Sunday, March 10, 2013

ABS14 Nationals: Training, Competing, Performing

Last weekend concluded the 2013 ABS National Championships. This year, I traveled out to Colorado Springs to compete in both the youth and open divisions, securing a semifinal bid in the adult category and my 5th National Bouldering Championship title in my last youth bouldering competition ever.

This two week Colorado experience has definitely been one of the best times of my life, and I am extremely grateful to be able to live out this lifestyle, balancing my studying with traveling and competing with some of my best friends. Now that I am able to look back and reflect on the trip, I can conclude that these results did not come without a great deal of training, competition preparedness, and mental focus.

A week prior to the Open National Championship, I participated in a 4-day training camp hosted by US Team Coach Shane Messer. This training was some of the best I have ever done before a national event given the time constraints of president's day weekend. Throughout the weekend, myself and 40+ other athletes from around the country did countless onsight drills, flash-format exercises, and crossfit-style workouts put together by Melissa Godowski. After the camp, I felt more mentally and physically prepared for nationals than I have felt any year before.

Step 1: Training: check.

Shane doing what he does best.
Photo: Emily Varisco
Earthtreks head coach Ellis Whitson getting some holds out for onsight training.
Photo: Emily Varisco
One of the most useful aspects that I got out of the camp was a routesetting perspective provided by Brent Quesenberry. If you didn't know Brent, you would never guess he's run 4 marathons and has more climbing expertise than most competition routesetters today. During one of his lectures on routesetting, he described the three influences on US bouldering competitions today: the Tony Yaniro style, (straightforward movements on directional holds) the showy American flair, (double-clutch dynos, bat-hangs, figure four's, etc) and the subtle European volume style that has begun to appear more and more often.

Brent (left) and Ellis being amazed by the climbing abilities of very small children.
Did you know Brent was also responsible for hand-building hundreds of wicked volumes and for this?!?
He's also one of the nicest dudes you'll ever meet.
Photo: Emily Varisco
The climbing abilities of Arabella Jariel (11 years old)
Photo: Emily Varisco
According to Brent, these three styles combine to form the modern-day US bouldering competition problem. This style was epitomized to a point by my 2nd semifinal climb in open nationals, in which competitors had to start facing the crowd and maneuver through hold-less volumes for 5 or 6 moves, then make a committing dyno to a good horn, then campus and power their way through the last couple slopers to the finish. When I turned around and saw this climb, I broke it up into three sections in terms of styles, which made it much easier to read and execute. Unfortunately, I was only able to get just past the dyno and ended up 19th overall in semifinals, but it was still my favorite problem of the competition.

Step 2: Competition preparedness: check.

Lots and lots of volumes.
Photo: Tom Condie
Photo: Tom Condie
The jump!
Photo: Dylan Huey
The only thing that was lacking for me to complete the climb (and potentially make it on to the final round) was lack of willingness to dig in. On any given day in training, I am confident I could have pulled off the move I fell on with a couple tries, but that is not how competition works. Comps are all about how well you can perform right NOW. The added pressure of these types of situations makes competition climbing all the more interesting, and rewards competitors for "bringing their man-pants" as Nicholas Milburn so eloquently puts it.

Nicholas Milburn brings his man-pants. Do YOU?
Photo: Tom Condie
Coming back the next weekend for the youth competition, I knew I had to put my try-hard face on in order to do better than the weekend before. Fortunately, in finals, I was able to borrow an iPod from one of my best friends (and now Vertical World team coach!) Alex Fritz, which helped me zone in on the three finals problems that the setters had prepared for us. With the added focus and pressure of finals, I was able to dial in my movements and complete all three boulder problems for the win! This time was especially gratifying since this is the last year I am eligible to compete in youth competitions.

Step 3: Performing under pressure: check.

Photo: Tom Condie
Now for the fun part! Here are some photos and videos from the event:

Charlie, once again proving his arms are larger than his legs.
Major props for him even competing this weekend, he pushed through 2 hernias to make finals!
Photo: Tom Condie
Brendan Mitchell winning The North Face Young Gun Award!
Super deserved, Brendan is one of the nicest and most humble kids in the sport today.
He also crushes 5.14.
Photo: Kim Mitchell
Photobomb: Tyson
Joe Gifford majestically reppin' the glorious country of TEXAS.
Photo: Tom Condie

Caption this photo?
Photo: Dylan Huey

Trying to figure out the correct beta on problem 2 in semifinals. This was not it.
Photo: Tom Condie

Me and my partner in climb, Cicada Jenerik!
It was both of our last years competing in youth after competing together for over 10 years.
Photo: Scot Jenerik

National Champs!
Photo: Tom Condie

Youth Highlights!
I would now like to take the time to thank my entire family for coming out and supporting me at this competition, it really means a lot that you've been there for me since day 1. I'm especially proud of my brother Yuri, who is now getting back into climbing after a 7-year hiatus, who competed in the citizen's competition alongside my dad! You go, bro. Everyone look out, we got another Levin on his way to the top.

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