Melissa Strong: The Life Of A Working Athlete
The life of a working athlete: juggling climbing, work, training, over-training, rest and life.
Bouldering – it is what we do, what we love to do, what we work for, it is our reward, it brings contentment, peace and happiness. When you can’t do what you love, you are just not right, there is something a little off as you go through your day with an uneasy edge. At least that is how I get when I have to rest due to an injury or just cannot climb because of the demands of life.
Sometimes I wish to be one of the uber talented climbers or lucky ones who does not have to work (or crushes for work) dedicating all time of their time to playing, advancing and recovering. We are not. Like many others out there we are the working bees in the climbing/life community. There are plenty of us who have to work to climb, who are super talented climbers finding the difficult balance of working, life, training and climbing. It is a challenge but it is doable. Many of my climbing heroes are cut from the same cloth like Sam Davis who is a master of working hard and crushing.
I am extremely tankful for what I do get from my sponsors, prAna, Organic Climbing, 5.10 and Metolious—some traveling incentive and gear helps keeps the dream alive!
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate my job and the time off I do get. I work with wonderful people in a great environment, bartending and managing at the Dunraven Inn a local, family owned, restaurant in Estes Park who give me 3-4 months off a year. Despite how great of a working environment we have, the summer is our busy season and it gets to you this time of year. The tourist season is booming this year helping our town recover from last September’s flooding. The winter population of Estes Park is around 6,000 but in the summer 30,000-60,000 people jam into our small valley. This influx feeds our economy but it also creates stress with things like the long lines to get into Rocky Mountain National Park, fighting for a parking space at Bear Lake, the over crowded grocery store, people stopping in the middle of the road because they saw an elk, deer, turkey or bear, the constant smile at work explaining for the thousandth time why my arms are so big – yes people really ask that. The 9 hour shifts of running in circles, trying to keep individuals in good spirits who are on the verge of unhappiness, driven crazy to have a ton of fun on their too short vacation, blood sugars dropping, cranky parents, cranky kids– keeping them all satisfied at once is demanding and wearisome. After five insane hectic nights, staying up late to close the restaurant and a week that includes not only these arduous work days but also training for the upcoming triathlon, training for climbing and climbing the prospect of hiking to upper Chaos Canyon on my day off is a hard one. But somehow I muster the gumption usually thanks to the encouragement Adam and haul my ass up there to give my best efforts.
It honestly has been a great summer of finding new projects and feeling strong so I cannot complain despite the tiredness and an issue with my back. One of my summer projects, hifi v11 at Emerald Lake in RMNP, I thought was going to go down quickly until it lead to my back being out of whack. Pushing my body took its toll and the repetitive motion of the first move must have tweaked a muscle in my back pulling it out of alignment. After a painful weekend at work, a few visits to the chiropractor and massage I am able to work without pain, climb tentatively on the right problems and train for the triathlon still. I am not 100% but still climbing strong which makes me psyched to see the power I have gained despite the curve balls life has brought—thanks Steve Maisch and David Mason for the training that has brought me here!!!
The triathlon is a week away! One part of me is excited about a weekend away in Steamboat, a mini vacation with Adam, who is coming to cheer me on, and my friends Liesl and Karla who have been training partners helping me motivate. I feel like I am ready for the event going in with the attitude of having fun. The other part of me is like what the hell are you doing? I laughed hysterically as I donned my first wetsuit and felt like and uncomfortable super hero. Also, I am not one for competitions nor the pressure of performing on a specific day—which is why I think bouldering outdoors is so great you are only competing against yourself. It will be interesting to see how I will operate in that environment. Regardless, I am trying to keep it light and have fun. My goal is not first place and not DFL (dead fucking last). I look at it similar to golf–I like it, it is fun, if I suck there is no need to get upset since this it’s not my thing like climbing is. I will be proud to finish and I am happy for the fitness I gained in the process and will keep on swimming, biking and running for the fun of it. When I take the “have to” out of things they become way more enjoyable. This is an optimistic thought before the event…but I think I will do it again next summer just maybe the one in July so not to pile too many things on my self in August when I feel a bit burnt out.
Here is to wishing the gals and me luck in Steamboat! I am looking forward to an awesome fall (knock on wood) injury free, with no fires, no floods and no government shutdowns, finishing off at least a few summer projects as the temperatures cool and the mosquito’s die!
~Melissa Strong, prAna Ambassador