In the land of overpriced handbags and high fashion, I stood in my chalky pants and muddy shoes reading my qualifier route at the IFSC Lead World Championships. As I squinted up and down, I read every inch of the orange triangular volumes. I could not help but feel a little out of place in Paris as we were a group of dirtbag-like athletes competing in which is arguably the most expensive city in the world. I felt I was the only soul in the building but this was not the case. It was simply a mirage as there were competitors besides me and a crowd behind. By far the tallest woman at the competition at 6 feet tall, everyone was a foot under my line of vision. I felt extremely honored to be a part of the group competing at the World Championships, but couldn’t help feeling a little out of place. As I was preparing to compete in Paris at the IFSC World Championship for Women’s lead climbing, I was trying to find my balance.
Making the way up Qualifiers route number 2 at IFSC World Championships Photo by: Daniel Cornella
The competition lasted 4 days for all disciplines. Lead was held over a qualifiers day, semifinals and finals. Team USA brought 7 women to compete in the Lead Competition to add to a total of 76 women across the world. The women were then split into two groups which had two different qualifying routes. That meant a total of 4 different routes were up on one wall at one time. This allowed qualifiers to move quicker but was also very intimidating.
I cannot call myself the best competitor, but I can say that I have over 12 years of experience. In that time, I have witnessed the best being the best and the one trait that I have found most important in competition climbing is the mental aspect. It is not always the strongest competitor that wins, but the most mentally tough competitor. The competitor that can keep their calm and stay in the zone is the one who will win. For myself, it would mean changing up my training regiment from previous years to be able to stand there in Paris.
Several Months Before
After competing in the 2016 USA Open SCS Nationals last March, I came back home to my job of route setting and coaching at Movement Climbing and Fitness Denver. I had no expectation of continuing my pursuit of life through climbing at that moment. A month or so after Nationals, USA Climbing sent out an email announcing there were a couple more spots left on the USA team for the World Cup series. If the top athletes from Nationals could not attend the World Championships, those spots would open to applicants that competed in Nationals. I decided I would apply. To my surprise I was accepted onto the team! If I were to have any chance at the competition I would have to think outside of the typical training box.
I pay my rent, bills and other expenses by working as a route setter and coach. I am lucky enough to be able to combine my passion for climbing in my job. But just like every other weekend warrior out there I also have to balance my training and climbing with providing myself with an income. Fortunately my unique training method for this competition was actually a part of my day at work. From my general understanding, most of the competitors at the event train with a coach focusing on strength at a consistent schedule. Some of these competitors hold other jobs, some are in school, but many just strictly climb as there one and only career. Unlike many of the competitors at the World Championships I was able to combine my training with work by self coaching myself with an integrated schedule with routesetting and coaching.
6:00am-8:00am Self Coached- Climbing specific training (campus, lead laps, 4×4’s, one move power on boulder)
2:30pm-4:00pm Lunch, rest and stretch
4:00pm-7:00pm Coach the Youth Team
7:00pm-8:30pm Train at Mountain Strong Denver (combination of crossfit and climbing specific conditioning)
Training session at Mountain Strong Denver. Photo by: Daniel
On the weekend I would resist the urge to climb outside in order to travel to different gyms and onsight new routes with different styles. Unlike the typical climber my training focused more on technique and onsight skills versus strength. Because ten hours of my day was already committed to route setting and coaching, I was forced to incorporate this into parts of my day. While routesetting I was constantly thinking and building new sequences followed by performing it physically. I would then use the techniques I learned earlier in the day to teach to the youth team from an external point of view. This forced me to visualize the movement and then verbally explain it to a student. I combined this sort of mental training, with my individual physical workouts in the morning and Mountain Strong in the evening. While there, I got an hour and a half of serious ass kicking, focusing in on my weaknesses and building a strong foundation for well-rounded climbing.
Back to the Competition
I was most definitely the outlier competitor at the event. Everything from my height, to my age and to even the way I trained was atypical compared to the relatively young 5’2” petite women that stood around me. I finished the competition in a tie for 65th place out of close to 80 women around the world. Although I might have been an unusual competitor I had the most fun I have had at a competition! After 12 years of competing this was the first time that I was mature enough to truly realize how unique climbing is on a personal level.
I am rock climber. I am woman. I am 6 feet tall with a strong build. I am the only female routesetter at my workplace. All traits, not of your typical rock climber. People today will stop me on the streets to ask me if I play professional volleyball, basketball, swimming, etc. They will guess every sport in existence before I tell them I Rock Climb. This is how it has always been. This is how it was competing at the World Championships in Paris, but I’ve come to realize that climbing has been a part of me since I was 5 years old and nothing feels more natural. This is what makes climbing a lifestyle to so many people.
Climbing is one of those sports that can be done at any age, any gender and any body type. Anyone with the determination to climb, makes them a climber. As I stood there hovering a foot above every other female competitor speaking languages from all over the world, everyone was in one building, plopped in the middle of Paris, to show off their shared passion for climbing.
Getting in a little session in Fontainebleau after the comp. Photo by: Daniel Cornella