Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Little Thanks for the Many Hellos

As a tribute to the beautiful thanksgiving tradition of good food and good thoughts, I supposed today would be a good day for a much delayed blog post. I sat down earlier today to try to put into words how grateful I am for this life and this year and this moment, but I felt my fingers freeze. The words weren’t coming to me, only memories, pictures in my mind. And I found a trend in my thoughts; most of what I am thankful for, most of the memories that popped in my mind, happened in different counties, all along side the people that have been supporting me all my life. I recalled a particular moment in Geneva, a short passing moment, where my Mom and I were travelling a while back from train to train, and we passed an area called Place Du Molard, where squares on the pavement light up with “a thousand ways to say hello.” In all different languages, it’s a square that welcomes all people. Languages have always fascinated me. The idea that I can’t understand, that people express themselves by something that is so unique. It inspires me to learn. I realized that, in my eighteen years, I have had the privilege of sharing many different hellos. More than most, I’d say. And although I don’t speak each language fluently, I’ve got a small taste of the culture, of the people that define it. The experiences I share with each culture, and the new friends I meet, I am thankful for. Mostly though, I am thankful for my family and friends who have shared each and every moment with me. The one’s who’ve made each new hello possible. 

                                   Place Du Molard, Geneva

“Sa-wat-dee Kah” was the latest addition to my growing list of hellos. A trip to Thailand after high school graduation and before the start of university marked the beginning of a new journey. My plan for the summer was Banff- Railay Beach-Singapore-Kingston. So packing up my last suitcase came with a few tears. Leaving Banff was sad, I grew to have an unconditional love for the community that had nurtured me. But I guess the old saying is true that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  I was ready to take the step, to change direction, to experience new things! Thailand was a trip planned to acclimatize to the scorching hot Asian climate before competing in the World Championships in Singapore. Yet, I knew that my trip would be much more than just a means to an end. I had always wanted to experience the Asian culture and my plan was to not let any moment slip by. I wanted to take in every detail. Every cobble stone step, every salty breath, every bite of amazingly spicy food (that my stomach can’t handle but I absolutely love,) every feature in the rock that I touch- I would take it all in. Enjoy, eat, be merry, climb easy, climb hard, climb what looks cool, hike, swim with colorful little fishies... it was a trip that had no rules or limits but purely to have fun. And that is exactly what I did.

My goal for climbing on this trip was specifically that. I didn’t want to limit myself to only hard routes. It is easy to get caught up on solely difficult lines. I wanted to climb everything. Even if it was an easy 5.8 or a hard 5.13, I wanted to experience it. The different rock style is like a climbers paradise, especially for someone from Canada. Once I warmed up, when I saw something that looked interesting, I tried not to look in the guidebook, I was planning on just grabbing my harness and starting to climb. It proved to be a very satisfying way to spend the trip. I got on lines that usually I would not bother climbing, but they ended up being my favorites. And when I did get on a hard line, without the mental restriction of a curtain grade in my mind, I was forced to push myself to my limit. Sometimes when I get on hard things, when I begin to get tired, deep in my mind I justify falling because I know it’s hard. This way there was no justification. I was climbing just for the sake of climbing. And it was awesome! 

                                              Enjoying life! 

                                       Beach Side Climbing! 

            Deep water soloing!! Hanging out!                                                          

Thailand has this uncontrolled love affair with the world’s climbers. Thousands of admirers visit each year, attracted by the beach side cliffs. Yet, as much as we would like to claim the cliffs to be our own, there was someone who was there before we were and they won’t let us forget it… the monkeys of Railay came in uncountable numbers. Dancing around the cliffs edges and cracks, prancing on our beds and kitchen tables. Steeling food and cameras, attempting to pee on us, laughing as they ran up the project we had been working on for days, the stories are endless… But as annoying as the little guys are (and I was pretty scared of them at first…) I have actually grown to miss them. If you’ve ever seen “Night at the Museum” you know what I mean. You hate Dexter, but you love him. 

Railay proved to be a paradise in many more ways than just the cliffs- a culture filled with the most amazingly friendly people, the postcard perfect sunsets on the beach, the Thai food that looks like a mess but tastes like heaven and the BEST smoothies in the WORLD (seriously.)- 10 days wasn’t enough.  Still nearly two months later I will find a grain of sand left in one of my shoes or bags… a slight, taunting memory of the good laughs, the good climbs and the good times. Ahhh, Thailand. You make me smile.
J A “Sa-wat-dee Kah” well worth it. 

                              Long Boat ride to Railay Beach!
                                            Messy Yumminess
                                         Sunset and the crew
                    Most hilarious man alive.. don't even ask... 

The view of Singapore’s high rises revealed what a difference a few hour plane ride can make. Travelling from huts, sand and rock, to skyscrapers, fancy restaurants and plastic- my time in Singapore marked another extraordinary journey with Team Canada. Fresh from Thailand, with the sand still scattered across our suitcases, reunited with the team at last, it was a good feeling. Mostly all the team was travelling before the comp so we all had stories to tell and were bursting with anticipation around the upcoming event. The world championships took place at an interesting venue. It was on an island, on the beach, that, in lack of other words, was Disney Land. It was an island purely made for attraction. I was actually quite happy that the team decided not to stay directly on the Island and instead we got to experience Singapore for Singapore, not all the man made touristy attractions. (Although guilty that Universal was SO much fun...) We visited the flamboyant clothing markets, we bargained with the street venders, we drank so much bubble tea we were going to burst, we watched live frogs being chopped up in the food market (L). What was so interesting was that it was a lot like Thailand… expect everything was expensive and everyone spoke English. I found it hard to wrap my head around. A place that in many ways is so much like home and in other ways is so, so incredibly different. 

                                     Singapore night market
                       Coconut :) Always wanted to do this!

                                         Fun times with the team!

We ate great food and had great laughs before the comp, and then it was time to switch gears, remember the mission and stay focused during the competition. My first few qualifiers didn’t go as planned; I messed up with some beginner mistakes, but still managed to make semis in the final position. I got caught in the trick of expectations and the pressure killed me. I tried to go into semi finals with no worries, a fresh start and just enjoy my time on the wall. Pretending it was just another day climbing at the beach in Thailand, I stepped on the wall with a smile on my face, positive thoughts flowing through my mind, and I found an intuitive flow. I just kept going without even thinking. I was reacting. I wasn’t forcing anything. I definitely climbed to my limit in semis and moved up a considerable amount of positions. I use to confuse how well I did with how many people I beat, but I didn’t make that mistake this comp. I climbed first that day. No one to compare to, and when I got off the wall I was happy with my climb. And as I watched more people on the climb, my thoughts never changed, I stayed content. I moved away from caring how others did and I was truly happy with my climb, for my climb alone. At the end of the comp was my favorite part- the jersey trading. I started my business schooling early with some marketing and negotiation practice and came home with 7 new jerseys from all different countries to remember all the people I met J 

            Team Canada in our flashy blue Arc'teryx jackets!
             Some waving flags from the opening ceremonies! 
                                                Semi Finals!! 

After some sad goodbyes, I travelled to Kingston, got my stuff settled in my new home and after a BLAST of frosh orientation it was straight to studying. Business school is HARD. But I like the challenge. I am busier than I ever was, trying to balance school with training with extracurriculars. Yet, I love being busy, so I know it will all be well worth it.

I am particularly excited about a position I recently received on student government. I get to intern for the President of the Commerce Society. I am more than excited to meet all the new, motivated people on assembly and help create the community that makes Queen’s so special!! I can’t wait to start!

As for climbing, I have still been able to climb multiple times a week here in Kingston. The training wall is small, but the climbing community is super strong. I’m psyched to feed off the energy of everyone here. The new TDB season is just around the corner, with my first competition in Montreal in November! (Where I get to see my coach again! Yay)

All of this is definitely a whole new chapter with many more “hellos” just waiting to happen.

Till next time,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Season Wrap Up

With the Olympics in the air and motivation at its peak I have begun reflecting on this past competition season- a year that started off with some disappointment due to injury, but turned out to be my busiest and most memorable season yet.  It was filled with success and surprises shared with new friends and old friends, family, coaches and mentors. I ended up finding a perfect mindset for competition and really a new mindset for everything I do in life.

Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to spend three months following the Open World Cup circuit. This adventure led me all over the globe to competitions in the USA, Canada (in my hometown!), Austria, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Competing at these high caliber events gave me confidence and milage that has taken my climbing to a whole new level. I watched as the posters on my wall came to life and I gained wisdom from these climbers that I have idolized since I begun climbing 9 years ago. It was these climbers that were now in front of me, climbing with me in the same events. After this summer I found myself with a newfound motivation to succeed. I had always wanted success, but too often I would measure my success by ranking. I would set expectations by placing myself based on the competitive field. I found that these expectations would often kill my performance, or worse, make me disappointed with a performance where I climbed strong but didn’t place well. As I watched and spoke to the more experienced climbers from Europe, USA and Asia I realized that although a rank is important to them, it is not what they focus on. The beauty of climbing is that the competition is essentially between yourself and the wall. The challenge comes from within you. My coach has always told me “control what you can control.” It is this advice that the best of the best have mastered. Who is in your field, you can’t control. The route, you can’t control. The angle of the wall, you can’t control. But what you can control is your own mind. I have come up with a new definition of success. When I have prepared fully for a competition and can walk away knowing that I have climbed my hardest with a smile on my face. When I beat the wall, I win- I’ve succeeded- regardless of what the results may say.  And, of course, defeat will happen, but I don’t believe in regret because with each mistake comes a lesson. This new approach to competition has allowed me to find an extremely stable mindset. With no pressures and no worries about the other competitors, or my ranking, I have a cleared mind and can focus all my energy and mental awareness on the present moment, on my own climbing, and then let the results follow. Unfortunately I couldn't put this new practice to work due to a knee injury that forced me to stop climbing for three months, but in that time, I got my psych back, reenergized my mind and was keen on coming back stronger in the new year.

This mentality led me to become the 2012 Canadian National Open Bouldering Champion and accomplish an undefeated 2012 lead season. By not focusing on results, ironically my results improved! The TDB Bouldering Nationals was a very important competition for me. I have been competing in the Tour De Bloc Open Circuit since I was 13 years old. I was inspired by the adult competitors motivation and focus, a focus that wasn’t necessarily as present in the youth circuit at 12/13 years old. The adult competitors welcomed me in as one of their own and I have been hooked to the positive TDB atmosphere since my first nationals on the circuit in Ottawa. Each year my placing improved moving from a proud 11th in my first year to a second place finish in 2010. Unfortunately, in 2011, last year, I wanted to win so badly, to finally move from that second to first, that I lost my focus. I had a very disappointing result and even missed finals by a few ranks. Coming back this year I went into the competition just wanting to climb. No pressure, no expectations. Just climb. There were big names entering the competition such as Iyma Lamarche, Thomasina Pidgeon, Melissa Lacasse and France’s, Mathilde Becerra. Physically, I knew it was anyones game. There were many strong climbers so what was going to set us apart would be the mental game. Hopefully all competitors are there because they love the sport, at least that’s the truth in my case, so I decided that no matter how good or how bad I placed, all I was going to do was have fun, never give up and focus on my own climbing and movement. When the chalk settled, after a very close final round, I ended up taking home gold. Following very, very closely behind was one of my best friends and inspiration, Iyma Lamarche. The youth lead nationals in Montreal wrapped up the Canadian season for me, finishing off with my 5th lead national championship title. All-in–all it was an unbelievable season. What was so valuable about this year was not the accomplishment of winning both circuits, but it was all the lessons learned along the way. My climbing has completely changed for the better; with the realization that results are simply a bonus, there is no longer room for disappointment, only learned lessons and fun times. 

                                                           Open TDB Nationals Finals
                     Holding up some championship hardware. Congrats to Seb for crushing it!! 

Although the physical and mental challenge of competition climbing keeps me hooked to the sport, it is the adventures in between that make the most memories. After returning from Vail, Colorado (always my favorite competition of the year!) and finishing up a brutal month of grade twelve exams and a few too many dates with Mr. Shakespeare, I finally graduated!! Yay! I gave myself the best graduation present ever… a road trip!!! The Canadian National Team training camp was planned for July 1-4 in Victoria B.C. (where Worlds 2013 will be.) My friend and teammate, Zach, and I decided we would stay after the camp and climb in Horne Lake and Squamish. Training camp proved to be pretty tough. The Canadian coaches don’t have much mercy… I still have 456 on my pushup tab… But after barely surviving the training and meeting some awesome new people on the team, I was more than ready to move on to some real rock! Horne Lake was amazing!! It is like Rodellar, which is my little piece of heaven, in Canada! 

The rock was very featured with huge tufas and stalagmites, and the movement was very three-dimensional, which is my favourite. Not to mention the scenery is unreal! The rock face, called “The Amphitheater”, is high up, right in the middle of the rainforest, overlooking the lake. Too me, part of climbing cool lines is definitely the aesthetics of the rock and the surroundings. I wish I had more time there, but the bittersweet moment came and we were off to Squamish to climb on some boulders. I had never really bouldered too much outside before so going here I wasn’t expecting much, especially since the rock is very much my anti-style (no hold slapping, mantels and bad feet thank god for my stealth rubber) and the grading is known for being pretty stiff if your not use to the style, but regardless, I could not have had a bigger smile on my face as I walked into the woods to be greeted by hundreds of boulders only meters away from one another! At first I was getting my ass kicked on some “easier problems,” but after getting in the grove and getting use to the style I fell in love with the place! Along the way we met some new friends too. Three guys from Victoria and a couple old friends from around B.C. and Alberta added to our climbing crew to make a sweet group of motivated and fun people to session with! 


Another cool surprise was that we were there during the Squamish Mountain Festival, which was definitely not planned. Because of the timing we were able to find some extra inspiration watching big names like Sonnie Trotter, Jonathan Siegrist, Dean Potter, and a lot more familiar faces climb their hearts out. On the last day of the trip the crew decided it would be fun to enter the Flashed Dyno Competition. A fun event where the distance between the holds gets progressively farther until you can no longer dyno the distance. Apparently I actually broke the woman’s dyno world record by leaping 2.2 meters. Check out the video J A fun way to end an amazing trip. 

As for right now, I am back home training in the Rockies, spending some time on my local limestone for another two and a half weeks, then off to Thailand and Singapore for some rock climbing and the World Youth Championships. After that my plan is to attend Queen’s University in the fall (while still climbing of course!) and participate in the Open Lead World Cup in Atlanta in September.
I am excited to see what other opportunities climbing gives me in the future and I will be sure to never doubt what can be achieved when you’re focusing on the present and having fun!

Stay tuned!


The Beginning

It is a tradition at my high school to write a letter to yourself in grade seven, about anything you want. This letter is to be hidden away and re-opened on the final day of high school, six years later. A sort of graduation present to see how crazy and weird you were six years ago. I graduated this year (hallelujah!) and as the final days approached the excitement began to rise around these mysterious letters. When I finally opened the letter, sealed with my mini-me thumbprint, I was disappointed to say the least. The letter started off with a simple, "Hello future me," and then went down hill from there. I wrote a mere five sentences. I thought for sure there must have been more to my life six years ago than the facts that my favourite colour was pink and I had two eggs for breakfast. What about my thoughts? My dreams for the future, my excitement about the present, my memories, my adventures shared with family and friends? It was all of this that was absent in this re-opened time capsule of thought. After that day I promised myself I would write more. Mostly for myself, to navigate the things I learn and remind myself of the dreams I aspire to. Mostly though, I will write more so that I can look back on my life when I'm old and grey and remember all the crazy adventures life has thrown at me, exactly how I experienced them years eariler. That's where this blog comes in. As I venture into the unknown, I will use this to tell my story.