I am psyched! I say that with the full knowledge that what I am psyched about means very little to very few, other than me. I onsighted a 5.11a sport climb today - which in the greater climbing community is about as noteworthy as me having successfully put my socks on this morning. Climbing a 5.11a sport climb is not easy, but it is not even remotely cutting edge, nor has it been for forty or fifty years. I will not be coming to the "Hot Flashes" section of a Climbing Magazine near you anytime soon.
My experience in climbing is that it vacillates between an intensely personal pursuit at the local cliff and a small team pursuit in the mountains - my accomplishment today was of the former sort. After over a decade of climbing taking a backseat to the rest of my life, I have entered a period of my life where it can be one of my top focuses - only my family being more important. As such, I have been faithfully counting calories and training for nearly two months in preparation for an upcoming climbing trip, and hopping on A Red Recollection today was meant to be a test of the effectiveness of that preparation (photo). I am exceedingly happy with the results. Today, at thirty-four, I led (in better style mind you) as hard of a sport route as I ever have in the past (and that was fourteen years ago when I was only twenty). To me this is a big deal, but more so because of the relative experience and the way it played out than the simple grade of the route. I have done harder and scarier things in the past, but this felt like a big step for me - today.
A Red Recollection pushed my limit, I still cannot quite believe I onsighted it. Please, do not ask me for beta, because I cannot give it to you - I do not remember much of it. I was not patiently working out the moves and mentally mapping - I hit a stride and the route flowed, I barely remember being on the route. It has been a long time (pushing five years) since I have experienced a state of "flow" in that way, and I am grateful for its return. The out-of-body, do-no-wrong feeling that "flow" channels is powerful, and leaves me wanting more. I, like many athletes, wish I could call that mental-state up on demand, but it is not that easy. It has been my experience that it comes most easily after a great deal of preparation for a specific goal, sometimes it happens out of the pure, blue sky, and sometimes, despite every effort, it refuses to show its head for long, long periods of time.
Today's fleeting moments of flow were almost certainly the result of several months of preparation - both mental and physical. The interesting thing is that the physical can become the mental at some point, but not the reverse. You cannot meditate yourself into physical strength on the couch, but you can physically train yourself into mental confidence. The mental challenge of a correctly developed training plan should push your mind into a state of confidence. Like you and I, our heroes have human bodies, but they have exercised the mental strength to push those bodies beyond the pre-conceived notions what is possible, and in turn, have enjoyed the benefit of hard-earned confidence. Our heroes ask, "Why not?" and "How?" instead of saying "I can't."
You can punish the body to perfect the soul and break down mental barriers to achieve your dreams, or you can lay on the couch, let your mind and body atrophy, while you watch your dreams flash by on the screen. You get to make this choice everyday - so what will it be today?