This past weekend I competed at the ABS 13 Adult National Championships in Colorado Springs. It’s been two years since I’ve competed at ABS Nationals. The day after sending my project, The Buttermilker, I decided to buy my plane ticket and register for the comp that was only two weeks away. During this time I trained weekdays at my home gym, Rock City, and trained in Bishop on the weekend in between. While in Bishop I attempted many hard boulder problems back to back to replicate a bouldering competition. Check out some of the sends that weekend on video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhoa2xDwdJs
Getting on the flight to CO I was very satisfied with how I used my time to train.
The qualifier round was on Friday and many of America’s strongest climbers were there. For the men’s category the line-up included Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, Carlo Traversi, Ethan Pringle, Jon Cardwell, Zach Lerner, Rob D'Anastasio, Matt Fultz, reigning champion Sean McColl, and many others. I felt strong climbing- had a couple mistakes but made it to semi-finals with 22 other male competitors. Only 6 competitors would be taken into Finals and I knew I was capable of doing so, but I not only had to climb harder, but smarter.
In the morning, I went into ‘comp mode.’ I was thinking of the problems I had already done, but more importantly, the problems I didn’t do. I was thinking about girls too, cause that always motivates me. I put on some pump up music. Ambition - Wale. Gets me in the zone. Kept the music going while I stretched, got ready, and put on my number. Once my mind was cleared, I was ready to go-
Full fledged comp mode.
When I got to the comp, I went into iso. I saw some old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Warmed up for a bit and felt great. I wasn’t sore from last night and I was doing things in the warm-up room that I wasn’t able to do in qualifiers. I was on my A-game. Went out to compete. First problem gave me trouble. I got a little nervous when I fell the first few times. I knew I had to finish it if I had any chance of getting into finals. Sent it. Flashed the next two problems but I knew that these three weren’t enough to get me into finals- I had to finish the next one. I got nervous that it was a slab climb. The same slab wall gave me problems in the qualifiers and here it is again to screw me over. I had to get this done- I had to make Finals. I fell the first two times. I heard 50 seconds left and just jumped on the wall with no plan. I tucked my foot inward against the slab and I knew I got it. As soon as I matched the finish hold with five seconds left, I knew that I had climbed my hardest and had done all I could to make Finals.
When we got called out for Finals it was an incredible experience. They had my name on the back of the chair. I’ve always pictured these men and women standing next to me as my idols- and here I was challenging them. It was surreal. We went to go preview all four problems. I’ve never been a part of this Finals format before so I stuck with Carlo Traversi who showed me the ropes. We all talked about the beta for each of the climbs. For the first three we were all in agreement but the fourth one shot me for a loop.
Preview was over and we headed back to our seats.
I was pretty nervous that there were so many people watching. I looked at the ground and tried to cancel out all of the noise and lights.
My name was called. “Michael Bautista.”
As I turned around and approached the first problem, I imagined myself hanging out at Rock City just trying another climb. With so many people watching, I had to focus. I got onto the first hold, mantled out, reached out left, but wasn’t sure what I was going to do to get to the top. I got to the first sloper and felt solid. I love slopers!
It wasn’t until I finished that problem that I truly felt I belonged in Finals- that it wasn’t a mistake. Once I matched on the finish hold it was as if someone had turned the volume back up in the room and all of the sounds and screams from the comp came back. I felt amazing.
Watching the rest of the comp was one of my favorite parts. I love watching the pros climb these routes and it was amazing to see these climbers climb the same routes I was trying.
Problem 2 was really difficult for me. It was that slab wall again. That torturing slab wall. I wished I had practiced more on slab climbs during my training period. After I stuck the first hold and went up, I realized this was not my climb. I knew I needed to save my energy for the climbs to come, so I pushed to get as many points as I could without wasting any of my energy that’d be crucial for finishing the final problems. I got the points for those holds and I knew problems 3 and 4 were more my style.
Problem 3 was my favorite climb of the night but seeing the best climbers getting as far as me (if not farther) was very intimidating. I got to this iron cross move and I thought my shoulders were going to explode and I jumped off the wall. This wasn’t even my muscles feeling pumped- it was straight-up painful. Watching Daniel Woods flash this problem was the highlight of my night. Such a powerful climber.
Problem 4: the final problem of the comp. With my back to the wall, I was focusing on the other climbers and how the crowd was reacting. Based on the crowd’s reaction I could tell that the first climber hadn’t completed the route. Then it was my turn. I looked at the climb and I still had no idea how I was going to do the problem. I got on the route and dyno’d the first move. The move was super enjoyable and loosened me up for the rest of the climb. The next two moves were easy for me. I slapped the arete (I love compression problems) so I stuck that pretty easy. Bumped up on the arete and it just so happens the foot placement was perfect to go directly to the top. I knew the finish hold was solid so I could jump for it.
As soon as I hit the pad, I started thinking about just doing it the normal (non-dyno) way, but then I heard my roommates in the crowd encouraging (mocking) me to do it my way. When I touched the final hold the second time I knew I could do it. I asked the timekeeper to tell my when I had ten seconds left. With the time remaining, I bided my time and got amped up from the crowd. I knew I could do this. When the timekeeper told me “ten seconds," I decided to make this a more epic occasion and took off my shirt. When I got on the arete for the last time, I threw as hard as I could and stuck the finish hold. As soon as my hand hit the final hold of the problem, the adrenaline started rushing through my body. I fist-pumped the crowd, then jumped off the hold while screaming at the top of my lungs. My heart was beating so fast. Such an incredible feeling.
After the comp was over, I talked with the finalists and all of my friends that came out to support me while I waited for the awards ceremony. It was a humbling experience to take the podium with some of my climbing heroes- Daniel and Ethan.
This comp challenged me to believe in myself. Climbing with such talented individuals forced me to perfect my technique and push my own limits. While making the podium was a great accomplishment, it’s also made me realize that there is so much room for improvement. It’s helped me identify the specific styles that I need to work on, but has also reinforced the idea that creativity plays a crucial role in the sport of climbing.
Climbing is everything.