While my finish at the most recent Dark Horse comp may only be noteworthy to myself and my faithful caddy/husband, the journey there might be of interest to others, especially those who have struggled with obstacles along their paths.
My relationship with the Dark Horse series has been shaky at best. It started off strong when I was still new to competing, bouldering and climbing. The Dark Horse series was brand new. It was exciting to travel so far for a comp. I had the buoyant optimism that a blank scorecard and a blank history provide. The gym was much bigger than most I had been to and there were so many climbs to try. I was pleasantly surprised at my performance at that first DH and finishing in Advanced.
This is where the downhill slide began, although I still can’t explain what initiated it. At the next comp, my score fell by almost 500 points and I finished in Intermediate. This was disappointing, but hardly constituted a pattern, as my other comps had been going very well. I had expected to finish somewhere in Advanced, like I had at my first DH. I didn’t put much stock in it and signed up for a third DH that season. My score improved negligibly and I still finished in Intermediate. This caused a crisis of confidence. What was an appropriate division for me? I had been solidly in Advanced at other comps that season and thought of myself as an “Advanced” climber. At most redpoint comps, you sign up for the category you think is appropriate. At DH your division is determined by score. MetroRock made me question if maybe Intermediate was where I really belonged. That felt like a step back.
The next season I signed up for only one DH comp. This one was destined to go poorly from the start. I was focused on proving I could do better than the year before, rather than on enjoying the climbing. My nerves were frayed due to the fact that I had signed up for my first Open ABS Nationals which were the weekend following this DH. I also had a torn labrum in my left shoulder which was limiting me. Halfway through the comp I rolled my ankle coming down off a climb. I stubbornly finished the comp although my ankle was so swollen I almost couldn’t get my shoe back on. My score was only 5 points higher than that first DH I went to over a year before.
I tried so hard over the next couple of years to get back on track when I went to MetroRock and to have the success there that I was having at other comps. I trained harder. I entered more comps to gain experience. I dressed warmer, because their gym always felt cold to me (it no longer does, btw). I tried visualization. I tried yoga breathing. I tried not thinking about DH at all. My scores did improve slightly over time, but my placement kept falling. I was getting a little better, but everyone around me was getting a lot better. Rock bottom was a disastrous trip to Blackout Boulder Brawl, another MetroRock event and my first blacklight comp, where my score landed me in Recreational. It wasn’t fun anymore. I left every MetroRock event miserable and grasping for an explanation. Something had to give.
You’ll notice that, despite what I considered poor performances and my frustration, I kept signing up for at least one DH comp per season. Some vestige of that initial optimism remained. I went into each comp truly believing that that could be the one where I turned it around. Everything else was going well, overall, in my climbing. But I never climbed as well at MetroRock as I knew I was capable of and as I did at other gyms. It had to be a mental block and I wasn’t willing to walk away without getting past that block.
This most recent DH was the one where it turned around and I can’t quite pinpoint what the difference was. My score was almost 700 points higher than my previous personal best at DH and more than double my lowest all-time DH score. It was also my highest placement at a DH. More importantly, I had fun the whole time. I wasn’t stressed. The gym didn’t feel as big. The trip didn’t seem as long. I was relaxed and enjoyed watching others climb.
It has been a long 5 years. I’m glad I stuck with it and proved, if only to myself, that I could do better. I needed to get past that mental block. I didn’t want to give up. I never wanted to have to walk away. And now that I’m past that block, there’s no reason to walk away.