02 Dec 2014

Blocbuster 2014 – Nottingham Depot

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I recently competed at a fantastic event up at the Depot Nottingham called Blocbuster. It was a really fun day with a 30 problem qualification tour and world cup style finals, with such a strong field it was super close but I managed to win both rounds and take the overall victory.

I’m rubbish at writing these blogs turning them more into diaries of self loathing so I recommend reading a great write up and report on UK Climbing here - http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=69342 

I particularly enjoyed the “Dropped the clutch and engaged the hammer straight to the top” line :-)

 

22 Jun 2014

British Bouldering Championships 2014

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This year the British Bouldering Championships was held on 21/22nd June at The Climbing Works in Sheffield. During the event, over 100 of Britain’s best boulderers fought it out for the chance to become British Champion.

As a competition climber this is the biggest domestic event of the year and one which I always want to do well in. I had made finals for the previous 6 years; coming 3rd twice, this year I wanted to do better.

After analysing my performances from the competitions last year I identified a number of areas I wanted to focus my training on to achieve this goal and in February I built a training wall in my garage. Going into the event the board had paid dividends and I felt stronger than ever.

I had a great qualification round topping all 5 of my boulders qualifying in joint 1st place for the next round. Day 2 and the semi finals came around quickly, having qualified in 1st I was due to climb last I spent my time in isolation resting and trying to relax. After an hour or so of napping I got up to start my warm up and felt a pain in my back, surely this couldn’t be happening? After a few minutes of stretching I knew that my worst fears had come true and my lower back had gone out of alignment and I couldn’t touch my toes.

I quickly sourced some pain relief and set about warming up, this did not go well and I felt terrible. Time passed and I thought about pulling out, I wanted to do well and with the level of competition knew that I would need to be on my A game. I then though back to the months leading up and decided that I owed it to myself to at least try, if it wasn’t manageable then I could still retire during the event.

  • Boulder one was a tricky slab and I simply could not figure out the required movement and body position to execute it until it was too late.
  • Boulder two was a shouldery first section leading into a friction dependent volume finish, I read it right and flashed it.
  • Boulder three was pure sloper compression up a steep wall and whilst I read it right after a few attempts I did not have enough in the tank and swang off the finishing jug. I knew from crowd reactions that two climbs were required to qualify for the final and thought that with this mistake I had blown it.
  • Boulder four, an awkward starting position leading to a dyno and steady finish. I knew I had to do it quickly to stand any chance of qualifying but slipped off holding the dyno first try, I regrouped and fired it off next try.

I turned around to Victoria in the crowd and got the nod that I had made it through to finals qualifying in 4th place, elation was an understatement. During the break before finals I managed to get some treatment for my back and reset it ready for finals, game on.

I’m not sure if it was the heat, fatigue or style of problems but the finals were much more subdued than in previous years. Dave Barrans however made a mockery of all the climbs dominating things from the start topping all four climbs, Matt Cousins and I then topped two climbs each locking out the podium.

After my problems in the semi final I was relieved that I made it through to the end in one piece and equaling my best result to date.

 

 

 

16 Mar 2014

Climbing Works International Festival 2014

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It is, arguably, the biggest UK climbing competition of the year. International climbing prodigies and seasoned veterans with guns to rival the Navarone travel from far and wide to take part. It was a fantastic weekend and I managed to finish up 11th overall out of a large international field and just missing out on finals.

01 Dec 2013

Blokfest Reading

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Nice little highlights video of the finals for the Reading round of Blokfest. I felt really good in isolation for the finals but crumpled like a paper bag when it came to it. Really frustrating as the blocs climbed really well, on the plus side no-one else topped a bloc so not all bad. Apparently I did however win the ‘Funky Shape’ award which you can check out at the 20 second mark in the video. Felt OK to me…

16 Nov 2013

Westway Blokfest

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Awesome video from Kamil Daniel Jutkiewicz of the Westway event. Kamil is the nicest guy in the world and has done a very impressive job here so be sure to check out his blog/ website. www.sports-travel-documentary.blogspot.com. If your loving Kamil’s work please share the video.

It was a great event as always and although I got the same result as Chris Webb Parsons in the final; came second due to count back from the qualifiers overall. Still was really pleased with my performance.

09 Nov 2013

Craggy island Boulder Bash 2013

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Craggy’s infamous Boulder Bash made a come-back this year.  The competition was held at Craggy Sutton on Saturday 9th of November. Awesome event and managed to get a good result :-)

19 Jul 2013

British Bouldering Championships 2013

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After a long World Cup season I was feeling tired and pretty run down but with a couple of weeks to prepare I felt like I could get myself into a pretty good place.

I have started working with a new strength and conditioning coach on a program to improve my power and flexibility across a full range of movement.

I like trying new things outside of climbing as it provides a welcome break. I hate however being crap at stuff and these guys (whilst making me better) have made me look like a feeble human being. It’s a completely alien way of training to me and whilst it is totally nails I feel like I am making gains at a huge rate.

It’s kind of a work in progress and we are making a case study video out of it which will be out later in the year. If you are interested in the mean time the company is Wild Training you can check out an example of some the stuff here.

I also had a couple of great sessions at the Castle, the final one being an onsite comp simulation on their new competition wall. I managed to do all of the blocs in quick time which was great and I felt like it was a real confidence booster as I knew the blocs would be a comparable level and style to the BBC’s. Thank you to Mike Langley and Cornelia for sorting it out.

The comp venue.

The comp venue.

As for the comp weekend, I say to anyone who asks me about the British Championships that I find it the most stressful comp of the year. I guess it’s the level of expectation and pressure.

Being a member of the British team and competing internationally this is one of the events where I feel I need to justify my selection and prove my worth. I have also made the previous five finals and was desperate for a sixth. Add to that the presence of friends and family who know how much it means to me, the number of other strong competitors trying to do the same and it feels like a pressure cooker.

This is the ‘head game’ and part of what I have been working on a lot this season. I know that if I train really hard and get as strong, light and fit as I can I will be in a good position to do well, but if my head is not in the right place it will make very little difference.

This is however easier said than done, and for me has been the hardest thing to develop. I have read some books on the topic and had assistance from the team’s sports psychologist. The result has been the development of routines and a mental management process. I won’t bore you with the specifics as everyone by their very nature is unique, but the crux of it is basically focussing on the factors I can control.

Climbers Against Cancer

Supporting Climbers Against Cancer

This year was the first time that our governing body the BMC have run a world cup style event for the British Championships. It was a big undertaking on their part and from my perspective was a huge success and a real step forwards. The format gives all competitors a fair and level playing field and the chance to experience a world cup style event. It also gives the British team management the ability to evaluate the team and identify potential in a representative environment.

So onto the competition itself, on the first day I awoke in the hotel and nerves hit me big time. I adopted the world Champion Dimitri Sharafutinov’s breakfast regime and headed off to find some bananas and register.

Inside isolation were familiar faces and after a bit of chin wagging I set up camp and began my warm up routine. Ranking for the comp this year was decided by results from the 2012 event and having finished 5th last year I was out 3rd in my group. With a field of 60 guys and the heat I was glad to be out early and have less time in isolation and benefit from fresh holds.

Qualifiers went well and I managed to do all 5 of the boulders, flashing 4 of them in the process. This result put me 4th in my group and 8th overall. I felt a huge sense of relief and apart from fluffing the awkward double dyno a few times and sketching the last problem I felt like I climbed well. After that it was time for some food and R&R back at the hotel. I pretty much spent the next 18 hours horizontal in the airconned room which was ace.

So day 2 was the main event with the top 20 competitors from qualifiers battling it out in the semi finals for the top 6 final spots. Having qualified in 8th I was coming out towards the end of the round and in isolation we could hear that the crowd and commentators were quiet. No noise = no tops so I knew it was going to be a hard.

I finished the round with one top and 2 bonuses and it turned out that this was enough. Only seven people topped a bloc with Stew Watson doing 2 boulders qualifying in first place. I had mixed emotions; I was thrilled to have made it through the finals but felt like I hadn’t really climbed well enough to justify it. Hey ho, I guess that is competition climbing and after chatting with Victoria about it for a while excitement took over and I couldn’t wait for finals.

Presentation of finalists

Presentation of finalists

Back in isolation it didn’t take long to warm up and we made our way out for the presentation and viewing. We had some fantastic looking boulders and as the noise of the crowd grew as did my psyche. I was out second following Dave Barrans so knew that if my result was close to him I was in with a chance.

Boulder 1 – The hottest / greasiest volumes you have ever felt. Before even pulling on the heat was radiating out and I knew Dave had flashed it so I needed a quick top. Unfortunately I got shut down unable to hold the big swing between volumes. I was annoyed due to the basic nature of the problem and was adamant that others would top after me. Luckily they didn’t so I was still in the mix.

Boulder 2 – Disgusting crimp, slopey feet, jump, mantel, Top. Dave had not topped so I knew I had an opportunity to get back in the game. After a few foot pops on the starting footholds, I nailed the jump and topped. Back in isolation I was unsure how others would fair as it was an annoying problem. Result they all topped it and I was back in last place.

Boulder 3 – Double knee bars, weird pivot, change knees, hold slope, pull to crimp, wrestle volume and top. No top for Dave but a lot of chalk and clues for me to try and link. Unfortunately no luck and I got spanked and bloody knees for my efforts. I was really frustrated on this one as I knew I was missing a key body position to enable me to turn the knee bars round and get established on the head wall. Luckily no one else topped and it was going to come down to the last boulder.

British Bouldering Championships 2013 Final

Topping out the final boulder.

Boulder 4 – Weird pull-on on volumes, press, roll, jump, match, highfoot, swing, grab, heel, rockover, top. Dave had topped on what I guessed by the crowd was his second go and with this in mind I knew I couldn’t catch him and he had probably won. I focussed on a top; I knew if I made this quickly I had a shot at podium still. First two goes I fluffed the jump thinking I could hold the swing one arm, third try I doubled and I was up on the jug and feeling  goosed. After a lot of battling I made it to the top and the stress of the weekend came out and was captured in this picture by Joe Bourton.

Now it was time to sit back and watch the others; James and Ben topped to lock out the podium leaving me in 4th. Overall if you had told me at the start of the weekend that I would have come 4th I probably would have taken it given the level of competition however retrospect is a bugger and given the stupidity of my mistakes I was annoyed not to be on the podium.

Still congratulations go to Dave Barrans, James Garden and Ben West; all true gents and worthy victors.

As for me now I have a few weeks to prepare for the final two comps of the year; a world cup in Munich and the European championships in Eindhoven.

Bring it on.

05 Jun 2013

Canadia

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So the sixth world cup of the year took place in Hamilton, Ontario last weekend and was a great experience. This was the first ‘long haul’ comp I have done outside of Europe and also my first time to Canada.

Straight off the plane we were treated to some fantastic Canadian hospitality with local couple Keith and Caska waiting to drive us to our hotel. For the next few days they were incredible hosts ferrying us around from pillar to post. A massive thank you from all of the team.

They even organised a trip for us to visit Niagara Falls which was breathtaking. I have obviously seen the falls before in pictures and films but none of them can do it justice. Although very touristy in the surrounding area they truly are one of the great natural wonders of the world.

The following day we headed into central Toronto to have a mooch around and got up close with the CN tower.

The comp itself was a slightly different affair for me and I had a real shocker. The competition took place in a giant warehouse made out of metal and in 30 degree heat it felt like a sweat box. I’m not sure what the reason for my poor performance was but I think the heat  was certainly a contributing factor. I think also the jet lag, lack of proper training for 5 days before and diet also played a part. Anyway these things are sent to try us and despite being very annoyed I know I have learnt allot.

Following qualification round I was asked if I would act as ‘Technical Analyst’ on the live stream for the semi’s & finals. To be honest I was very apprehensive about it as I have no experience in both commentating or competing in world cup finals. It was however great fun and a welcome change to simply spectating on yet another set of finals I have not made. Added to that some people have been very kind with their feedback which is great.

I am now sitting in our apartment in Vail preparing for the next comp on Friday. I say preparing as i have been finding the acclimatisation process very interesting. Vail’s average elevation is 8,150 feet (2484 m) above sea level and doing anything feels like a bit of effort.

So far I have managed a short climb and stretch session at the local wall and a run up the side of a mountain. The latter was unbelievably hard not because I was getting physically tired but from the lack of oxygen. It is something I have never experienced before and will certainly be interesting to see if it affects me on comp day.

Vail Town CentreVail is a beautiful place and it kind of feels like Disneyland. Everything is perfectly kept; gardens, houses, roads, shops. It is however extremely expensive and walking past an estate agents window I noticed some lovely places, if anyone has got a spare $6.5 million I have some great suggestions. It is so peaceful here too and I imagine what one of those celebrity rehab places might be like (minus the bars).

Although my girlfriend Victoria has been with me throughout the whole season this year; due to holiday restrictions from work she has been unable to come out and I have been missing her allot.

Tom NewmanOn the flip side I have been room buddies with Tom Newman for the whole trip which has been great. Here is Tom ‘giving me those eyes’ before bed. We both have very similar routines and our girlfriends are also friends back home and get together to support us from the UK which is great.

Getting to compete out here has been a fantastic opportunity and one that I am extremely thankful for and will never forget. I literally would not be out here without the help of some very generous sponsors so to all of them too; thank you.

01 May 2013

The season begins

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So my first two world cups of the year have been and gone and it as always it has been an incredible experience. Our team this year is great and everyone is very motivated and desperate to succeed.

This year I am lucky to have my girlfriend Victoria traveling with me to all of the European comps and it has been a real boost. Comps are incredibly stressful and difficult environments to be in so having her there has brought a real sense of normality and support which I am thankful for.

As a team we have already had some fantastic results, Shauna is leading from the front and dominating things with what are becoming routine world class performances. Mina and Leah have both been consistent semi finalists and are pushing hard for finals (I am sure this is imminent for both of them). Diane has been climbing well and has also been a semi finalist this year. Michaela had a great qualifying round just missing out on semi’s finishing 24th securing her first world cup points.

As for us guys it has been a somewhat different affair. Ned, Dave, James and myself have all been having a fairly rough time and so far none of us have made a semi final this year. In fairness though it has been extremely close!

Millau Bloc 1In terms of my own climbing I do feel like I have had a good start to the year coming 31st in Millau and 29th in Kitzbühel beating all of last seasons result by some distance. Having said that, I am disappointed not to have made a semi final yet but I do think that I am climbing much more consistently and close to qualifying.

Coming 29th in Kitzbühel was a huge relief as I have now secured some crucial world cup points which in turn have given me a world ranking. This means that I will now be seeded for the rest of the year and my qualifying isolation times will be shorter. This means less stress, less greasy holds and hopefully more chance of qualifying. This is a great feeling and I hope to build on it at the next round in Slovenia next weekend.

I’ve said it before but I do feel really privileged to be traveling the world competing for my country, the first two events have been in amazing places and even if the climbing has not gone totally to plan I have enjoyed the views!

The CastleFinally I am also incredibly excited that I am now acting as a brand ambassador for the Castle Climbing centre. The Castle has always been a favourite training venue of mine and I look forward to becoming even more of a regular face down there. I will also be working with their junior competition squad coaching the next generation of GB boulderers. Competing on the world cup stage with limited support is difficult and I am extremely thankful for their support.

As a team we’ve also set ourselves the task of creating human place names for each competition we attend this year. As you can see so far so good but I have a feeling Log-Dragomer is going to be tricky!

 

Anyway that’s all for now back to the training; lot’s to work on. Stretching, power and onsite practice are on the agenda.

28 Mar 2013

1st World Cup of 2013 – Chongqing

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The first round of the IFSC Climbing World Cup 2013 series took place in Chongqing last week.

I was unable to attend due to work commitments but I will be at every other event this year.

Mina, Shauna and Diane all went out to represent and made it through to semi’s. Shauna had a great first comp coming back from injury making finals and coming 5th overall.

Here is the highlights video; can’t wait to be at the next one in France next week!