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Refreshed from Spain

02 Apr 2014

For a long time now I didn’t feel like writing any kind of blog. It’s not cool is it to ‘complain’ or ‘moan’ but the reality is that’s what I felt like doing. This last winter has been really hard for me. I spent most of it ill with, once again, multiple chest infections. I was in fact permanently ill from mid December to mid February: countless antibiotics and to some extent a low lying depression wondering when I was ever going to get over it. Last winter was much the same and I knew there was a bigger problem.

Yes it’s hard work being a mum, working and all that, and some people suggested to me that’s all I was going through. But few people knew what was really going on behind the scenes and I knew there was something really wrong. My Dad generously paid for me to see a specialist since the NHS one was nigh on useless. It seems that due to having whooping cough as a child the damage that is caused at that time, can later in life cause problems, not always, but it does happen. Bronchiectasis is what I have, meaning my airways are dilated and the sputum just sits there unable to come out and rid my body of infection. This is permanent and requires daily chest physio and a long term, low dose antibiotic. The situation is far from great, but at least I am now finally better.

I was unable to climb much for the whole winter period, in a constant state of fatigue. Any effort to climb with the slightest exertion just meant I would end up in bed with a temperature. Certainly the whole experience has taught me that health is the number one priority in life. If you are healthy you can tackle life’s challenges, but if you’re not, everything feels hard.

I managed somehow to average out one time climbing a week from the start of January, spent where possible doing really low intensity endurance training – I am lucky that’s my weakness. Then fortunately some time towards the end of February, 2 weeks before going to Spain, things were a bit more sorted on the antibiotic front and I finally felt good again, I had forgotten what it was like. My climbing finally took an upturn.

Vanessa climbing the walls

Vanessa with her beloved Ben - yes we have a child that climbs walls

We returned from Margalef on Sunday having had the best time. Our angel, Ben Heason joined us. We wondered seriously how someone would want to spend 2.5 weeks with a high maintenance family. Vanessa is, to say the least, high energy and my and Nic’s stress levels at the start were, shall we say, elevated. If you ask Vanessa what the best thing about the holiday was, she will answer Ben.  He made it our best holiday that we’ve had in some time. He came to the crag every day so that Nic and I could take it in turns to climb and he read stories to Vanessa every night and generally helped take the strain of living with a livewire.  In this way, we could all apply ourselves to climbing. There was only one problem: we were all unbelievably unfit, meaning that we couldn’t fill our available climbing days. Full days were forced into half days; each time we came away battered.

We also found a few other angels out there: Liam, Heather and Johnny all offered babysitting and we used their services to varying success. I won’t go into to the mother of all hangovers, which resulted from our final night out.  

Vanessa Espadelles

Vanessa surveilling what's up ahead (see below) - sorry no pictures of us - just classic parent shots of children only.

What I achieved in Spain, considering the build up, was quite incredible. Like anything, if you look hard enough, there is always a blessing in disguise. Over the last year, in effort to stave off the threat of winter illness, I have tried dietary changes, acupuncture, herbal medicine and meditation. Nothing seemed to make any difference, or so it seemed.  

There is no other explanation for my performance (other than psyche – but I’ve always been good at that) – and that is not eating gluten. It’s the first trip I have ever applied this to, any haven’t been eating much now for months. Onsighting 7b+ and redpointing 7c in a day can only be down to this.  I would never have discovered this if I hadn’t been ill. At the start I was, to be expected, a bit shaky and of course out of practice on rock. But things came together and I literally improved a grade each day I climbed. Despite this I’m still building up my capacity to actually climb much volume and I promptly need a week off.

Vanessa Espadelles swing

Vanessa getting comfortable on 8a - she must have spent an hour swinging.  Couldn't get enough of it!

Without wanted to drone on further – I’m not quite in the clear. I now have a locking elbow problem – all due (according to 2 independent physios) to the fact that my body has, overall, weakened due to total lack of activity over the winter, and my elbow is taking too much strain. A physio in Spain suggested my floppy core might not be helping – something I have not managed to resolve in the last 3 years. Pregnancy and childbirth leave their mark. I gaze enviously at young female climbers with toned bellies (there was one in particular in Spain). So I am now on ‘project six pack’. Hoping I can report back soon.