Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Road to ABS Nationals 2013

Hells yeah, I got 3rd place at Nationals!  Just being in the finals is already a win in my book, but standing on a national podium next to Daniel Woods and Ian Dory is… pretty fucking awesome!  Aside from give-or-take 16 years of climbing, here’s what got me here, I think…

Having recovered from my shoulder injury about a year ago, I’ve been looking forward to 2013 ABS Nationals.  After trying out a couple of sport climbing events on the World Cup circuit, I jumped straight into bouldering.

1. Win some, lose some

Starting in October, I did a bunch of comps on the East Coast to gain more experience and keep the motivation high.  I took 1st at the first of the Dark Horse Series in Boston, then the Midnight Burn in Philadelphia, then the Rock Wars down in Rockville, MD…  Then, Mike Feinberg showed me how to actually squeeze the juice out of pinches at the Winter Burn in Philly, putting on a commanding winning performance (I got 3rd).  Then, Jimmy Webb and I battled in the third Dark Horse. Jimmy took the win by topping out the last problem, all during his jaw-dropping annihilation of the Northeast classic boulders.

2. Rethinking my strategy


Going over why we all fell, fall, and will fall… (Emily Varisco)


Getting tested on some techy yet powerful moves. (Emily Varisco)

With a few losses behind me, I needed something to change up my training routine, and Chris Danielson with Tonde Katiyo helped make this happen.  These names are generally associated with setting, but these guys want to push the envelope in multiple aspects of climbing, and creating a generation of professional athletes out of climbers is on their to-do list.

They put together a 2-day training camp at EarthTreks in Rockville for some of the US top boulderers. You may recognize some of these names simply by looking at the final results at ABS Nationals 2013: Ian Dory, Carlo Traversi, Paul Robinson, and Austin Geiman all placed in top 10 among men while Isabelle Faus, Angie Payne, Meagan Martin, Michaela Kiersch made the same list for women.

With a comp-like feel the entire 2 days, we pushed each other as we obeyed our masters and pulled hard on anything they prepared for us.  Long story short, they made us fall (how dare they?), they made us bleed (nobody makes me bleed my own blood… nobody!), they made us rethink our competitive strategy…  I found out that climbers with 10+ years of experience, including myself, still do not know how to properly warm up.  I learned the importance of that flash attempt and how to move on to whatever is next…


Feeling stronger after the training camp.

3. Another injury

Dark Horse Series Finale was up and it seemed like a perfect chance to try out the new skill set.  But, as can happen to anyone, I fell and unfortunately spraining my ankle.  Instant pain got me worried I may have broken it, but another minute and a competitive adrenaline rush later, I pulled my shoe back on and finished the comp.  It was a stupid thing to do as I’m sure trying to toe down with a sprained ankle didn’t help the healing process and in fact likely did the opposite.


On adrenaline, on #4 (Vince Schaefer)


On #4, I just had to campus, so foot was good (Nick Milburn)

4. Training with a sprained ankle

I was able to walk, almost without a limp, within less than a week.  Excited about such an improvement, I figured signing up for ABS Nationals was practically a necessity.  Then, all I had to do was train…  It’s actually pretty straightforward to train with a sprained ankle: you can’t run, can’t jump, can’t bike, can barely walk, obviously can’t climb…

BUT, you can do pullups, pushups, deadhangs, campus, pullups, situps, pullups, campus.  So, I taped up, put my sneakers on, and got on the campus board at Delaware Rock Gym.  About 50 campuses an hour, 3 days a week for 4 weeks gets you so bored that the psyche to get on the wall goes up exponentially, even if painful.

Finally, 30 days after the injury, I put my shoes on and attempted to climb.  Aside from jumping off the wall or toeing down on the injured ankle, there was no pain.  While not 100%, I had to start climbing because I wouldn’t be able to do anything at ABS.  Another 3 days of climbing with the taped-up ankle (props to TJ’s taping technique) and another 4 days of rest before the comp and… Boom, I was on the plane to Denver to meet up with Josh Larson.

5. The comp: strategy and luck

At the comp, my strategy was pretty simple:  no expectations, try to flash (falling hurts + it’s kind of a winning strategy to begin with), and just enjoy the boulder problems.  This is also when an injury can be a blessing in disguise: the personal expectations may be significantly lower and the mental state no longer requires much preparation.

So, with some strategy, some luck, and a whole lot of friends cheering for me, I tried the best I could.  I was first pleasantly surprised with my qualifier results, finishing in top 3 with Dylan Barks and Daniel Woods.  In the semifinals, I flashed 3 of 4 problems, but got stuck on one where I had to use my sprained ankle the most.  This barely gave me enough to move on to finals.  Going first in the finals allowed me to fully focus on my own climbing and the rest was enjoying the boulders!


Ian and I scoping out the finals (Beau Kahler Photography)


Finishing up # 1 (Beau Kahler Photography)


Working through # 2 (Beau Kahler Photography)


Finishing # 2 (Beau Kahler Photography)


Working through # 3 (Beau Kahler Photography)


Dyno on # 4 (Julian Boyd)

6. Summary of an awesome weekend in Colorado

The best way to summarize my trip:


Josh Larson and I en route to Colorado Springs, through the snowy neighborhood of friends from LT11.


Joe Pill was able to come up with this artsy ensemble by, believe it or not, simply adjusting levels in Photoshop!