The Floor Is Lava

Training Alone

I have been doing Parkour for a little over 3 years. I had signed up at a local academy that teaches the sport and had practiced intensely. I have meet a lot of friendly faces over the years, but for the most part I have chosen to train alone. I’m what you may consider an introvert. I don’t always try to be but I’m always too focus on improving myself that I become neglectful of those around me.

The academy announced they was going to have an American Ninja Warrior veteran coming to the academy. They planned on doing a “Floor Is Lava/Ninja Warrior” competition in the gym and he was helping to set it up. I’m a huge fan of the series and was pretty excited to actually met such a well-trained athlete. The thing was, I was not excited about competing.

While I do feel confident in my abilities, I don’t feel very comfortable training with others. I feel like I always have to go big to keep up with them. I never feel at their skill level so I just do everything alone until I can be. With all this said, the thought of a competition caused me to hesitate. It wasn’t until finally I had a very memorable discussion with a fellow classmate.

I told him my thoughts on the competition and he just shrugged it off. He told me “Who cares? I’m doing the competition and I don’t care if I don’t do well. I KNOW I’m not going to do well. I’m just doing for fun. This competition is more for myself, not to impress others. You should just come to have fun”.

The words struck me. I never really thought of training with others as doing it for fun. I always felt like because I wasn’t as skilled as them, it would be a waste time to train with them. I decided to register for the competition. Not to try to compete to impress others, but just for fun.

Just For Fun

The day of the competition approached and I was nervous. I had convinced my friend, who’s also into Ninja Warrior, to come with me. I was working the day on little calories and butterflies growing. More than once I felt like I should have backed down. However, I found the courage to go to the academy. I walked around, at first trying to blend into the large crowd there. I saw no sign of my friend so thought I still had a chance to just look like a spectator.

A friend and fellow competitor recognized me when I walked in. He asked if I was planning on doing the competition. I told him I was thinking about it, but was having second thoughts. After he egged me on for a bit I decided to register. No backing down now. My nerves were slowly settling as I spotted a few familiar faces. A lot of these people I have seen train before and was surprised they were at the competition. I felt a little more comfortable knowing that most people here seemed to just be doing it for fun.

I spotted my friend. I stopped to ask him about registration. He told me he too was thinking about it but was now having second thoughts. I also started egging him on to compete, eventually willing him to register. Ninja Warrior veteran, Drew Dreschel, made his announcement that the competition will start and he will demonstrate our course. More or less the obstacles looked easy. I had practiced many of them before so I felt more than confident that I’ll accomplish them. However, the obstacle I felt to be the most disconcerting was told to be one of the first we’ll do.

He began the competition shortly after finishing the demonstration. The contestants were called up and the competition was underway. It was exciting to watch most of these compete. Everyone was extremely supportive for every athlete, even the competitors. Not once did it feel like it was athlete versus athlete, it felt like it was everyone versus the obstacle course.

Slowly each athlete finished their run. Out of 40 athletes, only a small handful finished. It made me question whether I would do well on the course, but I kept trying to remember “It’s not about them, it’s about you”. I heard my name called up to run.

“Read to compete?”

I stepped up to the platform felling a bit heavy. My nerves were starting to get to me. Drew finished resetting the course and walked up to me. “Ready to compete?” he asked.

“Sure, as ready as I’ll ever be…”. I responded. I did not feel very confident and my expression showed it. Drew imitated the sound of a buzzer and my run started. I quickly leaped off the platform to catch onto the wooden trapezoid 6 feet away. I hit it hard and lost my momentum. I pushed myself up on top to reach the next obstacle, the rolling cylinder.

Both my friend and I were very concerned about this obstacle. Nearly everyone there had little experience with it and it showed throughout. While he and I were waiting for our run we decided to go and practice for it in another room. We grabbed some wooden spears and laid them on the ground. We balanced ourselves on them and slowly tried to roll ourselves forward. We struggled immensely until I found a technique that works. The most disconcerting obstacle no longer felt like a challenge.
I balanced myself on the cylinder, an obstacle nearly 5 times larger than what I was training on. It took a while to get my balance. I eased myself forward. The 5 feet roll I had to go through was the most stressful challenge I had to do in my Parkour career. I managed to roll about 2 feet from the angled floor beam. I wanted to get off that cylinder quickly so I went for the reach. Bad move. I immediately slipped and my foot hit the floor. I was out by the second obstacle. I was bummed out and was beating myself up for it.

I knew I could’ve had made it, and made the ones beyond that if I just took a bit more time on the cylinder. I messed up and now missed my chance. As hard as it was, I tried to be optimistic for my friend. His run was soon and I have to hide my disappointment so I can cheer him on

Another Shot

I grabbed a seat with the best view I can find. He was stepping up to his platform and I heard Drew ask, “Ready to compete?”. Drew gave the signal to go and my friend immediately went off. I was impressed. He was a guy who hardly did Parkour but he was knocking each obstacle out. He eventually found himself on the last obstacle, which involved him hanging on a swinging bar and to leap onto another bar. He had told me before that he was worried his small height will affect him in his run. It didn’t become  factor until this obstacle. He was not able to gain enough distance to grab the bar and dropped. Still, he showed an impressive run.

After he finished the judges announced the next run. Following by “If you would like to re-do the course, you can for a fee”. I decided to try it again. I felt like I could get farther along in this obstacle course if I didn’t focus on speed, but focused on completing.

I paid the fee for retrial and waited to be called up. Drew finished resetting the course and asked me once again, “Ready to compete?”. I smiled at him and said “Yes”. I made my jump from the starting platform onto the trapezoid. I whizzed by it much faster than my first run. I approached the rolling cylinder with confidence. I rolled myself patiently. I was in total control as I inched myself to the angled beam. I got off and quickly walked up the beam. I approached the next course. I had to climb through a small, 4 foot, tunnel while hanging from a wooden beam. I traversed my way across with ease.

I now had to pull myself up from a hanging position to the top of the tunnel. I placed my foot on the supporting pipe and my foot immediately slipped. “Damn, the metal is too moist to get a good grip”. I struggled to get myself on the top with the slippery beam. I eventually got on top and made it to the fourth obstacle. I now had to go through a series of vertical bars to get to my fifth obstacle. I grabbed hold of the first bar, and noticed the same moistness was present on these bars as well. It was quite the struggle to carry myself across.

I knew the pathway to get across this obstacle; I learned it after watching the competitors before me. At the time, however, my mind was focused on keeping myself hanging on the bars. I tried to reach for the bar in front of me, but it was a struggle. I ended up grabbing a bar closer to me on my left. Bad move. I was now further away from the bars I needed to use to finish the obstacle. I tried to reach for it but was unable to make the distance. I tried finding an alternative route but it proved to be difficult. My arms were giving way and I eventually dropped.

This time, I was not bummed. Despite my failure, I had fun doing it. I shook Drew’s hand and thanked him for the competition. I was greeted with several others telling me “Good job”, and met up with my friend. We discussed some strategies I could have done to prevent slipping as well as future training exercises we can do. I couldn’t appreciate him enough for competing with me.

I also appreciate both Fight or Flight Academy and Drew Dreschel for hosting such a fun competition. I may not have been training intensely as I normally would these past few months, but today has been a reminder on why I fell in love with Parkour in the first place. This competition helped me get over my uncomfortableness with my abilities. I no longer am going to take my training with people with the mindset to “Impress” but rather to just do it for me. I can not wait to run next competition.

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