So, this past weekend I landed second place at the 2023 Studio Bloc Masters Bouldering Competiton. Studio Bloc Masters! That literally happened.
Let me tell you five reasons why this is so incredible:
1. It's the largest open international event outside of the World Cup Circuit
2. Studio Bloc is my home gym
3. Making finals was my goal
4. World Cup finalists - and winners - were in my field
5. I'm no longer a total nobody!
I'm absolutely ecstatic about this result. Next to making semi-finals at the first World Cup of 2022, this has got to be the best competition result of my climbing career. That. Just. Happened.
After Dock Masters, I was determined to fix my mistakes. Out here in Europe, World Cup competitors are everywhere. Even a smaller event like Dock Masters pulls in a much stronger field than a Canadian event would, so the room for error shrinks considerably. I wanted to come out of Studio Bloc Masters knowing I tried my best on every boulder, because that's what I'll need to do on the circuit. You need every boulder.
And I'm proud to say exactly that - I gave every boulder my all.
The qualification round is notoriously brutal at Studio Bloc Masters - it's a round I wasn't looking forward to. You have a four-hour qualifier on Saturday where, out of 80 boulders, you need to send the hardest 20 you're capable of. I can't even remember the last time I had a climbing session that was over two and a half hours. Nonetheless, I wanted to make semis so I tried hard in qualifiers - but not too hard. How much you destroy yourself in qualifiers has a lot to do with how you perform in semis and finals, and I certainly wasn't here for the four-hour qualifier.
It actually went better than I thought it would. I got a lot of boulders done in the first two hours, and I was able to get most of them on my first attempt, which was crucial for my endurance. About three hours in, I had a really taxing attempt on a boulder that I didn't end up topping. That attempt completely wiped me. The rest of the qualifier was about filling in the scorecard with whatever my now-fatigued self could manage.
I handed in my scorecard with 45 minutes left on the clock - I was toast, but I was pretty sure my score was good enough to make in into semi-finals. There were 200 competitors in my field, though, so I was rolling the dice a little.
16th place in qualifiers punched my ticket to semis the next day. Phew.
Now I was cleared to pull out all the stops. Dock Masters taught me that these higher-level competitors can and will overtake me if I give them the chance, so the plan was not to. I went into semis feeling very good. After all, I did spend 45 fewer minutes on the wall yesterday than a lot of my competitors did, so I was confident and fresh.
What followed was some of my finest work. In a four-boulder round, I managed to send every boulder on my first try. Going into qualifiers in 16th place, you're susceptible to countback. If someone ties with you in semis that did better than you in qualifiers, they'll place higher than you. A lot of people were ahead of me in qualifiers, but nobody was after semis.
After I finished the last boulder, I knew I just made finals. I was safe - the pressure was off. This meant I had to put it back on manually. No more complacency. There were 3000 Euros on the line. Why stop at finals? Let's go for the win.
Finals at Studio Bloc Masters is nothing short of a good time. The crowd was lively and excited, the MC was passionate and quirky, the competitors were serious and capable, and the boulders were hard - World Cup hard.
Boulder one got a lot of tops. Because I was ranked 1st going into finals, I went out last on every boulder. I knew there were a lot of tops which meant that I could and had to send the boulder. After 7 tries I did. A little nervousness to shake off, but I did send it in the end.
Boulder Two had just one send on it. It was a slab and I was confident I could do it. Four attempts later, I did. Now I was in second place, separated from third by an entire top. Good start.
Boulder Three also only had one top on it - the same person, Katja. I wasn't quite as confident that I could do what four Studio Bloc Masters Finalists couldn't, but I should have been. Only one attempt was needed for Boulder Three. A flash, and certainly the highlight of the round for me.
Going into Boulder Four, I have to admit, I knew I couldn't win. I took too many attempts on boulders one and two compared to Katja, so unless she took quite a few to send boulder four, I couldn't catch her. Regardless, I wanted to get boulder four because I was at Studio Bloc Masters. The pressure was off, I was guaranteed a silver medal, and for the first time all weekend, it was entirely about having a good time.
No send on Boulder Four for me, but the good thing about living in Langen is that I can take a quick train ride over to Studio Bloc next week and give it another try.
It was an incredible weekend and an even more incredible start to the 2023 IFSC season. I'm more motivated and excited than ever to hop on the circuit.