My friends went climbing at our local gym last night. And I’m not going to lie by saying I wish I could have joined them. Climbing every week together has become a way to bond and grow stronger as friends and as climbers. The reality of how long our trip settled in when we climbed together for the last time for a month and a half. I’m going to miss the gym, the friends, and post-climb Taco Bell runs. Interpret that last thing however you’d like.
Learning to climb has taught me a lot of things but the thing I’m most thankful for is a love for failing. I absolutely love not being able to do a route and take an almost masochistic approach to climbing harder than I can climb routes. I want to fail. Like shuffling your feet around a room in the dark, failing becomes a way of finding your limits and pushing them.
The problem with failing is we have to crush fear first. The fear of embarrassment, of not coming through, of falling short. And it’s this part, I’m not too great at. I’d rather work overtime, come through in a pinch, and not be embarrassed.
And Joelle and I have failed a lot this last week. We failed to put on enough sunscreen. We failed to take a turn and ended doing more gravel than necessary. We failed to measure our mileage accurately. We failed to account for wind. Boy, did we not account for wind.
In the moments, these little failures are discouraging. You feel the heat of the afternoon sun on your already burnt shoulders. You downshift despite going downhill because the wind speed is pushing you backwards.
But what I’ve learned through climbing and continue to learn on this bike trip is the necessity of having mercy on yourself. And when we’ve encountered these failures, we adapted and by the grace of others, we’ve pedaled on. A stranger gave us a meal and place to sleep. A college friend gave us a ride to make up some lost miles. Family members invited us in to stay an extra day to rest.
I won’t deny the macho side of me wants to be the guy who pushes on no matter what and powers through his failures, but I can’t be. Nature and this trip aren’t merciful on my body so I have to be. I have to be willing to say “that’s enough for today” and know when to push and when to rest.
I think guys want to be Batman. Strong, able to do it alone, never failing at their mission, and never needing rest. Some guys might be capable of that lifestyle. But I’m not and that’s okay. Alex Honnold may be able to free solo El Capitan, but I’ll always need a partner for when life adventures end in failure.
And fortunately, for this trip, I do.
Hours slept: 9.5
Hot meals eaten: 3
Miles Biked: 0 (and that’s okay)