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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Silver Medal in Valence

Another competition has passed and it’s sure that I”ll remember everything about this competition for a long time. I’ll also never forget the outcome as it was my best result at a lead world cup. By the time you’ve found this post, you’ll probably already know the result. I came 2nd in the world cup in Valence! My best result in world cup history was in 2008 and 2009 where I placed 3rd both years in Imst, Austria. I seem to have luck at the indoor gym in Austria as it was there that I took double Gold (lead, speed) in 2006 as  Junior at the World Championships. My posts are somewhat in-depth so if you want to skip to the finals route, just scroll down until you see the header FINALS in red. Enjoy. All the photos in this blog post were taken by Charles Loury of Planetgrimpe, thanks! [singlepic id=255 w=480 h=320 float=right] This past competition was held in Valence, France and it was the 8th of the season. There are to be 10 world cups this year and the first 7 were won by Jakob Schubert. Last year, Jakob placed 2nd in the overall and this year he’s already secured the overall win. He also set a new world cup record by winning 7 world cups in a row. In the past, a French climber Alexandre Chabot as well as Austrian climber Angela Either had won 6 in a row. I arrived in Valence on Thursday night, driving in from Toulouse with my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra. The drive was pretty easy, 4.5 hours in all. Anything less than 8 hours seems to be “easy” for me, but it’s probably just because I’m used to it. I checked in and then went and found our hotel. It was not even a 10 minute drive from climbing gym to hotel so we’ve pretty easy access. The morning of the qualifiers came around and when we saw the route, we noticed that they weren’t in the centre of the wall at all, but rather on the two sides. In the middle, there was a “duel” route. I assumed that the duel route was for the French Speed competition that they were supposed to finish just after the world cup qualifiers. Indeed I was right, and the two qualifiers for the men were on the left, up the EP sort of wall, and the qualifiers for the women were up the right, similar lines. After watching a the video of the for runner a few times, I got warmed up pretty fast (given the 9am start time). I was 3rd on the first route and I was actually the first competitor to get to the top. I didn’t really like the qualifier just because climbing up the vertical wall at the beginning just felt very strenuous. A couple of hours later, I ended up topping the second qualifier, which had a bunch of very weird moves through the middle of the route as well. All in all, the day went well, I topped both my qualifiers and was just trying to stay focused for the next day which I knew involved potentially 2 climbs if I made finals. Mathilde also made semis after timing out on her first route and making a minor mistake along a big tufa near the top of her second. She qualified 25th, but overall was happy that she had made the cut to semis. For dinner, I seemed to be starving so we went to the big Geant Casino (supermarket) and went to the cafeteria just beside it. You can buy a whole plate of foot for around 5 EUR, and fill up the plate as much as you want. Having the classic mentality of North America ingrained into my head, I stacked and stacked, put in support beams of beans, and ended up with a mountain of food comprised of mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, broccoli and green beans! The morning of semis came, and I was very thankful of the 1030 iso opening. Sleeping until almost 9am after waking up at 630 the night before is such a great break for your body and mind to get. We went to iso for the opening at 1030 because Mathilde was to go out 2nd. As I mentioned before, I topped both qualifiers and 4 other climbers shared that result. Three of the climbers were ahead in world ranking so I was to go out 23rd in semis. That meant that I could help Mathilde warm up as much as she wanted with me before I even had to think about warming up. Mathilde stayed out after the observation and slowly the climbers filed out one by one. I had a standard warm up and was feeling good. I wasn’t too excited about the route mainly because it didn’t even use the main head wall. We assumed that the head wall was going to feature a big portion of the finals climb, but I much prefer to climb on flat walls without all the hidden holds and little nubs for your feet. My turn eventually came around and I went into the transition area. As I came out, there was a spotlight on me so I could really see out into the crowd. I gave a little wave then turned to my semis route. The first 15 moves of the route felt pretty weird, and I was not very comfortable. I got into the route and immediately took the French beta to swing my feet. I was ready to do either method, but didn’t think the foot swing was going to be the correct one. I kept climbing a few more moves before getting to a pretty tricky sequence moving right into the arete. I eventually just ended up bouldering the whole route and got that awful pump where there’s no turning back. Just before falling, I’m always thinking “tag the next hold”. I was on two underclings and when I went to tag the next hold, I didn’t even come close. When I got to the ground, I found out I was in 2nd place for the moment, and with 3 climbers after me, I was guaranteed finals! Mathilde also went up a few rankings and finished in 20th after what seemed to be a very random scoring on the semi finals route. Finals I had qualified for finals in 4th spot which meant I’d be climbing 5th in finals. After getting a quick lunch/dinner at good old Subway, I was back in iso ready for my 4 hour stint. Isolation closed at 5:30 and the men were scheduled to do their presentation at 9:10. After about 3 hours, the girls were just starting to go out, I had drank two cups of coffee and eaten some lemon cake that they had in iso. When it was finally time to go for presentation and preview, you could tell that all the men were pretty excited. We waited behind the bleachers before going out for presentation and when they called our name, we had to run through a plethora of volunteers before making it in front of the wall to face the crowd. One by one we came down with the cameras on our grinning faces before finally getting to preview the route. [singlepic id=250 w=480 h=320 float=center] The route went more or less straight up the left side of the main wall. No panel features to worry about, just straight up. The route looked to be 40-45 moves max which immediately started to excite me. While I kept gazing at this potentially monstrous route, I saw lots of heel hooks, bumps and small volumes; a boulders dream. After discussing a few weird looking sections, most of us had the same sequence. It looked hard at the bottom, then athletic moves through the roof before making it into a very resistance looking headwall. Finishing the route involved some slopers and a nice mantle for the coup de grace. I barely needed to warm up after I had come back from preview. I still ended up doing a bit to get me almost pumped then really just did a few hard problems with Jakob and Sachi before feeling good enough to go. Most of the time spent in iso was just keeping my hands warm because it was very cold outside. I finally was summoned to the on deck chair with Gauthier Supper getting tied in. I put my ipod on max to prevent me from hearing anything coming from the competition hall while Jakob was climbing. I didn’t want to know if he had topped the route so it wasn’t until Gauthier went out that I took out my headphones. I got tied in and just waited. Before going out to climb, I was just trying to remember two distinct things. The first one being that “I live for this”; it’s a phrase that I like to repeat to myself to get myself to remember how much I love competing. I love the sound of the crowd, the nervousness I get before going out, everything. I try to remember that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to compete in finals and so the second thing I try to remember is to have fun. Just before going out to the climb, I gave a big smile to myself, swung my arms and headed out. Behind the curtain was a crowd a thousand strong and a spotlight aimed straight at me. I walked out towards the crowd, gave a little wave and then started to compose myself for what layed ahead. Before turning around to face my route, I took another deep breath and finally turned around. I was in my own head and all I could see was the finals route. I could faintly feel the liquid chalk finishing to dry on my hands and I gave them a few blows before stepping onto the wall. The first 10 or so moves before the roof seemed hard, but nothing that was going to really get me pumped. Before the roof, there was actually some pretty good holds, so I took that oportunity to look up. The first hold in the roof was so much better than we originally thought that I could feel my worries going away. Before getting on the route, you are always afraid of slipping at the beginning or doing something stupid. To top it off, the last finals I was in, I did exactly that, I went a bit too fast, made a mistake and fell 12 odd moves into the route. You can only hope you don’t repeat your mistakes. [singlepic id=249 w=480 h=320 float=right] After making it through the beginning of the route and into the steeper section, I could feel myself climbing well. With the heel hooks everywhere and the compression style of the route, the clips felt easy, and I was very quickly more than half way up the route. The first move that I felt like I might fall on was when I had the corner with my left hand and I knew I had to bump again. The first time I tried to bump to it, I didn’t go far enough and had to really force on my right arm while missing the hold. The second time, I managed to get it. I looked to the foot hold far right as we previewed but quickly came to the conclusion that it was too far away. I looked back left in hopes of another foot hold and I saw it. A small foothold near the corner of the wall. I placed my right foot there and reached up for the next hold. I’m not sure if I grabbed the hold, then brought my feet up or if it went all together, but I quickly brought my foot up onto the last hold and knew I had to do the clip. I also realized from the decibel level of the crowd behind me that I was probably at a new highpoint. [singlepic id=253 w=480 h=320 float=left] I could feel my arms getting more pumped by the second, so I started to move very quickly. The next 5 moves I’m sure went very fast. I’d do a move, look for the first foothold that looked like it would work, put my foot hold and pull to the next hold. The holds stayed roughly the same size until I did a very hard cross over to a blue sloper. As soon as I grabbed it, I knew I wasn’t doing another move, so I looked up to see how far I’d have to jump to even touch the next one. It was vaguely around the corner, so I jumped, saw the hold and made as much of an effort to touch the hold as I could. [singlepic id=251 w=480 h=320 float=center] From the crowd’s reaction, I knew I had done well. The only thing I wasn’t so sure of was if I was 1st, 2nd or 3rd for the moment. It was Mathilde who told me I was in the lead a few seconds after I had finished untying. I could hardly believe it. It was like a dream come true. I knew I was the 4th to last climber, which means I was guaranteed 4th place or better! The next climber after me was Sachi Amma. He climbed the beginning very well and made it past the move where a lot of the finalists had fallen. He started to rest, but didn’t look like he was getting anything back. Three moves past the original bottle neck, he fell doing a hard lock off to a small crimp. I was now guaranteed to be on the podium with only two climbers left. Manu Romain from France was the 2nd to last climber. He looked solid until the hard move past the middle and suddenly looked very pumped on his left hand. Instead of bumping on the hard move, he brought his right hand up, and by the time he had gone down to change his hand, it was too late and he pumped off. While watching my friends climb the same route I’ve climbed, you get mixed emotions. I want all the climbers to climb as best they can and sometimes they don’t and sometimes they do. At the same time, I know that every competitor that falls below me gets me another placement. As it went right now, Sachi and me were guaranteed to be on the podium and I was going to be 1st or 2nd. The veteran competitor and current world champion Ramon Julian-Publanque came out last. He effortlessly made it up to the middle section and although he is smaller than most competitors, he got through the hard section in the middle. He looked solid, did the clip and started resting. As he starting doing the next few moves, he realized that there were no feet and had to move his feet far to the right to do one of the hard moves. He was now only two moves below where I had fell and I knew there was only one move he could fall on. He grabbed the blue sloper , went to the corner of wall and bumped in to the better crimp. As he was doing the bump, his foot slipped. As my heart skipped a few beats, he hung there with no feet on the wall, wondering where to put them back on. He managed to get them on a foothold, stabbed to the hold that I had touched and touched one hold further. It was over, Ramon had won and I had come 2nd, but it was close. [singlepic id=252 w=480 h=360 float=left] I had come 2nd place in a lead world cup and I was overwhelmed. I was so happy that I can’t begin to write down the emotions that I felt. I went over to congratulate Ramon and tell him how beautifully he had climbed. My best result in world cup was 3rd, and now it’s 2nd. I’ve come 2nd in a bouldering world cup twice and now I have a second place in lead so I guess I’m just waiting for the day I have another shot at taking one home. Maybe it’ll never happen, but I can always try! I’m sure that the people watching the podium ceremonies could tell how happy I was. When they announced my name in 2nd place, I jumped up on the podium and waved as if I had won. I was over the moon and could hardly believe I had come 2nd. The men finished with Ramon taking the gold, me in second and Sachi in third. On the womens side, I found out that the finals was very random. Johanna had won and was the second competitor out. The last 3 or 4 climbers had all fallen after only climbing 10 or so moves… After the dust had settled, Johanna had won another world cup with Katharina Posch and Yana Chereshneva taking third. [singlepic id=254 w=480 h=320 float=center] With the competition in Valence finished, I’m back in Toulouse. In about a week, I plan on going bouldering with Daniel Woods in Switzerland near Cresciano and Chironico. I’ve never climbed there, so I’m psyched just to climb somewhere new. I’m also going to be competing in the last two lead world cups of the season; Kranj and Barcelona!

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I’ve submitted another blog report to Sportiva LIVE and they are in the process of combining both of the posts into a master one. I’ve also added a dozen or so photos of the competition and previous ones to go with the article. It should be good, the competition in Boulder had its ups and downs with me making finals but finishing in a disapointing 7th place. Disappointing in the sense of coming 7th after qualifying in 2nd. Not so disappointing in the fact that I still made finals! Gotta keep my head up for the next one in a few weeks! Back to training! Full results for men can be found HERE. Full results for women can be found HERE.

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Sportiva LIVE Pre-Comp

I’ve submitted a blog post for the Sportiva LIVE website. As of Sunday afternoon, it’s not posted, but it should be live at the Sportiva Live website. I’m currently waiting to compete in Finals! Live stream at IFSC TV. The post has a good summary of my last few weeks of competing as well as an awful 9-10 hour flight from London – Denver. I’ve been flying since I was 4 years old, and this flight was hands down THE worst of my live. At least I got that out of the way! Look forward to a Post-Blog after this weekend’s world cup in Boulder, CO at the Movement Gym.

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