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Saas Fee Finals

It’s Worldcup season. For a while already but I didn’t have the money to join the comps yet. 
But there was no excuse not to go the the biggest and most difficult comp of the year: Saas Fee, Swiss. 
Dennis, my boyfriend won the speed discipline last year so he had to defend his title. 
I’m more interested in the new outdoor mixed spot at my new home in Germany then the worldcup comps, but I had to support Dennis, thus had to go. 
No expectations but I knew I was rather strong, despite of the lack on training in December and January. Unlucky Dennis saw more hospitals then climbing-gyms in those two months (long story) and I had to support him there. So not much climbing for me either in the last months…
I tried to make up by running and cycling a lot in between work, hospitals and Christmas dinners and even managed to loose weight instead of gain weight. 
I also found a new tool to see how my fitness level was doing; the heart-rate belt and watch. 
Trying to understand my body I was more conscious about my nutrition, rest and my new game: heart-rate monitoring. 
With all this new information we drove to Saas Fee. 
Thursday evening I drew number 9. My starting number for the comp. 
Nervous as always (last year I was so nervous I threw up twice when waiting for my turn in the isolation zone) I was waiting for my turn. 
I was fifth to climb, so not much time to gain nervousness. Good. 
My newly bought Grivel iceaxes felt still awkward but they worked well the last weekend so I decided to try them for the comp. 
Meanwhile, waiting, listening to Rudimental to give me some relaxation and energy at the same time I watched my heart rate. Boing, boing, boing. I didn’t even had to look at my watch, the trembling hands and the active ‘boing, boing, boing’ in my dry throat said enough. 118, 121, 120, 117, 122, 123… Ah, that why I don’t have cold hands…
For some reason it felt good to know it was not just my mind but my body too reacting on the nervousness in my head. I could kind of accept it. 
My turn to climb. 
I chalked up my hands, slid in my horserinding gloves and tied in the rope. 
Here we go. 
Insecure in the ice with my long iceaxes I climbed up. Further and further. But still feeling slow. The first time since more then a year that I kicked my crampons in the hard wood of the structure. The speaker said some things about Dennis, about Dennis and me. I heard a lot of “Dennis” but had no idea what was going on…
The first time I touched the beautiful granite holds again. The first time on the worldcup again. In between all those girls who had been training and competing for months already. I felt small. 
Time out! 
Oh shit. Those six minutes went fast!
But it felt good enough for the semi’s at least. 
And it was. I was qualified 10th for the finals. 
Meanwhile I understood all the “Dennis”. 
Back on the speed wall Dennis was trying to qualify for the semi’s in speedclimbing. The brittle ice broke and he cut himself rather badly in his leg with is iceaxe. He looked all pale and had a good patch of blood on his axe, gloves and trousers. 
Ouch. 
But he was smiling so we all thought he was okay. 
Limping towards the structure again he climbed again. And fell. Everyone was shocked. Last years winner was out!
Within a couple hours he had to be in isolation for the leadclimbing. 
The bandage around his leg was bleeding through, making his trousers look even worse. But he wanted to try. 
He limped up to the structure, tied in and was hardly able to move his right leg. Not even able to figure of four he pulled his way up, and as his friend Malcom Kent said afterwards: “You make iceclimbing look ridiculous”. “I love you too Malc” he replied sticking his middle finger to his head. And yes it did look ridiculous, doing one arm pull-ups, having the right leg stretched out hanging into nothingness when moving up. He managed to clip some draws but didn’t get very far. 

Later on the day I managed to carefully climb up to a tenth place in the speed semi-finals. Not bad for a slug like me. 
Next day. Semi’s on the lead comp. 
I woke up, walked down to the restaurant. Closed. All was dark and no-one answered the bell that I rung to ask when breakfast would be served. F*. No breakfast. I waited, until I really had to be in isolation. Still no-one to serve breakfast. 
They forgot, they forgot I asked for an early breakfast! The banana was the only energy I got that morning…
Need-to-climb-faster. That was the idea. 
My accept-that-I’m-nervous-listen-to-music-stay-in-the-cold-instead-of-in-the-warm-isolation-method worked before so I used it again. Oh, shit, but how do I use this axes to swing with! They’re drytooling things, nothing more then gardening tools to clean the weeds, compared to real iceaxes! On the last moment I decided to sharpen them as much as possible, making the blades super thin. And then the Russian coach Alexander Tolokonin, the husband of Maria Tolokonina (who also competed in the finals) showed me the half-way grip. That was the trick! I got it, it is possible to swing those gardening tools! Now I just needed to climb faster. 
Suddenly the UIAA photographer came up to me with two warm croissants, he smiled. He read my frustrated Facebook-post that morning about the missing breakfast and brought me some food! Slowly I ate half a croissant, eyes closed, enjoying the extra energy that my body needed.
Time to climb.
Not struggling at all with the altitude (so all the running did work?) I tried to speed up, making long moves and efficiently I swung the tools in the wood. Compared to most of the girls I do have a swing as I do climb outdoor ice too, and this gave me a big advantage. 
After my climb some of the girls fell out quite early. And this made me more and more excited. One more and I’d be in the finals… “YES!” I screamed when Russian climber Nataljia fell! Oh, thats mean I thought, I was not allowed to be that happy when someone fell… But I was happy. I reached the finals!
The first thing Dennis said was not “well done” but “I need to see a doctor”. He didn’t look too good. His leg still bleeding a bit. And so he limped to the doctor. She saw the wound, and told him it wasn’t that good. Looking at the amount of fat tissue coming out it was all the way in, at least 5cm. She told him it will take at least three to four weeks to heal…if it doesn’t get infected. Meaning his iceclimbing season is over… (Read his story on his website here: http://www.dennisvanhoek.nl/?p=1864 )
After a midday sleep I was ready for the final run. 
For some reason I was suddenly managing nervousness and lowered the sick-nervous feeling to a more healthy level. 
I did my regular mixed climbing warm-up: warm up my shoulders slowly, stretch a bit, get painful barfeys (so I don’t get them when doing the actual climbing) and get some more dynamic moves done. 
Music on level ‘extra loud’ and ready to go. I was kind of looking forward to the climb! That was a weird feeling. For the first time on a competition I actually kind of liked it…
Tricky start… I was moving slow…. Getting a bit insecure I wasn’t able to move very fast. Even the wood that I had to swing my tools into felt harder then before… “Klimmen” Dennis shouted, “klimmen”. Climb, climb he shouted, as I ordered him. Anything else, like “don’t think about your feet” or “your axes are fine” would distract me too much. “Ten seconds!” he screamed at the end. Oh shi*. I jumped for the last move and fell off, my axe still stuck in the ice barrel where I jumped off.
 
Hey, that was fun!
And that brought me to a 7th place. Not bad :)
Pictures thanks to pro-photographer Philippe Mooser, check his website thefirst.ch 
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