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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Beginning of the Lead Season

We are now getting into the Lead climbing portion of the 2013 World Cup season which is quite a change coming from bouldering. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the switch although I still haven’t had a huge time to train lead yet. I did a couple of weeks when I got back from Vail and I feel it coming back quickly. I’m up around the 50 move mark before I start getting really tired. I’m still trying to do 80 move circuits which is the hardest part for me! When the circuits are 40 moves, I find I can always do them, no matter how hard the moves are. Between the 40 and 50 move mark, I start to get tired and then it’s like hitting a wall sometimes where I’m so fatigued from the first 3/4 I’m so tired trying to get to the top. I train with the single goal in mind to push those numbers a few higher every week. By the time the season starts, I should be above 60 moves! The next part is the timing of the season. The first world cup is scheduled to be in Briancon, France. I have decided not to attend the competition and rather boycott the event. Why you might ask, well it’s for personal reasons, but overall I’m not very happy with the selection process of the FFME and I’m supporting my girlfriend. I’ll start by saying that it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but rather my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra who climbs for France. She wrote her own blog and released it yesterday which can be found here. She explains her process and how her 2013 season was crushed again and again. I’ll describe it from my point of view and you as readers can interpret it as you want. In 2012, Mathilde competed in 5 Lead world cups, making the semi finals in all 5. Her best result was 10th in the final World Cup of her season in Atlanta. Although making semi finals, she wasn’t very happy with her overall season, until Atlanta. She took a good month rest and started training again in October. She focused on the basics of climbing movement and strength in order to attain a new level of power which would overall make her a better climber. (if every single move is just plain easier, lead climbing is easier) is the mentality we adopt. I could see her progression and she was great on the campus. Fast forward 6 months we’re at the French Lead Nationals. She crushed her qualifiers and was confident for semis. She was out near the end and I got to see her climb. She climbed comfortably and confidently. She rested where she needed to and was maybe too confident coming into a hard crux passage merely a move away from making finals. In her head, she was thinking too far in advance on the route, a deadly mistake. She grabbed the next hold poorly, tried to clench her lower hand and dry fired – finishing 9th and missing finals by 1 spot, 1 move. She was crushed, and that’s putting it lightly. Because she wasn’t in the top-5, she wouldn’t be able to compete in Chamonix for the European Championships. On top of that, she also wasn’t qualified for World Cups this year. This is where it starts to get interesting. To be eligible for the French reserve team, in their rules, you have to be finalist at Nationals or Podium at a French cup in 2012. (PDF hereMathilde is entering 5th year of Mechanical Engineering and didn’t compete in those French cups. She also doesn’t the means to be driving around France for all those cups. This was also her downfall. Of course you can argue that it’s not an excuse and Mathilde should’ve gone to the French cups, I know this and I accept it. There’s a final way to be accepted onto the French team, a letter to the FFME! This seems logical as I’ve had to write letters to the Canadian federation when I’ve missed my own Nationals to be competing in Europe. It’s written in the French rules that they can enable competitors on a competition by competition basis to compete in World Cups. Mathilde applied for this and I thought 100% she would get it – sadly she was denied. This is the part that doesn’t make sense to me. The first World Cup of 2013, on French soil, with a possibility of 14 Female French competitors, and they’re not going to send someone, who if climbed perfectly could make finals? On top of that, they’re not even going to fill their quotas, ON HOME TURF. They decided to fill the quotas for European Championships one week prior but won’t do this? On top of that, if Mathilde doesn’t compete in Briancon, it can’t even make her eligible for the whole rest of the year, ultimately crippling Mathilde’s 2013 season. France is sending 7 female athletes to Briancon (who have all earned their place, I’m not taking anything away from those exceptional athetes), my beef comes from that they won’t add one extra. I can argue the devil’s advocate against myself and see the opposing points, but I find the positives outweigh the negatives. Yeah Mathilde should’ve done the French cups, or just made finals at Nationals, but is it worth throwing away 8 months of training for it? On top of it, why have the documentation for this type of application when denying the most eligible candidate? I think they should give her the opportunity to salvage her season by letting her do one world cup. If she doesn’t make semi-finals, her season stops and she regroups for 2014. By doing this, she faces a couple International events in 2013 and then the French cups (if her school allows her to go). I’d love to hear comments on this, good and bad. Overall, I see a flaw in the system. Had it been a world cup in another country where the quotas were full, of course she didn’t get her spot. Being the first one, and in France is where I just don’t agree. Once again here’s Mathilde blog, here’s my Athlete Page or you can comment below.

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Vail World Cup

Almost two weeks ago was the World Cup in Vail. I’ve failed to write a blog post because I have been moving constantly and I’ve finally had a few days to think for myself. The Vail weekend was that of June 7-9. [singlepic id=535 w=250 h=350 float=left] After a hard finals in Hamilton but a finals none-the-less I flew to Denver with my mom and dad. After a rest day on the Monday, I met up with the whole Austrian, German, and British, and Dutch teams along with a plethora of US climbers at “The Spot” for some much needing training. We didn’t actually need to train that much, but it makes sense to climb once between competitions to flush out our muscles and just do some sort of activity. I was still very sore from Hamilton which I felt right away. I still bouldered around with the various climbers for a good 2 hours. It was fun and the atmosphere was great. Just climbing with all my friends in a good session! I even got to catch up with my old friend Obe Carrion from back in the day! After a couple more days in Denver, we drove up to Vail in time for the registration and technical meeting. Sadly, the competitors weren’t given free goody bags which meant no free socks this year 🙁 [singlepic id=537 w=500 h=400 float=center]   Women’s qualifiers were the morning of the 8th. I went out, watched, and snapped a few pictures before feeling that the sun was quite hot that morning. After watching most of the round, I went back to the hotel rested for a couple of hours and then went to isolation myself. Nothing out of the ordinary happened and soon I was running out for my first qualification boulder. Of the 5 boulders, I flashed the three in the middle and fell once on each slab. The first one was a dumb mistake where I previewed one method and chose to climb and fall on it in another… The last boulder was very balancy and I missed a key thumb (or wrap) while going for the final hold and had to settle for 2nd try. Of the other Canadians competing, Elise Sethna and Stacey Weldon advanced to the semifinal round! [singlepic id=538 w=250 h=350 float=left] I went out last in semifinals after tying for first in qualification. Of the 4 problems, I managed to do them all but it was very scary. I miss-read the first SF boulder on my first attempt and spent over a minute trying to do it a certain way. I realized I was probably doing it wrong so I ended up jumping off. From there, I saw to try it another way but I was tired. I then fell off the last move because my left hand dry-fired off the arête. I got on the boulder for a 3rd time with only 40 seconds to go. I was too tired to do the third move the way I had done it on my second attempt which slowed me down even further. [singlepic id=539 w=250 h=350 float=right] By the 2nd to last move as seen to the right, I had 10 seconds left. I knew I had to take my time so I did; I took some deep breaths and topped the problem as the 5 seconds left timer started ticking down! I was very happy that I had completed the boulder and spent the rest time trying to recover as much as I could. When I came out and flashed the second boulder, I knew I had found my stride again and got a nice 8 minute rest before boulder 3. Boulder 3 was an interesting one, I read one sequence tried it and failed miserably. There was no way I was going to be doing it that way. At first I thought it was impossible for me, so I started thinking about creative ways to do the boulder. I thought of something that looked extremely weird from the ground, tried it and sent the boulder. It turns out that you HAD to do it that way if you weren’t named “Dimitrii Sharafutdinov”. I had a chance to watch a lot of other strong competitors that got “stuck” trying the same sequence and kept falling and falling because the move was incredibly hard. [singlepic id=540 w=500 h=400 float=center]   The 4th boulder in SF was a technical slab with the crux being the second foot movement. I fell once quickly and sent the boulder second go, crimping some t-nuts on the volume out left. For the record, you are allowed to use t-nuts with your hands on volumes but not on the plywood walls! You are always allowed to use your feet in t-nuts. After doing 4 boulders in 8, I was in 2nd place waiting for finals. You had to do 2 tops in 3 with 4 bonuses to make finals which is what Jorg Verhoeven from the Netherlands got. He slipped into finals in 6th place. For the women, it was disastrous semifinals with 2 bonuses flash being enough to advance to finals. Elise had gotten 2 bonuses in 3 tries which put her finishing in 9th place. This might be the first time a Canadian woman has placed in the top-10 at a world cup!? Finals started a few hours later and I did the same routine I had done in 2012. I got lunch with my parents then rested at the hotel. Warming up for finals took all of 10 minutes because of the short delay after the previous round. It was a bit colder than during the semifinals but still hot enough to wear shorts. [singlepic id=536 w=550 h=300 float=center]   The presentation started so quickly when we got there that I was still playing around with my stuff. They called out my name and I rushed to put on my jacket and run out, zipping up my jacket once standing out there 🙂 The final boulder problems went: slab, dihedral, power, power. On the first boulder, Jorg and Paul didn’t complete it where the two Russians did. I knew the boulder was possible so I went out with that in my mind. I don’t know what happened but I got very frustrated not being able to do the first move. I knew you had to step up and put in a left toe hook, and I thought that it was a dynamic move. Because I was so close to sticking the zone on my first try, I tried it the same way a few more times before changing anything. This is one of those problems that is extremely frustrating because the smallest changes can change your world. This is a perfect example of a problem that is not very hard if you’re told the sequence but having to onsight the boulder in under minutes is very hard. I spent 3 minutes trying it a few different ways and getting extremely rattled. Finally with 40 seconds left, I tuned into the fact that I had to place my toe hook before leaving the start holds, AHHHH! I was disgusted. I rested 35 seconds, effortlessly did the first move but was too exhausted to do anything else. So disappointing. [singlepic id=532 w=500 h=400 float=center]   I took the 20 minutes before the second boulder to compose myself. By the time I was coming out to try it, I was confident again and had brushed off the first one. I knew that I should only look forward and believe that I would do well on the last 3. Of the first 4 climbers, none had done the dihedral. I got bonus on my first try and spend another couple of tries figuring it out. My last try was the best and I even tickled the final hold but it was too hard. I was in the corner for almost a minute and I started to feel like I was going to just slip because my body was fatigued. I turned my body and starting jumping for the finish hold all in one motion but as soon as I turned around I realized the final hold was much further than I thought. I still went for it, but it wasn’t a jug so I wasn’t very close to sticking it. I got the highest of all the finalists but had to settle for zone. The 3rd boulder was a longer one with a straight forward sequence and hard moves. I knew that 3 people before me had done it so I was determined to flash it. I came out and executed perfectly. I only had a moment hesitation near the top when I was deciding whether to match a volume or go again. I matched it, tightened my body and finished the boulder! [singlepic id=533 w=500 h=400 float=center]   The last boulder was another powerful problem with a small jump in the middle but we didn’t think it looked very hard. The first two finalists couldn’t do it, which meant it wasn’t easy. When Rustam did the boulder second try, we knew he had secured 1st or 2nd with only Dimitrii able to pass him. When Dimitrii went out and flashed the boulder, there was only room for 3rd place now. I knew I was probably in 4th place and if I did the last boulder I’d move up to 3rd. I tried hard on the last boulder but I felt tired and the moves were not my style. I knew how to do the move as the setter set it, but I wasn’t quite tall enough to keep a left toe hook on the start hold. I found a different method which included a re-clutch to undercling wrap on my right hand but I wasn’t focused enough on the next move and my heel slipped. On my last attempt, I tried to get extra motivation from the crowd, but I was tired and couldn’t even do the second move anymore 🙁 When Kilian Fischhuber didn’t flash the boulder, I secured 4th place in Vail. He did it second go, giving him 5th place. The podium for the men went Dimitrii, Rustam then Jorg. For the women, 3 of them did 4 tops in 9 and it came to attempts to bonus! At the end, Anna Stohr had won her 6th World cup of the year with Akiyo Noguchi in 2nd and Alex Puccio completing the podium. Full results for MEN HERE and WOMEN HERE. Overall, my finals performance was about 50%. I felt like I had tanked the first boulder, done well on the second and third then was not motivated enough for the 4th. I still gave my best every time but I wasn’t a fan of the final boulders. I know sometimes it’s like that, and I guess I just try to look forward to those finals where everything fits, like in Slovenia. I’m also super happy that I made my 4th finals in a row where it feels like the caliber of the bouldering athletes is much higher and harder to even make finals, let alone a podium or a victory! After a couple days in Dallas, Texas touring the gyms and athletes down there, I’ve returned to Europe and started my lead training. It’s the hardest part because I get pumped after 30 moves, but it is supposed to only get easier and easier until the first competition when I will be able to do 50-60 extremely hard moves!  

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Innsbruck WC

As the second world cup has finished in as many weekends, I find myself in a similar environment, the airport. It was another bouldering weekend here in Innsbruck and was helm in the main marketplace of downtown. Being a climber’s city, lots of locals as well as tourists came to watch the event and cheer on the climbers. Since the last one in Log, I’ve been staying with Katha Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven here in Innsbruck. In the 4 days we had between the competitions, we climbed once on Tuesday at Tivoli. On that training day, there was pretty much everyone I knew in Innsbruck all training somewhat together. It was a bit packed in the bouldering cave but lots of strong climbers so creating boulders was super easy. [singlepic id=526 w=500 h=400 float=center]   The Wednesday and Thursday that followed I tried to rest as much as possible knowing that competition weekends are always hard on the body and recovery is essential. I played some piano with Jorg and managed to get a few bits of some nice songs on film. We tried doing a duet, but learning new songs after not practicing for half a decade proved to be difficult. The competition started in Friday morning for the men with climbing starting at 10am. One thing to note that I’m very proud of is that I was first out in one of the ranks because my world ranking was 2nd! I thought that was pretty cool as it’s the highest it’s ever been. I was the first climber on the circuit and flashed 2 problems and did the other 3 second try. I misjudged the distance to the final hold on one boulder; I tried a very bad method on the third and missed catching a hold on the 5th for each one of my falls. I finished the round with 5 in 8 and was pretty confident it was going to give me a good ranking. [singlepic id=527 w=300 h=380 float=right] Around halfway through the round, it started raining pretty hard and the first boulder in each group started to get wet. They immediately suspended new climbers from starting and kept the others in the cycle. 30 minutes later, it was pouring rain and they were just waiting. They restarted the competition about an hour after that when the rain passed. By then, I was back at the house watching the live stream. It turns out that they tried to put people back on the first problem but it started raining again. They were forced to cancel the first boulder. Note: It is possible to cancel one boulder in the qualification round due to unforeseen events. The one thing that could’ve eliminated this problem was to just build a roof over the first boulder as it was off to the side. This wasn’t the case and as I mentioned above, they cancelled the first boulder. Another thing about canceling the first boulder is that it changes the results (obviously). For some climbers, most notable Jan Hojer, they moved from not making semifinals to just sneaking through. For others they went from just in to just out. Overall, it sucks to have to cancel a boulder but I saw the wall and it was getting drenched so it wasn’t possible for everyone to try it. [singlepic id=524 w=500 h=400 float=center]   For the women, because of the wall without the roof, the route setters tweaked the other 4 boulders a little bit harder and also held the qualification on 4 boulders. I finished 2nd in my group and there were a few ties for 20th which led to 22 advancing to semifinals. They were held the following morning just after noon. It was nice to have the extra time to sleep in and just relax in the morning. I was once again back in isolation getting ready for the 4 boulders. It was a nice day with a cool breeze to keep it from getting too hot. I was 17th out and from what I could hear from the isolation zone, the boulders were pretty hard. We had a slab problem to start the circuit that we guessed hadn’t be done by the time I was getting ready to go. I was to follow Kilian Fischhuber which is always fun. I was sitting on the on-deck chair when I heard him top the boulder rather quickly. Being a local to Innsbruck and the first to top the slab, the crowd let out a monstrous roar. Knowing that the boulder was possible, I managed to flash it! I also flashed the 2nd and 4th boulder giving me 3 tops in total. I was the only person in semifinals to have flashed 3 boulders and soared into first place for that round. [singlepic id=525 w=500 h=400 float=center]   As it turned out, you had to top 3 boulders to advance to finals with the exception of one climber, 6th place going to Jan Hojer with 2 flash and 4 zones in 6. He was the only competitor to advance to finals with only 2 tops. Just out of finals in 7th position was Jakob Schubert and an Italian with 2 flash and 4 zones in 7 tries, a mere try away from finals. In finals with me was quite the lineup including Jorg Verhoeven, Kilian Fischhuber, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet, Dimitrii Sharafutdinov and Jan Hojer. To top it off, I got to climb last. I now find it a bit funny to climb last, sometimes there the added pressure but recently I’ve found it quite amusing. I just think about the semifinal round where I climbed better than them which means I can do it again in finals potentially. I know some climbers really hate climbing last but I find it’s all part of the game so I find it fun! After eating, resting and some bike rides I was back in isolation warming up. Briefing, presentation, observation passed and we were all ready to climb. The boulders looked all good and all possible. [singlepic id=523 w=500 h=400 float=center]   The first boulder started and was basically 2 moves. First move was a big move up either hand then the second was a big semi-blind dyno around a corner. From there, it looked painfully easy to top the boulder. Jan was first out and flashed the boulder in 30 seconds… oh my. This continued for every man in the finals, flash after flash. As it got closer to my turn, I started to get nervous. I was more nervous for the first move than the dyno as I didn’t know which hand to start with. Undeterred I went out with confidence and looked at the boulder. I knew exactly what to do and was excited. The first move was easier than I thought but the second hold wasn’t quite as good as I thought. I set up for the dyno and stuck it! The top out was easy as we thought and all the men flashed the 1st boulder. The second boulder was a boulder all on volumes and looked like one of the harder boulders. As it turns out, it wasn’t hard enough either with every finalist flashing boulder 2 as well (Jan 2nd try after slipping at the start). Two boulders down and I was in the lead, I knew this. The 3rd boulder was a more technical one with what looked like a hard top. Jan first out again came back in under a minute flashing the boulder. We were worried that it was going to be like the 1st and 2nd boulder after Dimitrii went out and did it in a few tries a well. It was different this time with the last 4 finalists unable to complete the boulder. On my turn, I stuck a hard move in the middle on my second try but was unable to stick the zone hold. I tried it 4 different ways and each felt equally hard. It was close, but I had to jump too hard and could never control the swing. We all knew it was going to come down to the last boulder. [singlepic id=521 w=300 h=400 float=left] The last boulder had a weird start where you had to run a bit and stand up and press into a few volumes. Well at least I had to run a bit; Jan could just grab the holds and step into the start, haha. After the first move, you had to transfer into an undercling and complete a compression finish. Jan fell on the second move and we were left wondering for an instant. When Jan sent the boulder on his second go, we knew he had won the competition and we were all smiling back behind the wall. We knew Jan had done all 4 boulders and only Dimitrii could also do 4 but would come 2nd due to attempts. As we tried to stay focus on the boulder at hand, we could only smile and be happy for Jan at the same time. Dimitrii was 2nd out and sent the boulder in a couple of tries securing the 2nd place finish. Of the last 4 competitors, we were all tied going into the last boulder which meant 3rd place was still up in the air. Guillaume was next and spent quite a few tries doing the first move and another couple in the middle of the boulder totally 6 tries. Kilian was after him and in true Kilian style flashed the boulder! Jorg was 2nd to last out before me and knew if he flashed the boulder he would overtake Kilian in 3rd position. Unfortunately he fell a few times on the first move and sent it 4th try. As Jorg was climbing, Jule Wurm from Germany flashed the last boulder and Anna Stoehr who was last out with me leaned over and said “Jule won as well”. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the women as it’s hard enough to track the attempts for the men in your head. I also knew Anna had used a few tries on boulder 1 and 2. As it turns out, she had one try too many and by flashing the last boulder, Jule had also secured her first Bouldering World Cup victory. It was finally my turn to go out and I knew exactly what could happen. If I flashed the boulder, I would once again be on the podium in 3rd place, best case scenario. If I didn’t flash the boulder, I had another 3 tries to come 4th. 5 tries total would land me in 5th place and 7 or more would land me 6th. I was only thinking about my first try as I was confident that in 3-4 tries I would just figure out the boulder. The hardest part is the first try, especially in a boulder as special as this. You never know what a run and jump is going to feel like until you’re running at it. The part that is also quite funny is that the INSTANT that you start the boulder, you usually know if you’ve done it the right way or if you’re already falling, it’s pretty funny actually. I took a very long time to analyze the boulder even though we had gotten a nice preview before. I took long enough to preview it again and make sure I didn’t miss anything that Anna topped her 4th and final boulder before I even started. Just after she had topped and gotten a huge ovation from the crowd, I knew it was time. Getting a little buzz from Anna’s fans gave me the little motivation I was waiting for. I setup for the jump and pre planned my foot placements. I took a deep breath and started my run. A few steps later, I jumped up and pressed into the start. As soon as I left the ground, I knew it was a good jump. I stuck the start holds and stopped moving immediately. I quickly matched my left foot onto the ball and started thinking about what to do next. I remembered the higher foot and knew to use it. In that instant, I was pushing between the feet and the start holds and my left foot slipped, followed by my right. I slipped perfectly downwards and landed flat footed on the mat. I knew it had cost me the podium but I could only laugh and smile. [singlepic id=522 w=500 h=390 float=center]   I think I was visibly smiling and shaking my head while I turned around and reached for my chalk bag. It’s hard to flash a boulder all the time, even when you know it’s possible. With my first try out of the way, I knew I still had to top the boulder. On my second try, I forgot about the second foothold and tried to reach the undercling with my feet too low. On my third try, I snuck my right heel up onto the foothold, matched the left start hold and slowly reached into the undercling perfectly. From there the rest of the boulder was pretty easy. As I matched the final hold, I knew I had come 4th and I knew it was the end of the competition. The crowd cheered and I was happy. I jumped down and waved at the crowd, it’s nice to finish with a top and I checked the scoreboard to be sure. My name was 4th and Jan had indeed won by 1 attempt. My next immediate thought was to find Jan and congratulate him. He had been slightly robbed of his first victory last year in Vail due to hand jams. He’s also in generally just happy all the time and he deserved this win after flashing most of the boulders. I found him and gave him a big hug. He looked so happy and I was so happy for him as well. I also found Jule Wurm who had won for the women and congratulated her as well! I found the rest of the finalists, congratulated the other podiums and waited for the ceremonies. The podium for the men was Jan in 1st, Dimitrii in 2nd, and Kilian in 3rd. For the women, it was Jule in 1st, Anna in 2nd and Akiyo completing the podium in 3rd. Full results can be viewed by clicking either of the following: WOMEN or MEN. I had a lot of fun in this competition and always delighted to be in finals. I also try really hard to benefit and appreciate the times I’m in finals. I find it makes it much more fun, it relaxes me and I remember where I am. I hope it shows while I’m climbing and I love the cheers from the crowd. My next world cup is in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I’m hoping the home town crowd will be able to cheer me onto my next finals and then who knows!

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