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who is on the MAC climbing team. “When she joined last September, I began taking the women’s rock climbing class so I could appreciate what she was learning and doing,” she says. She now climbs with her daughter or friends whenever possible. Siegel found similar inspiration. “My eldest daughter tried rock climbing when she was around 6 ½, and I kept looking at the wall wondering what it would be like,” she says. One of the instructors convinced her to try it. “I am pretty competitive and kept challenging myself to do better and better,” she says. She now takes two classes a week.

As far as rock climber Kathy Lommen, center, is concerned, there’s no reason someone approaching age 40 can’t become competitive in a new sport. Kristina Durant, left, and Joanne Siegel found inspiration to Climb by watching their children participate.

again, climbing seemed different and inter- esting and it looked like a great workout.” During her high school years, Lommen was a gymnast and a high jumper. She picked up running in her 20s. “I’ve always been the adventurous type and am willing to try new things, so I think rock climbing was a natural fit for me,” she says. “I was watching one of my kids climb in a camp and thought it looked like some- thing I would enjoy,” she adds. “Junior Sports Manager Dan Baggett told me about the women’s class, and the class time worked perfectly in my day’s schedule.” Lommen began climbing once a week in the fall of 2008. For her 40th birthday in 2009, she received an REI gift card, which she used to buy her own shoes and harness. That summer, she began climbing twice a week.

“One of the great things about climbing is the class is taught by two wonderful guys with extensive knowledge of climbing and general fitness,” Lommen says. “Michael Brown has a series of conditioning exer-

cises called “Fun times with Michael” we do during the climbing class. In addition, Peter Julia started structuring workouts on Wednesdays (I call them Butt-Kicking Wednesdays) designed to increase our fitness and get to the next level of climbing. Those workouts have dramatically increased my strength and conditioning.” Lommen tested her skills in the MAC Long Haul Climbing Competition in March. “Once I committed to doing it, I was so nervous. I hadn’t competed in anything since I ran Hood to Coast about 15 years ago,” she says. “I was surprised there were no other masters athletes.” Lommen was joined by two other MAC climbers who learned the sport after turning 40: Kristina Durant and Joanne Siegel.

“I keep saying the competitors went from age 7 to high school age, then a huge gap and the three ‘old ladies,’” Lommen says. “But we swept our age group.” Durant found the inspiration to learn rock climbing after watching her daughter,

Lommen has faced few obstacles during her stretch as a rock climber, mostly in regards to scheduling. “I also had some bursitis in my shoulder which impeded my progress for a while,” she says. “I always thought that was an old person’s issue, but I guess if the shoe fits. I have definitely gotten stronger and think I’m more fit now than I’ve ever been.” Siegel has faced physical barriers as well. “My body doesn’t overcome injuries like it did in the past,” she says. “It is much easier to pull a muscle or hurt myself at 43 than it was at 23.”

All three women say one of the benefits of learning a new sport has been the friends they’ve made. “The climbing community is friendly and easy-going,” Durant says.

“I have been inspired by the people I meet and regularly climb with, as well as the instructors and staff,” Siegel says. “Because of the new sport and the friends I have made, I have competed in the MAC Decathlon for the last two years.” As far as Lommen is concerned, there’s no reason someone approaching age 40 can’t become competitive in a new sport. “Just give it a try; there is nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she says. “If you want to compete, just go for it,” Durant says. “Don’t wait until you think you are ‘good enough.’ There are many rewards, even if you don’t place.” Siegel says she never thought she would take up rock climbing at age 41, much less compete in any sport in her 40s. Her advice to fellow members is the same advice she gives her daughters: “What’s the worst thing that can happen? The only one who misses out is you.” WM

AUGUST 2010 | The Wınged M | 39

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