Friday, March 16, 2018


Like a few runners I know, I'm a little...specific...when it comes to mileage. By that, I mean it gets my hackles up when I fall just short of a nice, round number.

Yes, even when it's completely meaningless.
I could have run another 2sec and 0.01km..

So it was mildly frustrating when I realised I'd run 394.3km for the year after logging my outing at the Valentine's Fatazz. Still, I thought, I'd just make it up the next day after we went snowboarding.

We all know how that worked out.

I did manage one tiny little run back on February 27th, which was just barely enough to relieve my angst at having clocked 99.7km for February up to that point. I finished the month with 100.3km and slightly less idiotic anxiety, but was still staring at an annual total of 394.8km and didn't really feel any closer to being ready to run. 

Things were still very swollen and unpleasant.

I had mentioned last week that I'd hoped to get out for another attempt, as things had been going quite well with the rehab exercises. Come Saturday afternoon I decided I was more or less ready - how bad could it be?

It started off quite well - I'd done my rehab work and my usual run warmup, and there was almost no discomfort when I set off for an optimistic 2km, mildly downhill trot on a smooth multi-use paved pathway. Unfortunately, things deteriorated rather quickly. 

It had begun so well..

By the end of the 2km, my calves were complaining and my ankle didn't really want to speak to me for the rest of the day. I knew when I got out of bed the next day I most likely wouldn't be trying again on Monday, and maybe not even Tuesday.

I tweaked the poor thing a little riding the trainer on Monday evening, and by Wednesday it was still sore. I finally decided enough was enough and gave it a really easy day: just a leisurely lunch walk (rather than the powerwalking I have mostly been doing), and I only did the mobility and balance portions of my rehab work. No hopping or anything even remotely plyometric.

It felt like defeat. I hadn't seen any improvement in my ankle all week, now 4.5 weeks past the date of injury and more than a month since my last run that felt...well...REAL.

The easy day must have paid off, though. I woke up yesterday with no soreness and renewed hope. Getting home from work and errands with just a smidge of daylight remaining, I decided to go for it.

"Please let this work out..|

Tanker was sweet enough to bundle up against the chill and follow me on his mountain bike as I trotted along the 2km route around our neighborhood, feeling my way along as I watched for any sign of weakness or instability from the damaged ankle. While it wasn't perfectly comfortable, things didn't seem to be getting any I actually pushed on to 2.25km, then 2.5, then thought maybe I'd just go for 20mins and then call it.

This? This felt REAL.

There was a bit of a nasty twinge from the achilles just as I finished, but overall it seems to have been fairly successful. There was a bit of swelling last night even after a soak in cold water immediately after I got home plus some hot/cold contrast in the shower later, but not too much. I made sure to warm the ankle up with some circles and flexion/extension before getting out of bed this morning, and while it's been a little bit tired and achy feeling today, I had no problems doing the full series of rehab exercises and a brisk walk this afternoon.

This ALSO feels like success.

If it feels good when I get up tomorrow, I may even give running another whack - I won't try on back-to-back days for awhile yet, but I really hope it won't take another 4 days off until I'm able to lace up again. It was so nice to get out long enough to really fall into a stride; to be aware of lungs and legs working in harmony to propel me along through the growing dark of evening, letting the muscle memory of a million strides take over to guide me. Uphills didn't feel great, and turning right definitely takes some careful attention, but the experience as a whole was like an inmate's first taste of freedom after long confinement.

Grinning like a fool!

I'm deeply screwed for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, with just 9 days left and still sitting at 64 qualifying runs (they must be at least 30mins in order to count)...but that 20mins yesterday gives me hope that all may not be lost for my race season, and that's much more important than chasing spreadsheets.

Still, I hope the next hundred kilometers come a little more quickly..

Friday, March 9, 2018

High Hopes

And I don't just mean "I hope I don't fall from this high"

Climbing continues to be a total riot - Tank and I are having a great time exploring new routes at Grand River Rocks as our 2-week trial membership nears its end. I'm becoming a more confident and slightly less hapless climber, basically able to onsight anything up to 5.8 and starting to get the fundamentals of footwork and maneuvering on the wall under me.

Including big steps to tiny chips.

Going 3 times in 5 days - that was Friday of last week, Sunday and then Tuesday - may have been a bit much, though. After a particularly overhung 5.8 that took me a couple of whacks (and just falling the hell off it once) to send, I woke up with some soreness in my right middle and ring fingers that feels like the start of pulley strain. So, I'm giving it a rest so we can hopefully head back for the last day of our trial tomorrow. I'll really miss being able to climb as often as we have, but I do look forward to checking out some other gyms in the near future to see what other vertical adventures we can find.

Though I'm far from bored with what GRR has to offer!

One thing that I haven't been backing off on, though, is my ankle rehab. Day in, day out I'm working to get stronger and more stable. Wobble board exercises, calf raises, 1-leg squats, and lots of balancing on one foot.

Which I can now do for a solid 2 minutes, even while reaching my other leg out to the front, side and back.

As I've gotten stronger, I've upped the reps and difficulty, adding in exercises to address weaknesses as I identify them. This means it now takes me almost half an hour to get through the full routine, but the payoff is that there are fewer and fewer things I'm unable to do. Stairs no longer make me cringe, and I can stand on one foot while putting on a pair of trousers or taking off my socks. My range of motion increases, the pain and twinges wane, and I am tantalizingly close to being able to move from my brisk-paced lunch walks to something like an actual run.

As a matter of fact, just this afternoon I had a bit of a breakthrough. 

I could just barely do two last week.

Since one-foot hops are a major indicator of readiness to return to activity, I'm taking this as a promising sign. As of tomorrow it will be exactly one month since my last run, and my osteopath told me at my last appointment it would likely be at least two weeks before I could start running again.

That appointment was two weeks ago.

So, I'm thinking tomorrow may be the day. I have no idea how it will go, but I'm going to see if I can manage 5 minutes. If that feels ok, I might push it to a kilometer, or a mile at most. I don't want to do any harm, but I do want to know if I can get back out there. While I know it will be some time before I can get out on the trails again, I just want to feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Because you can only spend so much time pedaling to nowhere.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks - I need all the luck I can get!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Ups and Downs

So, I tried running on Tuesday for the first time since I tore my right ankle apart.

It lasted just over 3 minutes. It didn't feel good.

No bueno.

It was definitely optimistic to think I'd be able to run on a Grade 2 ankle sprain after just over two weeks of recovery, but I had to try. It was a gorgeous day, and I'd been stuck at 99.7km for February - it was driving me nuts. I did actually manage half a kilometer before I shut it down, and I don't think I did any real damage - it didn't get progressively worse, but it sure didn't get any better, either.

So, I've been trying to concentrate on and be grateful for what has been improving instead of whingeing on about not being able to run. It's actually a pretty decent list:

  • I'm getting stronger at my rehab exercises. I can do calf raises and walk on my toes, balance on the damaged ankle for 2mins while extending my other leg forwards, backwards & out to the side repeatedly, and even hop from foot to foot without pain.

  • As of Tuesday evening, I am now capable of doing all the kicks for the 4 main strokes in swimming, at least for short periods - I only used the pull buoy for a little more than half of Tuesday's 1,700m. Kicking on my back was too painful up until then and dolphin kick would become so after just a couple of lengths, but I was able to do a couple of 50s of backstroke without issue that night, and can now swim for as much 'fly as I desire. This gives me hope I might be able to try some water running...if I can handle the boredom.

This will not be my expression if you see me flailing my way to nowhere with a floaty belt on.

  • I've been getting some pretty solid bike training in here and there, and as of last night I can actually clip my right foot out of the pedal with no pain if I'm careful!

  • I have been walking a lot on my lunch breaks, and working on pushing my walking pace. This may actually be really good training for some of the longer races I had planned for this year if I'm still capable of attempting them. The lovely weather this week has helped, too - I had no intention of walking on my lunch today, but the sunshine drew me out even if it was windy and much chillier than it has been the last few days.
It was 16c on Wednesday to close out February!

Much more excitingly, I was able to complete my belay course at Grand River Rocks on Sunday, then go back on Monday and pass the test to become belay certified. This means I can top rope climb in the gym, for which we have a 2 week trial membership. 

The ankle won't hurt if I don't let it touch the ground, right?

Returning to top rope climbing after a 20 year absence has been a wonderfully fun challenge, and I'm grateful to be able to do so without pain - it's a fantastic distraction from what I'm not able to do at the moment, while offering its own rewards as I gain strength and expertise on the wall.

The best part of all is being able to share it with my sweetheart as he learns a whole new skill set and learns to push his boundaries to gain some vert.

So proud of this guy!

So, while I could still be crying about my fitness draining away, and how long it will be until I'm able to get out for a run - let alone go frolic in the woods on the trails - I choose to spend my energy working on my rehabilitation and becoming a stronger person, both on and off the wall.

It's hard to feel down when you're this high up.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Three Wise Men (and one woman)

There are a ton of personalities in the fitness and sports universe who all purport to have the "best" advice for athletes of all shapes, sizes and pursuits. Some of them are full of nothing but hogwash, or simply trying to sell you something.

Buzzwords: the scourge of trying to find any real sense.

It can be difficult to determine among the cacophony of different voices whom you can trust, but looking for evidence-based writing is a great start. The following four individuals are people who are doing real research into the human body, its limits, and how to extend them.

1. Ross Tucker - Science of Sport

Tucker's writings on his website cover a vast range of topics with the endurance sport world, including everything from analysis of the dominance of African running, through doping and controversies over athlete gender, detailed reports on the Tour de France from 2009-2014 and even athlete management and sponsorship. You can follow him on twitter here.

2. Alex Hutchinson - Sweat Science

Whether it's from his articles in Runner's World, those written for Outside Online, or his new book entitled "Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance", this is probably not the first time you're hearing about this gentleman if you pay any attention to current theories on endurance sport. Nutrition, training methodology, doping, probiotics, world records or athletes' susceptibility to diabetes - no topic is beyond the scope of this former Canadian national team distance runner and physicist. You can follow him on twitter here.

3. Asker Jeukendrup - MySportScience

While some might question the impartiality of a man technically employed by Gatorade, it's difficult to cast aspersions on the quality of research published by this Dutch-born exercise physiologist who has published more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and currently holds two professorial positions with the Universities of Birmingham and Loughborough. His findings regarding sports nutrition, carbohydrate intake and metabolism during endurance exercise have had a significant impact on the fueling protocols for elite athletes in recent years, and he holds a special place in my heart at the moment for publishing a paper detailing best practices for healing tendon injuries. You can follow him on twitter here.

4. Stacy Sims - Osmo Nutrition

With multiple postgraduate degrees in exercise physiology and nutritional science, Sims has dedicated herself in recent years to a somewhat daunting pursuit: investigating the unique physiology and nutritional requirements of female endurance athletes. With the tagline "we are not small men", she has endeavored to shed some long-overdue light on the needs and responses of the ever-growing population of women who wish to perform at the highest levels. While she is less than impartial when it comes to the company she founded as a result of her research - Osmo Nutrition - her articles and book "ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health and A Strong, Lean Body for Life" (co-authored by Selene Yeager) provide incredible insights into female exercise physiology that are invaluable for any woman trying to wring every last drop of performance out of their body and training. You can follow her on twitter here.

So there you have my shortlist of scientists to whom I will listen when they have something to say about endurance sport - people doing real research into how we can become better athletes, whether operating at an elite level or simply trying to live a long, healthy life in sport. I encourage you to read anything that they publish, whether or not it agrees with your current ideas about training, nutrition, or the human body; we can all stand to learn something new, and sport science is still an evolving field.

And in case that was all a little heavy for you, here's a picture of a kitty.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have anyone I should add to this list - it's meant to be a place to start, not completely comprehensive, and I'm happy to add to my own reading!

Especially since I seem to have a lot of time on my hands these days..

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hubris and Cursed Boots

Everything was going great, until it wasn't anymore..

Winter wonderland once more!

I saw my osteopath on Friday evening for some TLC on my left ankle, and he tore my chronically tight calves apart  in an effort to settle them down. He wasn't terribly confident I'd be up to running the next day, but bad could it be?

The 4" of fresh snow overnight didn't help, nor did the fact it was still falling when I arrived around half past noon for the Valentine's Fatazz fundraiser for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. I'd hoped to get in 5 laps at Huron Natural Area from 1pm-5pm, but from my first few strides I knew that would be tough to manage.

Very pretty, but not conducive to fast running.

When all was said and done, I did get in 4 full laps for a total of 26km, finishing with seconds to spare before the 5am-5pm window designated for the event closed. I also helped to raise around $900 for mental health research and initiatives!

As well as getting myself thoroughly snowy.

Back home that evening and feeling pretty good (if rather tired), I spent some time getting ready for the next day's adventure: I waxed up our decks to head out to Chicopee to go snowboarding for the first time in 5 years!

I still love my 2004 Lamar Cruiser 149 and 2005 Burton Cartel bindings.

It took some time to get them sorted out, but I finished by about 9:30pm and was just packing everything up into our snowboard bags to get an early start the next day when suddenly my fingers were greasy. Where the heck was it coming from? It turns out my 13-year-old Burton Ruler snowboard boots had reached the end of their lifespan: some plastic plates on their exterior were breaking down to their petrochemical components, exuding greasy droplets over their whole surface and cracking in several places when even lightly flexed. Looks like I needed new boots, but everything was closed.

I did some online window shopping and found a pair of likely-seeming boots on sale at a shop that would open at 11am the next morning. Well, that would still give us a few hours of decent riding time (I was under the erroneous impression that Chicopee still closed at 4:30pm on Sundays) - we could go pick them up after we got dressed to ride.

Down to the mall the next day after some fortifying breakfast, and I pulled on the pair of boots I'd had the employee put aside for me when I called before we left. 

Little did I know they were cursed..

Cannot confirm or deny that all units are cursed, but the ones I ended up with?

I pulled them on, and they felt a bit snug, but my perusal of reviews said the liners would pack out pretty quickly and they'd gain almost a full show size. They didn't have any larger sizes, either, without being ridiculously huge. So, I figured I'd give them a go. They cut the hell out of my hands while lacing them: tearing huge flappers on the last 2 fingers of my right hand, and blistering my left pinkie as well.

But, we were on our way. Arrived at the hill and I headed in to get our lift tickets, just as it started absolutely POURING with freezing rain.

Woo hoo.

I was starting to wonder about the whole business, but I'd waxed for "moist" conditions and we'd already sunk $85 on non-refundable lift tickets. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain would pass within 30mins or so, so I bought Tanker a beer (and myself a coffee), and we headed to the upstairs patio to wait it out.


The rain thinned out, and so did the crowds - by the time it stopped completely, the lift lines were reduced to almost nothing! Off we went to the not-quite-bunny hill (Tenderfoot) to see if we remembered how to do this..

Tank looking confident

Three runs on Tenderfoot and it was all starting to come back, though I couldn't get my bindings reefed down as tightly as I'd have liked. The new boots really did feel too small; both on my feet and for the length of my binding straps. I had a tool to make adjustments, but it was in the car and I didn't really want to waste precious riding time. So, I made do, and then we decided we were ready to head to our traditional favourite run - a blue slope called North.

Which provides a pretty decent view toward Kitchener.

We got a decent run in, but I was feeling a little shakier on the steeper grade - the rain had iced things up a bit, and it was perhaps hubris on my part to think I could jump back into snowboarding on legs that had run 4hrs the day before in deep, shifting snow. Come to think of it, I'd actually run almost 78km in the prior 7 days, bracketed by long runs in fresh snow at Huron Natural Area and Dundas Valley the previous Sunday.

Fun times on the lift.
Still, we were having fun, and when Tank suggested we go try a little more aggressive slope right next to North - another blue called Easy Rider that starts out quite steep then flows - I had some misgivings, but didn't want to wuss out and hold him back. After all, I'd been snowboarding since I was 15 years old - I should be able to handle this.

Let's give'er.

So, I get into my bindings, and have a look. It's been scraped down pretty badly and there are drifts of snow around on the icy slope, so I'm not very happy that I can't get my bindings as solid as I'd like, and my feet are feeling really cramped in the too small boots.

I drop in anyway, trying to carve to shave off some speed and avoid an errant child. Hitting one of the drifts a little too fast, I went slightly airborne, then landed on my toes with my legs almost straight - kryptonite to proper balance.

I knew I was going down, but I had no idea how hard. WHACK - something feels like a sledgehammer hitting my right snowboard boot as I bail and flip from a hard hit on my back over to my front. I get to my knees wondering if I'm ok, then look downhill and see my water bottle sailing down the hill, having fallen out of my snowpants' pocket. Without thinking further I get up and go corral it with my board, dropping to my knees to pick it up then finishing off the run.

OOF - ARGH - awww crap..

My water bottle making its break for freedom and its retrieval are all that Tanker sees, as he was trying to get over the lip at the top to start his run. He has no idea anything has happened apart from me dropping my bottle.

He reaches me at the bottom and asks if I'm ok, and I have to respond that I'm not sure. He sounds confused until I explain that I biffed hard and I guess my board dug into the snow while my body was whipping around, so my foot stayed put while my leg twisted hard, ratching my ankle pretty badly. 23 years of riding and I've never had anything even remotely like this happen.

Just effin' OW.

He makes me take my deck off and walk out to the car, which goes ok with my foot still laced into the cursed boot. I use my tool to adjust my binding, and decide to give it another go. I paid 85 bloody dollars for lift tickets - I'm getting in more than 5 runs. Back to the not-quite-bunny hill, and it feels ok when I'm actually carving; skating and having the board hang from my foot on the lift aren't comfortable, but I can deal. We go back to North, and I even managed a clean run on Easy Rider with my foot better locked into the binding now. 

Some redemption, at least.

Another run on North, though, and all the other stuff is getting more painful - we decide to call last run after just 2hrs, finishing off with Easy Rider. Tanker bails on that one but doesn't hurt himself; I offered him one more so he could finish on a clean run, but he said he was good to go.

We manage to return the cursed boots to the store, then head out to get groceries. By this time it's clear I'm NOT OK - hobbling around in horrible pain as my ankle - the one that was supposed to be the strong one as compared to the chronically sore left one - swells in multiple places. Get home and put it up, then make a comment in a facebook PM thread with some runner friends trying to get a bubble soccer game together that I don't even know when I'll be able to run again. Moments later my phone is exploding with text messages from my amazing RMT/ultrarunner friend asking me what she missed and if she has to use her #sternface on me. I explain what happened, and she tells me I need to get my foot in a bucket of cold water for NO MORE THAN 11mins and get in to see my osteopath ASAP. I do a 10min soak, keep it elevated for the rest of the evening, then go to bed early.

This has been my view for a lot of this week.

I can't sleep at all Sunday night. Can't get comfortable for more than 5mins at a time - the ankle is touch-sore all around it, and it hurts to flex, extend, and tilt my foot in any direction. I can feel the pulls in the muscles and tendons right up to my knee, and haven't felt pain like this since I broke my wrist.

It still looked this bad by Wednesday.

Call my osteopath's office after another cold water bucket soak Monday morning, and he can get me in at 6:30pm - hallelujah! I spent a miserable day at the office trying to put my foot up on my desk when I could, taking turmeric and ginger to fight inflammation, vitamin C, B12, B6 and gelatin to stimulate collagen synthesis, and laving my poor ankle in arnica. I was just barely able to drive and using a cane to limp awkwardly around as little as possible, especially since my left ankle was now getting really sore from having to take most of my weight. After some ultrasound, a bunch of manual therapy, then some electrostimulation with an acupuncture needle in the ankle drainage point up near my knee at my osteopath's office, I was a TON more comfortable. Still hobbling with a cane, but with a little bit of range of motion and almost no remaining touch soreness.

I've also been receiving a fair bit of tactile therapy of a different kind.

This week has been all about small victories. Tiny ankle circles and toe taps (flexion and extension) on Tuesday. Able to stand on one foot long enough to put on my underpants. Able to do some gentle, seated ankle rotations, tilts, flexion and extension with my wobble board, and balance for 1 minute. Wednesday I was finally able to walk normally as long as I went very slowly and took small steps, and can climb stairs without using the cane. As of Thursday I can even do tiny little calf raises again, and this afternoon I made it 3 full minutes on my wobble board.

Wednesday night I even got out for a little walk around the block; a Valentine's stroll with my sweetheart. I took my cane - especially since the ground was covered in lumpy snow and ice - but I managed not to hurt myself! When we got home I did another cold water soak before bed, then remembered I'd heard lavender oil was helpful for ankle sprains. As I rubbed some in I was sad to notice the bruising on the sides of my heel was worse in the harsh light of the bathroom than I'd thought, and I wondered if I'd made a mistake by going walking.

Thursday morning, though, I woke up to a small miracle: not only had the bruising subsided significantly, but the swelling was almost gone! I also had the least stiffness in the ankle I'd had yet when getting out of bed; basically no pain as long as I was careful about my hobble to the bathroom.

Holy crap I have two almost human-looking feet again!

So, I'm holding out hope that this won't mess with my season too badly. I'm sure the fatigue from Saturday's run is probably a factor in the damage done - the ankle probably could have stood up to that tumble better had it not been beaten up in the soft, shifting snow for hours on end. Still, I don't think my conceited belief that I could go snowboarding for the first time in half a decade on tired legs was truly my downfall - ain't nothing gonna help you if you end up with a pair of cursed boots.

I'm incredibly grateful that I've been able to make such strides (heh) in recovery this week, largely thanks to two caring professionals in my RMT (who has been requesting daily updates and celebrating my small successes with me) and my osteopath, whom I'll be seeing again in less than an hour. I'm also seeing the rewards of my consistent weight training over the past few years (to build bone density, preventing a fracture), and the last few months that I've dedicated to improving my balance and strengthening the supporting musculature around my ankles. This certainly isn't the way I'd hoped it would pay dividends, but I'm sure it's helping me as I work toward my return to pain-free movement once more.

So much for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, though - today is day 64 and I had managed 64 runs as of Saturday, so now I just get to watch myself fall behind..

Friday, February 9, 2018

Social Climber

Back at the end of January I took a week of easy running after Frosty Trail, and got my two Saturday runs out of the way early in the day. I had heard a few months back that a new place had opened in Cambridge that I wanted to check out, and fortunately Tanker was right on board.

That board had holes in it, and chunks of plastic to pull on.

We trucked on over to Core Climbing Gym for about 7pm, knowing they were only open until 10pm and wanting to get our money's worth for our day pass (which is quite reasonably priced, considering their overhead). We went through the very simple orientation process, then set about trying to fight gravity.

Some of us had more success than others.

This particular gym offers bouldering only, which is deceptively simple. There are no ropes or harnesses: just a pair of climbing shoes (which they rent), some chalk (which is provided for free), and your own determination (bring LOTS) to stay on the wall. Thick crash mats line almost the entire floor, so you'll have a soft landing if the combination of those three proves less than effective.

Not having done any climbing since summer of 2016 and having all of the natural climbing talent of a chubby earthworm, I was delighted to discover that they had problems even I could manage, plus friendly staff who offer useful bits of advice and manage admirably to control their laughter at my ineptitude.

I did actually get off the ground, and even topped out a few routes.

Turns out we shouldn't have worried about the amount of time we'd have - within an hour and a half, both Tank and I were totally spent. Our forearms and hands were screaming, and what little grip strength I possess had left the building. I knew it was time to go when I couldn't even manage the little route they use to train you during your orientation anymore.

The next day, I was in AGONY. My hands didn't want to function properly, and it hurt like hell just to pull up my trousers. Fun fact: you use your shoulders WAY more when running than you think you do. It was Tuesday before doorknobs stopped being the bane of my existence. I had bruises on my right knee from bashing it off holds, and had scraped the skin off my right elbow somehow.

So, of course I leaped at the opportunity to go back with a few running friends a mere 9 days later.

Rachael, Catherine & Chris watching Debbie crush it.

Being a little more experienced and having done a bit of reading about tips and tricks for bouldering, I was emboldened to try some more challenging problems.

Like the ones that start on slabs - chunks of wall that lean back toward you so the fight against gravity starts early.

And also went back to some of the beginner-level problems to build my confidence.

Ok so it's basically a ladder BUT I CAN CLIMB IT, DAMNIT

Predictably, Tanker tried tackling some even weirder routes - ones that don't offer anything on which my hands could get a grip.

Spider Tank, spider Tank..

In some cases, I failed spectacularly at what I was trying to achieve. I fell a lot more frequently the second time than the first.

"..down I go again.."

But, I had some success as well. I was starting to make some progress with my footwork, climbed a route that had only rounded chunks without ledges for fingers (which, given the shape of the holds, I dubbed the Boobs Route), and I was finally able to make it to the top of a problem that started on a slab.

" a spider a spider monkey.."

..and got some deep satisfaction from the small amount of progress I'd made. 


While my grip strength waned and my forearms tired almost as quickly as the first time, I wasn't anywhere near as sore in the days afterward. After only 2 sessions, I can feel myself getting stronger!

I know that the last thing Tanker and I really need is another hobby, considering we have so little time to pursue those that we already have...however, I've long despaired of my lack of upper body strength (I've only ever been able to do a pull-up once, and that was years ago when I was doing factory work), and this is certainly something that will help to develop that. I had been feeling a bit one-dimensional this winter, what with running almost to the exclusion of other activities. Swimming is a bit tough because it means sacrificing sleep (and therefore precious recovery during a big running block), and it's hard to get excited about getting on the trainer to cycle in my livingroom while the conditions outside are too hazardous for my limited bike handling skills. Indoor climbing is something we can do regardless of the weather, and the gyms in the area allow drop-in climbing at any time so we can make it fit our schedule.

It's also made me realize how much I've missed climbing in the past few years. I used to do some top roping in my youth, but it's been a very long time since I was on belay.

For perspective: this is my old climbing harness. Anyone remember when Black Diamond last used that logo?

We had gone Treetop Trekking at Horseshoe Resort a few years back and done some via ferrata in Quebec, but it had been quite awhile since I strapped into a harness and just tried to pull myself up a rock. Tanker used to free climb in the Rockies in his youth, but has never climbed with ropes at all.

So, of course I got us booked for an introduction to top rope course at Grand River Rocks for next week. What better way to spend Valentine's Day than harnessed up and pulling on plastic?

I do so love this man - always up for my stupid ideas!

I am under no illusions that climbing will help my running - as a matter of fact, I'm more likely to end up with a bit of "useless" muscle mass to cart around. However, I do expect it to improve my overall quality of life through addressing the imbalance between my weak upper body and strong(er) legs, while also helping to develop some more core strength and maybe even make me a little less clumsy overall.

Besides - while incredibly difficult, climbing is a boatload of fun and gives me another challenge I can pursue while spending time with my sweetheart. What other justification could I possibly need? 

If any of this sounds remotely interesting, I totally endorse giving Core Climbing Gym a try. Take your kids, take your spouse, take a bunch of friends, and just go have a ball! It's not too expensive to be a family day out, and the staff there will get you climbing in no time. We all know we should be doing some strength work, so why not have some laughs while you're at it?

Believe me - if I can do this, you can too!

I don't think I'll ever be good enough to do any traditional climbing (where you place your own hardware on the rock), and possibly may not even be able to manage sport climbing (where you clip into existing bolts on a wall), but that's not the point. I'm happy to just try my best and learn along the way, even if I never progress past a very basic level. I don't need to be good at something in order to enjoy it - something that should be evident from the fact I keep running!