It’s been one week since my last competition which also marks the last time I’ve touched any type of climbing hold. The break is nice. I chose to write this blog during the last 2 hours of my trans-Atlantic flight. After watching 3 movies and napping a bit I just want to write; I enjoy writing.
This was the second time I was at the La Sportiva Legends as an athlete and they were again held in Stockholm Sweden. I left November 30th on a 6am flight from Toulouse and was working the boulders by 4pm. Joining me for these “Legends Only” were Jan Hojer, Jimmy Webb, Nalle Hukkataival, Dimitrii Sharafutdinov and Alexander Megos. The boulders were much harder this year, that part was obvious from the get go. There were also a few differences. The two big differences were that there were more athletes and fewer problems. Last year there were 5 men with 5 boulders and this year 6 men with only 4 boulders. The extra competitor and the restraint in boulder numbers made them even more important.
We spent a good 3 hours working the problems, with minor changes being made on problems 2 and 3. After the working session, there was at least 1 move on EACH boulder that I could not do. It wasn’t so much a problem of strength but rather feet. I found the boulders so much harder for the shorties . (Note: I’m not taking anything away from the other taller competitors, just me ranting because I’m short and it looked easier for them) The part that made it hard if you were small was that on the first two boulders, the crux move involved releasing a toe hook and catching a far hold. So if you’re shorter like me, you have to release the toe hook much sooner than a taller competitor. When it’s the crux move, it sucks for the short guys, but hey that’s competition so I kept working the moves.
We finished our working session and went back to the apartment. We had the whole next day to rest and I figured 24 hours would be enough rest. At the end of the working session I had 2 fingers that were very close to bleeding. Not a cut sort of bleeding but more of a friction burn because the holds and volumes were so new. I hoped that they’d heal enough for the comp.
We went to the warm-up gym at 6pm, warmed up and were then escorted in a stretch limousine to the competition venue. One by one we ran out of the limo waving to a sold out crowd in the gym. The atmosphere was great and I remembered what it was like the previous year.
The first boulder was black holds on the far left. Of the first 5 guys I think 3 of them did it; Jan, Jimmy and Dimitrii. Nalle had done the move once without dynoing by releasing the toe hook so I tried that as well in the comp. After 2 attempts and a slap to the zone, 2 of my fingers started bleeding. I had never done that move in practice and it didn’t change in the comp. First boulder done, no tops no zones.
The second boulder was pink holds second from the right. The boulder started with a heel toe and did 3 compression moves followed by the crux move into an undercling. For this move, it was again by releasing a toe hook and controlling the swing. Of the first 5 competitors, Jimmy was the only one to complete that move and he finished the boulder. I made it up to that move 3 times but couldn’t control the swing. During that boulder, another 3 of my fingers started bleeding, 5 in total. Second boulder done, no tops no zones.
The third boulder was the far right on blue holds. It had a technical start and a powerful finish. Alex and Jimmy both flashed the boulder making it look pretty easy. The boulder started backwards and you had to do a 180 turn before the zone. From a high sloper out right, you had to find yet another blind toe hook and move to the zone. If you could take out the toe hook, it was 3 power moves to the top. I actually liked this boulder but I couldn’t complete it. I came out with my 5 taped tips and blew through the beginning. I managed to control the zone and was excited. Stuck in the toe hook, I couldn’t spread my legs that far. I can’t complain about anything here, I should be able to do that move. One time I tried matching the toe hook and squeezing the volume and the second time I tried jumping my right foot towards the next foot. Both were unsuccessful but I was relieved I got the zone!
A great part of this competition is the character of the athletes in them. By now, we had all congratulated Jimmy as he had already secured his victory. It was nice coming off the problem and good or bad just talking it over with the other climbers. I made only 1 zone in 3 boulders but was still smiling as bright as ever. Jimmy had done 3 boulders and was still saying how much had come together since yesterday, always smiling through his beard. This was the part that made me the happiest. To feel like I was at a gym session in front of a crowd with 5 friends kept me happy. It was also great to see how humble everyone was, always believing in each other.
By the last problem, I was exhausted. I was hoping that with the competition atmosphere and the freshly brushed holds I’d be able to conquer my unsuccessful practice moves. I did not…
Because they re-ranked the competitors before the last boulder I was the last out on the 3rd and I’d be first out on the 4th. They were nice and gave me as long as I wanted to rest. We had a good laugh while being interviewed and I started.
During the practice, there were 3 moves I hadn’t done on this boulder, the first, the last and one in the middle. During practice, on the last move, my arms were at full extension with my foot at maximum reach. From there we were supposed to dyno to the finish, but I couldn’t move. It didn’t matter as only Dimitrii got that far, but couldn’t complete the move.
I did the first move for the first time and smiled internally. This problem involved doing a 360 and I could feel how tired I was. I threw my feet above my head and started the turn. It went pretty well, but not as peppy as during the practice. I messed up my feet for a few seconds and it cost me. On the bump out move I could feel my body failing. I went for the move but my body was falling. I rested for over a minute and tried again. From there I couldn’t do the first move again. I was all smiles and waves. The competition was over for me, I knew I was last but that part didn’t matter. While I was waving, my mind was racing through my season, it was over and I wouldn’t compete again until May.
The competition finished up and Jimmy stood on the top podium place. 2nd and 3rd went to Dimitrii and Jan respectively. We all went to the afterparty together, ate 9 pizzas and shared some drinks. The next morning, we took a cab to the airport together and said our farewells. I was nostalgic leaving them after only being with them for 2 days. During those days we talked non-stop about climbing. It was refreshing to see how motivated they were for outside climbing, mostly bouldering. It re-inspired me even more to climb on rock!
On week later and I’m finally back in Canada. I’ll get to see my friends, eat sushi, go to some parties and spend Christmas with my family. Funny enough I’m really excited to climb again. I’ve been thinking about climbing and training and to be truthful ever since the China trip in October I haven’t really been training. I was so tired and exhausted from the season that I was just trying to maintain my strength. Valence went well and Kranj did not, such is the life of a competitor. I’m not psyched to train for competitions right now but rather to climb outside. I have such a desire to go to Bishop and Hueco Tanks again, which I will be doing in January in February. I know I’ll want to be fit for those trips so I’m psyched to train. The great thing about the training is that it won’t be the same as when I’m in the gym training for the next competition. There’s no pressure about climbing outside, it’s just me, my friends and the rock. I also get to drop endurance training and start on campus board and dead-hangs again!
Hopefully I’ll feel strong enough by January and be able to climb some cool lines as well. If I do, I’ll try to get some sends on video to make a movie!