A few years ago I started seeing high end athletes training at this German gym called Cafe Kraft. Last year, during one of my travels, I ran into Dicki Korb, a trainer at Cafe Kraft and one of the authors of Gimme Kraft. The conversation with Dicki quickly turned to training. With my obsession to absorb as much as possible, it’s hard for me to not engage in the topic. We spoke some, climbed some and in the end, he invited me to Cafe Kraft to train with him. I was beyond psyched! It had been a few years since I’d had any coaching and it was over due.
I was unable to fit it in while the invitation was fresh so I made plans to return late in the coming spring. My fitness was in a good place and I trained myself for the 3 months leading up to my preparation for training with him. I felt I wanted to be in optimal shape so he could a) see me as an athlete worth training and b) take me further than my own training has taken me. I even received a “Live Your Dream” grant from the American Alpine Club to help fund the training. Unfortunately, the training was not to be.
Early in March I tripped on a trail run and sublexed my ankle in a bad way. I had a bone bruise on my right knee to top it off. This seemed a minor setback until the inflammation and discomfort lingered. After 2 weeks I started to get worried about my situation. Not being employed and having poor healthcare, I put off going to the doctors for as long as I could.
In mid-March, my former surgeon and friend Dr. Warme came to conference in Las Vegas and we went out to climb together. I put up some lines but complained to him about my ankle and knee. He did a quick analysis for me and suggested I may have a peroneal tear in the brevis ligament around the ankle and a possible bone bruise on the knee. His recommendation was rest.
As any climber can tell you, let alone one obsessed with ambitions, especially after feeling fit and training hard, it’s difficult to not climb. I was ready and primed for climbing. I wanted to climb!
So, the resting part was a challenge. I took it easy but I did not wait long before going back out to climb. It was this mindset that was the downfall that set me back an entire year.
I went out climbing to Mt. Charleston, notorious for smooth, bad feet. I was feeling strong and determined to try some moves on a project and in fact, I was making great progress but I had to press on that injured foot repeatedly, torquing it hard into the rock to make it stick. After a few consecutive repetitions, my ankle smarted and I was off the wall and barely able to stand.
I knew something was wrong. I could barely hike out and my ankle became swollen and huge. I iced and elevated and was forced off of it. It was two weeks before I could hobble around. My trip to Europe was cancelled. There was no way I could endure a trip, let alone get any beneficial training in this condition.
Spring turned to summer and lacking the ability to run or climb, I started to cycle. This kept me outdoors and at least took the edge off of my active energy, but I was not satisfied. The occasional jaunts to the cliff had grim results but it kept me in the community, which kept my spirits up. Fall was on the horizon and to keep me from thinking about all of the things I wasn’t achieving or able to do, I started coaching. Taking the emphasis off of myself actually helped me overcome these mental challenges and kept me invested in the climbing community, which enabled me to make small but important gains over time.
The outcome of this injury was that I needed surgery but I was reluctant to undertake the surgery believing that my progression was one that might stave it off indefinitely, if I only gave it time. Patience was difficult, but my focus was in the right place and by the end of the fall, I was climbing again, trusting my foot again, and ready to get back out, albeit a bit cautiously.
I’d lost a lot of fitness, I’d hurt myself in other ways trying to protect the ankle and I had to deal with a conservative approach to climbing for awhile longer. This did not bode well for my ambition to come to Germany and train. I was sitting on a grant that would expire within a year and I had no idea if I would be able to use it.
By the end of the fall, I was certain that I could go for the training and be in some sort of climbing shape to make use of Dicki’s time. I tried hard to get back into top form, but was challenged with residual injuries and life circumstances that prevented me from focusing on training. The trip could no long be postponed and it was going to happen or I would not get another chance like this. Fit or not, I was heading to Germany to train. My only hope is that Dicki would not think I was a waste of his time and that what I would learn something new about myself and climbing.
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