Tuesday 31 March 2015

2015 AYCT Tryouts - Day One (Lead)

Let it be said, first and foremost, that tryouts are the most stressful, least enjoyable event of the year. I love competition climbing, I wouldn't give it so much time if I didn't. Even competing at the World Youth Championships, with the months of hard, focused training, the days of travel, and the intense atmosphere, is less stressful than the few routes and boulders that you have to top in order to get there.

My lead-up was less than ideal coming into this year's tryouts. A shoulder injury around the new year had me taking 5 weeks off, followed by some very poor climbing at the Pre-Tryouts Training Camp in January, and a less than satisfactory performance at the 2015 Bayside Boulder Bash. The stress was building, and I was finding it difficult to motivate myself whilst battling my injury and consistently falling short of the standard of climbing I expected from myself.

Bouldering at the 2015 Australian Youth Climbing Team Pre-Tryouts Training Camp in January.

 The week of the tryouts came on way too fast. Since the Boulder Bash my training had well and truly kicked into gear. I was fit and strong, but the stress was mounting, and I had an overwhelming fear that after such a good season in 2014, I would not even get the opportunity to represent in the 2015 season I had been looking forward to. I remember looking in the mirror a few days before the tryouts and seeing a ghostly pale figure with dark circles beneath his eyes staring back at me. Nerves are important, but this felt like a step beyond nerves and into debilitating dread.

The day came, no matter how much I wished it could wait, and somehow I managed to hold myself together and get a good night's rest. I ate well in the days prior, and was generally spot-on with my preparation. I did my best to push all of the worry out of my mind, and simply focus on the task at hand. Whilst warming up, I felt strong and in control.

My first route consisted of fairly technical moves that trailed up an arete, and looked incredibly precise and balanced in the way that they had to be maneuvered. I pulled on, and fell right into the zone, progressing up the wall quickly in what felt like a flow of effortless movements. Before I knew it I was at the top, feeling incredibly relieved. With a perfect start, I looked toward my next routes with a new found confidence. However, there was still work to be done, with two more routes to top out of the next three before I could truly relax.

Routesetters didn't spot this one ;)
Alistair Earley working the slopers on the second route with a solid heel-hook.

Rocking over to the finish of Q2

My next route looked considerably less daunting, with only a short technical section at the start, and then very straight forward climbing to the end of the route. Everybody in my category dispatched this climb with little difficulty. Two down, one more to go. The next two qualifiers were certainly a step above the first two, though. There was still more work to do.

Our third qualifier consisted mostly of good crimps and off-balance moves. I stepped on very wary of each shift in my body, making sure that I was secure before progressing to the next hold. At the end of the climb the wall became slightly more overhung, and the only thing that sat between me and qualification was a punchy push to the final jug. I took a slopey pinch in my left hand, brought my feet up, and pulled for the last hold. It fell securely into my hand, and I clipped the final draw, relieved and ecstatic that I had made it!! A great weight had lifted off of my shoulders, knowing that once again I would be representing Australia on the world stage!

It was at this point that the competition truly became hard. Knowing that my dreams had been realised only made it harder to watch those of my best-friend's fall to pieces before my eyes. I tried my best to be happy and content with my own performance, but simply couldn't, seeing people in the position that I had been fearing since lowering down from my semi-final in Noumea.

But there was still one more route to climb, and I couldn't go home defeated, so I refocused and took to the wall. This climb was steep and powerful, and remained unconquered when I pulled on as the last climber. I moved quickly through the route, past the first crux, and into a solid rest while I sussed out the rest of the route. The next four or so moves had proved to be some of the hardest of the day, so I approached them with caution, and calculated every twist and turn, until I was there once again. I flicked my rope through the final draw, four out of four!

This year's lead tryouts were a total roller coaster! I went from absolute doubt, to a perfect score, and a place on the Australian Youth Climbing Team for the fourth year in a row! Congratulations to Sarah Mckenzie, Oliver MacGibbon, Nanki Soin, Jarred Jordan, Roxy Perry, and Mitchell Mullins for qualifying for the team as well! Train hard, stay focused, and this will be an amazing year for the Australian Youth Team :) Those who didn't make it all put in solid efforts, and can return to their training with a better knowledge of where they can improve. It sucks HARD that you guys won't be with us in Italy, but keep working, and I know you'll be ready for China in 2016.
The 2015 Australian Youth Lead Team!
Thanks to the routesetters, volunteers, and to Bayside Rock for hosting the event! It couldn't have happened without you guys. Also, thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva Australia, Indoor Climbing Productions, and TRI-Climbing for supporting me in my bid for a spot on the team :)

But the weekend was not over, with bouldering to follow the next day! I'd done what I'd set out to do, but couldn't go home totally satisfied without earning a place in both! Stay tuned for part two.