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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Puurs World Cup 2011

My second lead world cup of 2011 has finished, and I made a big step up ¬†from the first one which was in Chamonix back in July. The biggest thing between Chamonix and Puurs was my training. When I competed in Chamonix, I hadn’t been training lead because I was focused on Bouldering. I still competed in Chamonix because I just love competing and the Chamonix atmosphere is so nice, I just want to test myself. In preparation for this recent world cup in Puurs, I’ve been training 4 days a week on circuits. One competition result is hard to base your whole training around because I could’ve quite as easily slipped in semi finals and placed 19th again. I was glad that this did not happen, and I managed to snake my way into finals. I was at the competition in Puurs 3 years ago and although I’ve wanted to go back every year, I’ve always been back in Canada attending school. Now that I’ve finished that, I could stay for the competitions in the fall. The competition was exactly as I remembered, very well run, good atmosphere and an amazing wall. The first thing I noticed about this wall was that they peppered the big cave with medium to big size volumes. There must’ve been at least 20 volumbes scattered in the big cave. I got to Bruxelles Thursday night with Mathilde and thanks to the “Guardian Angel Service”, we got to our hostel, ate dinner and started preparing for the next day. The Guardian Angel Service is a service that the competition of Puurs organizes to pretty much act as private taxis for the whole weekend. This service was amazing, and is found exclusively at this competition. They pick you up from the airport, drop you off at your hotel as well as shuttle you to and from the competition for the whole weekend. To cap it all off, they even stayed at the afterparty completely sober to drop us off after the party died down. Amazing!! Thanks again to all the Guardian Angel drivers! [singlepic id=246 w=480 h=320 float=left] Qualifiers were Friday morning at 11am. After a quick warm up, I was on my first qualifier. Mathilde and I were both 4th to go out, but because the men usually climb a bit faster, I was climbing before Mathilde. My first qualifier was super hard, I fell maybe 2/3 of the way up, but was still decently happy. The first climber, I knew was also very strong and had fallen at the same height. I thought that it was strange to fall that low on qualifiers, but you never know, the qualifiers can just be super super hard. After another 10 climbers passed on my route, no one had gotten harder, and I figured that was the case. I also got to see Mathilde climb who got pretty far up to a hard sequence of moves near the top. Because she was 4th, it was also hard to say how she had done. The 2nd qualifier looked to be just as hard as the first. After the first half of the climbers had climbed, high point was still 6-7 moves from the top. I knew where there were a few hard moves near the bottom, which included a vertical section up a tufa structure. I got through the bottom section pretty fast, and after a ¬†super hard bump move, I was into the overhang of the wall and felt much more comfortable. I fell up near the top, not highpoint, but I knew in my head, it’s pass for semis so I was happy. Just as I was lowering from my route, Mathilde was starting her second qualifier. Hers also included a slab start, into the steepest part of the wall. She was nervous for the slab at the beginning but got through it quite nicely. When she got into the more overhanging part, I figured she’d be a bit more comfortable, but for one reason or another, she didn’t feel good. Her feet cut on a few crucial moves and I could see her struggling to stay on. I encouraged her as best I could until she fell. She was super dissapointed with how she had climbed the route and thought her chances for semi finals were shot. After another hour or so, everyone had climbed and the scores were tallied. I had qualified 8th and Mathilde had qualified 25th, with 26 making semis for both men and women. This was Mathilde’s first semi finals at an official World Cup, so she was happy but yet determined for the next day. Semi finals were the next morning and after a much earlier start, we were at the gym. Mathilde was 2nd out, where as I had to wait for 17 climbers plus a cleaning before my turn would come. I helped Mathilde warm up as best she could and wished her good luck as she was leaving. I obviously had to stay in isolation so I couldn’t watch her. I did my standard warm up and felt a lot better than in the qualifiers. [singlepic id=247 w=480 h=320 float=right] My semi finals route looked much better than the qualifiers. It had a technical start on some big slopers and pinches, then headed up through one of the steepest part of the wall, before going through the roof and finishing way up at the top. As soon as I got on the route, I felt good and by halfway, I knew I was climbing well. I had done the start pretty efficiently, and after a super hard move moving right with no feet, I was in my zone. I kept climbing past clips because I wasn’t sure if I should risk clipping them and falling on the next move. It turns out that most of the clips were easier to clip from above so my gambles were paying off. Just before the roof, I was at another clip or skip clip situation. I chose the latter, and knew as I was throwing into the roof I was going to fall. Sailing through the air is actually quite fun when you know you’ve climbed well. I knew I had climbed well, and I couldn’t have done much better. When I got to the bottom, my belayer said I had highpoint and since I qualified 8th, I was assured a position in finals! I can’ explain the happiness I felt. It just feels so good to train super hard for competitions and see it paying off. After a short interview with the MC, I sat down and watched the last 7 climbers come out. A few of those climbers got into the roof, and going into finals, I was 5th. I talked to Mathilde about how she had done on her route, and she wasn’t too happy with it. There was a big volume hold in the middle of the route which she hadn’t grabbed or was unsure where exactly to grab. If you went to the wrong spot, because the move was very dynamic, you’d fall. She didn’t hit it well, and fell, even though she wasn’t pumped. I’m not a big fan of moves like that in lead comps because it plays such a huge advantage to people that know the big holds. That being said, it’s all part of the game, and you can say that about any hold. At least in Bouldering comps, you get another try! Mathilde finished 24th, overall moving up one spot from qualifiers. I went to finals iso almost immediately just to eat something and get some rest. Outside it was super hot and it was nice and cool in isolation not to mention coffee, snacks and mars bars. After a few more hours of rest, and a good debate on how to fix ties in lead comps, it was back to comp mode and one more route. I love that in finals of world cups, there’s a presentation just before the preview. It makes you feel a little bit better and makes you smile and wave to the crowd. I like it because it makes me remember that we’re having fun and we’re all among friends! [singlepic id=244 w=480 h=320 float=left] My 6 minutes of preview usually goes down the same way. I start by watching the French climbers run to the base of the climb, then subtly laugh in my head at the mind game that I think it does or doesn’t achieve… It’s even funnier when Cedric Lachat is at the competition who makes it his goal to arrive there before the French. I then start at the 3rd hold and start previewing, usually quite fast. I read the whole route by myself, then when I get to the top, I usually go back to the start to touch the start hold. I then look through the more tricky sections and usually find other people in finals to preview with. This time, I started previewing again with Jorg Verhoeven, Magnus Midtboe, and Jacob Schubert. We went through some of the tricker parts of the route including a weird bump move at the beginning, a giant cross in the middle and then a weird giant hold in the middle before going into a big span and then a down climb. This route had everything! I also went and discussed the route a bit with Gauthier Supper from the French team. [singlepic id=245 w=480 h=320 float=right] Because the girls and guys were alternating during finals, I went out 8th. I was still warmed up from semis so I didn’t end up doing much climbing in iso. I got a bit pumped once, and just focused on doing some hard moves to keep my blood going. I also made sure I stayed very far away from the isolation / competition entrance so I couldn’t know how far the guys were getting on the route. I prefer it that way in finals, so I’m not nervous about not making it high enough. I made it through the beginning of the route super well, got into the big cross over move and almost fell as my feet cut on the move. Sometimes, I have too much of a bouldering mentality that your feet should cut often. While route climbing, your feet shouldn’t cut so often because then you lose energy. After, I rested a bit and kept going. A place about half way made me struggle a bunch. I skipped a clip for a bit, and clipped it while it was at my waist from my left arm, the next move was a big cross over and I spent 20 seconds trying to cross and going back down to rest. Thinking back on the climb, this is the part that made me farther a bit further up. After doing the hard move for me, I moved up into a big volume sized hold. I was literally half a second away from clipping (clip in hand) when I had to drop it because I could feel myself falling. From that point on, I couldn’t let go. I managed to climb up 2 more moves to get my left hand in an undercling on a volume. I got the other hand on the other undercling beside it with a good thumb catch but I was way too pumped to even move. The clip was now a good foot below my waist and I knew to clip it would require just grabbing the draw and clipping it into my rope. The problem was that I knew 100% that if I let go with either hand longer than half a second I was going to fall. As much as I wish I could clip in half a second, I knew I was falling. In my head, I knew that even if I touched the next hold, I wouldn’t get points for it because I’d be out of clipping position. At the same time, I didn’t just want to let go on a finals route. I decided to jump, but as I started to jump, I realized that the volume was actually really long, and I didn’t even come close to touching the next hold. As the pictures shows, I clearly not going to get points because you can see where I was trying to jump to and where the last quick draw (unclipped) was… [singlepic id=248 w=480 h=320 float=center] So I came sailing down and hit the wall pretty hard. I was ready for it, so it didn’t hurt. Again, I was happy with how I had climbed so was naturally just smiling and kind of laughing that I got stuck in a position where I couldn’t let go to clip. They told me when I got down that I was in 2nd place, which was great for me. 6th if everyone climbed higher than me, and you never know! It turns out that all 4 climbers after me climbed past me, so I finished 6th, but I was still happy. Jacob was the last climber, and notched his 5th straight world cup victory of 2011. Jain Kim from Korea was also the last climber who notched her 3rd victory of 2011. Thanks to Ruban for filming from the crowd! Movie just below. My next competition is in Boulder, Colorado. I’m leaving Thursday and I’ll hopefully get to climb a couple of days on rock as well just after the competition!      

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