Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dustin Curtis Makes Me Cry at True North Climbing - Tour de Bloc Season 9

A slightly modified Tour de Bloc poster
[Original poster by Jovana Randjelovic] 
Whenever I go to True North Climbing in Downsview Park, I think to myself “I oughta climb here more often!”

On Saturday, the gym was the busy scene of the final GTA-local Tour de Bloc bouldering comp for season 9. There were close to 190 competitors who came out, and 70 (!) challenging problems awaiting their discovery.

Going in I had a little bit of a headcold, so I was just trying to keep relaxed and hydrated.

I chatted for a bit with John Gross, the affable proprietor of True North. It was the third time he’s played host to the Tour de Bloc, and he was stoked.

“I'm really excited about the strong field we have today, especially in the women's Open category,” he told me. “And I'm really happy that we have climbers coming here from as far away as Alberta and Newfoundland. That gives a local comp a nice bit of national flavour.”

The qualifier problems were lots of fun. Steep, flat, slabby, crimpy, pumpy, technical, burly, delicate -- it was a smorgasbord of bouldering!

Dustin Curtis -- making grown men weep
I was having an ok comp. I sent some decent problems, and got shut down on others. I had been hoping to get a couple of completions in the 50s, but only managed one (53) over the course of the day. So while I was doing all right, it wasn’t an amazing performance.

53 (pink tape) and 57 (red) -- excellent movement!

As the comp was winding down, I wandered over to the back. I was deep into that mode where you’re totally exhausted from climbing, so you just try random hard stuff for fun. My friend Jon Pencharz was working on 61. I asked him if there were too many people in line on the wall. He said “Nah, it’s just me and these other guys on orange (66). C’mon and work this. It’s totally doable.”

61 (black) - the site of my last-minute sending ecstasy

I queued up and watched Ayo Sopeju flash it -- I was surprised to see him still climbing (usually finalist-candidates try to do their six scorecard problems fairly early and then rest up for finals), but he had arrived late so he was in a hurry. He’s such a smooth climber!

The one-minute warning was sounded and it was my turn so I got onto the problem, fully aware of the time ticking by. Jon had talked through the beta for me, so I knew what to do -- the shock was that the sequence worked exactly the way he described it.

I arrived at the final move before the finish and felt paralyzed. I wasn’t 100% sure if I could make it, but I was also afraid they were going to call time before I was done (the rules vary; sometimes they let you finish a climb you started, but often when the final buzzer sounds, that’s it, it doesn’t matter if you started the problem or not.).

I committed to the little throw and -- stuck it! Matched my other hand to the hold and let out a yell. I had been lucky enough to experience the magical thrill known as the last-minute send.

49 (blue) and 62 (pink). I wanted to work 62 but it was too steep.

I was so happy afterwards that I rushed up to Dustin Curtis (the head routesetter at True North, and the playful event poster villain), gave him a big hug, and shed a tear or two of incandescent joy. Yes, Dustin Curtis made me cry.

Thanks Jon for pushing me onto 61. And thanks to the guys working 66 for letting me in.

The lesson from this is, even if it’s right at the end of the comp, giv’er! You never know what might happen.

52 (pink) exposing my poor slab technique

I found a couple of the problems quite intriguing even though I didn’t manage to complete them. 52 on the slab was a great test of technique. I just could not get to the last hold. I saw a few people roughly my height get it, so it wasn’t entirely a reach issue (though some tall folks had a breeze with it by comparison).

51 (green) and 47 (pink). 51 was quirky!
The ‘goofy’ problem of the comp was 51. It only had three holds on it. You had to press yourself right into the corner while stemming.

You also had to choose between arching your back behind you or doing a little twirling movement to get turned around with your back to the wall. I would have liked to have gotten this -- came close twice, but not quite in control enough to hang on to the finish.

See more photos from the comp here:
True North TdB March 10, 2012 Qualifier Problems

My performance
Overall I was fairly happy -- more satisfied compared to how I did at the last comp at Coyote, at any rate.

Adding in 61 gave me a solid boost on the scoresheet, and though I would have liked to have gotten one or two more in the fifties, it was still a solid day for me. Let’s see how I did metrics-wise:

• Beat my secret nemesis: N/A (she wasn’t in attendance)
• ‘Qualify’ for Women’s Open Finals: no (would have been #9)
• Finish out of the bottom third in Men’s Open: yes (41/65)

Scoresheet for yours truly
I was only 70 points out from the 8th women’s spot -- meaning 52 was the difference between hitting this target and not. As Mr. Gross mentioned, it was a strong women’s field competing, so I feel good about my relative placement.

I had minor issues with my problem selection. You can’t see it on the scoresheet because it shows the back side, but in retrospect I ‘wasted’ effort on some lower-ranked problems that I shouldn’t have, because they didn’t even wind up on my final score.

I spent a lot of energy on 42 (I also did 43 but it was my 7th ranked problem so if I didn’t get 61 I would have used it), and also did 41 and 37. I have mixed feelings because sometimes you need the intermediate ones to get your morale up after being crushed on a hard problem. But I know for sure that I worked on 42 much too often -- it irritated me that I wasn’t sending it, so I kept at it until I did. This might have cost me a good attempt at a higher problem elsewhere.

Finals results
For the Finals there were a few interesting storylines to follow. Would the impossibly-sweet Iyma Lamarche be able to pull off a third TdB victory? Who would emerge from the wide set of burly challengers to capture the men’s crown (my money was on Eric Sethna)?

Alas, I wasn’t able to stay for the Finals -- a steak dinner at my folks awaited me and I wasn’t going to pass that up. So I don’t have a first-hand report, but I’ll relate the results anyway. Just pretend I was there!

In Women’s, the highly-accomplished Elise Sethna -- in town all the way from Alberta -- dethroned Iyma (aww) by completing all four problems to Iyma’s three. Meanwhile, Kerry Briggs from Ottawa edged out Marieta Akalski for third place.

In Men’s, Florent Balsez held off Mark Button (who incidentally finished third at Coyote) for the win, while the aforementioned Sethna came in third. Looking at the men’s finals results, it looked like it was a tough set for everyone.

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Done for the season?
I’m not sure if this will be my last comp for this season. The next one is at a sick gym, Altitude in Hull, but I’m feeling somewhat tuckered out. But that might just be the muscle soreness from the day after talking. We’ll see!

As usual I really enjoyed myself at this Tour de Bloc event. The organizers have been tinkering with the scheduling, to interesting effect. I stayed on to cheer on a friend of mine during Rec and Experienced and the gym felt a lot emptier. If I were a Finalist I would welcome the extra resting time, but it makes for a long gap to wait through if you competed during Open.

Thanks to True North Climbing Gym, the organizers, sponsors, the setters (Dustin Curtis, Shaun Hunter, Andreas Lerch, Gareth Ryan, Max Lefevre and guest setter Kaleb Thomas from St John’s), and the volunteers. Thanks Pencharz for urging me up onto 61! It was great to see so many climbers from everywhere.

Thanks to Climbing Hold Review for the shirt (Johnny Walker fans seem to think it’s hilarious).

And thanks to you, gentle reader, for following along on my bouldering adventures. I appreciate your attention.

See Also...
• My ongoing series of Tour de Bloc comp recaps, from an intermediate climber’s perspective
• Tomasz Wojtkowiak’s Finals photo set
• Aaron Eden’s review of the Finals
• Gael Jaffrain’s photos from the comp
• True North’s recap of the comp

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