French National Training CampThis past weekend, I had the privilege to be invited to one of France’s National training camps. These training camps are usually exclusively for French athletes that are most likely going to be on their National team. This is also for their lead climbing team and not bouldering which they completely separate. [singlepic id=326 w=500 h=300 float=center] The training camp was in Arnas, France which is close to Lyon. The only reason that I was even invited to this training camp was because my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra competes as well and specializes in lead. She trains with me and focuses on World Cups and World Championships. The next big lead competition for her (us) will be the French Lead National Championships at the end of May. That competition will also be the deciding competition for their 2012 World Cup team as well as the selection for the World Championships this September in Bercy. [singlepic id=329 w=370 h=300 float=right] We left Friday afternoon when Mathilde was done school. It’s a 6 hour drive, but because I’m so used to driving, it felt easy. We rolled in around 7:30 and most of the French climbers were already there. There were 11 climbers in total including me. The 6 men included Romain Desgranges, Manu Romain, Thomas Ballet, Gauthier Supper, Thomas Joannes and myself. The 5 women were made up of Mathilde, Charlotte Durif, Julia Serriere, Helene Janicot and Laura Michelard. The coaches present at this camp were Corentin LeGoff, Daniel Dulac and Raphael Cabane. There were also two physio’s for the weekend to help with recuperation and sore muscles. We had a nice dinner with some bubbly wine and Corentin briefly explained how the weekend would unfold but left it pretty obscure. [singlepic id=325 w=370 h=300 float=left] Overall, Saturday we were to do a double training session with 3.5 hours in the morning, a 1.5 hour lunch, and then another 3.5 hour session in the afternoon. Just after that, the exercise was called “Run Chicken Run” which I assumed would be some sort of cardio. Sunday was another double training day but only 3 hours for each with running at the end as well. We woke up Saturday morning at 7:30am and all grouped up around the table to eat breakfast, drink coffee and get ready for the day. By 8:15 we were driving to the gym and were given a standard hour to warm up. They said just warm up for routes. The climbing gym was really cool with a big gymnasium just beside. We took the opportunity to play some indoor soccer to warm up. After that, we finished by doing our usual routines and a few really hard boulders to get our faster muscles into it. [singlepic id=328 w=370 h=300 float=right] At the end of our warm up, we had another meeting and the coaches explained how the day would run down. The first exercise which we would be doing this morning and also in the afternoon was called “Mangrove Power”. As you can see in the picture to the right, it’s made up of a sort of tree. There are 4 half routes on the bottom, and another 4 half routes on the top and they all join in the middle. In the middle, there are also giant resting holds so in reality we’d be doing two smaller routes separated by a humongous rest. The routes are also very specific in the way they were set. Some of the writing reads “technical feet”, or “dynamic power”, or “crimpy holds”. Because there’s 4 starts, and 4 ends (doing some math), that gives us 16 different possibilities for routes to try. I’m not going to go over how every route went, but we tried almost every link up possible and the routes were HARD. I was lucky enough to make it through the bottom section every time which was nice, but at the end of the day (7 hours of climbing); I had only completed 1 route. Actually, all of the men could only complete one route. Of the 4 endings, only one was completed, far right. It was really hard, but one of the most fun I’ve had on routes as well. All 4 routes at the bottom were different as well as the tops. [singlepic id=327 w=370 h=300 float=left] This picture to the left is the same thing thing just for the women. This is the type of training camp that I dream of having in Canada. Everything was organized, it had taken the 3 coaches 5 days prior to set all the routes and the routes were awesome. I can’t speak for the women’s routes, but ours were amazing. We were generally pretty psyched to get back on the routes and they were always hard for us. To top it all off, they were all similar grades and styles to world cups. If I had to guess, I would say that none of the first half of the routes were easier than 8a (5.13b) and none of the tops combined with the starts were any easier than 8b (5.13d). That stands to reason that some of the full lines could be 8b+ (5.14a) and maybe even harder? After our double training session with lunch in the middle, I was pretty tired. The running exercise turned out to be a running VO2 max test. They set up pylons along the gym floor and we did shuttle runs. The hardest part turned out to be the turning around at the end of the gym… I don’t know what I scored, but those tests are brutally hard. They start easy, (a nice jog) and just get faster and faster. It’s also a test that can’t be beaten, so I guess it’s merely a measure of fitness. If you ever decided to complain, you were offered a tissue from this box along with some crylenol and the wambulance. The box translates to “box of excuses”… Pretty funny… [singlepic id=324 w=500 h=300 float=center] We all went back to the gite we were staying at and had a pretty late dinner. We didn’t finish dinner until after 10:30 and because of daylight savings, we were going to lose another hour. Everyone went to bed pretty quick as the next day was supposed to be harder than the first. We woke up Sunday morning and I felt pretty tired. Nothing that some black coffee, no sugar, and no milk can’t cure! Back to the gym and another standard hour warm up. The exercise was called “Back to the Routes” and it only involved the first half of the tree from yesterday. It was all on toprope and we were supposed to do as many laps as we could on each start with a 2 minute rest in between goes. As soon as you fall once, your try is over, and the “counter” would reset. So you’d climb the first half to the jug, jump off and your two minute timer would start as you’re being lowered. When the 2 minutes were up, back on the wall! We weren’t sure how many times we’d even be able to do the initial starts, but I set up on the green route and Manu set up one to the right of me on the yellow. He went first, and I staggered my start to be climbing as he was resting. He went, I went, he went, I went….. and it repeated, and repeated….. As the coaches starting realizing that the 2 minute rest was quite a nice number for us, they put a max of 10 on the routes. So as soon as that happened, 10 was our goal, and after doing 7 or 8, it wasn’t too far off. Manu was always just ahead of me which encouraged me to keep going. Although both our 10th climbs were pretty sketchy, we managed to both do it! Those 10 climbs made me so tired; I tried another a good hour later and fell on my 5th time up… By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was exhausted, my muscles hurt and climbing was hard. The coaches could see we were pretty exhausted and pretty much left the afternoon open. We climbed whatever routes we wanted, even tried some of the girls routes. Because there was also a volleyball tournament in the gymnasium, we were unable to do our second “running drill”. At the end of the training camp, the coaches had a little debriefing with all the climbers and Mathilde and I made the 6 hour drive back to Toulouse. I was exhausted but at the same time very content with how my weekend had gone. I love training well, and being around all those top French climbers who are all strong as well is so motivating. You can build on the motivation of others and see how they climb as well. I try to leave my imagination open while watching them climb and always try to pick up small details in their climbing. I can only imagine that they do similar things as well, but overall, I got to know some of the climbers a little better over the weekend as well. It’s been a long time since I’ve train in a team environment and I must say that it’s a really good feeling! I look forward to the next training camp as well whenever that may be!
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