Spartan Shape-Up, Day 515-16:
My biceps are sore, my deltoids are creaky and my lats are unhappy and making their presence known.
It feels AWESOME.
It's no secret, BlogLand, that I've been a little off track of late; I've had difficulty getting back into the training routine after being "out" injured, I've been struggling to get the food part under control, I've been struggling to remind myself WHY I want to get up early and go run in the cold. Further, I'll admit, when I have gone out, things that were easy (running a 5K) are challenging again, and I get into that negative "why bother!" head space.
BUT. I'm a Spartan and Spartan's don't quit. Particularly when they have big plans for a 2013 race season.
Anyway, Saturday found me in Everett, MA. at MetroRock for the Dark Horse climbing competition. No, No, BlogLand... it's not what you think. I'm *definitely* not competing (LOL!), but the CG is a sales rep for MadRock climbing shoes/gear, so he needed to go for work purposes.... and I needed to go get my climb on!
One of the first things we wanted to try out was the Auto-Belay system that they have in place. Basically, it's a device that allows you to climb without a partner to belay you - which is pretty cool if you don't have a regular belay buddy. It works on the same principle as those badge holders, or vacuum cord retractors: the device is always pulling up, until you start to fall, at which point it lets you down slowly. Sounds great, right? (we were particularly interested in trying these, because our home back rock gym - Petra Cliffs - was installing the auto belays, too...).
Clipping in for the first time was disconcerting. When you're climbing with a buddy belaying you, you can feel a constant person at the other end of your rope, that makes it feel "safe". They can keep the rope a little extra tight if you're struggling, and basically, their constant activity of belaying you reminds you subtly that someone has your back. With an auto-belay, you have a constant slight, gentle pull. One you don't notice all that much while you're climbing up... but hey, no big deal, because you're climbing up. However, at some point you have to come down and this is where the BIG DIFFERENCE lies.
In a normal buddy-belay, when you reach the top, they've got the rope taught and you can just sort of sit back away from the wall, at which point they can lower you down at a consistent rate. An auto-belay doesn't work that way. When you reach the top, you have to just let go and trust that it will catch you; you actually "fall" about a foot, before the auto belay catches and realizes that you want to go down, at which point it slows you to a gentle, even lowering speed. But that first 12 inch "fall" is TERRIFYING. 1) you have to trust the machine to catch you, 2) it feels like you're jumping to your death, because there's no tension on the rope, really, until you pass that first 12 inches of falling and it catches. So, I won't lie, every time I got to the top with the autobelay, I had to take a few deep breaths, close my eyes and force myself to push off the wall.
I am happy to report that after a dozen auto belays in the last couple of days, I am still here to blog about it. Crazy to get used to, but safe for some solo gym work.
So, the CG and I did a few climbs at MetroRock, but then he had to get back to work... so it was just me and the auto belays. I dutifully attacked a few routes that I thought I could handle... a 5.6 and a 5.7... I managed the 5.6, but the 5.7 continued to elude me, with it's small, pinchy hand holds. I could barely get up 5-6 feet with that one. Frustrated, I was. The other thing is that, with an auto-belay, you don't have a buddy that you're switching off with, giving you some built in rest time. Therefore, like any self-competitive sort, I was working the routes in quick succession, inadvertently working on my muscle stamina. I knew it was time for a break, when I got to the top of the 5.6 and my arms were burning. Ohhhh yeahhh... that battery acid in your veins sort of feeling, that reminds you that you're alive and making progress.
With cooked arms, I unclipped for the day and went to watch the pros at work on the competition. It's really impressive what some of these people can do - hang their whole body weight from two fingers, while explosively jumping to grab the next hold. Something to aspire to, for sure. When pursuing a new activity or sport, I find it extremely helpful to have the picture of an "expert" in your head to try and emulate. For instance, watching some of the basic, good technique that comes so naturally to the pros, helps me envision it for when I try my own tricky routes.
Fast forward to today, the CG and I headed off to Petra for a real workout. Yesterday didn't "count" so much, because I was only at it for about 45 minutes or so (although, did get a pretty good burn) and my CG didn't get to climb much at all.
We warmed up on a few routes and my biceps twitched a little, reminding me of yesterday's activities. But no matter, time to get a real WOD in. The CG suggested we do some bouldering today. Bouldering: tricky short-wall problems that you work through, usually requiring more strength, not roped up.
I fought with one problem for quite some time, as it required you to hang from your right arm (holding a wide grip on something maybe the size of a 4x6) with your feet on small holds out to your left.... then, with an explosive swing and pull on that one right arm, REACH with your left arm and grab on to another hold (thus getting your body back over your feet). Here's the thing, BlogLand... as we all know, I have T-Rex arms. The hanging was difficult enough, never mind the swing, reach and grab. We fought. I landed on my ass a whole bunch of times. There was even a moment (honesty, here at WhataBeautifulWreck...), where I was so angry that I just couldn't make my body do this - which I thought I should be able to - that I hit the squishy floor, butt first and ground my teeth, wanting to cry in frustration a bit. It's lingering remnants of my inner fat chick, feeling incapable, as well as self-depreciation, because I feel like I've been failing on staying on track, eating right, etc.
BUT, BlogLand... here is key. You can have those thoughts, acknowledge that they're a part of you.... and then tell them to STFU, as you move past them. The simple fact that you're frustrated because you can not perfectly perform a difficult activity should be a reminder that you're NOT on the couch and you're attempting difficult activities!! SO, you're not there YET.... but you're still on your way.
We bouldered a little longer, until my biceps were screaming while I just stood there, then did a few runs at some easy routes, while I focused on using my strengths (legs!) instead of trying to drag myself up the wall by my (mostly-decorative) arms.
Finally, with hands that did no longer close, and arms that were limp with exhaustion, we unroped and headed home.
.... but, oh no, we're not done yet. As you all well know, I've been trying to incorporate more stretching into my life a) to increase mobility, b) to prevent re-injuries from happening and c) to increase my performance and abilities going forward. SO... Yoga time!!
To cap of this weekend of climbing, we Warrior 1'd and Twisting Star'ed ourselves (yep, the CG does it with me too!! WAHA!) into a stretched out, pleasantly exhausted state. Corpse pose (laying flat on your back, breathing), was AWESOME.
As I sit here telling you about my adventures, I'm tired.... but that's the point. It's the end of the day, the end of the weekend , and I DID something with my life, rather than just held down the couch. I am probably going to be creaky tomorrow, but it will remind me to do some more yoga, and I will know that it is just a step in the right direction for getting my body into the shape I want it to be in.
That said, it's time for some hydration (water fixes SO many things!), and some good fuel. There's a tasty pot roast cooking, some cauliflower mash with bacon (when you can't have potatoes, this can be a good sub), and brussel sprouts.
So, as you spend your Sunday evening planning your crazy holiday-filled week to come, take a moment and assess where you're at and where you've come from. Yeah, today your deltoids are on fire, and your back is tired.... but hey, would old you have ever worked that hard? Would your previous Fat Kid ever have even THOUGHT of going climbing? I know mine wouldn't.
VICTORY! One screaming muscle at a time.......