Flames erupted through my lower body, shooting from my calf to halfway up my back.
I'd been training pretty hard lately to get back into shape - every day at least 15 minutes of exercise, closer to an hour most days. I'd mix up the form, a little walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or training with weights. Now I was having a masseuse in Hong Kong break up the lactic acid and knots in my muscles, and I cried out when she dug her elbow into my already tender thigh.
Focus. Focus. I read a lot of history, and greatly admire the warriors that wouldn't cry out even when wounded or being interrogated. I was just reading a story a samurai who faced torture for a day straight without crying out once.
I try to go into my head, separate the pain from myself. Like I'm sitting on top of a cliff and watching pain battle my body down in a valley below. I do roughly the same thing towards the end of a workout when things start to hurt - I don't try to tune it out. I observe it. I try to enjoy it - time is slowing down and becoming harder? That's good, it means I get to experience more time. And the hurt is proof I'm alive.
I do the same if I'm ever feeling sad - I try to reflect and appreciate the sadness. It's an emotion, it's something natural to be felt, and can be enjoyed like a bitter type of food or an acidic glass of wine. It burns a little, but acknowledging transforms it in a way. Instead of something to be fought, it can be accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated for what it is.
So I observe the pain, as something almost apart from the conscious me. Yes, my body is reacting. This is a warning mechanism to keep me safe. But it's mis-firing right now, because I'm treating my body well. I observe the pain and become still, and it's almost enjoyable. I tell the masseuse to go a bit harder, and she does. My muscles loosen, unclench.
I slept like a baby last night, and I'm sore but feeling strong today. Sensations don't rule me, nor do they have to be fought against. Observe. It passes. Breathe. Strength.
March 10, 2010. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Late morning.
I pulled on my swim trunks, trainers, and a tank top and walked out of my little guesthouse room, sliding through the cramped restaurant strewn with tables, and out into the hot, dusty air of Phnom Penh. It's a hot day. It'll be good to swim after lifting weights.
I said, "No no, thank you" to the tuk-tuk drivers offering to take me somewhere in the city, pushed through the little crowd, and out onto the street. The streets in Cambodia more resemble alleyways than streets, and I navigate around people and vehicles.
I went down to the end of the street, turned left, and skirted along close to the local restaurants, half-tent half-storefront type places to get food. I stepped into the crosswalk, the Hotel Cambodiana rising in front of me. I check right and then left, and I watch left as I cross, watching for oncoming traffic.
A loud scream rings out. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Being high up in the air isn't a problem until the wind starts blowing.
Then the dance begins -- your mind rebels, and you have to do everything you can to not get sucked down into it.
The veteran climbers at The Gunks in Upstate New York have adjusted, but it's my first climb outdoors.
We wanted a 5.3 difficulty climb, but birds were nesting. So we're on a 5.6 called "High Exposure" -- a fitting description.
Adrenalin and bravado are a potent mix, and the first two-thirds of the climb were uneventful. Pleasant, a walk in the park. I'm a natural for this stuff. If I dropped 10 kilos, I could be a a pretty great climber. This is easy.