Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another sign of aging

I did some free climbing around the structural steel at work today. There are places I need to go, and there's really no other way of getting to them, so occasionally climbing is a must. I'm pretty good about it; I'm usually wearing a harness, and sometimes the harness is actually attached to something other than me. It's really not a hard climb, though I'm no longer in my peak climbing shape (I was once in the 5.11b range -- good, but not world class); the building where I work resembles a large ladder in a lot of significant ways. But today I had a first: I had that little flash of nervousness about something I was about to do. It was nothing spectacular, just an unsecured, energetic change of preposition (from "under" to "atop") around a piece of structural steel with a few seconds of hanging from one hand, maybe 30 feet up. It's the kind of thing that only seems dicey because it's done at altitude, like walking on a beam or hand-over-handing along a pole -- with the ground a few inches below your feet, it'd be no big deal. I've done much trickier, more dangerous things. But right before I did the big lunge, I had a second of that panic-y fear: what if something goes wrong? What if my grip fails? What if my harness snags on something on the way by? Et cetera. It didn't stop me; I took an extra second to make sure the fear wasn't a message from my subconscious (maybe there was something for my harness to snag on!), then went for it without incident. But it's the first time I've ever had that happen while I was climbing anything, ever. Maybe it's a sign I'm getting older. Or maybe it's a sign I need to start exercising again, to re-develop my confidence that my body's capable of anything I ask of it. Because it's true: while I'm not in bad shape, I'm in much worse shape than I'm used to. And that's never good.

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