Today I bought myself a little early present. My first pair of climbing shoes.

I’ve been using the bouldering cave at the gym for the past couple months, once a week or so, trying to get my running shoes and hiking boots to stick to the wall. They really aren’t meant to work for it, and they really don’t.

But the experience of trying gave me the confidence to invest in a pair of shoes that will work. The first time I went on the wall, I was laughing at myself and my inability to do more than cling to the most handle-like protrusions. Every time I tried to get higher, my feet would slide and I would panic and just give up.

But I kept at it. I tried again, and did a little better. I switched from running shoes to hiking boots, which were actually better than the running shoes. See, the shoes are smaller, they flex more, but the soles might as well be coated in teflon for all they could stick to the wall, while the boots, while a lot bigger, were made for walking on rocks (and dirt and whatever), so they were better able to cling.

And every time, I found myself trying something different, getting a little bit higher, moving on the wall with more confidence, and jumping down instead of falling off.

Today, after I bought the shoes, I did a two mile run (in 19:46!), and then I went to the wall again.

It was amazing.

All those little tiny “rocks” that I could never get any purchase on were suddenly useful. I could feel secure with my footholds instead of wondering if the sole was about to slide out when I tried to step up on it. I found myself forcing reaches that my arms insisted they couldn’t do, making my right hand hold the weight my legs didn’t have while I reached over with my left for a new hold (uttering a primal grunt really helped). I couldn’t (and can’t) get the smile off of my face.

Next up: getting myself belay certified and going for the big wall.

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