Friday, July 8, 2011

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be Spiderman?

I have. Honestly.  I really have.  After a decent amount of thought considering the addition of several "spidey" senses to my abilities, I've come to the following conclusions.
1. There is little to no chance that I would ever wear anything resembling that spandex suit. Good for you, Tobey Maguire, you are a better person than I am.
2. Being a masked vigilante isn't really my thing.  So, my great powers would have to come without responsibility, or really, I'd have to say no thanks.  I'm kind of wimpy. I know this. Besides (and this is an extreme tangent) based on a theory presented by M. Night Shyamalan, there is duality in the universe, so therefore if I became a superhero, I'd be sparking the creation of a super villain. [See Unbreakable, don't listen to the critics, it was a cinematic masterpiece.] Using this logic, I should stay completely under the radar and just use my powers to my own benefit and just be super awesome, rather than a super hero.... and super selfish, but I'll ponder that another day.
3. I really don't like spiders, especially being bitten by them, but I've decided the the pros of having spiderman's abilities out weigh the terror of letting a furry little spider bite me.  Plus, Peter Parker didn't even notice that he'd been bitten, so I'd assume that I could just close my eyes and let one of those other 14 gene-splicing spiders bite me and hope nothing goes wrong. (Click that link for a truly awesome article from
4. Without the fear of falling, I would pretty much climb every mountain, building, monument, spire, you name it.  Heights are awesome when you don't have to worry about falling to your doom (see previous post). And it's this point that leads us to my latest adventure.

The Central Rock Gym

In preparation for the Warrior Dash, Jackson and I decide to build up some arm strength by trying our hand at rock climbing. We had heard good things about the indoor climbing at the Central Rock Gym, did some research, and planned to meet a friend there early on a Sunday afternoon.  The day was a little pricey, but not prohibitive.  There is a $15 fee to use the gym for the day, a $10 equipment rental fee that includes shoes, harness, chalk, and carabiner.  First time climbers have to take a belaying class for $15.  So for two of us, that was $80, but you can stay as long as you want and climb as much as you want.

We laced up our climbing shoes, strapped on our harnesses, and we were ready to go.  I'd like to think I looked uber cool and outdoorsy in my cargo shorts and climbing harness, but I'm pretty sure I gave a whole new definition to the word geeky.  I couldn't get my harness to sit right and spent a lot of the afternoon pulling at it and adjusting it to try to get comfortable. Jackson, Matt and Tim seemed to be immune to this problem.  Perhaps it is a gender thing, or just a Kate thing.  Who knows.

First stop, belaying class.  This class takes place on the mezzanine level of the gym, which means you are practicing at half the height of the main floor. Now, being the safety conscious person that I am, who is also a paranoid, overachiever, I was a model student.  If I thought it were appropriate, I probably would have taken notes.  We began by attaching the ropes to our harnesses and practicing our double figure 8 knots.  I must say that I mimicked this knot with ease and had it tightly secured quite quickly.  Here's why.  I still have this height issue... as in fear, and if that knot was going to do anything to spare my life and limbs, I was going to be the best damned knot-tie-er they've ever seen. Our group had to practice a few times and once we had all mastered the knot, we were going to attempt to belay.  The instructor asked me to climb first with Jackson belaying me (yes, he snickered at the term and made an inappropriate 13 year-old boy joke that no one else heard).  The instructor showed us how to attach the other end of my rope (so one end was tied to my harness with my awesome double figure 8 knot - that rope was fed through a pulley at the top of the wall and the other end came back down to the floor and was now in Jackson's hand) to his belay device attached to his carabiner attached to his harness - are you following?  There was a certain way to feed it through the belay device to secure the rope. He was also reminded to lock the carabiner to make sure the belay device was fastened correctly - I checked this twice. We were ready to go and I was given the green light to start climbing. At this point, there were the two of us and another couple in our belaying class. I approached the wall and slowly began to climb.  Reminder: I really don't like heights.  I gingerly made it about half way up this wall, again, the shortest wall they have. Upon surveying my surroundings, I decided I had gone far enough. I was probably only 15 feet off the ground.  I looked behind me and saw the instructor, Jackson and the other couple look at me expectantly, expecting me to keep climbing.  I told them otherwise.

The instructor took my ridiculous fear in stride and told me to grab the rope with two hands and to propel back off the wall, sitting back in my harness.  He assured me that Jackson's device would allow him to safely lower me to the ground. Here's the thing... I trust my husband with my life. I pretty much promised that when I married him, but in reality, when I'm hanging in the air by a rope and he's pretty much in control of my fate, I was a tad nervous about the whole situation and till death do us part seemed entirely probable. I kid, but I was nervous.  It didn't help matters that images of Vertical Limit were swirling through my mind.  So as I'm hanging off this wall, above our little class, I'm picturing Chris O'Donnell hanging from a cliff trying to decide whether or not to cut the climbing rope that holds his entire family and let his father fall to his death or risk all three of their lives testing the strength of the rope.  I scare myself sometimes, but yes, this is what I was thinking about.

Turns out that the instructor was right and the whole system did lower me safely and comfortably to the ground. Who knew? After that, it was my turn to belay Jackson.  He quickly scaled the wall - his height was in his favor on that one, but even he looked a little nervous putting his life in my hands as I lowered him down to the floor. I guess we both have some trust issues.  The other couple got to practice as well and soon we were released to go forth and climb.  We made our way downstairs to the "big" walls and looked for some easier paths for me to start out with. I slowly built up some confidence, I think lacking an audience made it a little easier.

We had company soon after.  Jackson's good friend, Matt and his younger brother, Tim, joined us and because Tim was too young to belay, we all took turns climbing.  I was still a bit nervous for the first half of our outing, but all it took was a fall to calm my fears.  On one particular trail, I was reaching above me and stretched a little too far and lost my footing, instead of careening to my death, as I had feared, I was just hanging there -like on a tire swing- waiting for Jackson to lower me to the floor.  With my fears conquered, I couldn't climb enough and I became more adventurous in my choices/grips/leaps.  Hence my earlier spiderman reference.  I do have a few suggestions for anyone interested in trying out the rock wall.  It's best to cut your nails before climbing, otherwise the wall will cut them for you, and by cut, I mean break, every manicured finger nail. Take your time, your arms will tire quickly. Get a chalk bag, your hands are not used to gripping in such a manner. And, most importantly, do not allow the rock wall to make you believe you have conquered your fear of heights.  As many of you will have read in the last post, without that lovely harness and belay device, you're going to realize how high up you are and how far you have to fall.

I'll definitely be headed back to the Central Rock Gym.  Two very enthusiastic thumbs up in Worcester's favor.

Until next time....
<3 K

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