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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

The Asia Adventures

During the past 3 weeks, I’ve been immensely busy. After the Puurs world cup, I competed in 4 International competitions, 3 of them being in Asia. The first was the 24 heures du mur in Oloron St. Marie. This is a competition that I’ve been going to for a few years. It’s a 24 hour scramble lead format with one finals route at the end. You have 24 hours to get the best 5 routes. This year, I flashed the top-5 hardest routes over the span of 10 hours of so and I went into finals in 1st place. My girlfriend Mathilde Becerra also qualified in 1st place alongside me! During the finals, I was the last one out and I made it all the way to the last move before falling. On the last move, I realized my foot was a bit low but I couldn’t move it without the fear of falling. I tried jumping for the last hold but missed it be a mere centimeter. I jumped high enough to tickle the hold, but wasn’t accurate enough to stick it. There was also some sort of Go-Pro for the audience fixed on the last move and I’m still trying to find the footage! After I finished climbing, I got to watch Mathilde cruise her finals route and win her first 24 heures du mur as well. Big congratulations to her! We left Oloron around 9pm and made the 3 hour trip back to Toulouse. We got back around midnight; I re-packed my bags, slept for 4 hours and went straight to the airport to fly to Seoul, Korea to start the Asia trip. [singlepic id=599 w=320 h=400 float=right] I met up with the Austrian team in Frankfurt after a nice afternoon in the business lounge. Amongst the Austrians were Jakob Schubert, Mario Lechner, Kathi Posch, Katha Saurwein, Magdalena Rock and team manager Heiko Wilhelm. The also have a really good team page on Facebook with even better pictures! It’s mostly thanks to Heiko that I have ANY pictures of me competing at all these events. On top of that, if I couldn’t travel with them to Asia, I don’t know if I would even have the courage to do it myself last year or this year; a big thank you to them! We spent the day traveling through an airport somewhere in China and arrived in Seoul sometime in the afternoon. We took the same bus as last year back to the same hotel. We had a couple of days to climb, rest and then make our way to the competition venue. For our climbing day (because it was a national holiday everything was closed) Jabee Kim was nice enough to open his family gym “The Ja’s”! It had an awesome environment with a good setup for bouldering; I even got to try the new Grand Theft Auto V that they had setup! [singlepic id=600 w=320 h=400 float=right] The day before the competition, we made it Mokpo for the technical meeting and registration. The place where they have the accommodation is a really nice football (soccer) training center and every athlete had the option of a single or double room! The qualifications were the 11th and they were very easy. I topped both of them along with another 16 or so climbers. The semifinals was where the first interesting part came in. I was one of the last climbers out and we knew the route wasn’t going to get hard before 2/3. I started the route quickly and after a couple of minutes I was up near the top. I made it to a funny move where I actually managed to find a scrunchy no-hands rest. In this no-hands, I managed to pin my chalk bag and rope against the adjacent feature. It took me a couple of tries to clip the draw and do some rope management but by the end I had the draw clipped and I was feeling good. I did another few moves and then tried a big dyno for the last move. When the results were posted I was the only climber to have topped the semis and I went into finals in first place. Here’s the video queued up to where the route gets kind of interesting, enjoy! In the finals, I again climbed pretty well although my left arm got very pumped at about halfway. It was pretty cold this night and the first part of the route wasn’t very hard. I got to our “rest” but it turned out to be bad. After the small rest, I almost fell on a hard move out the roof, I could feel my power feining. I climbed another two moves before falling on a hard move out to a pinch. On the move where I fell, I knew I was supposed to put in a high heel hook but I thought I might fall while putting it in. The move to the pinch was enough for a third place finish in finals so I was very happy. As it turned out, I tied with Jakob Schubert in the finals but beat him in a count-back to semifinals. It’s always nice when you’re the only one to top the semis and it actually comes into play! First place went to Sachi Amma of Japan and second place went to the winner of the 2012 Mokpo WC Hyunbin Min from Korea! [singlepic id=601 w=500h=400 float=centre] Next competition is the masters in Haiyang, China The day after Mokpo, I spent the whole day traveling to China and another few hours on buses. By the evening I was in Haiyang China at a 5 star hotel. I had a quick dinner and just relaxed. The next day was a full rest day so I spent that day playing video games, resting and eating. While in China, Facebook and Twitter were blocked so my communication with the European and North American world was a bit more limited. The competition in Haiyang for the lead climbers was all on one day, the 15th. We had one onsight semifinals in the AM and the finals a few hours after that. On the first route of the day, my fingers went pretty numb, I climbed poorly and I fell off just above the last lip, around 6 moves from the top. I placed 3rd which was good. Stefano Ghisolfi climbed a few moves further than me and Hyunbin Min touched the last hold. I decided to prep a lot more for the finals as fingers going numb is one of the worst feelings. For the finals, I warmed up longer and much more effeciently. I was the third to last out and I touched the last hold. The last few moves before the top were quite hard, but I didn’t know if they’d be hard enough to make the last two fall before the last move. As I thought, both Stefano and Hyunbin climbed the route well and also both fell on the same last move. Because of our tie in finals, the first route in the morning was the deciding factor and I placed 3rd. Although I was bummed that it came to a route where I felt like I didn’t do my best, I’m always happy being on the podium which is the case yet again here. [singlepic id=602 w=500h=400 float=centre] After a Speed day on the 16th, it was onto the last world cup of this trip in a different city in China. Although we were just moving cities, it took a 2 hour bus ride, 2 hour flight and another bus ride to get to our new hotel! Luckily the new hotel was nice, similar to our previous one and I felt nice at home again. A day later, I met up with the Austrians who had decided to stay in Seoul and skip the masters in Haiyang. During our rest day, I relaxed as much as I could; doing 3 competitions in 10 days is quite tiring. It’s not just the competitions that are tiring but mostly the traveling; on top of that we’re not eating food that we’re used to and at the beginning we were dealing with a change of 7 hours from European time. I’m quite used to it by now, but it’s not always easy! Qualifiers were the 19th and I topped them both. We all thought they were going to be really easy like in Mokpo but they were actually a bit more technical and they were less double tops than the previous. During the semifinals, I climbed worse than anticipated. We could tell the bottom of the route was pretty hard but I wasn’t expecting what I climbed. I always start the routes quite fast because if the moves are easy I’d rather just do them quickly so I can save energy for the top. When I realized that I couldn’t move quickly because the moves were actually quite hard, it makes my rhythm stop as well. I hate climbing like that, but I know sometimes I just have to suck it up. For most of the route my rhythm was broken and by half way I was starting to feel tired and pumped. I also knew climbers were falling near a double undercling move; when I got there, I clenched my teeth and tried extra hard. When I fell, I was pretty sure it was enough for finals. The picture here is my screaming on a move just after the “crux” move to make finals. [singlepic id=604 w=500h=400 float=centre] The finals were also somewhat of an adventure, a good one at that. During preview we thought it looked like a pretty cool route. We were worried that the start would be hard similar to the semifinals. We figured once we got into the roof the moves started to look really cool. They had an alternating start so I went out third last of all the competitors. From the sounds of it, all of the guys were getting into the roof and near the end of it. We couldn’t tell exactly what move they were falling at but that was our feeling. I started my route and felt good. There weren’t any stopper moves at the beginning and the vertical section in the middle was easier than what I had anticipated. While making a move just before the roof, I felt a foot break while I was bringing up my feet. I looked down quickly to see half of the hold fluttering towards the ground. I could’ve called a technical but I was already through the “nervous” part of the route and I felt good, I continued. In the roof, I found a small knee bar rest. I took the time to go back and forth to rest up and get psyched for the hard section. I climbed towards the right and was soon only a few moves before the end of the roof. There was a really hard move off a big sloper and another really hard cross after pulling the lip. I made another hard move into an undercling that was actually a jug. Although it was a jug, it was an undercling and there were no feet. From there I previewed a heel hook so I started bringing it up. By the looks of it, a heel hook would never stay on the hold so I decided just to toe in. I brought my left foot up as a small toe hook and knew it was time to let go with my right hand. As soon as I let go, my plan didn’t work. I was too pumped to hold my body tension and my body started falling towards the left. I looked up and flailed my arm but the hold was too far and I was aiming at the wrong spot. I was falling with a grin across my face. I was happy and I wasn’t going any further. To my slight disappointment I wasn’t in first place. I could barely comprehend how Sachi had completed that move, but he had and he stayed in first place. I found out I was in second place but I was already happy knowing I had climbed pretty perfect on the finals route. Jakob was the last finalist and he fell a couple of moves before me to take the bronze medal. Because there isn’t a replay for the competition, I still don’t understand how Sachi did the move! When I fell I thought the move was impossible but he found a way, congrats! I took a silver medal which was the first one in lead this year. I also finished my Asia tour with my best lead performance in 2013 and 3 podiums in total. Happiness all around 🙂 I’m always happy to be standing on the podium and I managed to do it 3 times this trip. I feel so lucky and happy all at the same time. I know that these things also don’t happen without the support of my family, my friends, my sponsors and my fans. Thanks to you all!!! [singlepic id=603 w=500h=400 float=centre] I’ve now made the return trip back to France and I’m trying to rest up. The next competition isn’t quite as far as the last few, I only have to travel to Valence which is still in France. The competition is on the 1st and 2nd of November; they’ll be live streaming through Youtube for it so I’ll set up the streams on my website homepage.

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The Adidas ROCKSTARS has concluded its 3rd installment in equal number of years and the competition get better every year!

To see a nice video, check out the following LINK!

Qualifications were on the 13th with semi-finals and finals on the 14th. To cut qualifications pretty short I’ll just resume what I did. I know last year I was really tired after the 3 rounds so I decided to cut my warm up a little short hoping to warm up a bit on the problems.

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It turned out that the qualification boulders were quite hard and I almost didn’t advance to semi-finals. I can’t really tell if this is a great plan or not because the day you don’t make semi-finals, you feel dumb for not warming up 100%… I qualified 18th heading into semi-finals.

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The bonus was that I’d be out in the first few climbers which meant nice fresh holds. I also knew that the heat from the lights could play a factor if there were lots of slopers.

Next day rolled around and semi-finals went really well for me. After taking a few tries to figure out the first body position on the first boulder, I topped it. The second boulder was a blind dyno to a hold that was slightly blocked by another hold. It took a few tries to spot the hold, then another few tries to try and miss the hold blocking it but as the time wound down my fingers stuck the right part of the hold and I had 20 seconds to top the boulder.

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The top wasn’t easy but at the same time wasn’t very hard and I had topped my second boulder.

The third boulder went very well, the best of the round you could say. I didn’t really know the sequence as you could do a bunch of bumps, you could cross to start, or maybe it was a feet first boulder. I committed on the feet first and it pulled through. I was soon on the last few moves on the volumes. It was hard to flip my grip on the right hold but as soon as I had it locked in I was confident I’d top the boulder. The arête was good enough to pull up and see the final hold. I got up to it, matched and felt like my round was going very well. I turned around and smiled at the cheering crowd. I love these moments in climbing and I try to take it all in when they happen!

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Sadly the final boulder shut me down so I was left with 3 tops. I watched the rest of the round because I thought I’d be close to not making finals. As I suspected, the heat started to creep in and the holds got a bit worse. In the end, if you topped 1 boulder in fewer than 5 tries it was enough to make finals. I qualified 3rd in the round and was very relieved/happy to be in finals once more.

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The final round was interesting enough. The first boulder 5 of the Men flashed. The second boulder, no one made zone… Ooops. After the first 2 boulder, they eliminate 3. Because of the tie they were stuck between taking 5 to the 3rd boulder, or counting back to semi-finals. Last year, this happened and they took 5 to the third boulder. It didn’t work because they were tied again and then they went to the semi-final results. This year they decided to count semi-finals results right away so I was on the podium with Jernej Kruder and Rustam Gelmanov.

I was first out on the first boulder and I managed to flash it! It was hard enough that I knew one of the other two could fall. I waved at the crowd with eager anticipation because I knew I had set the bar high.

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They came out one at a time knowing they had to flash the boulder. They didn’t crumble and both topped the boulder first try. I was a bit sad to be knocked out after my flash but can’t be upset about it. I went back to congratulate them and the judge said we were going to ANOTHER tie break boulder. I was pretty confused right away, thinking they’d use semi-final results. The competition organizer didn’t want ties so he told the route setters to create a tie-break boulder similar to 2012. We’d go out and try it one try a time until the tie was broken.

A roller coaster of a ride for me to say the least. Thinking I was out, then this chance to go back in. The tie-break boulder was set hard, and weird… I was already confused by the starting position and eventually got 3 tries on the boulders. Of those 3 tries, I just couldn’t set up very well. I didn’t do much pulling on the holds, but a lot of pushing. Eventually I couldn’t get zone and the other two did. I was kicked out, but it didn’t phase me much. I knew it was already a second breath for me and I was still happy just to be on the podium at this event!

The Super final boulder went perfect for the men with Kruder flashing it while Rustam fell. For the women, Jule managed to top the boulder mere seconds before Shauna taking the title. Another Rockstars is finished and I obtained another podium! It was a great event and I hope I’ll be able to attend it next year as well.

[singlepic id=585 w=600 h=400 float=left] The biggest part aside the competition is how well the athletes are treated at this event. Coming from a federation that isn’t as evolved as other, we can’t send a physio, or a team manager and I inherit a lot of those roles myself. It’s nice at this comp to know I can get a massage, free food, free drinks and just a great place to relax! It may not seem special to team’s that always have a physio there with them but it’s the small things that count for me and I appreciate it. Thanks! I am back in Toulouse resting for a whole 3 days before heading to Puurs for the next step in the Lead World Cup season.

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Arco Rockmasters

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Arco Rockmasters; at least 4 years to be exact. In 2011 I went to the World Championships and in 2010 were the pre world championships. This past weekend I took off from Toulouse with Mathilde Becerra to compete in all 3 events; speed, bouldering and lead. It’d be 4 events if you include the duel but I kind of lump that in with lead.

Mathilde has already written her story so I’ll skip over most of her performance. You can read it on her blog. It’s written in French, but she added a Google translator similar to mine. Sometimes it translates poorly but the message is still there.

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We started on Tuesday morning, drove 5 hours into Italy and stayed the nice in a little hotel. It was nice to split up the journey in two days to avoid any fatigue. Wednesday we drove the rest of the way to Arco and Mathilde had to compete on Thursday and Friday. She did 2 lead qualifiers on Thursday followed by 5 boulder problems on Friday. She qualified for both events as well which meant she had a 4 day weekend compared to my 2. Another great thing about Arco is the Ice Cream as noted on the right by Panda.

My events started on Saturday morning with an early breakfast and even a run to the competition. Yes, I actually ran to the competition. It felt nice to be running at 7am and I knew cardio is essential for speed warm-up. With the classic Arco delays, I didn’t even practice until well after 8:30. I did two practice runs; the first run I set a personal best at 9.51 and then on the second one I fell on the second to last move.

My real qualifying runs for the World Cup went super well. I’ve embedded the video of my run so you know I’m not lying when I say I shattered my personal/competition best!

8.83 seconds if you can believe it. I was through the moon with this time. It’s the first time I’ve been sub 9 and to think I don’t even train this very often makes me smile. I’ve had a few practices where I’ve tried the route and I’m seen videos of me enough times that I know where my hands and feet are going. What makes it even more fulfilling is that the Speed athletes congratulate me for my personal achievements as well! (Even though I’m “so much slower” than them)

Next were lead semifinals. The last time I was on a rope was in Imst and I didn’t make finals so I had to focus more than usual to make sure I climbed well and stayed relaxed.

The route was very hard all over the beginning and I ended up qualifying second going into finals. The finals here in Arco is a special format where you get 20 minutes to work the route and the finals is pretty much a 2nd try competition. I’d expect the route setters to open something really sweet, around 50 moves so they can make it complicated and cryptic. Maybe they could throw in a strange clock, or a dyno? While we were in isolation for 4 hours during the work session, Jakob, Magnus and Sachi came back one after another and just said it was too long. When it was my turn, I came out to a ridiculously long route. I just don’t understand why they do it. It’s almost 70 moves long and goes back and forth along the wall when the wall is already long enough. Seems dumb to me and every year I hope they’re going to learn that it’s just plain boring to watch. Here’s my video!

As it turns out, every competitor made mistakes during the final climb. Some at the beginning, some just before me and a couple after me as well. I finished 4th place just behind the podium. If you’re wondering why I fell like that, it’s because for that move I was supposed to keep my foot on the foothold. For some reason, I wasn’t concentrated enough and I tried to jump into the little crimp. I ended up jumping away from the wall and as soon as I was committed to the move I knew it was bad news. I still tried to hang on but couldn’t stick the little crimper… Oh well.

Sunday morning was another early start and I went to the boulders for another “after work” session. To keep this part short, I was pretty disappointed with the boulders. There were 4 boulders to work and in the finals it’s knockout each boulder. The catch is you don’t know in what order you will climb the boulders. I ended up trying them all just in case but the boulders just were unappealing in my opinion. Every boulder had little crimps that just hurt to grab. There wasn’t a single sloper, volumes were scarce and we were pretty sure the opening boulder would be the running start.

The moment of finals came and low and behold, run and jump was the first boulder. I had never stuck the run and jump in the work session but stuck it first go. I fell on the second move when my fingers were on the first hold very well. When I fell on the run on my second try and another couple guys topped, I didn’t even get my third try on the boulder and it was over. What really annoyed me about this first boulder is that the only hard move was the first one because you had to jump so far from the foot and the handholds really hurt your fingers. If I got through the first two moves, the rest of the boulder was relatively easy for me.

It took me just over 15 minutes from being knocked out before I started to feel happy again. It’s super frustrating when that sort of thing happens but life goes on and I know that. Next on my plate was the duel in lead so I watched the rest of bouldering finals and then started getting psyched up for speed lead climbing!

First race in duel was against Dmitry Fakiryanov and I had a time of 1:52. I could tell that by halfway I was ahead so I made sure I climbed the route well and didn’t fall. My second race was against Magnus Midboe and the last time I dueled it was him that knocked me out! We both had great starts but by the roof I could see I was ahead by a bit and didn’t have to race through the last few moves. I sent me second route at 1:29. My last race was against Stefano Ghisolfi who I knew knocked out Jakob Schubert in the first round. It was stressful but here’s the video:

It was a close race and we both messed up the clips before the roof. It’s really hard when you’re behind by a little bit because you say to yourself you need to go a bit faster to catch up. The instant you start to think that, something always goes wrong and you spend 5-10 seconds clipping. In this format, most of the time is spent clipping and sometimes you’re just not lucky with that sort of thing.

It’s also the first time that I’ve gotten a gold medal here at the Arco Rockmasters which is a great feeling! The first time I did duel, I came 2nd to none other than Adam Ondra!

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After the 3-4 event marathon I did, I’ve spent the last couple of days just resting, sleeping, eating and gaming. My next appointment is in Stuttgart for the Adidas Rockstars this coming weekend!

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