Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Yesterday, while I was cleaning out my wardrobe in an attempt to streamline the ridiculous quantity of clothing (specifically, high-end sports/outdoor wear) I have, I came across a pair of ski pants that had my Kirkwood ski resort season pass 2009-10 attached to it. I broke down and cried. A lot of people don't know or forget that I was a big skier before my accident and derived almost the same joy from hucking off cliffs, picking a line down moguls, or negotiating a narrow couloir, as I did from climbing. I guess the parallels are many: pushing yourself physically in sometimes precarious physical conditions and situations in order to feel alive. I haven't attempted to ski (alpine and certainly not telemark) since my accident. For some reason, I was more interested in getting back into climbing first, and also feeling like climbing w/ one limb is more feasible than skiing without the use of my left quad/leg, especially since skiing is so quad-intensive. Sit-skiing does not appeal to me, again because I find extra equipment so off-putting for me at least. I might have the opportunity to try skiing when I am in Colorado for ABS Nationals. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Like climbing, maybe worried that I will feel incredibly sad that I can't ski like I used to.

I've also avoided climbing publications for the most part since my accident for emotional reasons. But today, I finally had some down time and decided to read a copy of Climbing magazine, that was mailed to me last year. It was not the easiest edition to read. It just so happened half the magazine was devoted to chronicling High Sierra routes i.e. routes that I had done. Looking at the pictures and descriptions of the climbs conjured mixed emotions, as always. Reading the approach information to these climbs made me feel sad as I know long, arduous approaches are out of my reach now. But there was also a small part of me that tried to be a little positive and tell myself, hey, you can look back and actually say you went to these places and did these climbs.

My climbing has improved though. On Monday I threw down some 10's on lead that surprised me. I've developed some inside elbow pain though :( So I have to lay off a little, avoid pull-ups and lock-offs for a few days, that kind of thing. I was actually marveling to myself that it was pretty cool to be in the (familiar) position of balancing training/getting stronger and injury-prevention. Post-accident, I never thought that I would be able to push myself hard enough physically to have these concerns.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fund-raising for ABS Nationals and para-climbing competitions

A few weeks ago, my friend who runs the Boston Adaptive Climbing Program asked me if I was interested in competing in para-climbing competitions. I have missed training and competing in sports these past few years, so the idea was appealing. But I was also worried that I would develop an unhealthy attitude towards the whole thing. I didn't want climbing and how well I did or didn't climb to be a single failure point in my life, like it was before. And I also didn't know if I wanted to or could put in the time in the climbing gym to prepare for climbing competitions.

It didn't take me long to make up my mind and say Yes, though. Some of the reasons are selfish. I just want to climb more, harder etc and enjoy the camaraderie of climbers. It is also a nice ego-boost when people think you are bad-ass for even climbing at all. I'm still insecure/un-confident enough that I sometimes need such external reinforcement. But I'm also motivated by the idea that I can perhaps show others that they do not need to be defined or limited by a disability. How kick-ass would it be if someone learned of my story, saw me climb and decided they could take on whatever challenge (physical or otherwise) they wanted to?

Since I am a pre-med student these days, I'm not rolling in money. I am trying to raise money to fly to ABS Nationals in Colorado Springs next February 2014, and I would also love to take part at the GoPro Games in Vail next June. If I place in the top-3 at ABS Nationals I will be able to represent the US at the International Para-climbing Championships in Spain next September. At the ABS Nationals I will be competing alongside able-bodied folks, but will be in the "Neurological" category.

I feel kind of douchey asking for donations, but if you feel like supporting me and this cause, please donate via the PayPal link located on the right hand side of this page. The money will go towards flights, accommodation and entry fees for these competitions. Don't worry, it isn't going towards a new rack or anything like that.

While the event in February is a bouldering comp the para-climbing championships will be sport-climbing (leading). I posted a video of me leading indoors last week in a previous post, but I'll put it here again.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hey guys, I can climb!

Wow, 6 months in between posts. While my posts have not been prolific, the last 6 months have been.

In August I went back to Tuolumne and got in more climbing, getting more comfortable leading, learning how to adapt my movements to my new body.

This Autumn, I decided to join a local climbing gym that opened up close to where I live. I had a lot of reservations about climbing indoors, even. I was concerned about how self-conscious I would feel, how I would be comparing myself to how I used to climb pre-accident, what other people would be thinking watching me flail up routes. As usual, the "Fuck It" attitude came in; I had to start somewhere.

I started bouldering because I was too embarrassed to find people to top-rope or lead with. I thought, who would want to climb with me?? Bouldering is usually a very sociable activity. You have the whole peanut gallery encouraging you, giving you beta on a problem...but I found it a little isolating (and still do) because other climbers couldn't really shout beta out to me since I had to approach these problems completely differently.

I started figuring out how to adapt around not having the use of your left leg. I high-step with my right foot A LOT; I use my body's momentum a lot and swing for left-hand holds, in particular; I probably do more lock-offs than normal/required. My attitude was/is that I just have to get super-strong everywhere else to compensate for my leg. I'm not sure when exactly the shift occurred, but at some point I made the transition from looking at routes, seeing all these moves intended for the left-foot and feeling discouraged/sad/frustrated, to just looking up at a route, studying it and thinking "Oh, how am I going to do this move?" The transformation in my attitude and shedding of my self-consciousness has surprised me.

My experiences in the climbing gym and interactions with other folks have been interesting. I climb with a climbing shoe on my right foot and a regular sneaker on my left foot and a knee brace on my left leg. The brace just prevents my knee from buckling/collapsing or hyper-extending (at least I hope it does!) I really don't like jumping off/falling down from high boulder problems so I try to down-climb as much as possible. I much prefer roped climbing, but probably should boulder more to improve technique and strength. I'm not really sure what people are thinking when they see me climb. I know many think I just have a temporary knee-injury; I get the "What happened to your knee" question a lot. I usually don't give them the full-story. Some people clam up after I do tell them that my leg is partly paralyzed.

Getting back into climbing has been wonderfully healing though. I realized that a lot of people DO want to and enjoy climbing with me, and there is something just so natural about interacting with other climbers. I started getting involved with the Boston Adaptive Climbing group and volunteer in their clinics and have found a wonderful friend in the coordinator. I had forgotten how easy it is to make friends through climbing. I also made a few trips to the Gunks, and was reminded of how at home I feel on stone. This past Friday, I was climbing with friends; the day was coming to an end, the sun was setting, it was very cold. As I was belaying my friend on the second pitch of a climb, and saw the last rays of sunlight hit him as he climbed an arete, with the clear sky in the background, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of immense joy and gratitude. How fucking lucky were we to be able to be out here and doing this?? I am not a glass-half-full person by nature, and was extremely depressed (often suicidal) for a good while after my accident, so to experience that feeling was astonishing. I suppose time is a great healer.

A few weeks ago, my friend asked me if I was interested in competing in para-climbing competitions. I didn't say Yes immediately for a few reasons. I didn't want to get completely obsessed about climbing again and having my moods rise and fall with how well I was climbing. I also didn't know if I could commit the time to putting in hours in the climbing gym and training. But, in the end, I said Yes :) So I will be going to ABS Nationals in Colorado Springs in February 2014. If I place in the top-3 I will be eligible to represent the U.S. at the para-climbing championships in Spain next September. I'm working on fund-raising to finance these expenses as, being a pre-med student, I'm not rolling around in money these days.

Here is a video of me climbing a steep over-hanging route at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville this past Sunday. The top part of "the tongue" is almost horizontal, so I expend a lot of upper-body strength, with my feet cutting out each time. I had never seen myself climb before, so I was very curious to see what I looked like climbing with one-leg. Lots of room for improvement but it doesn't look quite as bad as I imagined.

(The music isn't particularly relevant/significant. It's just a song I am rather enamored with and am listening to a lot right now :))