Mateusz Loskot :: hacking on, working out, living up

Arch Climbing Wall Boulder Comp

04 Jan 2013 | mloskot

I’ve just came back home from my first Boulder Comp at the Arch Climbing Wall, the Biscuit Factory. It’s a bouldering competition on the last Friday of every month.

On the previous night, I had been hacking long trying to fix a bug in SOCI backend for SQLite, so went to bed at 2:15 am. Despite, I had to give at least six hours rest to my sore body and I arrived to work at 10:00 am. Consequently, I stayed at office longer and left for the Biscuit late. I’ve only cycled to the Biscuit Factory from Stoke Newington, but never from Charing Cross, so I lost my way several times. I assumed I’ll have no time for proper warm-up. I knew I’m going to pay a price as pumped as forearms of Popeye the Sailor. A big locomotive like myself warms up slowly. Particularly, getting ready for steep panels with small edges and crimps takes me ages.

I arrived, parked my two-wheeled steed and entered the Arch venue. I hadn’t seen such a crowd of sisters and brothers in forearms there before. I usually go to the Arch early in morning. Climbing has gone mainstream. No doubt. Good.

I grabbed the score card and started thinking what to do to warm-up my fingers. Usually, during competitions I hit on easy problems, but quickly move to hard ones and end up pumped. Then, I reminded the Crusher Holds training program with:

A finger specific warm up aims to build the fingers up for maximal or near maximal contraction.

I interleaved it with the GMB warm-up routine for workout on rings, focused on range of motion, shoulders and elbows. I was ready to hit on some easy problems. Here usually comes the trick as in most cases I under-estimate the “easy”. I probably should try panels first and look for some technical moves, but I couldn’t overcome mental barrier of slipping feet from shitty screw-on holds and sliding face plant. I prefer to fall down arse first from steep structures.

In the meantime, I met Ondřej - I didn’t have a chance to talk with him at the Blocfest last month, then had nice chat with Jim, my favourite La Sportiva athlete. A few more familiar faces from the Castle Climbing spotted too.

Somewhat convinced the warm-up was good and I’m ready, I decided to stick to the main face of the comp wall with nice moves on crimpy yellow and black and strangely looking blue dyno starting on tiny crimps, and a few other problems that looked good and doable.

I just realised, I can’t remember all the problems I sent and in what order. Excitement wipe out. I remember I attempted 16 or 18 blocs of total 25, topped only 12: eight flashed and four sent in second go. So, the ‘sendage effectiveness’ this time seems is ~66%. This is not a picture to be excited about. However, I’m really happy about some particular moves or links I managed to do, either done in flash or second attempt.

The blue dyno, which in fact was a double dyno was a rewarding fun. The tricky bit was to confront arms span with second to last and last holds. AFAIR, Ondrej did the second dyno move statically :). First go, I made mistake trying to dyno to the last hold while holding the previous one. That could work if I had Ondrej’s 206 cm arm span, but mine is just 178 cm. Mistake corrected second go.

Similarly, I under-estimated my strength on tiny edges versus long horizontal reach with swing on the superb technical and a bit powerful black problem. Second go: right cross to the tiny edge, keep the left better hold, adjust feet, twist, push, swing, stick.

There was a cool yellow bloc on the right overhanging arete with my favourite move: long left hand reach to gaston (sort of, but I liked it I could make use of the bulk on my shoulders), press, high foot, tension, right hand match. Finally, made my way up through right foot heel hook, left hand crimp, very bad pinch for right hand, then light-speed quick to edge for left hand.

After I climbed 7-9 problems, squeezing pump had arrived and I knew I’d be driving on fumes soon. Jim’s famous flapjack to rescue. Delicious as I heard indeed, but didn’t help much. Neither the Arch’s quality double espresso did.

I did a couple more blocs with more powerful moves and when I eventually went on the panels, fingers refused to flex even for simple arete compression. Picture of the slide face plant appeared.

Mistake #1: The warm-up was rubbish. It was not the first time. Not the last time, for sure. I know how to recognise I have warmed-up properly so I can climb longer and more problems. I have learned the feeling, but I haven’t learned yet what is the right path to the warm-up Nirvana. It can be frustrating. Sometimes, I do three complete circuits of the Beastmaker advanced workout or max strength hangs on 1-2 finger pockets, including my weakest 2-back. So, it’s feels hard. I then test myself and I get surprised how well I feel climbing some V5-V7 moves. Some time ago, I had similar observation with the 10-minute sequence on Metolius Rock Rings After general warm-up, I would do the Rock Rings sequence leading to a pump, followed by 15-20 rest, then I would do bouldering on problems at my limits. And, it felt all right. All these experiences still seem counter-intuitive, but perhaps I should start experimenting more. Recently, I found Sean McColl’s blog post about Competition Warm-up and Sean seems to confirm my own observations:

I do this on usually pretty big holds and I make it long so I can get a bit pumped (…) I usually rest for at least 10 minutes before I’m supposed to go out to climb to stretch out my arms again. Before I go out, I’m completely de-pumped and I’m already psyched to climb new moves.

I think it’s time to look at it closer and minimise the warm-up routine randomness.

There couldn’t be a better winter Friday out in London than the Boulder Comp at the Arch. Yann Genoux and Gavin Symonds delivered some of the best anti-gravity puzzles I’ve climbed lately on the plastic and epoxy. Kudos to the Arch crew!

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