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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Arco Rockmaster

This past weekend I attended the Arco Rockmaster Festival which is a Masters competition with a qualifying Open round. I decided to only do lead this year as well as the Speed Climbing World Cup. In the Speed World Cup, I almost beat my Personal Best (8.83) with a final time of 8.91. Full results HERE. This was very good preparation for the upcoming Lead and Speed World Championships in Spain. In Lead, I cruised through the semi finals route by placing second. In the Final round, which is after work, I placed 3rd after narrowly beating Jakob Schubert from Austria. The winner for the first time was Sachi Amma from Japan and second place went to Francesco Vettorata from Italy. On the final day of the event was the highly anticipated “Duel”. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is Speed Lead climbing. This was the final Duel from 2013. The route is easier than in qualifications but the goal is to go fast. I qualified in third place and slowly made my way up the ranks. Here is the final race for 1st and 2nd with good friend Jakob Schubert.

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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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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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