BOSTON / by Angela Payne

This past weekend I traveled to Boston to compete in the Dark Horse Competition.  While I was in the area, I also had the opportunity to visit a few of the gyms and work with some motivated youth and adult climbers.

In the days before I left for Boston, I was working on compiling some lessons I have gathered over the past 28 years.  Those will surface sometime in the future, but needless to say, I found myself in an introspective mood going into the weekend.  This leadup to the trip, mixed with the events of the weekend, made it a very interesting few days for me.  It was one of those short time periods that somehow manages to reinforce many of the lessons I have learned and would hope to pass on to others.  And of course, there were some new lessons learned (as there always are).  Here are a few of the lessons that were brought back to the forefront this weekend.

Good organization + motivating atmosphere + tough competition + great routesetting = a great event.

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The Dark Horse Series is hosted by Metro Rock Climbing Centers and is now in its 4th season.  The organizers have a good handle on what they are doing and the events seem to run pretty smoothly.  One of the greatest things about the Dark Horse events is that they maintain a “local” feel but attract a very strong field of competitors and an enthusiastic crowd.  While I am not opposed to attending events that my friends/competitors don’t attend, I take more away from events when the level of competition is high.  If there are many women battling for first, it requires me to try harder and makes me a stronger competitor in the process.  Going into this weekend, I knew it would be a fight, and I was not mistaken.  Meagan Martin, who used to compete in the youth competitions before taking time away to pursue collegiate pole vaulting, is back on the scene, and looking like she hasn’t skipped a beat.  And of course there is Francesca Metcalf, Kasia Pietras and Isabelle Faus—all incredibly strong and accomplished climbers.  Finally, there are some strong up-and-coming Boston locals added into the mix.  The men’s side was no different, with names like Jimmy Webb, Vasya Vorotnikov, Sebastian Lazure, Josh Levin and many others.  In the end, this makes for a high-energy comp with a serious try-hard factor.  Add high-quality route setting into the equation, and you have a great event.

Francesca Metcalf on women's #1

Francesca Metcalf on women's #1

The route setting at the Dark Horse events is very high-quality, thanks to Dave Wetmore, Josh Larson and the rest of the Metro Rock setting crew.  Everything that I climbed in the preliminary redpoint round was very fun and well-set.  The finals round followed suit and the problems were fantastic.  The first was a technical vertical climb that started with a dynamic-tension-stop move and ended with a great balancy sequence and a hard match on the finish.

The second boulder was a bit longer and core-intensive.  A technical toe-hook/sloper match/foot drop down section lead to an encounter with some volumes and the natural lip of the boulder.  I bungled the sequence at the end of this boulder and was unable to get back to my high point.  None of us finished the second problem.

Women's final 2

Women's final 2

The third boulder was another longer problem with a great variety of holds on the steepest section of the wall and a hard sloper match leading to a top out.  Going into this problem, I knew I needed to flash it to have a chance of winning, since a few of us flashed the first problem and got to nearly the same section on the second.  I was pleased that I could hold it together and maintain focus and tension long enough to flash the last boulder. I was excited to end up in first, followed by Meagan Martin, Kasia Pietras and Isabelle Faus.

Women's 3

Women's 3

Enjoy the competitions, because in a few years, you will remember the fun you had more than how you placed. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly what place I got at the ASCI competition I attended a while back somewhere in the Northeast, but I can tell you all about how much fun me and my friends had between the rounds of competition.  This weekend was no exception, and I enjoyed seeing many people that I only get a chance to see at competitions like these.  I spent most of the redpoint round chatting it up with old friends, and after the event we all enjoyed a nice seafood dinner in downtown Boston.  I also had a great time helping my boyfriend’s sister, who owns ButterGirl Baking, preparing cookie orders for the holiday rush.  If it weren’t for the competition, I wouldn’t have had that enjoyable experience.  I have also started to find a great deal of enjoyment in taking photos of the places I see while traveling to these events, and I’m looking at investing in a photo editing program in the near future to further enhance that enjoyment.

Teaching is hard, but is also a valuable learning experience.  I probably learned more than I taught this weekend. 

Over the course of the weekend, I also had a chance to work with some motivated climbers at both the MetroRock and Central Rock gyms.  I always find teaching climbing to be just as hard as, if not harder than, climbing itself.  Articulating the subtleties of the movement involved in climbing is a serious challenge, but I always learn a lot about my own climbing when I take on this task.  It was also incredibly motivating to climb with the younger generation this weekend and realize how far the sport has come in the past 15 years.  The young climbers these days never fail to impress me with their strength and motivation, and I draw a lot of inspiration from that.

The Central Rock Team

The Central Rock Team

Injuries stink, but they are part of the game and never the end of the world. 

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My weekend ended on a less-than-stellar note when I landed on the edge of a tapered pad after dropping off the wall from about 3 feet above the ground.  It happened in the last 5 minutes of my final clinic, and was a silly injury that I could have easily prevented.  I hopped on the wall to try a move and didn’t bother to arrange the pads beneath me.  My simple mistake landed me in the ER to make sure nothing was broken.  Luckily it is just a sprain, and not a horrible one at that.  Special thanks to Tim Roy and his wife Lisa who went above and beyond to help me get my ankle checked out and to everyone at Central Rock who came to my aid.  Good thing I have a week of beach time in the near future….

A little rest can go a long way. 

I am bummed that I will have to step away from serious climbing for a week or two, but I know that it will be great for my motivation to do so.  I am looking forward to relaxing on the beach in Mexico for a week, hopefully learning to surf, and then returning to resume training.  I plan on attending the Dark Horse Championship in a month, so long as my ankle agrees.