Monday, 15 April 2013

Western Regionals at The Hive

Alright, Alright, I am almost caught up. Almost. I know I've been saying this for a while but I am almost there. This comp was something I was looking forward to all year. I'd been planning, scheming, late nights seeting during the year thinking about what could I do to create an amazing Regional. I know that, with setting so many comps all year round, a couple of people have asked me if I've started reusing ideas, or extrapolating some of them, the answer is no. I've been trying to keep everything I'm doing fairly new, trying to make sure that I don't rip any ideas off of any comps that have happened this year or the year before. I have a huge database of blocs that I've set on my tablet so I try and look at that very extensively before going into any comp but this comp, This comp is extra special for me because I have basically all season, except when I'm away setting other comps, to think about the ideas that I want to put on the wall. There's also a little bit of pride in this comp since it is my home gym, its the first time The Hive hosts western Regionals and since I'd been taking so much time to set everywhere, it was a little bit about me just wanting to show case the skills of my crew and I. Plus, my friend and mentor Jody Miall was setting Eastern Regionals and the competitor inside of me was thinking one thing: time to show my Master up. You know that scene in the first Star Wars, not the new ones but the old classic ones that are clearly better then the new ones, where Darth Vader is getting ready to take on Obi Wan Kenobi in a one on one lightsaber battle to the death and he says "the circle is now complete, once I was but the learner, now I am the master." Yea, that was going through my head basically all week long.
Thirza Carpenter fighting for those last moves on Women's Final #4. Photo Cred. David Tam
Anyways, a comp at the Hive is a little epic, since we're a bouldering only facility and we really can't just close down some section of the gym to start presetting. It's kind of all or nothing endeavor in this facility. So Wednesday night Andreas Lerch, Fracnis Sherer, myself and a ton of the Hive's staff and volunteers rolled into the gym, closed it early and started the long haul of stripping all 250 blocs in the gym and washing literally a bazillion holds while we try to reset the finals blocs that we had preset over the course of the Monday and Tuesday night and get them forerun and done. Huge shouts out to Andreas Lerch, for basically looking after and managing the setting at the Hive while I was away doing that jet setting and route setting thing. Also to Olivia Ridgely (who's the newest member of my route setting crew at the Hive,)Tyler Thompson and fellow Evolv team member Lizzy Asher for all their work forerunning. These three, plus Francis, Andreas and myself basically climbed each move in finals about a hundred times. I think it took us less than an hour to get all the finals blocs up, so we closed the gym at 9 so I would say we started forerunning no later than 10:30 pm. I think we finished this night at maybe 2:30am...maybe. I'm not so sure about that number to be honest but we were there for a long time running these finals blocs.

The whole things about this comp is how hard it is on your internal clock. The logistics of being on a night clock because we only ever set at night for our regular setting and then switching to two long days of working days is really hard on every setter involved. I know what you're thinking, there's some one out there singing "It's a hard knock life." Shut it. I'm not complaining I'm just letting y'all know that what it takes to get a comp done at the Hive. I'll continue, Thursday we set 60 of our qualifier blocs, which on this day because we all foreran till 2:30 am that morning, so I make the rule that no one tries anything. Just get the blocs up and let's get out of there, if it needs tweaks, we'll get it in forerunning.  And that's exactly what we did. We went in early on Friday morning ready for the hurt and suffering of running 60 blocs and putting them in order.

Let's talk about the actual comp. Really good turn out, really strong field, the best of the west showing up to do battle for those lead spots going into Nationals. Two of the top blocs didn't see a send in the qualifying round, but not for lack of attempts by the competitors and personally I don't really mind a scramble format round that has one or two blocs that don't go, as long as competitors try them. It adds a little bit of extra strategy to the opening round, competitors need to consider whether extra attempts or even one attempt on those blocs is worth it. 

The men's field worked out really well, we got really solid separation throughout the top 10 guys that went to finals, not a very close race but it did come down to sends on different blocs not just the top 6. On the women's side we only had one tie going into finals between second and third place. We knew our finals blocs needed to do a job. 

It's right about now I'll bring up something. If you've been reading my blog for a while now you'll know that I made a pack with myself never to use grip tape ever, ever, ever again since that whole fiasco at Climber's Rock a couple of years ago. So I'd like to hand out just a little bit of advice, once you make that mistake once, and you learn from it, you take away all the necessary parts of that specific lesson, you make a vow never to make that mistake again, DON'T convince yourself 3 years later to do it again. Ugh. Sometimes I wonder about myself and whether or not I am actually paying attention.
Thirza Carpenter starting out Women's final #1. Photo cred. David Tam 

So women's #1 was this really cool finals bloc on the slab section of our gym involving a ton of features that myself and Andreas made, plus some really cool holds from the bloc's sponsor, Orogen Climbing Holds. I thought this bloc was super different then a lot of things I'd seen this year. I always like putting a slab in my finals and the other thing I like about leading with a slab bloc is that competitors get into iso, they get warmed up, they get really pscyhed and come out ready to rip holds off the wall and instead they  need to slow themselves down and be slow, patient and in control. It messes with their expectations in my opinion.  Anyways if you'll look at the photo above you'll notice the bane of my existence underneath Thirza's right foot. That grip tape would turn out to rip, for almost every woman competitor, and would end up causing 3 technical incidents. ARGH!!! This bloc turned out to be WAY too complicated as I think only one woman got zone. I could be wrong though since I was so mad at myself for using grip tape, again, despite my promise to myself never to do it again.
Jelisa Dunbar looking for zone on Women's #2 Photo Cred. David Tam
Women's #2 was sponsored by Uncarved Block and what we were looking for from this bloc was more sends, an easier bloc to follow up the curve ball that we threw competitors with the first one being a slab. I'm pretty sure all the women got zone on this bloc. We wanted something with some more tensiony, shouldery moves. The entire bloc was basically built around Uncarved Bloc's The Leach, which is the really long ledge in Jelisa's right hand. There was a fairly shouldery move leading into the hold, you still had to work your hands along it once you got control of it and there was a really cool knee drop to this next hold, again referencing the pic above AND you had to use it as a foot after. So a lot of uses of that hold. I think only two of the women in finals didn't send this but we still got a lot of separation off of this bloc with attempts, which was good since #1 was a little too complicated.

Tiffany Melius up high on Woemn's #3. Photo Cred David Tam
Women's #3 was the Project Holds sponsored bloc. We used mostly the Classic Font series holds in conjunction with some of the Shellshocked series. This bloc was meant to be the beat down. We wanted only one or two women up this bloc and it was meant to be taxing. Slopers and compression on a steep face with a really hard last move, unwinding from a cross to the finishing hold. This bloc was super cool, I thought. Nothing ridiculous but super fun to climb and I thought it was a good place for the hardest bloc to be. Remember, up until this point the women, in my layout of finals, hadn't really been tested. Not to say that they hadn't had their challenges, what I mean is that they'd only faced a slab and the easiest of the blocs, so they really wouldn't be that worked yet, right? So what we were hoping for from this block was straight up, thugged out, guns a blazin, bouldering. I feel like that's what we got, only the winner, Thirza Carpenter sent it, special mention though to fellow Flashed team member, Stacey Weldon who fell off the finish hold. 
Stacey Weldon get up there on Women's #4 Photo Cred. David Tam

Finally Women's #4, the Friction Climbing bloc. For this bloc, what we were looking for was the show. What I mean by this is something a little spectacular, something that had some real cool sequence, which in this case was a 360 campus that didn't work out. I don't know what to tell you, I thought it was really forced and felt really comfortable, apparently, not. Happens. I'll remember that for later and the next comps. Anyways, thew other thing about the show bloc is that its meant to be easier. We were thinking at least half the field gets up. And like everything else about this bloc, we were wrong about that too. Yea, I know, I'm being a negative Nancy, which I'll admit a little yes, however, I'm also looking at this in a critical manner. We wanted a showy bloc that would get women doing a 360 campus. Not achieved. We wanted an easier bloc that 5 women would get up. Nope didn't get that either. We did  achieve some separation through attempts to bonus, which was good but it's not what we set out to do. All in all, I'll never use grip tape again and I think that this round of finals blocs was a touch to hard. 
Jamie Chong staring down the slab movements of Men's #1 Photo Cred. David Tam  

Onto the Men's final. #1 was sponsored by Project Holds again, but to be honest, didn't use that many of their holds. The nature of this bloc was looking for a more complicated and committed bloc. Something that you didn't really know what do when you're previewing it, a bloc that you kind of needed to figure out while you were on the wall. Again, because it was the first bloc and the men would have been warmed up and ready tear holds off walls, we wanted to something that was slow, involved patience and honestly wasn't that much pulling. We did get some separation off of this bloc, through attempts, which is always good. I believe not everyone got up this bloc too, so we still managed to get some separation off of this and come on, look at how rad those features look. Right?
Matt Johnson sticking the throw on Men's #2. Photo Cred David Tam
Men's #2 was another Orogen Climbing bloc which I thought was kind of a cool little bloc. The wall was a slight, blunted arete that we wanted to do something a little more hold based with these really cool Olivine Series Crimps  which are these geo style edges that I really like and enjoy. They're about 1/2 to full pad and, I feel, not as sharp as some geometric styled holds. Anyways, with this bloc we wanted something a little tricky with holds, which we got at the start with some cool ticky tacky moves between those edges, to a long one handed dyno, to a quick and dirty finish. We wanted something easier, again, they had just finished the slab so we wanted them to actually be rock climbing by now. I'm pretty sure that every one of the dudes got up this bloc. It was a little showy with that rock over dyno and we got separation with attempts.
Robert Stewart-Patterson crushing out Men's #3. Photo Cred. David Tam
For Men's #3 we used those beautiful chocolate milk coloured Friction Holds. This bloc was meant to sap the men's core. We didn't want it to be the hardest bloc but we did want it to make them tired. This is a different then I had taken all year long and I wanted to see how the best of the west would react to it. Instead of deciding that this bloc would get us get clear separation of the field by it being the hardest, or most complicated, we wanted to bank that only the top guys would be able to do this bloc AND the next one. It's a little weird to think of but that was our mentality towards this bloc, we wanted to get the guys tired so the guys that could dig deep for the next bloc, would only be podium worthy. This entire bloc was basically set with any of the Friction Comp Series, specifically the chrome domes and the dome cuts. 
Mike Foley killing the last move of Men's #4. Photo Cred. David Tam
Men's #4 used all Uncarved Bloc holds, you guys know how much I love these holds, but we used mostly the 21 set crimps and some holds from the shattered series. The finishing holds were from that seeing stars set but anyways, yea, I love these holds but you guys know that. Ok, so this was the bloc. Above I said that we wanted #3 to make you tired that was because we wanted this bloc to be the decider. If you got #3, which I'm fairly certain a good portion of the field did, obviously not all on their first goes, then you needed to dig deep inside of you and find the extra go, that extra fitness, to get up this straight up, powerful bloc. The opening moves of this were really hard moves on bad holds on volumes leading to the above long, powerful cross. Only two guys got up this block and it came down to attempts to who won but in the end Mike Foley took the win. Since he is an American, The Hive's own Matt Johnson got the first place Canadian points going to Nationals. 

Alright, I know I said I was going to get this down last weekend but I just got busy and it couldn't happen and now this one is done and it's time to start working on the post for Nationals. Alright guys stay psyched and stay tuned, the Nationals one is going to be epic! Oh also go and check out David Tam's photo site here, he provided all the pics for this blog post since I was busy crying about the grip tape, he's super talented so definitely take a look at it and I'll get the next post up ASAP. Thanks for reading and climb safe.

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