Am I Irish because I’ve competed on an Irish climbing team?

If you give 14 college students two university vans, can they make it to Belfast and back for a climbing competition?

I joined 13 of my Irish climbing friends in competing in the climbing intervarsities competition in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We took off Friday evening (March 24) and made it to Junction 14 before Dublin to fill the vehicle with gas and stop for a bathroom break. Of course when we got back in the car, we couldn’t seem to shift out of park into reverse… This turned into a 2hr fiasco. None of us knew much about cars, but somehow we managed to get the car in reverse and then drive so we could continue. Unfortunately, the brake lights decided to not work the rest of the trip, so the other vehicle in our group followed us the entire time in case something happened and because they could leave extra following distance because they knew our brake lights were out. We eventually arrived at the Air bnb just before 1am; we all passed out from the looonnnnnnnggggg drive.

In the morning we woke up and walked to Boulder World in Belfast ready compete. There were 25 different boulder problems of increasing difficulty. They started out very easy and then got quite difficult for me pretty quickly. Though, I also wasn’t climbing as hard as I could have because my wrist is regaining strength and I want to save it for Spain. Yes, for Spain! I am going climbing for Easter Break in El Chorro in Spain the middle of April! It’s going to be class! Anyway, I pushed myself while bouldering, but not so far as to re-strain my wrist.

That evening, many of the other colleges and us went to a talk by Paul Swail about his climbing adventures around the world. I was drooling at some of the pictures he showed from the Alps; they were so pretty! Afterward, many of the climbers went to the club on the Queens University Campus (Queens was hosting the climbing competition); again me and clubs are still a new experience for me. I have not become one of those students that goes out and drinks every night (or regularly), so I haven’t gotten completely used to that culture, but I am feeling a lot more comfortable than before in that atmosphere. With that night being Day Light Savings in Ireland and us being at a club, we didn’t get back to the Air bnb until 3am… but we still got up and climbed the next day.

Sunday was lead and top rope climbing; it was a lot of hurry up and wait. Again, we’re still on ‘island time,’ so even though they told everyone to arrive promptly at 10:30am at Ozone Rec Centre, we rolled in just before 11:30am and they had just begun the competition. Since I was in the top female division, I did the lead climbing, which was really good for boosting my climbing confidence. As I watched the other girls lead climb, I was getting more and more nervous, anticipating my turn. Luckily, I had Aileen and Eoghan, who were very supportive and encouraging, reminding me that I can do it. It was my turn. I walk up to the belayer and tie in as my palms continue to sweat. After wiping the sweat off my hands, I take a deep breath and chalk up. My nerves are still very much present as I twist my right hip into the wall and reach up for the nice jug above me and then the next jug. I clip the second quickdraw and move into the trickier section of the climb (in all honesty, the climbing wasn’t difficult; it was just my nerves). My legs are shaking so much, so I get in a stable rest position and lower my heels to stop my sewing machine legs and take a couple more deep breaths, reminding myself I am going to be fine. I continue on. Getting past the hold most of the other girls fell on gave me a sudden boost of confidence and motivation, powering me to the end! I clipped into the top quickdraws and a huge smile swept across my face as I was lowered down. I did it. I could hear the cheers from Aileen and Eoghan as I came down. One lead climb down; one to go. I felt great!

Here’s where the hurry up and wait comes in. I then waited about 4hrs hours before I got my turn on the second lead climb based on how it was set up… So, I ate some lunch and then hung out with Aileen and Eoghan for a while, encouraging our other teammates. We went outside in the sun (yes, it was sunny and warm all weekend!) and tossed a disc, which felt wonderful! I hadn’t gotten to toss a disc since last semester, so that elevated my happiness. I’m like a puppy when I see a disc. You throw; I chase.

The time came and the girls began their second lead climb. I watched and it looked insanely difficult! And it was! By the time it was my turn, only one other girl had made it to the second quickdraw. I got on the climb and breezed up to the second quickdraw and clipped it, but then what!? I didn’t have any beta for how to continue farther. I tried to figure out how to get into a stable position because I could reach the third draw, but when I went for the next hold, I slipped. Oh well. It happens.

It was fun watching all the insanely good climbers make it up the climbs and take some crazy lead falls! The weekend was grand, though I wish I could have gotten to climb a little more. But, that’s how competitions are; it’s a lot of waiting for your turn. I am proud of myself for placing 9th out of 20 in the top female division having not climbed as hard as I could have to save my wrist for Spain. I wanted to enjoy the weekend, so that’s what I did; the score didn’t matter too much to me.

Anyway, that takes us to the drive home. Again, we got back to school just before 1am because of yet another car fiasco. This time, the other vehicle got a flat tire, so that took time to fix. But, we got all of that figured out and made it back in one piece. Overall it was a fun, but eventful weekend!

So, the answer to the question above is yes, but the 4hr drive takes ~6hrs.

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