Gord McArthur is digging a hole in his backyard; two, actually. It’s what needs to happen when building the proper training structure if he is going to compete with the Russians on their level. The SCARPA mixed climber had a great past season competing on the World Cup circuit, placing higher than any North American in over a decade. In doing so, he has seen his future. And his future is a 26-foot high arch that will take up most of his backyard. “That’s what it takes,” he says, of going against the hammer and sickle hardmen of northern Asia. We got him to put down the shovel for a moment and give us his take on training at the highest levels, and preparing for a little known comp called the Olympics.
Can you tell us why the Russians are so formidable on the World Cup? The Russians dominate the sport of competitive mixed climbing because they train so well. And by that I mean, they have World Cup structures to train on, year round, and they have a team, amongst themselves, to train with. Having a solid training team/partner(s) is the key to success. You can’t push yourself to your ultimate level unless you have someone there, pushing you, motivating you, correcting you, or suggesting various things to you. They’re smart, really smart, and they know how to train to win.
How did you do this last year on the circuit? What’s it like climbing competitively in Europe and Asia? This year I did really well on the circuit. At the world championships in Kirov, Russia, I had my best result to date. No North American in the last 12 years has made it into the Top 20. Because the sport is so dominated by Russians, it’s tough to gain a spot past the qualifying round. But in Russia I managed to climb super well and landed 15th overall, which was huge.
Competing overseas is tough. North Americans are at a huge disadvantage because of the amount of travel it takes, money, adjusting to new cultures, food, people, languages—it’s not an easy road. But, all that being said, it’s un-freakin’-believable. The opportunity to see the world whilst doing what you love? Why wouldn’t you do it?
You’re building your own training facility in your backyard. Can you describe it to us, and why is it important to making the podium in the World Cup next year? If you want to do well on the World Cup, you need to be super specific in how you train. A lot of the Europeans and Asian representatives have World Cup “structures” to train on, which gives them a huge edge. So, I figured why not build my own? And now, the first North American World Cup structure is going to be in my backyard. It’s the only way forward.
Next season is going to be a huge season, packed with events and, oh, did I mention the Olympics? Yeah, so mixed climbing is going to be a demonstration sport next year. It’s important for me to be at the top of my game going into the coming season—to do well, really well.
Training is obviously a big part of your focus this coming year. And because mixed climbing will be a demonstration sport at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, you’ll be training with the Russians in the fall. Can you speak to that a bit? I train a lot, and I mean a lot. There’s no end to it, only improvement and progression. This coming fall I’ll be heading to Russia to train with the Russians. If you want to beat the best, you need to train with and like the best. With the Olympics coming up, preparation this summer is going to be a huge focus.
You’re headed to the Red Rock Rendezvous this coming week. How will that play into your overall training? This coming week I’m heading to the Red Rocks Rendezvous because it’s always a fun time. It’s actually a good opportunity for me to relax and just have fun. I’ll rock climb for a few days, teach some clinics, and hang with rad people/sponsors. It’s a good few days of chillin’ with no stress. Down time from a serious focus is always a good thing. But, if I were to play the Rendezvous into my training regime, I’d say any new rock route I can get on and onsight is always a good way to prep for coming comps.
You’ve become familiar with the Instinct VS this last year. What can you tell us about them? The SCARPA Instinct VS to me is the ultimate shoe for steep climbing. There’s a particular route I’m working on, pushing me with every move, and there’s one particular move where it requires a super tense heel hook, and with the Instinct, the heel placement isn’t solid, but with the VS, I can lock onto that sucker and keep going without any hesitation. The shoe toes in super well, sticking you to the smallest of holds on the steepest of routes. It fits beautifully, locking your heel in place, allowing you to crush through any crux. The way the toe box is built, you can grab ahold of any toe hook and balance your way through the sequence. I love this shoe, from front to back.
You’ve got a lot on your plate with travel and training in the coming year. How do balance it with other aspects of Gord McArthur’s life? Life is full on busy, with climbing full time, my design business, my family, friends, etc. It’s no easy road. But what I’ve come to accept is that when you want something bad enough, it’s not about sacrificing what’s most important, like family, etc., but more so about managing my time to the utmost. If I get a lock down on my schedule, I can flow through everything beautifully. If I get disorganized—Wow! It gets intense. With what I do in climbing, I’m super blessed as my business. All it requires is a laptop and internet. My training? Well, it mostly takes place in the back yard, so I can hang with my family lots, and still get my train on to the max. Not to say that I have it all figured out, but I’m certainly on the right path to managing the chaos. But really, none of this would even be possible without my wife and her support. I mean, come on….
One last thing. How does your wife feel about your backyard being turned into a mixed climbing workout wall? Usually, when I propose something new to train on (in the backyard), my wife just shakes her head and laughs. Typically, I take that as the go ahead and give ‘er. The recent idea of the World Cup structure in the backyard (which took a lot of digging and space), she was in full support. So, she’s amazing and her support is off the hook. Couldn’t do any of it without her.