Finally, WC competitions are back and I am over the moon excited! The climbing community is finally starting to embrace the COVID-19 situation and the organisers took the initiative and decided that they are going to bring back the long-awaited WC season.
We kicked off the season in Meiringen, Switzerland on the 16th and 17th of April.
Getting to Meiringen
Usually, I would not spend any time on explaining how to we got to the competition venue. Nevertheless, it’s been quite a while since my last WC competition and the way we travel changed drastically.
We started the process with taking the necessary PCR COVID-19 tests in Slovenia. That allowed us to enter Switzerland and later on to take part in the competition. Several other documents were needed and then we were good to go. For the first time ever, I got to travel by the bus to the competition venue. The journey was therefore a little bit slower but the extra space made all the difference.
After arriving in Meiringen, the only thing that was left was to measure the body temperature of the whole team. Luckily the whole team successfully passed the measuring process and avoided another COVID-19 testing. We were finally read to compete!
New competition protocol
Due to the current situation, new rules had to be followed during the competition. I’ll briefly explain the whole process from getting to the isolation zone to climbing the first problem on the mats.
For the purpose of maintaining adequate distance between athletes the isolation zone is divided into smaller zones. First you enter the “Holding area”. Here you get your body temperature measured, drop off your phones and collect starting numbers. This are doesn’t contain climbing wall and is designated for warm-up before climbing. From this area you later get transferred to the so called “Climbing area”. In this area you have about 45 minutes on the climbing wall. After that you are transferred into the “Resting area”, where you have 10 minutes to rest and after that you enter the final area – “Call area”, where you have 5 minutes to get ready, before you climb.
Due to the safety protocols, wearing a mask is required at all times, except when climbing on the warm-up wall and on the mats. You are also required to have your own towel to cover the seat in the “Call area”. Additionally, there were no snacks or water bottles available in any of the areas.
Qualifications started really early as there were a lot of competitors. The start was at 8am and I was among the first to start. That meant waking up at 6am, having a small breakfast and rushing to the isolation zone.
Usually, I like to take my time with warming up, therefore I was in the isolation zone right when it opened. Everything went perfect up to that point of the morning and then things started to go sideways…
During my warm up in the holding area, I was feeling less flexible than usually and my muscles were feeling sore. From feeling poorly while stretching, I somehow managed to bring that feeling with me to the climbing area. I felt heavy while climbing and like I didn’t have proper finger strength. Consequentially that led to bad climbing and loss of confidence.
By now you should be getting an idea of what was going on in my head and what was about to follow… I simply got lost in the endless sea of thoughts in my head and you can’t perform at your limit in a state like that.
That resulted in me making bad tries on the boulders, I was rushing and wasn’t precise in my movement. I was not confident in my shape!!!
What was the end result? 21th place, just below the semi-final line. Far from my expectations and a huge disappointment.
So, what exactly was going through my head? I often like to share my thoughts as I think that the correct mental attitude is crucial for every competition. So, I’ll try to explain my thoughts and where it all went wrong.
If you’re a person, who also struggles with mental problems during the competition continue reading. Maybe you’ll find yourself somewhere between the lines.
Here it goes…
Before leaving home, I had my usual therapy session, where I went through my thoughts about the competition and resolve any fears associated with it. I must say that I felt fairly calm about the competition. I knew I was physically ready and that I’m a contender for the highest places. Naturally there was some stress present, as I set some personal goals at the start of the year and this was the first time, I would be able to realise them.
With that mindset I was on my way to the competition. First day went by fast and I was already looking forward to a final rest day before the qualifications. This is the day when my thinking usually hits me…
During my past competitions I experienced lots of different mental barriers, but I worked on them throughout the years and eventually resolved many of them. Nevertheless, I still managed to get trapped in one of them this time.
It all started with food. Yes, food! During the competition season I usually follow a specific diet, which helps me to stay fit. Roughly speaking it’s some sort of a keto diet with the addition of potatoes and rice. Normally I would always find food that would fit my diet plan but sadly we are currently far away from normal. Due to COVID-19, we were only able to buy groceries from the store and have breakfast and dinner at the hotel. I am not a fan of eating processed food from the grocery store, so I counted on breakfast and dinner at the hotel. For breakfast I would usually eat eggs but this time there were none… similarly there was only one menu for dinner and completely off my diet guidelines… As stupid as this sounds, food was the thing that started my mental breakdown at this competition.
I’m normally really strict with myself, especially when it comes to sport. Therefore, I could not get past the fact that I hadn’t been eating according to my diet. Especially before the competition when it’s supposed to be the most important.
It all started with dinner where I ate some pasta (which is really not that bad…) and then continued with me thinking about that all night, which led to a sleepless night. I woke up to a breakfast without any eggs and I felt totally out of my routine. When I came to the isolation zone and I myself to forget about the food problems and focus on the warm-up. Immediately, I started to “check” myself. I quickly felt less flexible than usually and with these negative thoughts, I was soon in the climbing area. It was my last hope that I would feel light and strong on the wall and boost my confidence before climbing on the competition. With the sea of negative thoughts in my head it was just a matter of time before I would abandon my last flicker of hope. I simply could not feel confident on the wall and every warm-up boulder I tried I just couldn’t snap out of it. Eventually I brought all of that on the mats and a bad result was almost unavoidable.
Despite all of that, I still managed to top 2 boulders which was almost enough for the semi-final round. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel strong enough to climb the boulders, although I actually was. All of that, because I didn’t have the perfect dinner and breakfast before the competition. Now think back about it, I can only say: “What an idiot!”.
Although this competition has been quite disappointing for me, I definitely learned a new and valuable lesson. Moreover, I realized that my obsession with doing everything at 100% can be sometimes more damaging than letting go for a minute. I’ve been aware of this problem for quite some time but I was still putting less focus on it as I should. Now realizing how big of an impact it had on my performance, it’s time for me to revaluate the priorities and really focus on the ones that matter the most.