Fast forwards to finals, which I did qualify for thanks to my last minute send. Sitting in isolation the competitors talked about how the comp had gone. Almost all of them had topped more routes than me, but that was no surprise– these were world class athletes; internationally ranked veterans of the world comp circuit. I’d competed against almost all of them before, if you could even call it that. In the past it was actually more like I was competing near them. In years past I couldn’t even dream of being on their level, or even anywhere close. Another excuse for failure, but this time I wasn’t thinking about that kind of nerves for a change. Winning wasn’t really on my mind, as strange as that sounds from someone as competitive as me. I had already succeeded by simply making it here.
For me, being in finals is pure type 1 fun– you feel like a superhero. It’s interesting because it’s both a totally ego-feeding thing, yet it also manages to simultaneously be a deeply humbling experience. On one hand there’s the fame and glory, enough said. On the other hand though… I was completely overwhelmed by the support from everyone that came to watch me. Friends and strangers alike, sending me photos and videos afterward, telling me how psyched they were when I stuck a dyno or unlocked a sequence nobody else figured out, or even just being there. I said that winning wasn’t so much on my mind, but I wanted to climb well for a different reason. I knew that I’d already earned my spot under those bright lights for my ability, but what mattered now was earning all that support, making them proud. I desperately want to prove to everyone that I deserve to be there, standing next to those giants.
It’s a crazy feeing, having everyone in the crowd screaming for you, fighting your battles with you, and believing in you even when you are staring down a move that looks physically impossible. That energy enables me to try harder than I ever thought possible. By the end of the finals it felt like I could barely walk, after giving everything I had into those sixteen minutes of climbing (four minutes each on four problems). Of course there was frustration that I didn’t get one move farther or place a bit better, there will never not be that drive to constantly improve in my climbing. More than that though was the pride in having tried harder than I maybe ever have on plastic, and at having held my own against some of the strongest women in the world. There was definitely an element of physical pain adding to the potpourri of emotions as well, having gotten annihilated in different ways by each problem in turn. I didn’t leave the comp with any cash prizes, swag, or anything more than a few sample clif bars, but I still got what I came for: Five minutes of fame, and the chance to try really, really, really fucking hard.