Calm before the storm

Now I know what it feels like not to climb.

When I first started climbing, I wondered for how long I would like it. I could not believe that I would keep finding it fun year after year. There must come a moment where I’ll get bored with this meaningless activity.  At the same time I could not imagine that I would get tired of climbing ever.
I remember myself speaking with a woman who climbed for more than ten years. I asked her if she ever got bored with climbing. She had. Indeed, she was fed up with climbing at that moment. She wasn’t motivated to come to the gym anymore but she was sure that it was just a phase. I still couldn’t imagine myself getting bored with the sport, but knew meanwhile that I would probably at a particular moment in time. Just like I always had with other sports before. 

That moment has not come yet. My obsession has settled down a bit, but I’m still addicted. That I cannot live without it is evident from the fact that I feel miserable since I’m not climbing due to an injury. I’m busy visiting therapists, doing finger exercises, browsing the Internet searching for more information, and going to the fitness gym to stay in shape. Sometimes, however, the fear comes over me that I would not be able to climb well ever anymore. I get angry with my body, my fingers in such moments.

Since I started climbing, I designed everything in my life around climbing. My social life and academic career are both dominated by climbing.
I discovered climbing while I experienced a dark period of my life. I was mourning the loss of my father and felt at odds with myself. Climbing turned out to be the best therapy ever. It literally saved me from all negative feelings. Not being able to climb at this moment therefore, reopens a space of emotions. Fortunately not feelings of depression, but irritation and frustration are more prominent for sure. 

Therefore, this period without climbing has triggered me to think about my future. What do I want with climbing and how do I manage to start my career. Especially since I just graduated and I live in the United States, it is difficult to find a job in my desired career. Language barriers and a poor labor market… I even started to think about retraining myself for better chances in the field that I desire to work in. Anyway, I also thought a lot about climbing.    

Climbing plans
Even though I haven’t been climbing lately, in my head I’ve been really obsessed with climbing. After a good talk with my boyfriend Pascal and a strong climber in the gym, I decided to dedicate the coming year(s) to climbing.
Since I started climbing, I’ve always progressed just by climbing a lot. Last year I haven’t experienced much progress. I’ve tried a couple of times to be serious about climbing and start training, but I always lost persistence. There are several reasons that I didn’t stick to my training plans. Main reasons were:

– Fear for working hard without the envisioned result
– No faith in the training plan
– Not enough dedication
– Injuries
– Doubts about the meaningfulness

Since I graduated last year and don’t have a demanding career yet, I feel that this is the moment to be serious about climbing. The big question that keeps coming back in my mind is: Is it worth it? I’m not a born athlete with a huge winning mentality and big self-assurance. At the same time it keeps returning in my mind that I want to try my hardest, just to know what my limits are.
But what do I get out of it? I’m just an average climber and I know I will never win a World Cup or climb 9a at the rocks. Yet, external performance apparently plays a role for me. It’s not only the personal urge to reach my best result. So every time I consciously choose to really go for it, the underlying motivation is probably not entirely good. Maybe that will change through time and I will value more what I do without comparing myself with all those others with much better performances.

Thus for now I have one big goal and that is to become as good as I can be.

A trainer at our gym gave the last push in the back. He told me he had observed me and couldn’t recognize structure in my training sessions. I told him that I just climbed for fun and didn’t have a training schedule to which he responded that he was sure that I would be able to be a 5.14-climber without injuries if I would follow a proper training plan. He has offered to help me designing the right plan and that is something I guess I was waiting for. An external person with a lot of knowledge, who will tell me what is functional and productive. I’ve also collected a lot of training information from friends/climbers. Next to that I made a list for myself of things I want to improve. Four of the most important things are:

– Technique
– Flexibility
– Finger strength
– Core strength

I’m super motivated to start working hard, especially after these months without climbing!!
Because I will stick to it this time, really ;), I will keep track of it and write a blog about it now and then.

Finger injury
The thing that is holding me back at this moment is a prolonged ring finger injury at my DIP joint.. I went to a specialist a month ago, to figure out what is really going on with that stupid finger. He figured it was an irritated tendon and starting trigger finger so he gave me a cortisone injection. I’m also seeing a hand therapist and she told me that my tendon is functionally shortened and therefore I cannot fully straighten my PIP joint and my DIP joint is a little hyperextended. Advise: stretch the joints, so I did.
I also e-mailed a lot with Mathieu Ceron, a Dutch climber who is specialized in finger/hand injuries in relation to climbing. He also advised rest and stretching. Rest for my finger was the key this month, but I didn’t experience much improvement. At this moment the hand specialist wants me to take an ultra sound to get better insight into what is going on. I can only get that scan in the second week of January, so I’ll have to wait and rest till than!
In the meantime I’m working on my core, strength and flexibility in the fitness gym.

I’m doing a lot of pull ups, one-arm pull ups (with contra-weight), frenchies, typewriters, planking and stretching. Hopefully I’ll come back stronger when I’m able to start climbing again!

Local Competition Time
While I haven’t been climbing much the last couple of months, I couldn’t resist visiting some local comps and enjoy the great setting of my buddies. It has been a while ago now, but I reckon it is still fun to write a little bit about.

Night of the Living Deadpoint 

This Halloween comp was freaking scary and awesome at the same time. Crazy problems with ropes, tires, boxing balls and dressed up people all around me. My first Halloween party ever and unfortunately nobody recognized that I was a vampire!

Emma Crawford Coffin Races
On the same day our City Rock race team crushed it at the Emma Crawford Coffin races. A crazy, spectacular tradition in Manitou Springs (the place where I live).

The City Rock team at the finish of the Emma Crawford Coffin races

Soco Loco 2
A week after there was the Soco Loco 2 comp, where my setting buddies did a great job creating nice routes and challenging boulder problems! A fun competition with routes and boulders whereby your five best results count. Pascal, Mike and me challenged each other really hard 😉 In the end I was the overall winner, Mike second and Pascal third. Check it out.  That day I felt pretty new, because I was climbing in my new harness that I bought after two months of figuring out which one to choose and I could finally climb in my new pants of Chillaz which is super flexible and nice fitting.

My first climbing harness, totally ready for retirement 
My new climbing harness! 

I made a video of the Soco Loco 1 to give you an idea.

Ice Climbing Night

The day after this comp I decided to compete at the Ice Climbing Night. I had done a drytool route once before. The insecurity and pumped hands are pretty fun. Mike, also not an ice climber at all, joined me. We had to do a qualifier route. You could try this route as often as you wanted and you had to top it out in order to make it into the finals. We both flashed the qualifier. I was pretty surprised about that. This route was however toprope and the final route we had to lead. I was scared about that but decided to go for it. Unfortunately there were no other female climbers, so I participated in the male finals (next time every girl should go for it!!) When it was my turn, I blew it at the fourth hold! Instead of hooking my ax around it, I put the tip of the ax on the hold and fell while going for the next one. I was so disappointed! 🙂 I waited so long to climb and I felt pretty stupid in front of the audience. It was a similar experience as my first sportsclimbing competition. You have one chance and that’s all. When the finals were over I tried the route again and I made it up passed half way. That gave me satisfaction. In the end it was a fun experience. Mike did better and ended up 11th place!

Mike with totally pumped hands after the qualifier

Other news
Finally I have two other things to announce, good and bad news.
After a very thankful year of co-operation with Summit Outdoor and the sponsoring of my La Sportiva climbing shoes, I got the message that they will not be able to continue the sponsorship next year. Summit Outdoor is not allowed to sponsor athletes who are active outside the Benelux. I appreciated their sponsorship very much. Hopefully I can show the La Sportiva agents in Colorado good results this year so that they want to support me with the climbing shoes I love.
The good news is that I will be competing at the World Cup in Vail 2013 at the Teva Mountain Games. I’m very happy that the Dutch Federation of Mountain Sports (NKBV) and the coach of the Dutch Team gave me this opportunity again.

Greeting from a cold and beautiful Colorado!

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