TDB Kelowna, January 25, 2009

Sunday January 25, 2009

This past weekend, I made the trip to
Kelowna,
Canada
in British Columbia to participate in a
Tour
de Bloc
bouldering competition held at the
Beyond the
Crux Gym
. Kelowna is Mike's
hometown and I'd heard a lot of my Canadian friends
were heading up for the competition, which made the
come even more compelling for me. This whole weekend
has turned out to be a blast!

First, after crossing the border into Canada, I
experienced the first blue skies and an escape from
the inversion that had settled in on the Northwest.
Vancouver was seeing it's first fogless day with
cool temperatures and clear skies. It was heavenly.
I had coordinated a carpool from Vancouver to
Kelowna so after arriving, I settled in at a
coffee
shop
on Lonsdale and set about working until it was
time to meet up and head over.

While I was in North Vancouver, a friend of mine
(Anna) made mention she would be around the corner
at the Edge climbing gym in the afternoon. I hadn't seen
Anna since September when she was deep into
rehabilitation for a climbing accident (she fell at
the top of a wall and decked because she had
forgotten to clip into the autobelay). She was in
very bad shape and only learning how to take a few
steps back then. I was surprised to hear she was
climbing and even more surprised, when I stopped in
to see her, that she was walking over to greet me! 
I was absolutely thrilled for her! She's recovered
more than the doctors thought she would and we are
all hoping her recovery continues in this manner.

The drive to Kelowna was uneventful. I was happy to
have someone else driving, especially when we went
through a snowy stretch on the Coquihalla. 
Jamie and Sarah, two coaches for the Edge
youth/junior team, were heading to Kelowna so I was
fortunate to get a space in their car for the ride.

In Kelowna, since it's Mike's hometown, I stayed at
his parents house and Diane was happy to drive me to
the competition. I even got her to take some videos,
but with me forgetting to format the additional
discs we bough the way to the comp meant that she
didn't get all of the coverage she had hoped. Oh
well, the 20 minutes she did capture were really
good, thanks, Diane!


The
format was redpoint/scramble qualifiers with an
onsite final. They were taking the top 6 and
climbers had 3 hours to climb. Finals format had 4
problems, 5 minutes per problem, points were per
hold with an onsight bonus.

First, I have to say that the problems were really,
really good. They were hard enough to make you think
but not hard enough to prevent progress. I've been
in comps where I get shutdown on reach on a problem
but don't have any other problems of a similar grade
that I can achieve so I make very little progress.
In this one, when I found a problem that was reachy,
I also found other similarly rated problems that I
weren't. Therefore, I felt pretty good about my top
6 climbs. I even felt like if I qualified for
finals, I would have some energy to spare….though
turning in my card early had me worried I might be
pushed out. As it turned out, I qualified in the
first spot so I didn't have anything to worry about.

Next, when I arrived at the comp I immediately ran
into some friends and it wasn't long before I was
surrounded with a group of adults that I have come
to know over these last few years. It was a really
good and welcoming feeling to be amongst friends and
I was super excited to share this climbing
experience with them. 

It must have been all of my excitement to be there
that I climbed the problems with an enthusiasm that
I haven't had in a long time. Cheering people,
sharing beta, and getting support from strangers was
uplifting. I made a few new friends and witnessed
some amazing climbing feats.

For instance, and while this might not be a feat in
itself, I was inspired by Terry McColl. He's the
father of Sean McColl who has recently seen a lot of
press due to his World Cup successes in Europe this
past summer. Now, Sean's always been a talented
climber and the genes appear to run in the family,
but I had never really paid that close of attention
to that fact until that day. Terry was trying some
of the same climbs as myself and this gave me a
really good gauge for how he was climbing. At about
50 years old, Terry was doing powerful and dynamic
moves that I really hope I am still able to do when
I am that age. It was incredible. Despite pulling
off some amazing boulder problems, his field
(Advanced category) was pretty deep and his
competition quite a bit younger. πŸ™‚  Good job,
Terry!

I was excited to have qualified for finals, but I
was not expecting myself to have qualified in the
first position. This meant, I was coming out last in
the next round. It also meant, if I wasn't
overworked from the earlier sessions, that I might
have a chance to win this event. That is the first
time I have found myself in such a position and I
think I made myself overly nervous from the
pressure, which pretty much guaranteed I didn't win.

It was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm in ISO.
I was elated at my performance, not because I
qualified in 1st, but because I knew I was climbing
well. Staying loosened up for the finals was
difficult. I was stiff, I hadn't really eaten much
and my neck and shoulder were acting up. I also knew
that at least 2 problems were going to be on the
hardest angles in the gym. I wasn't sure if I had
enough juice in me to pull it off.

Going out last, knowing the crowd has this
expectation of my performance and knowing that I
didn't want to let myself down, I didn't relax
enough to compete well. I thought I might have been
tired, and I was tired, but after seeing some
footage from the video Diane had taken, I realized
it was performance jitters that sabotaged me.

On the first problem, for example, I took my time to
read the route. I looked at every angle on the holds
so I knew exactly where to grab them (fortunately
they weren't overly tricky holds), but I failed to
look for feet. Most of the beginning was tracking
(hand holds were foot holds) but pulling the lip
there were feet that I just never saw. In the video
you can see that I scan the handholds to the finish
hold but never look around for other taped holds
that could be used as feet. I took a very short
amount of time scanning the end as compared to the
roof section. And, when I climbed the problem, it
was apparent that I didn't know where I was going. 
The lip is the worst place to be hanging (half out
of the cave, half in) and trying to figure things
out…there's no rest or recovery in that space.

After the first attempt, I had found another foot
but was really, really tired that my 2nd attempt,
while better, was not a send either. I made it
almost over the lip…almost to the 2nd to last
hold. I was really tired at that point and at a loss
for a sequence, again! Inside I was kicking myself
for being impatient and now, I was zapping myself of
precious energy and I might blow the next climb, too
(no energy). So, while all of that is going through
my mind, what is not going through my mind is to
relax and just climb. Perhaps then I would have seen
the other foot I missed. As it was, I did a
desperate campus to the hold, which turned out to be
not so positive and fell. My time had run out.

On the second problem, also coming out of the cave,
there was some trickiness to it. I was tired, but I
wanted to give my first go a good go. This time, I
was trying to breathe and relax, I was a bit more
focused and I looked for feet. Still, I was tired. I
kept the body tension, made it up to the stalagtite,
but then couldn't stay on the hold. My next attempt,
my core tension failed me and I had to really,
really try hard to make it to that hold, again. 😦 
I was really bummed by this point because it was
clear that I was not climbing as well as I could and
I feared I'd not only lost a placing spot but maybe
I even fell to the bottom.  There's no way
these girls did as poorly as I did on these two
problems.  Afterall, Thomasina had just walked
these two before me.

Fortunately, there was a save in this for me that
was unexpected. The last two problems were not as
powerful (i.e. we were done with the roof
climbing!).  They were more technical and
balancy and for me, they were more than welcomed at
that point! I ended up onsighting both of them for
the bonus points, which turned out to be enough to
place me in the third position.

I watched some of the footage of climbers from
qualifiers and finals that Diane took and I am
really surprised by the end results. I definitely
feel I earned my placing and I am really happy with
how I climbed and what I learned that day. But, I
know these girls and I saw some of their finals
footage. Some of them climbed those first two
problems way better than I did. There wasn't any
footage from the last two problems so I don't know
what happened, there. The only thing I can think is
that with ABS
Nationals
just around the corner, I think I was
in better competition shape than some of them.
Afterall, their season has only just kicked off. 
By the time their Nationals come around, I know they
will be bouldering machines!

A lot of people went out for a drink after the
competition. It was fun to hang out.  We drove
back to Vancouver Sunday morning and Sunday night I
celebrated the Chinese New Year with the McColls.
Anna's dad knows how to cook. The meal was just
amazing.

If I get any photos, I'll be sure to post some here.
Thanks for reading!

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climber, climbing coach, computer software/technology enthusiast and occasional baker/cook and wine connoisseur.
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