Saturday, 14 December 2013

Climbing with two feet

Is brilliant.

Slowly I'm finding that I can put more weight through my leg and climbing is starting to feel more like climbing, and it makes me indescribably happy.
The session I had today was the most like climbing I've done for over three months which, to me, has felt like a while.
It wasn't perfect, but it was better than every other time. It's interesting, because with walking, I can't see such an improvement. But it's easier to realise, with climbing, exactly how much things have improved- especially if you repeat a route- because standing on your toes in a precise way is incredibly intensive when your leg is the weakest link.

I'm pretty excited for the future!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Transition to a Boot Free Tomorrow

The first session without the boot was significantly scarier that the first session on a rope. As someone who feels entirely safe on a rope with a trusted belayer, monkeying about on the main wall at the Foundry with a boot on was only mildly unnerving, for about five minutes.
But taking the boot off was a whole different kettle of fish.
Suddenly climbing was no longer about how long I could hold on for. It was about the strength in my ankle. Now I couldn't stand on footholds because I wasn't strong enough, and not because I had a massive boot on (which was a great excuse).
I felt totally exposed. There was nothing protecting me if I kicked the wall. I had to think about what I was doing. And I felt like failing to stand on things was down to me, and not something I could claim the boot as an excuse for.
There was an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability.

To be honest, I didn't enjoy it. But I'm not too concerned, the same happened with climbing in the boot- then things improved over time.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


At the risk of sounding soft, being able to walk- albeit slowly and stiffly- has given me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. So I'm going to indulge in some pondering this post...

Breaking my leg like that, or even 'snapping it' as a friend so succinctly put it the other day, hasn't been the best thing I've ever done. Not even close.

Fingerboarding is certainly making me strong. My legs are thinner, probably lighter. A climber’s dream! Is that preferable to getting stronger using a more varied training schedule and having slightly stronger legs? No. I’ve missed climbing so much it hurts. Breaking my leg has meant that I only see close friends, I’ve spent a lot of the last three months in pain, I’ve been bored out of my mind, and I’ve worried about the course.

But it’s also making me appreciate things as they come back. It’s made me stop and think. My life up until September that summer had consisted of working six days a week, doing a summer placement at a school and filling the gaps with work at the Depot. Not a single waking minute wasn’t filled either with work, climbing or socialising. And there weren’t that many sleeping ones. I loved it- I’ve always been my happiest with a million fun things to engage my short attention span.

As a result, I was gutted when I suddenly had to spend so many hours doing either Physics or very little. And even when things improved, doing Physics, Fingerboarding or very little. I practically climbed the walls with frustration: doing a degree and Fingerboarding wasn’t enough, I wanted to do Everything.

I never used to walk around Leeds- too slow. I’d cycle instead. If I went for a walk anywhere but the countryside, I’d walk as fast as possible so as to get to where I was going. Even in the countryside, I don’t walk that slowly- I want get somewhere, make progress. I’ve never been interested in slowing down. Why, when I could see more if I walked faster?

But in the last couple of days, I’ve done a little walking. I walked to the train station from my house in Leeds. And I walked around a park in Sheffield yesterday. I walked for over an hour, probably less than a mile. And it was idyllic. And I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I ‘saw everything properly’- but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed. It didn’t matter where I was going, or what I accomplished. I just wanted to be outside in the sun.

I’ve never been accused of laziness, never been guilty of procrastination on any real scale. I know what I want in life, and I’m excited to go get it. But I hope that the way I’ve learned to accept that things are slower and milestones are re-defined stays with me. I can’t honestly say I always enjoy climbing when I’m fit. I often feel cross I’m not as good as the people I climb with. Or didn’t do as well as last time. Or sufficiently better. Yet at the moment, climbing on a top rope is pure joy. I just want to be there, and I’m not worried about the achievements. And broken leg and numerical grades aside, I’m probably climbing as well as I’ve ever climbed before. It might not look like it. It might look like my technique is terrible and I’m using my arms too much. But though climbing with a boot, or a very weak ankle is inelegant- footwork is no less intricate.

Perhaps for the first year since I was much younger, I’m looking forward to a Christmas week without climbing. I won’t be champing at the bit to get to a climbing wall on Boxing Day. I’ll be enjoying catching up with my parents and sisters, while physics text books look enviously on from the side lines. And really, I can thank a broken leg for a slightly more relaxed perspective.

When I’m fully recovered, I’ll go back to climbing all the time. And working a lot of the time. And I’ll love it. But I’ll try not to forget that slowing down isn’t always the wrong thing to do. Because life’s too short to do nothing- but it’s also too short to do everything.

And it’s only a broken leg, innit?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Missing Climbing

It's been three months since I broke my tib and fib. I'd love to say it feels like that's flown by, but it really hasn't. It's been frustrating, exhausting and upsetting. I've badly missed the social aspect of climbing and I've struggled to get my head around doing less.

I went to the fracture clinic today where I saw a very abrupt doctor- who said

"It's not doing much healing, are you on steroids?"
"...no" I said.
 "Well", he said, "Take the boot off and just walk everywhere".

He then started talking into his dictaphone about our exchange for about a minute or so. Thinking he was done, I started to leave, when he said "I haven't finished with you yet, come back"... and then dismissed me.

I suppose that's bad for climbing and good for walking. Bad for climbing in the sense that I guess it's not a good idea to go for anything but tight top-roping, and good for walking because, well, there's walking to be done. I feel disappointed in my bone for not doing it's thing since I'm trying so hard to encourage it.

The next fracture clinic appointment is at the fabled four month mark. At this point I was supposed to be walking normally... so I suppose I must be on track.

Though being able to fingerboard has been in many ways a lifesaver, there are days when it takes every last bit of motivation to do it. Sometimes I've put it off until 11 pm, knowing that it'll be the same as last time, give or take three seconds on a smaller hold- and not being excited by it at all. I'm amazed I can still be bothered. Until I broke my leg, the only reason I'd never used a fingerboard properly was that I found it boring. But there's boring, and then there's fingerboarding all the time.

The hardest thing is knowing if it helps. Because I see improvements in the finger boarding, but I never, ever, go for a session where I climb (obviously). Usually I've always been able to tell if I'm getting better at climbing by... climbing. And without climbing, I feel like I've just taken up finger boarding as an activity. And I can't always remember why...

I'm getting used to the recovery, and it's tediousness, but I still can't cope with "it'll be over before you know it". I miss rock climbing, too...