John Brosler – The Need for Speed

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Brosler, the current US national record holder for speed climbing across all age categories.   To tell you the truth, when you interview a teenager, you never know quite what you’ll get, but this young man is a solid, pure Texas, USA rip-roaring quality person.   I think when you read this interview, you’ll understand why he consistently puts up the fastest numbers – he’s the real deal.
John Brosler - Bronze medalist at Youth World Speed Climbing Championships
Photo of John at the 2013 World Youth Climbing Championships where he won a bronze medal in speed climbing.  Photo courtesy of John Brosler, and Christian J. Stewart Photography.
 
Name: John Brosler
Age: 16
School: Plano West Senior High School
Coach: Kyle Clinkscales, Stan Borodyansky
Team: Team Texas
First national championship attended: 2010 SCS Youth Nationals
First national championship podium in (speed, sport, or bouldering, doesn’t matter): 2012 SCS Youth Nationals; 2nd in speed

Take me through the stages of your speed climbing career so far.   When and where did you do your very first speed climb?  What were the plateaus you experienced?  What were the breakthrough moments? 

I actually don’t remember my first time on the speed wall (although I imagine it was awful), but there was a trip to Atlanta before my first nationals that made a lasting impression on me. At the time, I was pretty average, and just did speed for fun, but by the end of the trip, I had managed to take almost two seconds off my personal best time. That trip was a huge breakthrough moment for me; speed climbing had turned from a casual thing I did every now and then into something I realized I could really do well in. From then on, it was a combination of hard work and quality coaching that got me to where I am today. Of course I hit a few plateaus; I distinctly remember breaking into each new second “barrier” being really tough. However, the motivation of seeing a lower number in front of my times was enough for me to push past them!             

When did you first start training on an IFSC speed wall?

I first started training at my home gym in Grapevine late in the 2010 SCS season, just after divisionals had ended. I remember they actually built the wall DURING the competition, which called for a few noise complaints from competitors and spectators alike. Miraculously, they had it up in time for speed on the second day, which turned out to be a huge success on the new standard route. Even though I wasn’t even old enough to compete on the route, I was really psyched to try it. After some negotiating with the coach, he let me try it out. He probably regretted his decision later, because I didn’t want to stop!

How many hours do you train for speed climbing during the season?  Do you train in the off-season?  If so, what kinds of things do you do to train for speed in the off season?   Are there any cross-training exercises you find particularly helpful?
 
I usually train speed about four times a week for one to two hours at a time. Generally I do train in the off season, but nowhere near to the extent I do during the speed season. I just like to keep myself familiar with the route so I don’t have to re-learn it later. As for cross-training, I think running is key. I hate it probably more than any other exercise, but it’s important not for just speed climbing, but for sport and bouldering as well. Plus, if you find a nice trail, you can enjoy some scenery at the same time. Any kind of coordination exercises are helpful too. 
  
Can you give me an example of a time when you plateaued or were discouraged in your speed climbing training journey?  Any insight into why and how the plateaus and breakthroughs come about.  What do you do when you hit a plateau?   

A great example would be the 2012 Pan-American Championships in Santiago. I had trained so hard and was so focused on winning that I put too much pressure on myself and ended up choking. I was devastated. Kyle made me take two months off and read a mental training book before I could speed climb again. Although at first I thought the idea was terrible and a waste of time, I ended up learning a lot and I came back with a completely new perspective. Sometimes I still wish I had climbed better, but I know if it never happened I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of this experience, I believe that plateaus are 100% mental and can be overcome with a simple change in mindset. No matter what the situation, ALWAYS stay positive!

Any encouragement or advice you have for speed climbers who feel like they’ve topped out on their time?

Trust me, you haven’t. Set a goal and go for it. It’s much easier to improve when you know what you’re working towards. Just train hard and believe in yourself; I know it sounds cheesy, but everyone says it because it works! 

What are the top-3 people, techniques, or things you think helped you achieve your national champion and speed climbing record holder status?

Coaches, a dirty weight vest, and Russians. It’s actually really funny how much time I spend watching videos of Russians speed climb. It’s like Christmas whenever I find a new one.

Was there a turning point in your training when you said “Yeah, I can be a national champion in this sport?” and “My goal is to be a national champion” or were you surprised by your success?

I really started to realize I could do this when I got my first five-second time. I had actually made a bet with Stan where if I could call it in advance, he would give me $100 when I got my first five. It took me a few weeks, but eventually I did it. This might have just seemed like a reward for a lucky guess to others, but to me it was proof that I could do anything I wanted if I would just make a decision to do it. It was an important step my coaches knew I had to take, and I took it, even though I had to be coaxed with money.

What advice would you give a kid looking up to you who wants to follow in your speed climbing footsteps?

Have a good mental game! 90% of speed climbing is mental, and no matter what you do in practice, your performance in competitions will suffer if you don’t have a level-head. Do some mental training in your spare time; it’ll help you 1000x more than pure physical training will. I’ve seen countless other athletes and friends who are plenty strong enough to do well at competitions have performances that suffer due to a bad mental game. Don’t let it happen to you!
 
Josh Levin has talked in the past about how speed climbing has helped his sport climbing performance.  What skills or fitness benefits from speed, if any, have you picked up which cross-over to your sport climbing or bouldering?

It’s unbelievable how much speed climbing helps with other disciplines. I’ve improved my pull strength, lock-off strength, leg strength, and developed a tremendous amount of power. After coming back from training all summer for worlds, I immediately discovered that my sport climbing and bouldering was better than it ever has been. On top of this, I’ve been able to use my experience from high-level speed competitions to help with the mental aspect of competitions in these disciplines as well. 

Before a big race, what are you doing to prepare yourself?  the week before, the day before, the morning of, the minutes before? 
 
The week before, I try to cut as many simple sugars out of my diet as I can. This includes anything processed, like store-bought juices, candy, canned fruit, etc. Studies have shown that simple sugars significantly delay reaction time, which is essential for speed competitions. I also like to eat carbs the day before, eggs the morning of, and listen to motivating music and speeches minutes before.

How important is mental preparation for competition speed climbing?  Do you put everything out of your mind and numb yourself with some heavy metal, or are you mentally rehearsing, or giving your self pep-talks?  
Do you have a routine you follow to get  yourself settled and centered before a big race?
 
As I said before, I think mental preparation is extremely important. Before competitions, I use a fairly strict routine that consists of a combination of those three; I rehearse during my warmup, use pep-talks after my warmup, and clear my head with some dubstep just before I climb. Everyone I talked to has a different routine, however. I played around with other routines for awhile until I found one that works.
 
In 2014, who are the three competitors you think will be your biggest challenge when defending your speed crown?  Or do you think there’ll be a dark horse?

In my category, Michael Retoff, Brandon Lieuw, and Brendan Mitchell will all be tough competitors. All three of them placed in the top 10 at world’s this year and generally perform extremely well in competitions. There is also Thomas Pitzel in male junior, someone who has a lot of potential for setting a new national record. However, there is always potential for a dark horse. With enough training and determination, anyone could get really good really quickly.

What advice would you give speed climbing coaches on how best to train their athletes?  Take a minute to coach the coaches.   What things do you like and not like in your speed climbing training?  

A lot of the time coaches get too deep into the physical and technical parts of speed climbing. If a climber is having a series of bad runs, it may not always be because they are doing something wrong physically. I’ve noticed a lot of the time that when I am having a bad practice it’s because I let a few bad runs get into my head and affect my attitude. Coaches need to learn how to recognize when an athlete is struggling physically and when an athlete is struggling mentally. Staying closer to the wall or working on your finger strength may not always be the answer.

What coaching tips or techniques have you found to be the most effective in improving your speed climbing performances?

Video analysis has definitely been extremely helpful. Being able to slow down footage to look at imperfections in my technique has probably been more effective than anything else to improve the physical part of my speed climbing. I think every coach should try it; there are hundreds of apps for it and they’re very easy to use. 

How have your parents encouraged you in your speed climbing career?

My parent’s support has been unbelievable. They’ve made so many sacrifices for me, and no matter how much easier their lives would be if I didn’t climb, they’re still willing to make those sacrifices. They’ve attended competitions, driven me to the gym, and traveled with me all over the world. I honestly don’t know where I would be without them. 

What are you thinking about for college? 
 
I’m actually not sure. I’ve been doing some research, but there are so many options and I haven’t been able to decide on just one yet. However, I’ve been focusing mainly on colleges in the greater Denver and Boston areas, including CU Boulder and Northeastern. Both areas are huge climbing hubs, and I will be able to continue my speed training at both locations. The best I can do for now is keep my grades up so I have lots of choices later!
Kyle Clinkscales, StanAny shout-outs you want to give to your coaches, parents, teammates – let ‘er rip:

Thank you to Kyle, Stan, my family, teammates, friends, and everyone else who has helped me throughout my speed climbing career! I’ve been fortunate enough to come across an extremely supportive group of people, and it feels awesome to have them in my life. Also, thank you, Landon, for your huge contribution to the sport of speed climbing. Your dedication to the sport is unprecedented, and I look forward to seeing what you do next! If there is anyone else I forgot, I’m sorry, and thank you so much!
 
And a Big Thank You to you, John Brosler, for making speed climbing so much fun to watch!  Good luck in your 2014 season!
Landon Cox

Twindolphin mail sig

How to Grow the Sport of Speed Climbing

I’ve been thinking lately: “What would it take to grow the sport of speed climbing?” and the corollary question “What can I do to help speed climbing grow?”

Twin Dolphin Timing has been in a unique position to see the development and growth of speed climbing across the US from a barely functioning sport to one that in a few short years has started producing world-class athletes.
 
Besides the raw athletic progress of speed climbers world-wide, speed climbing has proven itself popular with spectators, races move quickly with non-stop action, and it’s is easy to understand and fun to watch.
 
This is my analysis for how to grow the sport of speed climbing by making it more accessible, affordable, and practical for all gyms to incorporate.  I cover the state of the industry, challenges faced in growing the sport, and finally solutions that will help take speed climbing to the next level.
551967 3606852209299 1213491599 3569744 174287509 n
Photo courtesy of USA Climbing, by Caroline Treadway
 
The Speed Climbing product market
 
Speed climbing walls are becoming more popular and are often included in the design of new, high-end climbing gyms being built in the United States and internationally by wall companies such as Walltopia, Eldo Walls, Rockwerx, Entre-prises and others.  
 
The first successful, elite-level US speed bouldering competition was held in 2013 at the Dominion Riverrock event.  Speed bouldering is yet another exciting avenue for speed climbing enthusiasts.   (Twin Dolphin Timing was honored to be selected by Brent Quesenberry for the speed bouldering timing system debut at the Dominion Riverrock comp.)
 
Progress on the speed climbing infrastructure continues, but most existing gyms worldwide do not have IFSC speed walls.  Most certified speed walls are housed in the most modern gyms, are currently in new construction or are on the drawing board now.  Lack of IFSC speed walls limits the accessibility to the sport without rethinking speed climbing.  
 
We need to to think outside the IFSC box for speed climbing.  Currently, speed climbing is effectively an elite sport limited to those with access to the full package of wall, special holds, timing systems, and programs to promote teams.  
 
Today, companies offer speed climbing products in one of these four areas:
- Speed wall design and construction
- Speed climbing hold sets
- Timing systems and event services
- Specialized harnesses and accessories
 
There are very few joint-marketing efforts in existence related to speed climbing products and services and the industry is ripe for more cooperation.  Given the factors cited above, the sport is poised for much more growth.
 
Challenges in Speed Climbing Growth
 
While speed climbing has made great strides in the United States in the last five years, and the US has started consistently placing speed climbers on the podium at world events, the sport lags in popularity compared to speed climbing in other countries such as Russia and many countries in Europe and the far east.
 
Challenges include:
 
- Lack of IFSC certified speed climbing walls throughout the US
- Wall owners may view the speed wall as the least utilized portion of the gym
- except during competition season when the wall utilization is high, in other seasons it might rarely be used
- revenue per square foot of overall climbing surface can suffer and gym owners are looking for ways to improve their utilization numbers
- Speed climbing hold sets have been expensive and difficult to obtain due to licensing restrictions and availability from only a few companies
- Accessibility issues in the form of:
Increased need for belayers compared to sport climbing (2 belayers per climber in speed vs 1 per climber in sport)
Speed belay skills are different than sport climbing
IFSC speed holds and timing systems can be a financial obstacle
To date, speed climbing has been primarily a competitive and seasonal sport with very limited or no recreational aspects.
- Due to accessibility issues, speed climbing usually only gains popularity at the Divisional and National levels of competitions.
- Climbing purists sometimes look down on speed climbing very much the way they looked down on bouldering when it was in its nascent stages
 
What’s Needed for Speed Climbing Sport and Market Growth
 
Twin Dolphin Timing would like to start addressing the challenges in speed climbing growth in the following ways:
- We created an inexpensive, single-lane recreational timing system based on proven technology from our competition-level system in order to make speed climbing accessible in the vast majority of climbing gyms without 2-lane speed walls.
- Identify or develop auto-belay devices capable of belaying at speed climbing ascent rates up to 2 meters per second.  Eliminates the need for multiple belayers to one speed climber ratio and makes speed climbing available to climbers as an individual workout.  We have identified the Perfect Descent-Speed auto-belay as the auto-belay of choice for speed climbers.
- Encourage higher rates of wall utilization year-round in the same way bouldering and sport climbing co-exist in the same gym year-round.
- Help turn speed climbing into a recreational activity in any climbing gym whether or not the gym has an IFSC speed wall and IFSC hold sets.  
- Expand the market of gyms open to speed climbing through maturation and growth of the sport.
- Demonstrate speed climbing benefits for overall climbing fitness, dynamic technique, and muscle recruitment for all types of climbers
- Affordable speed climbing solutions through packaging and co-marketing best-in-class speed climbing products.  Solutions would incorporate combinations of walls, holds, timing systems, and auto-belay devices as driven by customer’s needs and existing installation.
- make it easier to run local speed climbing competitions as a way to expose more climbers to speed climbing.  Recreational speed comps can be held on any wall at any time with any holds not unlike sport climbing today.  
 
These are just a few of the solutions that in combination can address some of the obstacles to growing the sport of speed climbing.  In total these address the issues of accessibility, affordability, and logistics.
 
Twin Dolphin Timing is currently seeking established firms in the  climbing industry to partner with to achieve the objective of growing the sport of speed climbing through marketing speed climbing fitness programs and solutions such as those described above.   No one company has it all under one roof and there’s an opportunity to bring it together and create compelling speed climbing products and solutions. 

Landon Cox, 12/18/2013

Twindolphin mail sig

 

 

 

Updated National Records!

Our athletes keep getting faster and faster. Congrats to John Brosler, Thomas Pitzel, Michael Retoff, Delaney Miller, Megan Carr, and Claire Buhrfeind for smashing last year’s records! Additional kudos to John Brosler, who currently holds the National Record for all categories on a 10m wall, at 4.73 seconds. He is a part of Team Texas, a reputably strong and great team.

Twin Dolphin Timing is proud to have sponsored another year of SCS Youth Nationals, and we hope to see many more. The system performed flawlessly thanks to hours and hours of hard work from our mastermind Landon Cox. If you get the chance to see him, give him a big thank you!

 Again, please contact us with any updates you have regarding these records. We try our best to keep them as accurate as we can, but we need your help! Happy speed climbing! =)

Date

Event Contestant 10m Time 15m Time Category Team Name
09/2012     IFSC Youth World Championships John Brosler   9.47 Male Youth B  Team Texas
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Collier Skinn   8.84 Male Youth A  Team ARG
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Ryan Strickland   8.5 Male Junior Stone Summit Climbing Team
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Kayla Lieuw   11.59 Female Youth B Team Earthtreks
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Faith Sullivan   11.58 Female Junior Team SportRock
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Bailey Dickinson   10.79 Female Youth A Stone Summit
07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals Delaney Miller 7.43   Female Junior Team Texas
07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals Megan Carr 6.39   Female Youth A Hoosier Heights
07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals Grace Mckeehan 6.90   Female Youth B Team Texas
07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals Thomas Pitzel 4.78   Male Junior

Stone Summit Climbing Team

07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals John Brosler 4.73   Male Youth A Team Texas
07/2013 SCS Youth Nationals Michael Retoff 5.03   Male Youth B Team Texas
04/2013 SCS Open Nationals Kyra Condie 7.99   Female Open Team VE Mountain Goats
04/2013 SCS Open Nationals Josh Levin 5.76   Male Open  
Current World Records: Men’s 15m- 5.88s held by Evgenii Vaitcekhovskii (RUS) October 2012 in the IFSC World Cup in Xining, China; Women’s 15m- 8.05s held by Iuliia Kaplina (RUS) June 2013 in the IFSC World Cup in Baku (AZE)
 

Disclaimers: Results gleaned from ifsc-climbing.org and usaclimbing.org; different competitions may have used different timers so the times cannot be 100% comparable

Please email sales@twindolphintiming.org if you possess any additional information or corrections

Scorer’s Speed Climbing App

I’ve been hard at work this weekend on a new 2013 speed climbing scorer’s app for Android, iPhone, and iPad devices.   Here’s a sneak peak of the app running on two Android Nexus 7 tablets.   The same setup will work with an iPhone or iPad, too, so it’s very versatile from a hand-held device perspective…more about the setup a little later. 

Speed Climbing Timing App

The app’s role is to serve the official scorer of the speed climbing event and sits on the scorer’s table at the base of the races.  In this case I’ll have a couple of them at USAC Nationals at Stone Summit in Atlanta over the 4th of July weekend.  

It’s purpose is so the scorers can easily see the race times without craning their necks to look at the display LED up high as well as taking the role of the official clock for marking down scores.   Why not use a laptop and a GUI app you ask?   Price – a Nexus 7 is less than $200 and a laptop…well, you know.  They’re also a lot more portable so I don’t have to haul multiple laptops to events with me when I’m fielding multiple timing systems for various age-groups.

The scorer’s app works like other components in the Twin Dolphin system architecture – it listens to the protocol and commands emitted by the master timing unit over the wireless network.  It’s the same protocol that the LED display is listening to for the start and finish to display the official times at the end of the race.  It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.  

Speed Climbing Scorer App

Lots of people think the large LED display for the audience is the actual clock, but that’s not true.  There is only one master timer in the system and that is in the master timing unit to which all the sensors are wired.  The master is almost always hidden behind the climbing wall.   The master controls the overall state of the system based on input from the wireless starter and sensors and using this architecture I can add wireless peripherals to the system that are all in sync from the master timing unit.  Here’s what the 2013 master timing unit looks like:

Speed Climbing Master Timing Unit

A little background on how the system works: the LED display clock starts running when it sees a ‘start‘ command from the master.  When the race is in progress, and the LED clock is running, the LED isn’t displaying the official time until the end of the race when both lanes finish.  The running clock on the LED is there as a fiction for the audience until the race is over.  Once the race is over, the LED receives the official time from the master and it displays the official time in alternating sequence you may have seen before.

The scorer’s app doesn’t have a running clock like the LED display, as that’s not its purpose and there is no use for the scorer to have a running clock.  The app’s only purpose is to display official finish times and the history of those times.  The times it captures are the same as those the LED display captures at the end of the race, but the LED display doesn’t contain any history so once the clock is cleared, the display is cleared and that’s it.  The scorer’s app keeps a history of the previous three races and the current race.

For 2012, I fielded a 100% embedded device for the scorer’s table which showed the current race’s finish time and the history of a few races prior.  There was nothing to interact with on the display despite it having a touchscreen.  The great part about it was not having to supply two laptops to show race times and history to the official scorer on separate tables.   It was wireless and frequency keyed to the individual Twin Dolphin timing system it was dedicated to…since we had two full systems there, there were two devices, one on each scorer’s table.

2012 Scorers Display

It was quite a lot of work to put together.  It was based on a dsPIC based LCD product from Mikroelectronika, but I added a wireless module to it.  I designed the ABS plastic enclosure and stand, 3D printed the case, wrote the firmware in C and at the end, assembled the whole thing.  Problem was, of the two I brought to 2012 nationals, one LCD died in the middle of the semi-finals and was a write-off.   It worked well prior enough to serve as a reasonable prototype and show its usefulness, but I decided I wouldn’t build any more of them.

So, rather than going that route for 2013, I decided it was time for a tablet to do that job.

The photo below shows a Nexus 7 running the Twin Dolphin scorer’s app next to the 2012 scorer device I made.  As you can see the screen size on the N7 is much larger and shows the current race status at the bottom including any false starts along the way and which lane false started.

Scorers App screens

Technical Details

I know I have some very geeky customers which is awesome, so I like to add details about the system for their benefit.

As you know, tablets and phones have a few wireless technologies on them – namely, wifi, cellular, and bluetooth.  However, the Twin Dolphin timing system uses a wireless protocol that’s more geared towards sensors, a variation of Zigbee put out by Digi – XBee.  So, the issue is how to get the timing system data into an Android or Apple device and that’s where some of the magic happens.

I have an XBee to USB device attached to a laptop that listens to each timing system for the Twin Dolphin timing protocol and there’s a program that immediately stores what it hears into a file.   Next I wrote a program on the laptop that tails the timing data file, parses it and sends the data to the Android or Apple device through a wifi channel.  So, the laptop and the tablets are on the same wifi network and the laptop, through the XBee->USB bridge, pulls in the timing data. 

For those deeply into Geekdom, all the software is written with Ruby, osc-ruby, and TouchOSC and uses the OSC UDP protocol to communicate with the devices.  I’ve been testing this on a Mac but there’s no reason the laptop couldn’t be Linux…I suppose Windows, too, but I won’t be doing Windows.  The laptop software is all command line level, there is no GUI required for the laptop middleware.  

The UI for the tablet app was done 100% with TouchOSC which is a client that runs on both Android and Apple devices.  It’s about $5 from the Google Play store for Android or Apple ITunes for Apple devices.  The laptop sends UDP packets to the devices to update various fields on the screen with timing data.   There is no user interaction with the UI at all – it’s a display screen of timing data.

The nice thing about this architecture is I can drive multiple displays from one laptop listening to multiple timing systems at once.   So, with a single laptop, I can drive multiple Android devices on separate scorers tables for two different timing systems.  The middleware on the laptop is also logging all the data to a file so there’s effectively an unlimited history available for an entire session, not just what fits on the display.   The tablets aren’t doing any of the sensing or real-time display, so the middleware latency is not an issue – even so, the times show up almost instantaneously on the table when the race finishes.

I think it’s going to work pretty well from what I’ve seen so far, though USAC nationals will the be the first place it’s ever been deployed.  I’m sure I’ll find some surprises along the way.

Landon Cox

Twindolphin mail sig

Breaking New Ground at CCS Nationals

This weekend, climbers representing universities from all over the nation will compete in the Collegiate Climbing Series (CCS) National Championships. Climbers compete in all disciplines of sport, bouldering, and speed climbing. This year, we get the privilege of sponsoring the speed national championship with the 2013 edition of our Twin Dolphin Timing competitive system.

A little bit ago, we got the chance to interview John Myrick, the CCS Director and previous USA Climbing Speed coach. He gave some fantastic insight into the upcoming CCS Nationals, and what climbers can do to train specifically for speed climbing in the Sport Climbing Series just underway.

Myrick 1

Years climbing: About 33 years

Years coaching: 14

Team/gym you coach for: Team ARG (Austin Rock Gym) & The University of Texas

What gets you excited about speed climbing? 

Speed Climbing takes a tremendous amount of poise and physical ability to excel at.  If you give it a serious try you will realize that it’s a legitimate discipline and [that] training specifically for speed climbing [will not only] help you be a better speed climber, it will also help your bouldering and sport climbing.

Would you mind expanding on the vision of CCS and where you would like to see it in 5 years?

The vision for the CCS is pretty simple: to see climbing become solidified as a collegiate sport. I’d say we are well on our way to accomplishing that. Some of the main hopes I have are to see more resources become available for the athletes such as more scholarships, better facilities, more research done specifically on climbing which will help coaches, and more support for climbing in general due to increased exposure at the collegiate level. Another vision I have is… to widen racial diversity and socio-economic diversity in our sport.

Climbing is mainly an individual sport. How can teammates help each other succeed? 

Your individual goals become important for the entire team not just yourself. When you are training in a team environment you can push yourself way beyond what you would be able to do on your own. When a motivated group sets a goal and works hard to achieve that goal, the outcome can truly be amazing.  I think one of the things we are all most proud of about our sport is the positive atmosphere and encouraging energy we have at our competitions.

Myrcik4

CCS nationals combines all three disciplines of sport, bouldering, and speed climbing. How should climbers divide their training time? 

Nationals does include all three disciplines so you have to have a well-rounded team. I recommend spending the Fall, pre-season focusing more on power and bouldering along with strength and conditioning and cross training.  During the Competition season I recommend putting more emphasis on stamina/routes as well as ramping up your speed training. You also have to focus more on onsighting, strategy and the mental game. 

What is your overall practice structure for a speed training session? It is better to focus on speed or technique?  

In my opinion training for speed climbing has three main components: developing your technique, conditioning and then polishing your skills for maximum performance.  When you are developing your technique, it’s mainly a matter of getting used to going fast, getting your hand eye and foot coordination down.  Developing the agility, body control and mental acuity takes a good deal of practice. Next, you have to build the power, explosiveness and stamina required to be good at speed climbing.  Finally, if you are preparing for competing on the Standardized World Record Route you have to spend time a lot of time perfecting your sequence.  Each of these components require a lot of repetition. It all boils down to muscle memory.

Myrick 2

How can gyms support their own athletes at a local level?  

The best thing the gyms can do is to support the teams and the coaches.  Holding comps for your region gets the community more into supporting the cause, plus it helps your staff get better at setting.  Investing in training for your setters, investing in new holds and training apparatus helps immensely.  Doing these types of things for a gym can be a time stress and financial burden, but I think the positive ramifications the investments will have on your gym over the long run are immeasurable.

Thanks, John! We will be updating everyone on how CCS Nationals goes. Thanks for all your ongoing support.

Happy Speed Climbing!

Twin dolphin scs13


2013 IFSC Speed Climbing Rule Changes

I wanted to give everyone an update on how the new 2013 IFSC rule changes will affect championship level speed climbing and, in particular, the athletes and the timing system.   The changes are really quite good as they start to tighten up the way speed competitions are held and make the entire event much more fair in my opinion.   [On a side note, Twin Dolphin Timing has been invited to participate in the working group that will help set the certification standards for IFSC compliant timing systems for 2014 and will be USA Climbing's representative to the IFSC in this matter.]

While the rules are more stringent, they are in line with similar rules for starting races in other major sports such as track and field and swimming.   This will definitely help the sport mature in a serious way.

Athletes and coaches who understand these changes will benefit by achieving faster times and have no surprises at the first high-level speed competitions of 2013.

First, check out the official IFSC 2013 rules and particularly section 8, Speed.  A quick summary the major changes include:

a) start protocol has changed (Seciton 8.9, Climbing Procedure), commands and time to get situated on the wall have been specified and yellow cards defined.

b) false start detection now includes measuring reaction times and declaring a false start if climbers reacted to the start faster than 1/10th of a second.

c) climbers must be absolutely motionless during the start

d) false start penalties are severe – only one false start allowed during the competition without penalty.  The next false start results in an invalid time (DQ).

e) the start signal will be given at a random interval no less than 0.5 seconds from the “Ready!” command and no more than 1.5 seconds.

The 2013 Twin Dolphin timing system is being modified in order to support these features and be IFSC compliant.   Changes and new features that are currently underway and will be debuted at the USAC Adult Nationals at Movement in Boulder April 5-6 will include:

1) Audio race commands

a) this alleviates the potential lag or jump-start between an official’s voice command and his press of the button.  The system audio commands to the climbers will be exactly synchronized with the start of the race.   The audio commands will be “Climbers at your marks”, “Ready!”, and a start tone given 0.5 to 1.5 seconds after the Ready! command.

Once the Ready! command is given, the timing system takes over and the official has no other option but to interrupt or abort the race and reset the clock. 

b) In the case of a false start, the audio will -Immediately- emit a referee whistle blast followed by a “False Start” command.

c) the start tone is similar to the sound of the start for Olympic swimming.

2) Up to the first 1/10th of a second of the race, the system will measure how long the climber’s foot is in the starting block after the start tone has been given.  If the foot is in the block less than 1/10th of a second after the start tone is given, the false start audio is emitted immediately.    This rule is meant to keep climbers from anticipating the start at a fixed point in time.

Staging for the race is very important.  The IFSC rules specify that the climber when called for his or her race should first approach the wall and adjust the timing system’s foot sensor for his or her lane.   You have 10 seconds in which to make the foot sensor adjustments.

After that, the climber should approach the belayer and attach to the belay.  Once on belay, the climbers will move to an assembly position (what I would call a staging position).  Once in the staging position, the official will start the protocol with “At your Marks” and the climbers will take their position on the wall.

The start position is one foot and two hands on the preferred start holds, one foot in the timing foot sensor.  The climber only has 4 seconds to get into position from the “At your marks”.

Once in the start position, competitors are to remain motionless.  Any motion and the official may call a false start.

There are allowances for the competitor saying not ready when the Starter gives the Ready! command, however, for practical purposes, this is nearly impossible to time since the start tone will come very, very quickly after the Ready command is given.   My advice to athletes is to make sure the Starter knows there’s an issue before giving the Ready command.

The one clarification I need to get from the IFSC is about what is meant by one false start per competition.  If you have a multi-round event, multiple days, I think it would be onerous to have one false start for the entire event.  I think what may be intended is one false start per round (qualifiers, semis, etc.)  I’ll get back to you on that one.  In the meantime, just know that false starts are viewed severely in 2013.

I hope this helps you as you start your speed climbing training programs for 2013.  

See you at Nationals!

Landon Cox

Twindolphin mail sig

Sneak Peak at 2013 Speed Climbing Sensors

Here’s a sneak peak at the new 2013 speed climbing foot sensor from Twin Dolphin Timing – if you’re coming to the USAC Adult Nationals in Boulder this coming weekend, you’ll see its debut there.   2013 sensors now have an acrylic top, laser etched light bar is now positioned directly in the middle.  Last year we saw a little confusion from first time speed climbers about what the light bar in the heel of the sensor was for – should you step on it, put your toe up to it, ignore it?  Solved that problem this year by making the sensor symmetrical the light bar in the middle.  Step on the light bar, break the laser beam – same as the hand sensors.

2013 Foot Sensor  Twin Dolphin Timing 4

The hand sensor has also changed a lot based on some feedback we received from coaches, particularly, Kyle Klinkscales of Team Texas.   The 2012 hand sensor was four inches high so if you hit it high or low time after time during training sessions, climbers hands would tend to get sore across the palm where the bottom edge was.

2012 Speed Climbing Hand Sensor

Using that feedback as a guide, we redesigned the hand sensor as well to be nearly four times larger and have a low, flat profile to the wall.

2013 Speed Climbing hand sensor

The sensor is four inches wider and eight inches taller, and the light bar is an additional three inches wide compared to the 2012 model.

The hand sensor bolts onto the wall with a 3/8″ hold bolt in the top hole and two 1/4″ diameter set screws in the bottom two holes.  This design lets us use a thinner base because the wall itself becomes the backing for the sensor. 

We think the new hand sensor will be noticeable improvement for climbers and coaches.  Hope you like it,

Landon Cox

Twindolphin mail sig

 

US National Speed Climbing Records – Indoor

Today is a big day. This will mark the first compilation of US speed records ever documented from different competitions over 2012, with one record occurring in 2011. The records are separated by categories, with a female and male each holding one record in each category. As I researched the results and began compiling them side to side, I couldn’t help but notice how fast some of the younger climbers are becoming. Speed climbing is becoming more competitive as younger athletes train all year round, specifically for speed climbing. It’s becoming harder for a climber to excel in all three disciplines of sport, speed, and bouldering. The field is stronger than ever before as speed climbing gains respect and popularity. 

Bailey Dickinson and other strong climbers, with records of their own shown below, represent a new competitive era for speed climbing. While these records were compiled from official results postings from USA Climbing and IFSC, as a disclaimer, the times cannot be 100% comparable. The gym walls and routes could be slightly different, and different timing systems were used at worlds versus nationals. 

Some nationals were not held on IFSC certified walls, possibly leading to minor differences in results. However, both USA Climbing national competitions in Boulder and Atlanta used our Twin Dolphin two-lane competition system as the official speed timer.

We believe this compilation to be the first and fairest representation of the records our talented speed climbing athletes have achieved.  We’d love to hear from you if you have any information to add or correct.

Adult Nationals Speed Climbing 2012  2

Date

Event Contestant 10m Time 15m Time Category Team Name
09/2012     IFSC Youth World Championships John Brosler   9.47 Male Youth B  
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Collier Skinn   8.84 Male Youth A  
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Ryan Strickland   8.5 Male Junior  
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Kayla Lieuw   11.59 Female Youth B  
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Faith Sullivan   11.58 Female Junior  
09/2012 IFSC Youth World Championships Bailey Dickinson   10.79 Female Youth A Stone Summit
07/2012 SCS Youth Nationals Taylor Clarkin 7.89   Female Junior AZR Ascenders
07/2012 SCS Youth Nationals Bailey Dickinson 6.51   Female Youth A Stone Summit
07/2012 SCS Youth Nationals Kayla Lieuw 7.24   Female Youth B Earth Treks
07/2012 SCS Youth Nationals Joshua Levin 5.07   Male Junior Zero Gravity Climbing
07/2011 SCS Youth Nationals Joshua Levin 5.05   Male Youth A Team Texas
07/2012 SCS Youth Nationals Brendan Mitchell 5.37   Male Youth B Team Texas
04/2012 SCS Open Nationals Danielle Rogan* 9.49   Female Open Southern Rock
04/2012 SCS Open Nationals Alex David Johnson* 5.91   Male Open  
Current World Records: Men’s 15m- 5.88s held by Evgenii Vaitcekhovskii (RUS) October 2012, Women’s 15m- 8.33s held by Esther Bruckner (FRA) October 2012; IFSC World Cup in Xining, China
 

Disclaimers: Results taken from ifsc-climbing.org and usaclimbing.org; different competitions may have used different timers so the times cannot be 100% comparable

*nationals scores were not taken on IFSC certified walls

Please email sales@twindolphintiming.org if you possess any additional information or corrections

Bailey Dickinson – Speed Climbing Champion – Interview

Reigning national champion, Bailey Dickinson, is the first female to break the seven-second barrier on the 10 meter wall. Bailey is a 16 year old junior from Johns Creek, Georgia. While balancing her rigorous schoolwork, competing in the school rowing team, and applying to college with aspirations of PA school, she trains with USA Climbing coach Claudiu Vidulescu. Her home gym is the infamous Stone Summit Climbing gym, where nationals has been held multiple times. We asked her to expand on her need for speed in an interview this past month…

Photo  2

You’ve experienced a breakthrough for US women’s speed and set a new standard- breaking the 7 second “wall”! How do you feel knowing you are the fastest female in the nation?

It feels unbelievable to have reached this height and to realize that all of my training has paid off in this way. I had my sights set on earning the “National Champion” title since I finished my climb at the World Championships in Imst, Austria last year. I knew that everyone in my category was quickly improving and that I definitely had to step up my own training for the new season. I’m thrilled to have set a new record and to have run a time faster that 7 seconds in competition. For months before the competition, I’d been stuck in the 7 second range and those last weeks of training before the comp must have just bumped me to where I needed to be.

How do you train for these events? What aspects of your training have given you the most success?

 I try my best to do as many runs on the speed wall as I can year round. The more you practice, the more time you drop. The new electronic timers that my gym purchased for our wall have helped me in my training tremendously because I know that the times I run are 100% accurate and that there are no flukes in the hand-timing system that I used to rely on. Before Nationals, I attend a special training camp focused on preparing for the competition. Aside from practicing laps on the speed wall and attending the [USA Climbing Team] camp, I also joined a local gym this summer and forced myself to run frequently and train fast twitch with my dad. Instead of competing in climbing during the “off season” this year, I’ve picked up the sport of rowing at a club near my home and think that all of the muscles that I develop through the sport will only improve my speed climbing ability for next season.

Photo 3

What is your biggest fear or challenge going into a race, and how do you handle it?

My biggest challenge is focusing on myself in competition. I tend to over analyze the other competitors and psych myself out because of their performances. I fear slipping on the first move of the route and not getting the chance to prove the  amount that I’ve trained to everyone in the audience. My coach, Claudiu Vidulescu, has definitely helped me improve the most as a competitor. Claudiu is an extremely strict and inspirational coach. He doesn’t hand out compliments so when he tells me that I’m improving or having a good practice, it’s really special. He’s also worked with me to develop a strong competition mindset and to focus on myself and my own goals. After my final run at Nationals, I was proud of myself and felt accomplished because I saw pride in his eyes.

What is the most satisfying aspect of speed climbing for you?

Setting a new personal  best is the more satisfying aspect, for me. Especially with the official timers, I know that every time I run is accurate and I keep a running list of all of my times at every practice on my phone. Knowing my own best time motivates me to push for an even faster next climb. 

Any pre-race rituals? After race celebrations?

Before races, I eat food that makes me happy to try to calm myself down. My nerves normally overwhelm me and I really try to focus on staying relaxed and not focus on other people’s performances. I also drink a lot of water. Before a competition, I normally eat a lot of scrambled eggs and milk. I tend to feel too nervous [to eat] in between rounds of the competition which is why I consider my breakfast the most important meal for a race day. Before I climb, I listen to pep talks from my friends and coach but make sure to leave a large space cushion for my music. Rap music really psyches me up before a climb. The energy of the music and the inspirational words excite me and mentally prepare me to climb at my best. 

It seems speed climbing is just developing in the US as a serious sport. What does it take to be competitive at the world level?

In order to compete at the world level, you need to have a strong head and competiton face. I try my best to look calm when I walk up to the wall but really, the nerves are eating me up. Nerves and pressure get to everybody. They’re just something athletes learn to deal with. I’m so excited to see how far speed climbing goes in terms of popularity. I can’t wait to see how fast American women are in 10 years!

What advice would you give to someone trying the IFSC speed route for the first time?

I would suggest watching someone that’s familiar with the route climb it before you hop on. The sequence is extremely confusing and discouraging to someone that has never attempted the climb. Go slowly on the route for a while until you know where to place your hands, feet and how to position your body then you can add some speed. I’d advise anyone that feels discouraged by the wall to keep in mind that the holds feel deeper and the sequence flows much more easily the faster you climb.

What are your speed climbing goals for the next year? What would be your ultimate achievement?

 My ultimate goal is to improve at every competition that I am a part of. Next year, I hope to win Nationals again and maybe set an even faster record. At Worlds next year in Canada, I plan to place higher than top five and podium!