Dangling from a log high above, fingers frost bitten, cheering in the background, screaming voices… distinct and foreign–encouraging the fight to keep pushing, forget the fear, forget the pain, just keep moving.
Competition is a funny thing–it can be your best friend or it can be your worst nightmare… if you let it. In the past, for me, competition climbing has brought me to my knees… from failure and success. No matter what the result, the scene, the preparation, the sacrifice before, during, and after… the “season” of competition is infinite, in that it’s always with you, around you and inside of you. It’s a battle of a lifetime. Some say “it’s just climbing”, but until you’re in it, “up there” dangling from that log, well… it’s more than “just” climbing… it’s you, everything about you, all that you are, in the moment that you’ve prepared for– it’s all your hearts’ effort.
I’m on a plane right now, en route to Geneva, Switzerland, for my first World Cup competition of the season. The “season” is definitely in full swing now. Back in December I began my “journey” at the Bozeman Ice Festival. I climbed fast, fluid, and then fell off a technical hold. Unlucky. I was bummed as my expectations were through the roof for that one. Hmmm… expectations… right. I’ll get back to that in a sec. Moving forward with a determined focus I changed up a few things in preparation for the Ouray Ice Festival Competition, which just took place. I climbed better, with less fear (I’ll explain the fear in a sec too), and more confidence in my ability. That worked out well (except for my fingers getting frost bitten). I’m not sure if I can say I climbed to my fullest potential, but I certainly was a lot happier with how I climbed this round. I took 5th place out of 25–which is a good result.
Fear. I’ve dealt with a lot of fear throughout my life. And more often than not, it’s hindered me from experiencing the excitement of the unknown. I’ve often shied away skirting potential failure. “You can’t lose if you don’t try”. Well this weekend, yet again I was asked to do something that terrified me: compete in the speed comp. At first, giving it no thought I accepted the opportunity and didn’t give it a second thought…until the day of. Two days earlier in the mixed competition my fingers got pretty frost “nipped”. Boom, there was my excuse to fold. I had made it up in my mind that I wasn’t going to compete, and that my excuse was legit.
This morning, sitting in Burger King with my two French (co-competitors) friends, Frenchman #1 pulled up the results to the speed comp (in Ouray this weekend) on facebook. Out of no-where he said (in a French accent), “Ahhh Gordon, you received 4th place”. I was shocked. There were 24 other competitors and I managed to beat 21 of them? Really?
Fear had just about beaten me again-the intensity of its grip–what if I fail? But something happened, something changed. Like a dragon being woken, filled with a fiery rage, I was not to lay down this time, to let the fear decide the fate. So I strapped on my boots, feet fitted with readiness, clung on to my “meat hooks” and competed with a compelled headspace. I raced as fast as I could up the ice. And it went well.
I have 4 more competitions for this season; Ice climbing world cups spread across the globe. Travel, time, money, amazing people, beautiful culture, and full on intensity, a time where life gets turned upside down and all around. This is my second full year of doing it (world cup competitions), and with every year… you continue to learn, grow, and strive for higher goals. But what’s interesting… after this weekend…I feel as though I’ve gained an ace up my sleeve. I unexpectedly experienced the removal of fear. I experienced an unknown that gave me the ability to just let go. No expectations, no worry of failure, only just to be in the moment-to try my best… and that that was to be good enough. Wow, what a powerful tool that is indeed. Winning in competitions is cool… for sure… but the removal of any such fear, all of a sudden the sky opens and you feel as though anything is possible.
Learn to remove the fear, dare to be bold, and soon you’ll experience true greatness within thy self. Game on.