Well, I am departing for the IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) World Championships in Gijon, Spain tomorrow. There probably should be a lot of exclamation marks and excitement, but injuries have really gotten me down. As usual, I've been questioning my involvement with Paraclimbing and intensive indoor-climbing training. I received a wonderful card from my best friend, Cathy, reminding me that while I might not think of this as being a big accomplishment, it is something that is pretty cool and something most people would not get to do, so I should document my experience, at least.
I'll start off my summarizing my shit-show of injuries. Turns out that BOTH middle fingers are broken, partial tear to the collateral ligament on my left finger. I was aware of one of the injured middle fingers prior to Nationals in Atlanta in July, but only found out about the other middle finger in August - says something about my tolerance for pain. So I was doing very little climbing, trying to keep up conditioning of the core and other parts of my body, but I had/have lost all my finger and hand/grip/contact strength.
Last weekend, I returned from a great weekend of trad climbing at North Conway, NH. I was teaching a friend the finer points of trad, and did all the leading because he was not confident in his gear placement abilities (it is funny, because he climbs 5.11's on sport routes). My right foot was achy after the weekend, but I didn't think too much of it until I tried to climb on it on Tuesday. Then, an explosion of pain erupted. I frantically sought medical advice the following day, which turned out to be pretty useless. The X-rays did not show any obvious broken bones, but it did not rule out a possible stress fracture. I need to wait till I get in and see the podiatrist and get an MRI to ascertain whether that is what I have or not. However, after internet self-diagnosis, I am almost certain I have a stress fracture in my fifth metatarsal. This is probably not a huge surprise given all the cranking and work my right foot does, and the odd positions it often assumes. I am taking massive doses of anti-inflammatories and comically taping myself.
All this has left me less than enthused and public about my training (or lack thereof) in the run-up to the World Paraclimbing Championships. I am even more bummed/worried that I will not be able to spend time in the Valley at the end of Sept-early October as planned, which reflects what is really important to me about climbing - trad (or aid) climbing with wonderful people outside.
So, yeah, I know I am being a total sour-puss about all this. I am trying to adopt the, go have fun and be inspired by others attitude, but as you have probably ascertained, not performing at my best (far far from it), really gets me down. The competitor in me wants to win or at least medal, but the realist in me knows that this is unlikely given my injuries. It is also hard to take this kind of competition too seriously when there is such huge variability in peoples' disabilities and the competition in each category. For example, my category (Women's Neuro) usually has the most number of competitors (and there is a huge variability in how limited we are, physically), whereas some categories, like Womens Lower Limb or Upper Limb may have only 3-4 competitors.
It would be interesting to learn more about training challenges faced by other paraclimbers. I only know about my experiences and limitations to train. For example, I know going forward, I really have to avoid too much volume and too much crimping because my fingers really work so much harder to compensate for my left-leg.
It is also interesting to observe the different paraclimbers' attitudes towards this competition. For some paraclimbers, this is a once in a lifetime event, possibly due to uncertainties about how their physical condition could degenerate (e.g. Muscular Dystrophy), or financial reasons. For me, I feel like I'll still be able to climb/be around for the next Paraclimbing World Cup in two years time (Paris!) One paraclimber went so far as to tattoo the logo of USA Climbing on his thigh!
I am trying to keep a long-term view of all this and remind myself that if I am careful about how I treat and rest these injuries, these could be but small pebbles in a long climbing career. But this whole experience highlights just how much of a gaping hole is in my life when I can't climb, and it makes me feel like a dumb, one-dimensional meat-head jock who has not evolved.