Friday, 21 October 2011

19.05 seconds. 20 holds. 24 moves. That’s all it takes

The British Speed Climbing Championships took place on 16th October 2011 at EICA, Ratho.
Rachel Carr, Junior Champion, reflects on her achievement. (Photo: Lukasz Warzecha Images)

The one question I’m always asked when I win a comp is, “how fast were you?” and before today I’d just smiled and said “it wasn’t a speed competition!” which, before today, it hadn’t been, because, before today, there hadn’t been a speed climbing competition that British climbers took part in.  This was the first official British Speed Climbing Championships (on an IFSC rated wall) and I decided to enter for fun. I’d been training it for about a month and had already got a fastest time of 24.38 seconds, but on the day it was a lot more stressful. It wasn’t just me and the wall, there were distractions, other people on the wall, pressure of getting the best time I can. It was harder than I’d ever expected.

No one had ever run through the layout of the comp so we had to be told how to do it. Taking it all in was difficult and it just made me even more nervous. The category was ‘Under 18 Girls’ so there were more people than I expected. First we had a practise run to warm up and get used to the moves. Then 2 qualifier attempts where you were climbing with someone else on the identical route next to you, but you weren’t racing them, just the clock. There were only 4 going through to the semis in my category and that’s when it gets really complicated. The fastest would race the slowest, and then the 2nd and 3rd fastest would race. Next is the Small Final, the 2 that lost the semis would race for third and then the Big Final would be the 2 fastest racing for first and that would decide it.

On my practise shot I took it slow so I wouldn’t get too tired. I was also trying to trick my competitor into thinking I was slow so they would subconsciously climb slower than usual. The first timed climb I really went for it, I managed 23 seconds which was faster than usual but I still found it too slow. On the second one I pushed twice as hard and lost 2 seconds off my time getting 21.2. I qualified in first. The competition was running fast so there wasn’t much time to rest between climbs and because I was fastest in the qualifiers I was climbing first against Flo. I climbed that just faster than her because I didn’t want to waste more energy than I had to and I won. I was in the final.

There was about 5 minutes before the final, I was up against Carmel. She and I had been 1 second apart with our best times and I knew what I needed to do to win. We both stood tied in at the bottom of the route facing the wall. I was going through the moves over and over again in my head. Every move had to be perfect, no slips, no wrong holds, perfect. I was breathing deeply, rubbing chalk onto my hands. The announcer began, “on your marks”. I stepped to the wall, placed my 2 hands on the holds, one foot on the first foot hold, the other placed on the sensor. I leant back ready to pounce, like a cheetah hunting. Now it was just seconds till the timer would begin. “Ready, attention” a loud ‘beep’ signalled my body to unleash. I moved precisely and as fast as possible up the wall. Pulling powerfully between moves and focusing all my energy on this one moment. The whole way up I could see Carmel out the corner of my eye, I think that’s what made me push even more. We were equal almost the whole way up, until I suddenly had a burst of energy and before I knew it I was there, at the top. I made the final leap and slapped the pad. I had done it, not only had I just won the under 18 Girls’ Speed Climbing Championship 2011, I had set a new British record. I was the fastest girl in Britain, with my fastest time ever.

19.05 seconds. 20 holds. 24 moves. That’s all it takes.

Written by Rachel Carr

Don't know what competitive speed climbing is all about?
Have a look at the highlights of the 2011 World Championships: