Sunday, March 2, 2014


Being a wrestler, I got used to big crowds, being under a lot of pressure to perform well, and being by myself, in my own head, figuring things out on the mat. It was awesome! My teammates couldn't score 
points for me; my coaches couldn't pin my opponent; my parents couldn't win my match. It was all up to me and the work I had done prior to the match. 

The same thing applies to climbing. Except, rather than an opponent, I get to wrestle an arbitrary set of objects placed in a vertical space. And, yet, the two sports almost perfectly mimic each other, especially when it comes to mental preparation, body awareness, muscle memory, and psych level. All sports, for that matter, have similar qualities in that regard, but there is something different about being a lone athlete, relying on ones own mental and physical abilities to reach goals, rather than also relying on a teammate(s) to get the job done.

I had the chance to revisit that "lone athlete" feeling at the ABS 15 National Championships in Colorado Springs last weekend. It was an enjoyable and familiar feeling, reminding me why I have spent the better part of my life training and competing in various sports. Not only was in enjoyable, but it also kicked my ass!

My preparation didn't consist of much physical training. I did one workout -  
did some pull-ups, push-ups... you know, some "training."

I did, however, spend a lot of time visualizing, remembering moments where I had performed well in competitions, making a game plan for competition 
day, and trying to give myself the most control and competence while outthere for my first on-sight comp ever!

"Climbers, you may begin climbing now!" As soon as I heard those words, all my preparation and planning vanished; it all went out the window! All the patience and control I thought I would have out there dissolved into a puddle of panic and what felt like some relatively aimless attempts at some really hard boulder problems - some of which I'm sure I could do now. I had little control over my conscience, like I thought I would. Four minutes is not a lot of time to climb a boulder problem. It feels like even less time with the added pressure to climb well. 

Despite my struggles to actually place well, I think I definitely met my goals of having fun and learning some things! I wanted to experience what the kids from the climbing team I coach (the Bend Endurance Academy) go through at every on-sight comp they climb in. I also wanted feel, first hand, what a national level on-sight boulder problem felt like. And finally, I wanted to watch the best climbers in the nation compete on some of coolest boulder problems I have ever seen!

Climbing these problems gave me a whole new appreciation for power-endurance! Obviously, having the strength to pull on the hard moves is important, however, I think that having the endurance to continue pulling on more moderate moves is more important. More points are to be had by doing several more moves throughout a comp than doing one or two really hard moves. Take that with a grain of salt, obviously. There are benefits to both. 

From my experience, I also learned how important doing on-sight practice is. Climbing under the USAC format of four minutes on - four minutes off is completely different than projecting a hard problem at the gym. There is very little time to think. I spent most of my four minutes brushing holds, sequencing, and then telling myself, "alright, time to go for it and trust my instincts!" And that's what I did. I just started climbing and I trusted the work I have put into my climbing over the years. Furthermore, not only will on-sight practice help me perform better in competitions, but I think it is absolutely vital for improving and becoming a more intuitive climber in general. Any chance I get to on-sight something, I will give it my all and try to learn as much as I can from it!  

From a routesetting perspective, the trip to Colorado Springs was really informative. Climbing these problems gave me a better idea of how hard to make on-sight problems/routes and what types of moves and sequences can be used. Honestly, I don't believe the problems were extremely difficult. Several of them were definitely in my range, especially if I had more time to work on them. However, the format of the competition is partially what makes these problems hard to do. The other part of what made this competition tough was that the problems were really difficult! Problem #3 was balls hard and #4 was up there as well. So, going back to what to work on for competitions, I guess I need to increase my strength as well as my power endurance!

One of the most exciting things about this trip, besides competing, was being able to watch the finals live! Being a part of the crowd, cheering on my favorite climbers, and watching the action, first hand, was very memorable and fun. I'm not going to say I was anti-cheering for anybody in particular, but I definitely wanted to see a new national champion on both the men's and women's sides. Although there wasn't a new national champion (again!) Wurm sure put on a great show and proved that Puccio can be beat! Also, watching the younger climbers give the veteran climbers a run for their money was very inspiring.  It kind of makes me feel fairly hopeless for myself, as far as doing well on the national level goes. Then again, there are guys like Vasya, who is 30 years old, that are giving Daniel a run for his money. It's anyones' game... so they say.

(Matty Hong and Megan Mascarenas gettin' it done in the Semis!)

(D. Woods, Traversi, Wurm, and Mascarenes. Ducks in a row! and the back of Puccio's head...)

As for right now, I have less than a year until I head to Madison, Wisconsin for the ABS 16 National Championships! Who wants to do some training!?

See ya'll out there...

Friday, February 14, 2014

What's Bailin' You Out?

I'm not here to condemn anyone or point fingers. However, I do want to bring to light something that I have observed in the climbing community, as well as in the general public.


I want discuss why I think it happens, offer some encouraging thoughts on the matter, and give some insight toward how bailing and your comfort zone are connected. I would also love to hear your thoughts and feedback about the subject.

I have noticed two different types of bailing. Obviously, there is the classic type of bailing: making plans with someone and then unmaking them right before the planned plan. The other type of bailing is what I would call bailing on yourself, on your own commitments and goals.

First of all, I think telling someone "no" is hard to do. So we say yes. And then we (Fill in the blank) so we won't have to anymore. Also, we are a society that is overrun with distractions, drugs, peer-pressure, infectious behavior, and plenty of "easy streets" to walk down. And I love it all! Ask my old wrestling partners; I'm the king of taking the easy street. I would joke around and slack off at practice. I'm not perfect and I certainly don't avoid some of lifes' guilty pleasures. However, I also won't deny that all of those distractions make it easier and more appealing to bail on people.  

Over the years, I have slowly lost hope in a large majority of people to actually commit to what they say they will do. I think it's because people like the "idea" of doing things but not actually putting forth the effort to do them. We talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Our fears and uncertainties have a lot to do with it. But how do we change that?

Now that I'm a crusty old sage, and I've turned youthful mistakes into boat loads of wisdom, I have a challenge for you: When you make a plan with someone and the time comes to carry out that plan and you don't feel like doing it anymore, I challenge you to do it anyway! Do something uncomfortable. Hang out with a new person/climbing partner. Wake up earlier than you want. It's snowing? Get your puffy and hand warmers! Whatever your plan is, commit to it!

But don't just do it for their sake. Do it for yourself!

I think it's important because it promotes growth, it expands your comfort zone, and it builds character. I can't tell you how many times I have followed through with a plan that I wasn't entirely stoked on and ended up really appreciating the experience in the end. And I'm sure my climbing partner did too. Can you think of a similar moment? Maybe you hesitantly started up a "scary" route - one that you didn't really feel comfortable doing - but you did it anyway? Were you happy you did it?

Obviously, there are good reasons to bail and I believe it is important to check the risk vs. reward factors. How sick is too sick? How cold is too cold? What is a reasonable hour to wake up? Too much drinking the night before? Was it worth it? Does it align with your goals/values? How scary is too scary? Why do we decide to do one thing over another? My question is: can we be honest with each other as well as ourselves about our commitment level? And can we follow through and not bail on ourselves?

Paradoxically, telling someone "yes" when you really want to say "no," is bailing. It's bailing on yourself.

Everyone has their own comfort zones. There is no pressure or shame from me (and hopefully no one else) if something makes you more uncomfortable than someone else. I get it. Some people would rather not lead climb. Some people only want to clip bolts. Some people will jump out of an airplane, but they would never ride a horse. Wherever your comfort level lies, figure out where that is so you can start growing.

Essentially, this is how we've learned to do everything in life. Walking, learning what foods we like, making friends, and even learning how to ride a bike; all of these we had to learn. At some point in our lives, these things were challenging, unfamiliar, and out of our comfort zones (some of these might still be!). We have progressed through life by taking chances, making mistakes, and getting dirty - why stop now?

So, next time you feel like bailing, take a second, re-think your entire life, meditate on it, align your chakra, visualize all the wonderful experiences and lessons and character building you could be missing out on, and decide if you really think it's worth ruining someone else's day just because you didn't "feel like it" anymore...

But seriously, who wants to go bouldering this weekend? Supposed to be really bad weather, below freezing. No bailers please. You're either in or your out. :)

See y'all on the rocks!