By Rachel Meyers
“Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties and challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else” (Brian Tracy).
I wake up early in the morning with rays of sunshine blasting in my face, making me squint my eyes to stop them from watering. I throw my hand to the bedside table, searching around for my fire-truck red glasses, still blinded. I jump out of bed with a huge amount of confidence, saying to myself… “I can do this. I’m going to do well in divisionals and even make it to nationals – show everyone what I’m made of.”
My body shivers when it meets the cold air and I scream “brrr!” I run to the sink, all psyched up, and stare into the mirror wondering which parent is responsible for my genetically enhanced crazy bed-head. I grab my lime green toothbrush lying next to the toothpaste like they are best buds. I squirt a perfect line of Colgate on my toothbrush, and start brushing away like there is no tomorrow.
I flip my head upside down, stare at my feet, admire the hair monster in front of my eyes, and brush until my brush runs smoothly like ice cream dripping down a cake cone on a hot summer day. I take my ponytail holder on my right wrist and put my hair up into a high ponytail, now actually able to see. I put on my shorts and team sweatshirt and take one final look around the hotel room to see if I missed anything. I grab my belongings, run to the door, and wait for my mom.
“You can do this, you’ve worked so hard over the last couple of months, just climb your heart out,” she says in a caring, nurturing voice.
“Let’s do this,” I say, with nerves fighting a battle in my stomach, wanting to do well in divisionals, wanting nationals even more than anything in the world.
I arrive at Panera Bread and order my climbing competition food ritual – a French toast bagel, lightly toasted with plain cream cheese and a mango smoothie with raspberry sauce sprinkled on top of the whip cream. I dig in to devour my bagel and savor that signature crunch as I take the first bite, sending a cascade of crumbs down to my plate.
Then, I take a sip of my smoothie and feel the wet, icy outside of the cup, which makes my teeth shiver like a woodpecker. I sip through a wide orange straw, making sure no chunks of mango are stuck. I thank my mom for breakfast, open the car door, and buckle my seat belt until I hear a click. My nerves are even worse now. I’m shaking so much that I am making the directions to the climbing gym fall off my lap. Either that, or I still have brain freeze from the smoothie.
I open the door to the rock climbing gym and enter a whole new world. I see people not only wanting and fighting for this, but people who care about each other in a good sportsmanship manner. I walk to the front counter and catch a glimpse of my team waving to me like one solid flag blowing in a storm. The judges walk over to me, hand me my magenta score card, and wish me good luck. “Thirty minutes remaining until climbing begins…twenty minutes…ten minutes” the timer chirps in my ear. The time flies by in a blink of an eye.
My team and I preview all 60 routes, picking which ones we want to try first. Once we are done making our decision, we get into a circle, and nod along with the coach’s pep talk. I slip on my light blue climbing shoes, which fit perfectly snug like a glove on a small child’s hand. Once we’re all confident, we stretch, all together like synchronized swimmers. A judge screams, “Climbers, begin climbing, time starts now, now.”
I whisper to Megan on my right, “Let’s make everyone’s jaw drop to the floor.”
“You got that right,” she smiles in return.
With only two minutes left on the clock, almost three hours have passed by and I only have one more chance at a high score. I place both my hands in my lime green and blue zigzag chalk bag, coating my hands until they are as white as snow. I hand the judge my scorecard. I put both hands on the starting hold and start flying up the route. I jump diagonally for the finishing hold with one hand grabbing the rock. I throw my other hand to the hold, making a match, with my feet hanging in mid air. I scream “Yes, oh my goodness, Yes!” I am ecstatic.
The crowd below cheers and stands in amazement. I jump down, still shaking. I have worked on this route many times before and finally conquered it on my ninth attempt. I beam as I realize that I am now the first person in my age division to complete such a difficult route. I jump down into the spotter’s arms like a toddler jumping gaily into her mother’s arms. I initial the scorecard, along with the judge, but my initials are barely legible due to my still trembling arms.
I look at Megan, giving her a smile as if to say, “I got a chance to shine, now it is your turn.” She smiles at me and gives me a high five, but, of course, my wavering, unresponsive arms miss her hand. My team hovers over me to congratulate me, making it difficult to see anything but their enthusiastic faces. I turn in my scorecard and wait anxiously to hear the results.
An hour passes, but my jiggly blue Jell-O arms still feel like they are going to fall off. I stare at the clock every minute, waiting and waiting. Tick, tock, tick, tock is all I hear, making the room deadly silent.
The judges file out into the crowd and take their place behind a table decked with prizes and ribbons. They call my division and begin to announce first place. I fight to focus on the words. “…This person climbed the hardest we have ever seen. First place goes to…” Could it be? They say my name!
“I’m going to divisionals!” I fire at my mom, so fast, in fact, that I seem to be speaking a foreign language. My friend Megan places second. I am overcome with a feeling like no other. I’m going to divisionals and will compete against climbers from 20 states with one of my closest friends at my side.
“We are in this together. Next step is to make it to Nationals!” she beams. I am confident now that practice pays off and strength builds confidence. After all, I am living a dream come true.
From my experience of competition and team practices, rock climbing has taught me to be a team player and how to give back to a community of my peers. I know that winning is not everything. What matters is that I am part of a team that has taught me that people need to work hard if they want to achieve a goal. It might take nine attempts, but nothing is impossible. Rock climbing is a unique sport. It is an open door, inviting and welcoming others to take the challenge.
Rock climbing is who I am and nothing can change that. My advice? If you are a dedicated, hard, and supportive worker and want to excel in something – do it. Go for your dreams because if you never give up hope and if you try hard, anything is possible. “Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties and challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else” (Brian Tracy).