A month ago, I felt like a lean, strong climber. Three viruses later, I’m weak, mushy, and worst of all, lacking grrr.
Grrr, n.: motivation to go after it (“it” being any sport/endeavor) ravenously enough that grunts, yelps and/or growls (grrr!) fly out of your mouth.
Grrr pushes you through all kinds of little obstacles along the way — achy toes, lousy weather, doubt and uncertainty. To me, grrr counts for so much because, without grrr, I don’t try my hardest. Without grrr, I am stagnant.
Before virus number one, bronchitis, I was full of grrr. For about three months before virus one hit, I trained hard. I did nutty things I’ve never done before, like climbing at the gym for three hours before moving on to sets of pull-ups and core exercises.
That might be excessive grrr. Odds are good I was overtrained when I came down with virus number one.
After the bronchitis, I still had grrr. I couldn’t wait to climb. Fortunately, I was getting healthier just in time for my climbing trip to Indian Creek.
Then the stomach virus hit. Instead of packing for my trip, I was puking.
Note to my friends: When I am hugging the toilet bowl, it adds insult to injury if you ask to borrow my gear for your trip before I’ve even said I’m not going. I mean, I would’ve done the same. But c’mon, it could’ve been a 24-hour thing.
But, 24 hours later I wasn’t done kneeling before the porcelain, praying to the saltine-cracker gods that something would stay down. It lasted four days.
After this virus, I was certain I was a weaker climber. But I had hopes that maybe, just maybe, I was a lighter climber now, too. I thought of the column Chris Weidner wrote for the Daily Camera about miraculous ascents after illness by people taking advantage of an altered strength-to-weight ratio. I thought I’d give it a whirl.
My old climber pals Mike and Pete came through town, right as I started eating like a normal person again. We headed out to climb, but I was too tired still, too low on grrr to do any good climbing.
Pete wasn’t — despite having a cold, he had plenty of grrr.
Yeah, Pete arrived at my house with a cold. Guess what virus number three was?
The cold depleted the last of my strength and with it, all my grrr reserves. Once I started feeling better, I hit the gym and pathetically pawed at problems in the bouldering area like a bored cat. Green tape, blergh, guess I’ll do it, meow.
I was overflowing with motivation before the viral trifecta. But feeling weak sucked it away. Now, a nagging voice in my head said that any strength I gained out of winter training, went down the drain around virus two, that I’d lost all my grrr with virus three, and that it added up to being an unmotivated whiner who will have to start all over again.
But another, more reasonable voice, said these ups and downs, these waves, are part of pouring yourself into something. There’s a rhythm to progression. It’s not a straight line. Maybe if I pay attention, I can still make progress, even through the dips in the waves.
In light of the conflicting voices (just what I need!), one of my interviews last week was perfectly timed.
Last week, I wrote about Emily Harrington’s training regime to get her in shape for the Sport Climbing Series national championships (here in Boulder) this weekend. I was intrigued when she said she had never been a physically strong climber.
No? I asked. Not even when you were climbing your hardest?
No, she said, but then clarified: Climbing is about technique and mentality. Later, she elaborated on the importance of body awareness, how the movement becomes instilled in you, much like riding a bike, and how it’s not always about getting stronger.
“You can be as strong as a bodybuilder and you still won’t be able to climb 5.12 if you don’t know how,” she said.
Emily made me realize that it’s folly to tie my grrr solely to my strength. The next time I climbed, I was still weak. But somehow, I was almost climbing better — smarter? — because I couldn’t rely on muscling through anything.
Maybe that voice that whispered about the rhythm of progression was right. Maybe, three viruses later, losing strength wasn’t that big of a deal. And maybe the grrr is already coming back.