A day for rest!

I probably don’t say this enough, but to those of you who drop by and read my scribble, thanks for your support.  Today is Sunday, a day for rest according to the bible. And quite honestly one of the smartest things the bible ever said.  Sunday should be a day of rest.  We owe it to ourselves to have at least one per week.  A day where we don’t answer every phone call, check e-mail 18 times, or try to hopelessly promote our small businesses on facebook.  No, today we rest.  And that is exactly what I intend to do.

Ethan Pringle recently told us on his site (in great detail) about his latest shoulder injury and where he stands.  I feel his pain, intensely and I know for certain that there are hundreds of other people if not thousands, who can relate.  We love climbing so much that when it’s taken away from us, we hurt, it’s like a broken heart and the only thing to put back those pieces is time and positive thinking.  I know from experience.

I did this climb back in Ontario years ago, a cool roof climb, 5.14c/d maybe the hardest moves I’ve done on a rope, it’s hard to say.  But on the day of the send, I was cold and dehydrated.  As I pulled through the crux mono move (an absurdly long cross over with smearing feet) I heard a tear in my wrist, (not unlike the sound of duct tape ripping in half) I knew I had done something extremely severe. The pain ripped through my forearm and pooled into my elbow.  I kept climbing, and knew if I fell off now, I would likely never get a chance to send this route ever again.  The next crux move involves another mono, on the other hand, (not drilled, NATURAL, Ontario limestone go figure!) and I felt a tear and more pain in that finger too, this is not a joke.  I had put ten days of work into this route, more than any other sport climb ever and I was so determined to make it I climbed another 60 feet of 5.13b to the top of the wall, when I got there, I had so much rope drag I untied with the six fingers I had left and dropped the rope to walk off.  I felt mutilated, as though my fingers were rolled over by a tractor, something you’d see in the Sopranos.  The feeling of climbing the pitch was not very exciting at all, I iced my fingers immediately, had two or three pints at the bar, a burger with cheese, bacon and guac, but nothing made me feel better.  I fell into a state of depression for about 48 hours.  Uncertainty, as though my world as I knew it was coming to an end.  Not only did I destroy my tendons, but I felt little to no pleasure from climbing my hardest route.

The report: My right hand finger healed within two or three weeks, it wasn’t bad at all, merely a “STRAINED” tendon.  It’s full strength now.  However, the one on my left hand, ring finger has taken years.  It took 7 weeks before I had enough ‘mojo’ to climb again, but this is where the story changes, and this is why I know we are all going to be okay, even Ethan is going to bounce back and become stronger than the monster he already is.

Two months after the climb, I went to Yosemite with my partner at the time, it was meant to be a rehab trip of sorts.  I still felt pain, but what did happen was that I learned how (and why) I fell in love with climbing in the first place – without even trying – and I did it all over again.  I picked up some trad skills, refined my technique, honed my locks and jams and I had the adventure of Hardy Grimper.  I got scared and pumped on a runout 5.9, as though I was a complete beginner.   I was hooked on climbing for the second time, both glossy and the dirt, not just from a sport perspective, not just from a ‘PERFORMANCE’ side of climbing, but the whole enchilata, the entire fucking package, the climbing that involves adventure and grit too.  Sit down starts, 2000 foot granite domes, 4 hour hikes in the rain to find nothing but a chossy roadcut, 5.12 slabs, finger cracks, offwidths (although I’m not partial) and even some aid.  These days, my garage is decorated with three crash pads, three racks of gear, static ropes, sending ropes, hooks, sliders, pitons, bolts, pulleys, shoes for every occasion, base layers, wind shells, jumars, piss bottles, I’m still a sport weenie, but I fear I am in serious danger of becoming a ‘real’ rock climber.  And even more so, I’m now an assistant guide.

I tell this story, because when we least expect it, life can show us its reason.  I was ready to quit the sport I loved, the traveling I craved, go back to school, conform, invest in the stock market, save my precious dollar bills and take up drinking as a hobby.  Nothing is wrong with any of this, but it wasn’t what “I” wanted, and only after going through such a low, self absorbed period was I shown a better way of living my life.  The world is mysterious and only when we look back at it does it make any sense.

Now today is SUNDAY.  February 22 and let me warn you, this is a very dangerous time of year and I’ll tell you why.

Spring is coming, summer is not far off and for many of us (unless we live in Spain) this is our time to get out and send our dream climbs, achieve our goals and turn fantasy to reality.  It’s our time.  Winter is reserved for training, a time of focus, dedication and late night poker, summer is for SENDING.  Now, most likely, you’ve been gym climbing, hangboarding all winter, with possibly a few road trips plugged in here and there.  You’re starting to feel good, strong, motivated for what is coming.  But here lives the danger zone, a pattern I’ve come to call, the “SPRING SIDELINE”.  I see so many climbers train all winter, they push themselves pretty hard, and they’re going to crush on the first good, dry, available weekend.  The final weeks of “winter” are exciting times, the anticipation builds, maybe we start to think “we should be a little bit stronger” so we add a little more intensity, and BAM, a shoulder pops, a tendon tweaks, a disk bulges, and elbows go up in flames.  We then get forced to sit on the side lines while our friends enjoy perfect spring conditions.  You tell yourself, “I’m going to start training as soon as I can and by fall I’ll send my shit and totally redeem myself.”

A good place to watch the action.

There is a time to push the petal to the metal, and if you relate to what I’m saying, this isn’t one of them.  My strategy is that I want to climb forever, I don’t even care how hard anymore, just so long as I can climb and try lines that are beautiful, fun and free.  Usually around this season, I’ll pull back for a week to three weeks (at the most) to see what pings and pangs reveal themselves.  When a climber or any athlete for that matter trains routinely, they’re muscles tighten over time.  The truth is without proper message or hydration, your tight muscles, will hold you back from getting any stronger.  They lock up a bit.  A soft healthy muscle contracts better and gives you more strength quicker, they also recover faster.  It’s the classic act of overtraining.  Taking some time to reflect, even just a week or two, will allow you to assess where your body is at, let your muscles relax a little bit and tight, tired areas will reveal themselves for you.  Then you can take the appropriate steps and begin your road to powerhouse extraordinaire and ultimately the destruction of your proj brah.  Because we don’t want to just climb our rocks, we want to DESTROY them right?  Ha ha,  sorry just a joke for people who think we conquer mountains.  Climbing is zen-ish, we aim for success but we do not attach ourselves to it.  Or at least, we try not to.

Ethan, Point dex, if you read this, don’t sweat it mang, it feels like the end of the world now, but soon, before you even realize, you’ll be back at it with twice as much power, respect, support and love.  We wish you a speedy journey to that place and look forward to seeing you in action again, “Three degrees”???

Okay, the economy sucks, injuries suck, but we still have our good friends, and I’m pretty sure grapes won’t stop growing so a glass of wine awaits and above all else, the outdoors is still where it’s always been, just outside-your-door.   So I am taking the day off to relax.  Best wishes to all.  Hope it’s a gud ‘un.

p.s.  Sorry for the novel.

S.

  • OBdizzy

    What a completely awesome post. Particularly this bit here: “We love climbing so much that when it’s taken away from us, we hurt, it’s like a broken heart and the only thing to put back those pieces is time and positive thinking. I know from experience.” Anyone who’s been sidelined by a serious injury (and thats most of us) understands. Nicely done. Neither too melodramatic or cavalier, and reasonably optimistic and holistic without degenerating into pretentious new age stoner lore. You da man Sunny.

  • Yeah, totally agree… I got all emotional. Damn man, good words to share.

  • Great post Sonnnie.

    Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to apologize for writing a “novel”. It’s perfectly ok.

  • Paul

    i here that sonnie! last may i broke my ankle, after feeling like i was in the best health and motivation of my life. there’s nothing quite like sitting on the couch all day while your roomies go explore new climbing spots.motivating, but kinda crushing at the same time.

    you really spoke the words that i think so many climbers have thought regarding injuries and motivation. booyah brobrah

  • other jason

    Thoug i’m not climbing 5.14, this is what has just happened to me. I was training hard all winter and redpointing higher than ever. I sitting here thinking “5.13 by this fall, then boom tendonitis comes back to haunt me. it’s been hard but, I just have to take longer rests when I get back to climbing. I know that heart break feeling.

  • Suzanne

    I’m not reading that!
    Heh. Sorry, no time 😉

    Just to say though, you’re tops Sonnie..

  • Antoine

    Emotional indeed, great words. Pieces of wisdom, just like in all your posts. A dozen thank yous.

  • words well “spoken”

  • Dino

    Sage.

  • allison

    dude. seriously. i’ve started reading some climbing blogs about a month ago and this is the stoutest one that i’ve seen. it is so truthful and thought out and something i particularly need to hear and i bet would benefit pretty much every climber i know. good reminders, good thoughts. wish this could get in urban climber or climbing mag. oo, dpm? they are digital, they could do it fast. anyway. thanks for the contemplations.

  • Danny

    Shoulder problems, just like Nelly. That sucks big.

  • ConBioAdam

    cheers!

  • Chris

    Damn, this blog is semi-inspiring! After busting my finger training yesterday, it’s really good to read a post like this. Kewl beans for your blog.

  • jarthur

    This link was sent to me from a friend that thought I would be inspired by it. I’d have to say in the very least I was inspired. Two weeks ago I was dropped in the gym from about 40-ft and ended up crushing my L1 Vertebrae, tore my ACL in half, and broke my Talus (heel). Luckily in about 6 months I’m expected to make a full recovery. Being a transplant from NC to CO having friends was important to my mental and physical rehab. We’ve been blessed with some good friends both in and out of the climbing community. Although getting back into climbing is important and inspiring my true inspiration has been from the constant visitation and support from my friends and family. I’ve taken alot of your advice to heart especially about not rushing back into it and not giving myself time to heal. I want to be able to climb as long as humanly possible instead of as quickly as possibly. Thanks Kush for sending me this link it truly has been inspiring.

  • Jake

    Great blog Sonnie. Thanks for the positive, non cliche writing. Keep it up! Have a good one

  • Claire

    thats so true! i broke my back over 3 months ago after decking out, but found the whole experience strangely positive. im back climbing already and getting back to where i was. during my recovery i got more motivated to really embrace climbing in every way i can, so im now going climbing round asia for 9 months starting May. amazing wat an accident can do!!
    respect sonnie for the inspiring insight, im now i reqular reader!

  • Sonnie

    Claire, wow, thanks for sharing that, a broken back? whoa! yikes. You have some awesome good energy, can I have some? My girlfriend and I talk about another Asia trip this coming winter as well, it’s sooooo gooood over there. Thanks to everyone with something to share, it really makes this page feel more ‘alive’ rather than some chump (me) ‘geeking out’ and venting on a flat screen, although I’d probably do it anyway. YA’LL RULE!! It goes to show that our climbing EXPERIENCE is the common bond, not the numbers. I find I can relate just as easily to the guy or girl pushing 5.15a as I can to the 5.10a climbers, it’s really the exactly the same experience with bigger or smaller holds. I think when the mood strikes, my next post will be about training safely, and actually MAKING gains in contact strength. I like throwing these ideas out there and see what the general feeling is. Best wishes.

  • joel

    yeah, but forever expired is epic. maybe it’ll be worth it for future generations?

  • Matthew

    The spring sideline huh? I can relate, having pushed myself to finger pulley pain. Your point regarding the side affects of training too hard during the winter strikes a familiar chord. Very well said. I suppose that thinking in the long-term yields more well being. Any thoughts on diagnosing the extent of a finger injury? Thanks for sharing your well articulated thoughts.

  • beautiful post.

  • I had an injury last winter that kept me from climbing…and I was working in a climbing gym. It made me realize not only how much I loved climbing, but how much I loved the community. I spent the spring taking it easy and showing friends new projects I’d found, scrubbing boulders and equipping lines that I wouldn’t be able to even touch for several seasons – so I can really relate to the glass of wine analogy. I’ve taken care of myself, and this spring I look forward to climbing some of those lines. Great post.

  • G.

    Loved this post, very inspiring (I’m in a injury rest right now… till April)

  • Jesse

    I’ve probably read this post a dozen times. Whether I’m stressed about an injury or needing a bit of motivation, I read this post and I am instantly psyched. Thanks for sharing this.