Sunday, November 21, 2010

Smackdown at the Grotto!

Yesterday the Guelph Grotto hosted a Tour de Bloc bouldering comp and once again I continue to be impressed by the TdB's organizers. Holding these events is a huge logistical exercise given the hundreds of participants, and the results really speak for themselves -- everybody seems to have a great time.

I had a solid outing. I altered my regular strategy and only performed one intermediate problem during my warmup. Then I deliberately went straight to something hard, and got spit off right away. It helped to get over that psychological tension; I wasn't thinking about 'not falling off for the first time' and I avoided ramping up too slowly and wasting energy on middle-tier problems that weren't ultimately going to wind up on the scoresheet.

In fact, I might have gone too far with that approach. I aggressively made a stellar attempt on a torturous overhanging problem, but didn't manage to stick it. After that I was gassed for about half an hour -- I was worried that I had pumped myself out for the remainder of the comp! I need to incorporate some ab strengthening in my workout regime; I felt like my core wasn't powerful enough.

Nemesis #38 (white tape) - my best attempt involved a lot of screaming. Every move was a desperate one for me. I got one hand on the finish but was unable to match under control and swung off. I should have put a foot on the red piece above the lip. Everybody was stoked.

It would have been absolutely incredible to finish that problem -- it was exactly at the outer physical limit of what it was possible for me to do that day -- but I couldn't quite finish. My whole body was flush with adrenaline after that attempt. 

#35 (white tape) - the difference between first and second (in Men's Exp). Every foothold on this climb was tiny!
Luckily for me there were some less stressful, milder exertion, more 'static technique' oriented problems available. I managed to complete a couple which were very tricky but which allowed my forearms and core to recuperate.

#27 (blue tape) - awkward and delicate. The crux was a very high step with the right foot onto a little ledge, and then a push up to reach for the yellow blob.
It was clear from this comp what skills I need to practice -- overhanging technique and slopers. The latter especially I'm terrible at -- I have weak wrists or something.

#31 (white tape) - Sloper alert! Short but frustrating as heck. I never touched the finish hold; I couldn't match on the second last piece.

If I can get some greater efficiency in my angled climbs, that ought to go a long way towards improving my results. A lot of the problems were stiff and overhung, which was influenced by the physical layout of the Grotto. I found it intimidating. I need to increase my comfort level on the steep stuff.

Surprise winner!
Speaking of the outcome, it was very close. I was surprised -- I managed to eke out a slim victory in my category! The difference turned out to be one single problem. Marius had been working on #35 as above, but wasn't able to complete it. His lowest problem was #20. If he had sent #35, 150 points would have put him over the top [the way the scoring works is, you add up the points for your top six problems. The points for each problem at this comp were roughly 10X the problem number. e.g. problem 8 = 80 points, problem 12 = 120, etc.]-- my good fortune, I guess.

I must confess to one passing event which produced some upset for another party. Apparently, during one of my attempts at sessioning #38, I came close to another climber, which caused her to abandon her own particular attempt on the adjacent problem. I was mentally focused on visualizing my sequence when I started, and categorically did not even notice her -- she was pointed out to me after my attempt was over. There was never any contact, and I honestly didn't even realize she had been crowded off. She was fairly distraught at the interference -- which, I must state again, was completely unintentional.

Oh -- and I should also mention, the climber was a young child, probably less than 10 years old! Awwwww. I felt really sorry about the whole thing. It was embarrassing, and I should have been paying attention to my surroundings at all times. I apologized profusely to her, but I could tell she was still angry. You know when you're a kid and every slight is magnified? It was exactly like that; you could see the thought bubble over her head: "You big jerk, I hate you!"

Sigh. To that young lady, whoever you are -- I apologize again. It was entirely my fault. I hope that, in time, you will forgive me for being the inconsiderate buffoon that ruined your attempt. In the meantime, I accept that I must bear your sense of opprobrium.

What is going on with my hair?! I either need some product or a haircut. Or both. The three young fellows in the black wifebeaters in the back were from Altitude gym in Gatineau; they had so much stoke and enthusiasm. I met a couple of them at the previous comp at Altitude.
All in all I was physically drained -- the classic mark of a good bouldering comp. Winning my category does tend to put a slight glow on things as well. My goal for this season is to raise my climbing level to the point where I should arguably move out of Experienced into Open.

Right now it's a crapshoot; on any given day there's a bunch of guys around the same level--which makes it fun, in my opinion. It would merit consideration if I could consistently complete a few higher grades of problem -- maybe around V4-5. I'm not actually sure if I can do it -- or even if I want to. I'll need to put some thought into my training approach (which at the moment is mostly haphazard and undisciplined) -- and whether in fact I want to take that next step.

I climb for fun -- for the joy of movement; I don't ever want to turn climbing into a serious chore.

I've put up some additional photos from the comp and my jaunt to Guelph here. Thank you to the route setters, to the Grotto, and all of the sponsors!

An adorable house in Alice Street (in between the bus station and the Grotto)

While I was waiting for the bus back to Toronto, I had the opportunity to take in some of Guelph's charm. It has a low-key, small town vibe that I miss from my days of youth growing up in semi-rural Waterloo.

Rainbow trout on white beans with Swiss char (hidden under the trout). Excellent presentation and taste.
A friendly local artist by the name of Stephen recommended Artisanale as a fine dining establishment. It's the former Bookshelf café (not to worry, the co-located book store still exists in all its quirky, immaculately curated glory). I enjoyed a superb celebratory dinner there to cap off my winning day, and would recommend the place to anyone interested in a civilized, locally sourced, fresh meal.