Up-and-coming talent Gracie Martin talks to WCS about her successful 2016-17 season, how she got there and the big decisions she had to make along the way.
You've had quite a big year…tell us more about the last 12 months…
Last January I started training regularly with Shauna and Leah and a coach in Liverpool every week. It was hard to get used to as I was finishing college at the time. Mentally, going full time is a big step and that happened in May/June - you have a 'wait...this is my job? This is how I’m trying to make money!' moment. I still find it funny when I tell people my job is being a climber. You have to have a lot of faith and belief in yourself that you can make it work especially when people are wondering why you're not going to uni like so many other people do.
Next I had a really good result at the BBCs in July, making the final and finishing 5th. That was one of my goals for the year and showed how much I'd improved over the winter of training and hopefully show some of the potential I’ve got for the future. It was nice to see that things are working and that I haven't just made this really big change for nothing!
BIFF earlier this year was amazing and so so fun. Winning was a bit unexpected! There were over 300 spectators in the Climbing Works with 80-90 competitors invited to the final form heats. It was also live-streamed to thousands of people. Pretty cool!
Over the past couple of months I have also been taking part in the Blokfest series, 5 rounds of competitions based in the south of the country. I have really enjoyed getting stuck into these. Unfortunately I didn’t do enough rounds to qualify for the overall, however the rounds I did enter I managed either 1st or 2nd place finishes.
Do you think events like BIFF help encourage women to get stuck in to what are perceived to be more ‘burly’ things?
Definitely, female participation is growing and things like BIFF are certainly helping. There is still quite a big split between male and female competitor numbers, and some of the women are still a bit nervous to be having a go at it. I hope that live-streaming means that it becomes more accessible and less scary for people to decide to have a go!
Are there any other factors aside from increased training that you found have pushed your performance?
I moved to Sheffield and that helped a lot. Being surrounded by really good climbers in a scene where people climb hard and that’s the norm has been huge. Being the baby compared to those around me too means I feel like I’m always trying to snap at their heels and catch them up.
Training with Shauna and Leah is amazing. They are two of the most psyched people you will meet. They train so much but are always up for a good time and making training fun. That motivates me to want to go to the wall and the gym, and try even harder!
Who else on the climbing scene inspires you?
Anyone who is pushing their limits and trying really flipping hard regardless of what level they climb at, inside or out. Anyone who wants to be better than they currently are.
Do you still have time to do coaching and route setting?
Route setting and coaching have really helped my own climbing in this last year. I work at a couple of different walls. Trying to help other people by coaching helps me learn how other people do things and gives another perspective on problems, looking at different body types and styles. Route setting lets me play with loads of holds so I can recognise them at comps and know where they're good to hold. Setting more over the past year has really helped my problem reading.
You were really involved in Women’s Climbing Symposium this year. What was your journey through the day?
I was there to do a talk with my nutritionist Rebecca Dent, but that wasn’t until the afternoon so in the morning I could cruise around and check out other lectures and see what was going on. I also got to take Jo Pavey climbing, which was my highlight – it was really cool to meet an elite athlete from a different sport.
Is she going to take you running sometime?
Maybe if I ask her nicely...I wouldn’t stand a chance at keeping up though! I found her talk really inspiring too - her journey is so amazing.
What are your goals for this year?
CWIF is coming up and I'm training to do well at that. It's part of selection for the British Team so that's big. It's one of my favourite events throughout the year and the climbing calendar. The buzz at The Works in the weeks leading up to it is amazing. After that, I’m hoping to go on a trip outside, hopefully Switzerland. Then come back, and do some more training for the BBCs (another selection event), then after that Rocklands for a month to climb and run a Climbing and Yoga retreat out there. I’m pretty excited!
Does your job feel like work?
Not at the moment! It's all very new and exciting. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to see if I can make it work. It’s a bit scary as well though, for example the need to get results to get sponsors. There is pressure, but if I can do well enough I can climb full time and ease off on the coaching and route setting.
Finally, any top tips for the WCS community?
Just go for it! For me, that’s going full time. Compared to all my school friends and people I went to college with it’s not normal, and they think I'm a bit weird. But go for it, be different, immerse yourself in it. Learn from other people and be willing to take advice.
Gracie is sponsored by: Wild Country and Five Ten
Read more about her adventures and progress on Instagram.