Laying in shavasana, corpse pose, you’re supposed to be absolutely still with mindful awareness. I’m supposed to be emptying my mind and relaxing, but not falling asleep. It’s meditative, and especially for me, releases much of the anxiety and negative energy that I hold onto.
They say it takes more energy to hold onto something than to release it. I asked myself at the beginning of yoga practice that day, “What are you holding on to today, in your life?” I was thinking about work, about the gym, and the many things forever captured in my Inbox. My chest tightens with the overwhelming knowledge that there are only 24 hours in a day. I said, “Release it,” and just like that my mind let go.
I actually listened to my wise subconscious and believed in my own gratifying words. I focused on my breathing, constricting the back of my throat, pushing the air in and out with a noisy wind. I believed it was rejuvenating, and I trusted that each breath served me well. Balance came easier, progress was made in several poses, I forgot about the other people in the room, and gratitude flowed through me. I thoroughly enjoyed my entire practice, and even more so because I released the thoughts that constricted my potential.
So what does this have to do with climbing? “What’s all this yogi talk, I thought you were a climber?” Yeah ok, it sounds like spiritual enlightenment, granola girl talk to me too. I have a point, and let me get to it quick. It cleanses me, balances my energy, and it works for me. That’s my point.
What else was I holding onto? A shit ton of negative energy. I couldn’t send. It was like climbing with weighted ankle wraps and a vest, on a tight belay, riddled with shortened rope slack at each clip. My doubt made the rope feel like a steel cable every time I pulled it up to meet a quick draw. A tremendous amount of energy was lost holding onto the wall with every muscle tensely filled with the fear of falling. The fear of falling was actually making me fall! Ruled by these emotions I would never be able to comfortably project and send at my limits.
Joyride, Boney Bluff, CA.
Pic Credit Anthony Lapomardo
Pic Credit Anthony Lapomardo
In my humble climber beginnings I told myself I would never be able to redpoint a 5.12 anything route, and 5.13’s weren’t even on my radar, as if they didn’t exist at all. I eventually did do a 12, several in fact, but only because I was getting stronger as a climber and athlete in general. I could recite each move, give inch by inch beta, and was able to run top rope laps on my projects. All my confidence (or better known as the lack of fear of falling) came directly from “practice makes perfect”. Of course, it was a false confidence and in my quest to climb a 5.13 it held me down in the murky waters of my own stubborn heart.
This was a true “journey not the destination” quest. Don’t get me wrong here. It is pretty badass that I redpointed a 5.13a route. I mean, it takes physical strength, desire, and ambition to climb at this level. As you progress past climbing 12’s and dare to dream of 13’s there is the realization that a funnel exists, slowly narrowing the field of athletes who play at these numbers and higher. How hard can I climb in my lifetime? Most of my work was mental. It was a long laundry list of self imposed woes to over come.
“Fuck this is hard,” and “shit, I’m scared,” also “just stop,” and a ton of “you can’t” were the words to the sound track of my epic saga. I literally said these damaging words to myself. I’d cry, self loath, pity, and get so angry at times. The frustration siphoned all my ambition.
I remember clearly the two times I went out to attempt my send before the redpoint. I warmed up pathetically on a short 5.8/9ish route. Jumping on my project without adequately stretching gave me the flash pump to end all forearm strength. I came across one of the last two difficult sequences, and I remember feeling the defeat sink into me. I just sat down on the rope, called take, and fell about 3 feet. I let two botched sequences below fester in my mind, instead of leaving them behind as testaments to how you can over come when you want something so freaking bad! Instead I turned those victories into doubt. “I obviously can’t finish this because I’m so pumped from my mistakes below.” When I got on the sharp end one more time that day I knew from the first clip that my heart wasn’t in it. I had given up already, and I had stopped wanting it.
That was a very daunting feeling. I had to ask myself “How bad do you actually want this goal to be achieved because you are going to have to want it really bad to send this piece!” The next attempt I had convinced myself that I did in fact want it badly. I was beginning to let the lessons of projecting sink in. I was accepting the advice from my husband and others who had been there before. I was also giving in to what the rock was trying to teach me: patience. Patience for myself and patience for the process I was going through. Patience for the learning curve and patience for the time it was going to take. Climbers sometimes spend years working a project, and here I was complaining about a handful of goes.
The last attempt before the send was the turning point. I had visualized my success over and over again in my mind. I told myself, “You are a confidant and strong climber.” I warmed up better, stretched longer, and breathed into each resting spot on the route for the perfect amount of recovery time. So what the heck happened then? Right after the last clip, I slightly rushed myself. I said “you can do this, now go,” but I wasn’t ready. I F’ed the beta up, lost my concentration, stopped believing for a split second, and let the send slip past me. However, my defeat felt different this time. I was wiser. I knew this would take time, and I fortunately had the luxury of returning again, and again, and again, until I sent the route. I had to be absolutely ready. I had to be still inside to let my best pour out, unhampered by the usual filters of BS and negativity. I needed to meditate on it for a resolution, I just didn’t know it yet.
Here comes the yoga hippy talk again. Back to the beginning, I’m laying in shavasana and all I can think about is the climb. So I let it come to me, except I’m not really climbing in my mind’s eye. I’m actually resting. I can see myself on the slab, laying calmly against the cool rock, breathing into it, graciously asking, “may I send you please?” Then I’m in the nook, just under the full vertical length of the rest of the route, breathing deeply and fully filling my lungs to each distant corner. Next my hands are in the black, crusty and slopey hole, switching from left to right, dangling the other at my body’s side. Last I am starfished out on the face, my left hand high on a long incut strip of prime real estate for this grade. I’m moving down to the right hand just below, a similar sized incut but with a stronger tilt making it a slight gaston. Up and down, left to right, resting each hand and arm until I am recharged to the fullest possible at this point. I don’t actually finish the route, I simply breathe into the rests then slowly open my eyes as shavasana ends and I must namaste my way to the exit.
I woke up the next day, coincidently my birthday, and I declared, “It’s going to happen today” with the upmost confidence and calm. I was actually antsy, and full of positive energy. We drove out, I warmed up, and waited about 10 minutes. I turned to my husband and said, “I’m ready.” And just like that I sent Fueled Injected, 5.13a at Frustration Creek.
At each key point on the route I breathed into the rock and it breathed energy right back into me. There was such a calm as I leaned into the face, pulled air through my nose, constricted the back of my throat, and pushed air back out. There were few words in my mind, no “slow down” or “take your time” or even “you can do this”. I emphatically knew I could, and knew I would. I let go of the pressure to send, and it allowed me to actually send. I even recognized that if in fact it did not happen that day (but it totally was going to), it would happen another inevitably. There was no fear, and not because I had this route so dialed. There was no fear because there was nothing I needed to be scared of anymore (taking long falls on crux moves mysteriously helps with that).
I was very present in each motion that I needed to execute, not concerning myself with any other. At my last resting point, the place I fell the last time, I stretched each arm out below me, pulling in air and releasing the oxygen into my forearm muscles. I envisioned the restoration, and when I missed a bump hold just above this rest (and just below the anchors) I said reassuringly to myself, “It’s ok, you don’t need it because you have the energy to finish this move.” I pressed through, looked up, and to my right side there the anchors were, waiting for me in perfect stillness. I took a few breaths there before reaching for the finishing holds, and released the anchor’s patience for me to finish. It was a glorious view on a clear day, and I gave a few hoots and hollers into the warm air.
Where do I go from here? Only up my friends, only up! I realistically know that the next 5.13 I project will be a whole different battle. There are many more lessons projecting will be giving me in the near future, I’m just a lot more open minded about accepting them now.
Keeping the crag fresh with new bolts.
The man who is my glue that holds it all together.
Roping up on a perfect weather day.