Friday, May 8, 2009

eye of the tiger/thrill of the fight

I've opted not to go to nationals, so competition season is over for me. Now I get to switch over to weekend trips to the Valley and "training" at the gym for next season! In the meantime, and mostly for posterity, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to record my comp experience event by event. Here goes nothing...

Our first comp of the season was at UC Davis, and we had a pretty good team turnout. Seven or eight competitors, if I remember correctly. This was also my first comp ever, attending or participating.
At this event, I learned the importance of pace. Four hours seems like a long time, and I've been known to enjoy gym sessions even longer than that, but four hours at or near your limit is a different story. At the gym, I project. I play. I rarely send, but it doesn't matter. At a comp, it's different. I may play on V4s and 5s at the gym, but throwing yourself at a problem in a comp setting only wears you out. I learned this the hard way. (Trying to use a huge bowl at the top of a toprope route as a sloper because your fingers are too tired isn't stylish. Or classy. Or easy.)
I finished fourth. BARELY. We're talking I was the last one on the wall, had one last chance to send, I was exhausted. But that last was poetry. Every part of my body knew where to be, I felt strong, I felt fluid...a SEND. I didn't even feel the flapper I got on the last try. I didn't care how I placed at that point. I finished.
And then, when the team dropped me off at my parents' place on the way back down the highway and my dad took me to the hot tub at his health club the next morning...and he told his friends that his daughter was a climber and just finished her first competition...I felt like I was twelve, not twenty-two--but in a good way.

Incline Village/Sierra Nevada College
I'm just gonna come straight out and say it...this was my least favorite comp. Not only was I not with it, but the atmosphere wasn't as good as the others.
Let's start with my pre-comp status. I was fighting an infection where my new ear piercing had gotten all gross, which made it impossible to sleep for longer than two hours at a stretch because it was so painful. Two consecutive nights of this is never good for a body. Factor in the borderline-excess amount of ibuprofen I was taking that probably wasn't helping my digestive system at all and you have a recipe for yuck.
However, I was not to be deterred, even when almost all of my teammates bailed on the comp last-minute when they found out it was a five hour drive. Bring on the alpine start, the meeting in the supermarket parking lot in the dead of night and hitting the highway long before sunrise. At least I didn't have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel--my ear hurt too much.
Now for the scoring...the object at this comp was to climb as much as you could in the four hours of competition. Volume, not difficulty. Immediately, I decided to play all day. There was no way I'd do well. I played on the finger crack (yum!) and the hand crack multiple times. I was not surprised at all when I didn't place (nor was I disappointed when I checked results on the CCS site later and I came in ninth. out of ten.)
The highlight of this trip was the drive and the fact that we stopped at my parents' for dinner on the way home. I spent ten hours on the road with two of my best guy climber friends, talking climbing. I'm pretty sure I wear out my welcome with my non-climbing friends because I can't stay away from talking about it, but I've never felt so much like I belonged as I did in the car with those two. I did have to stop for coffee twice on the way home, but we made it. In one piece.

Favorite. Comp. Of. The. Season. I drove, again, because our "coach" had just gotten off a twelve hour shift at the hospital and was in no shape to drive three hours.
I can distinctly remember all five routes that counted for my score:
First there was the stemmy one upstairs that Casey said didn't count since I smeared more than I used the holds. My strength is flexibility, and I used it. You can't say it doesn't count because I essentially did the splits. That's my business. I stayed on route.
Then there was the crazy one that involved pinching a doorframe that took me like four tries, but was so fun it was worth it.
Downstairs, I tried a few of the overhanging routes but nothing clicked, so I spent my energy on the slab. Two surprising sends later, I headed back upstairs for another gazillion goes at the prow with the dyno to the top.
Now, this route had all of us fixated. It was worth a lot of points and wasn't a really difficult route, except for the last darn move. You're sprawled across this prow and the only way to top out is throw your body at the slope-y top of the wall. Each fall counts against your score, but you get so close you don't want to give up. After I finally got it, I called it a day and turned in my card, then headed downstairs and outside for a beer.
That's right, they had beer. Sierra Nevada, to be exact. At the comp. And hamburgers. And veggie burgers. It was delicious.
Then we congregated outside for the "speed bouldering" on the side of the building. That was fun. Who doesn't like to scramble up a building to hit a cymbal then drop fifteen feet onto a three-foot crash pad. (I still have a scar on my toe.)
After the awards (I got third!) we got full reign on the gymnastics studio. To a former gymnast, this is heavenly. A foam pit, a bounce house, bars, beams, a's like a playground!
Even the drive home was nice. I climbed into bed happy and tired that night.

My home gym. Where I've spent countless hours shirking responsibility, avoiding homework, laughing, playing, and probably even sleeping. I was mostly excited to have all my new comp friends come visit, nevermind that we were going to climb together all day. (And the fact that the REI used gear sale was the same day which meant I'd be spending the night before the comp outside REI didn't bother me one bit.)
The comp went okay...I wasn't bouldering well that day. My one flowy, lovely, good-feelings route was a balance-y toprope. And it was green holds--my favorite color. I finished enough to complete my card, then spent the last hour and a half teaching the Sonoma girls the basics of crack climbing. I'm still a crack novice myself, but I aim to convert as many as I can, since it is my favorite.
While they were scoring the cards, we had a slackline competition. The only thing I like almost as much as climbing is slacklining, so this was good for me. I also got to debut the one cool trick I know--splits on the slackline. A girl's gotta have some tricks to keep up with the boys who do all the crazy backflips and jumping things.
We did enjoy some delicious Lucky Charms pizza (don't ask) before the awards ceremony. The gym was super-full of people, all my favorites, too--you know, the people I climb with almost on a daily basis. Good feelings were had by all.
Another third (!) place finish (in my category) was nice, but it was even cooler that one of my friends took second, because she doesn't realize how naturally talented and strong she really is.
And the next day I left for my Arizona-Colorado trip...can't beat that weekend, not for someone who loves more than anything else: climbing, traveling, and hugging.

Regionals. Five full-size people, crammed into my tiny little Civic for a four hour drive up the state.
The facility was okay. It was super tiny for a crowd of our size, but it was good. I climbed okay, but was more interested in doing headstands and handstands and backwalkovers than getting frustrated with myself. I decided to go with the flow of the day and choose my attitude instead of getting down on myself for not climbing superhard. I had a couple good sends and a few fun almost-sends.
We stopped for fish and chips on the way out of town, opting not to go to the after party on account of the four hour drive home. This alleged four hour drive turned out to be an epic, and we didn't get home until midnight. There was the 2+ hours of traffic, the lost wallet...but it was pleasant. I wouldn't choose anyone else to have done it with. Four of my dearest friends who have come to feel like family.

Now for the cool part. According to the scoring done at regionals, I was maybe 5th for the comp and 4th for the season. Respectable. Exciting, even. But, when I checked the results this week, I realized they had not calculated correctly that day and I was 2nd instead. For about three nanoseconds I was disappointed about this not being caught actually at the comp, but then I was elated. Who cares? I can still get jazzed. Heck, I am jazzed! Jazzed so much so that the day I found out, later that night I sent two of my hardest bouldering routes.

Here's to next year!


  1. CONGRATS!!!

    (uhm, but I demand a glossary... there's so many terms I don't know!)

  2. which ones? you list, I'll define. :D

  3. Let's see... ALL of them? Except for maybe crack climbing?

  4. hahaha. um...I'm gonna need you to be more specific.

  5. brenda elizabethMay 8, 2009 at 5:03 PM

    Oh, my gosh -- so much climberjargon, I feel like I only really understood about 40% of this...but I loved reading it anyway :) I'm so happy you're so happy. Congrats, again!

  6. sonoma was legendary. i love you!

  7. That's awesome!!! Congrats!