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So far on the tour, morale is good. Romania, Switzerland and France have all provided great learning and a healthy balance between work and play. This is not to say that I haven’t been swallowing my fair share of disappointment, but I am coming to learn that disappointment is more common than righteousness or pure joy in competition climbing. If you cannot accept disappointment most of the time, this is a really rocky road. I feel I create a pearl of wisdom each time I fail and this, in itself is rewarding.
Here are some of my pearls:
- Nose breathe. This is from my dear friend and mentor, Kim Csizmazia. Apparently there are physiological reasons for nose breathing, but for me, I think it’s a way of creating a mental focus and being less distracted.
- One move at a time. This is from the young, but wise Emily Harrington. She uses this in competition, along with the big picture knowledge that this is just a silly game we play to bring reality into perspective and take the pressure off. I have found this one especially helpful when I start to get goal/outcome focused during my climb.
- “1st time!” This is what I say to myself when going for a bigger dynamic move. Just nail it the first time. This is from the young and powerful Greg Boswell, he kept yelling it to me at the cruxes. It works great.
- Grip less. I remind myself not to over grip, especially on insecure holds or after a slip. Over gripping leads to pumping out way earlier than necessary. Ryan Vachon, who can hold on forever, says release 15%.
- Don’t let your guard down. This lesson I learned most recently in France in the semi-finals. I thought I had a better hold than I did and I let myself relax, as a result I slipped on the hold because I didn’t maintain tension on it. I had just completed some other cruxes and I was too eager to relax on what I thought was a secure hold.
Even though I mostly experience disappointment when I compete, I have now had just enough success that I also visualize winning (for me means making it to finals or topping the route). It’s nice to believe I can clip the chains because it allows me to experience that, if only in fantasy.
One of the hardest things about slipping off a route before you are pumped; there is all this unused energy in your body and your mind. What to do with it!!!???
Luckily, the French team was headed to a small local dry tooling crag only ten minutes from the competition venue. Phew! A place to ‘walk the dog’. I was so grateful to use my muscles and spirit to climb a few routes and to remember why I am competing. I love climbing, so to travel the world and only climb for a couple minutes can be very frustrating to say the least.
I watched competitors way better than me fall off unexpectedly low on the route. It can happen to the best.
The lessons learned in competition climbing are hard knocks, but you don’t forget them. A recreational climber may learn them eventually or not at all. So in summary, I am suggesting that it can be a grueling, but effective way of improving your climbing ability.
I now look forward to the competitions, instead of dreading the disappointment, I hope for the rewards of success or at least, another lesson to put towards the ultimate goal of summiting a route!