Wednesday, 14 November 2012

European Championships

Last weekend was a competition that was significant for me not only in my performance but also in my emotions. On Wednesday night, the eve of our travelling to France, I was told my granddad had died suddenly walking in the Spanish mountains. It was a real shock for me, we were close and the news hit me hard, but I knew exactly what I was climbing for.

The Bordeaux region at this time of year is just like England, very wet! I tried to stay hydrated through Friday, as in previous Europeans I’ve always struggled with fluids and it seemed to pay off. I woke up late Saturday morning feeling light and strong and had a leisurely breakfast of bread and cheese. As we were climbing in the afternoon, we went to the wall slightly early to watch the Youth As and Juniors, as well as scope out the warming up area and any routes that were potentially ours.

As we predicted, we had the same routes as the Junior girls. I was on last for the first route, but because the routes were run simultaneously and I was around halfway through on route 2 I would be on that first. Route 2 was a blue route going up the longest part of the wall, a variable angle section ranging from vertical to around 20° off. It was perfect for me, and despite a rushed start from an unexpectedly low fall by the competitor before me, I was off and moving well.

The first section was reasonably steady, small holds but they were all positive, and the same for the middle. The top was thin pockets, so accuracy was key on this section. I climbed well, feet moving intuitively and not getting too pumped, and I was soon past a long go-again off a good pinch that many came off, with the help of a high foot. I swapped feet, and in my mind I was 100% sure I reached the hold just below the lip, a small pinch and was moving off that when my foot slipped off a slopey-topped slot. The video tells a different story, and despite the certainty in my mind (to the extent remembering the feeling of the hold and the dynamics of the next move), I had got to the hold before that. Still, it placed me well but I had to get high on route 1 (my route 2) to be sure of a place in the final.

Route 2 was short, around 12m, all technical and balancey on small holds. Perfect! Around 5 or 6 had topped before me and I was last on the route, bad for the friction on a route that had already been described as greasy. I set off and it felt fine, turned the lip of the steep section onto the final headwall and had a small shake on a pair of reasonable holds by the second to last clips. The end was in sight, with just one move to a sloper left to stick to be above the highpoint of anyone who hadn’t topped. I stuck it, made a move round a corner, clipped, next hold and I topped! I knew this put me in a pretty good position in terms of qualifying and i was very happy, I think my celebration showed that! I was interviewed afterwards, and to be honest I have no idea how that went, but it may have been rubbish! I was in the final in 8th, already an improvement on previous EYCs. Now to crush in the final.

We went back to the hotel early to eat and get a good nights sleep, missing the Junior and A finals which I was quite disappointed about, the opening ceremony we stayed for was very spectacular! I was in bed early, around 10 and woke easily as 7 the next morning, feeling light and strong. This was very different to Imst, there I woke feeling stiff and tired. This, I believe, is down to my warm down after route 2 the previous day. I did a full warm down immediately after my route, whereas in Imst I delayed it a lot, even then not doing a full warm down. Warming up I felt good, though due to the small area I had I couldn’t go for a run and I’d forgotten my skipping rope! Despite this I was feeling strong, ready for anything the final could be.

We went out to observation, and had 6 minutes to view the route to determine a sequence. It looked reasonably straight forward, a powerful start into a close to vertical array of arĂȘtes and rockovers. It looked perfect for me, and as the first climbers began I did the final stages of my warm up.

I felt ready, secure, focussed and calm when I left isolation, dropped my jacket to the ground and stepped onto the wall, no hesitation. The first moves were fine, bar a match where I expected to go to a different hold. A match on the tufa-like volume in the roof was hard, and required a big flag to stop the swing. The next section through small holds on volumes suited me well, with many heel hooks to keep the weight off my fingers.

I came to a slopey sidepull with a good heel, but instead of clipping as I should, the next hold looked positive and I moved to that instead. The hold was a small slot, worse than I expected, so I moved again to a big sloper. Looking back, this was my final chance to clip, but instead I moved off again. The move was long but I was still feeling strong and I held the small crimp ok. Again I looked at the clip and decided to move to the next hold. It was at that point I knew it was too late. I couldn’t reach the clip. I shook once, climbed down, attempted to clip but I couldn’t, I was too high! Again I went back up and put a heel on to steady myself, catching the clip with my foot as I did. I noticed this, and desperation meant I tried to guide the draw up with my foot. This is against the rules, but I was above the clip be such an amount where I couldn’t even reach the top of the draw. The foot lift was unsuccessful and that was it then, I climbed up and down twice more in vain attempts to clip before I was called off the route. The foot lift had been seen and the judges had decided it was enough to call me up on. I was scored to the hold before where I’d got to, putting me in 3rd when I came off.

 The move to the hold I was scored to proved difficult and 2 people dropping it going for the hold, and 1 reaching the hold but not moving off, who I beat on time. This meant I was placed in 7th overall. This was frustrating, I was reasonably fresh when I got to the next hold, and could easily have made the next move, which alone would have placed me in 6th. Of course, in the grand scheme of things 7th is amazing, but its just the niggling feeling that could have gone better, one day I’ll have a comp where I make no mistakes, lets hope its Kranj!

This weekend was all about my Granddad, and he would have been ecstatic with my placing, so I am too, especially give the circumstances! Wales blog next, Ireland next week for Irish champs and Kranj the week after that! PSYCHED!

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