Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My First Finger Injury

Three months ago, I hurt my finger while climbing but I can't remember what exactly happened. The pain was in my left middle finger and it doesn't hurt when I pull down on a hold and only hurts mostly when I try to make a fist, so I thought it would be fine to just keep climbing on it. But over the last three months the pain hasn't gone away which started to worry me a little so I started looking up finger injuries online. There were lots of possible finger injuries including, sprained tendon, sprained ligament, tendonitis, stress fracture, etc. But it looked like the main treatment for all of them, if there wasn't a full tear, was rest.

I tried resting but I'm kind of addicted to climbing so I gave in after a few days and kept climbing again, trying to be careful with my fingers. When climbing I feel no pain in my fingers but afterwards it hurts. Recently it actually started hurting more so I thought I should really have it checked out. But I didn't know if I should go to a hand specialist or a general doctor. I decided to just go to the urgent care center across the street from where I worked.

Urgent care is actually pretty awesome, no appointment necessary and when I went, at 4:30 pm, there was no wait time. I was in and out in 30 minutes. I went through triage, which was just to get information, then had x-rays on my finger, three of them, then the doctor came to talk to me. He told me there were no stress fractures and that it was just a sprain to my ulnar ligament in my finger. The ulnar ligament is the tissue connecting the bones together that are facing away from the body. He said the name reflects the ulna and radius bones in the arm. The injury looks kind of like this but on my middle finger:

He demonstrated where exactly the injury was by bending my finger sideways slightly. If bent towards the left, there was minimal pain but if bent towards the right it hurt a lot. It didn't hurt when I climbed because the injury was on the ligaments on the side which doesn't get used as much when pulling vertically. The doctor said he sprained a ligament in his finger once and it took him months to heal. He said all I can really do right now is to buddy tape my middle finger to my ring finger to protect it from bumps and to keep it from bending, like this:

He also suggested to take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. I read online that icing it is good too so I asked him if I should do that and he said that works too. He said it should be okay for me to climb but I should be careful and that climbing would probably slow down the healing. For now, my plan is to ice my finger, take ibuprofen and tape my finger when I climb but climb at much lower difficulties and we'll see how it goes from there.

I tried to climb on it tonight and for some reason I just get scared anytime I need to hold with my left hand. I think I'm just going to have to suck it up and just not climb for awhile.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

City Beach vs Planite Granite

I went to Planet Granite yesterday for a change of scenery from my usual gym, City Beach. It's my third time there and I have to say it's probably my favorite climbing gym I've been to so far. We climb for a long time when we go to PG since it's only a once in awhile thing. Yesterday we did five hours and the time before that we did six and I'm pretty sore from climbing so long.

Wall Size
PG has taller walls and I really like long walls. According to their websites, PG walls go up to 60 feet while CB walls go up to 40 feet. I think every wall at PG is 40 feet or higher so that's really nice. PG also has a lot of nice features and different shapes and textures. They did a great job in designing the walls there.

The grades at PG seem much easier than at CB, I think they're trying to accommodate the length of the climb into the difficulty rating but the grades just seem two grades lower than what CB would have. At CB, I would hesitate to try 5.11a+ but at Planet Granite I seem to be able to climb up to 5.11c decently. I even tried doing a 5.12b, which I would never try at CB and got up pretty far on the climb; I didn't finish it though, unfortunately. It's kind of a nice confidence booster which may help with enjoyability even though I'm not really climbing better. The climbs at PG are also more my style, more footwork and less difficult pulls because one of my biggest weaknesses is strength. A lot of their hand holds are great and I find myself able to rest most of the way. The only other gym I can compare difficulty with is The Studio in San Jose and it seems like the grades there are similar to PG so maybe CB just grades things harder. We tried a little bit of bouldering and the grades seem about the same for both gyms. PG has a soft floor though, while CB uses crash pads.

PG seems to have more young working professionals while CB has more families and younger kids. The routes at CB are more catered towards beginners with a lot of routes below 5.10. They also have a fair number of 5.10 routes and few 5.11+. PG has almost all 5.10+ routes with lots of routes above 5.11. I saw maybe 5 routes below 5.10. It's a great place for intermediate to advance climbers which is around the level I'm at now so I really like that. My climbing partner likes the atmosphere at CB better because he thinks people are nicer there but I'm pretty sure people are pretty nice at PG too, we just haven't talked to anyone there. The staff at CB does seem friendlier though. Another problem with CB is they don't put up enough climbs. The Studio is much smaller than CB but they manage to cram in as many or maybe even more climbs than CB does.

CB has the advantage of being significantly cheaper than PG. When I signed up at CB my rate was $40/month but it looks like it's been increased to $45/month. At the time PG was charging $72/month but now they're up to $73/month. If you do the math CB is about 60% the cost of PG. However, PG has more locations and includes a mini gym with weights, treadmills, classes, etc.

If I lived closer to PG, I would probably get a membership there instead. CB is great as a starter gym but they're lacking when it comes to the intermediate to advance climbs, at least for top rope. I don't boulder much but the bouldering problems seem plenty challenging for more advanced climbers. I wish CB would squeeze more climbs onto their walls because I find myself running out of new climbs to try. Maybe I'll put that on their comment card. I feel like I'm totally bashing City Beach but it's a great gym with great people and I'm proud to be part of their community.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Climbing and Socializing

I read that climbing is a pretty social sport but I'm one of those shy guys who are usually afraid to talk to people. Most of the socializing in climbing occurs in the bouldering area but I'm usually top roping, since I prefer it more, so I mostly only talk to my belay partner. But another group of topropers has been talking to us recently. It's kind of nice to have other climbers to talk to. My belay partner jokes that they only started talking to us after we were lead certified because we weren't worthy before, but I think leading just gave them something to relate to us to start up conversation.

My local gym hosts a sort of bouldering competition every month for four months every year and I started participating in that. The reason it's a sort of competition is because it's based on an honor system and people track their own scores. But I'm starting to like bouldering more because of it. I do notice that there is more interaction in bouldering, with people helping each other out and giving tips. It seems like all the best climbers are always bouldering instead of toproping but it's a little intimidating hanging around great climbers. I like to call them the "cool kids" and I never feel "cool" enough to hang with them. But I was told, to get better at climbing I should be climbing with people who are better than me, so I should probably boulder more.

Another thing I've noticed is that the the climbers are usually grouped by age. You have the group that are mostly teens to early twenties and the older group, 40+. My belay partner and I are in between those two groups so it's harder to fit in. It seems like the older group likes to top rope more so we feel like we kind of fit in the older group more. I overheard one of the climbers talking about being a "nineties" kid once, which made me feel old so I think we are probably in the older category.

Climbing has been a great hobby and I'm starting to become pretty passionate about it so I want to get to know more climbers and learn from them. I just need to learn how to talk to people better and get over the fear of being judged.