After a month climbing at Ceuse, my legs needed a break from the hike- Party in Vienna! And I guess there was the World Cup as well. I figured since I was going to be in Europe for three months this spring that I’d consider attending one of the bouldering WC to get a sense of how strong I would need to be to do well in one in the future. Near the end of April, needing a break from the brutalities of Ceuse, I checked the competition schedule on the IFSC website and saw that there were two Bouldering WCs in Mid May- one in Slovenia and one in Austria. Tickets to Slovenia were anything but affordable, but I did manage to find cheap(ish) Non-stop flights with seats left from Nice, France, to Vienna. I thought Nice would only be a short train ride away from Gap, remembering doing the drive once, so not wanting to give myself time to change my mind, I booked my ticket.
Close to the date of departure I started having second thoughts- I had (and still have) two projects in Ceuse that I was psyched to try to finish up before leaving Europe at the end of May and that, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t bouldered in two months, and hadn’t touched plastic holds in three, made me not want to flake. But I had spent the dough, made arrangements and planned out logistics. Plane and train tickets were bought, entry fees and licenses paid for, and floor space of friends of friend’s houses reserved.
On the morning of the 12th I roped an Austrian acquaintance, Rene, into driving me to the Train Station in Gap. What I thought would be a three or maybe four hour train ride to Nice turned out to be six hours, through Marseille… seven hours after leaving Gap I was at the airport in Nice with plenty of time to spare to catch my flight to Vienna except, my flight had been canceled by Austrian Airlines due to ‘technical problems’! I was to be put up in a hotel across the street from the airport in Nice, then to board the next flight out in the morning which was scheduled to arrive in Vienna at 8:45- 45 mins before the Isolation for qualifiers closed. Agh! I had flashbacks from a continental championship in Mexico City in 2004 where I showed up for iso ten minutes late and was disqualified from the comp by the IFSC Judges… I thought about bailing, taking the next train back to Gap with my tail between my legs, losses cut but with my dignity in tact, not having made a fool of myself in front of hundreds of my fellow competitors and thousands more watching on the live webcast. After some waffling back and fourth about whether to go and risk missing the cutoff, or go back to Ceuse to the (relative) comfort of my rented caravan in the Les Guerins campground, I decided ‘f*** it, I’m going!’ since I was practically halfway there already and 45 mins seemed like plenty of time to make it to the venue since I’d have a ride. I grabbed my hotel/diner voucher and headed across the street for some fancy buffet food and some tossing and turning, restlessly awaiting the next days events.
I awoke at 5:30 to make my 6:50 flight and after shuffling though the security line, bleary-eyed and in a state of semi-consciousness, I was turned back by the security dudes because the slip of paper I had in my possession that I thought was a boarding pass was actually just a reservation. Ugh! Pissed off and once again regretting my decision to ‘go for it’ I stomped back downstairs, got my REAL boarding pass and waited though security again, this time being admitted to the terminal and boarding the plane 5 mins before the scheduled take off. Once on the plane I finally resigned to the helplessness of my situation and shed the panic. Despite the slightly late takeoff from Nice we made it to Vienna on schedule and once on the ground in Vienna, Jacob, a friend of my climbing partner in Ceuse, picked me up from the Airport and drove me to the competition site (thanks Jacob!). We arrived 15 mins before Iso closed and even though the actual competition was still to come, I felt like I had succeeded in a way already and a weight had been lifted.
It was good to see many familiar faces at the competition, some I hadn’t seen in months, most I hadn’t seen in years. I said hi to the only other American competitors- Alex Puccio who is living in Innsbruck and Alex Johnson, who is also living in Innsbruck. I said hello to my friend from South Africa, Arjan (who I’ll be surfing and climbing with down there in two weeks!!!) said hello to Keta Mogaki from Japan, Serkan Ercan from Turkey, Klemen Becan from Slovenia and Chris Webb form OZ (hey mate). I greeted the Austrian climbers who I knew, the French and the German, the Swiss and the Brits… back in the scene! Then it was time to start the stretching and warming up.
My go-to shoe for most overhung climbing and especially comps used to be the Jet 7, but sadly that shoe has been discontinued *sniffle*. RIP my beloved black jet. This time I chose the Quantum for the comp. I hadn’t actually used the Quantum on plastic before but after experiencing how well they fit and preformed on the limestone of Oliana and the Sandstone blocs of Font, I had no doubt they’d do the trick… and they did! They preformed as well as I needed them to. I felt nervous on the first couple problems in the qualies, but after a couple falls and a couple top-outs the nerves disappeared and I settled back into the headspace of competition. The semi-stiffness of the Onxxxy rubber edged well on the micro footholds on problem 1- a tricky, balancy problem that took me three tries to complete. I felt the pulling power of the shoe on problem #2- a steep, lurpy compression problem that suited me well. On problem 3 I surprised myself by grunting my way up the awkward techiness for a third top out with a total of only 7 attempts that put me in 12th place for the Semi-finals! I was happy with my performance considering I hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous two nights and hadn’t trained at all for the comp. Also, I was doubly pleased since many of the seasoned competitors who seemed like shoe-ins for the semi-finals the next day, somehow failed to advance… I was pleasantly surprised with how I’d climbed.
After Qualies we walked to the nearest restaurant/hotel spot where most of the competitors were staying. Arjan and I ate shnitzle and potato salad with the Austrians, followed by some chocolate pudding. A quick word about eating out in Vienna- if you’re in a large group and/or you are a foreigner, don’t expect to get the bill from the waiter after the second, third or even fifth time you ask for it and if they are busy. Apparently there is a law that if you ask for the bill three times in the span of 30 mins and it isn’t brought, you are excused from paying… don’t worry, we paid anyway. We shot the breeze with the other competitors, shared some laughs talking about the problems in the qualies, the comp scene and just climbing in general, then it was time to watch the women’s qualies. Hey ladies! They were impressive, especially Anna Sthor who hiked all the problems on her first go. Puccio qualified for Semis in a high position and unfortunately AJ, though she looked strong, didn’t complete a few of the techy-looking problems and didn’t advance. Don’t worry AJ, plenty more comps to crush! After the day of competition was over, everyone was well spent and retreated to their various dwellings to rest for the night.