Friday, May 18, 2012

Injuries, recovery, and life beyond the rocks

Yesterday afternoon my mom and I stopped by Northwest Branch so she could finish Mikey Likes It, a short traverse that she's been working on during her past few visits there.  With a slightly shorter reach and less control of slopers than I have, she instead relies on a sharp crimp sequence to get her through the middle of the boulder.  Effective, but much rougher on the fingers over the course of several attempts.  She had nearly completed it on Sunday after the open house for the recent trail improvement project led by the Access Fund's Conservation Team (follow their travels on Facebook), and I felt certain that she would piece it all together if she came back with the sequence still fresh in her mind.

After a quick warmup and several frustrating attempts, she finally topped out around the ledge, thankful to have put the painful crimps behind her.

For me, as I take some time off to rest a strained lower back, it was a good reminder of what I want.  It's always hard to rest an injury, especially when we've found something like climbing that makes us so happy.  But seeing my 63-year-old mother out on projects like this, it makes me realize that I'd rather miss a little time now if it means still being healthy enough to do what I want thirty years down the road.  In fact, given the choice between a few years of climbing really hard or a few decades of easier climbing, I'd take the latter every time.

In the short term, I'm conscious of the plans I've made to travel this summer, including my first trips to Montana and Squamish, and a visit to Colorado afterward.  As much as I'd wanted to spend this time getting stronger to climb harder on those trips, I'd rather end up climbing easy routes out there than none at all because I pushed too hard too soon.

As I talked earlier to my friend Jon who's resting a finger injury, I was impressed by his positive outlook on the situation.  Having recently spent some time studying training and nutrition, he now finds himself as excited about the recovery process as he normally is about climbing.  He recognizes it as an opportunity to heal his entire body, not just the most serious injury, and will undoubtedly come back stronger as a result.  Hopefully that commitment to healing will also bring about a commitment to prevention, including the scheduled rest periods that Brian advocates, which I've always seen the value of but rarely had the discipline to put into practice.

One thing I said earlier in the week, and am finding more true every day, is that being injured gives us extra time to do the things we normally can't fit in.  It's actually a bit of a gift.  If we can't bear to be completely removed from climbing, we can still spend the time studying, practicing ropework, or even sitting around typing like I'm doing now.  Ideally though, we go out and do all of those other things we wish we had the time for.  Last month when my first round of back pain arrived just in time to cancel any spring break climbing plans, I instead spent three of those days in DC visiting all of the museums and gardens I hadn't been to in forever.

I even managed to meet my wife for lunch a couple times, a rare occurrence since she started working for the US Forest Service in November.  She's actually admitted to me that she secretly looks forward to my injuries, because she knows she'll see more of me as a result.  And I can't say I blame her.

Today, rather than climbing in this perfect weather, I took a walk to our local farmers market and bought some delicious looking local bread, cheese, and kale.  It's something I've been meaning to do for years, but never quite made the time.  Then I came home and had a beer on my deck for the first time (in daylight anyway) in way too long.  As I sit out here now, the birds are echoing across the stream valley while the scent of grill smoke drifts through the trees.  Not that I don't miss climbing, but I've had worse Friday evenings!


chirogirl said...

Nice blog, Robin. All of you have the gift of writing, just like your dad.

James Dziezynski said...

Great post, Robin and I agree with the sentiment. No one likes injuries of course, but changing gears is good for the overall person. I think anyone who dedicates themselves to a sport like climbing (or biking, or running, or whatever) can start to lose sight of all the great things out there.

Oh and hope your back is better soon!

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