So it is the end of the comp season and a good time to reflect on the year. Full reports from each of the last three comps can be found at www.archclimbingwall.com so I won’t repeat them here.
The first half of the year was taken up with surgery and rehab on my hand and wrist something that is on going but there has been a lot of improvement. The Europeans in Chamonix were my first comp, and with only three weeks back climbing after my surgery and no training, I was happy with second place. This was a great comp, completely integrated with the able bodied competition and with the exception of some routesetting issues was an enjoyable event. Rockmasters in Arco followed, a trip I really enjoyed, the outdoor climbing was amazing, but a comp that was ruined by poor routesetting decisions. Joint first is always a rubbish way to win. The London comp came next, a small scale comp, limited by the lack of attendees and being ill the whole weekend made it the least enjoyable one of the season for me, although I was still pleased to win in front of a home crowd.
(photo by Nick Pope)
The final international of this season, was 10 days ago in Laval France. This was the first ifsc paraclimbing bouldering comp and was a really well run competition. The finals routesetting was a little disappointing and there were a couple of accessibility issues but on the whole this was a great comp and a good example of how the ifsc and particularly a national federation (in this case the FFME) have learnt from previous comps and proactively improved paraclimbing competitions this year. I was especially pleased to win in Laval with it being a bouldering comp. Going last in finals put me under a lot of pressure, particularly knowing I needed to flash the last boulder and I dealt with this well. This has been one of the great learning points of the year, and clearly working with my coach on how to approach comps and deal with pressure has helped. Thinking back to how stressed and nervous I was in Chamonix compared to Laval just shows how much better I’ve got at coping with competitions.
The year has overall been great, 3 gold medals and a silver is a good outcome particularly considering that as an NPD B athlete I have competed in a combined class all year with athletes in the NPD A class who have less severe impairments. I think international routesetters need to think a little more about the limitations and abilities of each category of paraclimbers and some obvious access problems that often get overlooked, such as stairs and toilets, need to be thought about when federations plan future competitions. 2014 is a world championship year and there are plans for a series of several international competitions in the run up to the worlds. With any luck this will bring an increase in the number of competitors providing a better spread across the classes.
In the meantime it’s back to winter maintenance training and some outdoor trips before a new training block starts after christmas. The draft calender for next years internationals isn’t out yet so it’s a bit difficult to plan training at the moment. I’m speaking at the women’s climbing symposium in a couple of weeks and the bmc disability symposium two weeks later. With a trip to font in between, it’s going to be a busy November. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my coach Jimmie Gustin for his support during this competition season and my sponsors the Arch Climbing Wall and Five Ten for making it possible for me to attend all the competitions this year.
More updates soon!
A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Chamonix for the european championships.
The paraclimbing side of this event was in the usual format of two qualifiers and a final with the exception of a move away from factors, with climbers being classified and the grouped into competition categories. Less maths then for the results! This worked well for the physical disability guys who were split into npd 1 and 2 but due to to the small number of female competitors this system meant some athletes had to compete against athletes with less disability with no factoring to make things more even. As the results turned out this still lead to a good competition, (although the route-setting didn’t really split the athletes), however it is something that might be an issue in future competitions particularly for me considering there are a much greater number of moves that are hard or impossible for me to make with my disability.
I topped both qualifiers which meant I qualified for finals. This was my aim for the competition after only three weeks back climbing and 8 weeks post op so I was chuffed to have achieved that. Finals went well although the route included a tonne of side pulls and undercuts which are super hard when you cant push up with your legs. I got to the same point on the wall as the winner, slipping as I made the move off the hold (and thus not getting the crucial plus). My inability to stand up off an undercut to bump to the next hold and reduced left hand strength due to the op meant I had to pull on a tiny thin crimp that wasn’t designed for that. Oh well. I was super happy with second and the fact that I basically equalled the performance of the less disabled winner with so little training time. I also made no mistakes during the three routes in the competition which was a good plus and shows my onsight training has helped, as did being allowed a guide for inspection of the final route. Due to my visual impairment inspection has previously been 6 mins of looking at the first ten holds and then a load of guessing! I learn’t a lot about the need to stay in my own zone when competing which is useful. Considering this was only my second international competition it was definitely a helpful learning experience.
Photo by Tom Humpage.
I’m back to full time training now, working on getting used to the hand without the finger and working on the balance of muscles in my arm to stop elbow and shoulder issues from developing. Strength training has been tough in the recent heat but I can see improvements happening slowly. The paraclimbing cup in Arco is the next aim which gives me six more weeks of cranking so I’m looking forward to that. It was good to see such a large GB paraclimbing team represented in Chamonix with some excellent performances! A definite step up from last year.
I managed a day of outdoor climbing in Chamonix after the finals with my coach which was great although baking hot granite mean’t we only climbed for a long morning. Still it was great to get out on some actual rock with such an amazing backdrop. We also managed a trip up the Aiguille du Midi which was awesome and totally accessible. The view from the top was amazing. I’m hoping to fit in a couple more outdoor trips before Arco which will be great. I much prefer climbing on actual rock even if pulling plastic is the way to get strong! More updates on training to follow soon!
I’m also happy to announce I’ll be speaking at the 2013 Women’s Climbing Symposium which is being held at The Arch Climbing wall, Bermondsey on the 2nd of November.
So as many of you may know I’ve been waiting to have surgery on my wrist for a while now. Well it finally happened on the 9th after being cancelled the week before (see the post below about my unexpected trip to Font). I was pretty nervous and going into hospital the night before didn’t help. I was in hospital a little longer than expected until the 16th due to pain control issues my mobility difficulties such as transferring now I temporarily only have one hand to use. The surgery addressed a long standing problem but as a result I lost my little finger and most of the hand bone (metacarpal) associated with it.
The surgery went well and I coped with the anaesthetic as well as expected. I won’t know for a few weeks how much function I now have in my wrist and obviously I have one less finger to climb with, although that’s no great loss, It didn’t really work very well after my spinal cord injury. All my other three fingers on that hand are now moving although the ring finger is super weak and won’t extend fully. I now have to wait for my stitches to be removed this coming friday, (not looking forward to that, there are a lot!!) before I can progress to rehab.
I’m hoping it won’t mean I miss too many competitions but i’ll hopefully have a better idea of the timescale on friday. The splint I have to wear at the moment is quite restrictive but is designed to prevent contraction of the scar tissue. Annoyingly this means I can’t really wheel my chair so am pretty much stuck in the house. No bad thing as I have to revise for my human biology exam however it’s still boring. I’m already missing training and have started some light one arm work on my fingerboard and some core stability training, although I’m taking care not to overdo it. I’ve been having quite a lot of phantom pain and neuro pain from where the finger was removed. This still isn’t under control so hopefully the docs will have some ideas on friday. The phantom sensations are odd, I can still feel my finger touching the ring finger or curling up at times and as the skin that was between my fingers is now on the outside it feels really strange. I’m sure it’ll all settle down with time.
So for now there isn’t a great deal else to report. I’m trying not to get too bored, or depressed by the time out from climbing and am taking it easy so things can heal well. I’ll post some updates of my rehab as time progresses!
I’m off to the BBC tomorrow to be interviewed for Radio 4′s women’s hour so I’ll post when that will be broadcast as it’s not live. I’d also like to thank Climb magazine for including me in the one’s to watch list in their 100th edition.
So I recently managed a weekend in Font. It was a little last minute as my upcoming surgery was cancelled thus enabling me to join the trip. It was a great trip. We visited a few areas I hadn’t been to before including 95.2 and Petit Bois. 95.2 didn’t really work with the wheelchair but Petit Bois was awesome with some really nice red and blue circuit problems. We also spent most of a day at Gorge Aux Chats which I really enjoyed, there are some lovely red circuit problems there and it helped that the weather was brilliant. Big thanks go to Fred, Josh and Jo for the excellent spotting!
We spent the final day at Cuvier which was extremely wheelchair accessible and, although busier than the other areas we visited, was still fun. For me it was a great trip that proved that Font can be done in a wheelchair even without much planing and it was good to get back out onto rock. I’m now planning a couple of return trips this time with a tick-list in mind!
In other news:
I was recently featured in the telegraph, see the online article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/9949854/Meet-Fran-Brown-the-real-spider-woman.html
I’m also super psyched to announce that I am now part of the Five Ten Uk team for 2013, you can check out my page on the Big Stone site here: http://www.bigstone.co.uk/climbing-team/fran-brown/
I’m also proud to be part of the climb blox team. Their clothing is ace and they are super supportive. Check out my page on their website here: http://www.climblox.com/fran-brown/
I’d also like to thank The Arch Climbing Wall who have agreed to support me again this year. Without their support I couldn’t train full time or attend the comps. Thanks guys! www.archclimbingwall.com
I would additionally like to mention Climbers Against Cancer, set up by the amazing and inspiring John Ellison. Check out Johns Story on their website and buy one of the colourful T-shirts to show your support here: http://www.climbersagainstcancer.org
Well It’s been an interesting couple of months.
Back at the end of February, just as training was going great, I took a fall off the circuit board leading to some broken ribs and a two week stay in hospital. Not quite how I’d planned my training!
Those two weeks pretty much on bed rest meant I was really out of shape!
The ribs have healed and I’ve been back climbing for a few weeks now and am back to full time training. I’ve been working hard on my cardio fitness as well, getting back what I lost when I was in the hospital. I have a few comps coming up the first of which being a para boulder comp in Vail Colorado which I’m super excited about. Then there are a couple of possible lead comps in June and July and rockmasters in Arco in late summer. I’m planning some outdoor trips too although logistically these are quite hard due to my disability. I plan on filming some video blogs for this site soon, mostly they will just be updates but I hope to make one on my training at the Arch so people have some idea what I’m up to day to day.
More updates soon.
I’m running a finger strength training workshop as part of the Arch Climbing Walls Women’s Workshop this coming Saturday, the 19th. The full program for the day is as follows:
Women’s Workshop – Saturday 19th January
Alex Puccio Masterclass
12:00 – Intermediate V2–V4/V5
15:00 – Advanced V4/V5
Fran Brown Strength Training
16:30 – Fingerboard Strength Training for Intermediate climbers
Introduction to climbing with Emilia
14:30 – Unregistered new climbers
15:30 – Novice climbers technique
£5 Admission for all women climbers all day.
All bookings made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am currently in Austria skiing although I’m flying back for the workshop on Saturday morning. It sounds like it will be a great event and I hope to see some of my readers there!
Well it’s the end of the year so I thought It was time to quickly update this blog before 2013 starts. This website will be getting an overhaul in January so look out for some new exciting content.
What a year 2012 has been. Firstly there was the British para climbing series and the start of my full time training. The summer was eaten up by training and the paralympic ceremony work. The circus training project for this was great and I intend to do more circus work in 2013. The paralympic opening ceremony was a once in a lifetime experience and the aerial work we did was awesome. Between climbing training and paralympic rehearsals the summer pretty much disappeared and all too soon the world para climbing championships came around. Ok so we all know I won this so I’m not going to go on about it but needless to say it was epic to become world champion.
Since the worlds I have talked at the excellent women’s climbing symposium and have been working on my strength and cardio fitness, laying down the groundwork for next year. The training has actually been fun and a nice change but it’s back to a high climbing load from the start of January. The outdoor climbing progress has been pretty slow due to the inclement weather but fingers crossed for some cool projects I’ve got lined up for next year. I’m off for a weeks skiing holiday in January which will be a nice break from the norm and then its back to preparation for the British para climbing comps.
It’s interesting to consider the legacy that 2012 has left. The olympic and paralympic games clearly made an impression on the country with many of our athletes now household names. The media coverage of both games was great although its a shame that non olympic sports don’t get anywhere near as much recognition. Perhaps if climbing makes the 2020 games this might change. The fact that people are surprised when I tell them that para climbing isn’t part of the 2020 bid as the IPC and IOC are quite separate is another example of the publics attitude towards disability sport post the London games. The lack of media attention has been somewhat frustrating for me as I’m trying to climb full time and any exposure is helpful to both myself and in trying to promote para climbing.
The transport legacy of 2012 in London is a few extra lifts and ramps but on a day to day basis I don’t really notice any difference, the same niggles exist. I do think the exposure of the nation to paralympic sport has made a lasting impression which shows that people have an appetite for high level sport whatever the genre. Something that climbing should perhaps capitalise on?
Is the real legacy of 2012 the fact that instead of staring people now feel free to ask if I’m a paralympian or the fact that they are disappointed when I say I’m not?
Once again I’d like to thank my sponsors, The Arch Climbing Wall and Big Stone Ltd for their ongoing support and my coach Jimmie Gustin for being amazing.
Have a great new year and here’s to a successful 2013.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to talk at the awesome Women’s climbing symposium. Held at The Hanger in Liverpool and organised by the amazing Shauna Coxsey this was a great event and celebration of women in climbing. More detail about my talk to follow in my next blog post but here is the highlights video for the whole event:
Women’s Climbing Symposium from Outcrop Films on Vimeo.
I am pleased to announce that I won the female physical disability class at the 2012 World Para Climbing Championships in Paris on the 14th September.
The world championships were a amazing experience. The integration of ParaClimbing into the main event created a great atmosphere and it was good to be able to watch and support all the other climbers.
The competition for me began with the medical classification day on the tuesday. All Paraclimbers underwent medical testing and we were each allocated a factor depending on out level of disability. This factor helps level the playing field so climbers with different impairments can compete fairly against each other. The actual climbing began on the Wednesday with the first qualification route (once they’d built a ramp up to the stage with the wall on!). This route was quite straightforward and I topped but it didn’t really split the climbers up. The following day was the second qualification route, which was significantly harder. Although I climbed well I was disappointed not to top, my injured wrist letting me down on a nasty vertical pinch. I had however climbed well enough to qualify in first place for the finals.
My final was on the Friday afternoon with isolation opening at midday. I was happy with the way in which I controlled my nerves during this time and clearly my mental preparation had helped as I know I can get really nervous before a comp. I was pretty shaky before we got to isolation but was absolutely fine when I was there, psyched but not nervous. My warm up went well and inspection was fine even though my visual impairment means I can only really inspect the first third of the route. I think I read the section of the route I could see well and got a good overall feel for the setting. I was last in the running order for my final. The first two climbers went pretty quickly and soon it was my turn. The route went well with no major problems. I didn’t top, my wrist again proved to be a bit of a hinderance and I greased off a move on the flat above the lip of the roof. I was however pleased to get passed the crux of the volume under the roof and not to get too tangled in the two top rope system. I enjoyed the climb and more importantly felt I read the route well, clearly all my onsight training really paid off.
I was aware that my climb had gone well and was super psyched when one of the officials told me I had won. My aim for these world championships, being my first international competition, was to be competitive but ultimately to go and learn, scope out the other climbers and get some experience so winning was an unexpected surprise. My summer training was good but interrupted somewhat by my wrist injury and surgery so to win off the back of a less than ideal run up was brilliant. The medal ceremony was interesting, someone clearly forgot that a wheelchair user might need to access the podium, but despite that it was an incredible experience, plus I managed not to cry at the national anthem.
Well It’s good to be back and to be able to spend time climbing for reasons other than training. I’m planning to spend some time resting, and then tick some outdoor projects before it gets too cold as my spinal injury means I can’t really tolerate low temperatures. Then it will be back to indoor training for the British series next year and other international competitions next year. The next world championships are in Spain in 2014. I’m applying to uni so hopefully that will work out in the next year too. I’m also going to try to promote paraclimbing more in the UK as well as working on getting more outdoor climbing time in to promote the non competitive side. As a result I am honoured to have been asked by Shauna Coxsey to talk at the women’s climbing symposium at the Climbing hanger Liverpool on the 3rd November.
Many thanks again to my sponsors The Arch Climbing Wall and Big Stone Ltd for their ongoing support.