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Location #2: RUSSIA

Written on September 9, 2013 at 9:05 am , by

Washing in the lake is the closest thing to showering at the end of the day. Photo by Jon Glassberg/LT11.

Washing in the lake is the closest thing to showering at the end of the day. Photo by Jon Glassberg/LT11.

Rock climber Paige Claassen recaps her second stop on the Marmot Lead Now Tour, a global tour to inspire people through rock climbing and raise $120,000 for charity organizations.

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By Paige Claassen

When I arrived in Russia, stereotypes plagued my expectations, planting images in my mind of tanks driving down the highway and peasants standing in line for bread rations. But the Russia I encountered was very different from the Russia in my mind. People smiled. Beautiful moss carpeted forests of pines and lakes marked the land. Signs in an alphabet I didn’t understand led me down dirt roads, further into the isolated forest that held my home for the next three weeks, a farmhouse with no running water or electricity.

Meanwhile, I also had a fear that — due to different food and an interrupted workout schedule — I would loose the fitness I had worked so hard to build in South Africa.

These fitness concerns waxed and waned over the following days. My new farm family spoke no English, but I took comfort in their openness to share the country life. We picked berries and mushrooms in the forest and plucked potatoes and carrots from the garden.

Picking berries in the forest just behind the farmhouse. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Picking berries in the forest just behind the farmhouse. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

The Russian family out for a day of spectating while Paige climbs. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

The Russian family out for a day of spectating while Paige climbs. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

“This will work!” coaxed my mind, assured that these familiar, homegrown health foods would keep my muscles strong and lean, the necessary combination for me to climb at my limit. However, Babushka (the Russian grandmother of the house) cooked and recooked everything I ate for the next three weeks in lard. My heart sank as I politely consumed her oily meals, feeling my fitness wash away.

Wandering through the forest one day, I stumbled upon a short climbing route that was protected from the torrential rains. The characters inked into the bottom of the cliff told me this route, named Catharsis, was more difficult than any I had tried before.  With nothing to loose, I gave it a try anyway. Over the next three weeks, I sorted out the moves that had thwarted the efforts of countless men. In ten years, only one climber had completed Catharsis. My goal was to be the second.

Paige attempts Catharsis, the most difficult route at Triangular Lake. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige attempts Catharsis, the most difficult route at Triangular Lake. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

In the end, I came heart-breakingly close to finishing Catharsis, but I ran out of time before I could link through the final move without falling. I felt physically and mentally exhausted. While I didn’t achieve my goal, I found myself stronger and fitter than when I arrived in Russia. I realized that although the my diet and training are crucial to my performance, the true determining factor is motivation. If I push past my own boundaries and try my absolute hardest, I will improve as an athlete. Despite the short-term letdown of leaving Catharsis behind as an unconquered pest, I’m confident that I gave the route everything I had. In this, I am triumphant.

To get involved and donate online to Paige’s cause in Russia, visit http://www.crowdrise.com/Leadnowtourrussia

Check back next month for a video and update about Location #3. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Russia. FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .