Sunday, November 06, 2011

Shut Up And Climb - Tour de Bloc Season 9 begins!

Shut Up and Climb - TdB Comp Poster
The 9th season of Tour de Bloc, Canada’s National Bouldering Series, kicked off with a packed competition on Saturday at Joe Rockhead’s, Toronto’s first indoor climbing gym.

[I’ve noticed that a lot of my climbing friends seem to wind up there eventually, when they decide to become ‘serious’ about the sport.]

A blast as usual 
The problems for this comp were very good quality. I thought there was a decent mix, which is really important -- there was some stuff I could do, other stuff I couldn’t, and a bunch of stuff to mess around on. So kudos to the route setters -- I had fun.

[My friend Jonathan complained that there were too many ‘flat-wall’ problems; he and his friends normally boulder in the cave area at Rockhead’s, which is all overhanging... Amusingly I had the opposite issue -- I barely touched anything in the caves! My conclusion is that we must both be right, and consequently there was an acceptable ratio of both flat and overhanging.]

I entered into Open for the heck of it, though I’m definitely not as skilled. I had a solid session -- just barely above the bottom third demarcation line (trust me, it was a decent result for me!).

My score was helped out by the fact that there were several problems which were on delicate crimpers. I wasn’t forced to exhaust myself completely as a result. I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the qualifiers, alas -- we were ushered out of the main climbing area so they could set up for the finals. There were 50 problems. I scored 2055 (hurrah, I beat my secret nemesis Pia G!), finishing problems 41, 38, 36, 34, 31 and 30. Of those I only flashed 31; everything else took 3 or more attempts.

After dinner I came back for the finals, and watched Sebastien Lazure edge out Eric Sethna in the Men’s. Meanwhile Kerry Briggs squeaked by Cloe Legault for the Women’s category.

It was fascinating and exhilarating to witness the different approaches to the problems. A highlight was seeing Kacy Wilson start Finals problem number 2 in a completely different way than all the other finalists, yet she still managed to send it!

Too many people!
There were a lot of competitors in the qualifiers. A shade too many, I think -- at least for the size of this particular venue. There were over 100 people in Open. If they’d had ten or fifteen fewer competitors, it would have more comfortable -- having to line up to try problems is not that great an experience.

That’s just my selfish opinion, and it’s purely about the logistics of it, not the problem-setting or the venue. Obviously Open means Open, so I’m not sure what you can do about it, or even whether you want to do anything about it. All I’m saying is I felt crowded.

For recreational climbers like me, the whole point of attending is for the access to a whole bunch of interesting problems; when the atmosphere is crazy and claustrophobic it kind of detracts from it all.

Certainly, the number of competitors speaks to the popularity of the series and bouldering in general. And there was a ton of stoke in the air! So I guess I should just deal with it.

Maybe they should allow people in Open to climb in the morning session -- with the caveat that if they do, they can’t compete in the Finals (because that would give them an advantage).

Goals for the Season
My goal is always to enjoy myself and to climb as hard as I can.

What I enjoy the most is discovering and attacking problems that are at or just slightly above the limit of what I can do -- the thrill you get from finishing something where everything is desperate is incredible. The route-setters are always diligent about setting a wide range of problems with different styles and difficulties, and it’s this range that lets you push and find your limit.

I want to actually train this season, and try to get stronger. I know where a lot of my weaknesses are -- slopers, overhangs, and dynamic moves -- so I’m going to try to work on those areas during my regular sessions. Florent Balsez recently wrote an interesting article, How to Qualify for the Tour de Bloc Finals, and while I think that’s not realistic for me, the advice he gives is nevertheless cogent and worth paying greater attention to...

I want to attend more comps this season. They’re a huge amount of fun to go to and you meet so many friendly people. Along the way I’m going to blog about the sessions and share the experience with you.

Ontario Climbing Federation -- join today!
After the qualifiers were over, I had a chance to speak very briefly to Sally Vince about the Ontario Climbing Federation. It’s a new-ish body that is currently a not-for-profit, with the intent of becoming an officially recognized Provincial Sports Organization (PSO).

The broader objective is to seek access to government funding for climbing as a sport here in Canada and Ontario -- right now our climbing athletes are basically unsupported (in the sense that other officially recognized sports are). It makes for a huge handicap when our teams go to international events and competitions. Other areas the OCF intends to influence include organization, sanctioning, funding, training, and promotion.

A major step in the process of becoming a recognized PSO is garnering a certain number of members -- a supporter membership costs just $5. I encourage you to sign up to support our young athletes!

More information about memberships can be found on the OCF site.

To close this entry I’d like to thank the Tour de Bloc organizers and all the many sponsors for putting the event together. You folks did a great job once again.

Past Tour de Bloc coverage
Competing in the Tour de Bloc -- in which I share my experiences of competing in the Tour de Bloc Bouldering Series in Canada -- from the perspective of an intermediate climber.

See also: Miguel Jette’s awesome photos from the finals.