The Golden Arches. Not quite what you would normally associate with top athletic performance. But does this cheap and cheerful nosh actually hold the key to major sporting success? McDonalds are a major sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics with the Olympic Park playing host to the world’s largest branch of this fast food giant. Usain Bolt is also known to be a lover of chicken nuggets, and reputedly spent the whole of the 2008 Olympics eating at the Arches, as well as having celebrated there after breaking his first world record.
McDonalds has also played an important role in my climbing career. Late days out at the crag often end with a trip to the Golden Arches to provide sustenance before a long drive home. I remember one trip to McDonalds some years ago at the end of two hard days climbing and bivvying at Forada in Southern Spain with insufficient food supplies to see us through. Never has a McChicken Sandwich tasted so good. In my household a tradition has also built up of celebrating any significant climbing achievement with a trip to the Golden Arches. I cannot recall quite where this tradition started, but it may well have been that same Spanish trip as I had also ticked my first 7a that day. However it came about, I like to think that Bolt would approve.
I had always assumed that the climbing success or sporting achievement had to come first and then the Arches, but a recent trip to Tres Ponts in Catalunya this June made me start to consider whether I had been doing things the wrong way around. It’s really the chicken and egg scenario – which should come first chips or a tick? After spending a week in Barcelona catching up with my coach and seeing friends whilst my husband, Stu, was at a conference there we headed to Tres Ponts for 4 days climbing before heading home. For anyone who hasn’t been, this crag is well worth a visit. The pitches are long, some 30-50m, and nearly all of them are 3 star classics.
Our first day climbing was a bit hot! It was 36 degrees, and even in the shade we were baking. We managed to do a few routes but it was a bit of a struggle. However, as luck would have it, we woke up the next day to torrential rain. Although this made it practically impossible to climb, it also meant that the temperatures plummeted to a much more palatable 15 degrees. Whilst waiting for the storms to pass we headed into Andorra to buy some supplies and whilst we were there we treated ourselves to a Maccy D’s. And what happened next was incredible!
As we drove back the rain cleared and the crags dried enough for us to sneak in a few routes in the evening. With the crag to ourselves, Stu got the ball rolling by onsighting a 70m 8a+ which was more than worthy of an Arches reward as all the chalk had washed off in the rain and fitness used not to be his strong point. Inspired by his efforts, I then managed to pull a personal best out of the bag on the onsighting stakes. I’ve been working really hard to improve in this area of climbing this year, and so I was made up. Happy with our lot, we trundled off back to the campsite assuming that was the end of it. But the ticking continued the next day with me equalling the previous day’s performance and bettering it by half a grade as well, onsighting a long and classic 7c. It was, without a doubt, the best 2 days climbing of my life.
This got me wondering if it could really be a coincidence that such an improvement in performance had come so soon after a trip to McDonalds. Had I been doing it wrong all these years? Would I have been considerably more successful in my climbing career if I had gone to the Golden Arches on the way to the crag instead of on the way home? I would certainly like to know what Bolt ate immediately before he won his gold medals at London 2012.