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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Climbing to New Heights

For our annual March ski trip we decided to keep it somewhat local and simple. Skiing in VT with reasonably good conditions seemed plausible when 2 weeks ago the Green Mountain State was very white. As the forecast played out the week before, we weren't so sure. But, with family in VT, there was at least another reason to go.

After driving up Thursday night, we awoke to a rainy and foggy Friday. There is always the gym. As we were finishing up our workout, we peered down and were intrigued with the rock climbing wall on the floor below. Upon entering, we were enthusiastically greeted by Lauren and couldn't say no to her cheeriness or the offer that the lesson, equipment and entry were free with our gym day pass. Despite being afraid of heights, I'm a sucker for all things "free"!

After finding a pair of mountain climbing shoes that fit, we stepped into and snuggly adjusted our safety harness and were given a "belay" - the all important clip that will save your life provided the rope attached to it and your belay partner does his or her job. Lauren instructed us on the protocols for safety checks and belay partners - as in any marriage, good communication and paying attention to your partner's needs are key! We learned how to manipulate the rope so it stays taut as the climber ascends and how to loosen it to allow the climber to descend.

Mike suggested I should go first - perhaps he knew if I thought about it too much I would chicken out. I made it out about a third of the way and was ready to come down. Lauren encouraged me for another couple steps but after 15 minutes of this I really was ready to give it a rest.

Mike, on the other hand, was born a climber. Family lore often relays the story of him climbing a tree and literally greeting guests hanging upside down by his shoelaces! So, I shouldn't have been surprised when he bolted up and rang the bell at the top within a minute!

I like to get my money's worth and since we were all ready doing a good job of that, I decided to torture myself some more. The second time up, my brain was at least processing that I needed to push from my legs rather than pull with my arms. But I still got half way and then got stuck. I was sweating either from the effort or the height or both. But Lauren was coaching and encouraging me with every step "you go girl...don't give up now!" Every movement was planned and an effort. By the time I was a foot away from the top, I knew I had to do it. I took my last step but found I was really about an inch too far away to the left of the bell. I reached and stretched and my shaking right hand finally hit it and announced my triumph.

My first experience rock climbing has good lessons for any triathlete or person taking on a sporting endeavor:

1) Good coaches really help! Yes, I could have watched YouTube videos for the technique but I likely would not have prevailed the mental aspect without Lauren's coaching.

2) Don't worry about the performance of those around you. Just focus on reaching your next personal best.

3) Plan each next step. Give each step along the way your best. While the end goal will keep you motivated, it's the daily small goals that will allow you to achieve the end goal.

4) You can and will exceed your expectations of what is possible if you just believe in yourself!

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