Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not Last [August 2011]

Every time a climbing competition came to our gym in Florida, I seemed to be working. It was one aspect of climbing I always wanted, but never had a previous opportunity, to experience. That is until my weekend belaying the first round of the New Zealand National Climbing competition when it came to Wanaka back in March. I had a blast belaying for the comp and getting to watch all of the climbers, and was even asked if I would be around to belay for the finals in Christchurch in August. Of course, 5 months is a lot of advanced planning for a where-the-wind-blows traveler, so I made no commitments at the time, and we left it as "we'll contact you and just know that we'd love to have you!" My time in Wanaka flew by and before I knew it, I received the email asking if I would be available to help again. The climbing club members who intended to go began their training rituals, and I decided that I'd quite like to participate if I were to head all the way to Christchurch for the comp!

Although it was unfortunate timing as I was nursing a back injury and hadn't been climbing super hard for a while, I decided to say yes to belaying, register to compete, and make plans to get to Christchurch. I trained as much as I could, did a bit of research to better understand the competition rules and scoring, and took the weekend off of work.

As it turned out, there were only four people from Wanaka registered in the competition, and I rode up with Loz, a manager at Basecamp and youth climbing club coach (who was also competing), the only high schooler competing, and his father. It was about a five hour drive to Christchurch and though I had been keeping active to prevent a relapse in back pain, it was definitely aggravated from sitting still for so long. We stayed at the house of the high schooler's relative, and spend most of the weekend at the Roxx climbing gym.

The competition is structured by age group and I was scheduled to belay for the categories I wasn't participating in. The categories consisted of ages 12 and under, 14 and under, 16 and under, juniors (18 and under), open (for anyone 17 and up), and masters (for anyone over 35). Although there were only a few women who fit strictly in the "open" category, several of the girls from juniors also entered the open level for more experience and opportunities to compete. My list of competitors was about 10 people long, but after a clarification in the rules, anyone under 17 was removed from the category and I was automatically entered into the final round. Okay, so I wasn't going to be eliminated early on, since only the top 8 people in each category make it to the final, that was reassuring! My goal of making it to the final now obsolete I decided I just didn't want to finish last. These ladies had, after all, been training and competing in all the other Climbing New Zealand competitions this year; all the preliminary rounds leading up to this final. That's right, my very first competition and I had entered the Climbing New Zealand National Championship. What was I thinking? I'm not sure. Judging by the age, skill, experience, and strength of the younger girls, I was certain that finishing near the front of the heat was out of the question. I focused my energy on "not last" and spent the weekend trying to keep up with the 18-year-olds. Eighteen-year-old Kiwis, I might add, and if you remember the post about my tramp from the very first weekend of my trip, you might imagine they were quite fit!

There were two qualifying rounds before the final and we were able to watch someone climb the route we had to do before each round. All of the categories (with the exception of the 12 and under age group) were lead climbing the routes, which means there is much more to think about than strictly getting to the top. There was also a speed climbing round I knew I would be miserable in, so did not enter.

During my first heat I went right in the middle of the group, so was able to watch a few climbers before I got on the wall. I managed to place 7th during this round, and enjoyed the introduction to competition climbing. The second heat was a bit more surprising, as the order was mixed up and suddenly I had to go first. I was frustrated with myself and felt that I could have done better (especially after I fell and had the opportunity to sit back and study the climb while others took their turns) as I had overlooked a hold or two that may have helped. It turned out, however, that I joined a three-way tie for 5th place, so was much more content with myself after seeing the scores!

For the final round we were required to enter isolation and were called out one by one to climb our route. Before the round started, we watched a video of someone climbing the route. We were then given a few minutes to study the climb and plan our route, and ushered back into isolation. The order was determined by our overall rank from the first two rounds (and reversed), so I went near the beginning. I climbed the best I could in the moment, and actually made it farther than I expected to, taking a nice fall to finish off my turn. I placed sixth in the final, which ranked me as seventh overall, and I was happy to have followed through on my goal of "not last!"

I asked a couple random people to use my camera to get a few shots as proof of my involvement in the competition, but unfortunately those pictures are on the list of "photos I will never see again" thanks to some rotten people in Wellington. Instead of photo documentation, however, the following list of final results will have to do!

I did thoroughly enjoy myself and hope that someday I have the chance to enter another climbing comp! For the rest of my trip, however, I think I'll take it outside!

Competition, leisure, sport, trad, top rope, inside, or out; all I can say is, "climb on."

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