Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ring of Fire

Checking my messages
After a grueling V-point volume workout, while waiting for the bathroom, I decided to finally check my voicemails from a couple days ago.

First message: “Hey Galina, this is Abby from Central Rock…”

Turns out, there were very few girls signed up for the first Ring of Fire competition the following day. I had briefly debated participating in and even training for the comp, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to commit to ropes. On top of that, I had done unrelated power endurance workouts Sunday and Tuesday, a full campus workout Tuesday, and 5-hour volume workouts Thursday and Friday. In other words, I was wrecked. Wrecked, as in train-wreck wrecked. Thumb tips raw, forearms burning, not even capable of topping a 6 on the 45. Actually, I don’t think I had ever been in as bad shape as I was that Friday night.

Train-wrecked (Photo: Railroaddave.com)

Around 8 pm, however, two hours after hearing Abby’s voicemail, I decided to do the comp. Yes, this would be the most unprepared I have been for anything. But, there was a $2500 cash purse. Plus, Brittany, one of the organizers, offered to waive my entrance fee. I had nothing to lose, other than what little was left of my rope-climbing dignity.

What followed was two hours of intense forearm rehabilitation, everything from a hot shower, to a sub-140-degree sauna sesh, a deep tissue massage from my mother, and layers upon layers of Climb Fixe.

The next morning the throbbing sensation all throughout my arms had gone down to a measly 7.5 out of 10 (not too bad considering it was hovering just below 9.5 the previous day). However, 7.5 was sufficient, and even 5.10 seemed out of reach. So I packed my New Balances on top of my Solutions (which, to add insult to injury, had just come in Friday, and still bolstered the thick product-info packet.). If climbing wasn’t meant to be, then I would least take advantage of the free treadmills.

Before (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

After (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

After warming up on some boulders and realizing there were only eight of us (hence everyone would be advancing to Finals), we were faced with Qualifier #1. The route looked good, but there were two glaring issues: 1) it was barely overhung, 2) it was longer than 15 feet. Also it was a route and involved a rope, which automatically made things more complicated. Even though we got video previews for all the Qualifiers and a live preview of the first route, no one wanted to go first. Which is totally understandable. But, seeing as this was a rope comp and my bag of fucks was oddly underweight, I decided to break the ice and give it the old college try. After spending about two minutes trying to clip the first clip, skipping a bunch of key footholds, and generally becoming beta-oblivious for most of the route, I found myself at the top. My forearms were at about 8.2 and even though everyone said I looked super solid, I felt like I had just crossed the finish line of a 10K (for reference, the route was mid-5.11).

Qualifier #2 (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)
Qualifier #2 looked fun. No better way to describe it (sorry, teachers). It started on a sub-30-degree overhang, quickly merging into a perfectly horizontal roof filled with huecos, pockets, volumes, and handlebars. No slab here. Mere perfection. If I had a bit more juice left in my forearms, I could have easily finished, but ended up falling at the last move. Which, in the end, was irrelevant because scores were based on total points rather than tops. I was just happy to have made it through the roof without pumping out, ecstatic to have climbed on something so beautiful.

By contrast, Qualifier #3 seemed dreadful. Not that it wasn’t set well; it just had a few too many pinches and slopers. Actually, it was all pinches and slopers, on top of sketchy clips and heel-hooks. Including pretty much the entire Big Fat Slopers series, which, as much as I like Teknik, is a rather mean and sadistic creation. To add to my misery, the first move seemed low-percentage and finicky, with an awkward palm move to a textured foothold. Although I was pumped at around move #3, I somehow managed to get to the third-to-last hold—farther than the rest of the competitors. Which, unfortunately, left me in first after Qualifiers, meaning I would be climbing last in Finals, leaving the audience with a highly disappointing finale. On top of that, forearm frenzy had gone up to a solid 9.5. I guess the BOF was not as underweight as I initially thought. Nonetheless, I grabbed my NB’s and hit the treadmills.

Sticking the rose move on Qualifier #3 (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

After all was said and done, we were booted from the gym until 5:45, to give the setters time to put up Youth Finals and tweak(?) Open Finals, which were covered by an enormous tarp for the duration of the comp. With a couple hours to spare, Brynn, Annalisa, and I decided to join Melissa and her two friends, brothers Derrick and Garrick, at Plan B for a pre-game dinner. This was my first time at the burger joint which, all things considered, was pretty damn good (either that or I was pretty damn hungry). At the dinner table, amidst very classy and very appropriate dinner conversation, I revealed my secret obsession with the song “Turn Down For What”. Which, in case you have not had the pleasure of getting down and dirty to it, is embedded below:

The crowd gathered for Finals was decent, though nothing like the turnout at ABS Nationals and Riverrock. Even so, the dramatic orange-tinted lighting coupled with blaring music and crazy-featured walls made for a pretty amped atmosphere. I wasn’t particularly nervous for a few reasons: 1) My forearms were so utterly wrecked, to the point where it was actually humorous, 2) I had no ropes reputation, nothing to uphold, 3) The Finals route looked absolutely incredible, with a carbuncle of custom-made stalactites (courtesy of the one and only Brent Quesenberry!) smack in the middle.

Previewing the Finals Route (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

In isolation I decided I wouldn’t climb anything above V3, to avoid becoming even more pumped. As such, I ended up going up and down the same blue V0 about 50 times before being escorted into the climbing arena. After Josh had finally concluded his 10-minute head rest, it was the last two climbers’ turn to climb. My first rope comp ever, and it all came down to this:

Le creation (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)
Then, a familiar beat dropped from the speakers. Rather, obnoxiously muscled its way through, pushing all others straight through the ground. That’s right. “Turn Down For What” was in the building. And I was PSYCHED. (THANK YOU Julia for requesting it!!) Literally, I had never been that excited to hear a song. Suddenly, the BOF filled up, my forearms felt a tinge better, and I jumped on the wall, ready to go all the way:


Unfortunately, the forearms simply could not handle that much abuse, but still enough to put me in 2nd, after Annalisa. Not bad for my first rope comp, and a pro one at that! The $425 paycheck also made the loss a bit more bearable. And, embarrassing as it is, I might be psyched on rope comps. Riverrock is the main priority right now, but don’t be surprised if you see me sporting (no pun intended) a harness in the near future!

Turning down for what (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)
Making my way through the stalactite forest (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

Wearing in the brand new shoes (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

Skipping holds 38-40 due to forearm malfunction (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)

Josh on the men's super-final (aka speed-climbing the women's route) (Photo: Garrick Kwan | Facebook.com/GKwanPhoto)


  1. hey, i'm a frequent reader because i'm inspired by your motivation to train. just want to point out that "retarded" (as in "beta-retarded") is an ableist slur and i hope that you'll take that into consideration that in the future.

    1. Hey, sorry if you found the term offensive--I didn't mean anything by it. All fixed c:

  2. Awesome write up, this was really fun/entertaining to read. Glad Glastonbury did a good job with the comp routes (Brent is definitely the man) Do you get out to Western MA to climb much?