Real Life

So I am finally sitting down and writing. I have been putting this off for quite some time now through fear of sounding like I am moaning and complaining. But that’s pretty much exactly what I am about to do. I try to be as honest as possible with my blog posts and this is the reason I have been reluctant to write. Over the past few months I have been struggling with niggles and injuries. Some small and simply irritating and others leaving me unable to climb at all.

My life has been incredibly fast paced this year. With my busiest competition season to date and my attempts to squeeze in as much rock climbing as possible I didn’t have much time to do anything else. Especially not get injured. The World Cup season was incredibly intense. 8 World Cups in just 11 weeks! Countless hours spent travelling and on the go. I think it would be hard not to get worn out or injured. We demand a lot from our bodies over the World Cup period. Thankfully I didn’t get any serious injuries during the season, just little niggles that were mildly hindering and irritating.

After the World Cup season finished I escaped to Magic Wood. Although the bad weather there was incredibly frustrating it actually allowed me to take a good chunk of rest. We only managed to climb on 6 of the 14 days we spent in Switzerland. I returned to the UK excited by my achievements on rock in that time but I was also massively unmotivated to train again. I worked hard with my coach to break down the World Cup season, clear my head and focus again. With the help of my training partner I found my psyche and felt ready to prepare for the World Championships. It was the last big comp of the year and my enthusiasm to train was back in full force. My first session back on the training plan brought all of my positivity, motivation and psyche to it’s highest high until one move flipped everything. It was a really hard shoulder move and I came up a little short for the next hold. As my feet hit the mat an unfamiliar sensation of discomfort began to pulse in my shoulder. As the evening progressed so did my frustration and the pain.

This was exactly 3 weeks before the World Championships. I spent every minute doing everything possible to try and promote healing. I saw my physiotherapist every few days and got massages from my sport therapist as often as possible. Initially I was unable to move my arm without pain. I couldn’t even lift a glass of water! There is no nice way to put it. Dealing with injury sucks! It’s like someone putting all of your emotions in a mixer and putting it on full speed. I went from positive, happy, cheery Shauna to negative, grumpy, teary Shauna multiple times every day. Each morning meant it was one day closer to the World Championships. I felt like my life was on fast forward. The event got closer and closer way too quickly. Some days I made progress and other days I would push it too far with my rehab exercises and take a step backwards. It was an agonising and tormenting process.

My coach was involved in every aspect. Taking time to attend physiotherapy appointments with me, meeting with my sports therapist and talking to me every day. I am incredibly lucky to have someone so dedicated and passionate to help me through the hard times. I appreciate that many people don’t have this luxury. But I was the only person who knew how it felt. The big decision was left until the very last minute. To compete or not… Together we made the decision to go.

I had not appreciated how much all of this played with my head. Thinking back now I feel rather stupid that I assumed I could turn up after 3 weeks off, with an injury and expect perform at my best. I knew I could climb. It was painful and irritating but I was strong and capable so I knew I could do the boulders. Before I injured my shoulder I was at my strongest and fittest. I was climbing well and most importantly I felt good. It was not my physical state that hindered me. 3 weeks is not long. I didn’t lose much strength or fitness but I had not prepared for the psychological effects.

This injury was simply unlucky. I don’t think it could have been avoided. I just got into an awkward position and pushed it a little too hard. I have thought a lot about how and why this happened but I have finally accepted that it was just unfortunate. I think this actually makes it even more frustrating! It was unavoidable. The weeks following Munich were full of ups and downs too. I had to take more time off, get more treatment and continue rehab. To make things worse the weather in the UK was amazing and all I wanted to do was get out and potter on the grit. I remained positive. I was determined to get fixed up and find my love for climbing again. I had some really fun sessions outside jumping around on slabs and doing some easy classics with Ned before I turned my attention to competing at my very last event of the year, Adidas Rockstars.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about going to another competition. I was ready to welcome the end of the season with open arms. Embrace the break and not worry about all of the pressures and stress that are unavoidable in competition climbing. I was scared that I wouldn’t be in the right mind set for Adidas Rockstars. However, my fear was replaced with relief as the invigorating buzz of excitement and anticipation hit me on my journey to the airport. The very last competition of the year and the very best event too! Adidas Rockstars isn’t like other competitions. It’s at a whole new standard. From the moment the athletes arrive they are treated like rockstars. Or how I imagine rockstars are treated. You get put up in the Hilton, with treats waiting for you in your room, a huge goody bag when you register and you are fed and watered throughout the entire weekend.

The day before the event I headed out with some fellow Adidas athletes to check out some of the local bouldering spots. An abrupt end to my session came when I jumped off a boulder and rolled my ankle. I cannot thank Adidas enough for how they handeled with the situation. Within a couple of hours I’d been x-rayed, scanned and diagnosed by the doctors at the local Sports Clinic: Partial ligament ruptures, lots of pain and a big blue ankle. I sat on the bed and felt a rush of relief as they told me it wasn’t broken. But then it was time to try and stand on it… Tears ran down my face and eventually pain won over my determination. I left the clinic on crutches. I was to have my ankle strapped up the next morning. If I could take the pain I could climb.

I woke on the morning of the competition determined. My first challenge was to get to the bathroom without crutches. It took a while but I managed it. The day before I had met with my good friend John Ellison. John founded the charity Climbers Against Cancer after being diagnosed with terminal cancer 2 years ago. John suffers every minute of every day. How could I complain about a sore ankle! I headed into the competition with a smile on my face ready to give whatever I had. The competition was great! Despite not being able to push myself or try as hard as I would have liked to, I had so much fun.

Another Competition over. Another year of competition climbing done. Another injury… I was heading home with yet another injury to deal with. My confidence and positivity were dwindling and I was left wondering what I did to deserve such an unlucky streak. I am really quite good at looking at the positives and accepting the negatives but I can only keep my brave face on for so long. All I want to do right now is go climbing. All I ever want to do is go climbing. There is no magic to dealing with injury. We all know exactly what we are supposed to do with regards to rehab and staying positive but sometimes that is just hard. I am lucky to have so many other things to keep myself occupied. With the Women’s Climbing Symposium coming up this weekend I don’t have much time to think about anything other that the event. Of course I am squeezing in time to do my rehab exercises, ice and elevate 🙂

Right. Apologies for my moan and grumble. I promise I am finished now. I know it’s not that bad. I have no serious injury. It’s the end of the season. I have no competitions coming up. And surely I am way overdue a lucky/injury free streak? Aren’t I?

I wish all of you suffering from injury a quick speedy recovery!



8 Responses to “Real Life

  • That’s life. We all have off days. Or weeks or months. It’s refreshing to see that professional climbers have the same issues that punters like me have. Hope the ankle is better soon and for the matter that all the other niggles get fixed.

  • I know the feeling, obviously I don’t climb at your level but I love the sport, it’s all I wanna do it sadly a nasty fall a couple of month ago left me with a dislocated knee and 2 torn ligaments. I’ve barely seen a climbing wall since and it’s still very painful. Hope it’s better soon and good luck for the future.

  • Don’t I know what that’s like! You have my full empathy!

  • Hey Shauna,

    I just want to say I’m so sorry about your injuries. I hope you have a speedy recovery and are able to get back doing what you love very soon.

    Stay Psyched,

  • Hope that you have a quick and good recovery, and that we can see you back in action soon. Cheers!

  • Thank you for posting an honest account of the internal struggles of a world class athlete. This is one of those posts that help others who are shown only the package of “success” and buy into the myth that it’s about “Do you want it bad enough” or “Do you love to win/love the sport enough”.

    We can love a goal and we can love the journey with everything we’ve got, and we can still be thwarted because Life happens. We — and our goals and our bodies and our psychologies — are contained in Life, and so our context about “winning” is shaped by what happens along our journey in Life.

    The danger of people not seeing the reality of the struggles and “in spite of” and curve balls is that they assume world class competitors must have constantly positive mindsets and steely resolve, they must rarely if ever face feelings of inadequacy or frustration or negativity. Then, at the first sign of their own frustration or negativity they decide they must not have what it takes to succeed, to move through, to still win on their own terms as well as against an objective metric.

    Anyway… Thank you for showing all the facets of what being a world class competitor is really like.

  • Hope all the niggles heal and you get some good down time.


  • Shauna – thank you for being brave enough to write about your struggles. I’m going through very much the same thing this year. Lots of little nagging injuries and a wrist injury that is recurring. It’s so true how it messes with your emotions. And you’re right that having a coach and other resources is a luxury that is beneficial but I’d say you earned that luxury. I haven’t had that luxury and it’s really taken it’s toll on me. The injuries keep returning or not going away. It’s messed with my head so much that I’m now terrified everytime I get above my gear on even the easiest of routes or even on top rope. I’ve lost all my motivation to train and climb. Climbing has been central to who I am for years now and I don’t know what to do without it. It’s my motivation for everything but now I feel like I’ve lost it. If you have any advice for someone who doesn’t have the option of a coach or physiotherapist I would love to hear it. Right now I’ve just stepped away from it altogether. There’s my moaning and complaining.

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