Monday, August 8, 2011

Adventures in Healing

It has been a while. Halloooo

Let me catch you up. Back in January an offer was made on my house so I could finally close up those ties with my ex-wife. At the beginning of February I made an offer on a small two bedroom condo in Poulsbo. It is a really nice place and everyday I am grateful for the good people around me. There was trouble though since as a small business person the banks wouldn't give me a loan without a close family member co-signing. Thanks MOM! Yeah, I know, that seems silly. Though, I did get the place and after only five and a half weeks I was able to move in.

During the time of all this moving I had incurred an injury on my left forearm. I was the goalie at a soccer game and a wild elbow was thrown. I got a pretty bruise and it seemed to heal up and go away. The only problem was I started to have strange pains at random. I would be sitting reading and all the sudden my arm would just tighten up and "charlie horse." Not long after that I started to lose feeling in the last two fingers. I couldn't turn the knob on the door, pull on the handle to open the fridge, or lift anything. Climbing was on hold. I figured I could sit things out for a while and heal. My previous year climbing was stellar, and I was still able to play soccer and dance still. So all is good in my mind, except -- my arm wasn't healing. Even dancing was difficult (left handed leads.)

After almost 5 months, I finally went and got a Physical Therapy. Fortunately, this helped and I was able to start building muscle again in the arm. I got healed enough but was still very weak on the climbing walls. And then there would be another injury that would follow... again during soccer.

I got one day of climbing outside with a friend this season (so far.) We hiked the two and a half miles in to do Outer Space, in Leavenworth. The lineup for this popular climb was busy as we expected. We put down our packs and waited it out. At 11 o'clock we got to start our climb. We should have known it wasn't going to go well though when the prior two groups were telling us about their partners and lack of multi-pitch experience. But their partners were skilled enough, right? Right? WTF?!?

Long story short, we bailed after the second pitch when the clock clicked 3:00 PM. Hiking out the 2.5 wasn't bad... all down hill and since this was a day trip, we drove back to Seattle... climb unfinished. The following day I joined my co-ed soccer league for a match that went very well. We had lots of fun even though I was starting to feel the fatigue building in my legs. And then Tuesday.

Tuesday is the Men's B league. Our team was getting crushed (10-0 crushed.) In the second half, the ball was passed to me and in the break away it was me and the goalie. The goalie came out of the box and as he slid into me I chipped the ball up over him and into the goal. I gracefully jumped over the goalie to make sure the ball went in. I scored the lone goal for our team and was feeling really pumped and excited.

Two minutes left in the game, another break away to the far corner. My teammate gets the ball as I head to the top of the key (this is indoor soccer.) The pass isn't good, so I reach my foot out for the ball. I felt something go wrong. I thought I pulled my groin, and then I noticed it. My kneecap had move out of alignment. This is the fourth time in 20 years that I have done this, and the sad thing about it -- every single time has been when my legs have been tired and I didn't rest.

Lying in pain my kneecap displaced, I did my best to straighten my leg and put things back together. And now I would have another six weeks of healing... minimum.

I did go to the doctor. X-rays were taken. The doctor came in, looked at the knee and basically said, "Heal, if you start to do this often we need to do surgery. You know the drill." And now, I'm on my own. I have done this before but the hardest part this time, I have to know when I'm ready. Before I could wait until I was given the go-ahead. The good news is I'm healing fast. I'm starting week five and plan to go into the climbing gym for some traversing, and then over to the Y for some swimming. I'm on target, and maybe in a few more weeks I can try some running and soccer... or maybe I'll wait on the soccer a little longer. I'm excited to get back to my activities of skiing, climbing, dancing, soccer, etc, etc. I just need to remember, as my body ages my mind needs to be considerate and allow for rest and repair. Sometimes the hardest part is remembering without letting it hold me back. I may be getting older but that doesn't mean I have to stop the things I love... I just need to do them within the limits of this body.

Although, I still think someone needs to come up with a better knee.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Round and Round We Go

The home I had with my Ex finally sold. That was a month ago, and I'm currently living in an apartment under my realtor's home. It is nice -- full kitchen, fully furnished, and my cats and dog are welcome here. The sucky part is all my things are currently sitting in a moving truck pack from end to end, bottom to top.

Originally, I was suppose to be moving into a new condo. I found the lovely little condo in downtown Poulsbo. It was a forclosure, and it was just inside my price range. Everything was going well, the mortgage company assured me everything would be fine, and so given all the information I had it was expected that I might only be between homes for a few days. Five at most.

And then I got the call. The mortgage company can't make the numbers work. Why? Oh, no particular reason -- I'm self employed, in 2010 I made a decision to keep my income low, and ... There is nothing more annoying than stupid people in charge of financial matters. Seriously, what do you call and institution that wants a nearly 40 year old to have his retired mother co-sign on a home purchase, when you have over half the value of the property saved, your offering 20% down, and you still are considered a risk because you run your own business that has been profitable every year since the beginning?

I call that stupid. And what can I do? Well I asked Mom to co-sign. And she, of course, thought it was ridiculous but was glad to help her son. Thanks Mom!

And now, it has been a month, and I still have not gotten to move into my new place. I'm sitting on the couch and wondering if I want to start unloading part of the moving truck so I can find my business records and file my taxes, or deposit my business checks -- yeah, I know, what was I thinking packing up my skis, my climbing gear, my business. I cannot even deposit checks (I could but I have a process that I like to go through to keep everything organized.) I should have at least kept my harness and shoes... WHAT WAS I THINKING?

So I sit and wait. Deep breaths. It will all be resolved. For now, I have some down time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Most Days

Hey. Long time. I wrote a post back in March and never published it. I guess I just didn't feel that much had been going on. Or maybe I had enough going on and it was more the mundane events that you all don't really need to know about... or more likely you just know instinctively.

Since my unpublished post Spring and Summer have happened and it has been a busy exciting and fun time. Back in April my good friends Amy and Paul and myself left for Spring Break. We did the drive to Vegas, and had a wonderful snow storm to drive through. Paul and Amy are unseasoned at the long haul drive and decided next year we are flying. Wimps.

It was a climbing trip and like most trips we climb, eat, and sleep. Tired from the drive and not able to check in to the hotel (yeah, we were roughing it) we started out doing some easy sport climbs at Cannibal Crag, and while the climbing is awesome I think most of us were distracted by the lingerie shoot going on behind us. I'd post the pictures but really it was more a distraction. We climbed just a few routes and were glad when the hours rolled towards our check in time.

We went to the Strip, which was my first time, and enjoyed being tourist for a while. And then we caught up on much needed sleep. The next morning was nice and we climbed for a bit until the wind picked up. The day cut a bit short we headed back to the Strip and found more trouble. Of course, the following day would become a forced rest day and our plan for adventure drew us to the Adventure Dome. This is an indoor theme park and we had fun... until the "4D" ride totally bugged me out. I was fine flipping upside down, being swung around in circles, but the video and shaking....brruupt.

And then it was back to our climbing adventure. We spent a day of "everyone leads" at Panty Wall, and a day on Solar Slab, and a final day with just a few climbs back at Cannibal Crag before heading home. No big adventure, but lots of fun none-the-less.

Following the return home, I'm sure I did a few days of skiing, but not enough of it. I wish I'd kept up with skiing one day of each month but regular life does happen. Summer came on quickly and there was lots of whining about the rain. I managed to play soccer twice a week. And dancing once a week.

The dancing has been quite fun but as the summer heat came on I put it on hold... I'll be going back to it in September. I have become a pretty good lead in West Coast Swing, and I do alright with the other dance steps. I think my favorites are the swings, but I'd like to get better at the waltz and foxtrot.

On the climbing topic, I got to tick off a few climbs on my list. One was to climb Deidre in Squamish -- I've been trying to get to it for the last three years. I actually did it twice this year, once swapping leads and once leading the whole thing. I went back and led Master Of My Domain, and I even added a few climbs I had never before led to my list. I also got to zipline, which wasn't as much thrilling as just fun. And I also got to water ski for the first time in probably twenty years. I got up but the waters were rugged so I didn't do any fancy turns. Next year.

I have my sights set on a few more immediate things for now. Keep your fingers crossed that I'm successful... I'd appreciate it if you would anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Two Seconds

November 21, 2009 Mack, Mosetick, and I meet up for a day of backcountry skiing. We carpooled to Crystal Mountain and drove past the parking attendant ignoring his instructions of where to park. At the C parking lot we started the process of gearing up. Like climbing, the steps a group goes through to start a day of play begins with a lot of fussing, chattering, teasing, laughing, and general excitement. I love this part. I can go home now; I'm satisfied. I tell myself, "Just wait, it only gets better."

We start the trek up the path, meeting up with a couple of random guys and their dog. A skin track is before us and we all make our way up the trail until we reach the ridge of Bullion Basin. The snow is untouched. Mack starts a pit and we do some testing. The top five inches of the snow is our concern. We aren't that concerned and clean up the pit, finish off some gummy fish, water ourselves, and put skis back on for the first runs.

"I'll go first and then video you guys from below."

"Ha ha, you just want the first run."

"There are advantages to being the videographer."

I cut across the field to drop into my line, the turns smooth, the snow is deep, the speed right to float me through this powdery goodness. And out of no where I started hooting and cheering. I'm surprised at myself as this occurs. I come to the base of my run and I'm laughing, the wind has caused tears in my eyes. Heaven.

For those two seconds where the world goes quiet, where all my trouble, all my fear, all my worries go quiet -- all that is left is pure joy. I don't experience that very often. Usually, I'm in my routine, having fun and enjoying the moment... seldom do I have that moment of joy that rises up out of me into uncontrolled vocal excitement.

That two seconds... it's why I ski, it's why I climb.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Avalanche Safety Reprise

Oops. I forgot to post this before I left for Denver on December 18th. Must have been busy and forgot... Here it is... better late than never...

I finished my Avalanche Awareness course. Three Mondays at REI, and a field trip to Steven's Pass. The field class was pretty uneventful, which in a way is good. I learned lots of things. One is that finding a beacon buried a few inches under the snow is not the same as locating a beacon three feet or more under the snow. Another is that I need to replace my probe with one of a better quality. I got a BCA Probe that came free with my shovel and it just isn't very good. At one point during a rescue scenario I was asked to help probe for the victim and I failed to secure it tightly causing it to collapse. Having your probe collapse is kind of embarrassing.

Also I found that a number of people don't take a scenario like that seriously. The scenario is that three victims have been buried in an avalanche and you are being asked to help locate and recover the bodies (hopefully alive.) Those that are involved often make jokes, they over act, they don't just simply behave with the seriousness that is required for such a topic. I don't get that. I mean to have fun and all, but if I ever have to dig someone out of an avalanche, I want to know that I can do it -- even if/when I'm totally freaked out. And of course, I want to know if I'm caught in one and need to be dug out that those I'm with take it seriously and know what to do as well.

I didn't take any pictures. It was a beautiful day but I was just more busy playing and learning than I realized. And the guide/instructor did tell us to bring a camera if we wanted. Oh well, I will be sure to take some pictures the next time I'm out on the snow.

I'm leaving for Denver late Friday evening and hoping to arrive late Saturday or early Sunday. And then I'm sure it will be one activity after the next. I'll be sure to put up additional updates.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Every time Mack and I go skiing in the backcountry we do a serious practice of beacon locating. Mack or I will take a lead on the skin track wrap a beacon in a coat or baggie and bury it in the snow. A simple not to panic "Avalanche" call lets the other know to look up and identify the last location. And then we breakout our beacon, switch it to search mode, and find the other "person."

We do this every single trip. With one exception, and that was because I had left my beacon at home (by accident) and the avalanche concern was "Low." So we made a calculated decision to continue without beacons. The intention of practicing beacon location every time is that we don't want to panic should we ever have to actually locate another person.

I watched a video on youtube a while back which now has been on different news channels, and has been turned into a advertisement for the Avalung. Interestingly enough, the guy caught in the avalanche had his mouth piece just out of reach of his mouth and couldn't use it to breath. He was rescued exceptionally fast (buried with skis on and tips showing) at 4 minutes 30 seconds. One third of people caught in avalanche are believed to be killed by trauma. After 30 minutes you only have a 50% chance of survival. And the average time to dig someone out even with a beacon -- 20 minutes. The odds are against you in the winter backcountry world.

So we practice our safety skills every time. We certainly take calculated risks. We read the snow reports and dig pits to verify the conditions. We watch the weather before us, and we have honest discussions about the dangers.

Tomorrow, I will head out with a group of people that will have an introductory field class on Avalanche safety. Yeah, I know -- I should have taken this class last year. I am surprised at myself for putting it off this long. I won't take the level 1 certification until the new year. So in some ways, I'm still putting it off.

I know in this class we won't be going in very far to the backcountry; the entire trip is just over a mile from what I understand. I'm super excited for it though and having fun doing the prep work. I'm reading the NWAC and watching the weather reports. Packing up extra gear in case someone needs extra layers, and gathering my food so I can make sure I'm not too starved once I arrive. I also packed the camera. I hope I have something fun to share in the next few days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stay with Me!

I sit in anticipation of events my week holds. Skiing will come with my preferred backcountry adventures awaiting my mark on the canvas of snow. Tonight a movie.

Today -- I was reviewing some other bloggers and their take on "fear." In particular the fear that comes with climbing, but I'm actually looking at fear from a different prospective. For me, in this case, it isn't limited to climbing.

I have been self employed for less than a year. I've been hanging on, and sticking to my work. However, some days the fear sets in and with that fear -- immobility. My brain doesn't get it, but my body instinctively wants to remain unmoved. My brain is saying... "You can do it!" "Go, Chris, Go!" "You've done harder, this will be a breeze." My body shudders a bit and finds a snuggle with my dog, or desires to crawl back into bed, or puts on the tube to distract from my brains encouragement.

Even now, I sit and write this blog instead of taking on my project. My project is laid out before me. I will write though, entrench my brain on the task of not just understanding this fear, but what path I should use to overcome it.

My project remains unattended.

I sit here now the only problem before me... I can only go forward. So you're wondering, why aren't you working on your project and instead writing a blog? Two reasons a) I haven't done a blog update in a long time(yes I get the irony,) and 2) in my head, I'm standing midway up the first pitch of Ewephoric on the Sheeps Head in Cochise.

I yelled down to my climbing partner Brigette, "I don't think I can do this." She didn't respond. Or maybe she did. I don't recall. I plugged a piece of gear into the wall, this wide smooth handholdless monster. I stood there for a long time. I had a conversation with my self.

selfdoubt: "Downclimb?"
me: "No."
selfdoubt: "You only have one other choice, you get that don't you?"
me: "No, I have two other choices."
selfdoubt: "Two other choices? Really? Besides going down? You're so full of shit."
me: "Yes, two other choices besides going down. I can go up, that would be a good choice. Or I can also just stand here until a rescue party comes."
selfdoubt: "Dumbass."
me: "So how do you think I should go up then?"
selfdoubt: "You're probably right, just stand there until the rescue party comes."
me: "Great. Well, I can at least move up to that ledge there."
selfdoubt: "Then what, you can see there is no way to protect there."
me: "Well, I'll just take the next obvious step."
selfdoubt: "Dumbass."

I moved up the rock. A scene from Gladiator moved through my head and I hear the words of Maximus: "Three weeks from now...Imagine where you will be, and it will be so. Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!"

In the movie the soldiers all laugh. I didn't laugh, I was already alone. I had moved up to that next ledge, and recalled that the party before us had another piece in the rock above me before reaching the one bolt on the entire first pitch. I didn't like the way that looked. I stepped out of the runnel crack thing I was in, and just slab face climbed my way to the bolt. A good choice in hindsight, but scary. I reached the bolt, clipped, the climb was pretty much over... one pitch down, only four pitches to go. And no, I won't tell you how far it was from my last gear placement to the bolt.

I know how to conquer my fear. The problem isn't conquering it. The problem is I'm not ready for Elysium. It is easy to step out and let the current carry you. You might get bumped along the way, scrapped up, maybe even broken a bit. Those who don't let go will cheer you and give you hero status or poo-poo you because they didn't have the courage. They will call you mentor, roll model, inspiration, crazy, moron, idiot. How brave of you! How stupid! And yet, all you did was let go in the moment, and let it wash over you. Somehow even when I embrace that fear and accept immobility I eventually let go. Okay, I don't know how to conquer my fear, I just accept it.

I'm encouraged to move; be physical. This morning I woke with my dog to let her water the grass and then filled her tummy with breakfast. Often I choose to crawl back into my warm sheets and sleep another 15 or 30 minutes, an hour. I started washing the dishes. Be mobile. I can do that; that isn't what is holding me back. I can do the physical. This is emotional. This is mental. I have the means, I'm intelligent, I have the plan, I have the resources, I have everything I need. And somehow I am fighting against this immobility, I fight against Elysium.

That's the story... I guess it is time to let go. I'll let you know how it turns out.