Canadian Boulder Nationals

My first big competition of the year has come and passed. It was a good feeler competition to gauge how well I’ve been training. This competition was he 2014 Canadian Boulder Nationals, held at Coyote Rock Gym in Ottawa. It was a fun weekend; I got to see a bunch of old friends and was worth the trip from Europe even if it was just for the weekend.

When I say I got to gauge how well I’ve been training, it’s because the first world cup that I’ll likely attend is mid-way through May which gives me 6 weeks after this weekend to resume training. If I felt like I wasn’t strong in a certain aspect, I’d at least have some time to tweak some things before my next big event. It was also nice that this wasn’t a world cup and there wasn’t as much pressure. Going into this comp, I had everything to lose and less to gain. I try to remember that to make the competition even harder for me. It’s a good test of not only physical but mental training for me. I know that I could win, but I also know that people are all hoping I make mistakes which is just the nature of the game.

I flew over from Europe on Friday and after a bus ride, 3 planes and a ride from Bob, I was sitting in my hotel room with another Joe Rockheads Athlete Marshal German. Saturday was the qualifiers and everything went really well. I warmed up well, felt all the same things as I would a normal competition and the round went well too. I only faltered on one of the 5 qualifying boulders, the second one. I saw a hold up near the top of the boulder and thought it was a gaston hold. On my first try, I tried it like that but it felt too hard. I fell and didn’t think I’d even try it again. While staring blankly at the wall, I finally noticed a bit of chalk on the other side of the hold and knew I had missed a pinch over on that side. Now the problem made sense and I did it second try. I flashed the other 4 boulders and qualified in first place with 5 tops in 6 tries.

Semi-finals were Sunday morning and I knew this would be the hardest round just like in World Cups. With 20 competitors making semi-finals and only 6 to finals, the cut is big. Also the format of semi-finals being 5 on 5 off is harder than the finals problems which are one after another. I felt nervous going out but confident at the same time. I was just behind another US climber Dylan Barks and I knew how far he was getting on the problems. He flashed the first two which I also flashed and he did the third slab problem in a few tries. When I couldn’t do the slab problem, I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t qualify in first. The third problem was a traversing slab with a deadpoint finish. The tricky part was that final hold that we were jumping too was blocked on the top by another hold so you had to be very precise. I guess it was bugging me too much and of the 3 times I got there and touched the hold, I never grabbed it well enough to stick.

When Dylan sent the 4th boulder, I knew I couldn’t qualify in first, but I knew it was lucky enough to not be the final round. I came out and flashed the final boulder, it felt good. After I checked results, another US climber Josh Larson had also done all 4 boulders putting me in 3rd place going into finals. Joining us would be Sebastian Lazure, Jason Holowach and Yves Gravelle. On a side note, I knew that because of the final format, Josh and Dylan having to climb after me probably wasn’t something they were looking forward to, especially with the “Canadian Crowd” behind me…

Finals were later that day and it was another hard round. It was IFSC format so we got a collective 2 minute preview and we would attempt the boulder one after another.

Boulder number one was a sort of run and jump (after starting with the official 4 point start). It was a great problem, it looked hard, but more importantly looked scary because you never know how well a dyno is going to feel until you actually try it. You usually know while leaving the jumping holds if you’re going to stick it as well. Dylan, Josh, Jason and I flashed it and Yves and Sebastian sent second try.

The second boulder was another one that looked hard while previewing. It was on a bunch of pinches, a dyno in the middle and a huge last move lockoff. I was the fourth climber out and I knew from the cheer of the crowd that no one had done the boulder yet. I started, and the second move was incredibly hard. I sailed out to the zone and it felt good. The dyno was a weird move and it felt like I was falling when I stuck the hold. As my body turned towards the crowd, my free hand found the next hold and I stayed on. Because the nature of the movement, I completed the 360, placed my heel on and started the last move; it was big. I started pulling up and re set my heel to the perfect place. After resetting the heel, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get far enough so I switched my right hand to a palm. It turned out that was the thing to do as I locked off as far as I could and just barely reached the finish. A couple of the other finalists got to the last move as well, but without the swap to the cup could only tickle the final hold without sending.

Moving on to the 3rd problem, I had a good lead with 2 in 2. The third problem was another traversing slab that I was not looking forward to. Sebastian and Jason topped the problem before me so I knew it was possible.

I went out and fell on the first move; I think I’ll blame the nerves on that one, but it was more a placement of my foot. On my second and third try, I got just past the bonus but couldn’t do a big cross over type of move. I didn’t feel comfortable on the problem at all though, which didn’t help. As the seconds counted away, my lead disappeared and I went back to isolation with merely a zone. Josh also topped the boulder after me but Dylan couldn’t complete it either. When Jay told me he flashed it, I knew the last boulder counted for everything. We both had 2 in 2 so it would come to bonuses. There was also a chance that Sebastian or Josh could win, but the chances were smaller; they would have to flash the whole boulder without Jay or I getting the zone. If Jason stuck the zone and I didn’t get the zone in a handful of tries, he would win the round leaving me in second.

Of the first 3 climbers, none topped but the problem was too hard to judge whether they stuck zone. I had to think that Jason did. That meant that I needed that zone to win the competition. My first try was bad and my foot slipped out of the roof. I composed myself and went pretty quickly on my second try. I got through the roof and was making my way up towards the zone. It was obvious that to have a chance of completing the boulder, you had to grab the zone with your right hand, but I wasn’t concerned with completely the boulder, merely to stick the zone. I went up with my left because I knew the chances of falling were much lower. In doing so, I shot myself in the foot but it didn’t matter. I knew when I stick that zone, I’d won the comp. Now I was in an awkward position on a hard boulder. I managed to match the zone but fell on the next move as my feet came out from the roof. I rested for the remainder of my time and gave it one last try. I made it a move further but the boulder wasn’t getting easier and I fell on the second to last move. I had highpoint on the boulder so the crowd was cheering; I also knew that I had won so I was stoked.

Josh and Dylan also couldn’t do the last boulder which meant it was just a tiny bit too hard. With the fourth boulder only counting for a zone, Jason came 2nd with 2 flashes and Josh came 3rd with 2 tops in 4 tries, beating out Sebastian in attempts to the third bonus.

The next couple of hours went by pretty quickly. I was super happy Jay for coming second and I knew that he almost beat me. If I would’ve slipped on one of my flashes which is very easy to do, he’d have beat me in attempts. With his second place, he also secured the overall victory of the 2014 season having won Regionals earlier in the month. I took a few photos, signed some stuff and had the awards ceremony. Best part of the awards was the Champagne they had gotten for the winners. Nothing feels better than cracking a bottle of champagne after a hard day of competing. An even better feeling if you’ve won.

Full results for the men and women can be found here.

I know I didn’t say anything about the women because I had no idea what had happened. It turned out that their problems were even harder than ours with 3 of the finalists not even getting a zone. Elise Sethna took home the gold with 2 flashes; Kerry Briggs was second with one flash and Celeste Wall took third with a couple of bonuses.

So after competing and feeling everything I feel in competition there are a few things I have to work on. I have 6 weeks until my next competition and I’d like to do a bit of campus boarding in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to the season and I had a great time this weekend. It was great seeing people I hadn’t seen in a long time and I hope to see them throughout the season or when I’m back in Canada.

All the photos were taken by Aidas Odonelis | rubyphotostudio.com

Thank you!

Last World Cup of 2013

I’m almost feeling nostalgic knowing that I won’t compete in a world cup for at least 4 months. I said almost because I’m ready for a break from everything that comes with world cup climbing; good and bad. In the last event of 2013 I didn’t climb very well; it’s a bit sad to see my final place at 10th but good things come along with that specific number as well!

This past weekend was the last world cup of the season; it was a lead event and took place in Kranj Slovenia. Earlier this year I won my first Bouldering world cup not so far away in Log-Dragomer. I was excited for the weekend having won the event in 2011. In 2012 I came to this event pretty sick and finished in 12th place. This year, I was sick in Valence so I was glad I got that out of the way.

I made the trip out there on Friday the 15th. A couple of flights from Toulouse and I was picked up by Christina Stutz and Jessica Pilz in Salzburg to finish the trip. Qualifiers for the men were the morning of the 16th; nothing out of the ordinary happened. I topped both my qualifiers along with another 13 climbers. The routes felt good, I slowed down my climbing to get used to the wall and was feeling good. One thing that I don’t like is doing the semi-finals on the same day as the qualifiers. I prefer the balance of doing 2 routes on each day over 3:1. [assuming of course I made finals :)]

In between men’s qualifiers and semifinals were the women’s qualifiers. I chilled in my hotel, played my first LoL game with Hyunbin, Jakob, Mario and Lucas then just relaxed. A few hours later we were back in semifinals isolation.

Some people might look at my 10th place finish and start looking for excuses; honestly I have none. There are a few things that didn’t align perfectly leading up to the event but that’s pretty normal. I had a good warm up, I was having good times with my friends and I felt good starting the route.

On the route, I didn’t climb very well. The biggest challenge I faced while climbing in this round was the inability to find a good rhythm. I also didn’t feel very comfortable going through the route. At halfway, I knew I had been climbing slowly and I tried to speed up. After making a big error in one of the cross overs I started to get pumped. I still managed to fight for 4-5 moves but fell with my hands just opening up. It’s the worst kind of pump for me. I can’t fight anymore, I can’t power myself through the moves and I just fall, slowly but surely.

As I fell, I was disappointed. I knew I hadn’t climbed very well which saddened me. I untied and waved at the crowd while smiling. Without knowing results, I knew that the chances were pretty high that this might be my last lead climb of the year. I tried to think of the whole season in that moment, not the last climb.

I didn’t even know final results for a long time after; I didn’t really want to know. I wanted to watch the rest of semi-finals and be happy for my friends who would advance into finals. After I watched everyone climb, I found out I finished 10th. Funny enough that cheered me up pretty quickly. Why you ask does that cheer me up? Some of you already know why but it’s purely so I can make the following statement!

“I finished in the top-10 in every Lead and Boulder event in 2013”

Yes, I missed finals by a few holds but still finish 10th. Whenever I don’t climb well, I can’t be unhappy if I don’t make finals. I’m the first one to say that I should’ve climbed better, not that everyone else should’ve climbed worse…

The next morning I had absolutely nothing to do… I woke up, had some IFSC meetings in the morning and played games in the afternoon. Finals were to start at 5pm and I was pretty stoked to broadcast on the live stream. I tried to think about what I would say and what not to say as well.

I met up with Dan and the rest of the broadcasting team up in the booth 15 minutes before the observation and the next couple of hours went pretty fast. I don’t even know how long I was broadcasting for, but it was tons of fun. I’ll admit that broadcasting for the men is much easier than for the women. I can just tell when the men will fall, rest and clip and with the women… well I can’t as accurately.

Jakob Schubert won his 3rd world cup of 2013 in exciting fashion falling on the last move. Adam Ondra and Sachi Amma filled the podium falling mere moves below. On the women’s side, some of the favourites seemed to get bogged down on a difficult move at two-thirds. From what I could see, they really wanted to full crimp one of the holds that you should (imo) pinch. The problem was that the crimp was too close to the wall behind it and there wasn’t enough room to full crimp. The next option is open crimp or pinch. Mina Markovic from Slovenia who ended up finishing 3rd spent over a minute deciphering what to do before finally just committing. She fell a few moves later just running out of juice. A similar thing happened to Jain Kim from Korea who ended up finishing 4th. Momoka Oda and Akiyo Noguchi were the only two girls to climb higher. They fell on what seemed to be the same move but after a closer analysis Momoka was awarded a + thus giving her the victory.

After the finals finished, there were a bunch of awarding ceremonies. For the overall 2013 World Cup the podiums were as follows:

Women’s Overall:

  1. Jain Kim – 625
  2. Mina Markovic – 605
  3. Momoka Oda – 491

Men’s Overall:

  1. Sachi Amma – 572
  2. Jakob Schubert – 535
  3. Ramon Julian-Puigblanque – 420

For the combined overall (lead, boulder, speed) podiums were as follows:

Women’s Combined:

  1. Mina Markovic – 648
  2. Akiyo Noguchi – 634
  3. Momoka Oda – 628

Men’s Combined:

  1. Jakob Schubert – 755
  2. Sean McColl – 651
  3. Sachi Amma – 507

Now that the lead season is over, I get to think back on how long it really was. I started training in early January getting my strength back. My first world cup of the year was in April and I’ve been going non-stop since then. Because this post is already a nice length, I’ll sign off here and write another next week reflecting on the season!

I also have one more competition of the year, the La Sportiva Legends in Stockholm.