Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Tour de Bloc Season Nine Results: Charted

This season, I decided on a whim to attend every Ontario and Quebec-based Tour de Bloc bouldering competition. I almost made it -- I had to skip the Nationals in Montréal this weekend, alas!

(If you came here for Nationals coverage -- check the links at the bottom for some great photos and highlights)

The question arose: How can I measure my performance?

Deciding What to Track
Subjective opinions aren’t sufficient. I might think I did well at a comp, but how would I know for sure? And how could I tell if I was getting any better?

A season of TdB t-shirts (lol).
L to R: Rockheads, Grand River Rocks, Climber’s Rock, Coyote, Vertical, True North, Altitude. On top: my comp shirts from Climbing Hold Review

I needed metrics: ‘How did I do versus my peers?’* Each comp session results in a ranked score, but the specific participants and the total numbers vary considerably per each event.

I settled on the following two goals as being realistic, but also requiring me to give 100% effort at each comp:
  • ‘Qualify’ for Women’s Open Finals
  • Finish out of the bottom third in Men’s Open

Having two targets somewhat mitigated the variable nature of each outing. For context, on a strong day I can climb roughly v5. I would characterize myself as an intermediate gym climber.

Results -- late-season performance
I noticed on compseason that there was an option to ‘Download the .CSV’ file of the results for each event in the system.

I wondered, Could I track my progress graphically over the course of the season?

The short answer is: not really. But it was amusing to try!

A comparison of the Tour de Bloc scores for Altitude, Coyote, and True North
Ending my Tour de Bloc season on a good note...
Score vs. (reverse) Rank: Higher, to the right = better

  • There are less women than men (duh), and the guys score higher
  • The mens field looks more ‘evenly’ competitive -- the slope of the womens scores is sharper than the mens
  • The True North scores were a little higher -- Did that comp have easier problems than at Altitude? Or was the field that showed up stronger? Or both?
  • Qualifying for Women’s Finals is usually sufficient to finish out of the bottom third in Mens Open (this fluctuates -- see the individual comp charts)
  • I had a lousy performance at Coyote

By examining the charts and comparing my written accounts, I can get a sense of how well or poorly I did, and whether sending an extra problem or two would have made any difference in my relative positioning.

Here are the charts for each session, in date order:

Chart: TdB 11.11.05
See: Shut Up and Climb - TdB Season 9 begins!

Chart: TdB 11.12.03
See: Grand River Rocks Thrashing

Chart: TdB 12.01.04
See: Crunch Time at Climber’s Rock

Chart: TdB 12.01.28
See: Vertical Validation: Gonflé à Bloc 3e édition 

Chart: TdB 12.02.11
See: Crushed at Coyote Rock Gym

Chart: TdB 12.03.10
See: Dustin Curtis Makes Me Cry at True North Climbing

Chart: TdB 12.03.24
See: Absolution at Altitude: Tour de Bloc Season 9 Eastern Regionals

I can’t truthfully conclude much from chart to chart comparisons. There are too many variables, too many factors that can intrude. For example:
  • the set of competitors changes 
  • the number of problems varies (Coyote, True North, and Altitude had 70; Vertical had 60; Grand River and Rockheads had 50.)
  • your own performance may not be consistent
  • competitor performances may not be consistent
  • a given comp might have harder or easier problems
  • the scoring might change slightly (e.g. the scores for problem 1 might be 10, 5, 1, or they could be 19, 15, 11)
  •  a given comp might have more problems ‘in your style’, at higher or lower scores than the previous comp; the setters are different; the walls and surfaces are different
  • logistics might affect scores -- a crowded comp may interfere with your rhythm
  • time allotment -- some comps were 3 hours; others were 3.5 hours
  • travel to the event location may be tiring
  • you probably climb stronger at gyms you’re familiar with (you know the angles/have climbed the holds/have experienced the local setter styles)
  • the field might be stronger at one gym; your relative performance would suffer
  • Scores for finalists may be significantly lower than their true ability -- their strategy may involve doing ‘just enough’ to qualify for Finals, but no more. 

What does my performance look like over time? Well, the chart isn’t too meaningful -- there are only seven data points! -- but it gives a different interpretation on some of the comps:

My TdB comp % rankings (lower is better) --
Did I wind up exactly where I started?! :)

For example, I subjectively felt like I did great at Altitude, where the chart suggests it was an average performance; conversely I felt I had an ‘ok’ outing at Climber’s Rock, but the chart says it was solid...

For reference -- in case you want to do some data exploration, or generate your own personalized charts -- here is the spreadsheet containing all of the data. Check it out -- simply type your name into the specified field on the first worksheet!

Final thoughts
Yes, attending all the regional Tour de Bloc comps was ridiculous (heck, I was even the climber on the TdB website background this season) -- but it was also super fun.

I admit that I feel ambivalent about the competitive aspect of bouldering comps -- notwithstanding the premise of today’s post.

I have always focused on climbing for the enjoyment of the movement, for the pleasure of figuring out a problem, and for the personal discovery of my own physical and mental limits.

When we place ourselves in a competition versus others, does that enhance or detract from the experience?

I haven’t settled that question for myself yet. Clearly I had a great time at the TdB this season, and I definitely recommend going to a comp for anyone who’s never been. The atmosphere is invigorating.

In the end it was about having fun, meeting new people, and making good friends.

Thanks everyone for following along this season and for being so welcoming, wherever I went. Congratulations to all the participants!

See Also
• My series of posts covering the Tour de Bloc

• 2012 MEC Canadian Bouldering Championships -
Qualifier results & highlights (video):

• Womens and Mens Qualifier results (via Iyma Lamarche -- go Iyma!!)

• Finals results & highlights! (video):

Congrats to the victors, Sean McColl and Elise Sethna!! (And great job Ms. Lamarche (#2!))

• Adrian Das’ video from a routesetter’s perspective:

2012 Tour De Bloc Nationals. from A Das.

• Iyma Lamarche’s season and Nationals write-up (definitely check out this firsthand account)

• Nic Charron’s Nationals photo set

• Aaron Eden’s writeup of the Championships

I’ll link more 2012 TdB Nationals results and photos as I find them...

* At first I thought, I’ll track how I fare against my secret nemesis. This was problematic, for several reasons:
  • My secret nemesis wasn’t necessarily attending the same events
  • When she was at the same event, it was in a different category with less competition, so this might result in a lesser effort
  • She’s not a robot, and wouldn’t necessarily have identical results from session to session. Moreover, she’s also been training, and presumably improving along the way
  • Lastly, she’s gotten way too skilled for me to compete against. My ego couldn’t take it. Ahem!