This weekend, The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver will host the 2016 BC Open Bouldering Provincials. The top BC athletes from this event will then compete on a National level next month when the 2016 CEC National Bouldering Championships takes place at The Hive North Shore.
Tiffany Melius was born and grew up in the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast. She spent her early 20s traveling around the world, visiting over 35 countries, with working stops in Japan and the UK. Canada was the next scheduled working stop – she arrived on January 1, 2010, and she simply hasn’t left! Tiffany’s first competition in Canada was a Tour de Bloc at Beyond the Crux in Kelowna, on Jan 23, 2010. She placed second in that competition, and won the Western Canada Regionals in April of that same year.
With two wins this season and currently ranked first overall going into this weekend, Tiffany Melius will be a force this weekend at the 2016 BC Open Bouldering Provincials. Coming off a trip to Hueco Tanks and taking second place in Squamish two weeks ago, Tiffany is looking forward to defending her provincial title this weekend. Here we talk to Tiffany about her competition style, how she prepares for competition, and other things, including her new career and life path.
Hi Tiff, how are things going?
Hi Tim, things are going well, thanks!
We have a lot to talk about! First of all, how are you feeling going into this weekend?
I’m feeling pretty confident going into this weekend. I have been performing well at comps this season, and am feeling good physically, mentally and strategically, so the sky’s the limit!
Because this is a “provincial’ competition, is there any added pressure for you?
Only because I have been the ranked SCBC Provincial Boulder champion for the past two years, and I’d like to make it three in a row! Rankings are based on your top three local competition results and your Provincial result, with the Provincial results being weighted more heavily. I am currently in the lead in rankings, however the person in second (Alannah Yip) only has to beat me by one place this weekend to take the title.
Because I am not a Canadian citizen there is not much pressure (other than that which I place on myself) to perform in any Canadian comps other than Nationals. I do send my competition results back to the Australian NSO for climbing (Sport Climbing Australia), and they decide based on that if I can represent Australia at international events.
You have been competing for a number of years now and I have always noticed how confident you look going into a competition. What is your secret to feeling mentally strong going into a competition and do you feel as confident on the inside as you do on the outside?
Thanks Tim! I do not always feel confident going into competitions, however I have been competing in climbing for over 18 years so I have developed a good amount of confidence in my abilities over that time – I usually know where I sit within a field, I am able to focus on the ‘right’ things going into an event, and have very well-established preparation routines.
I have done a lot of work on the mental side of competition, especially over the last few years. It sounds a bit strange but many people, especially women, will identify with the imposter syndrome – feeling like you are going to get found out as a fraud. I struggled with that a lot. Even though I was obviously competitive in the Open women’s field, I didn’t really believe that I was meant to be there, or that the problems were set for me – I thought that they were set for the ‘strong’ girls in the field which didn’t include me.
When I finally built up the self-belief, I had a bouldering accident which really set me back. Coming back to competition after surgery on a broken heel required a really big shift in perspective on my part around why I compete, and an acceptance of failure as an acceptable outcome. This opened up a whole new way to approach competition which put me leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be.
The last competition turned into another tight race between you and Alannah Yip. How is to it to compete so closely with Alannah but also be on the same climbing team
This competition wasn’t actually as close as it seemed. We didn’t know it at the time, but the comp was actually decided in qualifiers – even if we had tied with four flashes each in finals, Alannah would have beaten me on countback with a higher score from the earlier round. Alannah has had probably the most consistent season out of all the Open female athletes in BC – making the podium in every single competition – but had not yet won a comp. She totally deserved this one – and took the top spot looking stronger than ever!
One of things that I love about climbing is the community spirit. There is absolutely competitiveness between the athletes within a category, but instead of being destructive, it forces everyone else to push harder, take it up a notch, strive to be better. And the fact that we can all do that while genuinely cheering each other on is such a testament to the high quality of human beings that we have in this sport.
The last competition came after a break from competing and a holiday on real rock? Does this help free your mind up or do you feel less in ‘competition mode’?
I definitely felt less in competition mode, in fact I felt like the comp kind of snuck up on me being less than a week after being back! But having so much comp experience under my belt I wasn’t too fazed. I actually generally feel stronger after having been climbing on rock on a trip, probably because I actually get to climb more days in a week when I don’t have work, and life in general, to take up my time. So I went into the Ground Up comp feeling strong. 🙂
You were in both Hueco and Bishop in a very short time. Was that the plan?
Yes. Hueco is a climbing destination that I have wanted to visit since I started climbing when I was 14, and the last time I went I was recovering from an injury so it wasn’t a great trip. This time I was in shape and feeling strong in the lead up so was very psyched to be there. However as Simon (Parton) and I were driving down, we wanted to break up the trip. So we had two days in Bishop on the way down, and two on the way back. The short time was due to work – I only had three weeks to take off and Simon had to fit it in between setting for comps.
What kind of things stick out for you on a trip like that?
I just love the fact that you’re always climbing with someone – sometimes training in the gym can be on your own and get a bit lonely. On a trip like that you get to climb with friends you already know, who you may or may not have planned to meet up with, and get to meet new people. Having travelled a lot, that’s one thing that sticks out everywhere – we climbers are united in a globally inclusive community. We will always find people to climb with and who share our passion. And of course I love being in the sun in December! 🙂
You have recently started your own life coaching company. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Of course! It’s called Force of Nature Coaching and I love to work with active, outdoorsy, ALIVE people. Life coaching is basically about helping people move from where they are to where they want to be in their lives, or about creating growth and change through self-awareness. I think of myself as pretty self-aware to begin with, and even then, the progress that I have made working with a coach myself has been amazing! My self-love and self-confidence have grown SO much, I am living much more in alignment with my values, and I have structures in place to deal with the not-so-great things that life inevitably dishes out. The experience has made me a happier human being generally, and the positive ripple effect into my climbing and competition performance has been significant.
As with any competition climber, I have to ask about training. What kind of things have you been doing differently this year?
The biggest thing I have been doing differently this year is phased or periodized training, where you do a set period of time focussing in isolation on a single piece of the overall performance puzzle, and at the end all of the pieces come together so that you peak for your goal. For example working on only strength, then only speed, then only power, then bringing them all together at the end. The benefit of this type of training is that each piece gets stronger because you are focussing on only that, and when you bring it all back together you get a gain that is greater than the sum of its’ parts. The hard part though is the ego. As you are focussing on just one component at a time, all the other areas / your overall climbing suffers until you combine them all at the end. Being committed to the end goal of significant gains and having faith in the process is much harder than seeing incremental gains along the way with no periodization.
How long do you spend on each period?
(It really) depends on what and when your goal is and which areas are your strengths / weaknesses. Generally speaking it’s 4-6 weeks on each.
How has being on the Climb Base 5 Open Team helped? How often do you get together as a team and does it feel like a team or do you still feel that everyone out there is a competitor?
Being on the Climb Base5 Open Performance Team has helped by giving us access to amazing coaches (Andrew Wilson, Matthew Johnson, Len Chong) who can help take us beyond the level of performance that we can achieve on our own. It has concentrated some of the best athletes in the province together in a way that we have a new type of access to each other. This means we can feed off each other in terms of strategies, techniques, strengths, and pushing each other to achieve more, and at a higher level. We train together as a team once a week, and we also meet outside of that to train together when schedules permit. We also train with the Base5 Youth team, which is great because we get to know and work with the up and coming athletes as well.
It has been great to finally see support for BC Open athletes. I really appreciate the vision that Dan (Poggi, owner of Climb Base5) has for a stronger climbing community, and that he is willing to walk the talk in terms of manifesting it, especially through support of our team. There is an emphasis on being leaders as well, not just in our sport, but in our communities, and I love that approach.
Finally, what are some of your goals as the season progresses?
I’d like to take the ranked Provincial Bouldering Champion title again, and I would love to make the podium at CEC Bouldering Nationals. I am also hoping to attend some IFSC Bouldering World Cups this season also and my goal would be to make semi-finals (top 20). I am also planning to attend my first Australian Bouldering Nationals since 2005 in October and so would love to perform well there.
Well thanks again for chatting Tiff and good luck this weekend. We can’t wait for the excitement!
Tiffany is the Founder and Principal Coach at Force of Nature Coaching , and works in not-for-profit management at the United Way of the Lower Mainland. She was a Director on the inaugural Board of Sport Climbing BC from 2013-2015, and is currently Vice Chair on the Board of FEAT Canada Adventure Talks.
The competition this weekend will take place at The Edge Climbing Centre with the Open Category running both qualifiers and finals on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. Finals is slated for 3pm and is open to spectators.