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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Canadian Boulder Nationals

My first big competition of the year has come and passed. It was a good feeler competition to gauge how well I’ve been training. This competition was he 2014 Canadian Boulder Nationals, held at Coyote Rock Gym in Ottawa. It was a fun weekend; I got to see a bunch of old friends and was worth the trip from Europe even if it was just for the weekend.

When I say I got to gauge how well I’ve been training, it’s because the first world cup that I’ll likely attend is mid-way through May which gives me 6 weeks after this weekend to resume training. If I felt like I wasn’t strong in a certain aspect, I’d at least have some time to tweak some things before my next big event. It was also nice that this wasn’t a world cup and there wasn’t as much pressure. Going into this comp, I had everything to lose and less to gain. I try to remember that to make the competition even harder for me. It’s a good test of not only physical but mental training for me. I know that I could win, but I also know that people are all hoping I make mistakes which is just the nature of the game.

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I flew over from Europe on Friday and after a bus ride, 3 planes and a ride from Bob, I was sitting in my hotel room with another Joe Rockheads Athlete Marshal German. Saturday was the qualifiers and everything went really well. I warmed up well, felt all the same things as I would a normal competition and the round went well too. I only faltered on one of the 5 qualifying boulders, the second one. I saw a hold up near the top of the boulder and thought it was a gaston hold. On my first try, I tried it like that but it felt too hard. I fell and didn’t think I’d even try it again. While staring blankly at the wall, I finally noticed a bit of chalk on the other side of the hold and knew I had missed a pinch over on that side. Now the problem made sense and I did it second try. I flashed the other 4 boulders and qualified in first place with 5 tops in 6 tries.

Semi-finals were Sunday morning and I knew this would be the hardest round just like in World Cups. With 20 competitors making semi-finals and only 6 to finals, the cut is big. Also the format of semi-finals being 5 on 5 off is harder than the finals problems which are one after another. I felt nervous going out but confident at the same time. I was just behind another US climber Dylan Barks and I knew how far he was getting on the problems. He flashed the first two which I also flashed and he did the third slab problem in a few tries. When I couldn’t do the slab problem, I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t qualify in first. The third problem was a traversing slab with a deadpoint finish. The tricky part was that final hold that we were jumping too was blocked on the top by another hold so you had to be very precise. I guess it was bugging me too much and of the 3 times I got there and touched the hold, I never grabbed it well enough to stick.

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When Dylan sent the 4th boulder, I knew I couldn’t qualify in first, but I knew it was lucky enough to not be the final round. I came out and flashed the final boulder, it felt good. After I checked results, another US climber Josh Larson had also done all 4 boulders putting me in 3rd place going into finals. Joining us would be Sebastian Lazure, Jason Holowach and Yves Gravelle. On a side note, I knew that because of the final format, Josh and Dylan having to climb after me probably wasn’t something they were looking forward to, especially with the “Canadian Crowd” behind me…

Finals were later that day and it was another hard round. It was IFSC format so we got a collective 2 minute preview and we would attempt the boulder one after another.

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Boulder number one was a sort of run and jump (after starting with the official 4 point start). It was a great problem, it looked hard, but more importantly looked scary because you never know how well a dyno is going to feel until you actually try it. You usually know while leaving the jumping holds if you’re going to stick it as well. Dylan, Josh, Jason and I flashed it and Yves and Sebastian sent second try.

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The second boulder was another one that looked hard while previewing. It was on a bunch of pinches, a dyno in the middle and a huge last move lockoff. I was the fourth climber out and I knew from the cheer of the crowd that no one had done the boulder yet. I started, and the second move was incredibly hard. I sailed out to the zone and it felt good. The dyno was a weird move and it felt like I was falling when I stuck the hold. As my body turned towards the crowd, my free hand found the next hold and I stayed on. Because the nature of the movement, I completed the 360, placed my heel on and started the last move; it was big. I started pulling up and re set my heel to the perfect place. After resetting the heel, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get far enough so I switched my right hand to a palm. It turned out that was the thing to do as I locked off as far as I could and just barely reached the finish. A couple of the other finalists got to the last move as well, but without the swap to the cup could only tickle the final hold without sending.

Moving on to the 3rd problem, I had a good lead with 2 in 2. The third problem was another traversing slab that I was not looking forward to. Sebastian and Jason topped the problem before me so I knew it was possible.

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I went out and fell on the first move; I think I’ll blame the nerves on that one, but it was more a placement of my foot. On my second and third try, I got just past the bonus but couldn’t do a big cross over type of move. I didn’t feel comfortable on the problem at all though, which didn’t help. As the seconds counted away, my lead disappeared and I went back to isolation with merely a zone. Josh also topped the boulder after me but Dylan couldn’t complete it either. When Jay told me he flashed it, I knew the last boulder counted for everything. We both had 2 in 2 so it would come to bonuses. There was also a chance that Sebastian or Josh could win, but the chances were smaller; they would have to flash the whole boulder without Jay or I getting the zone. If Jason stuck the zone and I didn’t get the zone in a handful of tries, he would win the round leaving me in second.

Of the first 3 climbers, none topped but the problem was too hard to judge whether they stuck zone. I had to think that Jason did. That meant that I needed that zone to win the competition. My first try was bad and my foot slipped out of the roof. I composed myself and went pretty quickly on my second try. I got through the roof and was making my way up towards the zone. It was obvious that to have a chance of completing the boulder, you had to grab the zone with your right hand, but I wasn’t concerned with completely the boulder, merely to stick the zone. I went up with my left because I knew the chances of falling were much lower. In doing so, I shot myself in the foot but it didn’t matter. I knew when I stick that zone, I’d won the comp. Now I was in an awkward position on a hard boulder. I managed to match the zone but fell on the next move as my feet came out from the roof. I rested for the remainder of my time and gave it one last try. I made it a move further but the boulder wasn’t getting easier and I fell on the second to last move. I had highpoint on the boulder so the crowd was cheering; I also knew that I had won so I was stoked.

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Josh and Dylan also couldn’t do the last boulder which meant it was just a tiny bit too hard. With the fourth boulder only counting for a zone, Jason came 2nd with 2 flashes and Josh came 3rd with 2 tops in 4 tries, beating out Sebastian in attempts to the third bonus.

The next couple of hours went by pretty quickly. I was super happy Jay for coming second and I knew that he almost beat me. If I would’ve slipped on one of my flashes which is very easy to do, he’d have beat me in attempts. With his second place, he also secured the overall victory of the 2014 season having won Regionals earlier in the month. I took a few photos, signed some stuff and had the awards ceremony. Best part of the awards was the Champagne they had gotten for the winners. Nothing feels better than cracking a bottle of champagne after a hard day of competing. An even better feeling if you’ve won.

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Full results for the men and women can be found here.

I know I didn’t say anything about the women because I had no idea what had happened. It turned out that their problems were even harder than ours with 3 of the finalists not even getting a zone. Elise Sethna took home the gold with 2 flashes; Kerry Briggs was second with one flash and Celeste Wall took third with a couple of bonuses.

So after competing and feeling everything I feel in competition there are a few things I have to work on. I have 6 weeks until my next competition and I’d like to do a bit of campus boarding in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to the season and I had a great time this weekend. It was great seeing people I hadn’t seen in a long time and I hope to see them throughout the season or when I’m back in Canada.

All the photos were taken by Aidas Odonelis | rubyphotostudio.com

Thank you!

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Comments (10)

  • Avatar

    Michel

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    I have a question for you. You were able to dyno the last problem of qualification from the start hold to the finishing hold. Was this problem not done correctly (setting and fore-running) or were you just lucky in reading this solution before them and is part of the fact that some problems have wildly different solution for different people?

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Michel

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      Oups,Forgot! Congrats on winning the Canadian Boulder Nationals!

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      That would’ve been a small mistake made by the route setting crew. That being said, the people that didn’t see the jump should’ve seen it and tried it at least once. I know that the route setters even tried it a couple of times that way but deemed it too hard.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Michel

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        It’s interesting you say that! It was the last problem of qualification; so if the dyno seemed hard, shouldn’t be safer to use the intermediate holds instead of potentially be suprised by the final hold when doing the dyno and losing a try (minimize the tries at the last problem)? Was the problem hard enough to make the dyno worth it?

        I might be biased against the dyno. But I am intrigued in your reasoning. It would not of occurred to me in a comp to do that on that problem. I might try it outside of that context.

        Reply

        • Avatar

          Sean McColl

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          The reason I tried it on my first try is because I was fairly certain I’d be able to do it. The last hold was a big palm almost a cup so it was just going to be the distance that was hard. When I felt the right hand start hold, it wasn’t bad and there was a good foot to setup for the jump, that’s when I decided to try it.

          Reply

  • Avatar

    John Meget

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    Sean, what did you learn about your overall fitness level, where you stand for the WC events?

    Reply

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      Sean McColl

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      I learned that I don’t have the “body type” to be a long distance climber, that’s why I climb rather quickly. I find that one of my biggest challenges is to keep my competition weight because I love eating lots of food and candy!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Jackson Haber

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    When you first started comps, how long was it until you could reach the podium

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Sean McColl

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      Well my first competition was in “beginner” and I won! So it’s all kind of relative on how many comps you’ve done as well.

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Manh Ellis

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    Hey Sean, just found your website from your facebook.

    I got to meet you at the Canadian nationals and I wanted to tell you how inspiring you are for my personal climbing.

    Recently I finished Canadian Youth Difficulty and getting to read your side of a national level competition is amazing

    Thank you so much!

    Reply

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