The Origins, Motivations and Future of Allison Vest

National champ Allison Vest discusses her life growing up in Canmore, her training in isolation and her future climbing goals

May 6th, 2020 by | Posted in Indoor Climbing, Profiles | Tags: ,

Last month, we sat down to talk with team Canada’s Allison Vest. The two-time national champion has had an exceptional year, securing her second Open Bouldering National title.

Vest also became the first Canadian woman to climb V13 with her ascent of Terminator at the end of August. Over the course of the interview, we discussed Vest’s origins in Canmore, her approach to training during the pandemic and what her future goals might look like both in competition and out on the rock.

Gripped: Climbing aside, what was it like growing up in Canmore? What did you most appreciate about the area?

Vest: Growing up in Canmore was really good for my development both as an athlete and as a human being. The community is full of kind, driven, and outdoor focused people and there are vast amounts of  inspiration coming from all kinds of directions. I felt like I was able to be pushed and motivated in all aspects of my life: climbing, academics, art, music, whatever I was motivated by. During this period of lockdown I am actually stationed at my parents house in Canmore. I’ve been here for over a month now and I really haven’t been back here for a couple years. In a weird way, it’s nice to connect back with this community after so long, although the situation makes it less than ideal.

Gripped: Climbing included, how did Canmore influence your development?

Vest: One thing that I really appreciate (and sometimes honestly find frustrating) about climbing is that there is never really a cap or a limit to what an athlete is capable of. There is always going to be a harder project or another discipline or another way to experience and relate to the sport. In Canmore, climbing thrives in an abundance of varieties. I always felt like no matter where I looked there was someone doing something bigger, or scarier, or unique. Feeling constantly humbled by athletes around me kept me motivated, driven and curious about climbing. Even today, I feel like my interactions with climbing have just scratched the surface of what is possible.

Gripped: These past twelve months have been substantial in your climbing career. You are the first Canadian woman to climb V13, and have owned the National title for the last three years as well. What does development look like for you at this point? Where are you looking to go?

Vest: I’m really excited about my progression thus far in my climbing career and, something that is even more exciting for me, is I still feel like I have a long way to go and that I am improving all the time both in terms of mental and physical abilities. I definitely want to log more days on rock and have more consistent performances at the World Cup level. It’s hard to have concrete goals for the near future at the moment but I am genuinely hopeful that the drive that I come out of this quarantine with will only help me to accomplish what I want to in climbing. Working with my coaches Jeff Thomson and Christian Core has been amazing for me these past three years, and with the improvements that I feel, I am convinced they are doing something right. Stoked and beyond motivated for whatever comes next.

Gripped: For many climbers, quarantine is giving people an opportunity to work on their weaknesses. What weaknesses are you hoping to work on?

Vest: This is a tough one for me. In a lot of ways mental toughness is one of the biggest roadblocks for me when it comes to competition. I am taking this time in quarantine to work on that side of things. I think I’m just trying to focus on staying strong and not getting too overwhelmed with that chaos and unpredictability of life right now.

Gripped: How do you manage a training schedule when you are unsure of the time frame of isolation?

Vest: It seems simple but my biggest thing is just to write it down. At the beginning of the week I write down my plan for each day and what I want to accomplish. That said, it has also been important for me to stay flexible and pay attention to how I feel in terms of stress, fatigue, and mood and to adapt the “plan” as is required. Writing things down allows me to have mini goals for a day and also allows me to be sure I’m not over-training.

Gripped: What are you doing to stay motivated?

Vest: I’ve always been really intrinsically motivated for the most part. Travelling, competing and climbing on rock are all things that motivate me, but I am also extremely passionate about the training grind. Spending hours conditioning or working on weaknesses is something that I really love. Honestly, if I’m not motivated to do it on a given day it is a pretty big sign that I am overtraining and need to back off. I know everyone gets motivation from different places but I think loving the more gritty, relentless training side of climbing is something that has boded well for me over the years.

Gripped: Competition climbing is frequently a coordinated style of climbing. As it will be difficult for many international athletes to train coordination moves from home, what do you think will happen when everyone returns to competition? Is it at all possible that the setting style could change to reflect the type of training most athletes will be able to do from home?

Vest: I think coordination moves will do their job even better. I think the notion of moving towards this style of climbing in competition isn’t just about boulders being flashy for the audience, it’s also about creating separation in terms of ranking and results. Coordination moves tend to be a lot lower percentage so it is really easy for athletes to rack up attempts relatively quickly. I think setters will continue to use this style of movement as a tool in that sense.

That said, I actually like to think about competition after lock down in the opposite way. A lot of people only have heinous home walls or hangboard setups in their living rooms so climbers are gonna come out of this situation with the strongest fingers of all time. I think setters are going to need coordination moves more than ever in order to separate athletes. Bad holds are just not gonna cut it after quarantine.

Gripped: Are there any lifetime accomplishments that you are looking to achieve in climbing?

Vest: Well, I’ve checked off V13 so, let’s knock it up to V14 I guess… and then V15?