Friday, 3 April 2015

CWIF 2015 – Sheffield - March

CWIF has been a very erratic comp for me. In my first year (2013) I made it to semis in 16th and finished in 8th. At age 16 I was 2 places off a final in a senior competition. 

In my second year I went in hoping and expecting to do something similar, or to at least make semi-finals. I didn’t, I slipped off 5 attempts over 3 problems and finished 22nd.  At 17 I was 2 places off a semi-final place. Not quite what I’d hoped. 
Photo by Reindert Lenselink

So this year, at 18 I had no idea what to expect, I wasn’t sure if I’d make semis; if I’d be happy with my climbing; if I’d even climb many  of the qualifiers problems. I went in with an open mind and came out smiling.  

I definitely couldn’t have done it without my team. Bigrigg were supportive and encouraging, and although they may have cost me some sleep before semis, they still drove me to isolation early Sunday morning and sat supporting me the whole day when they could have been out on the rock. Mike Mullins, my coach and owner of Bigrigg, was the reason I did so well in qualifiers, mostly because it felt so good to rub it in his face that I’d beat him on 2 problems even if he totally kicked my ass on the other 6 he did and I didn’t. He also gave me the confidence to do the problems and went first on all of them so I could know what to do and feel better about the challenge.

Although we didn’t stick as a team the whole time, we still climbed like one. I split off a couple times when the guys decided to start on the really hard ones before even seeing the easy ones and being the wimp I am, I decided to go easy. I watched the beast Tara Hayes crush a couple, and then a few of the foreign powerhouses in attendance,  so I wasn’t short of beta, but I was alone and didn’t know them as well so I did fall off a couple as expected. I managed to do ones I didn’t expect to and nearly all those I did get I flashed. 

At the start of the day I’d set myself a goal of getting 16 problems because last year I’d only topped 15 and it wasn’t enough. So when I flashed my 16th problem I was happy, I’d met my target and I was happy with my climbing bar 2 problems. To then go on and get a 17th and get 2 bonuses I didn’t expect to, meant I was more than happy with the day. I didn’t know if it was enough for semis and I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I focused more on the fact that I’d managed to beat Tom Greenall (junior team manager). Simple as it was I will be holding that over his head for as long as I know him. 

Semis would have been great at this point but I was more than happy with a couple of problems that I’d flashed so I wasn’t too worried because I was leaving the Works with a smile on my face, even if my team wasn’t. They were well on their way to eating their feelings.

I left that day excited for dinner more than anything and when my fellow competitor Ajda messaged me to say that we had both qualified, I couldn’t believe it, and I made her double check. I was so happy and excited and nervous and just filled with emotion. For the second time this year I’d done well in a senior British and International comp. I went to dinner with the guys and then to the pub to watch them have a drink as I worried about semis. At the end of the night all I could think about was the next day, how would I do, would it be like the first year or would I totally choke. I would just have to wait.

I woke up nervous and all I could do was think about the Superbloc competition the previous month when I finished 6th. What had made me succeed? I realised it was because I didn’t care. So I did that. I stopped caring about how I looked, where I would rank, how I would climb and I just did it. I warmed up with Jen, Ajda and Flo and went out to climb. Felt pretty cool to be going out at the same time as junior European champ Baptiste Ometz, (not that he had noticed or knew who I was) but in that moment I thought to myself, I was up there, I was with the champs and this would be my year. I was going to top and get bonuses and climb my best and sure enough, I did ok…
Photo by Dom Worrall

First one was a slab just like last time, I looked at it and couldn’t see why it would be hard which sounds cocky but it was a rare sighting to see such big foot holds on a slab. I had no need to worry. I stepped on and walked my way to the top with a slight feeling of ‘oh crap’ as a felt how bad the final few holds were but when I made that last move and grabbed that last hold, I felt great. I jumped off and smiled my way to the bench to wait till problem 2. 

The second climb (pictured) looked easier than it was and my eyes may have been bigger than my biceps. I fluffed the first move once and then continued to slip off the bonus several times. I stood at the bottom looking and thinking I should jump with two hands but for some reason I didn’t even try it. If I had I probably would have got that bonus which is what irritated me most. 

The third problem went a little better, even though I fluffed the first move yet again. I managed to get the bonus and to get to the crux but by that point my biceps were burning from qualifiers and I didn’t have the energy to make the hard move which I thought was bad of me, but in retrospect not many others even got there nor made the move. The last one was a lot like 2 years ago in that I got nowhere on it. It was super sweaty and when I did finally figure out the beta I greased off the holds just before the hard bit was over even if it didn’t really ease up after that. 

Overall I was happy, I finished in 11th, I moved up 7 places almost like 2 years ago, I was 4th out of the British girls, the top junior girl and a bonus attempt away from 10th. I like to think that last year was myoff year but I won’t know till the Euros come around. Next year I will make the jump. I hope.

SuperBloc @ the Telegraph Outdoor Show - London - February

Photo Duncan Bottrill

Last year wasn’t my best year, I wasn’t happy with any of my comps and although I did well, I always thought I could have done better. I was worried that my bad streak would continue into 2015 so when Superbloc came along as the first big comp of the year I was very nervous. On the day I actually regretted agreeing to go (which is a first as I’m not usually one to turn down a challenge). Have to say now though, I am very glad that I went.

When I first heard about Superbloc it was a message on fb. I was shocked and felt very privileged to have even been considered as a competitor. A new comp, taking place as a showcase event during the Telegraph Outdoor Show at the Excel in London, this was my first invite-only competition and it did feel pretty cool to be considered one of the twenty strongest females in Britain, especially after doing so badly at CWIF last year when I didn't even make the semis. 

I felt excited but also very scared. As the big day grew closer I was worried, almost sure I was going to fail but when it arrived I’d been worrying about it for so long that I actually managed to stop caring. I realised there was no expectations for me, no one thought I would win, and there was no way I was going to make finals. I’d convinced myself I was a showfiller. So there was no pressure. It was now a fun comp, and I had no competitive urges at all. The only thing I was worried about when I was warming up was making a total fool of myself on the problems in front of everyone at the Show.

When I stepped out onto the mat I felt a rush of energy and nervousness. But that was quickly fixed by Percy’s comments on my purple hair and Ben Wests lack of it. All it took was that little giggle to remove any and all stress. It was now just me and the wall. I looked at the first problem and all I could think was how cool it looked, and it didn’t look that hard either. Obviously I was wrong, I didn’t even get the bonus but I felt good falling off and I managed to try a lot of different ways to get it which is usually something I forget to do in the heat of the moment. 

The second problem baffled me a little as it had slippy footholds, and I HATE slippy footholds. They annoy more than anything. But somehow I managed to make my feet stick, and then my hand, and then my other hand. Before I knew it I was on the last move and I was doubting I would make it because it looked and felt pretty far away for a last hold. For once something happened and as I doubted myself I made the move with full power, not half power half doubt, full power all the way to the last hold. I caught it and smiled as I jumped off. I was so surprised to have got a bonus never mind topped anything. 

The next two weren’t easy, I found what I thought was the beta for the second problem but I lacked the substantial amount of power that I needed to actually make the move. So I didn’t manage it, and because I didn’t think I’d get anywhere near finals I used a lot of energy trying to get it. The last problem was one I thought I had a chance of doing, but by then I was exhausted and my stupid ankle meant I couldn’t use the heel-toe jam I needed to make to the top of the horrible pinchy tufas. I did manage to make it to the top of them once but I’d tried so hard on the other 3 and the heat was getting to me so much that I was out of energy and just couldn’t do it. 

I was happy though, I went over to Tom with a smile on my face and ready to get lunch. I in no way thought I’d done my best and didn't even consider that I’d made finals. It wasn’t till Tom asked if I was looking forward to finals and said they’d be cool to watch that I comprehended that I’d made it.  I’d made it in 5th place and I was one of only 5 climbers to top anything. I was so surprised and kind of tired. If I’d known that top would have got me to finals I wouldn’t have tried so hard on the last 2 and I would have at least tried to save some skin. 

I almost wish we could have left it at semis as I was so happy with them and I thought I’d climbed amazingly, but in finals I got freaked-out and didn’t climb well at all. I messed around on the first problem and went against my own beta 7 times before actually using my beta to get the problem. If I hadn’t been so daft I probably would have flashed it. 

The second one I definitely should have got, but I greased off first time and then my energy got shot and I couldn’t make it to the last move again. The third problem was probably the most frustrating because all my usual issues came flooding back as I made it to the last move, doubted my dyno abilities and as I got my hand round the last hold which I didn’t expect to reach I wasn’t prepared to hold it. If I’d topped that I would have been 4th instead of 6th. The last one had my skin pulsing with pain even when I was on the problem, it wasn’t numbed like it usually would be when I started climbing, it was worse and I couldn’t bear to hang on the holds long enough to steady myself for the moves needed to get the bonus, not that it would have made a difference anyway.

Photo Duncan Bottrill

Superbloc was the most exciting comp I’ve done in a while and it was amazing to get the experience of being in a senior final. I climbed well, I could have climbed better but I was so happy to have done well and to get to stand next to a podium of such strong women was amazing. I hope my luck will continue onto my Euros to give me my best final year as a junior and let me leave the junior comp scene feeling happy and ready to try my best at seniors.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

British Junior Bouldering Cup 2015 Round 1 – Derby – December 2014

It had been a year since I’d had the opportunity to compete directly against GB team mates Molly, Gracie and Tara as they are all a year younger than me and so were in a different category last year.  In 2015 we all compete together in Junior Girls - I wasn’t sure what to expect. The last time I had competed with them I felt I was close to matching their strength but wasn’t quite close enough to win. This year I expected it to be the same.
We had been told that this was no longer the selection event for existing team members and that we would be on the team for the next 6 months no matter what so I was pretty chilled about it as a comp. But I do have to admit I was pretty emotional right before warming up when it hit me that it was the beginning of the end for my junior competitions. It was the first comp of my last year and I didn’t want it to end. Nevertheless it was time to compete.

After looking at the problems I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, they looked doable, but all very droppable and to me that was the worst kind of problems. When the qualifiers started I got on what I thought was one of the medium strength problems and managed to flash it, but felt a bit sketchy doing so. 

I went on to do one that I was dreading to get it out the way and managed that as well. That gave me the confidence to go onto problems I knew I could do. I made my way through a lot of the easy ones as well as a couple hard, unfortunately slipping of an easy one twice but then managing it. I got a bonus that no one else got, but couldn’t quite top it and managed to qualify in 3rd with 2 less tops than Tara and Molly. I was quite happy with how I’d climbed as qualifiers are usually my weak point but for once I had done well.

I went into finals with a little confidence which was slightly thrown after viewing the problems and thinking how hard they looked. But after almost flashing the first one and only just missing out on the top I felt quite happy. I got the second problem second go and then went onto to do the same on the third. Admittedly the whole I time I found myself getting really tired after the first attempt but I’m glad it didn’t affect me too much. Molly won with one less attempt than Tara and looking back if I had just held that last hold on my second go rather than greasing off I would have won. 

That was the closest I had come to beating Tara and Molly in about 3 years and I was so happy to have come so close. I’m happy with how I climbed and I can’t wait for the next one and to finish of this year hopefully with my best results. We’ll just have to wait and see.   

Gravity Bouldering Championships – Dublin, Ireland – November 2014

This Gravity comp was different to others, instead of me and Elle against the Irish we had Gracie and new climbers coming along, creating doubt and questions in my head. I was unsure of how the day would end and where I would be in the results. 

I tried to warm up but my fingers were freezing and I just wanted to get started and see how the problems would be. At first flashing a few easy ones and then making a stupid mistake that meant I fell off on a problem that I shouldn’t have struggled with, but that’s what I need to really get into things. I wasn’t afraid of failing now because I already had. I did better on some problems than other, but didn’t want to waste any energy, so tried not to have more than one go on anything knowing that after the qualifiers there was then semis and finals and my power endurance was would come into play. 
Gravity Podium - photo Eddie Cooper

I managed to qualify in first which actually surprised me but I was happy and excited to get onto semis as the problems looked great! When we got started I managed to royally mess up the sequence on the first problem but also managed to be the only one to top it which made me pretty happy to have a lead so early in the round. After that I went on to flash the rest of them. I went into finals in first. I was annoyed about how stupid I had been with the sequence but I had a bit of confidence for finals. When they began I heard a lot of failing on the first one again and was actually worried as during viewing I had been a little shaken by how hard they looked. Unsurprisingly, I failed, it just had to be a mantle and I got absolutely nowhere close to getting to the bonus. Thankfully neither did anyone else. The second problem wasn’t much different, I fell of the first move at least 8 times and even when I did catch it I couldn’t make the last move, which was very annoying as my fingers had actually made it into the slot and just slipped out. 

I knew that if I wanted to win I would have to top the 3rd problem at least. It was like a replay of semis as I tried the moves the right way but they didn’t work.  I tried them a second time and thankfully managed the easier moves and then went on to top the boulder and be the only one. I was overjoyed and incredibly relieved. The last problem was the most fun and I loved getting to the top. I flashed it with terrible technique and the wrong beta but I made it. So at least now I know that I need to calm down and actually think about the problems when I’m in a comp if I want to get somewhere on them.