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An Open Letter to My Tendons and Ligaments, Which I Have Wronged

The author was mean to his body in the worst ways. But is he really sorry?

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Look, I’ve made mistakes. I’ve irritated you, haven’t listened to you, ignored you. If I’m being honest, I’ve been down-right abusive. This isn’t a new development. This behavior has been going on for 11 years now—since I first started climbing and continuing up to today. It was wrong, I know that. You, my tendons and ligaments, deserve better. You’ve always been there for me, nestled under my skin and subcutaneous fat, attached to my bones and muscle, ready to support me in any situation. I owe you all an apology.

To my flexor tendons that attach at my medial epicondyle in my right arm, I’m sorry. I didn’t know better. I was a new climber. I was over-stoked about gym bouldering. I didn’t understand that I shouldn’t pull as hard as I could with my arms on every move. No one had told me not to ignore the dull ache in my inner elbow and climb until it was too painful to pull a single move. I didn’t consider your feelings at all, until you were very, very, very upset with me. At the time I thought you were being unreasonable, but I now understand that it was the only way you could get my attention.

To my A2 pulley in my left ring finger, I’m sorry. I pushed you too hard. I wanted to continue trying that roof problem with the pinch over and over until the gym closed. You remember, that one that was at my limit, that I kept throwing myself at? Where I really had to bare down on that hold as hard as I could? And I kept going for it despite negative progress? I think that problem had blue tape. It seems obvious now, but I shouldn’t have done that to you. I understand why you finally snapped and then refused to climb with me for two months.

To my collateral ligament in my right middle finger, I’m sorry. I didn’t consider your feelings. It was my first overhung outdoor route. The moves were too hard for me, but I thought I had to clean the anchor. I could only do two moves at a time, and then rope stretch would drop me back below them, so I’d try them over and over until I could get through three moves and finish one move ahead. I did give up, but not before stretching you to your limit (and it turned out I didn’t even need to clean the anchor). That was wrong of me. I now understand how much of a burden I was putting on you. Also, I shouldn’t have gone to that chiropractor who needled you, wrapped you in kinesiotape, then told me you were fine. You deserved a real doctor.

To the labrum in my hip, I’m not sorry. That was genetic.

To the sheaths of the flexor tendons in my middle and ring fingers on both hands and my left index finger. I’m sorry. I didn’t listen to you. I was coming back from hip surgery and wanted to get back in shape. I didn’t realize you would’ve preferred to take it slow when I went from sitting on the couch for six months to climbing five days a week and hangboarding twice a week. I could tell it made you sensitive. Left ring finger told me so, but I ignored it. I figured you’d still want to project the hardest route that I’d redpointed pre-surgery with me. Yeah, left middle finger spoke up too at that point—but we re-redpointed the route, didn’t we? And then right middle finger started screaming after I got home and decided that I should still hangboard because it was hangboard day. And I didn’t want to, but I thought about that scene in Free Solo where Alex Honnold hangboards after free soloing El Capitan because it was hangboard day, and I used that for inspiration. I hangboarded and you hurt for the first couple reps, but then chilled out. So I thought it wasn’t a big deal. Then I tried to dial it back after that and focus on easy trad climbing. But then left index finger was taking on all the work so the other fingers could rest then got really upset halfway up Cob Rock’s North Face Center today. Five of you are yelling at me now.

I’m not proud. I’ve wronged each of you, and you’ve made it clear. I’m sorry. I will give you all a break after my trip to Red Rock next week. I know, I know, but I already booked the campsite. It’s just one more week. You can handle climbing every day for one more week. Oh, then after that I still want to get on my sport project while we still have fall temps. Winter will be here soon and then I’ll take a break for real. I promise. It’d be a shame to waste the winter training season …