I recently had a prolonged few days of low climbing psych. I had an unexpected success when I sent my first 12a after only 2 days of effort.
So I got a bit big-headed.
I started expecting that every route I got on would feel great. That 11s would feel easy. That I would be able to onsight all the time. After all, I had just climbed a 12! It was a whole new level, right?
But of course, that wasn’t the way it went. One of the great things about being on the road is that you can progress relatively quickly. I climbed my first 11 less than 2 months ago. The downside of the rapid progress is that your base doesn’t catch up, which leads to inconsistent performance.
Which is how I ended up in the doldrums, crying on a 5.11 that was supposed to be fun. Somewhere in the rush of sending a hard route, I misplaced my love of climbing and started worrying about how well I was performing. I was focused more on how hard I was sending than I was on having fun.
It took me a few long days to figure out what was happening. I spent most of my next climbing day on 10s and easy 11s, trying to get my feet back under me. Trying to get my head on straight. And it worked (sort of). I cut myself a break, and started having fun again. I sent the warm-up, on my second go. And I didn’t blame myself for not getting it the first time.
I have always had high expectations for myself. I can’t seem to help it. But in the last week, those expectations got in the way of my enjoyment of a sport I adore, preventing me from having fun in a certifiable rock climbing paradise.
As all climbers know–sometimes you can’t hold on any more. You just have to let go. I’m trying–this week–to focus on my love of being alive, being outdoors, being able healthy and able to climb. And to let go of my expectations, until they don’t throttle me anymore.
P.S. After I wrote this post, before I published it, Alli Rainey wrote two great articles on her blog related to this topic. My favorite quote from the first article:
After all, to not feel psyched when you send a hard grade would be odd and almost not human. But this doesn’t mean that on the flipside, you should feel badly about yourself or angry at yourself or negative about rock climbing when a relatively “easy” grade defeats you or challenges you.
And here’s a follow-up, equally great article.