Last weekend concluded the 2013 ABS National Championships. This year, I traveled out to Colorado Springs to compete in both the youth and open divisions, securing a semifinal bid in the adult category and my 5th National Bouldering Championship title in my last youth bouldering competition ever.
This two week Colorado experience has definitely been one of the best times of my life, and I am extremely grateful to be able to live out this lifestyle, balancing my studying with traveling and competing with some of my best friends. Now that I am able to look back and reflect on the trip, I can conclude that these results did not come without a great deal of training, competition preparedness, and mental focus.
A week prior to the Open National Championship, I participated in a 4-day training camp hosted by US Team Coach Shane Messer. This training was some of the best I have ever done before a national event given the time constraints of president's day weekend. Throughout the weekend, myself and 40+ other athletes from around the country did countless onsight drills, flash-format exercises, and crossfit-style workouts put together by Melissa Godowski. After the camp, I felt more mentally and physically prepared for nationals than I have felt any year before.
Step 1: Training: check.
One of the most useful aspects that I got out of the camp was a routesetting perspective provided by Brent Quesenberry. If you didn't know Brent, you would never guess he's run 4 marathons and has more climbing expertise than most competition routesetters today. During one of his lectures on routesetting, he described the three influences on US bouldering competitions today: the Tony Yaniro style, (straightforward movements on directional holds) the showy American flair, (double-clutch dynos, bat-hangs, figure four's, etc) and the subtle European volume style that has begun to appear more and more often.
Did you know Brent was also responsible for hand-building hundreds of wicked volumes and for creating the Dominion Riverrock competition? He's also one of the nicest dudes you'll ever meet. Anyways, according to Brent, these three styles combine to form the modern-day US bouldering competition problem. This style was epitomized to a point by my 2nd semifinal climb, in which competitors had to start facing the crowd and maneuver through hold-less volumes for 5 or 6 moves, then make a committing dyno to a good horn, then campus and power their way through the last couple slopers to the finish. When I turned around and saw this climb, I broke it up into three sections in terms of styles, which made it much easier to read and execute. Unfortunately, I was only able to get just past the dyno and ended up 19th overall in semifinals, but it was still my favorite problem of the competition.
Step 2: Competition preparedness: check.
The only thing that was lacking for me to complete the climb (and potentially make it on to the final round) was lack of willingness to dig in. On any given day in training, I am confident I could have pulled off the move I fell on with a couple tries, but that is not how competition works. Comps are all about how well you can perform right NOW. The added pressure of these types of situations makes competition climbing all the more interesting, and rewards competitors for "bringing their man-pants" as 5.10 athlete Nicholas Milburn so eloquently puts it.
Coming back the next weekend for the youth competition, I knew I had to put my try-hard face on in order to do better than the weekend before. Fortunately, in finals, I was able to borrow an iPod from one of my best friends (and now coach!) Alex Fritz, which helped me zone in on the three finals problems that the setters had prepared for us. With the added focus and pressure of finals, I was able to dial in my movements and complete all three boulder problems for the win! This time was especially gratifying since this is the last year I am eligible to compete in youth competitions.
Step 3: Performing under pressure: check.
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was watching my partner in climb, (and also a 5.10 athlete :) Cicada Jenerik! She absolutely destroyed the competition, flashing all 3 problems in finals to win her 5th bouldering championship as well! It was both of our last years competing in youth after competing together for over 10 years, so it meant a lot to both of us.
Also a huge congrats is in order to Brendan Mitchell for winning this year's North Face Young Gun Award! This award highlights a youth athlete's sportsmanship and dedication to climbing, and Brendan is one of the most deserving people I've ever met. He's super nice, very humble, and an extremely motivated young man. He also crushes 5.14 on the side. I am psyched to see where he can take the sport in the coming years.
I would now like to take the time to thank my entire family for coming out and supporting me at this competition, it really means a lot that you've been there for me since day 1. I'm especially proud of my brother Yuri, who is now getting back into climbing after a 7-year hiatus, who competed in the citizen's competition alongside my dad! You go, bro. Everyone look out, we got another Levin on his way to the top.