30 Aug 2017 – Mid Year Review
Well, it’s hard to believe, but it’s almost September! Time really seems to have snuck by this year, and as I look back over the past several months, I realize there are so many things I wish I had written about but didn’t have the time or opportunity. So like last year, I figured I’d do a quick recap!
After suffering a broken vertebrate and herniated disc in November of last year, 2017 got off to a slow start. Due to some corresponding neurological issues with my left leg, the first few months of the year, I couldn’t do much more than hobble around flamingo-style and do some light therapy. I was told it might take up to a year before I could really climb or be fully active again, which was a very daunting prospect!
In the early days of my injury though, I contacted a trusted trainer/therapist friend and he gave me some great advice on back injuries and training for recovery. Using his advice and the resources he pointed out, I developed a physical therapy program for myself that focused on core stability, regaining mobility, and maintaining climbing strength. I did a lot of limping/walking, lots of core exercises, and plenty of hang board and campus board. I trained 4 days per week, slowly increasing difficulty and duration as my pain levels diminished and I regained normal function in my left leg.
Within four months I had progressed from one legged hopping and being unable to put on shoes, to walking normally and touching my toes again. It was better than I had dared to hope, and even more exciting when I went to see my orthopedist that month and was cleared to resume normal activity!
Though I was supposed to take it easy, on my first day back on the wall, I gave myself a little freedom to test out where I stood after four months off. It felt pretty awesome to onsight both a 12a and v6! I guess what I should really say, is that it felt awesome mentally! Haha. Physically, was another story. I could tell my body wasn’t really up to the task as most movements still caused sharp pains in my back and left leg. It was nice to know I hadn’t lost much ground strength-wise, but I also knew I was going to have to play it safe for a little while longer. For about two more months I continued my training program, slowly integrating more climbing into the mix, until at six months I was moving up the wall pain free!
And then, 2017 could really begin! Haha. Once I started climbing again, I think I subconsciously felt like I had to make up for lost time, because it’s been full steam ahead ever since. I’ve been training hard in the gym, and going outside nearly every weekend, making trips to Joshua Tree, Bishop, Mammoth, Priest Draw (AZ), and all my local sites.
It’s been an interesting journey though, coming back. On the one hand, I feel as if I’m enjoying climbing so much more. I have a deeper sense of appreciation for simply being able to move, and because of that, I just want to climb everything! I’ve been a little less achievement focused and instead, find myself super happy these days doing anything from running laps on V0’s to pushing myself on 5.13c sport climbs. On the other hand, though I did not get hurt climbing (gymnastics!) I’ve definitely noticed that I’m more fearful now than I was before. I don’t trust my feet nearly as much, and I’ve developed a strange anxiety about not being tied in properly. No matter how many times my belayer and I double check ourselves, I tend to panic part-way up the wall, leading me to stop climbing and check myself again. This fear of not being tied in, has understandably led to an increased aversion to taking falls as well, which can make it difficult to really commit to crux moves. Afterall, it’s hard to fall when you don’t trust that anything will catch you!
Beyond just the physical fear though, I’ve noticed another fear creeping back in since the injury, the fear of failure. This is something I’ve gone back and forth with over the years, and maybe it’s due to feeling weaker and out of shape, but it’s definitely been on the rebound these past few months. I will find myself getting frustrated or disappointed while climbing, and when I stop and think about why, it almost always comes back to feeling that I have failed in some way. Like I’m not good enough or strong enough, or have somehow failed to meet expectations. Often, this feeling pops up when nothing has even happened yet! For example, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a big crowd gathered around a particular problem I want to climb, but instead of trying it, I choose to walk away frustrated because I’m so afraid of failing in front of the group.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and the more I reflect on it, the more I’ve realized how these feelings of failure are not just restricted to climbing, but seep into every aspect of my life. Whether it’s paragliding, social events, or relationships, I often find that I feel inadequate compared to others. I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, or successful enough; these are just some of the comparisons and insecurities that run through my mind on a daily basis. I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but I do know that it causes me to feel uncomfortable and miss out on great opportunities because I retreat into myself.
Over the past few months I’ve become very interested in learning how to better handle these feelings, and how to deal with my physical fears as well, and I find it really funny that every once in a while, life will place something in your lap exactly when you’re looking for it! My opportunity came in the form of personal mental training from Arno Ilgner and Jeff Lodas, of The Rock Warrior’s Way! I’ll definitely be posting about this more later, but suffice it to say for now, I’m really excited to learn more about the way my mind works and hopefully apply this knowledge to my life and activities.
One area where I’m really excited to see the effects of mental training, is paragliding! Similarly to climbing, after taking time away due to injury, I came back with both a renewed love for the sport, and some renewed fears. It’s definitely been taking a little more effort to get in the air recently, as I’ve been feeling more anxious on launch and more panicky in turbulence and thermals. I’ve been trying to manage this with careful decision making and slowly working my way back up with lots of mellow flights. And I have had some great flights; at my local sites, out in Bishop, and up in the Sacramento and Monterey areas this year. I also might have been the first person to fly a non-powered paraglider on Catalina Island, which is pretty cool!
Due to the small size of my hike/fly kit, I tend to take my wing everywhere and it’s been with me on trips to Arizona, Oregon, and Alaska. Unfortunately, the weather seems to have a bad habit of being at it’s worst whenever I travel, so I’ve spent a lot of lonely hours para-waiting on top of hills, but ultimately being unable to fly. But such is the paragliding life I suppose!
Beyond my own flying adventures, I’ve been happy to continue my partnership with Sky Paragliders as both an ambassador and dealer. I sold my first wing this year, and it was pretty awesome to watch a new p2 Pilot take his Anakis out of the box and easily soar to cloud base! I love the quality and performance of Sky products so I’m really excited to keep working with them and help promote this brand in the US!
In other sports news, the boat life has been awesome this year. I’ve made a ton of progress on The Squall. I have almost completed the entire deck and just started repainting the hull. She’s looking so beautiful with all her new colors! I’ve been sailing regularly as well. I race nearly every Wednesday with the Buccaneer Yacht Club down in San Pedro, and have also gained enough skills over the past year to be invited onto other crews in Marina Del Rey and Ventura, which is a big honor! I’ve been out to Catalina multiple times, and took part in my longest race, the 45th annual Santa Barbara to King Harbor race, which brought me out to Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands for the first time. All in all a very great year on the water and I’m hoping to sail some bigger, overnight ocean races in the future!
Through climbing, sailing, and paragliding, something I’ve learned this year, is that when you chase after things passionately, they seem to have a way of coming back to you. As I continue to dive head first into my adventure sports, I have met many new friends and been granted such amazing opportunities. This year, beyond ongoing sponsorships with Sky, Evolv, and Onsight Gear, I’ve been able to work with Royal Robbins’s clothing, do a vertical fashion shoot for an up and coming designer, raced on multiple boats, worked with several photographers and lifestyle companies as an athlete, and even participated in an ad campaign for the 2020 Olympics!! It’s sort of crazy and unbelievable at times to see what can happen just by working hard at what you love!
At the same time, it can be pretty eye opening for the other end of the spectrum as well, pointing out areas where passion and attention are lacking. While some areas of my life have taken off, the two that have been floundering a bit this year, are writing and relationships. I’ve definitely been struggling to find a balance between my full time job, pursuing all my athletic goals, devoting time to friends and family, and spending time on writing. I’ve been going solo on most of my adventures these days, which can be pretty lonely, and I’ve also felt pretty disappointed with the lack of progress on my book and blog. But perhaps the first step in adjusting an imbalance, is figuring out where it exists! So moving forward this year, I definitely want to focus on my friendships and writing a bit more, maybe even starting with this post! 🙂
All in all, I really can’t complain though. I’m so thankful to have sprung back so quickly after a potentially long term injury, and looking back, I feel excited and grateful once again for all the adventures and opportunities that have come my way. 2017, you done good! I’m definitely looking forward to the next few months and all the adventures yet to come.
I hope everyone out there has had an amazing year so far as well!