move on the route. There was immediate shooting pain from my left hand to my elbow, so I dropped down to the floor.

IMG_5577At that point I was about five minutes away from wanting to cry so I decided that maybe it was time to call it a night. Climbing is already enough of an intensely mental sport and not being able to climb any of my normal routes because I couldn’t put pressure on my left hand was just making me mad! Once I gathered my things I went to turn in my lock to the front desk, and I talked to all three of the workers about what had just happened. As a runner, I’m pretty accustomed to the stereotypical running injuries. If I had tendonitis or shin splits I would absolutely know what to do. Hurting my finger and having pain all the way up to my elbow? That was a new one for me.

The Thrillseekers workers and I all determined that I had not ruptured a tendon, since I had not heard a pop when I fell off the wall and was not in excruciating pain, but that I probably had strained it. I remember thinking, “Okay strained tendon, I’ll take tonight off and be back climbing on Thursday!” Nope. The workers all told me it would be fine, I should ice it, and that I’d be back to normal in four weeks! You should have seen my face. Four weeks? I normally like to hit the climbing gym 2-3 times a week. How was I going to survive? I immediately called my brother Derek in the hopes that he maybe had experience with a similar injury.

574759_312316885554330_205668134_nBelaying my brother.

Lucky for him my brother had never had an injury similar to my strained tendon. He did have some good insight though. I was explaining to him that I would at least take one week off completely before trying to go back to the climbing gym, which seemed totally reasonable to me. It’s probably a good thing I phoned a friend. Derek, the voice of sanity, told me I’m not allowed to climb next week and that I need to take a good 2-3 weeks off and then work my way back gradually until my hand feels 100% again. I suppose I agree. As I sit here typing this I can’t deny the fact that my finger/hand hurts. It hurts to fully extend my hand. You can’t climb if you don’t have complete trust in the strength of your hands.

Luckily I have other things I can do to keep me busy during the next few weeks. I can still run. I can still go to CrossFit (perhaps with some modifications). I can still ski. But I will for sure miss climbing. You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone – and I can’t wait to be fully back at the climbing gym in a month!

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Remembering to have fun

It’s just not a holiday if I don’t spend three or more hours at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Over Thanksgiving, I got stuck at good old DFW for five hours when my flight from New Orleans back to Denver got delayed. This past Christmas, I spent a solid three hours at DFW on my way to Virginia for the holidays. Quality time at DFW is pretty typical for me these days.

What was I doing heading to Virginia in the first place? Well you see my family has slightly relocated to Virginia these days. My brother moved to Charlottesville four years ago, and my mom just moved to Lynchburg from Missouri this past summer. To make a long story short, my family moved from Colorado to Missouri for my dad’s job when I was 10, and I spent my formative high school and college years in the Show Me State. My parents then divorced when I was in college, and my dad moved to the Chicago area. When I left Missouri to go to graduate school at the University of Denver, it did not really make sense for my mom to stay in Missouri. Fast forward to this past summer when my mom moved to Virginia and we all lived happily ever after!

vahomeNew Virginia home base.

This Christmas marked the first time that I got to see my mom’s new house in Lynchburg, Virginia and I absolutely loved it. I was even more impressed with how much I liked Lynchburg.

harpertutuSide note: HOW CUTE IS MY NIECE HARPER’S CHRISTMAS TUTU?!

Yes Lynchburg is notoriously the home of Liberty University, the uber conservative school founded by Jerry Falwell. Yes Lynchburg was one of Mitt Romney’s bastions of support and final campaign stop this past campaign season. But Lynchburg is also home to several neighborhoods full of cool, old houses, including the one where my mom lives. Lynchburg is home to a viable historic area with a local shopping and dining scene. And Lynchburg is home to Rise Up, a good little climbing gym located downtown that I had to check out.

I was especially excited to climb with my brother, who was the one who first even got me thinking about climbing. If my brother had not gotten into climbing himself, I doubt I would have been as motivated to ever try it. I really wanted to make him proud of my improvement, since I was a total novice the last time he saw me climb this past May when I visited Virginia.

DSCN4365Starting a climb.

DSCN4373DSCN4374Unfortunately I had a super frustrating time at the climbing gym. Climbing can be such a mental sport, much like long distance running, and because I had been putting so much pressure on myself to do well for my brother, I forgot to have fun. Instead of having fun, I just got mad at myself when I could not get a smearing move on a 5.9 climb.

DSCN4377Finally having more fun.

I like to think that I did learn a lot from having such a frustrating climbing session though. I actually used to have a rule for myself when I was running in high school and college that I was allowed one bad practice per week. If I did not allow myself to have a bad day, I would never have been able to mentally get past being frustrated on an off day. It’s probably about time I apply this perspective to climbing. A bad climbing session at a different gym is not going to ruin my “climbing career.” You know what’s going to ruin climbing for me? Forgetting to have fun.

I semi-recovered from my frustration by the end of the climbing session. I now have more personal goals and areas that I want to work on when I get back to Colorado, which is not a bad development by any measure!

DSCN4385My brother climbing.

DSCN4390Last climb for me of the day. I had a better attitude. And better fun.

After the session at the climbing gym, I got to focus on my favorite side effect of climbing: eating whatever the heck I want. I’m running and doing less cardio than ever right now while also not making an effort to eat healthy. And I’m seeing no negative consequences. I think it’s the two hour climbing sessions twice a week. Seriously.

DSCN4394Bouldering at Rise Up.

Even though I had a slight meltdown on the rocks (it happens) at Rise Up during this Virginia trip, I have no doubt I’ll be back. I can’t wait to show my brother how much I have improved during my next visit! And in the meantime I’m going to try to not take myself too seriously. Life is too short to not have fun while climbing.