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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 Finals

If you haven’t read up on Qualifiers and Semi finals, be sure to check out my first post HERE.

Between Semi-Finals (SF) and Finals (F), I had a lot on my mind. I was obviously worried about my knee, I needed to eat some food, I needed to rest a bit and I needed to be back in iso in 2 hours. It’s always like this between SF and Finals but it’s still a bit awkward. I iced my knee, ate food, rested and was feeling good. The time went fast and I was soon enough headed back to isolation.

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I was still super warm from the previous round so I knew warming up was going to be a breeze. I had originally thought I’d tape my knee in dummy fashion (strips around the knee). Klaus said it might not be the best idea and offered to add some physio tape. In my head I was like “heck yes that pink tape stuff to look professional”! He also said it would help something in my leg attach something else. All I could think of was how cool I now looked with my pink band. I also knew that if my knee hurt, I would feel the pain which would hopefully stop me from doing anything crazy. I told myself if I saw any aggressive left heel hooks that I wouldn’t do it.

Presentation and observation was first once we got to the wall. Everything was very standard and I can tell you that once I previewed all 4 boulders, I wasn’t very excited to try them. The big reason was that they all kind of had left foot things, and a couple on heels. Already I was much less nervous than Hamilton and I felt like I was in a good head space. I had already proved to myself that I could get to finals, then of course the podium so I knew to just have fun and try the boulders.

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F1 was a running dyno to what looked like a hard heel hook. F2 was a slab with a weird finish. It looked easy enough so we were pretty confused. The last move was also left foot so I wasn’t stoked. F3 was full slab with the last move all on the left foot again. I saw that and hoped it wasn’t too hard. Finally, F4 was a high start into some power moves and another heel hook (left of course) finish. I went back to isolation and didn’t know what to think. I told myself I’d try them all and if my knee hurt, I’d just try the boulder a different way.

The first one went pretty well. I knew most of the competitors had eventually done the dyno so I was excited. I dry-fired on the starting holds on my first attempt then had a few good goes on the dyno. I stuck the dyno on my 5th try and flashed the rest of the boulder. The heel hook at the top was very casual. I crimped like mad on the edge of the feature to take as much weight off my heel and switched to a toe as fast as I could.

Problem 1

F2 also gave some people some trouble. I went out last so I had a pretty good idea of who had done it. I guessed everyone had done it but took a varying amount of tries. After another terrible first go, I touched the dyno on my second go and stuck it on my third. Now came the top part. I went to the second to last hold and it wasn’t great.

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I knew from here I needed to put my left heel matched on my hand. Because of my knee I just refused to do it, there had to be another way. I put my right leg on the zone hold and it felt pretty good. I launched up towards the last hold but didn’t think I’d stick it. I tried anyways but I was falling and I wasn’t too happy. It had cost me at least one attempt and I just hoped I could get up there again. If I got there again, I’d try the heel to see how it felt. Because my body knew the moves, I got up there on my next attempt. On the same hold as before, I put my left heel into place. I pulled close to the wall and I could feel my knee. I didn’t want to pull hard on it, but the competitor inside me was telling me to do it. In that position, I came up with another solution. I matched the hold as an undercling wrap and my left hand was free. I didn’t have to force on my knee and I could reach the last hold. To match, I swapped my feet so my right foot was on the hold again. Top secured!

Problem 2

To give some perspective on the other competitors, Guillaume from France had flashed both boulders and I was sitting at 2 tops in 9 tries. Jeremy Bonder had a similar score to mine with a couple more attempts. Dimitrii had 2 in 4 and Kilian and Kokoro had only 1 top after missing one of the boulders.

By the time my turn came on F3, lots had happened. Only Jeremy and Dimitrii had done the boulder which meant it was pretty hard. I also knew if I did it, I’d be 100% in the top-4.

I was a bit nervous for the initial moves but after doing a few other slabs this competition; I told myself it was all in my head. I imagined that my feet would never slip and it just seemed to work. I was soon on the last move which was a bit move into a good undercling.

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It was off my left foot so I wasn’t too amuse but it had nothing to do with heel hooking so I was happy for that. I decided to do a dynamic move for the last hold because the hold looked so good for your thumb. My first try wasn’t great and I kind of just spun and fell. My second try was very similar to my first but I was a tiny bit closer. As I was falling I thought of putting my heel on and I knew I’d be trying that on my third try. I took a bit of time to analyze the heel hook. It was going to be blind, but the hold was pretty big and these moves aren’t too uncommon. The start of the boulder felt like walking by now and I just hoped the rubber on my shoes wasn’t too warm yet. I set up for the last move and felt confident. The move went fast, but everything worked out. I was still millimetres away from falling, but the heel hook kept my hips in and I didn’t rotate. The other hand came sailing in for the match and I knew I had pulled off being in the top four.

Problem 3

It wasn’t until now that I realized I could win the competition. It would take some luck, but it was possible. Basically if Dimitrii didn’t do F4 and I did, I’d win. For some reason it was impossible to tell if the men were sending the boulder or not. I knew for sure that Kilian did it, Kokoro and Jeremy hadn’t but I didn’t know for the other two. I thought it was only Kilian who had done it. In my mind, I came out thinking that if I did the problem, I’d win.

My first try was interesting. I tried reverse start first which I think was the way to do it. I got through the initial mantle and out a few holds. I got to the big move in the middle and completely missed the next hold. I was a good 2 inches to the left and not far enough. The move was big and hard but definitely possible.

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My 2nd and 3rd tries weren’t very good. On the second go, I hadn’t jumped my right hand high enough and couldn’t get my foot on. I tried it pretty quickly right after but fell trying to brace myself into the roof. I needed to rest… I could feel the fatigue of the weekend starting to take its toll. I told myself it was one last try and to wait for the clock. It’s important to remember that I thought I was trying it for the win. To be one boulder away from a gold medal is crazy. I walked towards the boulder at 50 seconds and decided to wait until really the end. I paced back and forth to let out some energy and got ready for the last attempt. I left with some time to spare in case I jumped awkwardly into the start position. Everything went well and I was soon into the roof again. I matched the zone and knew where the next hold was. I committed to the move and hit it pretty well. As my feet swung, I felt like I was holding it until my left hand came off. I tried to hold the right arm lock off, but there was nothing for my left hand to come back into. I scraped the volume for some sort of opposition but then I was falling. I was sad, but not angry. To have that opportunity within reach is something that I live and compete for!

Problem 4

I went over to Kilian and he said I finished 3rd. At first I was a bit confused but then realized that Dimitrii AND Guillaume had both done it; hats off to them. If I would’ve done the 4th boulder, I’d have been 2nd, but the gold was always out of reach this boulder. I was happy, 3rd was amazing and I thought I climbed pretty well. Looking back over the finals I was a bit lucky as well. Jeremy from France was only 2 tries behind me and when there is a dyno and two slabs, 2 tries is mostly luck. Kilian had also fallen on the last move of F1, had he not fallen he also would’ve beat me.

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To finish it off, I was also VERY nervous for the last move on F4. If I would’ve stuck that hold I touched, I’d have had to cross to a crimp and somehow move to the finish. From my preview, it was almost certainly an aggressive left hell hook. I really don’t know what would’ve happened if I’d have gotten there, but I’m kind of relieved that it panned out the way it did so I didn’t have to make that choice.

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I finished the competition in 3rd place but I was over the moon. I felt like I was the most relaxed out of all the finals I’ve ever done. It’s nice to have found that inner peace so to say. On the women’s side, Akiyo was the only girl to have done 4 boulders with Fanny Gilbert of France coming 2nd with only two tops. Just behind her was Anna Stohr.

Full results for MEN are HERE. Full results for WOMEN are 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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