A month ago I competed in the Psicobloc deep water soloing competition during the 2013 Summer Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City. It was a competition that occupied my mind for nearly a month before hand, which is typical, but what is not-so-typcial is the amount of anxiety I felt. I had never ever ever deep water soloed prior to this event. And I’ll be the first to admit time and time again that I really do have a fear of heights and the thought of jumping off of a 50-foot perfectly safe structure does not bode well in my mind. But I wanted to participate in the event because I do love competition and this was the first event of it’s kind in the US – I felt that I would regret not competing. So I went for it.
I would love to say, as everyone else has been saying, that it was AMAZING. And while the concept was pretty incredible, the experience was less than amazing for me. My anxiety sky-rocketed and my first time on the wall I was physically incapable of letting go and plunging into the water first at 20, 30, and 40 feet, as many other competitors were doing, before going for the top. Instead I climbed nearly to the top on my first go before I realized that I definitely didn’t want to do the committing move to the top and the only way down was to take the plunge. I felt like I wanted to puke.
I surfaced and swam to the edge of the pool where I crawled out and tried to hide how nervous and in pain I was. A few seconds prior to crawling out of the pool I had learned exactly what an enema felt like, and I must say, it is something I never want to experience again. This incident made me even more nervous to have to go again in the qualifying round. But I knew I had to go again…I am inherently a competitive person so despite my anxiety at any given time I always want to give my best because that is the only way I feel satisfied when I go to sleep at night.
When the ‘pressure’ of having to do well or be eliminated from the next round hit me, I went to the top without having the thoughts “what the hell are you doing? why are you up here without a rope? this is stupid. i know that water hurts.” However when I did grab the top of the wall I knew I did NOT want to top out the wall and actually have to take the leap of faith down the water. I didn’t think that my body would actually allow me to jump. Just the thought of topping out made me feel like I wanted to cry, so I did what my friends told me not to do and what nobody else did. Sure it may sound shameful, but it made me feel slightly more comfortable so that’s all that mattered in my mind. I actually DOWN-CLIMBED about 5 feet before letting go and falling stiffly into the water. Shameful, but whatever.
I was able to move on to the final round, which I was excited but very reluctant to participate in. This was not my most successful final round I’ve had in my many years of competing. In fact, it was my least successful as I slipped off the wall only 6 or so moves into the route. But I walked away completely OK with it for two main reasons: 1. Slipping low is something that happens to all competitors at one point or another in their career and 2. I didn’t have to jump into the pool from 50 feet again.
Regardless of my anxiety or reluctant character to participate in the event, I am happy I did so. At no point did I give up even though my mind wanted to. Despite how amazing the event coordinators were and how energetic the crowd was, I don’t think I will be participating in this event in future years. I just don’t believe that the level of anxiety that heights cause me in those situations is worth it for me. But hey, I don’t want to speak too soon….next year is a clean slate, a completely new year, and maybe I will have more practice deep water soloing before next years event. =)