Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Laval. Some first's and some last's...

Well this was most interesting. Unexpected and yet, surprisingly... a break through. Unexpected because the outcome wasn’t a worry in my head so the fear of it didn’t exist. And surprising, for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ll clarify, it isn’t surprising that I got last... Having been close enough to this border on numerous occasions, its occurrence is somewhat inevitable. 

This competition however, amazed me in a few ways. Firstly, it was the first time I felt strong in warm up. Second, it was the first time I took enough rest before a comp, which probably makes sense of point one. Third, I had planned ahead and was not in the same predicament as I have been for every other comp, as in rushed, lost and late. There is one more point which I will bring up later…the breakthrough.

There was a very nice campground where we set up our haven. There were walking trails, a pool and even flushing toilets and hot showers. It was the epicenter of relaxation. The ideal state which I had imagined one would want to be in before an important event. I arrived at everything on time except isolation where I nearly met my fate. I was clever enough to check out the location the day before but not clever enough to realize I couldn’t return the same way. Round-a-bouts and one way streets left me confused, speeding and arriving in a tizzy. Once parked, I discovered Valerie of Israel wandering around the building looking as lost as I. Quickly gathering our belongings, we searched for the secret door to iso which seemed to play hide and seek. With minutes to spare, we finally discovered the hole in the ground hidden in the back of the building.

The registration meeting... french style

Each person had their own start time which staggered the crowd of some 42 competitors among the four large panels which were covered in holds of many sizes, shapes and colors. The walls remained fairly busy but a good warm up was totally possible. As I made up my own problems I spied on others, planning to try their problems once they moved onto another wall. Finally after a few hours, my turn came round. Walking through the hallway and up the stairs to the loud arena, I absorbed the scene around me. In scattered chairs sat competitors who waited for their turn. Some look bored, sleepy almost. Others paced back and forth, occasionally looking at the clock which ticked away what remained of the five minutes that they had left to wait until they returned to the wall. 

My shoes lay in front of me waiting for their turn to go out which came soon enough. Problem one asked for balance combined with a tedious lock off. Climbing a bit too cautiously, it showed the lack of trust I had in my foot placement on the small slopey foothold. I fell a few times before finally latching the bonus and moving on to match the final hold. Unfortunately my foot unknowingly flagged past the black tape which seemed to plaque many of the competitors. With no time left to retry, I headed behind the walls with a score card that gave me only a bonus. 

For the second problem I was unable to get past the first awkward move off bad slopers. I found myself stuck in a narrow tunnel of so badly wanting to do the problem, yet, forgetting to change my beta or resting long enough to let my hands cool down. It would have taken seconds yet the clock seemed to move faster than my heart and slowing down became a forgotten idea from a distant land. 

The Canadians eating healthy pre-comp...

The next problem was an awkward line of small crimps and shallow pockets placed in a way that forced my body to twist and turn requiring not just finger strength but also a knowing how to climb. The last move was a jump to a sloper which I almost grabbed on a few occasions but was unable to stick. Despite this, I made the height for the jump so there was progress for me in the world of big moves… :) Yahoo!

For the fourth and fifth problems I walked away with a bonus and a huge pump in my forearms. They both involved long moves, with the last being a sideways dyno. I realized yet again the degree to which I must commit more of my training to the things I hate so that one day, they become my strengths. Knowing my placement wasn’t good, I refused to look at the results fearing I would burst into tears then and there. That said, three bonuses and a send, although it didn't count, was more than I ever had. 

Finally the surprising breakthrough… After the comp, I cried in the secrecy of my own van while Cedar played with Jamie on her skateboard. But my tears felt different. The energy was not that of defeat or being stuck in a self-loathing pit of doom and disaster as I had felt for many a competition. The tears were simply of sadness and disappointment. And then…magically… they passed. Just like that. It surprised me. I found myself able to enjoy the rest of the day and into the next. Socializing was not impossible and I could do so without appearing lost in my thoughts of doom and gloom. Having sat out so many semi-finals and finishing so close to the end many a time, the feelings that this part of the competition was untouchable were strong.  Yet, something different pulled at me while watching this round of semis. It was more a sense of excitement than loathing. Deep within, an old pattern was being replaced by something better. To be free of this heaviness that has plagued me since starting competing was just plain liberating. In its place it left openness for growth and energy to focus on the things that will propel me forward. There is a hella lot more training and work to do here in many aspects, but man… getting last never felt so good. 

Thanks for reading. :)

the artist headquarters
Japan... Biggest team evaaa!
the grand finale

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Three weeks of a whirlwind. Squamish. Part two.

Dedicated to the amazingly perfect granite cliff which stands proud over the community of people who welcomed me back with a warmth and knowing which hadn't touched me for a long time. Thank you Squamish. X

Coming home

Squamish. It means wind in the native tongue. Anyone who has been there would understand the reasoning. Upon arriving a strong wind blew in off the Howe sound which surrounded the granite cliffs and Tantalus range. My eyes fell upon the pure grandness of the blue, green and grey. The view was spectacular. Unreal. My insides were confused; somewhat anxious. It had been a long time since seeing this view and the faces of its many inhabitants.

Setting up camp, my eyes fell upon the lush forest which once cushioned me. The sweet smell of cedar tree filled my nostrils. So much to catch up on, people to see and yet, the campground in which I stood gave me everything I needed. Grabbing a fresh sprung off baby needles of the closest pine, I chewed it slowly allowing its fresh and unique taste to flow in my mouth. When in this area it was almost ritual to eat every plant which I knew of. It was returning home.

Returning home, yet, feeling oddly like a visitor. I was without my van, meaning my home. We arrived in Squamish with the help of Julie and her big black truck. Pulling into the middle parking lot was truly surreal. This parking lot in which I have spent many an hour was the exact same, yet, I felt like a stranger. Nearly three years have passed since my feet touched this ground. 

But there are some things which don’t change. Minutes after arriving a big white van pulled up with a matching Primus sticker on the back. Peter Micheaux. He is a legend in my world. I have known him since bouldering became an integral part of my world. He wrote one of the first guidebooks for the forest and can often be found in his home woody or climbing at Fleming beach in Victoria. But now, he is Squamish based and what a pleasure it is to run into Peter. Never will I be bored or uninterested in his presence. 

Later came Benny, riding the bike he made out of founded parts. He made his way up to the campground just to visit us. This action in itself nearly brought me to tears. I can’t remember the last time I had a visitor in Europe. It was like a blow to my head reminding me of the community I once belonged to. Next came Tim who helped make this trip possible in every possible way. Then Nic and Mark. Matt and Janelle and their new family member, North. Mando, Jer, Rhea, Kaz. Hell, even Neil from Wales was around. We saw the usual gang in the forest, the seasonal Quebecois and later, a slew of people who I had never seen before making me realize it really had been a long time. 

Benny and Neil 'safely' checking out a long standing project

As for the forest, some paths were overgrown while others were spreading out with erosion. Moss returned to the tops of some old lines which never got repeated. It actually looked better than before I left. So green and dense with various evergreens which loomed high above my head. 

I visited old projects as well as new lines. While topping out problems that I had done over a 1000 times, my heart pounded hard. I was out of breath. What? Out of breath? Squamish has always been the place I could go to and measure my progress or there lack of. If I could do old projects or if problems felt easier; I knew I came back better. This time however, I was left confused. I felt stronger on individual moves but my fitness felt shot. Given all the training put in, which was more than ever in my life, I was meant to be in good shape right? Well, I wasn’t sure anymore. Trying old projects for measure was overwhelming. My focus was wanting to roam around the forest and simply climb. Repeating a bunch of things was like a gift. The unique movement of the Squamish bouldering made my insides jiggle with happiness. It felt so good to move and climb on this stellar granite. 

After the third day of allowing myself to blissfully do as I wish, the gnawing feeling of guilt settled in. ‘You should be training on plastic’ it said… The Laval World cup was in less than 2.5 weeks and here I was in the forest playing lock off and slab. Climbing is climbing I argued but I knew this wasn’t exactly true. Moving on plastic is completely different to moving on rocks. I had to go back to school. And so that’s what I did. There were a couple session had at the Edge Climbing gym and of course the Squamish Co-op. While Tim made me up problems addressing my specific weaknesses, my ass met the floor with each attempt. It took quite a few tries to learn the trickery of the movement he was trying to teach. Swing, don’t match, turn sideways, go faster… Climbing in the forest does not teach this. It was re-programing in session and it wasn’t easy, but, it was fun..! 

The Squamish Co-op. 

The Squamish trip was interrupted with a brief visit to Vancouver Island, in particular, The Boulders Climbing Gym. Kimanda had invited me to go there and climb with some of the kids, help with their technique and check out the gym. I got to try the speed climbing wall on auto belay and yes, it was hard and yes, I down climbed half way. Finally committing to let go and trust the device, I let out a little scream of fear and excitement. Surprisingly, it worked! My feet touched bottom. :) On top of that, Cedar and I got to meet with her homeschool teacher who we work with at a distance through “SelfDesign Learning”. If that wasn’t enough to put icing on the cake, we finished the evening with homemade carrot cake to celebrate Peter’s 40th birthday.

Made it to the top!
A few days later we returned to Squamish but it felt different this time. The shock of being back had gone and was replaced by tingling feelings of being home. The Chief had beckoned me to hike it at least once before I left proving to me that I was indeed out of shape. Surviving the stairs, I got to the top to breathe in its offerings and reflect on my return. I have had so many homes all over the world but at the core of these is the people. We covered more birthday parties those two weeks than we had the last 3 years. Cedar and I belong to a community here which goes back over a decade. When leaving Squamish nearly 3 years ago, my body and soul hurt. I needed to break the spell and stagnation; to learn other things… and yet… returning prompts the questioning of why we ever left. As I take in a deep breath and look around, we wave good-bye to the chief standing tall and proud. I asked for its protection and our ultimate return. 

Thanks for reading. X

Good-bye Squamish. see you soon. 
Please check out my crowdfunding gig which made this trip possible and my attendance to the Toronto World Cup.

Vancouver Korean... My fave!
A very funny and interesting new guide book from Squamish
Kimanda of Boulders Climbing gym in Sannich
My old stomping grounds. They are renovating!
Squamish art work in the park
i love this place, powerlines and all... :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Three weeks of a whirl wind. Part One.

The usual method of travel for me; last minute, slightly unplanned and completely unorganized. The whole trip was an idea conceived in almost a dream like trance. The possibility of it actually becoming a reality seemed as unlikely as winning the national state lottery. The sentiment I held was to listen to the tingling feeling that grew inside of me the closer the date came. No matter how many pro/con lists I made, I knew there would be serious regret if the chance before me was not taken. Work and rocks can wait, but this wouldn’t. There is only one Toronto World cup in 2014. Just one.

So how to do it… The idea of crowd funding was proposed to me on numerous occasion but I wasn’t sure I had the balls to actually go ahead with it. The thoughts of unworthiness plagued me yet realistically, it was the only option. I tried to view it as an application for public sponsorship. Magically once the decision was made, things came together to make it happen. A good friend vouched for our tickets with an unwavering faith and I followed through with the plans from my side. In less than 72 hours, Cedar and I were packing and running towards a plane bound for Toronto, Canada. All I knew was that we had a place to stay for the night and the Toronto World Cup was in 4 days. We would return to Munich after a brief stopover in Squamish. Everything else and beyond was a blur.

Upon arriving, the heat and humidity of Toronto filled our lungs. With a friend, we walked the streets and took in the scenes of small stores that sold random obscurities from all corners of the world. We climbed at Canada’s oldest climbing gym, Joe Rockhead’s curtesy of head setter Ayo. (Thanks Ayo!) As the days passed I tried organizing our accommodation for the competition but found myself financially unable to buy food for the day let alone book a hotel. While I tried to convince myself to trust the situation, the stress crept into my bones as I stared at the last of the plane snacks stuffed in an old bag. Wondering what to do, the realization came that I would have been stranded either way be it in Munich or Toronto. I considered myself lucky to have a good friend who provided us with a roof and kept our hunger at bay.

Ayo of Joe Rockheads
Team Dinner. Thanks Ontario climbing!
The evening before leaving for the comp, things sorted themselves out. I breathed out a sigh of relief once a hotel was booked. As we dragged our luggage on and off the various trains and buses, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the public transportation systems in Europe. With no signage or staff around to direct lost travelers, the travel hit with more adversity than anticipated. As event after event unveiled themselves, I took it as a chance to practice the ideal dreamy headspace I had envisioned for myself when facing adversity in a competition. Unfortunately my alter ego would have none of that. As my head battled between war and peace, we eventually disembarked the crowded bus in Hamilton. Arriving too late for the technical meeting, I headed back to the hotel, unpacked, and searched for my Canadian friends.

Ready set...
The next morning the sun shined brightly through the crack in the curtain. As I prepared my bag for the day events to come, I tried to embrace my tingling nerves which were acting up more than usual. This would be my first World Cup on Canadian soil. Maybe it was some home pressure felt as many people knew me from my outside achievements or perhaps it was the fear of being compared to the others and feelings of inferiority… either way, I had to figure out how to deal. Watching the focus and intensity of a nearby competitor, I mimicked her actions thinking they would help me to shake off my anticipation.
Climbing the stairs to approach problem one, I turned around to face an awkward sideways jump. Grabbing the hold seemed very much out of reach yet the more I tried, the more focused I became. My efforts improved but the buzzer echoed, stating that my turn was over. Walking down the stairs I tried to ignore the negative chatter that criticized me because I didn’t do the first problem which is usually the easiest. I opted to practice my new mantra “get the hold” and reminded myself there were four more problems in line.

The start of problem two came easy as it was a nice roof section but then I was faced with a big move which made my insides scream with fear. In retrospect, it wasn’t so big; I just didn’t do it. My friend Tiffany Hensley gave me the outsider’s perspective. She noticed how I didn’t have my chest open or my arms straight when I went for it but rather my shoulders and chest were curled in as if in a protective position. Not ideal for expanding for those big moves…yes, I see now. She gave me the yogic bear posture which I was to practice while standing at the base of problems to help me open up and give invoke feelings of domination. (Needless to say, I did try it and yes I felt awkward as hell but the difference was certainly felt. Thanks Tiff!)

Still no bonuses I kept my hope on the last three problems continuing this down to the very last effort on the very last problem. The next in line suited me but I felt weak on the bonus crimp and didn’t trust myself to get to the next hold with the beta I had envisioned so alternatively, I threw and missed. The slaughtering continued as I threw myself at the huge sideways double dyno completing one goal which was to fall on my butt from trying so hard. The final problem gave me the bonus but nothing else. Failing to see the slopey lip high above as an option, I instead fought to match a small crimp followed by a long move with little success.

Walking away thoughts imploded in my head that I was doomed. The realization came that perhaps the strength, technique and mental toughness just wasn’t there. Or maybe, just maybe, I was tired from the stress of the day before and physically more tired than usual. But the feeling that I wasn’t cut out for comps lingered deeply. This took a couple days to pass and after a fun session at Niagara Glen and a fresh perspective, I knew I didn’t make a mistake in coming. The value of a trip or competition shouldn’t come down to results. I realized the importance of planning ahead which would help leave more energy to prepare for the job at hand. Either way, I decided to improve my organization skills for competition and for life in general. Realizing this plan takes organization and being a top notch procrastinator, this, may take a miracle. But as I have a sense of hope which can wax and wane between despair and idealism; as a believer in miracles however simple or crazy; I think this can be done. The evidence shows. I got to take part in the Toronto World Cup with less than a penny in my pocket because a few people believed in me. Their confidence was contagious enough to drain all doubts of how I would get there. Now the crux is instilling this confidence into my own climbing. Until then, it’s a work in progress. For now, I get to spend some days under the Squamish chief…

Next post soon come. :)
Thanks for reading

For more information on my “Public Sponsorship” aka crowdfunding campaign please follow this link:
Thomo's Indiegogo campaign

Oh Canada
The coolest idea for a cafe/shop ever. People actually socializing..!!!
train game
Toronto Metro. Yes i like metros...

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Once Grindelwald wrapped up, there was one week until the next World Cup in Innsbruck. Seb, Cedar and I headed north to Zurich where we were given an opportunity which shouldn’t go past: to train with the Swiss team and their head coach, Urs. My vow for the coming trainings was simply to jump, jump and jump again. My dedication to this promise was held 60% the first day which is really good by my standards. Our second training session was with Urs and his team so we followed their program which thankfully included enough jumps for my liking. Normally I climb a lot by myself which I know isn’t the best for pushing oneself and summoning a healthy competitive spirit, so this session with his team and Momoko Odo from Japan was very good for me. It forced me to try things outside my comfort zone, to see past some of my own beliefs about myself and also gave me a chance to see how others train. 

Minimum Bouldering gym, Zurich


My second last time in Innsbruck was at the end of the comp season last year which was completely dreadful. It was a rainy day and my face looked the same. I walked into the market place for registration and recalled these old emotions. Everything was familiar yet, also different. This wasn’t the last comp and it wasn’t last year. It felt as though I was breathing in a bit of hope. Maybe it was just fresh mountain air but either way, I was less nervous about qualifiers. That said, I finished with a bit of hmmf. 

The first problem went well but then it hit the fan. It would be a very good skill to be able to take a step back and breath in a moment of pause but perhaps I drank too much caffeinated tea for there was no slowing down for this bird. I was close on getting the bonus for the second problem which resulted in too many attempts meaning less quality with my effort. I felt the old familiar feeling of doubt run through my body. I opted to let it just be there while I tried to keep focused on the holds. It was heavy and cumbersome but I didn’t let it take me down to the depths of despair which was somewhat liberating. The next in line was a huge, ridiculous dyno. I walked away with half the time left, reasoning to myself that I was saving energy for the remaining two. I understand my running away but in retrospect, I won’t make that mistake of avoidance again. For the third, I didn’t think so clearly in terms of beta or anything else for that matter and fell into a narrow tunnel of the same beta over and over even though my mind had considered other options. Finally my hope lay on the last and final problem. It was a slab which was in my favor. But again, it required some coordination with legs and a long reach to a bulbous feature. After many attempts I finally got past the first hard move and edged towards the bonus only to be pulled off by the buzzer. God dam. So close and yet, so far… 

In the back room I cursed my stupidity. The gentle Swedish climber reminded me that I had to see it as learning. It’s learning. Learning. LEARNING Thomo…!! An open mindset. Not closed. Yes, yes and yes, I agree. Oh what weeds I have in my garden… weeding and rewiring needed on an ongoing bases. I should attach an elastic band onto my wrist as a reminder… LEARNING..!

Finally, the essential feedback... It came from Lizzy Asher this time. She has climbed with me outside a few times and she straight out told me I am not trying hard enough. “I’ve seen you try hard Thomo, and you’re not trying…” This kind of bothered me as I really feel like I am trying hard but her truth was confirmed to me later. First by watching semis and finals. Those girls try so hard they slide off the holds fighting the whole way resulting in a violent fall straight onto their back. I never fall on my back in a comp..! Second, I went to magic wood after the comp to obsess over last year’s project where I continuously fell: straight onto my back…! The difference of not only my effort, but also my focus was clearly felt deep in my bones. Maybe rock climbing is just something I am more comfortable with but this realization only gives me more reason to try and summon this part of me in the high pressured situation of a competition. Maybe this is where the open mindset comes in. To see all this as lessons instead of failures, challenges instead of impossibilities. As I said before, weeding the garden, daily and by the minute. Still lots to learn and figure out but without this challenge, life may be rather dull. 

Thanks for reading.        

Ps. On a side note, I have started an Indiegogo campaign to help support my expenses for training and attending these competitions. Thanks to everyone for their help so far! Feel free to share my campaign! Thank you! Here is the link:

Help support Thomo at the World Cups!

Sam giving the eye while Erica and Jelisa cheer on Seb 
My view of final. 
Team Canada, Slovakia and honorary Canadian Lizzy
Play time at the woods

Thursday, May 29, 2014


The World Cup season had started weeks ago for many a climber, but for myself, it was just the beginning. Unsure of what lay ahead, all I really hoped for was that I’d be able to walk away without the heaviness and despair which plagued me at the end of last season. I knew this wasn't last year and the chance of it repeating itself seemed solely a decision and view which I had to make. I was better prepared than last year as I had been climbing in a good gym this round. The only downside was that my last few months were spent working as a route setter; a job which I have found a new respect for. Route setting is fun, but man, it’s physically tiring and leaves little energy for one’s own training. That said, there were benefits to the job; I could read problems faster and learn from the route setter side of things.

Not such a good photo but that is the Eiger on the right. 
As we slowly headed south on the German freeway, cars rushed past me at a speed I considered insane. Maybe it was my thoughts that seemed to slow down the world, but highway driving makes me feel like life is as endless as the road and changes as quickly as the views which each passing mile. Once arriving in Grindelwald, we stood as close to the base of the Eiger as I would ever get in this lifetime. The famous mountain stood tall and proud in the midst of the other mountains which were just as beautiful. Surely they have a name too I thought; they surely deserved one just for their impression alone. 
There was quite a Canadian team this round which helped with team spirit and support. Cedar and I continued our van life and slept in the parking lot of Seb’s hotel where we hoped we would go unnoticed by any hotel security guards. Idle time was spent between the girls apartment and walking to and from the event which by the end of it, left my calves and shins as sore as my arms. 
Problem 1, Seb Lazure photo
Four months of training comes down to five problems. What are the chances, my biggest weaknesses, jumps, dynos, big ass moves, appear on all five. In retrospect, I thought about how much time and effort I had spent learning and practicing them. Clearly, it wasn't enough and truthfully, I knew that. The first problem had a mini jump. Thankfully my brain told me to jump instead of its usual, ‘oh shit that’s far’ which normally plagues me with doubt and hesitation. The second problem was a run and jump. My efforts were awkward and the coordination clearly needed was not inside my cells. I vowed to myself to try harder on these monkey tricks which often fill my mind with fear of imagined falls so heinous that I would have to crawl off the mat with two broken ankles. Overactive imagination, yes…
Looking, thinking, WTF..??!
After problem 2, the downward spiral started. I asked Jelisa and Sean for feedback so I could learn and improve from my mistakes. Sean said to train coordination which was obvious. Jelisa pointed out that it seems on my 2nd or 3rd attempts, if it doesn't go well, my back cowers and I seem to go somewhere else; giving less effort to my tries. Now this is interesting. Obviously I can’t watch myself but I can relive the feelings aroused from each problem. And although I feel like I am physically trying hard, I knew what she was talking about. The fighting stops, as does the hope. I no longer believe in myself. Passiveness but with effort. It was getting me nowhere and fast. God-dang, it was like I stood in front of a veiled mirror which reflected fuzziness and someone had pulled the covers. Thank you Jelisa. I now have something to work with. 
Problem 3. Seb Lazure photo

The next week I looked, analyzed and tried to understand this sort of emotional blanket. I thought of previous comps and times outside of climbing when I felt this. It took a lot of prying and I wouldn't say it’s figured out completely but it is at least understood a little better. Facing let downs or rejection can always be challenging. I promised myself for the next comp I would try and be aware of it. It was a bit of a disheartening comp but at least it wasn't the last. There were more chances to learn and hopefully improve. Until then, I had my work cut out for me. Jump, coordinate and figuring out my head and emotional space a little better. (Errr rather, a lot..) ;)

thanks for reading.
My hand an inch away from the good part of the hold. hmm.
Seb Lazure photo
So cool to see Shauna fight for her first gold. way to go!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A little story about spring

She stood on the green grass about to approach a forest which loomed with spiders, ticks and little critters that had teeth sharper than her kitchen knife. Looking deeper, the light appeared to disappear into the shadows of a thick green foliage. On her back she carried a crash pad; a piece of equipment used for the type of climbing she preferred, bouldering. It used to be part of her everyday attire but it had lain dormant on the shelf of her workplace; thrown on top of the highest shelf in a large room housed with hundreds of odd multicolored plastic holds of various sizes and shapes.

It was the weekend and she had a couple days off from her new job in the big city. People that went on climbing trips for weekends were deemed 'weekend warriors'. She never thought that description would fall under her name. With old friends visiting from overseas, she found herself in a situation where she felt somewhat uncomfortable and queasy. Thoughts of ticks falling from the tree branches above her and slowly, yet unknowingly, embedding themselves into an unseen part of her skin filled her imagination. Oblivious of what others thought, she voiced her concern out loud. Looks of curiosity and question fell upon her. A reply quickly said that a tick landed and bit a girl in the forest last weekend. She had nearly suffered the end of her existence having been inflicted with a bout of Lyme disease. A twinge of fear and disgust ran through her veins and a gullible reply of 'really' squeaked out, though her rational side knew this wasn't true. Laughter was heard ahead of her as she stood frozen on the green path unsure of whether to follow her friends or run back safely to the locked car. She looked up and through the green leaves and she saw the color blue shining through. It hit her with realization of what had happened. She had been away too long. The city girl inside of her which she didn't realize existed came out with surprising extremes.

With this realization a sigh of relief calmed her shaken nerves. With right foot in front, she quickly yet cautiously caught up with her friends. The remainder of the day was spent joyfully climbing the features and holds of various limestone boulders scattered in the small section of the Frankenjura where they lay. The rock here was none like she had climbed before. Very specific and although not the most stunning of lines, the climbing itself was interesting and hard. She had bouldered in the vast area on a few occasions and each time her fingers, that she normally considered strong, were proven otherwise. The rock was hard and slick and offered no friction to make up for weakness. Between tries on the many lines offered to her, paranoia would occasionally take over. She would quickly inspect herself for any small critter that may have decided to take her up as host.
Eventually the sun started to set and it was time to set up camp. Having driven with a friend she was without the security of her own van and bed to sleep in. In their place, the evening stars offered themselves while the moon provided enough light to cast a beautiful silhouette on a tall tree whose leaves rustled with the gentle wind. 
Morning view
At dawn the birds awoke singing in choir. Upon opening her eyes the first view was of the tree which she had fallen asleep to the night before. It was now glistening in all its glory of pink and white flowers. The little songbirds which woke her flew gleefully between its curving branches. She wondered if the ticks that also lived in that tree had the possibility to drop on her while she slept. Without bothering to look, she realized she didn't care and continued to enjoy the morning sunrise.
It was a slow paced morning as she was accustomed to years ago. Relax, get dressed, tea, eat. The topic as normal hadn't changed though the area and country had: what problems to see and try.

The day was spent as the last; driving the windy roads throughout the Frankenjura keeping pace with Andy who drove ahead leading the way. We toured various areas and blocks and got to understand a bit of the intense climbing history of the area even down to specific boulders and lines. It was a bit sad to see some things closed but considering it takes an hour and a half to drive from the north to the south of the tree laden land, closures can be expected. The area is probably the largest climbing area she had ever been.
No bouldering under this thing!
It was now evening and time to go to the place she had wanted most. A local restaurant offering the very special food of the area. She had already experienced such an indulgence before. It aroused feelings of being in front of a table at home, eating mom's dinner. Enjoying Bavarian food in the Frankenjura was indeed a specialty and even more so among friends.

The evening passed as the last but instead of sleeping under the stars they slept under dark threatening clouds. Aroused in the middle of the night by rain drops, everyone quickly arose. A shelter from a tarp, a picnic table and some rocks were quickly made and sleep had beckoned again.

The next day was as the last and in a way, time stood still. They would leave soon. The rocks would stay; immobile, waiting for the return of some climber who was willing to test their strengths and tenacity on their tiny slick features. The rain had held out a little longer allowing them the privilege to explore and play. But eventually its threatening demeanor came reality. Minutes upon waking, the rain came in fast. Everyone arose and camp was quickly torn apart; now looking as if it never existed. Despite the fast awakening, the speed of the last couple days continued and leisure was still on their side. With a taste of a life formally considered routine, a fresh outlook was ingrained. Tomorrow the crash pad would return back to the shelf and in her hand would be a power drill and some random hold which she would place in a thought out fashion into a wooden wall. But as spring had arrived, she knew it wouldn't rest there so long. Thoughts of places with raging rivers and gigantic green coniferous raced through her mind. As they drove away from the green field which had renewed in her a sense of will, she waved goodbye through the raindrops. She knew from experience the rain would eventually stop. It was spring and alas, this was just the beginning.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Four weeks with Jack Frost. Part 2

With three weeks till Nationals I let the cold winter blow through me. We walked religiously to the closest gym while battling the snow and wind which was so cold it awakened every cell. I resumed the strength aspect of my training where I had left off. Time passed quickly and already there was only 1.5 weeks left to the big comp. Tonde was flown to Montréaĺ's Allez Up which held a practice comp circuit as did the gym Vértical. It was at Vértical where I was introduced to the idea of "tapering" by trainer and bad ass climber herself, Melissa Lacasse. After asking her if what i was doing was ok, she concluded: arrêt!! Apparently I was doing too much...again...! How lucky are these kids who have coaches and such who lead them down the right path which I stumble and fall on blindly...!

Marcus at the 'mock comp' at Vertical
The days were nearing and my nerves were increasing. My body wasn't as rested as I wanted despite toning my program down to Melissa's advice. In my spare time I absorbed what I could on mental toughness in sport and tried to apply those ideas to my training session. Intentionally I would piss myself off while trying a problem and get worked up as if at a comp and then try to regain focus. I tried to get in the zone and give 101% on all attempts which is something I sometimes struggle with summoning on call. The mental game was complicated and the effort to get where I wanted to be seemed mini steps forwards and giant steps backwards. I thought of previous times when I reached this state. Fun came naturally, I was relaxed and thus climbed better. So how to attain this state in the middle of a comp when the heat is on? When all you trained for comes down to a five minute performance? Well- I haven't figured it out yet and Nationals proved that to me. 

Found this at the thrift store.. :)

Everything I read about mental toughness fell apart the minute it counted. With one exception: a long sideways jump. I knew I could do it but I just wasn't sticking it and the more I tried, the more I fell. My frustration was starting to boil and the clock was ticking. Finally in the midst of these emotions, I realized hey! this is what you practiced! I immediately became aware of what I was doing and calmed down, refocused and shortly after, sent the problem. It was ten tries later but it was a mini victory. The rest of the comp didn't go so well. I hesitated on big jumps, questioned myself on long moves, and talked myself down from having the ability to do anything put in front of me even while staring down the finishing holds. I did everything I read not to. Semis went so bad that after it I went into the seclusion of the back room and kicked myself for not relaxing, for hesitating, for failing to smile. It wasn't fun. I felt like a cloud of doom loomed over me that said I would climb under my potential in every comp that mattered. I could never relax, have fun, just be myself.

After my tantrum of disappointment at the end of the comp I discovered I had made it into finals. It provided a new slate; an opportunity to let go and move on, something easily said. To detach myself from the comp I opted to watch the film Black Swan. How fitting and horrifying. It was like watching myself portrayed not as a climber but as a dancer. Part of myself could not let go enough to just enjoy the movement, to be free. The only option was like that of the Black Swan, death. But death of what? The internal pressures and expectations, the insecurities and nerves, the voice that told me I couldn't...?

People might wonder why I continue to take part in these competitions if they aren't fun. Yet the ironic thing is, I do have fun. Up to a point. But I know I could have more fun. If I can step out of my way as mentioned above. I see it as an excellent opportunity to not only improve my skills as a climber but also as a torture tool which teaches me how to deal with failure, adversity and pressure. To find a way despite all that is faced to come through to the other side, to step into the light. There have been mini victories and giant disasters but none which I haven't learned from. In the end, I have a goal. To be able to go to a competition and climb to my fullest potential: physically, mentally and emotionally. To be able to be on a climb, trying my best while relaxed and smiling like Briggs did on problem 4. To have the carefree attitude of Clarrie. Elisa confessed to me it took her nine years to get the mental strength she has now and she like many, believes comps are 90% mental. It is here where one of the greatest teachers and human being comes to mind.

"Be like water my friend, be like water."   Bruce Lee


Fred working hard making volumes for the new gym in Montreal-BlocShop.

Hamilton comes to Montreal
Yes, we live in igloos in Canada
I love the Montreal Metro
Best Chiro in Montreal! 
Line up into Iso for Nationals
The French Connection

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Four weeks with Jack Frost. Part 1.

Jet lag settled upon me. At times I felt drunk and unstable; ready to burst with some sort of emotional explosion of gratitude tinged with nervousness. I had just flown from Munich to Montreal on a gamble. The World Cup circuit was coming up and qualifying required a visit to the homeland. I had waited in Munich for permission to get a wild card to do the comps and so avoid the hefty trip overseas but it never came for my deadline. My rational said to go for the regionals and nationals. That way, if I blew one comp, at least I had a back up...! :)

jumping on a plane!
Having received no answer days before regionals I followed my intuition and searched for a ticket. The one obstacle: paying for it. My visa had already expressed its unhappiness with me incurred from the last two years. The only option left was decided out of pure desperation: to take up an offer from an old friend. So here's a big shout out to Kimanda of Boulders gym in Stelleys who not only covered one of our flights but who also has been a source of unwavering faith in me and my abilities. Thank you Kimanda!

Upon arriving in Montreal the email I had awaited for arrived. The CEC had decided to defer any decisions until nationals as there were a lot of female climbers pining for a spot on the team. Finally, as much as I questioned the sanity and financial irresponsibility of my decision, I had made the right call. 

All I had to do now was compete. Avoiding the pressure to do well was ideal, yet exactly how to achieve that was uncertain. I put an immediate halt to my training program which was in the middle of a strength phase and detailed no prep for comp format. The last european session consisted of Alex shouting strange German words at me to try harder while I climbed to the ring of 5 on, 5 off. 

One day later, I arrived, unpacked and packed again for the weekend trip to regionals. Although incredibly jet lagged, I didn't feel so much nervousness as I did excitement. Many an old friend was within reach not just emotionally as they have been before but now physically. This was something I had yearned for many a time while in Europe. Coming home aroused in me a reminder of where I was from and surprisingly, a yearning to want to come back sooner than thought. It had been so long that the paper bills of my country changed. When I asked a friend when this happened she replied two years ago. Again I asked, questioningly as if I had heard wrong. She smiled and repeated the same answer, 'yes, two years.'

Coming for Regionals proved a good warm up for nationals. I hadn't climbed on North American type problems for some time though the problems at nationals proved more along this line. Regionals qualifiers were surprisingly easy, making it a flash fest, quickly reminding me how the Tour de Bloc comps worked. I made it into finals which were more interesting and a bit tougher which  reminded me of my mental weaknesses in competition.

For the first problem I underestimated the first long move and came up too short but pulled it off second go. Problem 2 had a long lock off to a crimp which I was within a cm to getting behind but not close enough. At problem 3 my head left me. This line had a long reach requiring balance, relaxation and a trust in ones abilities. I confused the beta on my first try, figured it for the second but continued to fall because of climbing in a less than ideal fashion: panicked and rushed. I continued with that neurotic behavior until my 5 minutes were up. My frustration with the problem and for not being able to keep my cool got to me. As much as I tried to let it go, I carried some of that frustration to the last problem which I arrived at in survival mode with a mouth drier than the Sierra desert. Half way up the problem my heel popped off as I had placed it too fast and clumsily. Second try I took more care but continued to over grip my way to the top. The results weren't horrible but that didn't matter. I was not content with my performance and knew I could do better. My insides wondered what happened to the words I had mentally rehearsed: relaxed, strong, confident? After the comp I returned to problem 3 and did it with ease. Unsure of whether this made me feel better as it felt the easiest overall, if anything, it showed me what kind of mental state I need to be in at these comps: calm, cool and collect.

With that I returned to Montreal to feast and train with long lost friends. With just three weeks till Nationals I vowed to work on my mental side, train a ton, practice my French and try a little diaper free with baby Izzy. The trip home had just started and Korean, Japanese and Thai were already on the menu. This will be over in a flash I told myself. Better suck it up! 

part two coming soon. Thanks for reading.

Mes amis
BlocShop- New bouldering gym opening up in Montreal!
My most wonderful hosts. J'adore.
Fred is psyched for the comp!
A bad shot of ISO
Supper number One

Supper number Two