Following the 2013 comp season, I found myself training hard for several months with the first lead world cup of 2014 quickly approaching on the horizon. The comp was set to take place in Haiyang China – a location that would present many challenges outside of climbing alone. The first being the differences in humidity and air quality, as well as the 15 hour time difference. The time difference, although significant, was something that I’d previously spent lots of time working on (creating strategies with my coach to overcome it) and therefore it posed less of a concern to me. While such a time change seems quite difficult to adjust to quickly, it is actually the same as Europe, (9 hours) just going the other direction. The effects of jetlag,were less so in the morning (when the competition was set to occur). They are even less of a concern after a cup or two of green tea, a tasty breakfast (which I like to think was vegetarian) and a positive, strong mindset!
Upon arriving in Osaka airport at 10pm after a long but manageable flight, I was faced with a rather dreadful 12 hour layover followed by 2 more flights the following morning. The competition was set to begin the day after arriving in Haiyang. After chowing down on a dinner of cold tofu and some sort of spicy, pickled, Japanese fruit I set off towards the “stranded traveller hotel”. In fact this is no hotel at all, but a corner of the airport with slightly more comfortable benches with no arm rests that a few Australian and British travelers were also calling home for the night. I unpacked my snuggie and drifted off with the melody of arguing travelers and obnoxious airline announcements humming in my head. (Well, I tried to drift off).
The following morning I boarded my next flight to Tokyo and not long after arrived in Qindao where I boarded a bus to Haiyang. I arrived around dinner time, checked in, ate and then went to bed. I woke up the next morning still feeling a bit tired, grabbed some tea and breakfast and set off for the comp venue. Although the organizers offered a quick shuttle to the event, I and other competitors chose to brave the more adventurous walking route. This involved a 15 minute trek through the man-made swamp, followed by a treacherous small stream crossing using some floating styrofoam and eventually a fence that needed to be ducked under. All plenty to get the mind sharp and the body ready for the qualifying round!
The conditions were quite humid and a tad hot while I warmed up for the first qualifying route but I stuck to my routine and focused as much as I could. The warm up wall was one of the best, littered with holds to choose from. I stepped onto the wall when my attempt arrived and quickly got extremely nervous by how slippery the holds felt as well as the off balance moves off of small feet that were presented at the start of the route. I managed to refocus for a bit but my nerves eventually caused me to fall much lower on the route than where I know I could’ve got too.
Frustrated to say the least, I spoke briefly to my coach Kimanda and tried my best to follow her advice: put the climb out of my mind and focus on the second qualifier. The temperature dropped when some clouds moved in, as did the humidity, and it felt like a whole different day. I stepped onto the next route feeling confident and in control, climbing my way into 15th on that route alone and qualifying no problem for the semis. Although still far from my best climb, I was satisfied with how I managed to change my mindset around after a less than ideal first qualifier. Because the competition was a triple header (lead, speed and bouldering), I looked forward to the day of rest before the semifinal.
I spent the following day resting, working on my headspace and adjusting to the air quality/humidity with a short walk on the beach. Managing not to step on one of the many sea urchins that littered the beach, I headed off to bed feeling psyched and strong for the next day.
The semifinal route was extremely bouldery and the conditions were once again hot and smoggy. I pulled onto the wall and fought hard, but fell early once again after messing up my foot sequence on a large move into the roof. I ended up in 22nd place, not a bad start to the season! With a couple days left in China, I decided it was necessary to do some sightseeing. Adam (CZE), Nate (USA) and myself split the small taxi bill and ventured into the city centre being greeted by a completely different world. The most interesting things were the random board games happening all over the street, as well as everyone stopping what they were doing to stare at us for a bit, and snap the occasional picture. We also embarked on a Harold-and-Kumar-like search for a tea store, which was a highlight. When we finally found someone who could show us where to go, we also received an invitation to sit down and have green tea with the owners. The remainder of the trip was spent watching the finals of the various disciplines, swimming (after being thrown into the ocean at night by some speed climbers) and flying home. All in all a great trip and an amazing learning experience!
Thanks for making it happen, @kimandaJ, @bouldersclimb. And for the continued support @Flashed!