After 60+ hours of international travel, taking me from the valleys of Switzerland through the French countryside and three different airports, I found myself sitting under the now unfamiliar tread wall at The Spot Gym in Boulder, CO doing my best to prepare for the 2013 SCS National Championships which was only 2 days away. I still wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage to hang on to plastic holds for more than a few moves after spending the past month getting nice and comfortable on the short, powerful, textured granite boulders of Ticino, Switzerland. Endurance wasn’t going to improve overnight, so I decided to focus purely on strategy.
Strategy #1 – I always climb best on my 3rd or 4th day on, so from the moment I landed in Colorado, I climbed a much as possible in the 2 days leading up to the event. More or less, I was hoping to shock my arms into holding on for longer than just a few moves and also let my hands get as comfortable as possible with plastic hand holds.
#2 – In my warm up before qualifiers I noticed that my arms were getting pumped just as easily on a 20 move circuit of jugs as they were on a 20 move circuit of crimps and pinches. Basically, resting on good holds wasn’t going to help on the competition routes. My arms were ticking time bombs, counting down to complete pump no matter how hard or easy the moves were. Climbing as fast as possible was going to be the only way to get up the wall.
#3 – Plastic holds feel substantially larger than holds on hard boulders outside. This means that hard moves in the gym always feel a bit easier after time spent outdoors. Especially on long routes, the moves shouldn’t feel too difficult. It’s an important realization to have…if the climbing feels particularly difficult; I’m probably doing something wrong.
#4 – Breathing. I might be able to hold my breathe through the difficulties of a boulder problem, but there was no way I was going to be getting through a sport route without focusing on getting some air into my lungs. Throughout my warm up before qualifiers and finals, I focused on my breathing and how that process coincided with my climbing rhythm. It was an important step in making sure I was getting the most out of my lack of endurance.
With these strategies in mind, I finished both of my qualifiers routes on Day 1 with relative ease. Despite being fairly pumped, I climbed in a controlled, confident way from the bottom of the wall to the anchors. Surprisingly, my 2nd route actually felt easier than my 1st. I felt much more warmed up. I took this as a sign that I needed to warm up better for the finals the next day.
Finals started around 7pm and I was slated to go last in the running order; plenty of time to get as warmed up as possible. I managed to get more pumped than was comfortable and spent a solid 30 minutes before I climbed trying to get rid of it. It turned out to be a good mental exercise, because my focus on de-pumping from my warm up took my mind away from over analyzing the hell out of the finals route I had just previewed. As I walked out in front of the crowd, ready for my attempt, my nervousness turned to excitement. I climbed till I was pumped and fell off a few moves from the top. One move short of the highpoint put me in 2nd Place. Definitely a surprise for me, but I was excited none-the-less. My result definitely inspired me to spend some time trying some sport routes in the next few months. We’ll see how it goes!