(This blog was written right before I headed into the jungle following Nationals, but wasn't posted due to lack of reliable internet.)
ABS Nationals are over, and suffice it to say I'm happy with the weekend. Actually, I'm thrilled. Elated. Satisfied. And a little surprised.
Don't get me wrong, I had faith that I could do well, but halfway through finals I never expected it would turn out exactly as it did. But, as I mentioned in my last post, competitions are a crazy animal. After many years of battling this beast, I know a few things to be true. First, everything can change from one problem to the next, and a personal feeling of where one stands as the competition progresses isn't always accurate. Second, if you compete enough, sometimes you will be happy with the results, other times you won't. And third, competitions are generally more fun and a person is generally happier with the experience when he/she does well. Note the italics here; I'm a big believer in trying to always have fun at competitions no matter how the results shake out. However, I'm also human, and I have to admit it's easier to have fun when things are going your way.
All of the above truths came into play in this finals round. When finals were over I was generally satisfied with my climbing, but didn't think I made the podium. I did, however, know it would be close between me and a few others, as I was familiar with the new scoring system*. When I saw the results, I was very satisfied, and also knew that it could have turned out differently had any number of details of my competitors’ performance been slightly different. That’s how competitions are; you can drive yourself insane thinking of the “what ifs” and “if onlys” after an event. Competitions are often won or lost in the details.
All that being said, I was incredibly happy to learn I placed third. Okay, I’ll be completely honest -- I wasn't just happy, I was overjoyed. As weird as it sounds, that's a little hard to admit outright, because I recognize that my entire experience of the competition changed when I found out those results. In theory, it shouldn't be that way, especially since I am well aware of all those truths and an advocate of not letting the results dictate the tone of the experience. But this time they did. I was thrilled to stand on that podium again, even knowing that it was just a competition and even knowing that on a different day, it all could have turned out some other way, and even knowing that I shouldn't be THAT much happier just because a little luck was in my favor. Standing on that podium felt more special this time, and for the past four days I've been trying to sort through why.
I don’t really have a clear answer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it feels pretty damn good to still keep up with a field that is becoming younger each year. Maybe it’s because I prepared for this event and felt that the time I invested paid off. Or maybe it’s because, for better or worse, a lot of my self-worth does come from climbing at this point in my life. And while there are countless other rewarding experiences in climbing from which I take value, performing well in competitions is one of them.
Or maybe it’s simply because things just went the way I hoped they would this time around, and that doesn’t always happen.
At some point during finals, I got a little philosophical with my good friend Alex Johnson, who was sitting next to me. AJ has also been competing for a very long time, and knows the ups and downs of the game quite well. I think we were about half way through the round, and it just hit me that something didn’t feel the same as it used to. “There was a time when these things felt a little more magic, wasn’t there? Is that gone? Doesn’t it feel like something’s missing?” AJ was patient with my blabbering, although she probably should have told me to shut up.
Of course there was a time when this felt different, Ange. You were younger, and less experienced, and it was all more novel. It was easier to convince yourself that this was it. And at some point that fades, and that’s called growing up. The rational side of me knew all of that, as I’ve had this conversation with myself countless times over the past few years.
But (cheeseball alert)…it turns out there’s still a glimmer of that magic left, because you never know how it's going to go, and every once in a while you might find yourself back on the podium with two other people that have been along for the ride with you. And you don’t know exactly how it happened, but you can’t help but be happy.
*There was much talk about the new scoring system this year. As a member of the USA Climbing Rules Committee, I voted in favor of this system. This post isn’t about that though, and the details of my thoughts around this topic are better saved for a different discussion.