Meet Lindsay Purcell | Paradox Sports Competitive Climbing Team

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Lindsay Purcell.  I live in Houston, TX and I work for an oil and gas company which is, when you live in Houston, a pretty standard job to have.  I started climbing in 2019 right before the pandemic.  My husband is a physical therapist and one of his residents, the doctor he was working with, was a big climber and had big plans about getting a PT on board at the climbing gym and doing presentations about climbing injuries since there wasn’t really anything like that at our gym, so he got Nick involved.  Nick thought it was something that we would really like and encouraged me to try, so we started going together.  That’s how I kind of found climbing, definitely later in life.  I wish I would have found it 10 years ago. 

So I started climbing in 2019 and then took off some time due to the pandemic and then I got pregnant towards the end of the pandemic, so there was a big hiatus and then I got back into it after I had our son, Elliot.  

What’s the climbing scene like in Texas?

When I tell people at work that I climb, they’re like “on rocks?!”  It’s not a normal thing here.  They think it’s like the type of climbing that you do at a kids birthday party.  There’s obviously no outdoor climbing here, which sucks.  The closest outdoor climbing area is in Austin, which is two and a half hours away so yeah, climbing is kind of a weird hobby to have here.  But we do have multiple gyms here and they’re usually pretty packed, so once you get into the gym there’s a lot of people that love it but most people only climb in gyms and have never been outdoor climbing.  It’s just a product of our location. 

What did your weekend at Nationals look like?

For me, it felt like a home event.  Like I said, we’re only a two and a half hour drive away which I was super psyched about not having to fly and do long travel and all of that.  It kind of turned into a family affair for me; my husband and son came with me and then both of my parents and my husband’s parents came to watch and also helped us juggle our son.  We drove up Friday night; I had the last classification spot on Friday evening.  I also had my coach who came with me as well, so I had a lot of support which was really nice. 

The quallies were on Saturday which were really fun and my sister in law surprised me and came up for finals and some friends also drove up to watch the finals as well.  So it felt very different from the last Nationals.  Last year, Nick and I had no idea what we were doing.  We didn’t know anyone and we felt like fish out of water.  This year felt much more comfortable because everyone I cared about was there.  

It was a really fun event.  I’ve actually been waiting for Mesa Rim to open for a really long time.  The previous head setter at my gym is now the head setter at Mesa Rim, so I was excited to see the sets there and how it turned out.  It was a fun weekend that involved a lot of planning of babysitters and taking turns watching Elliot so we could climb and attend the after party and all that.  It’s kind of, for me, a mixed bag of planning with a family and planning as a competitor.  Luckily, my husband understands that, so he would say things like “You’re not a mom today, you’re a competitor today.”  That helps me to not stress about anything while I’m competing which is really nice.  I felt better knowing that my family was there so that he also wasn’t overwhelmed and could enjoy climbing and watching as well.  It was really fun and a great experience, I was so stoked that it was close to home.  

What do you mean when you say you had to classify?

So for people who don’t know much about paraclimbing, we are all broken down into certain classifications; you have visually impaired, you have people with muscle and power deficits or range of motion deficits, etc.  So for me, I have Multiple Sclerosis, so I fall into the range and power (RP) group.  Within the RP group, there’s 1, 2, and 3.  Group 1 being the most affected and Group 3 being the least affected.  Usually, you’ll see in the RP category that most competitors have to be on a review status, meaning that every year they have to get reviewed to make sure that their diagnosis hasn’t changed or altered their power or anything like that.  I’m on a review status, so basically they go in and check my muscle strength because power is my issue.  They do all sorts of tests to find where my weaknesses lie and it has to fall within their scoring category.  You have to have so much of a deficit to qualify.  It can be a kind of tricky subject and there’s some debate about how they do it, but I qualified last year and I qualified again this year so I’m feeling pretty confident about that.  

What was your experience working with a team?  Were there any highlights of the team aspect at the comp?

Yeah, honestly, I know it was pretty quick before the competition, but regardless of that, it still felt like a team and it was nice that we all had something in common.  The first Nationals I went to, I didn’t know anyone and I felt like an outsider.  It was my first competition ever so I had no idea what to expect.  So it was nice to have a team to help answer questions and make plans together.  And not only that, going into this comp I knew more people after having spent some time in the community, but it was nice to be like “Hey Nat, let’s go watch this session because Carlie and Carlos are competing.”  So it was nice to always have someone to cheer on and to be on the wall and hear your teammates cheering you on because maybe no one else had cheered you on ahead of time.  I had family there, but not everyone did, so it was nice to know that there was someone in the crowd cheering and taking your picture.  I was super stoked to have the team there and even afterwards, it was nice to celebrate together.  We got to see everyone and take pictures together and be reminded that I have a group of people that I will get to go into Worlds with.  I was super stoked about it all.  

How did it feel receiving a medal?

It felt awesome!  Like I said, last year, I didn’t know what I was doing; it was my first comp, I had just had a baby and I didn’t even realize how far out I was from actually recovering from having a baby, and I went through the whole season and did two World Cups and I think I got last place at everything I did.  So I came off of it thinking that I want to try this and now that I know what I’m doing and I know what to expect, I want to actually give this next year a go.  So my husband and I made the plan to hire a coach and to actually commit to doing the process of getting stronger and better.  Since August, I’ve been really focused on Nationals and my goal was to make finals.  After quallies, I made finals and I was super stoked and I was back in iso with my coach and I was like “You know what, I really want a medal.  I know my goal was to make finals, but I’m here and I really think I can do this.”  I felt really proud of myself and really thankful for my husband and family who helped me have the time to train and to work around our busy schedules and I’m thankful for my coach, Sam.  I was very proud because we worked really hard at training and preparing and it felt like it paid off.  

It all made me more driven to take the next 10 weeks to train and show up to Worlds even better.  I was really happy and I’m a very competitive person, so it’s nice to feel like maybe this is a sport for me because after last year, getting last at everything, I was thinking that maybe I’m just not good at this.  But it was nice to work hard and have it pay off. 

How do you find a balance between working, being a mom, and training?  

I find balance because I’m lucky to have a pretty flexible work schedule, so that’s been nice.  My husband also has a flexible work schedule.  But really, I’m able to do it because my husband and my family and his family all chip in a lot.  I climb 3 days a week during the week and one of which is all evening on Wednesdays where he takes care of our son and he does everything.  So I’m lucky that I have the support that I do.  Then, for the rest, it’s kind of just a balancing act.  I go straight from work to the gym, then straight from the gym home or to picking up Elliot from school, to making dinner and all of that.  I have a lot of early nights and I get up early.  I feel like my coach does a good job of setting weeks of really intense training and then some slow down weeks where I can catch my breath.  It’s nice because she’s here in Houston too, so we meet up a lot but also accommodate our busy schedules.  The other huge benefit is that my company just moved to a new building and we now have a gym in the building.  So now, two days a week, I can do my lifting right after work and then go straight home from there and be done.  Really it’s just being on top of the schedule- we’re very schedule oriented people.  My son is also a gym rat and he loves the gym, so we bring him with us and he loves to climb and enjoys brushing holds so he’s a great asset.  It’s helpful that it’s a family affair- my husband is also a climber and my son loves to climb, so we spend a lot of quality family time together at the gym.  It’s a balancing act and a big commitment, but I just want moms out there to know that they can totally have a kid and be on the National Team and have a full time job and rock at all of them.  I think more women need to hear that. 

Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

I’m thankful to be on the Paradox Team and for the opportunity and I’ve been working to try to get other people to support us.  We’re a worthwhile group.  There’s still a lot of work to be done between now and August for the World Championships so I’m just plugging away and trying to get stronger.  My goal is to get Paradox to go win some World Cup medals and show everyone what’s up.  

Photo Descriptions:

Photo 1: Lindsay climbing on the finals route at the Paraclimbing Nationals.  The picture shows Lindsay from the side as she climbs on a slightly overhung wall with green and white holds.  Lindsay is wearing a black t-shirt, gray pants and a gray harness with bright colored climbing shoes.  She looks concentrated as she looks at the wall.  Photo courtesy of Daniel Gajda (@gajdaphotography)

Photo 2: Lindsay and her husband, Nick, are smiling at the camera.  They are standing outside of Mesa Rim climbing gym where Nationals took place.  The building is white and blue.  Lindsay is in a black, Paradox Sports t-shirt and Nick is wearing a green shirt.

Photo 3: Lindsay is climbing on her second qualifiers route.  The picture is taken from the ground and is looking up at her as she climbs.  The route consists of pink and white holds with small, gray volumes.  Many of the holds on this route are large and appear to be slopers.

Photo 4: Lindsay and her husband Nick are standing in front of her finals route, smiling.  Lindsay is wearing her bronze medal around her neck.

Photo 5: Another photo post medal ceremony.  Lindsay and her climbing coach, Sam, are standing with their arms around each other smiling at the camera.  You can see the climbing wall in the background as well as people sitting in chairs and another competitor with a medal around their neck.

Photo 6: Lindsay is climbing on her first qualifiers route that she flashed.  The route is made up of blue and yellow holds and has two, long rectangular volumes with holds on them.  Lindsay is looking down towards her right foot as she makes her next move.