After a six-year hiatus from competing in the ABS National I decided in January that I would set aside some time to prepare for the event. I took time off competing in the event for a number of reasons, the main being that I simply don’t take training in the gym serious enough. To be honest, I’ve tried to regain focus in the past but I’m easily distracted and like many in my position I bailed. For example, bouldering outside even if it’s snowing or climbing in Spain since I’m in Spain, etc. were always more important. This year was different – I work in a climbing gym, and couldn’t come up with many reasons not to compete. Traveling and climbing for the most part were usually out of the question in my busy schedule but I was always in the gym with just enough time to train. After a month of preparing I felt ready to compete.
ABS 13 Nationals - Jon Cardwell
In the beginning, I was nervous, specifically during the qualifiers. The process of climbing competitions is stressful. You arrive ready to go in a pseudo-empty isolation room, usually rigged up with some ghetto climbing wall. After checking in, you’re given a number and you take your time stretching and warming up anxiously waiting for the organizers to call your name. Once called upon you’re shuffled through random walkways and a series of stairs to another building, the city auditorium in this case where await your fait – they make you wait five minutes by yourself in the back before unleashing you. It’s like an assembly line where your skills are put to the test. The competition puts climbers on display and it makes people nervous or scared. Trust me I’ve seen it in kids, fellow competitors even the spectators, especially the parents, they’re the worst. It’s intense and its one of the reasons I compete much less than I used to. However, above all competitions are usually motivating and they give many a young climber and older something to prepare for, an end goal, rare in a sport that seems endless. Regardless, I was back in the spotlight and despite a shaky start I advanced to the next round. I was satisfied and actually enjoying myself.
The second day ran smoother than the first. I woke up casually as the semi-finals didn’t begin until 2. My mom was in town, and it’s not often that I’m able to see her. We decided to take advantage of the unusually warm weather to spend some time outside. The Garden of the Gods proved to be the perfect place to get away. After a couple hours scrambling about the rocks we drove back. I made the shuffle easier this time through isolation. I followed a routine, re-climbed a few mini rigs on the warm up wall conceived during qualifiers and ate a bit of food – something I normally avoid just before competing in the past. They called my name and this time I was ready. While climbing, I felt light and efficient but throughout the entire round I assumed the problems were set too easy and that I would watch most climbers after me finish everything. To my surprise, people struggled and one by one I saw my chances of advancing into the finals increase. When the round was finished, I was in third, which meant I qualified.
The finals were just a few hours later. I took some time to recover, eating crepes with my mom and some friends. The mini French-esque restaurant actually relaxed me after the difficult semi final round and I left feeling fresh. Around 6, I was back in isolation mingling with the fellow finalists (6 men and 7 women). Unfortunately, we had little time to warm up, the schedule was tight and we were quickly ushered to the auditorium to be announced to the crowd. Shortly after, unlike the previous rounds we previewed the finals boulders as a group. The competition started. I felt strong, even confident but I was definitely tired. I was actually surprised on how fatigued I felt. I easily forget what it’s like to compete and even though you’re climbing less than usual, every attempt is more intense and precise – it’s exhausting. Regardless, I climbed a muerte knowing at this point I’ve done well and that there really isn’t much to loose. When the round finished I ended up in 5th, which is my best result in the ABS Nationals so far.
I was excited while driving back to Boulder but the competition took its toll. I reflected on the weekend and was satisfied. It’s actually interesting the community that the competitions create. These events definitely bring people together and I have to say it’s probably my favorite part. Given my experience in Colorado Springs I’m definitely considering the bouldering World Cup in Vail but still I’m unsure – Rifle will be coming into season and we all know everyone has something to try there and the majestic alpine areas will be thawing out. Spring is around the corner and summer will be here soon, the rock is more available, excuses to skip training more valid. I guess time will tell, but one thing is for sure my focus and dedication for climbing never fades!
Here is a video recap of the competition, Enjoy!