RC News #36: Consistency Through Inconsistency

Tomorrow is the Innsbruck World Cup!

RC News #36: Consistency Through Inconsistency

It's comp week for the Richardsons!

Last week, I set off to Europe before the World Cup in Austria while Zach geared up for the final North American Cup (NAC) of the season in Ottawa, Ontario.

I'm happy to report that Zach landed first place at this competition, which rounded out his NAC season with an appearance in every finals round and two of three podiums!

That, in combination with a first place finish at Nationals and third place at the High-Performance Competition, makes this Zach's most successful competition season of his career!

Zach in semi-finals at the North American Cup in Kanata, Canada

While the Ottawa event went on, I was in Munich. I always try to get a few training sessions in to shake off the plane ride before competing, so for the Austrian World Cup, that means a pit stop in Munich.

Traveling to Europe is usually smooth sailing for me. I've caught the odd cold or dealt with a delayed flight, but otherwise, it's my most practiced destination.

I know the cities, I know the gyms, and every country is in the same time zone. It's no problem.

The 6-hour time change is never a problem for me. I can't sleep on planes so I build up a nice fatigue for the first night's sleep. After that, I'm essentially on European time. This trip was no different - I flew redeye from Montreal to Munich and got 10 hours of sleep on my first night.

The next day, I had a warm-up session on my program, which is exactly what it sounds like—I get to the gym, warm up, and then leave. It takes 30 minutes.

This session prepares me for the two real training days in Munich, which are longer and incorporate some power work with weights.

I'm something of a local in Munich, so I was almost excited at the prospect of taking public transportation when I got to Munich. I stayed at my usual hotel, so I already knew which lines to take and which stops to get off at.

One small detail: Germany is hosting this year's European Soccer Championship (they last hosted in the 1980s), and the Munich game coincided with the day I used the subway the most.

That meant packed trains, crowded streets, and loud fans.

I realized this on my first day out in Munich, where I did some sightseeing with my dad and step-mom, who joined me in Europe. I don't know if it was the heat, the hours of walking, the fatigue from the 30-hour day I pulled, or the thousands of people I interacted with on Munich's game day, but in the evening after my warmup session, I felt ill.

I didn't have the usual runny nose or sore throat. Those symptoms, annoying as they are, could be managed, even trained through.

This was a complete impairment. I was running a fever, I had chills, and my body and head ached. It took me hours to fall asleep that night. I tossed and turned for hours, trying to find a comfortable position in an uncomfortable body.

Finally, I fell asleep out of necessity and woke up bright and early at 6:00 am. My heart sank when I looked at the clock. I couldn't have logged more than four hours of sleep that night.

Unsurprisingly, I felt just as bad in the morning, so it wasn't even a discussion - training for the day was canceled.

The last few training days before a competition aren't about getting stronger; they're about preparing your body to be strong. They're simultaneously the most important and least important training days an athlete can have.

But something I've learned this season is that there's no such thing as perfect competition conditions. This is why it's so hard to travel and perform - almost nothing in your environment is what you're used to.

In an ideal world, every World Cup would be in Montreal. There'd be no time change, no tiring travel day, and I could sleep in my own bed, eat food that I'm used to, and be surrounded by my friends and family.

But that won't happen until Climbing Canada gets much more cash flow...

Regardless, international travel is a feature and a hurdle that all professional athletes have to face. I used to think that one day I would be so practiced at traveling that I could be 100% at every competition. Today, I know that travel doesn't work like that. You get better at some things, like knowing which brands to buy or what areas to stay in, but other things are just out of your hands - and that's fine.

Better yet, that's part of the game.

You'll get sick despite your best efforts. You won't be able to fall asleep despite taking melatonin. You'll forget to pack something, miss a train, or spend so much time sightseeing that you feel sore, even ill, the next day.

It's interesting to see my priorities shifting in real time as I progress through my career. My focus has always been on training - movement, strength, and beta reading. Now, the biggest gain I can make for World Cups is in the travel department. That means finding better control over the controllable and practicing flexibility and acceptance of travel's alternative routes.

So when I couldn't leave my bed on Sunday and had to forgo my training, I didn't stress over the change of plans. I only care about one (hopefully two) days of competition.

You can put me on an unplanned rest week leading up to a competition. You can take away my training sessions, my power tapering, and my 8 hours per night. As long as I can climb on competition day, I'm confident. I lean on the years of mental and physical preparation that I've put into this sport.

Three bad days before an event can't change that, at least not mentally. I approach every competition as if I'm 100%, and therein lies my formula for consistent results.

All that said...

It's better for things to go smoothly.

Sure enough, by the evening, I started to feel better and ended up getting a full nine hours of sleep that night. I woke up rejuvenated and elated that I felt up to training.

I raced to the gym within an hour of waking up and got my final training session in before the World Cup. I caught up on the hangs I was supposed to do the day before but didn't overcompensate on the wall with a longer session. It was just perfect.

That afternoon, I boarded a train to Innsbruck. On the same day, in Canada, Zach began his journey to meet me in Austria.

And so, tomorrow at 9:00 am, I begin the third World Cup of the season, and my most anticipated stop.