Tour De Bloc season 10 has come to a close with Nationals being held last weekend at Rock Jungle Fitness in Edmonton, Alberta. The sad part is that I wasn't able to go. In fact, I haven't been able to go to any competitions this season, with the exception of the season opener in November. Very unfortunately, I've been battling a serious finger injury which has kept me from competing for over 5 months. A nasty amalgamation of a pulley tear, tendon inflammation, joint discomfort, and a stubborn mentality to continually push my body’s limits has resulted in a dragging injury that kept me out of the game for a whole season.
Making a Recovery - Eric Sethna
Although debatable, a finger injury is the most frustrating injury a climber can sustain. Firstly, there's virtually nothing you can do to speed up the unbelievably long recovery process. Fingers get sent just enough blood to make sure they don't fall off, nothing more. Extra blood flow for healing is something I can only daydream about. Also, finger taping, which is absolutely necessary to avoid re-injury, seems like a step backwards in the healing process. The theory behind taping is to aid the weakened tendons, and in order to do that successfully, the tape needs to be wrapped so tight that it cuts off circulation. So you're actually squeezing out all the blood to apply tape during the few times you may actually be getting increased blood flow to your finger. Secondly, tweaked fingers love to dangle snippets of hope right in front of you, just close enough that you gain some confidence on your finger only to wake up the next morning and feel a dull ache that resets the clock on your recovery plan. I’ve learned that fingers only heal when there is absolutely no pain, and so in the gym you always feel on the tipping point of re-injury because you never know exactly how much to push yourself before pain will start. Lastly, and probably most frustrating is that finger injuries are impossibly difficult to correctly diagnose. Aside from the common pulley tear, no amount of imaging or even the most renowned specialists can be exactly sure of what's going on inside a tiny finger. So recovery is a large portion guess work and luck... perfect.
My apologies for the rant, but if you haven't gotten a sense of my frustration by now, I'm not sure what will convince you. It's a very misleading and sometimes disappointing path to recovery, nevertheless, it has been a personally valuable one. My girlfriend very astutely pointed out that I should value more things in climbing than just sending hard routes. She is absolutely right. Through training and competitions I've fallen out of touch with my roots and what drove me to continue climbing as a kid. It was the people, the places, the movement, and the mental clarity that kept me clinging to walls 11 years ago. Over the past couple months, and in the final stages of recovery to come, I've vowed to appreciate these self-hidden aspects of our sport. I would love to be in a state of greater mental peace; one in which feeding off the highs that come with sending projects and winning competitions is only building on a strong foundation of enjoyment based on more fulfilling reasons. This idea has evolved into a long term ambition which I can be aware of every time I train or compete, and being injured is a perfect time to focus greater intellectual effort on these types of goals.
I predict that I'm 2-3 months from making a full competition ready recovery. This season has been a complete write-off, but sometimes those steps are necessary to growing as a climber and a person. I'll be posting again when I can tell you that I'm healed and back in the game!