Friday, September 12, 2014

Gijon: Day 4 - Qualifying Day

Writing this one day later, so I might not capture all the emotions and events of yesterday.

I was scheduled to be in the first group to climb at 9am, and also the second climber, so after a fitful night of sleep, chugging many espressos, and forcing down a bit of food, we made our way over to the Palacio des Desportes early in the morning to give me time to warm-up. As I was walking over, I wondered to myself why do I even do these things when they just make me feel so nervous and, frankly, not very good.

The warm-up wall was good and I was able to work up a little sweat before cooling down again. The format of qualifiers was a flash-format, so we were able to watch an official climb the route on video in the warm-up area beforehand. Still, the setting style and holds are quite different here so I did not know what to expect.

There are a lot of very strong women in my category (Neurological and Physical Disability A - Category A is more "able-bodied" than Category B, but there is a lot of debate over how the paraclimbers are assessed, how disabilities in different parts of the body are weighted, etc. I would argue that it isn't quite fair. I saw women in my category who has less function than women in Category B, myself included. But, whatever, it's not like it is the Olympics or a professional event). It was a bit intimidating but also really cool to see strong women similar to myself. One Italian climber in particular, has muscular dystrophy and a very weak left leg as a result, so it was neat to see someone climb like me and pogo up routes, flag her left leg a lot etc.

I climbed nervously and hurriedly for my first qualifying route. No tricky holds; the route was probably a 5.10+ just for length and steepness. It was enough to top out and put me along four women for a four-way tie for first place going into the second qualifying route:!comp=1501&cat=121&route=0

Blast-off. They had two ropes attached to us so that we wouldn't take too big a swing out if we fell.
Mid-route, Qualifying Route 1
Very strong and tall Italian climber in my category

My second qualifying route was scheduled to be climbed starting at noon, but the entire schedule was shifted by 5 hrs. I had just finished warming up for the second time when the announcement was made, so it was a bit untimely. The team got a lazy lunch but I was still anxious because I was in the first category to climb again. Walking to and from the venue, warming up again...felt like ground-hog day.

The second route made me nervous because I knew it was a lot harder (5.12) and I just didn't have a good idea about what the holds would be like because the holds they use here are really quite different to anything I have seen in the U.S. I saw other women in my category fall off anywhere from 25-75% of the way up the route, but what worried me were these sections where a left foot would be key/useful. Again, I did not climb as well as I could have. I think the biggest thing was nerves and tunnel vision. I did not use my rests to scope out the moves ahead, like I usually do. So, need to remember to breathe, relax and climb smart.

Near the start of the second qualifying route

Higher up. Making the transition to the left from that volume to the next one up and left of it was hard for me because I just didn't stay calm and read the route well and figure out where to put my right foot.

In any case, I ascended high enough on this route to make it to Finals (top 4) on Saturday. The finals will be broadcast via live-feed, so if you have nothing better to do this Saturday 1500 hr (GMT +2), you can watch it here:

Using my rest day to let the broken bits of me calm down a bit. Super nervous, still, but glad to be here.

My internet connection is horribly slow, but I will post pictures of the other paraclimbers at some point. I had never seen a lot of visually-impaired climbers climb and seeing their stamina as they hang out and reach around for holds was incredible. As was seeing some upper-body amputees missing entire arms (and even collarbones) use their incredible core-strength to stick to a wall. Quite a few of the lower-limb amputees choose to climb without their prosthetic and just pogo up the wall. Very impressive, and shows me just how much stronger I can get.

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