Sunday, 7 February 2016

Blokfest round 4-Bloc Climbing

Yesterday I went with my dad to Bloc Climbing Centre in Bristol for the 4th round of Blokfest. Having wrongly missed out on finals last round, I was guaranteed a place in finals this round as well as a podium prize, so I went along ready for a full day.
I knew I didn't need to do well in qualifiers but I nevertheless wanted to achieve a qualifying position anyway to prove my consistency to others and myself. Fortunately many of the blocks were technical challenges so I was able to top a good number (22 of 25) achieving 210/250. However I fell off a moderately easy problem first go as I jumped straight on it in the heat of the day, only to discover that the holds were glistening with sweat and I had forgotten my chalk bag! I got back on it, equipped with chalk and a brush and got it easily second go, to my frustration. Apart from this, the qualifiers were good fun and well set. My favourite problem of the day I didn't top as I couldn't reach a hold on it. However the first part was very fun, involving a bat hang and a no-hands rest on a volume.
I thought I probably hadn't done enough to get a top 5 position due to my mistake on the easy problem I fell off.
To my surprise, when the finalists' names were announced, I discovered I had qualified in joint 4th, meaning despite having qualified automatically, I had also qualified in my own right! We weren't in isolation for very long and soon enough it was observation time. With 2 minutes to read each of the three finals blocks we didn't have much time to get a sense of them. I was pleased to find that my first block consisted of good crimps and  did not have a weird sequence. However, my second block started with a kick off two volumes to grab another, sloping volume. The rest of the problem looked easy but I doubted I could do the first move. My third block appeared to have a very odd sequence and was long, meaning I would probably only have 2-3 good attempts on it.
I was second out on block 1 and felt a buzz of anxiety rush through me as I knew the previous climber had flashed this so I couldn't afford to mess up. Fortunately I found the holds grippy and positive and managed to flash it without too much hassle. The second block was more tricky and I didn't have much faith in my first 2 attempts, throwing myself half-heartedly at the volume and sliding off. However, on my 3rd attempt I went more slowly, balancing on my feet and dodging around the volume to grab the top and side, meaning I was more secure. The last part was droppable and I knew if I fell off I probably wouldn't get the first move again. However, I climbed carefully and topped.
For the final problem I knew I stood a chance of placing on the podium- two of my competitors hadn't topped the second problem and one hadn't flashed the first, putting me in joint 1st with Gwyneth Uttley. I knew the game wasn't over yet so I went out to the third block determined. Infuriatingly I was called off on my first go as apparently I hadn't matched the starting foot hold ( I was sure I had!) so I threw away the flash. On my second go I got through the first part, coming from a hanging start to an undercut, up to a slot and onto a volume, before coming around the corner to the bonus hold-a side pull. However, I wasn't climbing carefully enough and slipped coming round the corner to the next hold. Now tired from a long attempt I let the time run down to 10 seconds left before jumping back on the wall. I got through the first part quite easily and rested on the volume-this was my last attempt and last chance to podium. I carefully came round the corner and pulled up to the last hold-a round volume. Matching, I jumped down relieved  and watched the others.
I was slightly disappointed not to win, as Gwyneth topped the last one second go, putting her in 1st place. However I was thrilled to come 2nd in my first senior final, beating many strong climbers. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the final round next month as I have another competition then,  but I'm happy to end my Blokfest season on a high!
Keep climbing!
On the podium! (photo credits: Joseph Schenk)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

GB Team Inaugural Meeting

Last weekend I woke up at 5.45am to catch a train to Sheffield for the GB Team Inaugural Meeting. Despite having to wake up so early I was really excited to get to know my teammates and coaches better and to get an idea of how the year was going to turn out. 
After a welcoming speech from the senior lead team coach the lead and boulder teams were split into groups for our profiling and training. Under the scrutiny of the coaches, everyone warmed up and then I was weighed and measured before doing some strange fitness tests to determine my general stability, flexibility  and upper body strength. I didn't find the tests particularly hard  but they got me to work muscles I never even knew I had! 
After lunch we had a go at some comp-style boulders set especially for the training day. These proved to be fiendishly difficult due to the combination of small holds and large, bad ones, lots of volumes, lots of angles and some strange sequences of moves. I personally felt quite strange being the only person not on the bouldering team in my group. However I found the problems very interesting and enjoyed trying them.
We all went to the meeting room after to partake in some group workshops to do with scheduling training around school and competing in comps under a lot of time pressure. We then watched climbing videos, pausing them at different points as a route reading exercise. Overall I found this section of the day helpful, although I didn't get to do much climbing.
After a relaxing evening at Wagamama's and a good night's sleep at the trusty Premier Inn I woke up the next day ready for more training. 
The day began with a talk from Ian Dunn, the head coach of the junior lead team, about the comps this year and what to expect concerning selection/kit/sponsorship etc. The lead team then warmed up together (with strict orders from the coaches as apparently we were all appalling at this the previous day) and we took part in a route reading workshop-climbing blind fold! We each had to choose a moderately easy route to top rope, reading it carefully first and trying to remember as much of it as possible when climbing it blind folded with a partner shouting advice to help. I managed to get my way up a 6b although the experience was strange and very different from what I'm used to.
After lunch I had a private meeting with my mum, Ian and Tony Smith, the parents' rep, to discuss my weaknesses and what comps/training events I am likely to attend this year. A lot was said about the European Youth Cup in May and the European Championships in September so fingers crossed I get to compete in those!
Next the team did a bouldering route reading exercise, this time based solely on memory. The aim was to complete a boulder with as many moves as possible without being told were to go whilst on the wall, having been shown it just once before. I found this quite easy but will practice it in my own training to improve my memory for climbing in finals.
The day ended with a series of functional movement systems tests to assess flexibility and body stability/balance. These were very strange and I have no idea how I performed on them but I am told that they are vital for athlete profiling.
Overall the weekend was an unusual experience but I enjoyed it and look forward to the next team training at the end of this month.
Keep climbing!