Here's why I'm more banged up than last week: I guess I am getting somewhat into the competitive spirit. Sometimes it sort of cheeses me off that Kevin is a better climber than I am, and that causes me to push myself harder than I would otherwise.
I was thirty minutes early and Kevin was twenty minutes late, so that left me with a lot of time to fumble around on the low holds and practice hanging by my arms and watching the other climbers. I don't know how much of it is them and how much is me, but it's easy for me to remember why I stopped going to the gym when I lost my regular partner. Most of them have their cliques and they don't seem terribly amenable to newcomers. It's a good thing I didn't know that before I showed up that first day last year, I would have never gotten started.
I had already chosen my first route of the night before Kevin arrived, and in fact tried out the first few moves, as many as I dared before I'd be too far off the ground to risk a fall. It's a fairly difficult 5.8 where you start off climbing in front of the door that leads from the gym's front room to its back room. Then you have to transfer to a different wall section over the door, and finally to a third wall section via a bunch of holds that angle off crazily to the left, which always causes me to lose my balance. I made it onto the second wall section but couldn't get to the third. I could see what it would take to get there but I didn't have the guts to go for it. Sheepishly, I punted and had Kevin bring me back down. He made it up the route of course, but it wasn't super-easy for him, either.
Next Kevin picked a 5.9 route that had pretty decent holds but was hard because the wall angles in towards you at about 10 degrees, except for the last four feet, which is at around 20 degrees. Nothing makes you feel like you're going to fall worse than a hostile incline. By this time I had my mojo workin' and forced myself up it anyway.
It is ALWAYS a mental game. I can go up almost anything, if I am willing to push myself and get the fear under control. It's a process that is not at all compatible with my no-swearing rule, though. I got up some hard routes tonight, but only by virtue of doing my longshoreman impression. I try to at least swear under my breath so nobody else can hear me, but that doesn't have as much of an effect on my climbing ability. Rats. I wish I could find a way to reconcile these two things. I feel strongly about climbing and my no-swearing rule. Why do they have to diss each other so bad?
Attitude properly adjusted, I wanted to try the 5.8-over-the-door route again. I fell on the tricky off-balance part where you transfer from the first wall segment to the second. I cheated badly getting onto the third wall by grabbing a piece of plywood that is not supposed to be part of the climbing area. But I made it, just barely. When I got to the ground I discovered I had given myself a headache. That's never happened to me before. I was able to make it go away by closing my eyes and thinking positive thoughts, but it's not a good precedent.
There is this really good climber that I have referred to in the past in these stories as "the lithe 22-year-old." She was there tonight, climbing with another female friend of hers. At one point the two of them got our attention and asked us a question about a route we had just been on. Thinking about it now, there is no way in hell they didn't know the answer already. That girl is a better climber than Kevin and I put together. So it stands to reason that they were trying to get a conversation going. Oh man, I am just now realizing this, hours after the fact. IR DUMM. Okay, I'll make an effort to talk to them if I see either of them again. I won't be in Nashville forever and it would be nice if I could find Kevin a new partner.
I got so tired I had to bail on my last two routes. I could see exactly what I should do and how to get there, but I couldn't hold myself up anymore. My arms were rubber and I was starting to lose feeling in a few of my fingers. Kevin was holding up better than I was, so he did two or three more routes after I quit.
I asked Kevin how he'd felt after we climbed last week. "I felt great," he said. "I haven't been getting enough exercise." I told him my forearms had been a little sore, but otherwise it hadn't affected me too much. I'm sure we both got way more exercise tonight. For one thing the gym wasn't as hot as it was last week, which makes it easier to exert yourself. For another we are getting back into the swing of things and doing more and harder routes. I know I will be feeling it tomorrow and the next day and many more.