This past week has been one of reflection and introspection on my part, taking a realistic and detached look at where I’m at right now and how my year has gone this far. I’ve been routinely getting a little swept up in feeling badly that I’m not progressing more quickly on my proj from last year, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned. I’ve been juggling that self-doubt around for the past three weeks or so, when I really honed in on starting to pick away at it again.
But now that I’ve taken the time to delve into a more realistic look back at my year thus far, I completely understand why I am where I am right now in my climbing and fitness levels, and I simply cannot be the least bit upset about it – in fact, I’ve realized, I should be incredibly psyched and pleased with what my body’s been able to do.
My plans for this year went haywire when I impinged the nerve in my left arm, leaving my arm virtually paralyzed for about six weeks, back in February and into March. Even when enough control to move my fingers and arm came back and to do such simple motions as clipping the rope into draws again returned, the arm wasn’t back to 100% normal for a much longer time. So when I returned from Spain at the end of March, I still had residual numbness and weakness in my left hand. My right arm compensated for this subconsciously – meaning I didn’t try to overuse it, but it was still permanently pumped on everything I climbed for quite some time. My back also tightened up to the point that I had to go and see a chiropractor several times to try to get everything to loosen up again. My body was obviously struggling to repair itself and be able to handle the level I wanted it to perform at.
I was happy enough upon returning from Spain to just be able to rock climb without constantly stressing about my arm for a couple months – I still couldn’t really train at all (though I’d planned to have a training segment in the spring). I was too concerned about overdoing it and causing more damage. My left arm still felt screwed up. I couldn’t do push exercises yet, nothing for my triceps or the motion that I’m struggling with now on my project, the deep lock-off transitional motion from pulling into pushing. I didn’t even start back into training beyond just climbing until the end of May, and I know that into mid-June, my left arm was still problematic. When I started into push exercises again, even lightly, it would fatigue really quickly and my elbow would start making disturbing clicking noises, feeling fragile and like I shouldn’t push it at all.
Gradually, though, my arm has healed up enough for me to not notice it anymore as an issue at this point. This actually astounds me, when I take a step back! There was a time earlier this year when I thought I wouldn’t ever be able to climb hard for myself again. So I’ve had to realize that any expectations on my part that I’d just come out and smash my last year’s project after this serious setback and the long, long time away from working on my weaknesses in training is utterly ridiculous, but also an ultra-classic Alli-move, to set up an unrealistic expectation and to live so much in the present moment that I allow myself to forget the recent past and how it’s influencing my performance outcome now.
The fact that I’m at all stronger this year on the moves is amazing just by itself, I’ve come to realize. Now, I simply need to allow my being the happiness and pleasure to savor the feeling of climbing sans injury and of being able to train without fretting constantly about my left arm. Now is a time when I can work on my weaknesses. Now is a time when I can strive to develop that transitional strength I need for deep lock-offs that turn into pushing movements. There’s no way I could have trained this motion at all when my nerve was inflamed; the pushing motion was the source of inflammation in the first place.
Coming to terms with all of the above and realizing how much I’d set myself up with unrealistic expectations has really freed up my mind and soul to just relax and enjoy the rest of this summer season, whether it brings me a send or another few seasons away from my big project before I return for another crack at it next year. It really doesn’t matter if or when I do the route at this point, and I know that. More importantly, I need to have a great time and learn all I can from this seemingly eternal a#&-beating that this climb is delivering me. The awesome part of it is that I’m still learning and evolving as a climber on the route, as I experienced yet again this last week…more on that tomorrow.