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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

End of 2011 season

The last world cup this season was held in Barcelona, Spain. This was the 10th lead world cup of the season which has been pretty long. I’ve been able to compete in 6 of the 10. I was unable to attend one in France, two in China and the one in Amman. I can only imagine that the competitors that traveled to all 10 are tired from such a long season. Knowing that this was the last world cup of the season made me relax a bit and just have a really good weekend! Clearly depicted from our smirking face in the next shot. barcelonaheadshots The competition was held in a different venue than that of a few years ago. It was also different that the bouldering world cup earlier this year. The venue was very nice. It was inside a big gymnasium, similar to that of Valence and Kranj. The big different was that it was very cold in the gym, isolation and more or less the venue. matseanbarcelona On my first qualifier, I ended up climbing at exactly the same time as Mathilde. It was a bit weird, but I knew that the route wasn’t as hard as normal world cup qualifiers and I probably going to get TOP. I started when Mathilde was half way up, but I still beat her to the top 🙂 I managed to get top and so did Mathilde. I finished my route and looked left just as Mathilde was completing her last two moves as well. The second qualifier was similar to the first in that Mathilde and I did top as well. This time, we weren’t climbing at the same time so we got to encourage each other a bit more. The routes were somewhat “easy” compared to normal world cups. For the men, there were about 9 who topped both but almost 40 who topped the right one. For the women, there were 18 who topped both. In my opinion, this is way too many. 9 tops for the one qualification is fine for the men, but 40 for the other…. The route was just too easy for this level of competition! [singlepic id=272 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Semi finals were much better. The route was harder, both for women and men. That being said, there were still 4 tops for the women and another 5 for the men. For the women, it’s much scarier to have ties like that because they’re so much harder to separate that the men. I was lucky enough to be part of the 5 that topped! The route was nice. Around 40 moves and went more or less straight up the wall. It went a bit left and right to traverse back left at the top, but overall the moves past halfway were nice. I’m always so scared at the beginning of the semis route mostly because I just don’t want to blow it and come last in semis. At least if I blow it in finals, I’m still 7th or 8th. In semis, coming 26th when you know you can make finals is frustrating. [singlepic id=273 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Topping the semis route made me feel super happy. I knew that I had made finals in the last world cup of the season and I knew that the end to my season was going to be memorable. As I implied before, I didn’t really care how I did in finals. I made finals and that was an accomplishment in itself. I hoped to be top 5, another podium would be awesome, and if I somehow won the competition, then I just wouldn’t know what to say. In between semis and finals, I ate some food, took another nap and just rested in the hotel. By 6pm, I was heading back to isolation as I knew that had hot water and I wanted my coffee! After another hour and a half, we had warmed up a bit and it was time for preview. I was excited and thought to myself “one last route of the season”. We came out one by one for presentation and I saw as I ran past the length of my route…. oh my. When we turned around to face the last route of the season, I had glimpsed right. The route was monstrous, at least 50 moves. I kind of laughed and started previewing. It started on the side far of the left wall, traversed over half of the wall, then went right, then back left, and finished by traversing back to the right again. The start looked easy with a few moves that looked a bit weird. Once you were halfway, it looked very resistance with good holds. Nothing too complicated but I knew it was going to be hard for me. When we were back in isolation, I remembered the route well enough to count the moves, 55 give or take. Because I know my style, and I also know my limits, I knew this one was going to give me some trouble. I said in my head that I wouldn’t chalk up for at least 20 moves. This just makes it so that I can get through the beginning of the route without getting tired. I don’t have the training or the fitness to be able to do 30 moves, recovery for 2 minutes and do another 30 hard moves. My prime route is only 30-40 moves with bouldery moves through (aka: Kranj). Bouldering on a rope is what I do best. Nevertheless, I was motivated to take on this challenge of a route. After a really good warm up, I was feeling good. Ramonet was to climb just before me so I pumped my ipod to drown out the crowd. A good length of time later (over 6-7 minutes), Ramonet was done and it was Johanna Ernst before me. I took off my headphones and started to get ready. Ramonet climbing that long meant that there were “rests” or at least good holds in the middle. The problem I knew is that it doesn’t matter when there’s rests, I can only recovery a few times per arm then it’s usually better for me to keep going rather than trying to recover any more. It was my turn a few minutes later and I went out. I put on a healthy amount of liquid chalk and took a few deeply needed deep breaths. The first part of the route was easy. I got into the roof easily and started to traverse left. [singlepic id=269 w=480 h=320 float=center]   The feet were far and the moves were harder as I moved left. I managed to make it 26 moves (I counted after) before chalking up and then I was halfway! I could actually feel myself being tired. 30 moves and halfway up a route is a funny feeling. I felt good for the next few moves and stopped before what I assumed was the harder part of the route. [singlepic id=271 w=480 h=320 float=center]   I left the last “rest” that I was at and I was feeling pretty tired. I did a few bouldery moves with some heel hooks and was feeling pretty good. A few moves later I did a hard cross over and the next hold was awful… I was pumped by now and I didn’t even think about going again with my left hand. I brought my feet up and starting doing an incredibly hard cross over. I grabbed the hold but my left arm was dead and I was falling. Some people asked me after if I had slipped, but I don’t think that I did. My left arm was very pumped and the move was hard. I had also climbed 45 moves and the route was my anti-style. I fell on the next move, but I was happy. I was almost laughing as I was coming down and I was mostly grinning at the fact that I had actually climbed 45 moves on a finals route in a world cup, a personal best! Naturally I wanted to know how I was doing, and when they said I was 2nd to Ramonet, I was thrilled. If everyone else passed me (and I thought they would), I’d be 5th which would be a great finish. One by one, the competitors did end up passing me (and chalking up before I feel) so I finished a solid 5th place in my last world cup of the 2011 season! On top of that, I had finished 6th in the Lead Ranking for 2011 and even came 2nd in the Overall Rankings for 2011! On the womens side, I don’t even know what to say. There were 3 top outs, and because they were in a giant tie, there were 3 winners… again. I just can’t understand what the route setter was thinking when they set a route that can actually be done… Why not just make an 8c route like in Kranj to make sure it’s not done by anyone… 3 tops? This is the 3rd time this season where there’s multiple winners at a world cup… It’s just sad. Full Barcelona results are HERE.

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Gold at World Cup Kranj

[singlepic id=263 w=480 h=320 float=right] As the title might suggest, I finally did it, I took home a gold medal. It’s the first for me in a world cup and it was definitely one to remember. I managed to grab a few photos from the Kranj Climbing’s page. It all started a couple of weeks ago when I decided to go bouldering in Switzerland. I had come 2nd at the world cup in Valence, and I felt like my endurance wasn’t going to get any better. I drove to Switzerland and starting bouldering with Daniel, Courtney, Paul and Andy. It was perfect. I got to try amazing lines with some of the strongest climbers in the world. While I was cruising around Switzerland, my mind was relaxing. I wasn’t thinking about a competition in 2 weeks, I was just happy to be outside all the time and especially climbing. Training is important, but athletes also need something to relax them, to let go. For 10 or so days, I bouldered as much as my fingers would let me and anything that looked cool. I started thinking about the competition in Kranj a few days before it started. I planned two full days of recovery to let my muscles heal as much as they could. My trip to Switzerland had been great. I had done a bunch of hard lines and I was outside every day. I felt like I was the strongest and fittest I’d ever been in my life. Coming back to the competition, I was hoping I’d be able to do well. I knew I couldn’t lose endurance in 2 weeks and I knew it might take a route or two to get the feelings back. I headed to Kranj on Thursday with my last outdoor climbing day on Wednesday. After a couple hours of traffic, I was at Klemen’s house on the outskirts of Ljubljana proper. On Friday, I spent most of the day doing a massive overhaul on the website you’re currently looking at. I had a new theme that was a great framework. I had to found background images as well as a few to go in the banner. I ran into lots of problems and it took the better half of the day. There’s still work to be done on it, but I’m pretty happy with how it looks now and a lot happier than what it looked like before. Saturday was the qualifiers and I was 1st in the running order. With qualifiers starting at 9am, I was up at 06:30 and after a big cappuccino, I was driving to the venue. The routes were very straight forward in qualifiers so being first was no big deal. I watched the video, warmed up and everything was pretty standard. When I started the first qualifier, it felt a little bit weird to be clipping draws again, even though it had only been a couple of weeks. I knew it would probably be like this, so I just kind of went with it. When the bouldery moves finally came, I did them and felt good. I topped my first qualifier but the last few moves were hard. I topped the second qualifier a couple hours later without even having to really warm up again. The other one was harder, but I could already feel the rhythm of route climbing flowing back in my veins. I was done both qualifiers before noon and the women had their qualifiers at 2pm. I found it strange that they were going to have qualifiers and then semi finals on the same day. I’m still actually not really why they choose to do this. I’d be afraid that most of the climbers that don’t make finals will just skip out on the final day to climbing in Osp or something. By the end of the men’s qualication, there were a handful of people that topped both and a bunch more that had done one or the other. I went back to the Austrian’s hotel for a few hours before semis and actually ended up taking a good hour nap. After waking up at 630, it felt like I had been up a whole day. I woke up and it was dark. I headed back to the gym with the rest of the Austrians in time for semis and was relieved to find some food (and coffee) in isolation. After previewing the semis route, it looked good. Straight up the wall more or less and leaning left to finish in the middle of the wall. Because of qualification earlier that day, warming up wasn’t an issue as well. I was still warm and after getting pumped once and doing some hard boulders, I felt great and ready to climb again. While I was waiting to climb, Jorg Verhoeven was climbing and all I could hear was the crowd clapping following by the announcer announcing Jorg’s name; he had topped… I hate knowing when someone has topped, I find it takes all the excitement out of it. It also makes me really scared. I was afraid that lots had maybe topped and if I don’t top, maybe I’m not in finals. I tried to get that out of head and just focus on climbing. If I couldn’t get to the top, then so be it, but at least I know the route is possible… I climbed well and only hesitated a bit in the very middle of the route. I got a good rest in before the last few moves and although my left arm got super pumped at the end, I managed to keep it together and get some crucial resting places way up at the top. I even had to rest on the last hold before trying to clip the anchors. It wasn’t pretty, but I had topped the semis as well and secured a spot in the finals! Finals were scheduled to start just after 5 which meant that isolation was in the afternoon. I had a very mellow morning which consisted of waking up a 10, drinking coffee, playing Starcraft II, blogging, eating lunch and finally leaving for isolation. The crowd for finals almost filled the whole gymnasium where the competition was being held. The atmosphere was great and while going out for presentation and preview, I could feel myself getting psyched up. [singlepic id=262 w=480 h=320 float=center]   I did most of my warming up before even going out for observation because the men were to climb before the women. With Mina having won a few world cup’s this year, the host federation dream is for the last climber to be from that country and also win! The finals route looked great. It was short, pretty direct and looked like it had harder moves than in the semi final. The beginning looked hard but doable with a small rest before going into the roof. We figured that the top was nearly impossible as there were 3 of us tied for first going in. I went back to isolation and did a few specific moves that I thought would be in the route. I then took the last 20-30 minutes to just try and cool down. It was pretty hot in isolation so I just took off my shirt and just relaxed on the ground for a while. One by one, then men went out and it seemed to be going quickly. I wasn’t sure if the route was just bouldery so not a lot of resting, or maybe some were falling low. I figured that it was the former as there was no clear bottleneck during observation. While I was in the on deck area, Jorg was climbing so this time I made sure my music was the only thing I could hear. [singlepic id=266 w=480 h=320 float=right] It was finally my turn to climb and everything felt good. As I do before every finals, I started thinking about how I had wound up there. Climbing, training, my friends, everything. I tried to remember that deep down I just love competing and also to have fun. When they called my name to come out, the competition came back into focus. I stepped out from the side door while giving a little wave to the crowd. I try to repeat little things I do from competitions that I do well in. I thought about Valence, and just stared up at the route. With the liquid chalk drying on my fingers, I could feel them dropping in temperature, perfect. As the noise of the crowd faded while I stepped into my own mind, I stepped on the wall and started. After a few hard moves at the beginning of the route, I finally found my rhythm. Just before the route, there was 4 triangle structures that you had to slab back and forth to get up. You also had to have double heel hooks for the better part of it. I found that sequence suited me so well and when I was standing on the volumes looking up, I was already half done. I quickly made the traverse right and found the traverse coming back across the left to be very hard. After double guessing my method for a second or two, I stuck with my main method and committed to the moves. I made it up onto the left edge and felt great. I knew that with the edge of the wall, I could put my feet super high, lean back and feel good. While I was doing those moves, I felt in my element. I came in with my right hand and immediately brought up my heel. With both of my feet really high and my hands opposing each other, I just had to reach into the route and I knew the hold was going to be decent. It was good enough that when I grabbed it, I could bring my right foot up and hand foot match. From there, I knew I had to bump with the right and I jumped as I went to the second one. As I stuck the hold, it felt natural to swing my feet ahead of me and out right. I knew I’d have to do some weight hand foot match, but that wasn’t for a few moves. I found a toe hook on the volume and did another couple of moves. I don’t even remember where I had my feet before swinging them out right, but I remember having both my hands on the hold where I fell and figuring out what to do with my feet. I swung them out right and got a mini toe hook in the roof. The problem was the my toe hook was on my next hold. I took it out and looked for something else to try and pull with. After spending a few seconds looking around, I realized there was nothing, and I was now going to fall. I took out the toe hook but it was too late, I could feel my fingers opening so I made a last ditch effort and threw myself out right. I almost touched the hold, but I didn’t know where to have my feet and was falling. [singlepic id=264 w=480 h=320 float=left] I hit the ground, but I was happy. I hadn’t fallen at the beginning, and I only had 6-7 moves left in the route. I felt like it might be good enough for a podium but overall just happy that I hadn’t done anything too stupid and fallen on a hard move. I waved at the crowd and starting undoing my knot. There was a small chance that i might’ve done one more move if I’d have just tried to campus the move, but I knew that I had fallen for good reasons. When I looked over to the right, Heiko was sitting there with some other Austrians and he said I was in first place. I couldn’t believe it. That meant I was going to at least repeat my 2nd place and even have a shot at winning, again. I was overwhelemed and when Jakob came out to climb, I was already living a dream. Even if Jakob topped, I would come 2nd in another world cup. Watching Jakob climb was like watching Ramonet climb in Valence. I always want my friends to do well and Jakob is so strong. At the same time, I know that he’s human and everyone can make a mistake. He climbed through the beginning really well and spent a long time resting in the roof before traversing back left. As he made his way to the far left, he got to the big move into the roof where I had taken a high heel. He kept his feet really low and when he made the move into the roof, he was too extended. He couldn’t get his feet up any further and when he tried to grab the intermediate, both his feet came off. He almost held the swing with the bad intermediate but his feet came out too far and he was falling. Mixed emotions came into my head at the same time. You never want to see your friends fall when they’re not at their max, but it also meant that I had won. Jakob had won the first 7 world cups and now it was my turn to get one. An incredible feeling rushed through my body which cannot be fully explained. At that moment, everyone just started congratulating me. I still have trouble putting those moments into words. I’ve been climbing competitively since I was 12 years old and it was my first world cup victory. I always thought my first victory would come in bouldering but I’ll still take it. I know that I’ve trained hard and done everything I could for competing, but it’s still surreal. Although I had won for the men, there were still 8 girls battling for the women. As I rounded up all my stuff and started drinking tons of water for the drug test later on, I watched the womens final. The girls climbed higher and higher with almost every athlete and finally Jain Kim blew the crowd away and climbed at least 10 moves further than the last. She fell on the last move, literally inches away from the final quickdraw. Mina was the last climber out and although she made a superb effort, fell a couple holds below Jain. [singlepic id=261 w=480 h=320 float=center]   The podium’s followed the womens final and I wondered if they even had the Canadian anthem on file. As I stood on the podium listening to my anthem being played, I thought about some of the other times that it had been played at international climbing events. I often though that I would cry if I ever won a world cup, but I did not. I thought of all my friends at home and wondered how many had managed to catch a glimpse on the live stream. As my anthem ended, I gave a couple fist pumps and a big smile. The night followed with a quick drug test, a stop at the prize booth, and onto the after party. [singlepic id=265 w=480 h=320 float=center]   Next on the agenda is the world cup in Barcelona, the last of the season. I don’t have any big expectations for the competition but would be happy with another spot in finals.

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