I started climbing about 15 years ago, which means I was climbing before I could even drive a car. I’ve had a lot of high and low points with climbing during that time. But regardless of the highs and lows, there’s one thing that remains constant (besides my obsession) and that’s technique. It’s not that I have great technique, but over 15 years you learn how to move with the rock, not against it. Within a year after I started climbing seriously after taking 2 whole years off for a torn labrum, I was back to climbing V7/V8. Strength gains were a part of that, but largely it was due to the fact that technique stays with you, you don’t have to relearn it, and even if you’re a bit weak it can help you pull through a lot of stuff. And that’s where the danger of technique comes in for the injured climber, I’m finding.
I’ve had a messed up neck and shoulder for over a year now and I’ve lost a lot of strength in that time. But when I’m out climbing (especially if I’m with friends) I get psyched and can’t help but jump on a problem. A lot of times I can pull through only because I’ve got the technique to fall back on. And then I suffer the consequences with days of pain and a further prolonged recovery time. If technique went out the door at the same rate as strength, I’d be hopelessly shut down on most problems and couldn’t continue to hurt myself. So this is my big middle finger to technique! Damn you, muscle memory, for giving me just enough skill to think I can still pull down when it’s obvious I should be drinking Bud Light Lime on the couch. Of course, I can blame whatever I want (this is America dammit), but the real culprit here is obviously my lack of restraint. It’s a strange test of will to not climb since I’ve spent most of the last 15 years pushing myself with climbing. What a strange reversal: Not climbing is the new climbing, in the sense that climbing has always challenged me and now not climbing is maybe even harder.
What scares me the most is I think this is how getting old begins: Learning to accept with grace the things that are beyond your control. I’m sure there is some peace to be found in learning that lesson, I’m just not sure I’m ready to accept that I’m already there. I’d like to think I have at least a few years of grace-free living left in me.