Posts Tagged With: injury

A Life Lived Assisted (Part Two)


This is part two of a four part series.

So as I left off on the last post I wrote in this series, (Forgot? Missed it? Bored? Check it out here) I went skiing at Deer Mountain in Deadwood, South Dakota. It had been a few years since I had skied, but just like riding a bike I got back into the groove after about three runs.  I needed to because the runs that day were junk. The winter had been abnormally warmer then usual, and Deer Mountain didn’t make snow. I had to dodge patches of dirt and grass and navigate on icy, slushy, rotten snow. The skiing was fun, the terrain sketchy, and it wasn’t until the evening that I found out how sketchy it really was.

I was skiing on a run that my friend Matt and I had done previously, so I was rather relaxed and didn’t expect to have to pay any particular attention to what I was doing. This however was exactly the opposite approach that I should have taken. Remember how I said the weather was warm? Well when the sun started to descend the temperature went with it, causing the slushy snow to turn to sheets of ice.

It started with my buddy heading down the run first. As I followed down behind him, I saw him eat it. Down he went, losing his skis in the process. As I came across the slope I found myself on a collision course with his sticks. With no time to stop myself, I tried sitting and leaning into the slope in hopes of slowing myself down and letting his skis pass. Turns out my buddy didn’t lose his balance because he sucked eggs, he lost it because of a large patch a ice that had formed from the dropping temps and the warm day. Sure enough, where I decided to sit into the hill was directly on this ice patch and I yard saled it.

Poles. Gone (they were leashed too….still trying to figure that out)

Skis. Not on my feet that was for sure.

It didn’t end there, I began sliding down the hill picking up speed as I went. I started digging the heels of my boots into the snow to slow my descent. That was one of the most least productive acts I could have done, all I did was kick snow into my face blinding me from what was ahead. This run split into two trails; wide to the right, narrow to the left. A grove of trees blocked the middle. When Matt biffed it he slid to the right, when I started my unintentional glissading my path took me right down the center where the trail abruptly stopped, thanks to a few trees.

I didn’t even see the tree coming, my face was covered in snow but all of a sudden I was stopped cold in my tracks. My sledding sans sled came to a violent finish followed by immense pain. I had slid into the first tree, and the way I slid into it was cringe inducing. Thanks to my genius slide stopping skills I had spread my feet apart and wouldn’t you know it.

BAM!!! Right between the legs.

That pretty much sums it up.

Now if you’re a man and you’re about to fall out of your chair and grab your berries in sympathetic pain reducing comfort let me help you, I had two things going for me.

1. The speed I picked up caused the impact to be so great that it blew apart one of my vertebrae causing my surrounding tissue to swell and leaving me paralyzed from the trauma area down.

2. I actually hit the tree with my pelvic bone (the Ischium to be precise) which caused it to crack and shoot through the skin.

So I didn’t actually use my cojones as air bags to cushion the impact. However the result was still devastating. A compression fracture of the L1 vertebrae and a compound fracture of the pelvic bone. The first causes paralysis, the second profuse bleeding that they couldn’t stop. Luckily for me my friend Matt was with me. As I tried to move and get myself off the tree (I was in an uncomfortable position with the lower half of my body slightly elevated) he came over and placed my head between his knees to secure my neck from movement. He then told a passing skier to get the rescue unit. I don’t remember much from our conversation together but I do remember telling him this.

“Matt, I think I need to see a chiropractor.”

When the rescue unit came to get me, they strapped me to a sled and snowmobiled me down to the lodge. I noticed a large drop of blood had formed. I remember telling Matt to call some people, and I remember it being cold because they were cutting the clothes off of my body (and I was rocking a cool Starter jacket too….okay I’ll be honest Starter jackets were never cool). I remember being put into the ambulance and BEGGING the EMT for Tylenol. I didn’t ask for the hard stuff but for over-the-counter meds.

I woke up in a Deadwood, SD hospital lot still in the ambulance,  seeing a doctor that I had played with on an adult recreational soccer team. Then I passed out again as they took me to Rapid City to treat me. I woke up once in the hospital and promptly passed out again. I had lost a lot of blood, so much so that I needed several infusions. They eventually took me to surgery and pushed the bone back in and sewed me up. They x-rayed my back and when I came to, they told me that shards of bone were rubbing against my spine. Up to this point I hadn’t even noticed that I couldn’t move my legs. If you couldn’t tell right now I was obviously on-top of this whole situation from the beginning.

Since I was in the military, they called my parents who were my emergency contacts, and I (of course) did not keep my emergency contact information updated. (Genius!) When they did get a hold of my parents somehow the translation of my condition got mistaken and they told my dad that I had a slipped disk in my back (See I was right about needing a chiropractor). They eventually got me to a second surgery where they cut me open about 2/3rds of the way up my back from my waist to assess the damage. They were only able to salvage one piece of the original bone, they cut a piece off my illiac crest (see previous pelvic bone picture) and still didn’t have enough to create a new vertebrae so they put in some donor bone (i.e. from a dead person) and TA-DA I had a new back, sorta. They added in screws, rods, various other metals apparatus, maybe some chicken wire, and quite possibly some bolts and such like (you could probably build a bomber anchor out of the hardware in my spine)and then sewed me back up . . . then the fun began.

Not my spine, but you can get an idea of what is holding mine together. (A) is a compression fracture, (B) & (C) is the hardware needed to hold everything together. Oh, and it’s permanent.

Eventually the swelling subsided, but the damage was done. Permanent nerve damage resulting in little to no communication with some skin, and many muscles. This of course leads to atrophy, or the loss of muscle mass. I started a 18 month rehabilitation process, beginning with learning the delicate art of wheelchair balance on two wheels (no kidding we practiced this which was necessary for getting up curbs and for impressing the ladies who are into the cripples). I had to learn to walk again which meant sitting in my wheelchair staring at people walking to re-learn the cadence of their steps and arm swings (I am not making this up).

My first attempt at walking lasted .75 seconds. I stood up and then collapsed in my wheelchair as the pain that shot down the back of my legs as it felt like the cast of Braveheart had been shrunk to a microscopic scale and were going to war with every ligament, tendon, and sinew in my legs with white-hot battle axes (if you’ve been reading up to this point, just go with it and nod your head in agreement even if you don’t understand because so am I and I’m writing this). Physical Therapy felt like this all the time, grueling, painful, exhausting, it felt like ritualistic torture and I was the sacrifice.

As I stated this went on for 18 months. I went from a wheelchair to a walker; I added a sweet set of tennis balls on the bottom of the legs,  rocking it geriatric style. From there to  Canadian crutches, to only one crutch, to none. I wore a turtle shell brace around my torso, and what I called my prosthetic legs as leg braces (they were HUGE, went up to my knees almost). I eventually finished physical therapy which when I left I was told I’d never get better, or stronger the only thing that would increase would be my endurance. So I had to set out to find a new normal, eventually leading me to where I am today.

Subscribe and check in regularly for new articles and insights. We post every Wednesday (mostly) about various topics dealing with the outdoors and us. Also it’ll increase your opportunities to see me use WAY too many parenthetical references, and just wait I’m thinking I can pull off a parenthetical inside a parenthetical which will be mind-blowing and may or may not rip a hole in space and time. We’ll see.

So until next time adventure on……and avoid angry trees which jump out or nowhere and break your bones.

Categories: Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Life Lived Assisted (Part One)


This isn’t going to be one of our typical posts.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my story and why this blog is called The Bionic Chronicles. As a good storyteller should, I have to begin at the beginning so let me tell you about me.

I grew up in the flatland farm lands of northwest Ohio. My house had a soybean and corn field across from it and behind it. I was your typical Midwestern kid, played soccer, wrestled for a few years, nothing all that special. We were a small family (just four of us) and every summer we’d take a few trips to the local state parks to do some camping. We weren’t really hotel people, we liked the cheaper far from home living alternative. We started out in tents until my mother got sick of having to bail water all the time. Our tent wasn’t the best on the market so during rain storms the floor would collect standing water. The tent was only big enough for the four of us, the rain wasn’t welcome. My parents eventually bought a hard-sided camper so we could vacation in style, this made my mother much happier.

Photo credit: Discover the Hocking Hills [http://www.hockinghills.me]

Without fail every time we went to the state parks we hiked. Mind you these were rolling hill two milers, nothing epic in the least bit. We had one specific state park we always seemed to visit, it was a family favorite and no matter how many times we went we loved going to Hocking Hills State Park. The sandstone caves and rolling hills of the river valley were the closest thing I had to a mountain. We were able to climb and scramble around and explore and from these experiences as a youth my love for the outdoors was birthed.

I wouldn’t actually get to set foot on a real mountain until I was ten years old when my aunt and uncle invited me on a trip with them to The Adirondack mountains of New York. I couldn’t get enough of the elevation and I began to dream about going out west and summitting snow-capped peaks of the Colorado Rockies. That wouldn’t happen for another seven years.

Through a series of events I would end up moving to Colorado and living with this aunt whose love of the mountains, the trail, and a life outdoors dwarfed mine. They had moved to a Denver suburb, a dream of hers to live out west. I spent my senior year of high school out there and I began to flourish. I made new friends, got a new job, and had the opportunity to hike in an area I had only dreamed of. I summitted Grays and Torreys peaks, my first 14ers a monumental accomplishment for this boy from the lowlands of middle America. I would hike on a small glacier, walk the streets of Breckenridge, get the chance to picnic (and celebrate my graduation) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Could this boy on the cusp of manhood who desired to bag every peak in Colorado desire anything else? I felt invincible, as if I could tackle anything, hike any trail, and bag any peak. Oh how things would change.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Knowing that I was a less than average student who had the world’s worst studying habits I decided that the military would be a better choice then trying to make college a useful experience. I was stationed in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but by this time my focus had changed from getting outdoors to hanging out with friends. Hitting the trail and outdoor exploration quickly gave way to video games, partying, and hanging out with friends. I had a four-hour drive to Denver, I had Wyoming next door, and the Black Hills and Badlands National Park as my playground, but I passed on these opportunities. I did hike once or twice while in the military, a buddy and I tried hiking Pikes Peak, but we had to turn around because I kept tossing my cookies. I had washed out my hydration bladder the previous day, apparently rinsing it well was a task I had not done in excellence. So I was taken large swigs of soapy water; the silver lining was that my tossed cookies were rainbow-colored thanks to a 7-11 slushy.

This lack of outdoor love is a far cry from the man-boy who just a few years earlier was hiking solo at Herman’s Gulch and then scrambling and climbing the peaks surrounding the mountain lake. Unroped, no cell phone, and no one really knowing where I was and what I was doing. Blissfully hiking at a lightning pace; completely oblivious to whatever is going on outside of my vision.

Things would eventually change as I accompanied a few friends to an afternoon of skiing at the local hill. This choice would forever change my life and alter everything. A warm winter, a cool evening, a split trail, and a single tree would have a significant impact on my body and would have its ‘hand’ in making me bionic.

Check back later as I continue this four part series.

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Come and Gone


As I have woken up every morning to get to work I’ve noticed a significant change in the morning air temperatures. It had been consistently cooler, ranging for the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s around 7am as I made my way to my bus. A signal to me that the summer was coming to a close and that another half of a year is gone forever. A sobering thought to one who when he looked back at summer realized that it came and went without a significant memory made.

I missed out on a summer, and I cannot tell you where it went. We had some above average heat which caused me to not be able to hit the trail at all. I’ve noticed though that there were other things that fell by the wayside. The commitment to keeping The Bionic Chronicles up-to-date was simply not happening as often. My participation on Twitter slacked off. Also my climbing dropped to virtually nothing at all. So many of life’s responsibilities began to overwhelm me and my family. The house isn’t going to clean itself, the chores won’t get done on their own. Time slipped away and with it the hopes and dreams of accomplishments that I once fantasized about now had slipped through my fingers. I missed the community of commenters to this website. I missed my Twitter friends, and I missed out on many adventures that would have filled my ‘post hopper’ with stories of adventures by The Bionic Family.

Some of the favorite posts that we write here on The Bionic Chronicles are about our weekend family adventures. Those are easy to write and share and it’s unique content which is nice since we’re not trying to rehash what 20 other blogs have written. I created this blog, this special piece of the internet to share my life and the life of my family is how we cope, adapt, enjoy, and suffer through our time together. We’re a unique grouping; you’ve got a man whose desires are greater then his physical body can handle, a woman learning to adapt to a new type of lifestyle, and the child they drag along and try their best to share what they believe is an important aspect of life with. Combined these ingredients can make for a fantastic adventure.

We are most likely not going to reach our goal of 100 Miles in 2012, so many unforeseen circumstances stole away the most precious of outdoor resources, time. So the summer is gone and the autumn arrive with the promise of adventure around the corner. Things are looking up for fall as a change in schedules looks to bring forth more opportunities. Our son now is old enough to join the climbing team at the local gym, he’s going to be a Spider Monkey. I’m getting over a recent Sciatica issue and will be heading back to a local fitness center to help give my body the training it needs given the disability I live with. With the fall comes cooler temperatures which for me means easier hiking as the swelter and energy-draining heat gives way to cool breezes and the need for one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing, the fleece jacket/pullover.

For those faithful readers look for a change in voice as there is a change in the weather. We’re looking to offer on this site more of our stories and less tips, tricks, and advice. You can find that elsewhere, we know some people who do it quite well. We’re getting back to our roots, returning to our first love. Returning to a life spent in adventure, and the tales of days come and gone.

Until next time……Adventure On!!!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Guest Post: A Wife’s Perspective


A recent conversation between the Bionic Hiker and myself went like this:

BH: You should write a guest post for my blog!

Me: What would I write about?

BH: You could write about what its like to be married to a disabled athlete.

Me: How many posts can you write about applying Tiger balm?

So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on being married to an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring athlete who also happens to have a disability.

Walking the line between being a reality check and a buzz kill.

When my husband first began expressing interest in rock climbing and mountaineering, it was difficult for me to share the excitement.  With his physical condition, he already deals with pain on a daily basis.  I was not interested in him introducing new pain.  It didn’t help that he was devouring books on high altitude expeditions and routinely sharing about death and mayhem.

His excitement also started shortly after a Yellowstone trip in 2010.  Most of the time I think the Bionic Hiker makes good decisions in outdoor adventures, however, on this particular trip I had refused to go on a hike.  He had started down the sloppy muddy trail in the rain while I stood at the trailhead with our 3 year old son refusing to hike a rim trail

A wife-approved trail in Yellowstone (Elephant Back Mountain)

where there was a large sign stating “Hike at your own risk, children not recommended”. I wasn’t interested in seeing my husband loose his balance and slip and slide over the edge or futilely try to keep my son on the inside of the trail from the rim while he was loosing traction during the poor conditions.

So at times the disability feels like a henchman lurking behind a bush waiting to come and knock him out.  While I’m not necessarily a good protector against men wielding crowbars, sometimes I trick myself into thinking if I say the right thing I can keep him from harm or danger.  I know, its so silly to think a husband would actually listen to his wife.  So in the meantime, it’s always there, and I balance concern and fear of future suffering with being a supportive partner.

The first time he tried rock climbing is a prime example.  His first time in a rock climbing class resulted in an injury that required months of physical therapy and a miserable car ride home.  He was ready to give up and I was ready to agree with him.  I didn’t want to watch him incur injury after injury trying to do something his body simply couldn’t handle.  I’m glad he proved me wrong and he has quickly surpassed my ability.  I almost discouraged him from it in the name of being a “reality check” when I really would have been killing a dream.  Which is why I have supported him returning to the sport that almost took his life (skiing).

On the positive side

For the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve considered myself an uncoordinated non athlete with an aversion to anything labeled a sport.  However, I can’t exactly sit comfortably on the sidelines using pathetic excuses when the Bionic Hiker manages to stay active and challenge himself physically.  Bad memories of dodge ball from my school years don’t hold weight next to having two steel bars in ones back.  I never would have tried rock climbing had it not been for him, and he’s started me on course leading to a much healthier and happier me.

When we are both trying new things, I don’t have the self-consciousness that other women with my self-imposed labels might have (at least most of the time!).  With my lack of ability and his disability we almost have a level playing field.  🙂

I have to say that the Bionic Hiker is quite admirable.  He is the one that could choose self-consciousness because of the limp he walks with or the challenges he faces while learning to climb, but his zest for life trumps that card.

So until next time, adventure on without abandon.

Categories: Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Argument I Keep Losing


So I am sidelined yet again.

No more climbing for the Bionic Man, at least not for awhile. The tendinitis in my right shoulder is SLOWLY getting better, but I feel tendinitis in my left shoulder starting. I also am experiencing forearm pain that only shows up when I pull…..it’s got me wondering if I have a micro or stress fracture.

I keep getting into verbal fights with my body, it appears that my body isn’t too fond of me yelling at it and secretly start breaking down on me. My bodies continued debilitation is the direct result of my disability. The two go hand-in-hand and it’s hindering my progress.

I’ve been trying and trying to find a way to overcome this deficiency, but I have yet to determine a suitable answer. I’ve put on an ankle brace which I hoped would help to stabilize my ankle but I’m not sure if it’s just a placebo effect. I also wear a knee brace to protect my left knee because the inside tendons and ligaments seem to be challenging me lately. I tried putting on my right ankle brace (it’s a different style and brand) but it wouldn’t fit inside the shoe. One of the teens climbing stared at me the other day while I was walking around the bouldering area. I think she wondered why I was even there. My calves are non-existent and I wear braces on my left leg. I have no business climbing at all…..but I have no common sense so why should I listen to reason!

I’m going to be taking about a month off of climbing, give my body time to recoop and to work on strengthening my rotator cuff muscles. I still don’t know how to solve my foot problems. If I don’t solve them soon and figure out a way to climb with this disability I’m going to spend 6 months climbing and 6 months doing therapy to recover. I’ll end up climbing every other month and make no progress at all. I’ve thought about maybe getting new shoes however I am wary that it’s just a bunch of hype. I was climbing a problem with my wife tonight and did it barefoot so do climbing shoes really give you so much of an edge? I wear a pair of Evolv K-Lace shoes. They are a beginner shoe made on a flat last. They are supposed to provide decent edging and I certainly like the way they feel. I’ve wondered though if I would be better off with a downturn shoe made for superior edging. I wonder if getting a shoe that purposefully curls my toes and provides good edging support will help my compensate somewhat for my disability?

I don’t know if it will really work, I could go and try out a pair and see if the staff at my climbing gym will let me climb a problem or two in them and see if they do indeed work better. We’ll have to wait and see.

So to the climbing community out there I ask, what are your opinions on climbing shoes? Do you feel and experience a difference between flat and downturn shoes? Would love to hear you weigh in.

Update: A few of my twitter friends weighed in and said that I would definetly see a marked performance. I am slowly leaning the way of a downturn shoe. I’ve now got decision between two pairs. I would still enjoy to hear opinions from my readers. User reviews and insight is always more welcome then company product hype.

Until next time……Climb On!

Categories: Climbing, Gear | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Knife’s Edge Dance


” I can’t”

“I’m scared”

“I want down!”

“I’m too high up”

This is the usual one-sided conversation my son has with me when we are at the climbing wall of our fitness center. It also happens at the climbing cave at our favorite outdoor retailer, Midwest Mountaineering. He’s gotten himself up about six feet off the ground, he’s roped in, and he’s reached his limit.

After lowering him to the ground and calculating in my head that it took my wife more time to tie him in then it did for him to actually climb I wonder what am I doing wrong.

The funny thing is he climbed up in a tree, no harness and no rope, to about thirteen feet and only stopped when we told him to because the tree couldn’t bear his 40 lbs of beefiness. So what is it about the climbing wall that terrifies him? He’ll come off the wall and promise us he’ll go higher and try harder, but the end result is no different.

I’m former military, so is my father, my grandfather, aunt, uncles, all branches of service. Being pushed, pushing yourself, not quitting, not giving up, testing your limits and going beyond them to the point of failure and the chastisement with failing is familiar territory for me. It isn’t familiar for my little guy.

You WILL climb that wall, now move!

So where does this lack of confidence in his ability come from? It’s not germane only to climbing: it comes out in hiking, reading, writing, even putting away his clothes. It’s a total 180 from a few years ago when the boy could do EVERYTHING (or so he thought) on his own without parental interference.

This led me to thinking that there is a fine line in parenting and in life between understanding limitations and allowing failure and fear to stop you prematurely. Do I push him or do I allow him to go as high as he wants and allow time to hopefully take him higher? As a parent this is really dancing on a knife’s edge. You don’t want to encourage a child to quit and give up so easily, but at the same time you shouldn’t force them to do something that may end up breeding resentment and a sense of insecurity with someone who is supposed to help them feel secure (that was a TERRIFIC run-on sentence, my English teachers would be proud!)

I’ve run into a similar situation with myself. I went climbing at a climbing gym here in town for the first time. My wife and I wanted to compare it so we could determine whether or not we wanted to switch from the fitness center to a climbing gym. We climbed for over 2 hours. I kept trying my best to get in as much climbing as I could. I climbed so much I hurt my hands, tore them apart but at least I got a story out of it.

Here I am five days later and still sore, plus both shoulders ache now. I obviously climbed way too much and my rotator cuff muscles are far too weak. Since I  use this blog to spew my mental neurosis upon all of you I feel comfortable in making this confession. I haven’t been doing my at-home therapy exercises. I know….what a shocker huh!?!

So when I decided to look up exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles I found the exact same ones as they gave me in therapy. The muscles (there are four) are important because of the way they position the shoulder. When they are weak it puts pressure on the tendons and bursa sack. Having strong shoulders doesn’t mean you have strong rotator cuffs, because they are so small when lifting weights the lats and delts get used more then they do. (Quick health lesson)

So now I find myself wondering what to do. Where is the fine line between being a pushy overbearing drill sergeant parent and a loving encouraging parent who doesn’t allow a child to quit easily but understands how to let maturity and growth happen?

I also have to discover for myself when to stop pushing myself too hard to the point of injury and where I am immobile for two days later and when I can keep going to push through physical limitation and mental barriers.  As an athlete, or anyone who does physical activity and wants to improve this can be a quandary you have as well.

So to all my readers out there I ask this: Do you struggle or have you discovered the delicate balance between pushing yourself too hard, and just enough to overcome? If so I would love to hear about it.

Until next time……Climb On!

Categories: Climbing, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

They Call Me Flapper John or I Can’t Read!


So I think I’m going to adopt a new nickname. I’m also thinking of changing my Twitter handle from @TheBionicHiker to @FlapperJohn.

I went climbing at the St. Paul Vertical Endeavors on Saturday night. Took the whole family but since my little guy was on the tail end of fighting influenza he just sat playing his Leapfrog Leapster and was the most well-behaved he’s ever been in a situation like that.

Side note: My son told me that he doesn’t like rock climbing which is why he doesn’t climb too high. Turns out he’s not a fan of roped climbing but he’s was nearly begging us to boulder. I feel the same way at times.

Back to my story . . .  so we had a great family time. We’re not sure about whether we want to get a membership there or keep the fitness membership we already have. We’re doing Pro’s & Con’s; can’t tell you whose leading right now.

To make a long story less long I tore my hands apart. I had a ton of ‘flappers’. If you don’t know what they are, it is when skin is torn from your hand and just flaps in the wind. I tore off calluses and other skin from various parts of my hand. See the picture showing you the ouch zones.

Can You Find the Seven Hidden Flappers in this Picture?

That wasn’t the only problem I had……I really sucked it up tonight. I finished one climb….the whole night. I managed to pull off a 5.7 on an auto-belay and I think I may have only used one foothold that wasn’t marked in the routes color. I was happy because it’s the first route I have ever finished. I tried another and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how it went. So after getting frustrating with not being able to get more then 10′ off the deck I decided to head upstairs to the easy bouldering cave. I say easy because it’s not super overhanging and I needed a confidence boost. I should have looked elsewhere.

I found a nice V0 (easiest problem in bouldering) and I decided to give it a go. I fell, and I fell hard. I hit the back of my head, knocking off my hat, nearly knocked off my glasses, and almost bit through my tongue. So like any sane climber…..I tried it again, and again, and again. I didn’t finish the problem, but I did improve my falling!

My right hand took the worst of it, 4 flappers to 3.

So a climber came over, having felt so much pity on me and showed me how to climb the problem. I got to the part that kept alluding me, but with this new beta I knew I’d finish, until my shoulder began acting up. Yep, it was a one arm hang from a horn with the feet spread out and then a pull up to a 3-finger pocket. My left foot popped and my right shoulder couldn’t take the stress and off I came. I had tried swinging and mini-dynos all night long and coming within 1 finger of sticking the hold. I would leave not being able to finish it.

I tried twice downstairs on a 5.8+ and a 5.6 and couldn’t pull either off. I was gassed, my body was tired and mentally I was shot. My confidence was crushed even though I know it shouldn’t be. I try really hard and I know my technique leaves MUCH to be desired. It’s difficult when you have a bum shoulder, your calves don’t work, you don’t trust your legs, and your knee begins acting up. I know this is only the sixth time I’ve ever climbed and my stamina is really improving, but I hate excuses I hate blaming failure on a disability or being a novice. I really wanted to stick that problem.

I was really struggling to even see how a route/problem went. I’d get going and wonder “Um . . . ok what the heck am I supposed to do now?” I tried my best to stay on the marked tapes to really see where I was at ability wise. Sometimes I just looked at where the movements were supposed to go and I saw nothing. I hope my climbing eyes develop over time.

I did get one great takeaway from this and it was a list of things to improve upon. I think that no matter what failure shouldn’t go by and be left as simply failure. I would encourage everyone to look at everything you face and pull something out of nothing. Never let a hardship, failure, success, or struggle go by without learning something about yourself. Here is what I learned.

1. Be Patient

I kept trying to fly up the routes. I would half jump to holds and leave myself dangling, especially when I know the problem. Going slow saves energy and allows one time to think.

2. Be Even More Patient

I gotta be patient with my progress and allow myself time to develop and to understand that I’ve got some disadvantages that need to be worked through.

3. Understand Why You’re Doing This

Climbing was a form of exercise and a chance to spend time with the family doing something other than watching movies. I’m not a pro and I shouldn’t try to push myself to prove myself either. I need to stop thinking about what other think of how I climb and just enjoy that I can.

4. Use Your Legs More By Trusting in Them More

I don’t trust my legs to hold me or propel me up a problem or route. I don’t use them as much as I should and I need to. They’re not going to get better if I don’t use them and begin to put some trust in them. Even if that means I don’t get up too high I need to develop as a well-rounded climber, and that means using all my body.

Categories: Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Matter of Confidence


Have you ever had that voice screaming at you in the back of your mind “You’re just not going to make it”

Mine voice comes from a cartoon character with a grey face, weird hair, and rabbit red eyeballs.

If my eyes were red and my skin grey I'd scream too, not to mention that hair!

Hey everyone gets bored at work sometimes and I never proclaimed myself to be Picasso.

Some people have little voices that whisper to them, mine he is rather manic and likes to spout-off every-once-and-awhile. He’s not the voice of humility where he tries to keep me from being cocky. No he’s the voice of imminent failure determined to keep me under his boot.

I had a great conversation about confidence with a good friend the other day. He was telling me the difference between him and another family member. He said that when he gets into a situation or a game he expects to come out on top, to win, and to him there really isn’t another alternative.

I thought to myself for a second, “Holy buckets. I wonder how that feels?”

I’m the type of person that when faced with a challenge I want to overcome I settle for a mediocre outcome.

“I hope I don’t hurt myself”, “If I make it half way up that’s a moral victory”, “Hey I still have all my body parts, at least 75% of my blood still in my body, and three-out-of-four limbs still work….chalk up a victory for me!”

I think the only thing I haven’t settled for was my wife, she’s way out of my league and I hope she doesn’t ever figure that out!

My wife often gets on me about my self-deprecating humor to which I reply “it works wonders on opposite day.”

So much of our success in life can be derived from the confidence and mental attitude we bring to the table, or the trail, or the crag, or the river, or our computer, desk, child, spouse, yo-yo, or the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. (I am a little unsure about the last few or where I was trying to go with this but please bear with me I promise it’ll get better)

Several years ago I watched the video for The Secret. Now I’m not endorsing it, but the some of the principles I do agree with. The adage goes, ‘If you look good, you feel good’ to which I whole heartily agree but it is only half the battle here. How you feel about how comfortable and stylish your clothes are is very important. Don’t believe me, hike a 14er in Colorado dressed in cotton on a cold and wet day and then come and tell me how much you enjoyed the journey?

How you view your abilities and the complexity of a challenge can often determine how you come out of it in the end. Not because you’ve willed something into place, but you are less likely to quit and more likely to concentrate and give it everything you have. You’re mind is sharper as you are more focused letting to see holds and try movements you may have never thought of, or hike faster and longer because in your mind you know you can finish what you started.

Personally I’m struggling with a matter of confidence myself. Not about climbing (which I am sure will come about when my shoulder heals) but about a very special project that I’ve been mulling in my head and placing down on spreadsheets for the past two months.

‘Will it work?” ‘Why would it work”, “Shouldn’t I be devoting my time toward something else that might be more useful”, “Maybe I should stay in my own lane and comfort zone”

A wise man once told me that “Failure often comes dressed up in wisdom clothing”, he also told me that “My world is framed by the words of my mouth”.

So today I ask you readers, what world is being framed by your words? What matters of confidence are you wrestling with? Can you slay that dragon, or will it eat you alive?

Until next time……Adventure On!

Categories: Backpacking, Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Itch You Can’t Scratch


Sometimes you just have to accept that you aren’t the young pup you used to be.

Over the weekend I celebrated my 34th birthday by doing chores around the house! Riveting isn’t it.

What I really wanted to do was to get out with my family and do some climbing. The weather was decent, cool and in the 50’s but not too bad. Sure the rock would have been cold to the touch, but I wanted to do some bouldering so I we wouldn’t have our hands exposed for too long. The problems weren’t going to be hard. V0 – V4 were the hardest. Easy since we’re new to the game and our endurance and skill is still building. Plus we would have had our little guy with us and wanted him to experience success as well.

Challenge was my body and my time didn’t permit such adventures. Responsibility and wise decisions supplanted youthful and irresponsible desires to skip what I need to do and shrug off doctor’s and physical therapist’s orders to scratch the itch and satisfy the appetite of adventure and fun.

It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting here drugged up from a OTC pain-relieving medication that doubles as a sleep aid from the prior night. Feels like a pinched nerve or an out-of-place vertebrae in my upper back above the rods holding my mid to lower spine together that pulls and causing pain to sometimes radiate down my arm. Add this to the shoulder tendonitis that  I’ve had for the last 2 months that I wasn’t sure was ever getting better (but it is). I have to accept that I’m 34, not 24 and my body can’t be pushed like it used to.

Oh I’m still young, but my body can’t take the abuse like it used to. I go to the gym often. I don’t go to ‘keep in shape’; I go to train. I push myself to the limits and I get my heart-rate up towards the maximum. I was proud of myself when my heart rate hit 177, just 10 beats per minute below my max rate. My wife thought I was on a quest to make it explode, I told her “This is how I train”. I am still feeling the effects of said training!

I still want to get out and climb, but wisdom says that if you don’t heal it’s going to hinder your future endeavors. So I have to accept that I can only do so much, that means also a limited routine in the gym. I find myself gripping everything like it’s a hold on a route or problem. I pinch door moldings, undercling tables, I even catch myself crimping the pew during church service (sorry Jesus, I promise I’m paying attention).

Boy, do I want to scratch that itch!

Categories: Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Should Have Been a Scout


Always Prepared!

Had I simply uttered that three weeks ago I wouldn’t be where I am today.

My day has been filled with loads of great fun (sarcasm). How about yours?

Since it has been awhile since I last wrote I’ll bring you up to speed. When we last talked I mentioned my frustration while taking a climbing class at my favorite outfitter. What I didn’t mention was the pain I experienced afterwards. Nothing emotional or mental, no this was real physical pain. And today I found the source of that pain.

I have tendinitis/bursitis/something-itis in my shoulder. I met with a doctor this morning who gave me the diagnosis and then referred me to a physical therapist who gave it a second. Let me tell you this sucks.

It doesn’t suck because of the pain, or the therapy or the doctor (who both were great actually which is a real shocker to me). It is because I’m restricted to no upper body strenuous activity (like strength training and climbing) for what could be the next few months. Royal Suckage.

What really irritates me is that this was totally avoidable, probably. I broke a cardinal rule, I failed myself and am now paying The Piper (that man must be rich because a lot of people pay him!) I failed to prepare.

Usually I’m really good about stretching and warming up. Okay I just lied and now my nose it doing the typing. When it comes to climbing I am pretty good about loosening up other activities not so much. That day though I didn’t. I prepared mentally, but not physically.

I have a habit that before I engage in anything I generally throw myself into it mentally first. I study, read, research, and understand as much as I can before I even undertake anything major. Before taking up climbing I read about it for probably 3-5 months before ever stepping foot on a hold. It’s just the way I am.

That day I watched more experienced climbers climb focusing on their feet and body position mostly. I had to do something similar when I was in a wheelchair and had to learn to walk. My brother would lovingly drive me and my wheelchair to the mall and I’d sit there and watch people walk. How they moved their arms, and placed their feet, I had to learn to do it all over again. So I watched these climbers climb intensely looking for tips and techniques I could use to climb better, especially since I have a disability all the help I can get I need. Which is why, oddly enough, that I prefer to watch women climb. It’s not so I can check them out in a perverted way. Don’t get me wrong female climbers are beautiful, but it’s the grace and style in which they move that is what I covet. Men tend to muscle it up like hyped gorillas, I’m looking to improve my weakest technique, my feet.

Anyways I watched but never warmed up, never stretched and I went in cold which hurt when we stemmed and face climbed. I left the session sore in my shoulder and woke up the next day barely able to move it. Now I’m going to PT (physical therapy) for at least the next 6 weeks once a week. All because I didn’t prepare.

In my opinion our hurried and fast-paced lives either forces up to prepare on a super-human level or we go in cold and survive on hope and luck. My lucky hope ran out and now I’m learning a valuable lesson. My pastor says this often and it’s stuck with me through the years ‘A lack of preparation on your behalf is not an emergency on mine’ Meaning that when someone is coming to you in a rush and hassling you to hurry yourself up their lack of preparation should not impede on your course of action.

So this is causing me to slow down a bit and realize I have to, I need to better prepare myself for whatever it is I’m undertaking. Whether it’s a camping trip, a workout at the gym, or even a simple hiking excursion, proper stretching, clothing, gear, equipment, and mentality are needed to prevent and lower any potential risk involved. I’d recommend you all do the same! Your comments are welcome and I look forward to reading them.

If you are looking for some good blogs about climbing or other outdoors-like adventure I recommend these, there are more out there for sure. I subscribe to them, I read them, I like them. If you have any you want to share, or you have one of your own let me know! Shoot me an e-mail, leave a comment, or find me on twitter.com @TheBionicHiker.

That’s Good Math – (@jessicacardwell) – My wife’s blog….I would be TOTALLY WRONG if I didn’t include this and make it the first one!

Cragmama (@cragmama) – Great stories about her family and climbing adventures.

Adventure Inspired (@advinspired)(@k8tlevy)

DirtBag Diaries (@dirtbagdiaries) – If you’re not following this podcast then there is something wrong with you. Check out his writing and The Season at Arc’Teryx.

Chicks Climbing (@chicksclimbing) Good stuff….even if you are a guy

Eliz Climbs (@eliz_rocks) – Local climber gal and her adventures….a great read.

Wednesdays Rock – Lots of good stuff here.

Mountain Enthusiast (@stephenwweiss) – Check out The Most Epic Trip totally worth it.

The Inspired Climb (@aframe) – LOVE THIS ONE!

Inside The Mountain’s Skin – Great writing

Outdoor Afro (@outdoorafro) – WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL a must.

Trailspace (@trailspace) – Awesome info

Evening Sends (@eveningsends) – Great site.

Categories: Climbing, Hiking, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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