I generally don’t consider myself a competitive person.
There are probably many people who would beg to differ (maybe citing instances where I’ve challenged them to arm wrestle, or reminding me that I compete in math), but I say this mostly to convince myself. What matters shouldn’t be how well you climb compared to others, only how well you climb for yourself.
Competitions promote almost the exact opposite, and everyone is there not to be their best, but the best—which is admirable in a different way, but not the goal for most of us.
[I acknowledge that I’m heavily biased because I get nervous competing and am seldom satisfied: people don’t normally like things they’re not good at.]
So why compete?
A lot of climbers I look up to have competed for many years, and convinced me that it’s a part of becoming a better climber. Peer pressure, really—but also much more.
Another part of me loves challenges, and I think competing is really hard! I’m also inspired whenever I see how incredibly strong some of the competitors are, and though I admittedly am jealous, I am even more amazed and honored to watch them.
If you can overcome the temptation to compare yourself to others and judge your success off of that (something that I’m still trying to figure out) then I think competing is an amazing opportunity to test your skills as a climber, and be exposed to all the talent around you.
I had to remind myself of all this many times that Sunday morning at the Seattle Bouldering Project, as the finals round drew nearer and the top ten from qualifiers prepared to battle it out for the seven invitations to nationals.
My friend Amanda Keys was in fifth place going into the finals, while I was in tenth: the worst of the best. It was easy to feel jealous of Amanda, but I was mostly proud of her for climbing so well and earning her place.
I can’t limit my jealousy, but I can choose to celebrate the victories of my friends. Maybe a sufficient amount of pride in their achievements can counteract the green monster—maybe not.
I believe we both finished that day successfully, although the results turned completely upside-down!
I made it to the top seven, but Amanda did not: that was hard for both of us to accept. It felt wrong for me to go on to nationals without my companion!
I contemplated not going, and I would blame it on feeling guilty for going on without Amanda, but honestly I think I was scared to sit in isolation for several hours waiting for the national championships to begin without her!
It took some enthusiasm on the part of my coach, Ryan, as well as Amanda, to convince me that I was absolutely going to nationals. At this point, not competing would just be cowardice. If I really believed in my own mantra, that climbing for the fun of it is what matters, and not comparing oneself to others, then I shouldn’t have been so nervous.
I love this about my teammates at Planet Granite!
The support that flows from our group seems unlimited. In addition to learning about climbing, I also learn about being a decent person from this group. It felt well-earned and much deserved when Planet Granite was named the number one team in the division.
Competition pushes my boundaries, puts me face to face with my weaknesses, and inspires me—and so I will continue for now. I’m nervous for nationals (probably unreasonably so), especially without my partner in crime, but I’ll do what any true climber should, from the amateur to the gold-toothed: keep on climbing!
Sara Evensen is a Senior in High School as well as a frequent patron of Planet Granite Belmont. When not climbing, she can be found teaching coding skills at her school Programming Club, playing the bass, or freestyle-rapping loudly in her car. She has climbed in Norway, Sweden, and Iceland with the Nordic Youth Climbing League as well as around the West Coast with the Planet Granite Climbing Team, and hopes to visit even more places.