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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Vail World Cup 2014

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This past weekend was the annual world cup in Vail, Colorado. They are placed within the GoPro Mountain Games which used to be the Teva Mountain Games. When I got to Vail on Wednesday, the thing I noticed right away was the placement of the wall. It had been moved back into the central city area instead of 1km away in a parking lot. I knew right away that this year the crowd’s would be bigger and the overall event would be more easily accessible.

Qualifiers were Friday morning with men in the AM. I came out and wasn’t too impressed with Q1. They had figured out how to implement a running start within the rules. I was mad at first because the reason we got rid of them was to avoid ambiguity; in the end, it worked very well and it should be my job as athlete president for climbers to know how to start boulders like those. I flashed the start and took a few tries to complete the boulder.

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Q2 was pretty standard for Vail. Just pull as hard as you can and you’ll be ok. There was a tricky match near the top, or if you were bigger you could do a little double clutch. I flashed Q2 as well as Q3 which was another standard Vail type problem.

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Q4 was a bit stranger. I tried it a handful of times but could never complete it. It took me a couple of tries to get securely set on the bonus and by then I couldn’t engage my abs enough to control the swing and stick the foothold. It also didn’t help that just to match the zone I felt 100% extended and couldn’t move very freely. If I would’ve gotten to the zone on my first try I think I would’ve been fresh enough to stick the hard foot movement.

Q5 was a slab. My first try, all I could think about was how crappy the feet looked. I lost my balance just after zone and just walked off the boulder. My second try felt better and I was gaining confidence on my feet. I got to the last move but didn’t grab the volume with my hand. As I sailed up to the non-existent last hold, I had too much momentum and fell again. My third try was the winner. I started the boulder and just walked across the small feet. It’s crazy what a little bit of confidence will do on slabs. I grabbed the feature with my right hand and went as slow as I could towards the finish. 4 tops in 9 tries were enough for 8th spot, a great position moving into semi-finals.

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To my dismay, no other Canadians men or women advanced to the semi-final round. Comparing the round to that of Hamilton, it felt (for the men) and looked (for the women) much harder.

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Semi-finals (SF) were Saturday morning and I was feeling great. On the way to iso, I got my traditional Venti Long Americano with some syrup flavouring. Once that’s finished it’s time to warm up!

I came out after a great warm up and felt excited for the boulders. I had made finals the past two years here but in the end I knew I had to climb well to keep advancing. If I didn’t climb well, there was a chance I’d still advance but probably would be in the 8-15 range.

SF1 was a slab but it looked pretty comfortable. I pulled on, did a couple of hard moves and set up for the final dyno. It was further than I had originally thought, so I shuffled my feet a bit left and looked up. From there, there wasn’t much thinking involved, it was just “get to the hold”. I leaped and it felt far. As I jumped I thought for a second that my alignment was bad. When I grabbed the hold, I clenched as hard as I could with my fingers and felt my body secure on the wall. One Flash, 3 to go.

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I came out for SF2 and it was another running start but looked easy. After that, there was a symmetrical middle section and a few power moves at the end. I started and made my way through the middle. I was thinking knee bars the whole way through because the next hold looked like a sloper. It took some time, but I eventually got my knee where I wanted it and the rest was easy. I was feeling so strong that I tried to lock off the last move. It was too far so I had to re-adjust my hand before going dynamically. A small error on my part, but I still flashed the boulder so no harm done.

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Onto to problem 3, which I knew had seen an ascent. Because I heard the commentator saying there had been an ascent, in my head I thought that 3 boulders would be necessary for finals. As I previewed it, the start looked normal but the middle was strange. The boulder revolved around two big fin-like features. I figured it was a sort of mantle between the features. My first try ended up being very good and looking back at the video; I could’ve flashed it if I would’ve brought my left leg up into the drop knee instead of re adjusting my left hand to the pinch where I fell. I fell and thought I’d attack the problem another way. I went full left on my second try with a very aggressive high left heel hook. I started to rock over and adjusted my hands. As I was pulling, I heard and felt my knee crack a bit (like when you crack your knuckles). I let go and fell immediately. I’ve had a similar injury on my right knee on the same sort of movement. Although the sound wasn’t nearly as loud or sharp as when I injured my right knee I was still worried. No competition is worth injuring yourself for. I still had over 2 minutes left but I didn’t care. If I felt pain, I’d stop. I rubbed my knee to see if I felt pain and no pain was good. After 30 seconds had gone by, I did the squat test (jump up and down on one leg). I felt no pain so I went for a third attempt. When I injured my other knee a while back I couldn’t apply any weight to it for well over a day so I knew it wasn’t the same thing; it still scared me though. There was no way I’d try it as my second try, so I just decided to wing it. I pulled through the beginning and started to problem solve the middle. I tried a different sort of mantle but it didn’t really work. I went back to the semi good holds and knew I was getting tired. I busted out right to the volume and it felt decently good. As my Canadian friends cheered me on, I guessed this was the way to do it.

Here is the video queued up to my third attempt:

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As I kept bumping left and right up the volumes I could eventually get my left foot on into a knee drop. From here things felt pretty good. I looked up and the holds were far away. I went as slow as possible to try and stand up a little more. I was at the maximum height I was going to get but the hold was too far, I decided to double dyno. I jumped for both holds and started falling. I tried to grab both holds just in case the opposition was enough to keep me on. To my surprised, the holds WERE good enough and I hadn’t fallen yet. I checked the time and it said 7 seconds; you’d think this was enough time to match the hold but when I couldn’t match for a few seconds I started to panic. I was afraid if I let go with my left hand I’d lose all opposition. As I skated around with my feet, I saw the other fin out left; I shot my left toe around the side of that while checking the left clock at the same time. 3 seconds it said, I had to match NOW. The foot was awesome and I matched milliseconds after. While matched I checked the right clock which now said 2 seconds and I knew the top was secured. I jumped off and felt good.

In between the 3rd and 4th boulder, I taped my knee as a precaution. The 4th one was a slab in a corner which was lucky for me. I flashed the bonus but couldn’t move from there. I got to the same spot 4 times on the boulder trying various different methods but in the end couldn’t really move. I finished my round with 3 tops in 5 tries and flashed all zones. The first thing on my mind was to get a physio to look at my knee. Klaus looked at it and told me what I had done. I injured it, but it’s nothing crazy, we’ll leave it at that. I did some stretches and he said it’d feel sore and tight the next day. By then the round was over and I saw that I had qualified first. I was thrilled to have made it to finals once again. After the Hamilton finals, I knew this one would be different.

Finals recap is now live, click HERE to read it.

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