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Bouldering and Competing with Fear

To compete or not to compete? That is the question.

“I’m going to do it.” Click. The webpage reloads and reads “Hi Heather, this is your order confirmation for New Year’s Bouldering Competition.”

So, you may remember, I competed at a bouldering competition last August at Threshold Climbing, Fitness, and Yoga in north Oklahoma City. During the event, I landed wrong from jumping off a problem. I hurt my neck because of it. Therefore, I quit climbing for fear of hurting myself more. It was a painful and disappointing day for me.

Four months later, I’ll be competing again at Threshold at the end of this month. I heard about the event before Thanksgiving, and I’ve had time to think about it. It’s been a while since I’ve competed and thought it’s time to do it again. However, memories of that day haunt me. What if I hurt myself again? Am I setting myself up for more disappointment?

Part of me wants to go to redeem myself, part me is too afraid to go.

How do you overcome fear? You push yourself past it if you want to achieve something.

Know My Surroundings

A bouldering arch inside Threshold.

One thing I’m working on for my preparation is called environmental context. Environment context (aka context effect) states that the context (environmental factors) that surrounds an event affects how an event is perceived and remembered. This effect holds that an event is more favorably perceived and remembered when the surrounding environment is comfortable and appealing.

In my case, I went to the comp without knowing the gym or its layout. Because of my unfamiliarity, I was more nervous and uncomfortable when it came time to climb. These feelings didn’t help my performance. On the other hand, if the comp were my local gym Climb UP, I’d still be nervous but not as bad.

What I am doing to have positive environmental context is driving to Threshold once a week to get accustomed to the place. Know the layout and be familiar with the grades of the problems. The grading system there is different than what I’ve seen at other gyms. Usually, the grades are given one value, whereas the grades at Threshold are in ranges. For example, they start at VB which is a beginner grade, then V0-V1, V2-V3, and so forth.

Fear of Heights

Another thing I’m working on is my fear of heights. Yes, I’m a climber and yet I have a fear of heights. There’s irony for you. Many problems at Threshold end at the top of the structures or walls which are 15 feet tall. I’m not comfortable climbing that high without gear, plus, there’s the fall factor in there too.

On some of the structures, you top-out at the end of problems which means mantling to get on top. Then you climb down on a downclimb route at the end of it. I don’t know if there are holds at the top you can use to top-out or not. That makes me nervous if they don’t because some of the problems look like they would be a pain or a little scary to mantle. Unfortunately, that’s something I’ll need to factor in while bouldering.

Don’t Panic

Phtoto of me in-front of a bouldering wall.

One more thing I’m trying to keep in mind as I boulder at Threshold is reading the problems better. Look harder for the pattern or flow of the problem and where the holds are. Doing this is, so I don’t trip myself up then panic while I’m bouldering.

Meanwhile, I need to stay calm if I do mess up. As I learned from the last comp, panicking makes things worse. I got to breathe and keep myself together, so I can finish the problem or downclimb safely then attempt it again later. I just need to make sure I know where I’m at before I jump off and land. Correctly landing on the mat is something I’ve been working on to ensure myself I won’t make the same mistake again.

Nervous AF

If you ask me if I’m still nervous about the upcoming comp, I’d say hell yes. I tend to overanalyze situations, especially if they might have a big impact on me. This event is no different. Say I do make it past the first 10 minutes but then hurt myself later during the comp. Then what? Well, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

I feel like if I’m going to overcome my fear of heights, I need to participate in the comp. I know there will be a time limit for bouldering just like the last one. But I’m going to take it slow, so I know what I’m doing. If I rush into a problem, my nervousness may start creeping in, especially if I’m sloppy or having to muscle through it.

Honestly, I don’t care where I’ll rank my category. I’m not setting the bar high for this comp. As long as I’m able to send the problems without getting hurt, flashing them or not, that’s what matters. Hopefully, I’ll have some fun too while I’m there.

Celebrating Vacay

I’ll be taking time off soon from the blog to celebrate Christmas. My family is coming to visit, so I won’t be able to post while they’re here. I will have a little preview though before the comp to keep you updated. Until next time, happy bouldering!