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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

My Double Podium Weekend

I knew before this weekend started that it was going to be one of the hardest I’d ever have to endure. To compete in 3 disciplines in one weekend is exhausting. I’ve done it 4 times before, but never in 3 days. Every other time I’ve done 3 disciplines, there’s been a rest day somewhere in the middle; here there was none. A lot of people wonder why I compete in all 3, if I don’t worry about being tired. Honestly, it’s because I love the challenge. Why shouldn’t I be able to do it? [singlepic id=716 h=400 float=right] I started my weekend with a 26 hour journey from Las Vegas. After a stop in LA, I took the longest flight of my life to Guangzhou, a 15 hour journey. Luckily I slept for almost 9 of those hours so the flight was actually quite easy. I made it to Haiyang later that day and got the bus to the venue. Technical meeting and a Chinese buffet was the end of that day. The competition started on June 20th with double qualifications. Lead was in the morning and bouldering in the afternoon. It was nice to warm up for lead and compete in a harness, something I hadn’t done since Kranj at the end of 2013. I knew that this competition was going to be hard for me in lead as I’ve only trained for bouldering this year; I was going to be getting pumped and I knew I couldn’t stop to recover. I anticipated this and told myself never to stop climbing; don’t make errors and you’ll do fine. The lead qualification went well; I topped my first route and fell high on my second. I qualified in 7th place going into to semi-finals which for the lead climbers wasn’t until the 3rd competition day. Bouldering qualifiers were in the afternoon and they also went well. I was still warm from the morning so I did a few hard problems to get my fingers ready but was warm much quicker than usual. I did 3 of the boulders which put me in 8th spot, a nice position. [singlepic id=723 w=600 float=centre] June 21st was the second competition day and reserved for the rest of Bouldering and all of Speed. The semi-finals were in the morning which was best case scenario for me. As the semi-finals are the hardest round, if I made it to finals I’d be stoked and if I didn’t at least I still had Speed and Lead! By the end of the round, I had only done the first boulder. Judging by what I was feeling around me, I didn’t think it’d be enough. To my surprise anyone who completed one single boulder in semi-finals advanced to the final round. Dimitrii Sharafutdinov was the outsider in 7th place with 3 bonuses and no tops. The really bad part about this round was that boulders 2 and 3 weren’t completed and the final boulder was done by one lone person, Jan Hojer. Basically the semi-final round was on one boulder and if you completed it, you advanced… I was stoked I made finals and knew the hardest part was behind me. I spent the next couple of hours staying warm but mostly jumping around for the Speed practice and qualification. I hadn’t done the Speed route since October of last year so I knew I’d be rusty. In my first qualification run, I had a time of 10.85 so I knew I could try for a much better time on my second run. I was so eager to get a better time that I ended up using my false start on my second run. After the false start I still had a great run and finished with a 9.35. As happy as I was with my sub 10 time, I still finished in 20th place, last among the men J. Bouldering finals were next. Ever since my abysmal finals start in Hamilton; I’ve been much more relaxed in the rounds. Maybe it was really good to fail so hard on the first two boulders in Hamilton because it really made me enjoy my competitions so much more. I was out 3rd for the men and always climbing with Austrian favourite Anna Stohr. [singlepic id=715 w=600 float=centre] B1 looked straight forward enough. It started with a hard toe hook move and ended with a weird palming finish. The first two competitors hadn’t done it but I’m confident with toe hooks so I went out excited. On my first 3 tries, I’d complete the first move but fall on the second. I realized I was a bit too small to swing so on my 4th try I tried to static instead. To my surprise it held and I completed the second move. From there, I managed to keep it together and topped the boulder. Of the other 5 finalists only Jan managed to top the boulder with a flash. [singlepic id=717 w=600 float=centre] B2 looked easier than the first but when I went out neither of the first two competitors had topped. I had a pretty hard time starting the boulder but every move just fell into place and slowly but surely I made my way up the boulder with a big dyno for the last hold! Jan didn’t flash the boulder, but sent it second go. [singlepic id=718 w=600 float=centre] B3 was a mirror boulder; it had two different methods left and right. After previewing it, we deemed the right way was easier, plus the zone was out right. Again, no one before me did the boulder. I tried the boulder 4 times. The first 2 times were somewhat close, but then again not really. My last two tries were better than the first two but I was still too tired to do the move. By the end of this boulder, only Jan had even gotten the bonus and he also topped the problem. Going into the 4th and final boulder I had 2 tops in 5 tries, Jan had 3 tops in 7 tries which meant I had to flash the final boulder to keep pressure on Jan. For the fourth boulder in a row, I went out and no one had done the boulder yet. It’s hard to put into words, so I’ll post the video below, but my first shot was the best, and it was pretty close… I knew I was on that boulder for the chance at a win, and I gave it my best shot. [singlepic id=719 w=600 float=centre] By the time finals had finished, no one could complete the boulder. A few of us got to the last move, but we were unable to secure the elusive last hold. Jan had won his third world cup of the season and I had finished a solid second. In third place with a shocking score of only 2 bonuses was Guillaume Glairon-Mondet. I had had a lot of fun in these finals even if the boulders were too hard. I felt like I was relaxed and was climbing well. Jan came out for the final boulder knowing he had won the comp. He still gave it his best and even scrubbed some holds for Shauna Coxsey on her fourth and final problem. On the women’s side, Akiyo Noguchi took another victory with Shauna in second and Anna Stohr coming third. Their problems were also quite hard and the podium was laid out in the first two boulders. Full results for Men can be found HERE; full results for Women, HERE [singlepic id=721 w=600 float=centre] For me, the competition wasn’t over; I still had at least one more route to climb. I’ll admit that after the finals, I was pretty tired. I needed to eat a big dinner and rest which is exactly what I did. The next morning, I still felt pretty tired. What was cool is that as the day progressed I felt better and better. For the lead semi-finals, I didn’t even need to warm up very much. I knew that the first time I got really pumped would be on the route because if I did it during warm up, I was afraid of never getting UN-pumped before I had to climb… [singlepic id=720 w=600 float=centre] I went out 20th for the men and felt good. The route was straight forward enough and there were a few sections that I thought were going to be hard. What surprised me the most was a hard move moving into the roof. I barely did the move and was almost falling every move after. Even in the “rest” in the roof, I couldn’t recover. I clipped and just kept going. I was just coming out of the roof and just lunged left for a triangle. I knew it would be good and I just needed to catch it. I barely caught it and I knew it was falling time, I quickly jumped at the next hold to secure the + but there was no way I was doing the next move. I came down as happy as ever, I had climbed in my opinion perfectly for what I could do at that moment. A few minutes later, I found out how everyone else had done and I was sitting in 3rd place, not bad. I quickly ran how many more people were after me and concluded that only 1 person needed to fall below me, which was somewhat unlikely. Climber after climber passed my position and I steadily dropped in position. I was sitting in 8th spot with the last climber to come out, Ramonet from Spain. Just at the roof, he hesitated on a move and was basically stuck there for a good minute. He went back and forth trying to figure it out and eventually went for the move, but he was too tired. He fell in the roof and I knew I had snuck into finals… When one person falls and misses finals, it opens it up to someone else. In this case I was that lucky 8th spot. [singlepic id=724 h=430 float=right] The finals route suited me even more than the semis. I barely needed to warm up for finals and I mostly just did fingery stuff because it was mostly crimps. I was first out in finals with nothing to lose. I again climbed perfectly and fell when I knew I wasn’t going any further. I even fought really hard for two moves before falling with rocks for forearms. As I sailed down falling, I knew my weekend was over, no more climbing. I smiled and waved as much as I could. I knew I had climbed well, but I never imagined it would’ve landed me where I finished. I watched climber after climber make funny mistakes or not commit on moves. Jakob beat me by a move but almost fell one below me. The biggest surprises were with both French competitors Gauthier Supper and Romain Desgranges who looked so solid on the first half. It wasn’t until they got to a really big move in the roof with no feet that they started to panic. They both fell in that sequence after having a hard time figuring out a good foot sequence. When I had gotten to that position, I just went with my instinct which was to campus with my feet up high. By the end, my position slowly crept up and up with the last competitor falling and me securing my second silver medal of the weekend. This one was definitely unexpected. There is not a doubt in my mind that I got lucky with the lead portion of this competition and that many other competitors should’ve beat me. At the same time, I’ll admit that I didn’t make any errors and climbed perfectly for my ability right now. It’s just all part of the game, and I love playing games. [singlepic id=725 w=600 float=centre] On the women’s side, Jain Kim started her season in perfect style with a convincing win while Magdelena Rock took the second Silver medal of her career. In third place and first time on a world cup podium was Anak Verhoeven. Full results for Men can be found HERE; full results for Women, HERE

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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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