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.

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Totally obsessed with climbing & training.
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