Photo by Victor Hall Photography
Climbing is… Beautiful, as we dance along a warmup boulder at our local gym. Euphoric, as we finally send that outdoor project that we’ve worked months on. Painful, as we face our demons during forced rest days. I find that there is no greater romance than a person and their passion. To many of us, climbing is our everything. Our today, tomorrow and future. Yet, with all great love stories, comes pain. For me, climbing competitions were once enjoyable, yet, I had recently come to a tipping point.
After having competed in dozens of competitions, I learned how to deal with failure. Yet, environmental pressure and expectations of friends, family, and sponsors are something that I haven’t become comfortable with. I’ve always found that it is easier to have a good competition if I don’t really have much of a chance to get into finals or podium. In those situations, I know that my support system want me to have a good time. A much different story occurs during a social or state competition as I expect myself to make finals and podium. With these competitions, my mind warps this support into an expectation of achievement. During a popular Queensland competition, BoulderFest 2022, I was fighting several internal battles while the clock was counting down. On top of being disappointed with my performance and mindset during the competition, I was devastated after not having made finals. I had forgotten to be kind to myself by remembering all the other elements that impacted my result- focusing on lead, having a hamstring strain and being in the middle of a training block. It was one of my most mentally challenging competitions. I was terrified that I would continue forgetting to put competitions into perspective. Hopefully, the next one will be more enjoyable… I had my fingers crossed that I would enjoy the Youth World Cup, and not break under the pressure. Otherwise, I didn’t know if I would continue competing.
Before I could begin counting down the days, I was in Dallas, Texas for the Youth World Cup. I could barely sleep during the 16-hour direct flight. I was going to compete in an official IFSC competition. I imagined explaining this fact to my younger self, she would’ve been overcome with pure joy- the kind that makes tears flow down your face. After winning a battle against jet lag, the boulder competition began. I felt amazing! Perfect headspace. My body felt in the best shape that it had all year. Yet, I didn’t perform well. The new format favoured strength and power, and I had a lack thereof due to a very inconsistent year of training and a few unchangeable factors. After finishing my last problem, I had a smile on my face and was happy that I got to give the competition my all. I could only improve in the next Youth World Cup from my baseline of 0 tops and 0 zones! A few days later, I was buzzing with excitement and nerves for the lead discipline. This was the one I had trained hard for. This was it. I had one shot to show everyone months of training. Pushing the niggle in my shoulder aside, I flowed through my first climb, falling on a dynamic move at hold 19+. The second climb was a much different story. A distant mind led to a foot slip and the end of the competition. I fell at the same hold as the previous climb, 19+. Such irony… In the end, it was such a positive and motivating experience that pushed all doubts of competing out of my mind.
Photos by Victor Hall Photography
It has been a fortnight since I’ve arrived home and I miss it all. I miss the psyche. Everyone at the competition absolutely frothed climbing (not just competitions but outdoors too!). It was just the environment that I needed to heal my mind from expectations and pressure. I miss the experiences. While being in Dallas, everything I would do was new and exciting. It was all out of my comfort zone, and I had to adapt to that. I got to try some interesting foods and went to some fun places. Finally, I miss the people the most. No matter which country people were from, you all shared one thing- your deep connection to climbing. For once, I didn’t feel like the oddball in the friend group. We all structured our social lives around our climbing session. I had finally found the people that I want in my life. Then… I had to return home to Brisbane. The flight home was saddening. My big important trip was at its end. During the flight, I frantically began planning future trips around Australia and the world to keep the momentum and psyche high.
I am incredibly thankful for the whole experience. If not for the support of the community, Pinnacle, and my parents, this article would have been a very different story. My whole experience in Dallas rekindled the dwindling flame that I had for competing which is something I will eternally remember and be thankful for. I hope to keep the flame lit with many climbing holidays and consistent outdoor day trips until next year’s Youth World Cup in Seoul, South Korea. I don’t know what the future holds, but competition climbing will remain in it.
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