This past weekend I competed at the 2011 ABS Open National Championships held in Boulder, Colorado. I had a great time competing and hanging out with my friends, and placed fairly well as well. Coming into the competition, I felt I had trained as hard as I could for the event, given that I had taken about a month and a half off in the fall to focus on school and keep my grades up. I also had reasonably high expectations of myself, considering I placed 17th the year before and was able to make it into the finals and compete at the Bouldering World Cup in Vail, Colorado.
This year was different than previous years for several different reasons. First of all, instead of being on the East Coast like the year before, the comp was in Boulder, which anybody will tell you is the bouldering capital of the world, producing enough v12 climbers that I don’t think I can even count that high. Also, the competition was held on brand new custom-built walls fit for World Cup competitions, located inside a giant warehouse that had the capacity for several thousand spectators. Looking back on the event, I don’t think the location or facility of the comp could have been any better.
I arrived in Boulder on Thursday, February 10th, and met up with a bunch of my friends from Texas who I was going to be staying with, including Joe Gifford, Owen Graham, Shane Puccio, and Addison Kim. We all went to dinner to a really good pasta place with Alex Puccio and her boyfriend, Chris Webb-Parsons. We all had a good time at dinner and felt ready for whatever the comp would throw at us the next day.
The next morning before qualifiers, we all went over to The Spot Bouldering Gym to warm up before heading over to the warehouse where the comp was being held. I was going first out of all the guys I was staying with, so I got a little shorter warm up than everyone else, but I still felt pretty strong as I headed over to the venue. As I warmed up, I got to see a bunch of my friends who live in Colorado, including Five Ten athletes Ian Dory and Alex David Johnson. We all talked about school, climbing, and life, and got each other pretty psyched up for the comp ahead.
When I turned around to face the 1st qualifier, I instantly knew this competition was going to be one of the hardest I’d ever competed in. First of all, the format was 6 problems for qualifiers with only 4 minutes of climbing time per problem, as well as using zone scoring where competitors only got points for getting halfway up the problem or the top. I checked out my problem, which was a pretty cool run and jump start to a couple big slab moves on slopers to the top, but I couldn’t help glancing to my left to where the rest of the problems were.
The gym was orientated so that all the walls faced the crowd, with a slab on the far right, another slightly overhanging wall divided by a short roof on the left, and a massive reverse S shaped wave wall in the middle that was clearly the master wall of the entire comp. SICKKK.
I was able to send the first two slab problems, the second one with a little more effort than the first, but felt pretty confident heading into the wave wall. However, I got completely shut down on these, not even getting zone hold on either one. I knew that with such a strong field of competitors this year, I needed to really step it up on problems 5 and 6.
Problem 5 was a pretty cool combination of powerful roof moves with delicate slab crimps at the top of the wall, and I had a good feeling about it when I first saw the problem. I pulled through the roof and the bonus hold fairly easily, but fell going for the finish pinch after attempting to get my foot too high to stick the move. This time, I fell far away from the wall and at an awkward angle, and landed on a pole brush at the far edge of the pads. Then I heard my left ankle pop and I knew something was not good.
I lay on the pads holding my ankle and knew I had done something pretty bad to it. I tried to stand up, but fell over, realizing there was no way I could get back on the problem anytime soon. Luckily, there was a physical therapist working the comp who bandaged up my ankle as soon as everyone watching recognized that I was injured in some way. The head judge then told me that my falling on the brushes at the base of the climb meant that I could call a technical on that specific problem, but I would have to climb problem 6 in my designated climb time before receiving any more medical treatment.
My hurriedly bandaged ankle was hurting pretty badly by the time I got on problem 6, and I barely got a couple holds in before I had to give up entirely. I went over to the medical tent and got my foot iced by the physical therapist for about 20 minutes, then went back over to sit in the chair for another 2 minutes on problem 5, which was the time left over when I injured my ankle. Fortunately, most of the foot moves were key right foot moves, and I was able to stick the finish on my second try. Psyched!
In the end I took 30th place, but sending the 5th problem didn’t matter, since the cutoff for semifinals (top 24 competitors) was sending at least 4 problems. However, I was definitely happy to have sent the 5th one after it kicking my ass the first time. Owen, Joe, Shane, and Addison did about the same as I did, Owen coming the closest to making the cutoff with 27th place.
That night, I iced my ankle as much as I could, and stayed up late hanging out with the guys and writing my english paper that I had to turn in online by midnight California time. Probably shouldn’t have procrastinated on that one. Oh well.
The next day, I got my foot bandaged up by the physical therapist again and watched semifinals in the warehouse. It ended up being really hard to make finals, with Daniel Woods missing out on finals by a spot and Sean McColl from Canada making the only send of problem 3 to put him in first place heading into the final round. I got some good pictures of some of my friends in semi’s, and was really psyched when I found out that one of my good friends Alex David Johnson made the last spot into finals! Way to go buddy!
Finals that night were incredible. The atmosphere was just like the World Cup I was at last year in Vail, and I got to see some amazing climbers beast up the problems like they were nothing. I was rooting for Alex and Ian in the men’s division, and my friend and fellow Team Five Ten member Francesca Metcalf in the women’s. All three of them did exceptionally well, with Alex placing 2nd after Sean McColl (Canada) and earning himself the title of US National Champion! Ian and Francesca did amazing as well, with Ian coming in 4th and making the US National Team and Francesca placing 2nd after Alex Puccio, who won the comp by flashing the last problem in her own style by dynoing past the crux.
It was great to see everyone climb their strongest that night, and the weekend as a whole. Huge congrats to everyone who competed, it’s an honor to just watch you all climb. Now, time for a week of foot icing and school before I head back to Boulder for Youth Nationals next weekend. Let’s do this.
All photos: Tiffany Hensley
Full report: www.levinjosh.blogspot.com