28 December 2013

The Art of Feeling Stuck

Here I am in one of the most beautiful, famous climbing areas in the world, Fontainebleau, France, and I don't even want to go climbing. What is wrong with me?
I can't shake the feeling that I want to be somewhere else. Actually I've felt this way for the last twelve months.
I feel stuck.
Why do I feel like I'm wasting time? Precious time. I'm not going to be twenty-four forever. What am I doing in all these places when I know I want to be somewhere else?

I think a lot of it had to do with me signing a lease, my first paid-for home base since 2009. That was the beginning of me feeling stuck. It felt nice to have a bedroom, and a kitchen, but no matter where I wanted to go, I never felt like I could go for long. I always felt like I had to return at around the six week mark, because why would you pay for a place to live if you weren't actually going to live in it?
This most definitely, absolutely, does NOT mean that I want to live the #TrailerLife for the rest of eternity. No, I definitely want a place somewhere. But this time, geographically, I think I'm going to make a better choice. But I have some things to do first.

I lost myself a little bit this year, as a climber and as a person. I wanted to do a climb, and it wasn't the right time, I had to wait for winter. I couldn't go, but I didn't want to stay. My relationship to climbing changed. It wasn't fun anymore, it was a chore. So I didn't climb much over the summer, and I sort of let myself go. When fall came and I decided I loved climbing again and it was time to get back in shape, I was kinda chubby (for climbing standards. And me standards.) I had a hard time getting back in shape. But my focus was stemming from thoughts of my project, and I worked hard, knowing I to need to be the strongest I've ever been to do this climb. I completed seven weeks of a nine-week training program, and felt like me again! But I still wasn't heading in the right direction. I went the opposite way, first to the Southeast. It's almost like I'm running from it; I'm intimidated by it. So I did the ultimate flee and left the country.

I'm not saying I haven't appreciated my time in Europe, of course I have. It's just felt more like... killing time. The entire last year, no matter where I've been, I've felt like I was just killing time, desperately wishing I could be working this climb, but it wasn't the right season. I haven't been able to try my hardest, or start any other serious projects, because my heart has  been elsewhere, on a project farther away.

I got this idea in my head that I wanted to do a boulder, and since this idea's conception, I've only been distracted by it. It sounds like the ultimate cliche, I know, but I've become obsessed. It's all I think about, and I regularly dream about it. None of the climbing areas I've been to in the last eight months have been fulfilling. Of course it's been fun! And I've climbed a lot of incredible lines, and even done some hard things. I just can't focus on anything.

The scariest part about it all is now people know about it. I have been vocal about wanting to work on this climb, I've told people and sponsors. Me, I have put all this extra pressure on myself to succeed.

What if I fail?
Trust me, I'm the first one to admit that climbing is 90% failure. I mean look at KJ and TC, five years in on The Dawn Wall, and Angie three years in on Freaks. It's called projecting for a reason! Who cares if I spend months working it and don't do it?
But this one is different. It's become less about disappointing myself. Now there are other people, and companies involved. I need to do it for me. I want to do it for them.
If nobody knew I was working on it, nobody would know if I couldn't do it. But now if I fail, people will know. And that scares the shit out of me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've been feeling trapped.

I want to do this climb and I'm afraid to fail.

The thing I want to do the most I'm running away from.

I come home from Europe in a week and head straight out to this project. I feel this need to be there, working on it, but I'm also very intimidated. I guess we'll see what happens.

Welcome to the art of feeling stuck.

22 December 2013


We have departed the beautiful sunny valleys of Ticino, Switzerland and have entered the rainy lands of Fontainebleau, France! The end of our Swiss trip was fun indeed, but secretly... I prefer sandstone to granite. Please don't tell Yosemite.

 Sasha Turrentine in Chironico

 An incredible V8 called, "Made in Norway"

One of the most amazing climbs I've ever done, "Molunk" V9

Yesterday I climbed in Font for the very first time in my life! It was incredible! The goal here is to climb ten boulders a day, doesn't matter the "difficulty level," which is completely arbitrary here anyway. The boulders are beautiful and it's like running around a playground. So much to do! And I caved and bought the 7's + 8's guidebook so I'm not randomly trying to get off the ground on what I didn't know was a classic V10, with Frenchmen hiding in the bushes laughing, watching me fail.

This amazing V3 I couldn't do...

It's supposed to rain for the next few days, but hopefully the weather clears up, because I'd like to learn how to rock climb before I head home. Christmas and New Year's Eve will be spent in Paris!!

02 December 2013


I thought it would be longer before I returned to Europe, after my experiences in 2011, which were recently exposed in a Rock and Ice article, where I battled loneliness, failure and depression, swearing to myself rashly that I’d never go back.

Maybe the difference this time is I’m not alone; I brought a piece of home with me, in someone who’s known me for over a decade, since I was a gangly, brace-faced pre-teen.

Or maybe it’s the entirely different curriculum I’m following. My last visit was dedicated to competing on the World Cup Circuit, to plastic and rankings. This time I’m in Europe solely for the pleasure of rock climbing, no judges, no points. No real aspirations, honestly, aside from just spending time climbing in an area I’ve never been before.

Of course being here doesn’t come without some anxiety, even though I’m in a completely dissimilar situation from last time. But each day that goes by, I’m reminded that I’m here because I chose to be, because want to be, because I love climbing. And the climbing in Switzerland doesn’t suck.

It’s so beautiful here. We’re in the mountain town of Claro, surrounded by towering white peaks. We go out in the late mornings, after the frost has burned off, and spend the day at either Cresciano or Chironico, two different areas within just twenty minutes of driving. It’s cold, and sometimes starting up is hard, but if we can get good and warm it’s worth it to feel the gratifying slap of sticking to a hold, otherwise un-stick-to-able in higher temperatures.

Some of the climbs here remind me of The Valley, in the way that they’re proud, granite lines, with slightly technical face climbing. As Yosemite is the only other place I’ve climbed on granite in the woods, it’s easy to seek out similarities. Of course, there are characteristics of Colorado bouldering that present themselves here as well. But to be fair to the area, it is its own. It really is different from anywhere I’ve been, but what place isn’t? It has its own qualities, style, scene. Like all areas, there are lines that are gems and lines that are mediocre. The most exciting aspect of Switzerland for me is that it’s new. Everything is new, and therefore by nature is guaranteed to be at least somewhat exciting.

When the sun goes below the mountains and our fingers, freezing, cease to grip holds we head home, knowing, gratefully, that the cabin in which we’re staying will be toasty, a fire already lit by the kind old man and his wife from whom we’re renting. They spoil us.

Our little place is filled with Christmas sweaters and advent calendars, chocolate and wine, movies and laugher. It’s cozy and friendly and for the time being, home.

21 October 2013

Portland: Comp & Clinics

The Portland Boulder Rally.
How I know I'm a performer.
It had been a while since I competed, especially against a field this incredibly stacked to the teens with super strong ladies. I was feeling quite "mehh" during the redpoint round, and just couldn't make my body execute in the way I know it can. I began shaking in my boots a little when time started winding down, and I knew I didn't have enough points to get into finals.
That's the thing about redpoint competitions... You know exactly what everyone else is doing. These types of events are probably more nerve-wracking than onsight comps where you know nothing. With redpoints you know what you have to do to advance, and if it's not happening--things get stressful.
It's also hard to climb with your whole group of friends in a redpoint comp, when your friends are Puccio and Angie Payne. Knocks the confidence a little. We all tried the group thing for the first half hour, and then realized it was NOT the strategy, and our group split fast.
There were two problems that had eluded me the entire three hours. I had watched a dozen girls do them in the first thirty minutes of the comp and just couldn't seem to pull them off.

When the announcement came on that there was only five minutes remaining in the round, I put my scorecard in the pile and waited for my name to be called. When it was my turn, I walked up to the "pink" problem, took a deep breath and said aloud, "Ok. Climb like you know how to f*&%ing climb!" And I executed. While topping out, I whispered, "One down, one to go." Came down and put my card back into the pile for the "green" problem that was right next to it. With a minute left my name was called. I walked up to the start and said "One more, baby, come on!" I felt exhausted, I was so spent. After three hours of climbing, whether I made finals or not came down to this boulder. I stuck the move I that had evaded me, but with six moves left til I was on top, I began to chicken wing. We've all done it, you get to that point where you're so pumped your muscles begin to fail. I fought hard, and chickenwinged my way up that damn boulder and when I was standing on top I straight up celebrated with a loud "woohoo!"

Photo by Tiffany Hensley

The redpoint round ended and I turned in my scorecard, still not confident  I'd even qualify for finals. I secured a backup plan--commentating, and headed to lunch, the crew reunited after the heat of the competition was over. It was a stressful lunch until I got a group text message saying "Congratulations! You are receiving this message because you have qualified for finals at the Portland Boulder Rally! Please show up at..." I had qualified in the 6th, and final, place. I sighed a breath of relief. We had a few hours to rest up, and then--game time.
Because I felt so off during qualifiers, before the finals I put a little Gnarly pick-me-up energy booster in my drink and crossed my fingers that my fatigue and previous chickenwinging wouldn't resurface.
Re-warming up in isolation I still felt pretty bad. But as soon as I went out and the lights and all the eyes in the building were on me... I turned it on. Something about the pressure of the situation, and having people cheering for me... it makes me WANT to show them what I can do. The crowd was psyched, they were so supportive, it was the loudest crowd I've ever heard and I didn't want to let them down. I love the crowd, and interacting with them makes me feel confident. I performed. I performed my way up into third place! I tied with Nina Williams, and instead of combining 3rd and 4th place's prize money, then splitting it-- the event organizers just raised the entire purse!! We both got 3rd place's winnings! I thought that was very, very cool. You can bet I'll be back next year. Let's hope Puccio doesn't show up so it's a fair fight. :)

PCI Clinics
The day after the event, about a dozen pro's stuck around to teach clinics to a bunch of the younger competitors. Personally, I had a two hour private in the morning with Lauren, who has made significant progress since we worked together last year after the comp. It was great so see how far she's come! Then we had our two hour group clinics with all the pro's, where my group worked on momentum. Following that, Carlo Traversi and I had another hour long semi-private where we really got to break down specific movements. I've done a few clinics with Carlo in the past, and think we work really well together, he's a great teacher. We currently posses the power to help in the sculpting of future generations of climbers. This is huge, and we need to do the best we can to pass the torch.

02 September 2013


Lucy came out of mock-isolation fully ready. It was PCI Clinic--Tucson, and we were doing a mock-comp in preparation for Regionals the following weekend. There were two boulder problems to choose from for station two, one moderate and one of slightly harder difficulty (one for the younger kids, one for the older kids.) The objective was to set them up in a slightly less nerve-wracking onsight-format and see how they perform under pressure, then give them feedback.

Lucy was grouped with the younger half. She came out and easily cruised her problem expecting to rest for her remaining minutes. As she headed back to her chair I stopped her.
"Nope, you're going to climb it again," I said. "This time you aren't allowed to bend your arms at all." She looked only a little confused. "Use the movement of your body. Right now you're climbing tense. Relax; twist your shoulders, rotate your hips, pivot on your toes. Tell me if the problem doesn't feel easier." Lucy got back on, twisting, rotating and pivoting her way to the top. It looked beautiful!

"Did you feel the difference?" I asked.
"So much!" She exclaimed. And seeing as practice makes perfect, I made her do the climb with straight arms three or four more times before her five minutes were up. In those five minutes her climbing improved exceptionally.

I'm not writing an article about the next "phenom-wonderkid." This is about a young girl with an eagerness to learn, a desire to get better, and a fierce passion to pursue something she loves.

Lucy is eleven years old and has been climbing for four years. Not unlike myself, she began climbing in summer camps at her local gym. She was instantly hooked and tried out for her team Rocks and Ropes at her gym in Arizona. She's been competing for four years, and just like all of us-- sees ups and downs in her performances.

So when Lucy first heard about a PCI clinic coming to Tucson she thought, "Are you serious? You mean I get to actually talk to and get advice from pro climbers?! I'm in!!"

Lucy has been on her gym's youth climbing team since 2008, and lives in Bisbee, AZ. Her climbing gym is Rocks and Ropes in Tucson and, recently its sister gym, The BLOC, opened in Tucson as well. That means that for the last five years practices have been 100 miles away -- one way. Lucy makes that drive three times per week to continue to stay on the climbing team. Now that's dedication! Even though Lucy has to leave school an hour early to make it to practice on time, she still strives for perfect attendance and straight A's.

Climbing outside to Lucy is more for the experience than it is the send. She's done climbs like Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley, and South Crack on Stately Pleasure Dome in Tuolumne.

Catching up with Lucy since her participation in the PCI Clinic at The BLOC, she says she's been able to concentrate on her breathing much more, helping with her focus, sequencing, and fending off the pump. "Since the clinic, I have a whole lot more confidence in myself, and in my climbing."

It's working with young climbers like Lucy that makes teaching clinics not only warmly rewarding, but so much fun! I'm excited to check back with Lucy over time to hear about how she's progressed, and hopefully see her out climbing soon!

Lucy-- Keep up the great work!! ~AJ

08 August 2013

Recent Media Excitements

--Insert awesome self-promotional spray here.--

June/July 2013 issue of Rock and Ice Magazine.
Allow me to summarize: in 2011 I competed on the World Cup Circuit, sucked a lot, lost all my confidence and got depressed. I took some time off, picked back up with climbing (only outside) fell in love with climbing again, started having fun and sent my hardest to date. Also I'm tired of being ostracized for being tall. Like REALLY tired of it.

August 2013 issue of Denver's 5280 Magazine Feature titled "Built." Comparable to ESPN's "Bodies" including Missy Franklin, Gretchen Bleiler and four other athletes around Colorado. It's an honor to be featured in the same article as those two Olympians!

05 August 2013


The Deep Water Solo Event.

I'm still sore, and I only climbed twice. Once during the practice round to get the nerves out, and once during the competition. I didn't get any higher the second time. But it was much more fun! After I got eliminated in the first round I was really bummed I didn't get to go again, try to go higher, and take a bigger fall. This type of event may be a new athlete favorite.

Leading up to the comp I was cockily unafraid, my ego convincing the rest of me that I was a badass. I missed the first practice round, and heard everyone talking about how scary it was, but only became slightly more apprehensive. Then the nightmares happened.

The night before my first time on the wall, I had nightmares all night long. I was falling from the top and either hitting the bottom of the pool, or missing it entirely and hitting the concrete. I woke up petrified. Showing up at the wall for my first attempt my heart was pounding hard, and as soon as I pulled on my legs started doing that Elvis shake thing. We've all experienced it... I was overgripping and looking down at my landing. I didn't get very high before I was outrageously pumped. I kicked off and shot down to the water and was submerged in less than a second, barely enough time to suck in a breath.

The water was not warm, and it took my breath away. In my minimal experience at this event, I was actually only afraid when I was under the water. It was just so cold it would shock my system and I'd come up gasping, almost hyperventilating, making it difficult to swim to the side. The climbing shoes didn't help either, they don't have the same effect as flippers.

My only regret from the weekend was not being able to attend the first practice round where everyone was climbing to the top and then jumping. After that day the routes got much harder... As much fun as I had climbing and falling into the water, I must admit my favorite part of the entire event was getting the robes. The finalists were given robes embroidered with the Psicobloc logo to wear after we got out of the pool, and they were glorious. I felt like a boxer, or an Olympic swimmer.

The bracket style format made the last couple of rounds super exciting, because of comprable difficulty levels of the finalists, and it turned into more of a race to the top than waiting to see who would fall first.

 From an athlete's perspective, the only thing I would change for next time would be to have only 8 men and 8 women in finals, just to speed things up a little bit, and to allow for the really cool intro bios that had to be nixed due to time. I think it would keep the audience more engaged, too, having more consistent "races", and less distance between where people would fall. And possibly a slightly easier route so climbers could go faster to add more of a "non-climbing spectator-friendly" speed element? I don't know.
All in all, probably the most fun event I've ever had the pleasure of participating in. I can't wait for the next one, so I can get my ass in shape and get it a little higher up that wall. For 2014 I  also want to see a Mike Doyle appearance. And I absolutely adore my robe!

29 July 2013

The China Experience

I swore to myself that I would never go back. The last time I was in China was July of 2009. It was for the World Championships in Xining, and situations were dire.

As I was preparing the documents for my visa, hunger, pollution, chicken feet and bumper to bumper traffic began swirling around in my memory. Nevertheless I willed myself to get on the plane, on my second attempt at taking the bus to the airport at 5am. (My first attempt was 24 hours too early.)

I arrived in Shanghai surprisingly exhausted. My eye mask and ear plugs worked wonderful magic on the overnight flight, but my ambien had worn off a little too early. I was a zombie.

That first night I was taken to an amazing Mexican restaurant with a handful of higher-ups from The North Face, where, like an asshole, I fell asleep at the dinner table. Eventually, though, I came to realize that people here are quite fond of their catnaps, and fall asleep in public all the time. As the trip went on I began to notice this frequently, and felt slightly less bad.

My first full day I went climbing at a local gym and gave an impromptu interview, Q and A, and mini clinic. Luckily I can think quick on my feet!

The next day was my big presentation at the China headquarters office. I was excited; I had worked hard preparing (what I think was) a funny and entertaining slide show about my awesome life, and then showed Two Girls, One Pup. Fritz was a big star. After the film finished and the floor was opened for questions, “Does Fritz have a boyfriend?” was the first one I got. “Actually, yes, she’s in a long distance relationship with a Husky named Oliver.” Giggles erupted throughout the room. I was pleased enough.

Travel to the Asia Outdoor Trade Show in Nanjing the following day was two hours by train. I presented again at a press conference, and then qualified at the comp; struggle-bus style. I made finals in third and had to vocally pep-talk myself to try harder later that night in finals. I was seriously lacking my “grr.”

Isolation felt like a flattering game of follow the leader. I would do something significant in my spontaneous warm-up routine and then subtly watch as a few other girls began to do the same thing. When I warm up I pretty much have no clue what I'm doing, and often use ideas from other people, too, but sometimes I felt like Sid from the movie Ice Age when he gets abducted by mini sloths. Gratefully, I wasn’t going to be sacrificed to the fire gods afterward.
If you haven’t seen the movie (you should), here’s the clip in which I’m referring to:


I stepped up my game for finals and came out swinging, flashing, with much difficulty, all four problems and winning the comp. It felt good to try hard and come out on top. That pretty much covers the business aspect of the trip I guess. The everyday stuff should be much more entertaining, as I find the cultural differences quite fascinating. My recounts are obviously very broad generalizations, but much like you'd find in any huge city.

All photos by Alex Zhao

Something you don’t really get used to here is constantly being stared at. The traffic and the honking and the smoking, yes; the staring, not so much. I’ll be honest, I liked it at first. It’s attention, and who doesn’t like attention? I felt like an Amazonian goddess, but eventually I began to feel extra-terrestrial. It’s not just passing glances, but full-on, head turning, look-you-up-and-down, follow-you-when-you-walk, staring. Not just one passer-by; most of them. It was exhausting to constantly feel like you are on display.

So I started playing stare-backsies. It wasn’t very efficient, I just found myself locked into severe awkward-eye-contact battles for an indeterminable amount of time, usually with older men, them refusing to look away because I'm so “exotic,” and me refusing to look away out of Johnson stubbornness. It was arduous, and truthfully I wasn’t playing hardcore enough. After five seconds I would just start to giggle.

Instead, I hardened. I was good at it; living in Boulder for the last year made me an expert. Warmth and friendliness isn’t a right there, it’s earned. Drop the warm smile and replace it with a stone cold stare. Don’t look directly at anybody, just stare straight ahead. It’s not so much rudeness as it is indifference, (in Boulder it’s pretension) which is entirely socially acceptable, along with the constant honking. I started demanding when I walked through the city, though what I was demanding, I don't even know.

The thing about walking confidently is you can’t stumble. Then you just have to laugh at yourself for trying to hard. And eventually if you stand tall enough and walk briskly long enough you just get a side ache. It all became too much to care about, like the transportation.

Space on the highways is tight. Where there are three lanes, they make four. Taxi rides are a constant game of Chicken. Crossing the street is a constant game of Frogger. Which species to be? Which game to play? Try not to get smushed! It sounds outrageously dangerous, but you come to learn there’s an almost graceful ebb and flow to all of it. Almost. It goes right along with personal space: there isn’t much. And I’m a very space-bubbly person. It made it hard to breathe, but that could just have been the air.

“The smog lay thick and heavy, like a blanket, over the never-ending city… And something else poetic.” But seriously, it does. And that is the best way to describe it. I feel like I should reference all the authors who have used this metaphor before me, so as not to be a plagiarist, but the list would be too long. Also, I don’t have time. What does “smog” even mean anyway? Smelly fog? Stinky Manmade Oppressing Gas? I’ll have to google that.

Comparatively, this China experience greatly surpasses the preceding ones. The people I interacted with at The North Face (AZ, Patrick, Jacob, Hu Hao...) were fantastic. And thank God for Matt and Alia, or I'd have been singing the Les Mis classic, "On My Own," to my own personal musical. And I would have starved.

Onward to Salt Lake City and the Psicobloc comp.

07 July 2013


Soo... I moved out of my apartment and into my gorgeous 1950s diner trailer and now I'm livin' the #trailerlife. I got all settled in, and then decided to drive to Wisconsin. The town across the river from my home town boasts one of the best firework displays in the country, and due to all the forest fires in Colorado it seemed like a Boulder firework show was a definite no and what can I say, I love fireworks. If you want to see some good ones you should check out Boston or Tahoe, too.

So I'm at home. I've been painting a bit. I painted Shauners after she topped out her first 8B "Nuthin' But Sunshine." I painted this red and black tree that I hate. Trees are so hard, I will never try to paint anything but a furry pine ever again. I really want to paint Yosemite Valley but I'm worried I'm far too inexperienced and canvas ain't cheap. I'm also a perfectionist so painting is "the most frustrating thing in the world" and my new obsession. Obviously I'm not a true artist because I'm trying too hard.

I went rock climbing once at St. Croix Falls in Wisconsin. It was very humid and buggy. If you've never been to the upper midwest in summertime you have NO idea what "humid" and "buggy" even mean. Usually a day out climbing means you douse yourself so heavily in bug spray that the holds become more greasily elusive than they already are at 80% humidity. That means that 80% of the air is WATER. So it's like trying to climb something when it's wet.
Anyway, I doused the deet, and I tried to go climbing. My day was 80% unsuccessful. I will say though, I walked past this tall face near the road that doth seemeth unclimbed. Doesn't look too hard, but it's tall and very dirty. I was inspired! It had a Yosemite-esque look about it, and I think Yosemite is the best place on earth so naturally I got excited. I'm thinking of going back and trying to clean it. That is all.

28 March 2013

"Wahh-B-S" Nationals. A Potential Transition?

Yes, American Bouldering National Championships happened. Yes, I was there. As per usual. I was there physically. Mentally I'm still unsure as to whether or not I fully participated.

I'm going to attempt to keep this post (mostly) bitter-free. But in all honesty--When it comes to competitions, I feel like I'm running out of steam. Folks are getting stronger, working harder, numbers are growing. (All these are positives in our industry when it comes to accelerating the inertia of progression in our humble sport.)
Naturally, one must roll with the punches in order to keep up. So, last year I trained. Like, really trained. In my personal growth as a climber, I was the strongest I've ever been. It got me (woe is me, a disappointing) 4th place at the Vail Bouldering World Cup, one step off the podium, highest ranking American overall. And a monstrous hangover the next day, my ranking already forgotten by everyone save for myself and a few close friends/family members. There's that famous saying, "Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever." I think in the sport of climbing, and how unbelievably fast its progression has been, especially in the last few years, glory is mighty short-lived.

If I were to pose the question: "Who was the first woman to boulder V13? (And get dozens of coveted 'First Female Ascents' of pretty much any hard boulder in Colorado?)" A question, I believe, every boulderer should know the answer to, due to the weight of it being one small step for an Ange, one giant leap for womankind, do you think everyone would know? This achievement was monumental. It shattered the ceiling for girls to follow, and follow they have been! And some people still don't know who Angie Payne is! Ignorant fools! Blasphemy! She should be one of the most well-known climbers in the world.

Last week Chris did La Dura Dura, the HARDEST route in the WORLD, EVER! And peeps be all, "WO! Sick! Yea!...What's next?" And then there's a lull in the climbing community with everyone's rising expectations. Give us a break, people. Sometimes just climbing V10 is hard (gasp!).
Anyway, I'm just saying. Ondra's only Ondra until the next Ondra.

Back to the topic: 2013 Bouldering Nationals.
Route setting is getting, not much to my liking, weirder. Problems are getting funky and disorienting. It's not like back in the PCA days when climbs were set so the strongest person was winning comps. Due to comps getting "slabbier" or "more technical" or whatever, spectators have been disinterested. Part of the appeal of competitions in our sport is that it's supposed to be exciting and eye-pleasing. You (at least, I) want to watch a badass chick on a steep wall jump from a tiny crimp to a heinous pinch and hold the swing, muscles rippling; not shimmy-balance her way across a slab and into a dihedral only to have her foot slip off a pancake at the top. Of course, these are all just my opinions.

The one redeeming factor I took away from the comp was that, at one point, I was able to muster up something in order to try my absolute hardest in the middle of our coolest problem, Women's Finals Number 2 (or 3?). The one with all the big blue volumes, which we now use. But then I fell at the top. One could say I ran out of steam.

In regards to running out of steam: Currently, at this point in time I no longer feel motivated to try my hardest at competitions. I don't "want it." I'm not "fighting for it." I just want to rock climb outside.
Am I sounding bitter yet? Perhaps it's my head cold.
Allow me to summarize: Competitions are getting harder, and less fun (for me). I might be too burnt out to work as hard as I need to work to stay at the top of the game.
This could ultimately be unfortunate for me, as it seems climbing is on the cusp of blowing up.
I could wait out this funk, and, presumably, ride the coat tails of comp-climbing up the glorious ladder of glitz and glam.
Or I could fall (leap?) off the wagon now, and grow personally as a climber in outdoor aspects (something I am far from burnt out on) and take swelling pride in my own mini successes, not a random ranking from a passing event. If nobody but you remembers your "greatest achievements" anyway (see above), what's the point? Didn't we all get into rock climbing for its individuality to begin with?

P.S. This isn't quitting. This is a transition.

27 February 2013

Paying it Forward: PCI Clinics

Climbing is evolving. Whether or not we choose to evolve with it is our own decision. The industry is growing, and with it, more people are entering our sport at a younger and younger age. The kids are getting stronger. It's a movement and we can either join or be left behind.

For the past two years I've been traveling the country teaching climbing clinics with Professional Climbers International (PCI). The organization sends pro climbers like myself, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Kevin Jorgeson, Sasha DiGiulian and Angie Payne, to name a few, around to host gyms so we can share our knowledge and passion for climbing with the younger generations.

Most of us have been doing this for fifteen-plus years. Obviously we don't know everything, but who would we be as professional athletes if we didn't give back to the generations to follow? Not only sharing the experience we've gained as it pertains to training, but movement and competition strategy as well.

When I was a kid my mom drove five hours so I could take a clinic in Chicago, Illinois with Tiffany Campbell. I don't remember a damn thing she taught me at that clinic. The only thing I remember is at the end of the day she said, "You have great potential."

My goal with these PCI clinics isn't necessarily to turn young athletes into world champions. What I want is each participant to take something even more important away from their time with me--a positive memory that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. If not a single kid can recount my technique for heel hooks, or a pre-comp ritual I shared, but they leave with a smile and say they had a blast, then I've done my job. (Of course I want them to remember something! But I'll settle for a smile.)

We as professional athletes have been given a great opportunity to help shape the climbers of future generations, not only in ability but attitude as well. PCI clinics are a great medium for teaching, and a really fun chance for kids to not only learn from, but to just hang out and climb with their heroes.

I thoroughly enjoy working with kids. This is something I plan on continuing to do for as long as someone wants to learn from me, because honestly by teaching I learn just as much, if not more.