Wednesday, 26 December 2012

CHILLED - and winning! Hope I've found the formula

The last comp is always the winter British Youth Open. I’d won this in Sunderland last year, and the summer one at Ratho.

I couldn't wait for this event at Awesome Walls in Liverpool, as the 2009 Youth Open here was one of my first leading comps and I have fond memories of this wall.  In ’09 I came sixth and in ’10 third. I wanted to continue doing well in this comp ;-).

After a long drive up on Friday we got to the hotel and after a good sleep for once we headed down to the wall. I walked in to be as inspired/nervous as I was three years ago at the steepness and size of the wall. Routes looked amazing, I was psyched!

Route one took a smearing corner up the right hand side of the comp wall. No problems. Topped. Climbing for fun, and what a difference it makes!! It was about 7a+. Quite a few other people topped this.

The next route was much harder, orange up the middle of the comp wall. I was climbing midway through the group. Most people fell off a hard move off an undercut half way up. I slapped up, missing the intermediate that caught people out. I had stuck it. Bump low hand in. I screamed (don’t do that a lot!), made a move to a good hold and CHILLED! A few seconds later I was at the top, quite a fight! This route was given 8a and it felt solid at the grade. I qualified in first place. Sweet.

Since the start of the day there were rumours of how hard, the purple on the comp wall was: 8a, 8a+, 8b or 9a. Whatever grade it was, it was our final. I was psyched.

After a long wait in isolation I went out for observation. I had spotted the rest and cruxes. Everything went according to plan and I made a big move off an undercut. I caught the next good hold. By the sound of the crowd I knew I had won. I didn't care! I wanted to finish the route everyone had been talking about and worrying about, and I did! First place in the Youth Open for the third time running, and climbing for fun. Result!

The route was given 8a+/b. I was pleased to onsight it! Got a ‘well done’ e-mail from Steve McC, who set it. Ian said 'What if you could climb like that in Euros, because you can!', which really made me think. Molly also managed to flash the route after the comp and put a good effort in on the orange, sick!

Well done to all the climbers! There was some amazing climbing and the new team was selected. Rebecca Kinghorn is one to watch!

Bouldering open was the next day and I injured myself. Came 9th. Did something to my neck and haven’t climbed since, three weeks plus off. Itching to get back. But over the last few months I’ve learnt loads about my head, just how to be psyched, being relaxed, being confident in my ability and trusting myself to be good enough to fight hard. 

Bring on next year, if I get selected ;-)!

Three more comps, a Euro goal realised, and my head more sorted

Three more comps helped me sort my comp head.

At the European championships in Gemozac, France, I was quietly confident I could make the final. On my first route I was up 2nd. It looked about 7c+/8a. I only managed to about half way up before I pumped out. I had been over gripping from the floor, nerves!

Relax for the next route. It suits me - low percentage tech route - but the same thing happened. Although I felt like I got some flow back just before I fell, I tried to lock a move and should have been more dynamic. It felt like I had given up and let go, a feeling I used to get a lot in comps but had got rid of. I came 20th. The next day I did the speed for fun and came 20th out of 22.

I decided to go to the Welsh championships after Gemozac to try and sort my head out for comps. Great event, but less pressure, so how would I react and what would I learn? I arrived to find everyone who made the Youth A podium at the BLCC was there – me, Connor and Luke. I was psyched.

The comp was in a different format to usual, having three qualifiers, a semi and a final. Me and Connor were the only ones to top the qualifiers and went into the semi in joint first. I went out first and topped the route, climbing with a relaxed style which made me enjoy the climbing. No-one else topped. I went into the final in first place. In isolation I could tell from the crowd that people had come close to topping the route. I knew what I had to do and did it. I had won without a fall. The comp really helped teach me how to relax and I was excited to use this new frame of mind in Kranj, the final round of the Europeans.

After a good warm up in Kranj’s weird corridor boulder wall, and watching the older group go up our route first, I was ready for my first climb, which took the left hand line of very steep wall in a sports hall.

The route had an easy start, which led to a powerful crux. I did the first two crux moves easy. Drilled my foot. Made a dynamic move to the next hold. The quick draw got in the way. Whacked it with my hand. I fell. I was a little disappointed, but felt much more relaxed than most recent comps. I was joint 15th on this route. We went back to the hotel and eight hours later I was back beneath the wall ready to climb my next route. This route seemed to have a series of mini cruxes. I found myself at the rest before the top composing myself to tackle the volumes above. I made the hard slab move. Yes. Next move. Feet cut loose. Back on. Come on, I think to myself. I slapped into the hold but beneath me my foot popped and I was off, pumped!

I had a decent fight on this route, which I have not had for a while in a comp due to being too nervous to get into full fight mode. Finished 16th. Well done to Molly who came 2nd.

So it was the end of my first year of Euros in Youth A. I had two goals – a top 15 ranking and a final, and I made the first one, finishing ranked 15th, and 14th in the world because of a different scoring system. Good. But I didn’t make a final. A 12th, 13th, two 16ths and a 19th, so never out of the top 20, but not a final.

But over these three comps I realised I needed to relax, and I did enough to have a good fight at Kranj.

Realising I need to sort my head for comps!

For this year’s BLCCs, I really wanted to improve on my other disappointing results in this comp. I didn’t, but I learnt a lesson about my head that helped later in the year.

I qualified for the Youth A final in joint first. But in the final, after missing a clip, I struggled to reach down and clip. My foot ripped off. I felt very disappointed as I felt like I had been climbing really well before the comp.

The next day it was my first go in seniors. The first route was an endurance 7c. I climbed it so easily, only to fall because off a lack of commitment on last 'pop' move. On the next route I was up first. It was a tetchy 8a. I managed to get to the last lip, beating some people who topped out the other route. But the whole comp, for me, came down to the last move on the first route. I finished 9th, outside the final.

Afterwards I tried the seniors’ final route and managed to get very high, to the same place as Dave Barrans, who came 3rd. Though this doesn't mean anything, it showed me what I could do when I sort out my head and relax.

Again, I killed the disappointment by getting outside in the Peak with Will Smith. I tried to head point Life Assurance but my head messed with me and, when trying to down climb, my foot ripped and I took the fall the fall you’re not meant to take! The next day, back on Mecca it was too wet to go for red points, but I made some good progress on the moves. 

Good fitness from climbing outdoors, but disappointment indoors at worlds

After my trip to Kilnsey, it was time to look ahead to the world championships in Singapore at the end of August. The weather got bad which gave me time to train indoors. I felt fit and strong; my trip to Céüse had increased my fitness a lot.

We flew out to Singapore on the Saturday before the comp on the Wednesday. The comp and our hotel was on a holiday island called Sentosa and the wall was on the amazing sandy beach. Before the comp we just had one session at a really cool little wall where most of the teams had been training.

For my first route, I was nervous. I fell off with a deep left foot flag under my right leg, which limited my reach to the next hold. I still came 26th on this route. Psyched - I can still make the semis, which is top 25!

The next route looked like it suited me. I was climbing later on in the day so got to stay in bed for a bit which helps recovery from jet lag. I made a few trips down to the wall to get some beta for the route, but made sure I stayed cool and hydrated in my hotel room.

I made my final trip down to the wall, got warmed up, then the rain started. The wall was soaked in minutes. Climbing was delayed and no one thought it would carry on that day. But the routes were dried with towels and I was back at the wall warmed up ready to go.

The route suited me perfectly - good positive holds and flicks moves. Start went well. I got to one of the harder looking moves, did it. Heel up. Couldn't get it to stick. I panicked and flicked for the next old.  Almost caught it but I was off.

Overall I finished in 38th. I was pretty disappointed. I was hoping for the top 20 to improve on my 25th result last year.

Consolation back home was a trip to Peak limestone with Jim Pope. I decided to try Mecca (8b+) and managed all the moves but the crux, and did some big links. Good effort to Pope who did his first 8a.