Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lessons (re) Learned

Hi everyone,

I know it's been a while and many important things have taken place since my last post. I'm going to start with a couple of key events that I've recently witnessed. Though they aren't necessarily climbing related, I think they hold significance in the themes of my life at the moment. Curiously, they both took place on Sunday.

Sunday morning I had the amazing opportunity to join the Lululemon team at the 29.6 km mark of the Toronto Scotiabank Marathon, as well as watch Felix Baumgartner jump to Earth from the edge of space. Luckily, we arrived at the marathon early enough in the morning to cheer on the first, second and third little pods of runners. At almost 30 km through the race, these pods of three to six men (and one woman) were running, and running FAST through the drizzling rain. As they approached we yelled and screamed and danced and not one of them looked up. For a split second I thought of it as ignorance, and maybe other people did too, but I almost immediately changed my mind. They weren't being rude or arrogant, they just didn't need us. They were just there for their own reasons- to qualify for Boston, to win, to break a World Record. What I realized is that I could have cheered as loud as I wanted or sat there as if completely un-fazed by their power and prowess and they would have ran just as fast. Cheering or no cheering, rain or no rain, they weren't stopping until they reached their goals. Isn't that exactly what I've been trying to accomplish in my climbing at competitions?

Then, minutes after arriving home from the marathon, we were on the couch, watching a live stream of Felix Baumgartner. He was being hoisted up by balloon to the edge of space. Immediately I was back in cheering mode, but it was a little different. There was a definite, inescapable element of fear. Fear that the balloon would break, fear that something would go wrong, and fear that the dreams and hopes and even life of this man would be crushed. I was terrified. As he got ready to jump though, I realized that no matter the result, he had already accomplished more than many of us. He had conquered fear. He had made the decision to go ahead with his dream and he didn't let anything stop him, not even himself. Another aspect of my climbing I've been working on :)

So, with those two events in mind, I reflected on the past two competitions I participated in. The first one was the Summer Sweatfest Finale held at True North Climbing. This year, the organizers of the finale decided to add an element of surprise to the competition. The format for qualifiers and for finals were not to be announced until the day of the competition. The qualifiers went well, proving to be not as scary as anticipated, but the finals were another story. They consisted of four problems with 4+ minutes to complete each BUT after each problem the scores were tallied and the last person was eliminated. The last two people who remained entered a showdown on the final problem. It was a bit confusing and unfamiliar at first but after some help to understand it, I was comfortably warming up in isolation. At this point I had won all the Sweatfests I had competed in and I decided to go for the gold. Even with that little bit of added pressure, I went out feeling extremely calm. I went through the first three problems, remaining relaxed and composed. Being confident and sure of myself allowed me to have tons of fun. Like the runners, I felt like I was climbing for myself. By the fourth problem, Beth Vince and Marieta Akalski were eliminated so Alex Kuusela and I remained for the showdown. Our last problem was quite long with a few big moves on slopers to the crux where there were a couple of hard moves on small edges. With ten attempts to complete it, I was super psyched knowing that my endurance training would come in handy, in case it took me a while to figure out the problem. It turns out that ten attempts on any problem is a lot more than I thought. I had the sequence down by the third attempt and attempts three to six were spent doing the second last move. Then, attempts seven to ten were spent doing the last move. As psyched and motivated and confident as I was, I could not for the life of me manage to get that last move. I ended up beating Alex by only a couple of moves and we both finished the comp with bleeding tips (Alex's were cooler than mine). My boyfriend, Eric Sethna, also won which was great, and the competition was a huge success. Despite having a good result, I learned that the focus and confidence I had during finals was not only ideal for that comp but is necessary in all my comps to achieve my potential. Just like the runners, focus must be constant.

The second competition was the World Cup in Atlanta, for which I spent a lot of time preparing. I originally had a lot of nerves and anxiety in anticipation for the competition. I was nervous about the difficulty of the routes, not knowing what to expect and especially not knowing what to train for. It was my first Lead World Cup and I really didn't have much to go by. In general, I was fearful. Though I eventually became more confident in my training, I don't think my climbing at the competition reached my potential. I found I was still a little bit nervous and not as confident as I could have been. I wasn't plummeting towards the ground from 120, 000 feet but I was admittedly kind of freaked out. Despite a slip on the second qualifier, I managed to make it into semi-finals and subsequently attained my goal. I think I executed my semis route with a bit more confidence but I was still too anxious. I ended up falling lower than I expected on a move that I hesitated on. Nonetheless, I placed 22nd which I am very happy about. I think my main lesson there was that the fear I thought I had gotten over in the summer wasn't quite the same as the fear of the unknown that I experienced in Atlanta. It was intimidating and larger than life. Now, with that competition under my belt I plan to push forward, improve, and just like Baumgartner, embrace the fear of the unknown.

By definition, learning is the knowledge or skills aquired through experience or study or by being taught. So I've made this conclusion: We know lessons are learned everyday. However, as we grow and develop as people, surely some lessons need to be re-learned in various different ways. For example, maybe one year we learn to conquer fear best through experiencing it and then many days or months or years later we learn just as much or more from seeing someone else conquer fear. In fact, I believe it is essential that we learn through being taught, studying and experiencing, in order to master a skill.

So if there's one thing I've become familiar with, it's that a lesson may appear to be learned when in reality, becoming aware of the lesson is only the beginning.

Go learn something!
And then learn it again ;)


Next up, the Tour de Bloc makes its first stop of season 10 at Joe Rockheads, November 3rd... stay tuned!

Below are some photos (and hopefully video).

Me on the showdown problem at the Summer Sweatfest finale.

Getting inspired at the Olympic park in Atlanta :)

Me on the semi-final route at the World Cup in Atlanta (hopefully this link works...!!!)