Ok, so it’s been a while since my last post, but…again, here i am, late at night, running out of time to get things done.  That seems to be the theme as of late, not enough time, trying to cram everything into the time i do have. No time, need more time, out of time.  Still truckin’ though, one thing at a time, thus, here’s a post for ya’ll.

What’s been goin’ on? Well, a lot.  Throughout the course of the summer, myself, along with a few others, tossed about plans for the winter, world cup competition logistics, various climbing trips, projects, etc.  It all seemed a little overwhelming at the time, but…the stress was low because it was summer.  No big deal.  But now, now i’m in the thick of it, trips, competitions, travel, van life, the worx…a world of chaos packed into 24hrs in the day, 7 days in the week.

My comp season started with a short, but highly intensified, trip to France for the popular DTS (dry tooling series) event at Le Zoo.  Le Zoo is a super popular dry tooling crag just outside of Chamonix, France.  This venue was and still is one of the most popular places in the world to dry tool.  So rad.  So, France…in and out in 6 days.  What a whirlwind.  By day three, i didn’t know which way was up.  Lack of sleep, jet lagged like crazy, so much french…needless to say my body was in rough shape.  In that type of condition it’s hard to perform at your utmost.  Trying to rally, but so over tired, I climbed and competed well, however I knew full well that I wasn’t at my best.  It was a struggle, mentally and certainly physically.  Going into a competition with several pretty heavy disadvantages, yeah…hard to rally.

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DTS RECAP: Pack all the best french dry toolers into one venue and you have yourself a rad show.  Huge moves, dynamic tool placements, people psyched, a lot of french.  It was awesome to be a part of it all.  The belaying was a bit shifty at times (as i looked down to see my belayer on the phone and smoking, no hands on the gri gri / rope-so scary).  Huge thanks to Gaetan Raymond and Jeff Mercier for organizing such good event.  Learned lots, tried hard, had a ton of fun.

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Fast forwarding, I found myself, sitting in the tent next to the competition tower, head down, trying to breathe, trying to focus.  I was up next, to compete at the Bozeman Ice Festival.  Hundreds of people only a mere 10ft away, cheering on the various athletes in the lineup.  The scene was intense, electric even.  I tried my best to prepare myself in every way i could. The way i warmed up, packed my kit, how i interacted amongst the other competitors, all of it.  Yet, when it came to the crux move of the route, my mental state shut down and I processed the move incorrectly, leaving me hanging on the end of the rope.

Falling off that move at the Bozeman Fest, it was probably one of the hardest moments to deal with in my climbing career.  At first, I tried to stay positive, successfully even…for enough time to cheer on my buddy Whit whilst he crushed and clipped the chains.  Although probably the highlight of the entire festival, almost instantly (after Whit sent the route), my mental state dropped dramatically, only leaving every reason to why i should give up.  I had never experienced that before, and honestly…hope to never again.  It was a very dark place that left me questioning everything to why I climb.  Perhaps it was due to the pressure i put on myself, or the worry of failing.  Maybe the fear of not performing infront of people i knew; sponsors, friends, coach, etc.  Whatever the case, all i wanted to do was to crawl under a rock and not come out.

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Bozeman Recap: What an event, from start to finish.  Hype created months prior, leading up to what turned out to be a huge success.  Clinics filled with enthusiasts from all over North America, evening slide shows that inspired the masses, a competition featuring some of North America’s top athletes, crowds of people screaming with excitement, end to end there were no dull moments.  Will Gadd, out of competition retirement stood on top of the podium once again.  Whit Magro the local hero had the crowd going ballistic as he clipped the chains for a second place.  Jason Nelson going toe to toe giving him a respected third.  And then the women; Stephanie Maureau )from France) showing why she’s one of the top women climbing athletes in the world–1st place.  Sarah Hueniken, out of no where, crushing with confidence-2nd place, and competition veteran Kendra Stritch performing beautifully taking 3rd.  What a competition, what a festival, the people, stories, climbing…so great.

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It’s been an interesting process, figuring out what (more or less) keeps happening with my mental state whilst under pressure.  Whether onsighting routes outside or under the gun somewhere on a comp route, for some reason…I seem to panic when “the moment” is pressured to think and move without error.  Sometimes i forget what to do, or…it’s like i blank on what i already know.  Sometimes i rush the movement in an act of desperation, thus making poor decisions typically ending in dissatisfaction.

My friend Ian wrote this:  “There is an arrogance in us that feeds that fear of failure… as long as we care too much we can’t actually move forward. Then failure is inevitable.”

Fear of failure.  Yup, pretty much lived with that throughout the greater part of my life.  Where does that fear come from? Too much pressure based on acceptance.  Again, Ian: “ When acceptance is based on success we fuck ourselves up pretty bad.”  Thankfully, Ian followed that with, “You are a good friend to a lot of people. That’s why they value you.  It has nothing to do with what you do….”  Words like that are to be cherished, as well as used as a reminder, on a daily basis.  In the bible, Romans 12:2 states “Do not conform to the patterns of this world any longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”  Every day, every minute, every second…renew your mind of what matters–that all of us were carefully and wonderfully “knit together”, perfectly in His eyes.  It doesn’t matter what you do, or what you’ve accomplished…as none of that defines who you are.  But it’s still hard, to not let your passion and success through it all lead you to confidence or relevance in the eyes of others.

This issue i’m facing, “It’s from not having a high capacity to deal with adversity at that moment.”  Will Gadd, my coach, friend, said that.  He’s watched me over the years and even recently attested to me being a better and stronger climber than years past…but there’s still this missing link, performing in the moment.  “You have to learn to fight your way through the fear/pump/whatever obstacle is in front of you.” (again, from Will).  When i’m climbing, more specifically in the past couple of weeks, whether on real terrain or in the backyard, I now have to renew my mind with every hold, every movement, reminding myself to not fear the moment, but to breath, relax, settle, and process.

In competition, onsighting a route, whatever the case, you need to be able to recognize or sense where to move efficiently and where to settle and sense the crux-moving with precision.  To not be afraid is an art within itself.  And the only way to over come any such fear…is to put yourself (as mentioned by Will) in the moment…over and over until you find yourself breathing, relaxing, and then inevitably crushing.

Just the other day I was faced with a challenge that has haunted me for some time, a section of a route, in a big cave, that finished on thin, “testy” ice.  Terrain that I wasn’t overly confident on.  But after a friend convinced me to, and by that i mean wouldn’t let me down until i went, I finally told myself that i could do it, and then just went for it.  I settled, believed, and then just climbed.  It was huge in that, it was a wall that i tore down.  The terrain on any given sunday wasn’t that big of a deal…but…it really wasn’t about the terrain per say, but more so about the mental barrier that i had built up, hindering any such confidence to just climb.  And to all this, who you’re with, when facing adversity, when training, pushing, trying hard…it does make all the difference.  Obviously when you’re competing, you’re kinda on your own, but when you’re out there, climbing, good partners make all the difference.  My friend Malcom, whom i’ve been training with quite a bit, said this, “It’s not worth dwelling on the past too much but it seems clear that you have the same issue most of your contemporaries have – they train too much on their own in isolation with no one around them forcing them to try harder. When I watched some of Britains olympic ‘stars’ training behind the scenes before London 2012 I got a smack-in-the-face reality check on what giving 100% actually means. But they always train in pairs and groups of specially selected athletes. This is really important to world class success.” 

The only way to overcome walls you’ve built up…is to go full tilt at them and tear ‘em down.  Face the challenge, settle your breathing, clear your mind, forget about who’s around, find good partners, don’t be afraid to push, and remind yourself of what you’re actually capable of.  Only then will you find yourself at the top of the route.  Practice, practice, practice.  The mileage you put in will result in what comes out.

Two comps down now, with world cups approaching.  Wow, have i ever learned a lot in the last couple of months.  This sport, there is no end to learning…only continual progression.  Currently I’m focusing on my weaknesses, pushing past the mental barriers.  Next up: Ouray Ice Festival.  Then, off to europe for world cups.  It’s crazy right now, with so much on the go.  But, I’m still here…and still willing to dig deeper.  And just for the record…I gotta say, with all this…my friends, coach(es), family, God, sponsors…I wouldn’t be still doing this without them.  Words, scripture, belief, encouragement, trust–ingredients to a recipe for success, no matter the outcome.

Wow, I think that’s it for now.  Hopefully this makes a bit of sense.  Never sure on that.