Japan – Finals – Move Out – Dominion Riverrock – Ahhhh, HOME.
All in 7 days.
My last week has been pretty jam-packed but maybe one of my most successful weeks yet! After being in Japan for the Invitational Lead Master where I took the Silver Medal, I flew back to NYC to write my final exams. I had 15-hours on the flight to study so I guess the time spent sitting on the plane in transit studying would have been spent sitting at the library instead. So, in my opinion, this worked out fine – multi-tasking style =]
After finishing exams at 10pm I went to Brooklyn Boulders, and had one more training session with my new coach Alexi Thomakos who has been INCREDIBLY helpful for me especially in training my power and mental game. I also have to thank Robyn Ebersfield for helping me with my latest progression. Between working with Alexi and Robyn, I can attest to the fact that mentally and (hopefully!) physically, I am stronger and really motivated for the next feat.
The next day, I packed up all my stuff from where I was living in NYC into my car and moved out. I drove from NYC to my family home in DC for a night, then the next morning drove to Richmond for the Dominion Riverrock Festival.
Dominion Riverrock is perhaps my favorite event of the year. The overwhelming number
of friends, crowd support, energy, and general excitement always amazes me. The competition is so unique and fun, I can’t foresee ever not wanting to go! Thank you, Sport Backer, Peak, and everyone involved in the production and execution of this event!!!
I was also really happy with my performance in the competition and to defend my title as the Champion =] Yay!
Yesterday (Sunday) I drove home from Richmond to DC, unpacked, and collapsed in my own bed for the best night of sleep in a while!
Now, I am in DC for a few days before returning to film one more time with Good Morning America and Ginger Zee, but this time outside climbing, in New York, then Boston Friday night for the weekend!
I am finalizing my summer plans now and getting really excited to get back outdoors for the next adventure!
Stay tuned =] Always PSYCHED!
Xx S <3
Voyaging around the world has taken another level for me lately while balancing my studies at Columbia University, to the point that I am on return now from my latest weekend trip: to Japan!
While being in school, I really can’t make long trips because I need to be in present for class in NYC as well, so in order to make the annual Invitational Lead Master in Osaka, Japan, I left school Thursday evening and am returning Monday morning to finish writing exams.
The international sport-climbing event went really well for me. I was pleased with my performance and my place: Silver Medal! I was honored to stand on the podium amidst Japanese victor, Jiyota, and Johanna Ernst of Austria.
Competitions can always be finicky – the outcome is contingent on such a miniscule part of a career at whole – it all comes down to one day, one climb; one mental and physical performance. I cannot control what type of route I am given or what sort of physical attributes it will include, but I can control my own preparedness and approach.
My competition approach is always changing, adapting, and evolving. Sometimes I am happy with my performance, and sometimes, like in Colorado at the competition last month, I am upset with my climbing and inability to control my nerves. A lot of competition climbing comes down to dealing with the mental approach and channeling nerves in the right direction. What I find similar to outdoor climbing is that I need to find that balance between caring and not caring – between trusting myself and being in control, but having enough freedom to open my boundaries of control and to let myself go. I perform best when I can climb freely and relaxed, while climbing with efficiency and a fiery force of drive to excel.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as a perfect competition- I will always see what I did wrong before I see my performance strengths. However, I also know that finding happiness in my successes and motivation in my failures is necessary to continue training and pushing myself in the different scopes of climbing, be it in the outdoor arena or in competitions.
Therefore, I was happy that my latest training paid off for me in Japan.
Now, I have my final exams to finish early this week, and then it is onwards to my summer adventures.
Off to STUDY!
Leading up to this weekend, I was the reigning undefeated National Champion. I had not fallen. Then, it happened. I stumbled. I messed up in finals at the competition. But this was one event, one off competition, and I am still here to push forwards.
How do we move forwards knowing that we make mistakes and our mistakes do not define us?
In my opinion, we just have to believe. Not in some metaphysical power (though I have nothing against that, either), but in ourselves.
For me, I have to know that I can move forwards and be stronger than before. I have to know that within me, I have the potential to perform at a higher level than my past performance.
Perfection is a perpetual goal. Never will we arrive at a point that defines perfection because there will always be something greater to achieve, and some new limit to overcome.
Though, I want to strive for this unattainable aspiration because I want to be the best all around human being that I am capable of embodying. And, I want to attain this status through a multitude of facets of my life including through climbing, academics, and social aspects. What I have to realize is that in this journey, I will fail. In my career, I will have a range of big failures to relatively irrelevant hiccups.
In September, I failed myself through an injury that rendered me incapable of climbing. I overcame this and I won the panAmerican Championships and climbed outside. Now, I failed in Colorado at Nationals. I fell short of my performance ability. I was nervous and I failed to channel these nerves in a positive direction. I felt inhibited and weighted down by pressure when really I could have felt boosted by an air of confidence.
So I fall.
And this feels devastating and it hurts. But I am getting back up again and I am ready to work harder, to see the next challenge, and to confront this next feat with confidence and assertive power. Everyone has the potential to overcome momentary failure. And in the wake of falling, the strongest will stand taller. I want to be my strongest. So I plan to keep reaching higher.
Congrats to Charlotte Durif of France on the Win. Impressive Performance
Now, Off to training.
… And Class!
As Oprah quoted Roosevelt in my video, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
I was walking to class early last week, talking online with one of my best friends, Matilda Soderlund from Sweden, on Facebook. She told me that she was going to Spain in a week and that I should come. I had a few days off school so, why not? You only live once, right? =] So, tickets booked, and my impromptu week trip to Spain was scheduled.
Needless to say, I am in love with Spain, specifically the Catalonia region where I have spent the majority of my time. There is just an infinite amount of both developed and undeveloped limestone cliffs and the serene landscape is breathtakingly vast. Every time I travel to Spain I fidget with excitement. The anticipation of feeling an undefined looming adventure about to be had fills my heart and consumes me with excitement. I cannot wait to be outside, to be rock climbing, to be with my friends, to be breathing fresh air, and to be living my next adventure.
Though, I had not been home to DC since a few days in November, so I decided to sandwich my trip to Spain with two days at home. Time enough to have a restful sleep in my own bedroom, play with my aging pup, and eat my heart content with some home cooked food… Including my dad’s prime grilling! Unpack some boxes, fill up a suitcase, and I’m off to the airport. SPAIN!
Traveling to Spain is freedom for me. It signifies me returning to what I love most. Whenever I go to Spain I am taken away by the fervent passion I feel for not only challenging myself on new climbs to try, but also by the sheer feeling that I have when I start to click back in to climbing outdoors and can exactly feel the texture and shape of the rock formations, my fingers mold into the rock, and gravity fades away into this element that seems irrelevant. It’s a feeling of control and certainty. When I feel this weightless catharsis in climbing, I feel the ultimate pleasure in life. Everything becomes possible in my mind and I just want to breathe in the adventure. I am free.
While my trip was short, it was enough time for me to realize this sensation of exhilarating passion for the outdoors. I cannot fathom a more liberating experience than living life outdoors with my close friends, challenging myself both mentally and physically on world-class routes, and overlooking the lush green Spanish countryside from the top of the mountain. I feel sheer bliss. And I am more motivated than ever to be back!!!
I climbed a total of five days while in Spain- all the days I was there except for one rest day after the first two days of climbing in order to rest off the jet lag. The first days after a flight and after not climbing outside (or not too much climbing at all actually due to midterm exams) are generally my adjustment days where I feel a little weak and tired. I don’t stress this so much because I’ve learned that it is quite normal. Having a tight schedule makes this difficult because more often than not I will be jet-lagged during my short time-framed trips; however, I adjusted in to the rhythm and had a great day following my rest. I sent two 8c’s in one day, one of them being on my first try, and then I onsighted a satisfying amount of pitches at an area I had never climbed at – Terradettes.
To cap off the trip, Matilda, Arjan, and I decided to take “a muerte” and living large to the max and we drove to Barcelona after climbing, met up with our Spanish friends including Edu Marin, Gerard, Jaume, Christina, and a motivated group of others to hit the discotec night scene. I then went from there to the airport. No hotel room necessary =]
Now I am on the airplane, tired but high on life. I feel rejuvenated and ready for my next adventure. I have a lot of school-work to do now too, so, I guess I’ve got to get to writing what will be graded. =]
Next I fly out to St. Louis to give a talk and to teach a clinic at Washington University through Professional Climbers International (PCI) with Kevin Jorgeson and Daniel Woods.
Time for studying!
Xxx! Love S
The feeling is cathartic: it is just me and the rock. I enter into another realm of existence where I am in full control of my thoughts but my mind is empty to everything but my sole fixation on my next movement. Everything else fades away. I am thinking of the sequence in front of me. My breath controls my fluidity. Defying gravity, progressing upwards, further into the abyss. This is why climbing is my passion.
However, why I continue to climb is not just this. This passion moves me but it also connects me with others. Many of my best friends are climbers themselves and perhaps it is partially due to a shared appreciation for this experience. During my climbing trips I cherish being outside and passing days breathing fresh air and pushing physical and mental limits with my friends.
Life is tranquilo: we hang out, laugh, and complain about first world problems.
This past fall I have missed this element of my life. After not being able to climb due to my injury, and then feeling overwhelmed with studying and grappling with the transition from just climbing to attending a rigorous University, I had not been able to climb outside since I was in Ceuse in August. Returning to Spain felt reminiscent. Reacquainting with my friends, climbing on world class limestone, and just living life day to day was incredibly refreshing.
The Catalonia region of Spain has always been one of my favorite places in the World to climb outside and during parts of my trip I felt nostalgic for my past 15 months when I was only climbing professionally and not in school as well; when I had the freedom to climb wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. This lifestyle was spoiling. I was living my passion and it was an overwhelmingly large part of who I was. I developed incredible relationships and I saw more of the world than many people can boast in their lifetime. Though, by the end of my time away from school I was becoming too absorbed in this realm. With passion comes pressure and the seemingly luxurious lifestyle of traveling the world can become taxing. I was tired of living in hotel rooms and never unpacking my suitcases. As much as I appreciated the opportunity to support myself just climbing, I yearned for something else, too. Something that would diversify my lifestyle and be enriching in some other way. This other facet of life that I was missing was furthering my education, so returning to school was important for me.
While my decision remains firm, I could not deny questioning it while being back in Spain. Climbing and the community involved in it will always fill a significant part of my heart and I know that the rock isn’t going anywhere, but I sure do miss climbing on it while I am in New York.
At the beginning of my trip it was difficult for me to realize that my shape was less than it has been. Climbs that I before may have onsighted were redpoints and endurance didn’t come as easily. I avoided holds that may aggravate my previously injured hand. My muscles were sore quicker and my skin was soft and new to the abrasive rock. Though, as the days accumulated, my trip only augmented. The climbing rhythm began to kick into gear and my skin grew back tougher. I started envisioning movements better, my pace quickened, and my hesitation to push myself lessened. Grades were irrelevant. My passion was reviving. I was happy just to be climbing. To be outside, to be hanging with my friends (no pun intended…=]), to be living life freely.
After an amazing trip back on rock, followed by a wonderful EntrePrises event at ClimbAt in Barcelona, I am now returning to New York City with motivation yet preparedness. Classes are starting and I have a lot of studying ahead of me, though hopefully I can bring in this New Year free of injury and full of energy for future goals. I am ready to sharpen my time management, to train harder, and to excel academically and athletically. Thanks to the support of the entire community, including my incredible sponsors.
The rock will be there in Spain waiting. And I’ll be back =]
Venga a Muerte!!!!
Wow! I have to apologize. I realized that I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I was really bogged down with traveling, school work, and climbing. I just finished my final exams for my first semester at Columbia University, though, so now I have a month of winter vacation before my next semester begins. I cannot believe how time flew. Talking about starting my first year seems so recent, yet here I am, having finished my first set of exams and well immersed into the student lifestyle in NYC.
Attending Columbia is a total change of pace from my past year of traveling and climbing but going to class again and studying hard in school has been intellectually stimulating and I have met so many incredible people. In short, I love it. =]
I also had the remarkable opportunity to give a TED talk in Montreal at the end of November. I spoke about living life free of limitations and seeing yourself achieving dreams beyond perceived boundaries. Climbing is an impressively mental sport as it is physical. The significance of self belief and perseverance are every bit, if not more, important as bodily strength and flexibility. Giving a TED talk was a totally new and exhilarating experience for me. I felt very vulnerable, being on a stage in front of strangers and surrounded by video recorders, with nothing but my planned speech in my mind. Typically the speakers at TED conventions do not use much visual aid and the whole theory is to inspire a new and noteworthy idea through a story. My story is my knowledge I have acquired through climbing and what I have learned from the sport through my experiences and interactions. When the video of my speech is posted, I will certainly link it out to you and provide more information!
Amidst the successes of this fall, I have missed climbing outside a lot. With my injury at the beginning of the fall (September and half of October) I was not climbing, then I channeled my concentration towards training for the panAmerican Championships in the gym (Chelsea Piers and Brooklyn Boulders. With final exam preparation and final papers for school, along with appearances and speeches for climbing/sponsors, the necessity to be extra studious took a really high gear as well.
That said; however, I made it through my first semester successfully and now I can relax and enjoy the outdoors again! Currently I am in Canada. I am spending a week in Mont Tremblant, Quebec (as goes the family tradition), skiing and enjoying the holidays with my family. Then I will be traveling to the Cataluna Region of Spain to climb at areas like Oliana, Santa Linya, Perles (if it’s dry!), and wherever else inspires me and my friends that I will be going with. I am so excited to return to Spain – it has always been one of my favorite places in the world to climb and to spend time at. The people, the lifestyle, the climbing – it’s all amazing. Actually, my next Adidas Video should be launched on the web soon, featuring me climbing in Spain.
I am happily back in NYC after a successful week in Venezuela! In short – my come back after 6-weeks injury was complete =] My main focus for the Championship was the Sport Climbing Competition at the Championships for multiple reasons – chiefly because I mainly train for lead and I prefer it to the other disciplines (bouldering and speed) so I subsequently care the most about it, but there was also the factor that this competition was the qualifier for the World Games in 2013 (an offshoot of the Olympics, and basically the ‘tournament of Champions’ in which the World Champion, panAmerican Champion, European Champion, Oceanic Champion, and Asian Champions are invited to compete in a state of the art exhibition-style competition), and because since 2004 beginning when I was 11 years old, I have been undefeated in Sport Climbing at the Continental Championships (Junior, then Adult) and I needed to defend my reigning title!
Following Sport Climbing, I competed in Bouldering. This event took place directly after Sport Climbing was finished. After the first day of bouldering, I lead the field, topping all five of our boulder problems, and then in finals I was the only one to finish all of the problems and I therefore held my lead in finals for the win.
With two Gold Medals under my belt, I just had my weakest discipline to compete in left. For my fifth day of competition, I went into the speed rounds. I never train for speed, primarily because I focus all of my attention on Sport and Bouldering, but also because it just has never really been something of interest to me – however, I placed 9th place and earned enough points to guarantee my victory for the Overall Championship Title.
Personally, I could not be happier with my results but even more over, I am so happy to be back climbing. I missed the vibrant energy of competing and now I am really motivated to be a part of the climbing scene again after the beginning of this fall. However, that said, my finger injury is not entirely 100% so I must proceed with caution still – I will continue to tape it until it does not hurt anymore and I will need to focus more attention on my classes the next couple of weeks to make up for my missed work at University. On Friday I am going to Montreal for the weekend to give a TED Talk, too! I am the “Key Note Speaker,” so I need to prepare for this, as well.
If you are around Montreal, check this event out – I could use some familiar faces in the crowd =]
panAmerican Championships; Greetings from Venezuela!
I am currently in Venezuela competing in the panAmerican Championships. This Championship is held every two years, and since 2004 when I was an 11 year-old competing in juniors, I have competed… and won =] This year I was particularly nervous.
Having ruptured my A-2 pulley in my left ring finger, I had to opt out of finals at the Arco Rockmaster in Italy, and skip both the World Championships in Paris, and the World Cup in Atlanta, USA. This fall was a rough time for me mentally to be a spectator, sidelined by injury.
Fortunately, I had made the decision two years ago to return to school after one year devoted only to climbing professionally. So, I started studying at Columbia University in New York City this September.
I knew that balancing my life as a professional climber and my life as a student would be difficult, but I did not anticipate being incapable of climbing for the beginning portion of the journey. After taking six complete weeks off, I began to ease myself back into training, and, seeing that everything was okay, I decided that I would not completely mark off 2012: I would compete in the panAmerican Championships in November.
Amidst treading through a heavy schoolwork load and being eager to perform at my best in the Championships, I have been improving my time management skills and trying to find the best academic and athletic balance.
At times, amidst stress and lack of sleep, I have wondered if I made the right decision – going directly to University having just taken a year off and still having so much (hopeful) growth in my career and places to expand my horizons. Though, being injured really made me see that this decision was the best personal move that I could have taken. Having to take time off of climbing but having another outlet of life to be eager about enabled me to grow from my injury period stronger than before. I have also sincerely enjoyed developing as a more faceted human being – stimulating my intellect and meeting completely new and different people.
Emerging from the six weeks off, I was more motivated than ever to get back in the game. Having had to observe the competition scene, I was excited to be a part of it again. So, thanks to Chelsea Piers and Brooklyn Boulders for providing the training facilities necessary for me to train, and to my training partners and my awesome community in New York City, I can successfully say that I have defended my title as the Female panAmerican Champion for Sport Climbing!!! With this victory, I have earned my spot at the World Games in 2013 and I will be representing the USA there, in stride towards the potential Olympics.
Now, I have bouldering and speed climbing left to compete in, and an Overall Title to fight for! Venga Venga!!!
Xx, S =]