Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gravity Brawl pulls me back to earth - TdB writeup

I'm not sure what's more painful -- taking that first shower after a bouldering comp, or waking up the next day! In the shower you scream 'Aaah!!' as you discover the myriad stings and cuts incurred from clinging desperately to rough surfaces. Waking up is more like a groaning 'Ooof!' when you're slammed by a deep and thorough muscular soreness in your core from the previous day's all-out exertion.

Comp poster (click to enlarge)
This weekend I had the considerable pleasure of attending the Tour de Bloc Gravity Brawl at Gravity Climbing Gym in Hamilton.

I had a great time. That sounds kind of repetitive if you've read my other TdB session posts -- but you know what, the Tour de Bloc organizers certainly seem to know what they're doing, in terms of putting together an enjoyable bouldering competition.

So all credit to them -- Jody Miall, Luigi Montilla, and the setters at Gravity -- awesome job guys!

Why does it always have to snow before I arrive at these comps?!

Gravity is located in a gritty metal warehouse close to the Hamilton Spectator. From the outside, it doesn't look like much (and if you don't know where it is, it's a little hard to find), but once you get inside it's a revelation. Tall, open, airy -- Gravity has a down-to-earth vibe that matches its industrial location.

The padding at Gravity could certainly be a little thicker, but whatever, other than that they have a wonderful setup. There's a large central space where people can hang out, congregate, and watch other climbers, so at the comp yesterday there was never any feeling of being crowded by the spectators. If only Hamilton was a little closer; I'd climb regularly at Gravity if I lived in the Hammer.

32 - one of the key problems. A surprisingly hard start; a powerful finish

As for the climbing -- my improbable string of narrow TdB amateur victories was broken. I struggled mightily, barely placing 4th in Men's Exp -- no Team V0 glory, alas. My nutrition and sleep weren't right in the days beforehand; I simply did not have the juice to take a podium spot. My lowest score was #15, and I couldn't muster up a better sixth problem (the amusing highlight was working on an overhang problem (#23) with a bunch of little kids, and none of us could finish it except one, and that one wasn't me!).

But as Tony Berlier told me afterwards, the important thing was to work through a day where everything wasn't clicking and to learn from it. And of course to have fun. So the results were mildly disappointing, but I didn't mind -- the problem setting for this event was superb.

The start for 34 - a small, thin, slappy puzzle

The end for 34 - heinous round finish hold

This time around there were two fantastic problems that entrapped me, #32 and #34 (shown above). I came soooo close to completing both of them -- I had one hand on the finish holds in multiple solid attempts on both routes, but in neither case was I able to make the match -- extremely, deliciously frustrating. On a stronger day I'm confident that I would have completed at least one of them. If I'd managed either, I would have placed 2nd -- but that's just griping. These two problems took all of my energy.

Slabby, delicate, pernicious crimping on 29.
Burly 30 (yellow tape)

More problem photos from the comp can be found here. Dustin Curtis (the gentleman who drove me home from Montreal a few weeks back) won in the Men's Open category. Yay Dustin!

Hurrah for Outdoor Research! A TdB sponsor.

I was stoked to win a Radiant LT zip top pullover from Outdoor Research, one of the primary sponsors this year. The shirt was a draw prize, and worth close to double my comp fees -- sweet! Thanks Outdoor Research for your generous support of the TdB.

Delightful isolation

I wasn't able to secure a ride to the comp, so I wound up taking GO Transit (why does the train stop at Aldershot?!) and tramping around Hamilton for a bit. It has a smaller town feel that I sometimes miss. The architecture is subtly different...

All in all it was another fun outing. I've been enjoying this process even though I'm not sure if I can take the next step in terms of ability. Despite my advancing years I think there's still room for improvement. If I can apply a steady training regimen I'll be comfortable moving to Open next year without completely embarrassing myself.

And one last note -- I want to say: Janek -- your mom is awesome!! (Haha, that sounds rude) Janek's mom graciously gave me half a sandwich to munch on; it really hit the spot. It was an example of how friendly the atmosphere is at these events. Thanks!