New Kids Masters: The Final
There I am, about to become hypothermic in the coldest warm-up room in the world. Ahead of me is a two and a half hour stretch in isolation. Then I will step through a red curtain and on to a competition climbing wall in front of -literally- dozens of people.
Have I prepared enough? Hmm, not sure.
1. I have carefully picked my outfit: jeans and shirt. I had tried on my old Pogues T-Shirt but decided it restricted my arm movements too much.
2. I have cleaned off the bottom of my climbing shoes with soapy water and a toothbrush, cleaning chalk and dirt out of the microscopic pores on the rubber sole. After half-an-hour they feel like warm liquorice. When I chuck the soapy water out over the garden it turns into bubbles which float off into the Breckland sky. I take this as a good omen.
3. I took the dog for a bike ride (obviously I rode the bike), Our Lass has had me doing chores, prep-ing her Mum's bedroom wall to be painted, buying compost etc. Therefore I feel as rested as possible on a Sunday.
That's it. So now a case of hurry-up and wait.
Once again, there is a nice atmosphere in isolation. Everyone chats away to each other, warms up on the wall, invents games where you have to stand on a wobble-board and throw balls at each other, discuss climbs and generally kill time as much as possible.
There is plenty to kill. We go out two by two, every four minutes. So twenty pairs takes 80 minutes. I am due to go out second to last, and what with the chatting and the warming up, it doesn't seem as long as that. I am sure that not everyone would agree, and I have eaten so much out-of-date fizzy Haribo that I might be hallucinating, but it passes in what feels like about ten minutes. People just keep disappearing like in a horror movie.
We can hear the crowd from isolation, you can tell when someone tops out, or misses a hold. Happily there are no boos.
Soon we are down to six people left, looking around at each other, and before I know it. I am out into the light.
First problem, Steve Gaines points me at it and away I go. Thank FUCK! I can grip the holds. I can read the problem, I catch the moves twist and head up the wall. I am doing no more than what I always do at the wall. The irrational fear of not being able to Do ANYTHING disappears for a few seconds, and I top out.
Off I drop and on to the next bench. The adrenalin backwash is absolutely unbelievable. Its worse than road rage, worse than a fight. I sit down and try and control my breathing. The problem wasn't hard, the adrenalin is nearly impossible.
I recognise faces I know in the crowd. A few people wink at me. It is so calming.
I move on to problem 2, up I go. Bollocks. A dyno. I don't like dynos they so rarely occur outdoors on rock at the grade I climb. Definitely not on trad routes.
I don't plan the jump well and peel off. Massive blast of adrenalin. I could be in an empty room, I can't hear a thing.
Get back on it and make it easily. Then I get stuck, trying to bounce my way up a rockover on triangular volumes. I can't move. But I am fucked if I am coming off to do that dyno again. It is comfortable enough, I could probably drink a cup of tea up there, but that won't win me any points.
I shift my feet, and finally get some movement. I am up, out of balance, but up. Then I feel my balance shift as my hips come into the wall. I slap my foot onto the ridge of volume, it is more secure than it looks, but then I bump it over onto the flat and that is even better. No problem, grip the arete and I'm there.
Down again. Wait again. More faces I know.
Next problem is more my style. I cock the sequence right up, right hand always where the left should be, but I have plenty of finger strength and enough calmness to be able to swap and settle down. Then heel hooks keep me steady as I work my way up like a sloth on amphetamine.
The compere says something about this being the longest two minutes of his life as he has to fill in the space before we go up again. He has not got my sympathy.
Just as I go up, the compere notices that I look like Chuck Norris. I feel comfortable enough to strike a pose and do a -fairly lame- karate kick, the crowd go wild. Then I whizz up the last problem, its the easiest one: another karate chop as a celebration and down.
Here's the video, don't know if it works
Soon the results will come in. I feel like I have just passed my driving test. I don't have to do that again...