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Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
4 min read

Chris and I have a handful of friends that we get together with about once every six weeks under the guise of a “wine tasting…” we used to do proper tastings with notes, and ratings, and swirling the glasses around. Over the last year or so, the wine tastings have devolved into … well … gluttony. We outdid ourselves last night. Despite the fact that there were still open bottles with wine in them at the end of the evening (I don’t believe that’s ever happened before) we ate roughly enough to feed a small Spanish village. Instead of just a wine tasting, we had a Spanish food and wine pairing, stretching over the course of about six hours from appetizers to dessert. So, let’s just say that (1) my “dietary surveillance” mode goes back into effect tomorrow; and (2) the last thing I did before falling asleep last night was pop an antacid and tell my husband that it would be in his best interest to wake me with a large glass of water and two Tylenol.

Which, he did. Good man.

He let me lounge on the sofa with the new Climbing for about an hour and a half to get used to the idea of being awake, and then suggested potato pancakes and the climbing gym. I reluctantly removed myself from the sofa (lured only by the prospect of hash browns… I have a thing for fried potatoes — ask anyone who knows me) and off we headed despite being tired.

I guess, in retrospect, it was a weird day for me to choose to set a goal at the gym — it would have been a perfectly good day to do a couple of tie-ins to get the cobwebs out, and then hit Costco and back to the sofa. But for some reason, after my six-pitch warm up tie in (three up, three down) I decided I wanted to make it a 20 pitch day (about a thousand feet of climbing).

Now, I don’t actually think I’ve ever done a 20 pitch day before. Without actually paying attention, I typically climb about fifteen pitches in a good gym day. Ten, if I’m feeling lazy or don’t have much time. So why 20, I don’t know. Why today, I also don’t know. But once the thought popped into my head, I couldn’t stop myself.

After the warm-up, it was 5.9s and 10a’s on lead, three routes per tie-in, until the gym got too crowded for leading. I then switched over to the hand crack, which I thought I’d do three laps on, but my first pitch on the hand crack was pitch fifteen and I was really starting to feel the wear and tear… everything was starting to feel a lot harder than usual. I settled for one lap on the hand crack and then two climbs on that same rope. On my last tie-in, the last two laps were pitiful — my skin actually hurt, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to hold on to the juggy, slightly past vertical 5.9 that ordinarily I’d dance up without much effort.

20 pitches later, and I felt happy. Accomplished. I didn’t realize until later that I’d kept the difficulty up — that made me feel even more accomplished. A lot of the climbs on my outside wish-list are long, 5.9 and 10a multipitch routes, which would be a real challenge for me on lead, but after today I know I have the endurance to at least follow on a multipitch 5.9, so that was a nice epiphany. I lead a lot today, and had fun leading — I even had fun and took some chances with pushing through the pump.

Tonight I’m tired — the dietary surveillance is still out the window, since I had to really refuel after today’s gym day — but I’m happy. I often have fun at the gym — it’s not really “rock climbing,” but more often than not we get to see our friends and we have some fun getting some exercise. We’re lucky to have a couple of cracks, so when I get sick of pulling on plastic I can at least pretend I’m on real rock. But I don’t often have a really productive *climbing* day at the gym — most of my goal-setting and the achievements I remember take place outside. I’m kind of glad that today I made that arbitrary goal for myself — it makes me feel a bit more motivated to stick to my training plan and see if I can make it 30 pitches in a day in another few weeks or months.

Chris also worked really hard today — physically and mentally. He has been working on getting into the leading mindset again after a bit of a hiatus from leading, and he let me coach him a little bit based on what I learned going through lead re-training myself over the last year. He did a great job, and at the end of his climbing day, we realized that he hadn’t hang-dogged once all day, so that was a fantastic leading success.

There are days that I envy our young, fit, strong climbing friends. A lot of days. But, today, surrounded by newbie parties whose forearms pumped out after a pitch and a half, I felt good about how far we’ve come.

We got home, had a nice dinner of gluttonous leftovers, I stretched out my arms and back, did my pushups, and did an arnica rubdown on my wrists and elbows while Chris poured over a book. After that much climbing, it’s a vitamin Aleve night for me, and a hot bath worked wonders. I settled in to the sofa to watch an old movie and Chris looked up from his book.

“So, do you want to go climb tomorrow?” he asked.

Good man.


Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.