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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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Earning my title

After a bouldering session at my climbing gym last week, I glanced down at my climbing shoes and noticed that they seemed to be getting a little worn, which seemed strange to me. I made a mental note, and the next night when I was bouldering I asked Jay, one of the employees at the gym, if he thought my shoes were looking worn too. We were getting into an in-depth conversation about personal preferences in climbing shoe grip when I finally interrupted him and asked incredulously, “But I only climb twice a week or so. How could they possibly be worn?” Jay gave me this look like, “Homegirl you have got to be kidding me!” and told me that climbing twice a week makes me a regular. Not only did he say I was a regular, he also said that the two hour plus climbing sessions I have with my friends Anne and Fran are legit because we basically climb until we are jacked (a.k.a. our arms physically can’t climb anymore). And then – he REALLY did it – he called me a climber. As it turns out, during these past few months that I have been an aspiring climber I have, lo and behold, become a real climber. I have earned my title.

Screen-Shot-2011-12-01-at-8.34.59-AMDream trip: Climbing at Yosemite.

The funny part about this whole climber business is that I was probably the last person to consider myself a climber. I plan my entire week around the nights I climb at the gym and I even had a dream about climbing a 5.12 the other night but shoot until Jay called me a climber I did not consider myself a climber. My roommate has probably considered me a climber for at least a few months as I am out of the house several times a week climbing. What I needed though was to know that another climber considered me a climber. Hearing that Jay considered me a climber in his mind was what flipped the switch for me. I think that in any kind of activity (e.g. skiing, running, biking) the opinions that matter the most are from the people that you respect for their skill. It was kind of this magical affirmation for me that the hours I have spent attached to little holds on a vertical wall have meant something.

photo-2Hi I’m Paula, and I’m a CLIMBER!

The best part of this whole experience for me has been looking back at where I started: ground zero. I decided I wanted to learn so one day l bought a pair of $150 climbing shoes. Side note, all employees at any outdoor goods store love me because you can always talk me into buying the good stuff. It’s not my fault that the $150 shoes happened to fit way better than the $70 shoes!

IMG_0907The day I bought my climbing shoes. Zero clue what I was doing.

I guess upon reflection the takeaway from this whole thing is that you can become anything you want. I was not a climber six months ago. I am the most uncoordinated, least likely person to take up climbing ever. I wanted to be a climber though, so I got the shoes, got the gear and was not afraid to flail around on a wall for a bit at the beginning (and okay even now). And then it all came to fruition last week when I realized I am a climber. Reaching a goal that you set for yourself is probably one of the coolest things ever. Particularly if it’s a goal that changes your life. I feel like climbing has already opened a whole new world for me and I’m just getting started!

It’s like my boy Nas says: “I know I can be what I want to be, if I work hard at it I’ll be where I wanna be.”

My goal in this post is really not to humble brag. I have so much more to learn and improve in the climbing world, and you should seriously see how awesome my friend Anne is at climbing! Instead, my goal in this is to tell you that if I can become a climber anyone can do it! I promise the day that you finally earn the title it will all be worth it.

*I had half written this entry before I saw this gem at one of my favorite blogs in the world, Semi-Rad! Love the message of this one too. Great minds think alike.*