Beth Rodden - Interview

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Patience with Beth Rodden

 By: Ian Achey

Name: Beth Rodden
Age: 30 (the big 3-0 this year!)
Hometown: Davis, CA
Years Climbing: 16

Hi, Beth! Thanks for sitting down with me today to talk about what’s been going on lately. It’s probably news to some people that you’ve been on the Injured List for a while. What happened?

Seems like I am always on the injured list :) or fighting off some lingering injury, but I guess that becomes the nature of being an athlete for so long. Most recently, I tore the labarum in my shoulder last June (2009).

Ouch! How did it happen? Was this a climbing related injury?

I was warming up on a boulder problem that I had done several times before. The actual move was sort of like a mantel, and I heard a crunch in my shoulder and knew it wasn't good. I've always struggled with rotator cuff issues throughout my career, but have been able to keep them at bay by doing band exercises. And, of course, when I tore my labarum, I hadn't been doing my exercises, which in turn made my shoulder pretty weak. I knew that I had done something different because my shoulder felt pretty loose and unstable, which had never happened before.

You’ve told me you’re slowly recovering and are starting to climb again. How long were you off the wall completely?

It's been a long road so far. Initially, I took a couple of months off of climbing thinking that maybe there was a chance that it would heal by itself, or I could strengthen the shoulder enough to be able to avoid injury. I even went to South Africa for a six-week trip. By September I think I was back to around 70% with some types of climbing (vertical, non shouldery climbing), but still fairly weak with steep and overhanging climbing. But honestly I was pretty encouraged in some respects. But then in the first week of October, I hurt my pulley in my left index finger. I was pretty demoralized, nursing one injury and making progress, and then having an entirely new injury put me on the sidelines. After an MRI on my finger and much consideration, I figured by the time I let my finger heal, maybe I should just fix my shoulder and have a winter of injury healing. So, I think the last time I climbed before now was in October! It’s definitely the longest time I’ve gone without climbing.

Did you pick up any new hobbies when you couldn’t climb? What did you do with yourself when you were unable to climb?

For the first month I was pretty much useless. I would go on walks and eat copious amount of baked goods to somehow make myself feel better. But later in my recovery I adopted a dog from the rescue, which was great to help me get out and get back in shape. Hmmm, as far as other hobbies, I think I just did what I normally did, minus climbing. I ended up spending a lot of time in the Bay area, so I got to explore a new city and community which was really fun. I hiked in the mountains, traveled for slideshows, and really got into baking :) which is always fun.

Going from the top of the game to the sidelines has to be frustrating yet you’ve managed to stay psyched and positive through all of it. Do you really have infinite patience or do you get discouraged?

I've definitely had my moments, far more than most people would think, but fortunately they've been reserved for close friends and family. I'm sure if they were being interviewed, they could tell you that I've had a hard time with it. I think it's hard for any athlete (professional or not) not to be able to get to do what they love and be forced to take a break. We're wired a little differently, and if we can't get our exercise in, it's rough. I think especially as a professional athlete I also feel a loss of worth when I can't climb, along the lines of 'well, if I can't climb, then what the heck am I doing with my life?' But luckily I've had my fair share of injuries in my career, and I have tried to learn a little patience through it all and realize that I usually come back, it just takes about 100 times longer than I would like. I think also getting a little older, I've realized that climbing for me isn't always about sending the hardest thing all the time. When I was younger, if I would miss a training day, or a climbing opportunity, it was very hard on me. But now, I am getting better at seeing climbing fit into my life as a whole, seeing it as a lifelong thing, and if I don't climb something hard all the time, it's okay, there's other ways to be involved in the community than just climbing.

You started climbing again recently and have been bouldering V0’s and climbing 5.10. It’s amazing how motivated you’ve been despite the less than world-class grades you’ve been putting up. This seems to be clear-cut proof that you truly love climbing for the sake of climbing.

I know, I am a lifer. I love climbing so much, that even if I can only go out and climb easy things; I am always going to do it. I love being able to go out into the mountains and experience them through climbing, or experience travel through climbing. I think as climbers we are very lucky to be able to have that. Even going into the climbing gym, it's a way to see my friends and get to be with them in a collaborative way, which is always great. And I know that it's inevitable that at some point I'm not going to be able to climb 5.14 or be at the top of the game. Each generation gets stronger and stronger and pushes the sport higher and higher, which is amazing. I’m just psyched to try and push myself to my limit, and even if that isn't at the top anymore, I'm still not going to stop.

Have you had major injuries in the past that have taken you out of climbing? If yes, how does the recovery process compare and what are the major challenges you face with this injury?

I had chronic foot injury for a year or so, which was pretty difficult to deal with. But, I was still able to go into the gym and climb one footed, which kept my sanity around for a little while. But with that injury I was a horrible patient, I even came into Sportiva and had them put sticky rubber on my boot! :) And then I've also been battling with finger ligament issues for the past five years or so. It started happening doing hard, overhanging finger cracks, and tweaking my fingers sideways. I've tried to let those heal, but I'd be lying if I said I've been avoiding ring locks ever since. But again, I was able to run, lift weights, ride my bike, etc. during that injury. With my shoulder I literally was a vegetable, no running, no biking, no lifting weights for a while, which was really rough.

With all this time to think while you’re recovering, the tick-list must be growing. What are your climbing goals for when you’re back to 100%?

Oh man, well I really want to do some of the Sierra Peaks this summer, they seem very inviting. But when I am back to 100%? Hmm, I'd love to finish up Ahab... don't laugh. It's been an epic battle for me, and I need strong shoulders to do it! :)

What advice would you give to a climber who is dealing with an injury? Do you have any beta for preventing injuries in general or use/do something in particular to help you recover?

Patience. I know I'm not the best with it, not even close, but just try and think of the whole picture. If you still want to be climbing and trying your hardest when you are 60 or 70, best to take it easy. I've been trying to be religious about my shoulder band exercises lately. Trying to keep them healthy and strong.

Top 5 inspirational songs that get you pumped up and motivated to climb. Go!

This is going to expose my inner workings, yikes! These are what are on my shuffle right now, but it changes ALL the time.
1. Square Dance - Eminem
2. The Streets - Westside Connection
3. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
4. Any upbeat Ratta tat song
5. 15 Steps – Radiohead

Nice. At least one of those is on my all-time list as well! Well, Beth that’s all I have for now. Thanks for taking the time, it’s always a pleasure catching up with you. Keep us posted as you recover and best of luck to you getting back to your prime!

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