Lucy Stirling: You don’t always win, but you always learn
Usually by this stage I feel more than ready to climb the arduous route ahead of me, despite what’s going on in my head. But this time there’s another level of pressure I just can’t put my finger on. I try to talk myself into more confidence…. “I am ready to do this…I am ready to prove to everyone but mostly myself how much I’ve worked for this moment.” Whatever happened during qualifiers doesn’t matter anymore. Whatever happened yesterday or last week doesn’t matter anymore. It’s so important for me to have complete trust and assurance in all my training and preparation leading up to this moment. I have a job to do now and when I am finally called out to climb this Finals route I will give it absolutely everything I have.
It’s interesting looking back over all the preparation I’ve done leading up to this competition. My training has been more intense than ever before and the past 6 months have certainly been one of the biggest challenges for me in more ways than one, but I’m determined to not let any of them hold me back, but instead, propel me forward.
The mental battle during the tapering week before a big competition is one of the most stressful periods of time for me. It’s almost a relief once competition day actually comes around… I no longer need to worry about whether or not I’ve rested enough, trained enough, eaten/ slept/ stretched enough to best prepare myself for my top performance on competition day. I can finally ‘relax’ a little and let all my training pay off… In this moment I must accept that I have no control over anything except my own performance on the wall.
There are so many different types of pressure and stresses that emerge just before competition. It’s so important for me to be able to recognise them approaching, accept them for what they are (just thoughts), and to move on to focus on the task at hand.
As I walk out facing the crowd to stand beneath my finals route, I finally feel more in the zone and incredibly psyched to get on the wall. I pretend to listen carefully as the judge tells me what I’ve already heard a hundred times, but really I can’t help but be completely absorbed by the elusive climb behind me. When I’m finally released and allowed to face the route, I take a few moments to have another quick look over the holds before me, a relaxing breath and try to really tune in to the moment. I pull on to the wall and the game begins.
I feel I may have slightly rushed the first half of my finals climb. In the back of my head I was worried about timing out like I had in my second qualifier, so instinctively I had a sense of urgency about me. I make it up to the top of the long vertical section and out of the corner of my eye I spot two sneaky holds I had somehow complete missed during my viewing time. Determined to not let these two holds distract me from my already planned sequence, I decided to skip them and battle through into the roof. I pulled a few thrutchy moves and with some technical foot sequences I was over the lip and all of a sudden quite pumped. I later found out those two sneaky holds I’d skipped earlier made a good rest spot before the roof. I tried desperately to get a little bit of energy back into my forearms but quickly decided I would have to get moving again before what energy I did have left would soon run out. All of a sudden the holds became very slopey and my screaming forearms told me that from there on I would have to just keep pulling and hope for the best. In my last effort I tried my best to launch for the next hold but my right heel let me down and before I knew it I was hanging mid air and being lowered back down to the ground.
This right heel fault cost me a lot. Unfortunately I missed out defending my title as National Champion, placing second by a narrow margin of ‘plus’ movement… but I’ve had to accept that that is what competition is all about. I had such mixed emotions. I felt incredibly happy for my amazing friend Roxy Perry for the first time becoming Open National Champion, yet at the same time a horrible ill feeling of disappointment was developing in the pit of my stomach. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I feel that over the past couple of years I started developing a bit of an egotistical fear of losing… a fear of not meeting the expectations that only I can be held responsible for putting on myself. A fear of self-reproach and disappointment.
I feel like this competition reminded me of how important it is to compete for yourself, and not to even think about the other competitors. I shouldn’t be focusing so much on the extrinsic motivation ie: ‘in it to WIN it’ but rather on the intrinsic, and focus on doing the best I possibly can on the routes provided for me.
I am grateful to have this opportunity to reanalyse my headspace and approach to competitions. You simply can’t always win… and that’s competition.