For a number of reasons it has taken me weeks, well, many extended weeks, to start this blog. First off all , telling folks about my indoor comp life as of late does not really seem that exciting as does talking about my being plagued by a badly behaving shoulder. On top of that writing about my gym climbing abilities or there of lack of seems somewhat like self sabotage which is not really a healthy habit as some wiser folks would point out. Mind you, this post is just about that.
This time of year I am usually walking in the desert sun with fresh air in my face, sore finger tips and a trashed body resulting from a full day out on rock the shade of crimson. However, not this time around. As I sit here in front of a computer, in a warm house, my van sits outside stuck in a pile of snow and ice. The air is fresh, but it is bitter cold. The sun is bright but offers no warmth. I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings yet feel completely at home. On January of this year I decided to spend some time climbing plastic. Though I love the rock, the road, being outside more than anything, too much of a good thing can sometimes be taken for granted. So what a better place to remove myself from such an Eden and do some training than in a gym.
A few months ago I told a friend that I kind of wanted to start climbing inside, train, get stronger and well perhaps start competing. Perhaps a bit late in the game being somewhat of an old bird who is out of practice with the gym let alone competitions but an idea is an idea. My friend nodded her head at the first 3 ideas and paused at the forth. Her reply: ‘well, my only concern is that you have gotten such a good reputation from climbing so strong outside, I am afraid that if you start entering comps and it doesn’t go well, you could possibly tarnish that rep’. This was taken not at all as discouraging but more from another person’s shoes who was looking more at the ‘business side of things’. I didn’t know how to respond exactly as the reason I had the idea was not for the attention but more for the experience. After all, everyone who knows me knows, well to put it in Sunny’s words: “Everyone knows that Thomo isn’t known for her gym climbing sass.” After a few seconds I agreed with my friend but I mentioned that – ‘hey but… it is just for the experience, it is something I haven’t really done in my 11 years of bouldering minus a handful, besides, it’s good to get out of my comfort zone. I might get stronger and learn something’ – right??
My visit north to Montréal corresponded with the timing of some local Tour De Bloc competitions. I hadn’t climbed on plastic in a few months and even then it was limited to a sporadic day that usually corresponded to something called rain. With 2 weeks to prepare for a comp that most others had been preparing for since September I had my work cut out for me, physically and mentally. My climbing style is anything but the dynamic bouncy jumping around that I find myself trying to improve on these days. Plastic is anti-Thomo style. Jumping and swinging from limb to limb doesn’t really compare with the movement I am accustomed to. Climbing outside is something I am use to, something that I feel; it is something that I do naturally without question and with psych. Needless to say, plastic is different and far from my ‘specialty’, but I want to get better at it. Besides, it’ll make me stronger for outside.
So apparently at every comp there is lesson or two to be had. This comp went well considering the 2 weeks I had to prepare though I am not sure if I had fun. I didn’t really know anyone though people I didn’t know approached me while the mc shouted out some of my accomplishments while I was competing all of which were embarrassing. They seemed to have expectations of me knowing what I had done outside without really knowing what my gym and comp experience was. Don’t they know that climbing real rocks and climbing in a gym, let alone in a comp, are two completely different worlds!!!
The problems at the comp were pretty good though I was surprised how easy the final problems were compared to the qualifiers. Though I did all the final problems, I didn’t flash them so there was the difference. Someone told me once that comps are such a big mental game and this was just the start of my lessons. Every comp since has taught me more. I didn’t realize flashing was so important. Flashing in itself is a skill that takes lots of practice which I obviously need to work on. There seems to be a hard wire in my brain that needs to be reprogrammed to the “flash mode”. It is really something I never focused on and even still it is not my priority.
Unfortunately after this comp I strained my shoulder. It would have been in my best interest to wait at least 2 or 3 weeks till I started to climb again but no, that couldn’t happen, I had plans. Low and behold, not until much later did I finally realize the full extent of my impatience. Climbing with an injury sucks. I didn’t get stronger, I got weaker. I didn’t heal, my body didn’t get the break it needed, and I lost what could have been productive training time. Result, I ended up taking way more rest then I maybe would of, spent way too much money on physiotherapy and am still working at getting it back to the no pain stage. It felt promising for a week when I climbed pain free but then it’d hurt again. I’d rest some, climb some, it’d feel fine and voila, pain… a vicious cycle.
Lesson: listen to your body and tame the ego…! My body is trying to tell me something and here I am using it and abusing it. It bummed on my ‘get strong quick training parade’, something I had wanted to commit to for years but I guess there is a reason and season for everything. I have learnt enough physiotherapy and stretches for shoulder rehab to heal an army as well as some smarter training tips which blows away the little I knew before. I also spent a lot of time touring Montreal and the Montreal metro which is high class action in my world. As for the injury, I know for next time I will miss the next comp, send or whatever it is that my little voice says go, go, go to and I will listen to my body though that certainly is easier said than done.
Regardless of my shoulder, I still wanted to compete. I wanted the experience and to learn. The time between the first comp and last I focused on healing and trying to ‘get in shape’ for the upcoming comps. Does that make sense at all? No, but anyway! The Montreal comp was super fun, the best of the 4 I have so far participated in. The problems were interesting, hard and varied. The qualifiers were hard as were the final problems. I knew a lot of the people and felt more at home which makes any environment fun. I am sure the lesson I had taken from this one was again, flash climbing but also to work on my weaknesses: dynamic movements and general fitness and endurance!!
The ottawa comp was a different story. Though I had tons of friends around my focus was not there. Feeling rather stressed out and nervous, I questioned my ability to the point of not trying certain problems. My shoulder was hurting on certain moves and my confidence was suffering. I did a number one comp no-no which is to watch what others were doing. I was paying too much attention to what others were doing instead of focusing on what I could do. Ironically, I felt like someone was watching me which bothered me even more. I was watching and being watched… hmmm! Feeling very insecure in my abilities and not having fun at all, I almost tore up my scorecard but a friend with years of comp experience gently slapped me in the face. She reminded me to believe in myself and to pay no attention to others. “You have no control over what they do but you do have control over what you do.” Once I got out of my way and stopped watching and comparing myself to others, I found my focus and started to not only have fun again, but also to send some problems which helped get me into the finals. I flashed all the final problems but the win went back to qualifiers which clearly weren’t in my favor. Though I was happy that my flashing skills were improving I also kind of think it might have been due to the fact that the final problems, though good, were too easy and straight forward.
So the next comp was regional’s. My shoulder was feeling pretty good up until the last climbing day when I tweaked a little something. Thankfully it didn’t hurt when I woke up on the morning of the comp so I was about as psyched as I could get for a comp. The qualifiers were fun though I didn’t feel as powerful as I would have wanted, perhaps a little too much training the last few climbing sessions before, again, another lesson learned! There were some problems I didn’t do that many others did and I realized I still have a lot to learn, from flashing, jumping and especially learning how to summoning the ‘grrr’ on command, something I can easily do if psyched on something outside. When I realized I didn’t make it to finals I had a mini meltdown. When packing up my bag I tried to put myself in it as well. I don’t know why I cared so much, I guess I had dedicated some time to the gym and I wanted to see results. That said, if one doesn’t have the proper “comp head” measuring if one is getting better or not especially in a comp scenario is a bad idea for the confidence.
By pure luck, I actually did make it into the finals. I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to be there after getting myself all worked up. Trying to put myself back into the mode wasn’t easily done. The grrr wasn’t there in the beginning and my confidence was slightly shot. But never mind, onwards and upwards says some. I was as ready as I was going to be to tackle the finals. As bloopers would have it, I slipped of the wall 1 second after I got on. Not such a good start. I wished I could press ‘rewind’ but considering that was impossible I put it behind me and finished the problem. The second problem went well and helped me to recover some until the third which I caught a bad case of beta-itis on. I sent myself racing blindly into tunnel vision as I ridiculously threw myself at it over and over again hoping that I would get to the jugs that lay just one move away. Everyone that followed hiked this “crux move” as I silently slapped myself in the face for being such a ding dong. The final problem was easy enough though I did make a slip because of a misread with the direction my knee was facing on a hold. Dang. Whoever knew that comps would be so fickle!
Obviously better physical and mental preparation for these comps and being injury free would have been ideal but in most cases life is never ideal. I can go on to say that my experience competing and time dedicated to plastic is mediocre in comparison to the other competitors who have been climbing, competing and training inside for years but I have to start somewhere. All my slip ups and mistakes are part of learning to become a better ‘comp climber’… if that is what I want, which I’m not sure, yet I know I might as well try. Regrets are worse than failures and it isn’t really failure if one learns the lesson. Besides, in a weird way, it is kind of fun. Doing this has definitely been a trip out of my own comfort zone and has been full of lessons and ego mind trips.
If anything, I wouldn’t trade these past 3 months for a week outside. Learning about my physical and mental habits is invaluable as is the journey to questioning why I climb. Besides that, spending time with old friends, new friends, eating ‘Cubans’, improving my French and all the goodness outside of the climbing time are invaluable. A brief trip to Pawtuckaway for the Easter weekend revived my psych! To end, I reckon it was a good thing to put myself in these awkward positions. For anyone to step out of their comfort zone and into the unfamiliar is always, a hard but good thing.