Early 2020, things were looking very promising for me. I had trained well, the national bouldering competitions showed me how much progress I had made, I was ready for the international season like no other year. And then Covid hit. It hit me like it hit everyone else. Fortunately our lockdown in The Netherlands was not as strict as other countries, but all the plans I had made for the next months turned into uncertainty. But, like many other people during hard times, we decided to look at the situation and think about how we could make the most of it.
There were some clear boundaries that couldn’t be crossed. There was no way to go out of the country for rockclimbing (at least not responsibly) and gyms remained closed for the first three months. Fortunately, I still had the opportunity to train, but suddenly there was no ‘normal’ anymore, no schedules, no clear goals to work towards. So me and Jörg put our focus on things we would have never done if we didn’t have the massive amount of extra free time. We worked hard on another dream of ours, we converted a bus, we spend time with each other and our loved ones and we evaluated all the things we can count ourselves lucky for.
When regulation started to loosen up again and travel was possible to a certain level, I decided to do something else I always wanted to do but never took the time for: rock climbing. Normally, all my training and my effort is dedicated to bouldering competitions. The first part of the year is competition season, the second half is dedicated to resting, evaluating and training for the next year. We always try to find the time for some weekends on rock, but never much more than that. It has always stayed on the background. There was so much more to discover in this discipline, that I decided to see how far I could push myself, now that I had all the time in the world for it.
First I went to the forest of Fontainebleau. This place has always had a special place in my heart, so naturally that is the first place I wanted to visit as soon as I had the chance. It was summer, it was warm but not too warm to climb, the bus wasn’t finished yet so I stayed in a tent on the campground. I went there with Jörg and climbed with friends, but I also camped and climbed all by myself for the first time in my life. That seemed like a big deal, but looking back, it was just the beginning of a much bigger process. It was a fairly successful trip, I had pushed my climbing grade by quite a bit, but it was clear to me that this was not all I had to give.
During the rest of the summer, the focus shifted back to other things. We got the bus ready for the first trip, had an amazing time on vacation, everything seemed to calm down with the Covid situation and gyms opened again. The only thing that didn’t go back to normal? There was still no security about climbing competitions.
The last week of summer holiday, Jörg and I had a week-long trip to Magic Wood planned, before going back to work and our normal lives. We were very excited, neither of us had been to the area before, but we had heard so much about it. It was a fun trip, but unfortunately cut short by bad weather, so we decided to stop by Fontainebleau on our way back. In the meantime, the Covid numbers were increasing again, especially in France, and soon it became clear to us that that one day in Font might be the last one for a while, as the area was marked as risked soon after. This meant that the plans for the upcoming trip in September had to be changed. As I still had some open projects in Magic Wood, and Switzerland was still accessible, we made the plans to go back there for a week or two in September.
After the planned two weeks, I had climbed quite a lot of boulders, but I also realized that there was still so much more to give and so much more to do, just like how I felt after coming back from Font in the summer. As Covid was getting worse again, I also realized that when I went back to The Netherlands, I would probably be stuck there again for a while, unable to climb on rock for probably the rest of the year. So I stayed, I wanted to find out how far I could push myself.
The next weeks turned into a bit of a roller coaster. I was climbing a lot, some days went well, some days didn’t. I was on my own for a long time for the first time in my life. I learned a lot about myself and my climbing and learned some invaluable lessons I had never learned if I hadn’t decided to put my focus on rock climbing for this year.
. It feels like I took all the uncertainty from the start of the year and turned it into freedom. And it wasn’t always easy, but easy doesn’t make you stronger.