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Raising the Rank: Climbing Intermediate at WSGOK

“Oh my god, it's a mirage. I'm tellin' y'all; it's sabotage!”

"Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys plays from my phone as my husband Tim and I drive to Oklahoma City. Today is the day of the 2018 Winter State Games of Oklahoma. I’m nervous, so I listen to “pump me up” music to calm myself, but I’m anxious already. The competition starts at 10 a.m. We arrive at Climb UP OKC for the event shortly after nine so I can sign-in.

Exterior panarama of Climb UP OKC gym.

We walk around the gym to see the routes. I mention which routes I want to do first. We find the bouldering room, and I warm up. I need to get nerves out and my muscles ready for climbing. Not too much later, climbers are gathered up to hear the competition rules and guidelines.

The rules go as followed; competitors have 3 hours to climb as many routes as possible. The judges will take the total number of points earned for scoring.

Climb UP has 29 routes to climb, with scores based on height and difficulty. The route heights vary from 35 to 80 feet. Each route has checkpoints holds at the quarter and three-fourths marked for points. If you grab or bypass the checkpoints, you earn those points. If you fall, you come off the route. If you fall before you reach the top at any point, you’re allowed one attempt to try it again.

The clock strikes 10 o’clock; we are free to climb.

Arms, Ropes, and Strength

On an autobelay.

The first route I climb is a 40-foot auto-belay worth 850 points. It’s a little long, but the holds are good to grab and use. I send it on the first try.

Thankfully, Tim brought his harness and could belay me because I overhear that there are not enough volunteers to belay everyone. So, he ends up belaying me for most of the comp.

We move to another room with slightly shorter routes. I knock out a few easy auto-belays. Then we switch to a few little harder slab-like routes. One of them had a bit of a reach at the top, but I manage to pull-up, hang on to the holds, and send.

Feeling the Heartbreak

There’s one 40-foot route in the same room I attempted worth 1000 points but didn’t send. I climb about 80% of the route when I see the holds aren’t great for either hands or feet. I reach for one and slip off from it.

Man, that’s disappointing. So close but so far away. As soon as my feet touch the mat, I need to stretch my arms. They feel painfully pumped.

After catching my breath, I send a couple of more routes before attempting a 70-foot route. This one was heartbreaking because I got past the three-fourths mark, around 80% (go figure) before I fell. My arms feel pumped, I did one too many pull-ups while on the route, and I couldn’t find any good footholds to use. I lunge for a hold to grab, I miss and drop.

“NO,” I yell.

“Damn, that sucked,” I think as I come down. I hoped I’d reach the top. I used so much energy climbing that route I wouldn’t have enough to make it to the top if I tried again. I feel a little defeated as we walk away from it.

Surprising Myself

Working on a belayed route.

After another break, my husband and I walk through the gym to find open routes. I attempt or send some more routes. An overhanging one catches my eye, and I decide to try it. There’s another overhang I want to do, but there’s a long line waiting to climb it.

This route I tried I bet had a harder grade given the higher point value on the start marker. The beginning of the route doesn’t look bad. So, I start climbing. The holds are good for a while.

The first checkpoint is far to the right and hard to reach. I’m not sure how but I discover a small hole to stick a finger or two in, reposition and pull myself above it on the route. I lean over towards the checkpoint hold to grab it. In doing so, I lost my balance and pulled a chunk of the wall out from the hole where my fingers were. Oops!

Because I climbed past the first checkpoint, I get the points from it. Woohoo!

The 3-hour time limit is coming up. I want to do one more route before stopping. However, I hear one of the Climb UP employees telling climbers not to climb if they haven’t started a route and turn in their scorecards. Bummer.

So, I do. I turn my card in and clean up, so my husband and I can grab lunch from the food truck outside the gym. I attempted or sent 14 routes. My goal was to climb half of the routes, so that’s not bad.

The Moment of Truth

Standing at the awards podium with my silver medal

Shortly afterward, the awards ceremony starts. The youth awards are given out first then the adults. The announcer gets to the intermediate category. I tell myself that if I don’t medal, it’s ok.

They call out the name for the 3rd place. My heart sinks a little because I think if I were to medal, that would have been it. Second place, Heather Supinie! Wait, no way! I’m beaming as I walk up to the platform and receive my medal. I grin from ear to ear as the photographer takes our picture. Holy crap, I made second!

A Happy Ending

I walk back to Tim and give him a big hug as he tells me congratulations. My first competition I climb as intermediate and make second. Wow. I’m a little star-struck as we drive back to Norman from the comp. I’m so proud of what I accomplished.

My arms, shoulders, and back are sore, but they worked hard for what they earned today. They deserve a few days of much-needed rest. Until next time, happy climbing!