I've always said that climbing is a never ending learning experience, but there is more to it than just that; Climbing teaches us more than we realize, until we sit down and think about how we have gotten through the most difficult times. Personally, it has taught me how to stay calm in the most stressful situations, to always give everything my best for the best result, and to deal with the worst situations. I'm finding that the mental factor of climbing is bigger than I realized, in the fact that so much of what I thought was physical was just all in my head. The thought that a route is too hard, the thought that I'm more pumped than I really am, and added stress beforehand just weighed me down. But the realization of all this helped me get as strong as I am today.
In a previous post, I talked about my sprained pulley in my middle finger, and how it had affected my training and performance. In a nut shell, it was the most frustrating experience I've gone through with climbing. I was getting stronger than I ever have been, sending routes I thought impossible for me, and then instantly all that training was gone. Within two months of resting I had lost all endurance, and Nationals seemed so close. When I could train, it had to be at routes not even 50% of my potential, in order to keep my tendon healthy, and not injure it even further. It was so frustrating "training" on jugs so close to the competition, and not getting any stronger. I hated it, but it was all I could do. Eventually my finger allowed me to train, but it happened only a few weeks before Nationals.
About a month ago I flew out to Atlanta, Georgia to train for two weeks right before Nationals. After warming up for a full hour everyday, my finger was fine and training was possible again, so with my goal of regaining my National title in sight, I trained harder than I ever have. I was flashing routes I thought I had to project, and did laps on them. I felt amazing, after all the frustration and waiting, finally I was strong again. I was psyched, and more prepared for the competition than ever.
The first days of Nationals came, and the nerves set in. Qualifier one and two went perfectly, after flashing both routes and putting myself in a good position for semi-finals. Semi-finals however was interesting. I felt horrible the entire time, possibly even flash pumped, but no excuses. I fell for a simple technical error, placing myself in a tie for third going into finals. I shook it off and told myself I would turn it around. The final day came, and I was psyched to give it everything I have. I flew through the roof section, and turned the lip onto the upper slab. I must have rested for four minutes on the same two holds, but I knew it would help. Eventually I proceeded though the last cruxy moves, and blew off at the very last hold before the finish. I did well, and was so far in first, but there were still two climbers left. Watching them climb was so nerve-wracking, but neither beat my high-point, keeping me in first place!
Standing on the top of the podium again was just purely amazing. After going through an injury so close to Nationals and all that intense training, I was finally able to release all that stress. However, in a few weeks I will be flying out to Victoria, Canada to represent the U.S in addition to Five Ten at the IFSC Youth World Championships! Congratulations to Five Ten athletes Sean Bailey, Connor Everton, and Brendan Mitchel for making U.S Team as well!