Monday, February 13, 2012

Crushed at Coyote Rock Gym - Tour de Bloc 9

Catherine Laflamme on Women’s Finals #2
The Tour de Bloc series of bouldering comps keeps rolling on!

Coyote Rock in Ottawa played host for the latest event, just two weeks after Gonflé à Bloc in LaSalle.

Just for kicks I’m going to switch things around and first describe how the finals went down, and then relate my own experience in qualifiers.

“Some of the strongest climbers are from Ottawa and Quebec region,” I heard one of the spectators explaining, “which means that people have to go all out here.”

That certainly seemed to be the case!

Problem #2, Men’s Finals - burly

Women’s Finals! A photo finish...
I was torn on who to cheer for in the Women’s Finals.

Iyma Lamarche at the top of #3
I have a hometown affection for the irrepressible Iyma Lamarche, who was fresh off a win at Climber’s Rock -- congrats Iyma! -- but I was also secretly rooting for Thomasina Pidgeon.

The latter finished 2nd at the last two Tour de Bloc comps I attended (Vertical and Climber’s Rock). Would it finally be Thomasina’s turn to stand atop the podium this season?

Thomasina Pidgeon flashing #4, forcing Iyma to do the same...

Well, you certainly can’t say she didn’t deserve a win. As the scoresheet indicates, she flashed all four problems with style and grace. And so did Iyma -- which meant that the tiebreak went back to qualifying scores, where Iyma came out ahead. Coyote makes it the third time in a row Thomasina has come in second. Quite an accomplishment in itself!

(A nascent rivalry brewing here, perhaps?)

Clarrie Lam on Problem #1

Catherine Brunel-Guitton came in third, barely missing out on flashing everything as well, requiring a single extra attempt. Congratulations to Iyma for the victory (yay Iyma!) and to all the women finalists!

Men’s Finals
It was tough going for the men, but the effort and attitude was glaringly evident. Fred Charron’s intensity was palpable. Almost everyone was stumped by problem 1, and it kind of set the tone. Problems 2 and 3 looked super burly, and problem 4 seemed to have an impossible ending.

Mark Button gamely working Mens #1 -- a wretched set of holds

It looked as if Sébastien Lazure was going to take another win as he managed to send the first three problems. On one of the early problems he electrified the crowd by frictioning the surface with the palm of his hand and scrambling to complete the topout.

Sébastien Lazure on Problem #3. All he needs is a cape.
When Lazure set up on Problem #4, the whole crowd was watching to see if he would make the last move. He almost did -- for an incredible instant, he was clinging to the finish hold -- but he couldn’t hang on.

This set the scene for the last Finals climber -- Yves “Chainsaw” Gravelle. He had only sent two of three problems, and consequently he needed to send problem #4. The winner would be decided by the outcome of his attempt. Check it out:


Wow. That’s an athlete in motion. Look at those abs!

Mark Button came in third. I enjoyed watching him sit calmly between problems.

Congratulations to Yves, Sébastien and Mark!

Qualifiers -- my novel experience
After my surprisingly awesome results at Vertical I was feeling under the weather. The exertion beat me up and I had to lie around for a week recuperating. Consequently I tried to keep my expectations in check for this event. I only had a rusty outing on Thursday where perhaps I went a little too hard.

Yours truly checking out Coyote Rock
This was my first time visiting Coyote Rock Gym. Coyote has been operating for 20 years. In that time, they’ve filled every possible nook and cranny in their location with climbing surface -- I was impressed at the inventive and creative nature of the layout.

I was overwhelmed. They set so many qualifier problems for this comp -- seventy!

Wide spread = inconsistent
It meant there was a huge variety of challenges of all sorts and styles to explore.

I had a novel experience for me -- a widely spread out scoresheet. Usually, my problems tend to be clumped together -- if I have a good session, it’s a high clump, and if not, it’s a low clump.

27 problems separated my top and bottom problems!

My score as a result was not pleasing, but in all honesty it’s tough for me to judge whether I had a good or a poor session. The reason is I flashed one problem which I was thrilled to get and totally satisfying -- #52.

I had the pleasure of watching Catherine Laflamme do this problem shortly before my attempt, and sometimes when you see a person do a problem with such control, you can delude yourself into thinking you might be able to do it too.

52-orange: an epic thriller; it was 80% desperate moves (for me).
The whole time I felt like I was peeling off... 

Starting on 1 and pushing off 0 (right foot), you get 2 with right hand. Heel hook 1 with left and cross over into 4 with left hand, stepping on 3 with right. Lean waaay rightwards and hit 5 (skipping 13). Your feet cut out for a precarious moment until you can get established on 6 and 7. A big committing launch to hit 8 with left hand and shake out. Stabilize on 9 with right hand, and hop right foot to 10. Make a desperate bump right to 11, step left onto 5, hit 12 with left. I’m short so I jumped up with my left foot onto 8. Ms. Laflamme simply bumped left from 12 to the finish, but I wasn’t confident enough being outstretched like that. Instead I put weight on my left and went for a wild overhand right hand to the finish.

57-orange: the 'spurious' problem;
I heard they messed up the numbers
I let out a big roar on completion. I’m not sure if it’s poor etiquette to do this, or ridiculous, but sometimes I can’t help but yelp in celebration. It’s that transcendent moment of unlocking everything I have, of existing purely in that joyful teardrop of action -- that’s why I climb.

Would I trade completing that problem in exchange for a higher score? I... don’t think so. Not unless you replaced it with another epic. It probably gassed me and cost me the completion of a couple of other problems, but the satisfaction of finishing it was immense!

The other problems I completed were ok but nothing super exciting. 57 was easier than the numbering indicated. 47 was fun, located in the same cave as 52:

47-white: A nice overhang. In retrospect I should have also attempted 38.
43 was kind of awkward, as was 35:

43-blue: The crux was getting
up onto the vertical corner...
I did #35 (white) specifically to practice my friction-work

48-pink: I couldn’t quite get to the orange block
It was the failures that intrigue me, and make me acknowledge I need to adjust my pacing.

I got away from the desired strategy.

When you attempt a hard problem, you have to make an accurate assessment of its difficulty relative to your present energy state and ability.

You need to know when to abandon it, and avoid using up all of your energy for the rest of the comp.

45-blue: I got stuck (like everyone else) at the crux below
the top-out: after, of course, a long pumpy burn
That entered into my struggles during this comp.

I got seduced into working on several enjoyable problems which really felt doable, and it affected my climbing.

I simply made too many unsuccessful attempts, and the payout was zero. I think my thrashing on the above two killed me on my subsequent attempts on 51 (something crimpy that normally would be my style), 42 (a straightforward climb I should normally be able to do), and 40. I also flailed on the start at 44, which annoyed me -- I hate it when I can’t get into the meat of a problem.

51-white and 40-red: Arghhhhh...

The social aspect of these comps can be smile-inducing. I was very happy to run into Charles Croy, who used to work at my home gym. If only I had sent 51, that might have put me within hailing distance of catching him... Charles, good to see you [I stupidly forgot to take any pics of you!]!!

By my typical metrics it wasn’t a great outing:

• Beat my secret nemesis: N/A 
• ‘Qualify’ for Women’s Open Finals: no (would have been #9)
• Finish out of the bottom third in Men’s Open: no (55/75)

31-aqua: put a smile on my face.
(I did it after the comp)
I’m pretty sore; it’s going to take me a few days to recover. But I definitely enjoyed working a bunch of the problems, and I just wish I could stay in Ottawa longer to return and session some of them.

And 52? I’ll be dreaming about it for days...

True North is a month from now. Time enough to prepare, and train...

Click here to view qualifier problem photos for Coyote.
Click here to view mens and womens finals photos.

Thanks to Coyote Rock Gym, the organizers, sponsors (MEC is the lead sponsor this year), the setters -- 70 qualifier problems plus finals must have been a huge challenge -- and the many, many volunteer judges.

Thanks also to Bonnie for giving me a lift from downtown to Coyote, and to Charles for giving me a lift out after finals. You’re awesome!! +1 Karma!

See Also...
My ongoing series of Tour de Bloc comp recaps, from an intermediate climber’s perspective
• A great large set of photos from Andrew Pallek

As usual I will link here to other photos/blogs, as they get posted! [feel free to send me links!]