Saturday 3 September 2016

European Lead World Cups 2016

It is such an unusual feeling looking back over the last few months of travel, training, five Lead World Cups and one Boulder World Cup competition. In recollection, these last few months seem to have flown by so quickly, yet so much has happened that it also feels like an entire year has been packed into just 10 weeks. My trip however, is far from being over just yet, with my first ever Open World Championships taking place in Paris in only a few weeks’ time! I am super excited for this upcoming comp, but already I’ve had a tremendously successful trip and learnt so much more than I ever imagined.
Lead World Cup 2016 - Imst, Austria - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine
I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel, train and compete with my fellow Aussie Team buddies; Campbell Harrison, Roxy Perry, Alistair Earley, Ben Abel and Yossi Sundakov-Krumins. Together we’ve shared so many awesome adventures, met so many interesting people, made new friends, discovered much about ourselves and acquired so much knowledge about training and our weaknesses. My headspace, mental approach and familiarity with World Cup level competitions are the most important things I believe I’ve gained so far. I’ve had highs and lows, good climbs and bad climbs but I can confidently say that the competitions I saw as ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’ were definitely when I learnt and progressed the most.
Me, Roxy, Campbell and Alistair - Munich, Germany 2016
 Lead World Cup #1 – Chamonix, France

Back in Chamonix, when the lead World Cup season kicked off in July two and a half months ago, it felt like my first ever World Cup again back in 2015. Last year I was fortunate to be able to get a small taste of the World Cup Circuit atmosphere after competing in my first two World Cups ever (Chamonix and Briançon, France). It was however, a relatively short month-long trip and I unfortunately had a minor shoulder injury which definitely complicated my headspace leading into the first competition in Chamonix. The trip was incredibly beneficial, but I felt so incredibly overwhelmed and intimidated by it all last year that it was hard to comprehend what I had learnt, and where I needed to go next with my training, etc. All I knew was that I needed to come back for a full European Lead World Cup season of comps and training to really see significant gains in my performance at an international level. So here I am now, doing exactly that…
Lead World Cup 2016 - Chamonix, France - Sytse Van Slooten
This year, the first Lead World Cup in Chamonix was again the most overwhelming. I was a bit of a nervous wreck and although I knew I needed to relax to perform well, I had no idea how to let go of the pressure and expectations I’d inadvertently put on myself. I didn’t feel at all like myself on the wall... I over-gripped the holds, restricted my breathing and in turn, fell off only a few quick draws from the start. As devastating as it was at the time, the shock of my performance did however make me come to terms with the reason I am over here in Europe, which is to learn and improve my competition mindset through experience and familiarity.

Lead World Cup #2 – Villars, Switzerland 
Lead World Cup 2016 - Villars, Switzerland - Eddie Fowke

After my ‘low point’ in Chamonix I was better able to let go of my ego-driven expectations and climb the qualification routes at the second Lead World Cup in Villars, Switzerland, without as much pressure clouding my head. I guess I had already hit what I felt was ‘rock bottom’ in Chamonix and I knew I had so much more to give. My climbing performance improved significantly in Villars and I actually surprised myself with my ability once I committed to every move and accepted the ‘negative possibilities’ as having little to no significant consequence. I could finally just climb my own climb. Unfortunately, I made some mistakes with my foot sequence on both routes that I was unable to recover from and I fell off… But I was stoked to have felt relaxed and more like myself on the wall. I managed to make it a lot further than expected on my second qualifier, boosting my confidence significantly. I began to recognise that I actually had the strength to do the routes. Acknowledging this progress in itself was enough to keep me in positive spirits for the competitions ahead of me. It would be a long road ahead but I was ready to take it one step at a time and enjoy every moment. I also had an unexpected yet absolutely awesome opportunity arise in Villars helping Charlie Boscoe do the live streaming commentary for the Finals round of the competition. Although it was way out of my comfort zone, I enjoyed it so much and was incredibly grateful to have been offered such a rewarding opportunity.
Lead World Cup 2016 - Villars, Switzerland - Sytse Van Slooten
Commentating the Lead Finals with Charlie Boscoe in Villars, Switzerland - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine
Lead World Cup #3 – Briançon, France

My performance at the Lead World Cup #3 in Briançon was just as positive as Villars, but with even more progress. I had begun viewing the routes with more self-confidence and visualised the majority of each route as achievable before I’d even hopped on the wall. I found this visualisation technique to be very beneficial and gave me more of the confidence I needed to commit, fight harder and put that extra ounce of effort in to every move. My ranking against the other athletes was improving slightly over the course of the three comps so far, but this was not something I wanted to concern myself with too much. I decided it was important for me at that stage to not pay too much attention to my ranking after each qualifier, but to measure my progress on how I felt on the wall and whether the main reason I was falling off was mental or physical.
Lead World Cup 2016 - Briançon, France - Sheila Farrell McCarron

Lead World Cup 2016 - Briançon, France - Sheila Farrell McCarron
Lead World Cup #4 – Imst, Austria & Boulder World Cup – Munich
Training in Munich - Kletterhalle High East

There was a fairly long break between Briançon and the next Lead World Cup in Imst, Austria which we spent training in Munich. I also competed in my first ever Boulder World Cup which was an incredibly amazing experience and because of its significance to me, I have to dedicate another whole separate blog. But in short, I went to the next Lead World Cup in Imst with a newfound confidence in my physical strength and ability to commit to dynamic and bouldery moves. My new approach was to tackle every climb like a really long boulder problem. 
Lead World Cup 2016 - Imst, Austria - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best of ‘luck’ in Imst however… I managed to time out on my first qualifier which was heart-wrenching to say the least. I had finally found a route I felt I could possibly top and all of a sudden I was pulled off the wall just when things started to get interesting. It messed with my head a fair amount after that, and although I was happy to have had the strength to do the route, I was angry that I couldn’t ever have the chance to prove myself on it again. I tried my best to not let it affect my second qualifier but hoped that I could use my frustration to fuel my power and commitment for the next route. This technique didn’t work very well for me however, and I was over-psyched and probably rushed at the route with too much confidence, making it easy for silly detrimental mistakes to happen like my foot popping off at the third quick draw. I was devastated immediately afterwards but it didn’t take long for me to pull myself together and focus on the positives.

Visualising with Roxy Perry- Imst, Austria - Photo by Rick Perry
Roxy Perry, Eddie Fowke and I in Imst, Austria - Photo by Rick Perry
 We were incredibly lucky to be able to come back and climb on some of the routes after the competition which was a really beneficial experience and confidence-booster for me. I got back on my second qualifier and did significantly better and I even took the opportunity to have a try on the Women’s Finals climb. I wasn’t expecting to do very well on it, but I fought hard and ended up surprising myself by making it about a third of the way up the insanely long route.

Lead World Cup #5 – Arco, Italy

After a few busy days of post-comp Austrian mountain adventures, we began our beautiful journey of transit over the Italian border and across alpine passes, around endless fields of beautiful apple and grape plantations and through a huge mass of skyscraper limestone cliffs. This beautiful drive lead us into the romantic cobblestone town of Arco, Italy where we competed in the last IFSC World Cup of our trip and was the best performance I’ve ever had in a Lead World Cup before. I was really excited with how I performed on both qualifier climbs, making it up most of the way on both routes, but especially because the reason I had fallen off each route was primarily physical rather than mental. I had finally gained enough familiarity with the competitions that I had found an optimal headspace to perform my best physically. Overcoming these mental barriers meant I was relaxed and ready to just fight hard and climb my own climb, leaving everything on the wall. I was able to recover from small mistakes and continue climbing, focused on the route ahead. I climbed so much further than I’d ever expected to and was pleased to maintain my positive headspace into the second qualifier as well. It was difficult for me not to notice the sudden jump in my ranking against the other athletes in the competition... I placed 36 out of 57 females which was a very pleasant surprise after an already rewarding two qualifier routes.
Lead World Cup 2016 -Arco, Italy - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine

Lead World Cup 2016 -Arco, Italy - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine
It’s taken a fair while to untangle it all within my mind, but after all the World Cups this year I’ve finally prepared a personal list of key words and phrases that I believe will help trigger my own best mental approach for optimal climbing performance. It summarises most of the things I’ve learnt firsthand over the last 6 World Cups of 2016. These particular words mean so much more to me now and trigger significant experiences I’ve learnt and drawn from not only in the past few months, but my entire climbing career so far.

Lucy’s Mental Approach to her Best Climbing Performance:
1.       Let Go of expectations
2.       Accept “negative outcomes” as inconsequential
3.       Embrace uncertainty
4.       Believe in your strength for the route as a whole and for each individual move
5.       Cease comparing yourself to others. How they climb is irrelevant to your performance.
6.       Picture yourself just at training
7.       Have Fun and Enjoy the route. Be Yourself on the wall
8.       Commit and pull hard!

Now I only have one competition left before I head back home to Australia… The World Championships in Paris! It’s the biggest event I will have ever competed in and I’m registered for both Lead and Boulder. I can’t explain how excited I am for the Paris World Championships… It’s going to be such a massive event and I just hope I can steady my nerves enough to maintain my optimal headspace from the last comp in Arco.
Lead World Cup 2016 - Briançon, France - Sheila Farrell McCarron
I am so grateful to have had this incredible opportunity to travel, train and compete Internationally this year. It’s been such an amazing trip so far and I’ve learnt and progressed so much more than I ever thought with my climbing and headspace. A massive thank you especially to Flight Centre Sports & Events for their incredible ongoing sponsorship support and for making these amazing opportunities achievable for myself. I am also tremendously grateful to have CLIF Bar, Pinnacle Sports, REVIVE Ashgrove, Climb ICP, Evolv and Osprey supporting me every step of the way. Their sponsorship makes such a huge difference and I can’t thank them enough. But none of this would be at all possible without the amazing support of my amazing friends and family… Thank you all so very, very much, you mean absolutely everything to me. :-) 
Lead World Cup 2016 -Arco, Italy - The Circuit World Cup and Performance Climbing Magazine


  1. I just love her spirit and the confidence she had on her. Great effort plus really inspiring for may ladies. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us.

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