Sunday 3 August 2014

Nationals 2014

19th -20th July, 2014

I have a vivid memory of the first few times I competed in the Open A Female category at a Nationals Lead Climbing Championship. I was also competing in the youth categories at that time and having the opportunity to compete in Opens as well was absolutely awesome. Not only would I get to climb more routes and gain more experience but it was a “nothing to lose” no pressure situation at which I usually perform my best anyway. But best of all, I would get to climb and compete with some of the top female climbers in the country… and that was incredibly inspiring for me. I remember watching them glide up the walls seemingly effortlessly and wishing I could be that strong one day. It’s been my goal for a long time now to win the National Lead Climbing Championships… to be able to nearly top all my allocated climbs, to glide up the walls my own way, and to finally stand on top of that podium and become that person who inspired me so much in the beginning.

A few weekends ago I finally achieved that goal… and although it happened in an unusual set of circumstances, it made it all the more rewarding for me. This is how it happened…
(James Kassay and I after winning Open A National Lead Championships 2014)
Waking up Friday morning with a throbbing headache and sore throat, I was certainly having second thoughts about making this trip to Melbourne for the 2014 Lead Nationals. I really didn’t like the idea of becoming that annoying person on the plane coughing and sneezing, spreading the viral love to the world. I also didn’t want to have flown all that way and be too unwell to climb in a comp I’ve trained so hard for. But a crazy something inside me (probably the virus) decided that despite all these negatives, somehow it was still a better idea to make the trip and see how my luck would pan out. A bit of anger sparked inside me… I wasn't going to let some silly head cold stop me from at least trying to achieve this goal that I’ve trained so hard for. But the virus had its own goal too, I guess. It certainly wasn’t going to give up without a fight… but neither was I.

The day of the qualifying climbs was difficult. The Opens and Masters categories didn’t start until the afternoon and the comp was running a few hours late. I made the right decision to rest in the hotel all morning while Mum, Dad and Sarah did some Melbourne shopping and coffee drinking. I was pretty excited for both Mum and Sarah as they would also be competing!  Unfortunately my brother Sam couldn’t make it as he had to work but we nominated Dad as the Stirling coach for the weekend! It was another Stirling invasion.
I had slightly more energy when we got to the competition around midday and watched the Youth Finals. I really enjoy watching the youth categories climb. They are incredibly strong and it’s awesome to think of the amazing things they’ll be doing in a few years. It was also really lovely catching up with all my interstate buddies again.

I had a light boulder in an attempt to warm up a bit… But after feeling slightly exhausted already, I decided it was more important to conserve the little energy I had left. I sat down in a corner and wrapped myself with numerous jumpers and downys until it was my turn to climb (I was pretty consistent with this approach for the entire weekend).

The first qualifier climb was relatively straightforward with most of us topping out. It was really fun though and would have been a great warm up for the next climb. However, it wasn’t until 8:00 or 8:30pm that it was my turn to climb the next route… Way past my bedtime but I tried not to think about it.
The 2nd quals climb was very tricky and technical and no one actually topped out. The crux had these really fun, cool, balancy moves off polished slopers… A technical style I’ve really come to love in the last few years. Andrea Hah and I were the only two who managed to get to the last move, placing us both 1st in the ranking for the semi-finals the next day.

(Photo by Mike Davis: Open A qualifier climb #1) 
I didn’t sleep very well that night but did manage to get a few solid hours of deep sleep in to keep me going for a while. I tried to warm up before the semi-final route but my heart started racing so I decided to stick with my energy conservation plan. It didn’t work as well for this route… It was incredibly pumpy and as soon as I got on the wall I started shaking like crazy… Not enough warm up! I felt pretty horrid on the wall but managed to make it up most of the way before falling from complete exhaustion. I was really happy about how far I’d made it to on the climb considering how unwell I felt. I ended up ranking 2nd going into the finals that afternoon.

(Photo by Mike Davis: Open A semi-finals climb)
As soon as I came down from that climb I went into hibernation mode… I curled up in a corner in the isolation area, covered myself in down jackets and had an incredible nap dreaming of rainbow elephants, giant flowers and monkeys. It served me well… I emerged a few times to zombie walk my way to the toilet and back and wish my big sister, Sarah good luck for her climb in Open C and my Mum for Masters. When I finally got myself up for the viewing of the Open A finals route, I felt significantly better. I didn’t have much of a voice left (much to everyone’s amusement) but I had a fair amount more energy than I did in the morning, thank goodness! I even got a pretty good, light warm up just before my climb without exhausting myself.
During observation and visualisation time of our route I tried not to get caught up too much on any one cruxy looking section. Like usual, I spend my time scoping out all the holds and getting a general idea of where the harder parts are and a few possible ways I could do them. I then actually focus on the start of the climb, no matter how easy it looks, and get really comfortable with the moves and holds... because how I feel when I start the climb has a huge effect on the rest of the route and how “in the zone” I am. When it comes time to climb I just let my body do the work and trust my instinct and muscle memory when it comes to a difficult section. I do it my own way because I know what works best for me.

It was my turn to climb…I knew this route was long, and I knew it would be difficult, but I was going to give it everything. I stepped onto the wall and just climbed. I felt comfortable and relaxed but psyched. I didn’t waste any time through the start or think about what was ahead too much… I just climbed and let my body do the work. Before I knew it I was at the first harder looking section but it was surprisingly easy so I kept moving. I began feeling slightly pumped so I rested when I could, on whatever I could, but tried not to waste too much time… I would fatigue quickly if I wasn’t careful. I was in the last quarter of the climb where it becomes a battle of the pump. Nothing is that good to rest on so you just have to keep moving and hope that your fingers will close on each hold you grab despite the pump. I made it to the last few holds on the climb and they were absolutely terrible. I could barely hold on and the next hold looked worse. I went for the move just as the pump in my arms was making my fingers peel off the hold. I touched the next one but fell off, completely exhausted, but very happy. I had nearly just topped my Open A finals climb at Nationals! I was thrilled.
                                               (Photo by Mike Davis: Open A finals climb)

After finding out I had also just won, I could barely believe it. I thought back to that morning in bed and an hour or so beforehand in isolation, just feeling horribly sick and sorry for myself. I truly believed I had no chance of winning Nationals in the state I was in. But there I was… and I felt on top of the world. I couldn’t speak very well though… my voice was almost gone but I didn’t care.

(Photo by Climb Media: Andrea, me and Kumari on the Open A Finals podium)

We had wonderful celebrations that night at an Italian restaurant close by. I devoured an entire pizza and was almost falling asleep after one glass of wine. Mum and Sarah had done really well at the comp as well. They had both come 4th, only just missing out on podium in each of their categories. It was so lovely to celebrate with my family, and also to have Rob and Eric from ICP and Dave there to support me. What a weirdly awesome and unexpected weekend! 

(The weekend's Stirling team)
I would like to send a huge thank you to my sponsors Pinnacle Sports for their incredible and ongoing support over the years, you guys are amazing. To Flight Centre Active Travel for their ongoing support and for always making it so easy to organise my flights and accommodation. And to ICP, for their endless support and helping me celebrate reaching this big goal of mine, I am incredibly grateful. I have many more big dreams for climbing to work towards and it’s awesome to know I have such amazing sponsors to support me along the way. Thank you so much :)

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