Oh No! I’ve Become a Boulderer!

When did this happen? I don’t understand. I’ve always been a sport climber.

Well, I guess things change. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but sometime between the start of 2013 and now, I’ve let sport climbing slip by the wayside – and I haven’t done very much to prevent it from happening. Maybe it was a lack of consistent partners. Maybe it was the injuries. Maybe it was the move out West. I don’t really know – but over the past 6 or 7 months, I can count the number of times I’ve sport climbed on two hands.

Since I began climbing, I’ve always felt the most comfortable on a rope. There was something fluid and graceful about sport climbs – even at the harder grades as the climbs became stacked boulder problems. I avoided bouldering almost completely for the first year or so of my climbing – but a lack of partners eventually forced my hand. Slowly but surely, I began bouldering more, and I realized how important it was as a training tool. And then, before I knew it, and without even realizing it, I was a boulderer.

But it’s time to change that. I’m psyched to be resuming my life on the sharp end for the coming season. Yesterday marked 80 days until SCS Open Nationals at Sender One in Santa Ana, CA. That’s 80 days for me to train, to rebuild my endurance, to get confident again. 80 days to not come in last place, to not suck, to resume my goal of 5.13. 80 days to crush.

Stoked! Photo credit: Veronica Beman (flickr: Verblonica)

Stoked! Photo credit: Veronica Beman (flickr: Verblonica)

I got back on lead in the gym tonight, and it was humbling, to say the least. Though I feel stronger than ever, my endurance is laughably poor. In fact, I’m still pumped as I type this – and I finished my last climb over an hour ago! As with many things climbing-related, I think the most difficult aspect of my return to sport climbing will be the mental game. In my head, I can still climb hard 5.12 with relative ease in the gym – but the fact of the matter is, while I can pull each individual move on these climbs, and probably put some decent links together, I’m nowhere near where I was a year ago – and I’ll probably fall around the 3rd bolt every time.

I imagine that overcoming this hubris and eating a few slices of humble pie will prove the most challenging part of the next few weeks. I need to remind myself that training endurance won’t really be that fun, but in the long run, it will pay off. It will also require me to become a bit less grade-fixated. A night of climbing through the pump on a bunch of 5.11s will probably be more beneficial to my endurance than flailing my way up some 5.12/13s. At least that’s the way I see it, for now.

Looking forward, I’m so excited to have SCS Nationals as my goal for the season. It will be my first real pro competition, and I’ll have the opportunity to compete against the likes of Chris Sharma, Daniel Woods, Carlo Traversi, Vasya Vorotnikov, and a myriad of other strong climbers who will undoubtedly kick my butt. I can’t wait.

I have one more trip planned – this coming weekend, to Joshua Tree – but after that, I’m going to be focused on training for the upcoming competition season. Unfortunately, I will probably limit my time bouldering outside and spend a little more time in the gym. With that said, I have a crazy semester of classes and research coming up, so maybe that’s for the better anyway!

For now, I’m really stoked to be tying figure 8’s and taking big whippers again. I have no doubt I’ll continue bouldering throughout the next few months, because let’s be honest – there’s nothing quite like being powerful. But I’m quite excited to become a sport climber again.

Til next time. Stay stoked and climb on!

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3 responses to “Oh No! I’ve Become a Boulderer!

  1. Having just done my first leads since July last night, I can definitely identify with the lingering pump you were feeling (which has now transformed into full-body-why-was-that-a-good-idea soreness). It’ll be interesting to see how the transition back to sport goes for you, and how you manage to bring your endurance back. For myself, I’ve found I get back into leading most successfully when I warm up bouldering and then jump right on one of the harder routes in the gym that I have no expectation of getting clean. Since there’s probably no route on the walls with moves as hard as some of our system board problems, it’s all about defining “normal” for myself. If I convince myself that tiny holds are the norm and that the moves are all easier than my usual workouts, I end up climbing way better than when I start off on easier climbs and then panic as soon as I hit something that’s not a jug. In any case, I’d heavily support your idea of becoming less attached to grades. In fact, if you can throw them out entirely, that’s the way to go. Just look at them as moves you can do and moves you haven’t done yet, and accept falling as an opportunity to learn regardless of the grade. Also, let me know when you get done with this rope silliness so we can play on some little rocks!

  2. Very exciting! In my personal experience, I have found that I see the most improvement in my climbing during those periods right after I switch from all bouldering to all ropes, and vice versa (right after the horrible initial transition period, of course). I’m sure you will be completely killing it again on ropes in no time! Good luck 🙂

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