“Hey Chelsea, are you psyched for nationals?!?!” is a question I got a lot leading up to ABS Nationals (which were last weekend) in a somewhat high pitched (because it was usually females who asked this question) manner that oozed excitement on their behalf.  My response was “yeah,” but in a less than excited voice that left the other person feeling confused and left me feeling kind of bad for not being as excited as they were.

Truth is, I’ve been competing a very long time.  I entered my first competition at the age of 11 and continued onto nationals for many years following.  I’ve been climbing for 16 years, which is just as old, if not older, than half of the female finalists at nationals this year.  Put that into perspective!  But the fact is is that I’m NOT as psyched as I have been in the past about competition.  At the same time, it’s not that I have zero motivation for it because I did, after all, train for the event, paid for the event, and participated.  The only thing I can really understand at the moment is that my feelings for competition are different than they have been in the past.

In the past, my world centered around training for specific events, and everything else was interstitial.  My goals were to stand on the podium, or make finals, or finish top 15; all of which were (and still are) out of my control and not very good goals.  I kept a training calendar, which I followed religiously and felt extreme guilt if I skipped a specific workout.  So that calendar kept me from climbing outside on beautiful weekend days and got me out of bed at 5:30am even if I hadn’t slept enough that night.  I ate well, but I ignored the occasional craving for a cookie or ice cream.  I worried that I wasn’t doing enough, or this person was doing more than I, or she was climbing harder than I was on a specific training day.  To sum it up, it wasn’t very much fun in hindsight.  Too much worrying and too much emphasis was being put on my ‘goals’ at the time.  Today, if you were to ask me what my goals are I’d say something like “keep my head together, perform flawlessly or recover from mistakes confidently and uninterrupted.”


But something has changed since last year, obviously, since my answer to anyone asking me if I’m psyched for the upcoming competition is a ‘yeah,’ that is so difficult to say enthusiastically.  At the beginning of the training season for ABS, I made a training calendar and taped it on my wall in my room.  But I haven’t followed it a single day; I’ve glanced at it, but I haven’t done anything with it.  In fact, it’s still hanging there and I’m not sure why.  In addition, I ate well for the upcoming competition like I always do, but I wasn’t afraid of eating that bison burger, or a cookie (or two) if I wanted it.  Instead of dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 for training, I slept in if I felt like I needed to (and if I could).  I trained what I felt like I needed, not what a schedule told me to.  I FELT every training day and I ENJOYED it.  And I climbed outside when I wanted if time permitted.


Some might consider this laziness, but I don’t see it that way.  I still worked very hard when I was training and I think many will attest to this.  So what has changed, or rather what caused this change?  In some aspect maybe maturity in that I realize that competition climbing doesn’t define me.  Competition climbing is something I enjoy, but I know that a single day of competition doesn’t define my ability within the sport or who I am.  In another aspect, I’ve realized the obvious – there is certainly more to life than climbing.  It took me a while, but I have finally found other things that I want to pursue in life.  This includes a career and community outreach ideas, both of which I am extremely (!!!!) excited for and know that I must work equally hard to pursue them than I have with climbing.  And finally, I’ve really developed (and am still developing) a love of rock climbing outside.  I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it, but climbing outside never went above competition climbing in terms of priorities.

Now that ABS Nationals are finished, I can’t say anything more than I’m glad that’s over :).  No, but really, it was an enjoyable event – the most enjoyable bouldering nationals that I remember competing in.  And I think it was the most enjoyable because it didn’t really mean that much to me.  With regards to placement, it was my best for a bouldering nationals (I was too old to compete in youth bouldering national championships once that emerged) and I’m proud of that.  But with regards to my performance, it was so-so.  I made some major mistakes that almost kept me from qualifying for semi-finals, and I continued to make mistakes that kept me from competing in finals.  I wouldn’t say I was climbing to my ability, but I am only human and I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.


Mary Mecklenburg photo

SCS Nationals are in the future, and I am excited for that event, but it’s the same story.  My enthusiasm is somewhat lacking, but that’s not going to stop me from training when I can.  And training isn’t going to stop me from climbing outdoors, or from eating that delicious chocolate chip cookie that I wish were sitting in front of me right now 🙂  And most importantly, training isn’t sitting at the top of my priority list in life.  But when I am training, I will still make sure to give my all and go ALL IN.


One response to “Changes

  1. This a great article from a complete polar perspective than what I was thinking.

    When I was growing up, me and my brother never did a single sport, talent or hobby and our parents never once pushed us to or even mentioned. You’d think that my parents were against any sort of group hobby from that, but both my parents were athletes: my dad a seasoned track and field star and a climber and my mom a cheer leader and hiking nut.

    Yet I never knew my dad even climbed till I was 16. I never had that drive to excel at anything until I hit late HS and college. And nnow I guess I’m at where you started. All I can see and think is “train train train” and focus. I wish my parents had pushed me but when I talk to friends who’ve been in the comp scene like you for years… they madly waive arms around saying “Nooooo” haha, which is amusing.

    I guess I hope that I’m able to have that balance. To have this drive and focus, but to also maintain awareness and sense of self outside of just the next competition. This article was great and really makes me keep a sanity check on how hard I’m going.

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