Friday, 6 February 2015

A New Year

Welcome Back!
I realize that it's been so long since my last post that almost everyone forgot I had a blog, but thats fine. I didn't feel like posting, but now I do.
I suppose I should start from the summer. Nationals came and went, and I was underwhelmed (to say the least) with both my performance and result. I didn't make national team, and just like that a whole year of training failed to produce the goal I've been striving for for years now. Honestly, that was probably a good thing. I was really bummed out for a while, but eventually I managed to move along. I didn't need to worry about training, so I didn't. I found an amazing group of friends with who I climbed with every chance I got for a few months, who pushed me so hard and taught me so much. It wasn't training, it was just playing. 

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pursue a more adventurous and outdoorsy life in Canmore over the summer. I found a job at Elevation Place, the community rec center and climbing gym, which was an incredible experience in itself. I bounced between the homes of a few amazing families, who let me (for some reason) housesit when they were out of town and stay with them when they were around. I found myself constantly surrounded by people who genuinely cared about me, and supported me. For the first time in quite a while, I felt genuinely happy for no apparent reason. I could wake up at 6:30 in the morning, have a quick breakfast, bike to work and arrive with a smile on my face. It was perfect.

Throughout the summer, I climbed a lot. Indoors, outdoors, it didn't really matter. I made sure to not force anything- if a route didn't look fun, I wouldn't try it. I didn't force attempts on my project, and I would take rest days whenever I felt pretty beat. The summer came and went, and I ended up sending quite a few hard routes, and had to leave a couple for another year. 

The view from one of the crags this summer. Photo: Me
School started back up, and transitioning from the freedom of summer to the confines of school was a little tough to deal with at first. I got over that when training started up again. I had a pretty amazing setup, where I trained one on one with one of the most experienced and committed competitors out there, Dan Archambault (don't judge my spelling). I went into the start of training feeling pretty fit, and that feeling only grew exponentially as the weeks went by. I was incredibly stoked to squeeze until I couldn't close my fists, to fight until I was completely drained. I was coaching a youth team and setting as well, so I spent 6, if not 7 days a week at the gym. I was eating better, sleeping better, and working harder than I ever had before in order to support that lifestyle. And I was happier and more content than I had been for as long as I could remember.

November rolled around, and with it came the first comp of the 2014/2015 season. Qualifiers were tough, but with a last minute send of the top qualifier I found myself on top of the youth podium and in open finals comfortably, in fifth place. Finals were brutal, and served as a real wake up call. I didn't feel in control on any of the moves, and had to give it my all to even get off the ground. At the end of the night, I walked away with no tops, and no bonuses. Two others had the same score as me after finals, but I was ahead of them due to countback. I finished finals in 6th, but that wasn't the performance or result I was looking for. 

Fast forward through a few weeks of hard training, and I was back in competition mode at my home gym in Edmonton. There were a few typical finalists absent from the event, so I was excited for another opportunity to try and get into finals. The qualifiers were awesome, and after climbing as well as I have in a long time I won Junior men, and qualified for finals in second place, being one of two competitors to send the top six problems. A few good friends from my category joined me in finals, which was a huge plus for morale. The first two problems went as well as they could have, with two flashes. I was incredibly stoked, and felt as if I really belonged in finals. Then I realized that I could conceivably win the competition, and then I lost my composure. I stopped trying to have fun, fixating on what I would do for the next two problems. They went terribly. I finished the event in fourth, a respectable result, but again I felt that there was something missing from my performance.

Movin through Mens Final One in Edmonton. Photo: Poppa Funk

So then it was Christmas, and I escaped back to the mountains for a week. I saw many of my friends from the summer, and had a really good time just relaxing and having fun climbing (I took a two week break from training to rest a little and get psyched to push myself again). Then it was back home for a couple training sessions before making the drive back down to Canmore. I squeaked into finals at this event the year before, and so I was really hoping I could repeat my performance in qualies.

My first impression of the qualifier problems: really really hard. There were 55 problems, the top five all looking incredibly difficult. I decided to bide my time, trying to send some of the slightly easier problems in very few attempts while letting the other competitors spend some time and energy testing some of the harder ones, seeing if they were possible. As the round was starting to come to a close, I realized that I had the same top 7 problems as a lot of the other competitors, but I had a lot of falls. I wouldn't make finals if I didn't send one of the top problems. Fortunately, I was still feeling quite fresh despite having climbed for two and a half hours, and made a quick send of a very powerful problem, landing myself in fourth place heading into finals.

Once we got into isolation, I was feeling really good. I felt fresh after the morning, and the fact that many of my good friends were alongside me in finals made me feel at ease. We went out for preview, and I was blown away at the quality of the problems; they were dynamic, powerful, aesthetic, and seemed to be really my style. We all went back into ISO frothing, ready to go play on some boulders and put on a show for the crowd. The first problem involved a dynamic move to a hard-to-stick sloper, followed by some tensiony climbing and a huge dyno to finish. I stuck the first move on my flash attempt, but fell after fumbling with a heel hook. I stuck the finish on my second go out of pure will and desperation, and headed back into ISO. Most others sent it within a few goes as well. The second problem involved a cool jump move, followed by a powerful middle and a brutal crimp traverse up high before the finish. I went out and gave it my all, and managed to get the flash, as did a couple others. I was stoked.

Sticking the first jump of Finals #1 in Canmore. Photo: Pam Eveleigh

All of a sudden, I was thrown back into the position I was in in Edmonton; halfway through finals, sitting in first. Immediately I felt a little bit anxious, not wanting to repeat my performance there. Fortunately, my coach (Dan) was also competing in finals, and he could see me starting to stress out. He kinda shook me back to reality, reminding me exactly what I was there to do. Have fun and crush some boulders. So that what I set out to do, talking and joking with some friends, enjoying the experience.

Boulder three came around, and I was psyched. It was by far the shortest and most powerful looking boulder, and so I knew I would have to dig deep. A dicey jump start (that I somehow didn't mess up) lead to a powerful couple moves on slopers before a strange looking press finish. I managed to nail the opening sequence, something no other competitor had done. All of a sudden I was on the finish move, and while my instinct told me to go one way, all the other competitors sequenced it a different way. I decided to commit to the beta that all the other athletes had decided on, but to no avail despite a desperate 20 second struggle. I couldn't finish it that way, and I was powering out. I needed to do something. Luckily, I managed to reverse a move and relax for a second. I quickly decided to follow my initial idea, and before I knew it I was hanging off the finish hold. Coming down from that problem was one of the coolest experiences I'd had. The crowed was going crazy, the commentator wrapping me in a huge bear hug, and all I could do was stand there with a huge dopey grin on my face.

Moving through the start of Finals #3 in Canmore. Photo: Pam Eveleigh

The fourth problem was basically a route on a short wall, with a ridiculous amount of moves. I went out and gave it everything I had, but couldn't get the send. At that point, if Mark Eveleigh sent the fourth problem, he would win. If he didn't, I would. He came unbearably close, but just couldn't seal the deal. I ended with three tops in four, which was one attempt less than Mark. It doesn't get much closer than that, and I was so stoked that I was lucky enough to win. What made the experience even better was that I could win alongside Allison Vest, one of the most awesome and hard-working people out there.

A few weeks later was Youth Bouldering Provincials back in my home gym. After lots of reflection about the Canmore comp, I figured out the headspace I really needed to succeed in these bouldering events. I put it to good use in Edmonton, but I wasn't able to perform exactly as I wanted. I wasted a couple attempts on the first problem in finals, but despite flashing the next two problems it wasn't enough to take the lead. It was awesome to see my teammate Matt Hendsbee make a comeback from injury to win our category, but I was bummed that I couldn't put the finals round together like he had. Regardless, that comp (like all the others) served as an awesome learning opportunity for me.

Qualifier #2 at the Youth Bouldering Provincials in Edmonton. Photo: Pam Eveleigh

Finally, last weekend I traveled to Vancouver for BC provincials at The Edge climbing gym. It was awesome to see so many friends out there, as well as to see such a strong Alberta presence. The qualification round went really well, and I was elated to get five tops in six attempts, qualifying for finals tied for fourth place. The field was super strong, and so I was stoked to have a spot in finals, to climb another round. The first problem identified a bit of a weakness of mine, and didn't go so well. Fortunately, I managed to pick myself back up after that, get back into the headspace I needed and went out and flashed the second problem. I almost send the third, and despite a huge battle on the fourth problem and a minor flesh wound, I couldn't get it done. I finished in sixth. While a few things didn't quite go my way during that finals, I was really proud to have made it as far as I did.

Getting my ass kicked by some slippery slopers at BC Provincials. Photo: Shane Murdoch

So now, there's a week before the first ever Canadian Youth Boulder Nationals. Am I excited? Yes. Nervous? Of course. But above all else, I feel ready. I feel like I've done all I can to prepare for this event, both physically and mentally, and I'm ready to go show it. This will be the first of the three different National Championships I'm attending this year, and I'm excited for all that will come after this event as well.

I'll try to keep this blog updated slightly more than I have in the past, so (hopefully) I'll talk to you soon! Thanks for reading this brutally long post, and any feedback is always appreciated.
Until next time, Goodbye!

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