Saturday, November 7, 2009

I don't like my feet off the ground

Yesterday was a day of learning.  First I learned that I had a tight groin (please see previous post for explanation) and second I learned I don't like my feet leaving the ground.  Let me explain.

I run here some of the time. I like it.  In the middle of the city there is big open space and footpaths all around.  It's a British thing - people should have access to public space and so the government makes sure there are parks and footpaths throughout the country for people to enjoy.  So when in Britain, do as the Britons and I use this public space for my enjoyment (see below).  Bristol then becomes a great city to really get out there and enjoy the English countryside.  Running, biking, canoeing, hiking, and yes rock climbing.  Situated near numerous gorges Bristol boasts a lively and active rock climbing culture.

So I thought to myself - "Self, why not try to do more things Brits do" - so Mike and I enrolled in a "tester" rock climbing course at a local center.

Undercover Rock

We go and I get all excited cause I think I going to love it and that afterward Mike and I will enroll in the beginners course, then we can get certified, and live happily ever after - ok maybe not but I thought as least this was one extreme sport we could do together.  Then I actually see the climbing wall. I look up and my heart dropped - "What in the hell was I thinking?"  But, I still think I can do this.  For this session there are 4 of us total, Mike and I then two British girls.  Our instructor Sean tells us that fear is natural so just go with it.  I'm like cool.  We get suited up (man I wish I had a pic, I felt and looked liked a slightly browned sausage with a helmet, but I digress...) and then it's my turn.  I step up and grab hold, I then make is about 2 feet off the ground, looked down and said "I don't like this." It took me another 5 minutes to take my hands off the wall, lean back, and safely belay down to the ground.

Ok, first attempt - its expected.  Mike goes and of course he climbs up the wall in like 10 seconds and gets to try harder and harder climbs during the hour.  Me on the other hand, I was his support.  I  tightened the rope as he went up and released it on the way down.  After three futile attempts by me my instructor says, well let's try you on the easiest route.  I'm like ok, so we go and of course its the kids wall.  Now, I know that I need to swallow my pride and realize that I am new to this and heights aren't my thing but your ego gets a bit damaged when, as a 28 year old woman, I can't make it past 2 feet off the ground and next to me are four 7 year olds climbing a difficult route...wait for it...BLINDFOLDED!  YES, a kids team were practicing next me and they were racing each other blindfolded as dads stood around cheering them on.  I, on the other hand, couldn't even go up the damn safety ladder next to the wall and just belay down.  At the end of the hour I was tired, my hands were sore, and my ego was slightly (oh hell, really), bruised.

On the way home Mike asked me what I thought was holding me back.  I thought about it and realized that I really don't like the idea of my feet leaving the ground.  This has also been my problem in learning to swim. I am ok up to 6 feet of water, but when I can't touch the bottom I freak out and sink - very counterproductive.  Same with the climbing business, I trust the rope and the pulley system, but once I can't put my feet on the ground, and all I can do is go up and rely on someone to bring me down to the ground, then the sensors in my brain and body shut down.  My legs start twitching and I looked like I'm cracked out on meth.  But, I don't want to give up.  Climbing would help me in my mountaineering so I think I may try hypnotherapy.  I have been talking about it for years, but what else can I do?  My mind is tweaked out and goes into overload once the ground and feet part ways.  So I'll wait a month and try again and next time I won't be next to blindfolded 7 year olds.  I mean DAMN! 


Celeste said...

I see. The few times I have tried to learn how to swim I've been troubled by the same thing. The nothing under me thing. Same thing with flying, which I've now gotten over.

I think you'll probably just have to teach your mind to conceptualize support differently. In rock climbing you're using your toes, up to about the ball of your foot when you're lucky. You have to learn to support yourself on different means. It's all arms, looking up, and being constantly aware of where your body is. It's a great brain teaser in a way; you just have to learn that your eyes, hands, butt muscle and calves can hold you up just as well as your feet.

Also, it's a matter of understanding you're not "leaving" anything, you're just in the same physical space just at a different ... plane. Same as swimming. You're in water instead of air. Rock climbing, Youre moving vertically. Primitively speaking I guess this also signals a warning flag in once brain because of the falling. My suggestion, seriously, consciously, FORCE YOURSELF to climb and then fall off. Once you get the sensation of the fall, which is really just a tightening of the ropes around you and you swing around a bit (there's no big "drop" to speak of) I swear, you'll be on that shit in no time. It's a serious blast and it's very meditative too. Like I said, it's like a puzzle. You have to know where to guide yourself. Very metaphorical :) OH I wish I was there. When I get to Europe we're going climbing. And then you can come do it in Norway :) It's SO MUCH FUN. You'll get it. You'll get it. Love, C

Nicole said...

I agree with you Celeste. I am going to try again - I know it is my mind that is holding me back so the more I do it the more I will get use to it! Thanks for the advice and support.

Xan173 said...

You share this issue with my wife Vicky. Perhaps you girls should team up to overcome this?

Bouldering helps a lot to get your mind into climbing mode, the top rope climbs seem much easier after having build up a little technique and muscle memory.

Ultimately it's all about you, and your own progress.