An Epic into a success!
James and Chris headed home to England and it was then time to head to Boulder, Colorado, 12 hours drive away. We packed the car excited and ready to blast down the highways and across the passes. However, 2 miles down the road I learnt that if you drive a mini cooper into a large American curb it causes some damage. So the trip was delayed. Up early and ready to leave the next day (in Alex’s mums car) we were delayed till late afternoon but by 4pm we are on the road making it steadily to our half way stop Amarillo, where we spent the night in rather nice hotel.
Next day at 10am we were off, Alex making a steady pace though snow and mist. Until… 100 miles later that lovely little red oil light made an appearance on the dash… soon accompanied by unpleasant knocking sound coming from the engine. Our journey was yet again delayed. Whilst waiting for the tow truck (back to the town where we slept) we waited in cafe in an Amish Mennonites town. It was fascinating to see their unique and interesting way of life.
So 2 cars down and in the middle of nowhere it was time to decided to continue on or return to Dallas. Our determination and persistence was not to be denied, we made the decision to take a Grey Hound. If you have never heard of a Grey Hound then you are lucky! After 9 hours sat on a coach thorough the night we finally arrived in Boulder, sore tired and ready to climb of course. We had 3 days of climbing here experiencing the powerful steep American style in full climbing with Daniel and Courtney Woods who kindly let us stay at their place.
The ABS Nationals began on Friday morning and I was up second. It felt like so long since I had been in any kind of big comp and this made me excited, psyched and of course a little nervous, but it was a good nervous (excited not terrified little butterflies in the tummy)! Climbing early is something that a lot of people dread and others wish for. I don’t really mind at all, climbing early means the holds are cleaner and I don’t have to be thinking about how everyone else has done, basically I don’t think it mentally affects me. Everyone has to climb, when I climb I try hard and aim to get to the top which I will always do weather I am climbing first or last.
Qualifiers went well… I made it through to semi-finals. I arrived at the isolation zone with less than 20 minutes to warm up, but considering the amount of time I have to say I was reasonably pleased with my level of warmth. However the ever dreaded flash pump burn in the forearms was looking inevitable. What did I expect to fin in my first ever American comp… pinches, big moves, steep walls. All of which were present and all of which contributed to that flash pump that lead to me dropping one move of the five boulder problems putting me in joint 5th place going into semi-finals the next day.
An unusually late start to the day for semi-finals not having to be in isolation until 1.30 allowed us to feel well rested and ready for action and also gave me the time to have a decent warm up! I sat in the chair awaiting my turn, looking out at the crowd wondering what exciting crazy boulders were waiting behind me. On day one I climbed second this allows you to get on the wall with no consideration of what other before you have achieved, however in semis I climbed 17th and I could here the cheers and the see the faces of the crowd giving hints on how the others were doing. I think some people feed off this or try to figure out what they are required to achieve to make it to the final round. Thats too much effort for me, recently I have discovered that trying hard like really really hard will get you even higher up the wall and therefore higher up the rankings and that requires all my effort. It seemed to work as I found myself heading into finals in second place to Alex Puccio after topping 3 boulders and touching the last hold on the other.
After a quick break back to the hotel to chill out and chat to family on skype we were on our way back to isolation. Warming up didn’t seem appealing anymore as most of my body was sore and climbing for any length of time was definitely going to take some of my limited energy that I was sure to need in the finals. A quick mess around on some jugs was sufficient. The format in finals works differently, the finalist sit next to each other facing the crowd, backs to the wall and each have our turn at trying to complete the boulder problem only moving on to the next boulder problem when each person has completed their attempt. This is so nerve racking! Its hard to block anything out but I am not sure if I would want to. When a competitor has their time on the boulder if they return very quickly with the crowd going wild its obvious that they got to the top first try, the crowd give away a lot but the results board in plain view clarified any suspicions!
The problems in the finals required a combination of technique, balance, power, endurance, determination, everything any boulder problem could ask for and everything my body did not want to give but I kept up the whole trying really really hard theme and I sat in first place with one boulder left to go. We had all seen the boulders and knew what the last boulder had in store for us… I knew that no one had got to the top but my levels of psyched were not as high as I would have liked them to be due to my aching body but I was ready to give it everything I had left as it was the last climb. A double handed dyno for the first move and then it was into a series of pinches (definitely my least favourite type of hold) in a steep roof and then to a crimp (definitely a hold type I prefer) but only to lead to a big sloper which was the point were I was defeated, the typical burly American style landed me laying on my back 2 holds from the top looking up at the boulder and wanting nothing more than to roll over and go to sleep. I tried agin but my arms were not happy about it and trying hard was not going to get me there, I had nothing left. Alex had told me earlier that when she hear’s no one has topped a boulder it gets her more psyched, she topped the last boulder first try in an impressive style but she was extremely deserving of yet another first place.
I have been asked a few times about the scoring system which is different to the World Cup format which places you but the number of tops you get in the number of attempts you have. The American system works on number of tops and then points per hold which placed me in 3rd behind Angie Payne by one hold! Her arms must have had more left than mine!
This competition was the hardest, most exciting and intense competition I have ever entered. It required so much from me and I have never ached this much or had so many grazes! The field of women was so impressively strong. It is amazing to be around so many women who love the sport and who are psyched for competitions.
I left the American National Bouldering Championships truly inspired by both the men and the women competitors and the loud, enthusiastic crowd that kept us going though finals. I hope we put on a good show! I have made so many new friends and I hope to return to America to explore the endless rock it has to offer and maybe (if my body can handle it) attempt some more of their truly unique competitions.
Videos from the comp will be available soon so keep checking I will post them on here!