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The Battle of the Nerves

“You are not falling from here!”

This thought is the most recurring statement in my head tonight. “Nope, nope, nope,” is a close second. It’s me against my brain at Threshold Climbing + Fitness Gym’s New Year’s bouldering competition.

Familiar Ground

I’ve practiced for this comp and prepared as best as I could. But I’m still nervous AF as my husband and I walk through the gym door. I keep my expectations low but plan to climb my best despite my fears.

The bouldering comp is similar in format to ones I’ve participated in previously. It’s the redpoint format with 3 hours to boulder. Each bouldering category has up to 8 problems allotted for climbers to send. I chose to put myself in the beginner category again.

The easier the problem, the fewer points awarded; the harder the problem, the more points given. A flash adds 100 points to the score. The top 5 bouldering scores are picked for ranking.

What’s different this time is competitors can climb up to two problems above their category before being bumped up. Last time, it was one. Thankfully, another thing that’s different is none of the problems require securing the top of the wall or mantling on the structures to complete it. All problems have an end hold at the top.

After the rules and announcements finished, we are free to boulder.

Off to a Good Start

Working a green problem at Threshold's New Year Boudler comp

My first problem is a straightforward sequence. The end hold is high up on the wall. The fear of heights sneaks in as I climb closer to the top, but I secure the last hold. I move on to another problem. It’s supposed to be a harder beginner problem, but besides the slopers and big pinches for holds, it’s not.

I head to the next bouldering wall. The following problem I climb has good holds and includes a roof sequence. The final hold is on the front face. So, I do a third of the problem upside-down which is fun but scary. I had one of those “you are not falling from here” moments on the roof before flashing the problem.

Fighting with Myself

Awkward start to problematic problem.

Here’s where my nerves start to take over. My first hard problem has an awkward beginning by me sidepulling to the left on a large hold and starting my feet on a large volume on the right. I can’t reach back but can stretch my left leg to the next foothold and dropknee to secure it. It’s the best use of one I’ve had in a while.

The middle is easy, but the crux is three-fourths of the way up. One must use two sidepulls or possibly pinches before reaching the last hold. They're not superb. I need stability before I can use high feet. That’s my problem; I don’t feel stable at all. I try using the right sidepull, but my nerves get in the way and don’t trust myself to do it. As a result, I downclimb because I can’t finish and am afraid I’ll fall from that high up.

Frustrated, I move on to the last beginner problem, I have issues with that too. I get three-fourths up and over but find the unstable spot and can’t push past it. It did make me feel a little better seeing climbers struggle with the same spot. I alternated between the two awkward problems three or four times each until I decide to quit on them.

To distract myself from those problems, I do an “open book” beginner problem that I still can’t figure out how I flashed it. It looks hard. I thought I would have at least one attempt because the start is awkward. I use high feet and lots of palms. Near the top, I have another “you are not falling here” moment because the problem becomes tricky. Surprisingly, I flash it.

There’s one more problem in my category I need to claim my five scores. So, I bouldered an easy problem for the points. At this time, I haven’t attempted any intermediate problems. I decided then to seek out one that was doable.

My eyes spot the first intermediate category problem. It’s an odd start with a tough sloper before the end hold. I decide to go for it. After two or three attempts, I manage to get my right foot higher up the problem and reach up with my left hand to secure the end hold. Got it! I struggle to get my right up. My hand touches the hold for 2 seconds then I fall. I think I swung out when I went for it.

Apparently, the two seconds is enough to count the send. I lay on the mat and say out loud, “it was on there for 2 seconds.” A youth boulderer overhears me and tells me it counts. Yay! I finally sent an intermediate problem.

A Happy Surprise

Me with my 2nd place certificate.

Once I walk off the mat, I tell my husband I’m done climbing and let’s grab food. We chow on pizza offered by Threshold and wait for the awards ceremony to start. Overall, I’m satisfied my performance. I don’t think it was enough to rank, but I’m ok with that.

The awards come and go until the beginner category. Third place, not me. Second place, Heather Supinie! I’m taken by surprise as I walk up to the podium to receive my certificate. I think I have the biggest and stupidest grin on my face as they take our picture.

Comp Reflections

Overall, I had fun at the comp. Given the events of the day, I got to my nerves to shut up for at least a bit and climb. However, I do need to work on my fears more. A plus is I wasn’t severely hurt. Only small scrapes on fingers and arms from the large holds.

To help combat my anxieties even more, I would come back and compete at Threshold again. Maybe I’ll be strong enough physically and mentally to compete in the intermediate category. We will see. Until next time, happy bouldering!