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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Puurs World Cup 2011

My second lead world cup of 2011 has finished, and I made a big step up ¬†from the first one which was in Chamonix back in July. The biggest thing between Chamonix and Puurs was my training. When I competed in Chamonix, I hadn’t been training lead because I was focused on Bouldering. I still competed in Chamonix because I just love competing and the Chamonix atmosphere is so nice, I just want to test myself. In preparation for this recent world cup in Puurs, I’ve been training 4 days a week on circuits. One competition result is hard to base your whole training around because I could’ve quite as easily slipped in semi finals and placed 19th again. I was glad that this did not happen, and I managed to snake my way into finals. I was at the competition in Puurs 3 years ago and although I’ve wanted to go back every year, I’ve always been back in Canada attending school. Now that I’ve finished that, I could stay for the competitions in the fall. The competition was exactly as I remembered, very well run, good atmosphere and an amazing wall. The first thing I noticed about this wall was that they peppered the big cave with medium to big size volumes. There must’ve been at least 20 volumbes scattered in the big cave. I got to Bruxelles Thursday night with Mathilde and thanks to the “Guardian Angel Service”, we got to our hostel, ate dinner and started preparing for the next day. The Guardian Angel Service is a service that the competition of Puurs organizes to pretty much act as private taxis for the whole weekend. This service was amazing, and is found exclusively at this competition. They pick you up from the airport, drop you off at your hotel as well as shuttle you to and from the competition for the whole weekend. To cap it all off, they even stayed at the afterparty completely sober to drop us off after the party died down. Amazing!! Thanks again to all the Guardian Angel drivers! [singlepic id=246 w=480 h=320 float=left] Qualifiers were Friday morning at 11am. After a quick warm up, I was on my first qualifier. Mathilde and I were both 4th to go out, but because the men usually climb a bit faster, I was climbing before Mathilde. My first qualifier was super hard, I fell maybe 2/3 of the way up, but was still decently happy. The first climber, I knew was also very strong and had fallen at the same height. I thought that it was strange to fall that low on qualifiers, but you never know, the qualifiers can just be super super hard. After another 10 climbers passed on my route, no one had gotten harder, and I figured that was the case. I also got to see Mathilde climb who got pretty far up to a hard sequence of moves near the top. Because she was 4th, it was also hard to say how she had done. The 2nd qualifier looked to be just as hard as the first. After the first half of the climbers had climbed, high point was still 6-7 moves from the top. I knew where there were a few hard moves near the bottom, which included a vertical section up a tufa structure. I got through the bottom section pretty fast, and after a ¬†super hard bump move, I was into the overhang of the wall and felt much more comfortable. I fell up near the top, not highpoint, but I knew in my head, it’s pass for semis so I was happy. Just as I was lowering from my route, Mathilde was starting her second qualifier. Hers also included a slab start, into the steepest part of the wall. She was nervous for the slab at the beginning but got through it quite nicely. When she got into the more overhanging part, I figured she’d be a bit more comfortable, but for one reason or another, she didn’t feel good. Her feet cut on a few crucial moves and I could see her struggling to stay on. I encouraged her as best I could until she fell. She was super dissapointed with how she had climbed the route and thought her chances for semi finals were shot. After another hour or so, everyone had climbed and the scores were tallied. I had qualified 8th and Mathilde had qualified 25th, with 26 making semis for both men and women. This was Mathilde’s first semi finals at an official World Cup, so she was happy but yet determined for the next day. Semi finals were the next morning and after a much earlier start, we were at the gym. Mathilde was 2nd out, where as I had to wait for 17 climbers plus a cleaning before my turn would come. I helped Mathilde warm up as best she could and wished her good luck as she was leaving. I obviously had to stay in isolation so I couldn’t watch her. I did my standard warm up and felt a lot better than in the qualifiers. [singlepic id=247 w=480 h=320 float=right] My semi finals route looked much better than the qualifiers. It had a technical start on some big slopers and pinches, then headed up through one of the steepest part of the wall, before going through the roof and finishing way up at the top. As soon as I got on the route, I felt good and by halfway, I knew I was climbing well. I had done the start pretty efficiently, and after a super hard move moving right with no feet, I was in my zone. I kept climbing past clips because I wasn’t sure if I should risk clipping them and falling on the next move. It turns out that most of the clips were easier to clip from above so my gambles were paying off. Just before the roof, I was at another clip or skip clip situation. I chose the latter, and knew as I was throwing into the roof I was going to fall. Sailing through the air is actually quite fun when you know you’ve climbed well. I knew I had climbed well, and I couldn’t have done much better. When I got to the bottom, my belayer said I had highpoint and since I qualified 8th, I was assured a position in finals! I can’ explain the happiness I felt. It just feels so good to train super hard for competitions and see it paying off. After a short interview with the MC, I sat down and watched the last 7 climbers come out. A few of those climbers got into the roof, and going into finals, I was 5th. I talked to Mathilde about how she had done on her route, and she wasn’t too happy with it. There was a big volume hold in the middle of the route which she hadn’t grabbed or was unsure where exactly to grab. If you went to the wrong spot, because the move was very dynamic, you’d fall. She didn’t hit it well, and fell, even though she wasn’t pumped. I’m not a big fan of moves like that in lead comps because it plays such a huge advantage to people that know the big holds. That being said, it’s all part of the game, and you can say that about any hold. At least in Bouldering comps, you get another try! Mathilde finished 24th, overall moving up one spot from qualifiers. I went to finals iso almost immediately just to eat something and get some rest. Outside it was super hot and it was nice and cool in isolation not to mention coffee, snacks and mars bars. After a few more hours of rest, and a good debate on how to fix ties in lead comps, it was back to comp mode and one more route. I love that in finals of world cups, there’s a presentation just before the preview. It makes you feel a little bit better and makes you smile and wave to the crowd. I like it because it makes me remember that we’re having fun and we’re all among friends! [singlepic id=244 w=480 h=320 float=left] My 6 minutes of preview usually goes down the same way. I start by watching the French climbers run to the base of the climb, then subtly laugh in my head at the mind game that I think it does or doesn’t achieve… It’s even funnier when Cedric Lachat is at the competition who makes it his goal to arrive there before the French. I then start at the 3rd hold and start previewing, usually quite fast. I read the whole route by myself, then when I get to the top, I usually go back to the start to touch the start hold. I then look through the more tricky sections and usually find other people in finals to preview with. This time, I started previewing again with Jorg Verhoeven, Magnus Midtboe, and Jacob Schubert. We went through some of the tricker parts of the route including a weird bump move at the beginning, a giant cross in the middle and then a weird giant hold in the middle before going into a big span and then a down climb. This route had everything! I also went and discussed the route a bit with Gauthier Supper from the French team. [singlepic id=245 w=480 h=320 float=right] Because the girls and guys were alternating during finals, I went out 8th. I was still warmed up from semis so I didn’t end up doing much climbing in iso. I got a bit pumped once, and just focused on doing some hard moves to keep my blood going. I also made sure I stayed very far away from the isolation / competition entrance so I couldn’t know how far the guys were getting on the route. I prefer it that way in finals, so I’m not nervous about not making it high enough. I made it through the beginning of the route super well, got into the big cross over move and almost fell as my feet cut on the move. Sometimes, I have too much of a bouldering mentality that your feet should cut often. While route climbing, your feet shouldn’t cut so often because then you lose energy. After, I rested a bit and kept going. A place about half way made me struggle a bunch. I skipped a clip for a bit, and clipped it while it was at my waist from my left arm, the next move was a big cross over and I spent 20 seconds trying to cross and going back down to rest. Thinking back on the climb, this is the part that made me farther a bit further up. After doing the hard move for me, I moved up into a big volume sized hold. I was literally half a second away from clipping (clip in hand) when I had to drop it because I could feel myself falling. From that point on, I couldn’t let go. I managed to climb up 2 more moves to get my left hand in an undercling on a volume. I got the other hand on the other undercling beside it with a good thumb catch but I was way too pumped to even move. The clip was now a good foot below my waist and I knew to clip it would require just grabbing the draw and clipping it into my rope. The problem was that I knew 100% that if I let go with either hand longer than half a second I was going to fall. As much as I wish I could clip in half a second, I knew I was falling. In my head, I knew that even if I touched the next hold, I wouldn’t get points for it because I’d be out of clipping position. At the same time, I didn’t just want to let go on a finals route. I decided to jump, but as I started to jump, I realized that the volume was actually really long, and I didn’t even come close to touching the next hold. As the pictures shows, I clearly not going to get points because you can see where I was trying to jump to and where the last quick draw (unclipped) was… [singlepic id=248 w=480 h=320 float=center] So I came sailing down and hit the wall pretty hard. I was ready for it, so it didn’t hurt. Again, I was happy with how I had climbed so was naturally just smiling and kind of laughing that I got stuck in a position where I couldn’t let go to clip. They told me when I got down that I was in 2nd place, which was great for me. 6th if everyone climbed higher than me, and you never know! It turns out that all 4 climbers after me climbed past me, so I finished 6th, but I was still happy. Jacob was the last climber, and notched his 5th straight world cup victory of 2011. Jain Kim from Korea was also the last climber who notched her 3rd victory of 2011. Thanks to Ruban for filming from the crowd! Movie just below. My next competition is in Boulder, Colorado. I’m leaving Thursday and I’ll hopefully get to climb a couple of days on rock as well just after the competition!      

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3 World Cups (Eindhoven, Barcelona, Sheffield)

During the past 3 weeks, I’ve been all over Europe competing in 3 different world cups. Since Vail, I’ve been to Paris (France), Eindhoven (Netherlands), Barcelona (Spain), and Sheffield (UK). When I came to Europe after competing in Vail, I went to Paris the week after to watch my girlfriend Mathilde Becerra compete in her Senior National Championships. The winner’s of the Nationals were Charlotte Durif and Gautier Supper. The next weekend, I was in Eindhoven competing at the World Cup up there. The previous year, I had come second after qualifier 1st after the semi final round. Unfortunately, this year wasn’t as good as the previous. During the qualifying round, I managed to flash every problem and I was psyched going into semis. During semis, the first boulder was nearly impossible with only Kilian managing to take it down. The second boulder was the easiest of the 4, and after dry firing on my first attempt, I sent it second go. The third problem in semis came down to pretty much the second move, where you had an undercling for your left hand, a bad foot for the left, and you had to stab your fingers into a hold that you had to be very exact while hitting. I wasn’t tall enough to keep my foot on, so I had to jump everytime. I just couldn’t do this move, so I didn’t do the problem. The final problem in semis was a sort of mantle to an awkward finish move. I got up to the last move twice, but kept falling while trying to release an awkward heel hook. After the round ended, the head route setter came over and said I was the only one to figure out the “proper” sequence for the final problem, but I still couldn’t finish it. Sometimes comps are like that, and it sucks. If I would’ve been able to do that problem, I would have done 2 out of 4 problems, and advanced to finals. The way it turned out, I only did one and I finished in 11th. After the final round, Kilian had won his 3rd World Cup of the year as well as Akiyo winning for the women. Full results for the WOMEN and MEN. The next competition was to be held in Barcelona so I flew back to Toulouse to pick up my car and a few days later was driving down to Barcelona. From Toulouse, it’s only about a 4 hour drive, and although it was super hot in the car on the way down, we made it and found our hotel. Whenever I’m in Barcelona, I always find that everything is rather dirty. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t get a very good feeling while I’m walking around. It might also be because I don’t speak any Spanish, but I think that English and French is still pretty good. Also, whenever I try to talk to anyone in Spain, generally they ONLY speak Spanish, and get mad when I clearly don’t understand what they’re saying. Anyways, getting back to the competition, it was very hot the whole weekend, and the climbers had to figure out how not to sweat so much, especially on their hands. I finished the qualification round with 4 tops in 6 tries after doing super bad on the last problem. Turns out, if I had done 4 tops in 7 tries, I wouldn’t have even made the semis. During the semi final round, I flashed the first problem, did the second problem second go after a small slip up, flashed the third problem and didn’t do any moves on the last. The first 3 problems were relatively easy for world cup problems and over 10 people did 3 problems. So really, the semi final round came down to one problem, and it was an awkward stand up to a dyno… I was very displeased with this. Furthermore, if you flash the first 3, you also made finals, which is also kinda crazy because it means that you can’t make any mistakes, and during a competition, especially in Bouldering, you CAN make some mistakes but usually catch up on other problems. After a 35 degree finals, Guillaume from France had won his second World Cup of the year, and Akiyo had won another! Full results for the WOMEN and MEN. The third world cup on my list was up in Sheffield. I made the drive back to Toulouse from Barcelona and spend most of the week training for Lead. Because I’m also doing most of the lead world cups this year, I must train for it. Also, because the World Championships are just around the corner in Arco, I have to train for that as well. During the winter, I train 25 move circuits so my endurance is usually so-so. It’s not until I start doing 40 and 50 move circuits now that I actually get at route climbing. I also need to clip a few quickdraws to get that movement back into my head. I trained once in a bouldering gym and another time at a regional French training centre with 15m routes and some hard ones as well. Because the routes were only around 30 moves, I managed to feel really good at that training session, onsighting 8a, 8a+ and 8b. After a whole day of traveling from Toulose-Amsterdam-Manchest, a train ride to Sheffield and a walk to my hotel, I was comfortably in Sheffield, awaiting the day of the competition. Qualifiers went pretty well but not super. I flashed problems 1, 2, and 4, and finished 5 on my second go. Overall, I had 4 tops in 5, which in the end BARELY made it and I qualified in 18th with 20 making semis. In the 3rd problem in qualifiers, the last move was super hard, and I didn’t know the finish hold was a huge jug. It was a weird pocket, and I thought it was going to be bad, therefore when I was going for the last move, I’d lock off and go super slowly. Turns out, it was a huge jug, and I could’ve just jumped. In the semis, I was one of the first people to come out. I came out for the first problem, and I’m not sure if I was nervous, or just having a mental breakdown, but I couldn’t do the first move… As a competitor, this can be very frustrating. Sometimes, the first move of a world cup boulder is just TOO hard, and no one can do it, other times, you’re doing something wrong, other times, you don’t see something very key and other times, you just aren’t strong enough to do the move. It was a weird move with no feet and just a big volume. You had to do a pretty big move up and right to a bad sloper so you couldn’t jump. My first try, I tried to kind of lock off with my left foot high. I knew right away that it would be easier if I had a right foot back step, but when I tried to match feet, my foot was too high. Ultimately, what I didn’t find until 30 seconds left in my 5 minutes was a very small backstep on the volume. On one of my tries, my foot just happened to hit this part of the volume and I almost did the move effortlessly. I came down, looked at the clock and saw 17 seconds. I figured it’d be enough to get the bonus. I jumped on at 12, and did the first move easily. As I was very time crunched, I threw up my heel hook a bit too fast and my right foot slipped off the small feature. I was so mad that I had spent over 4 minutes totally over analyzing a fairly easy move. I usually don’t make mistakes like this in competition and it was definitely out of the ordinary for me. The best part of the semi final round for me was after totally screwing up the first and easiest problem, I managed to compose myself, and do the second problem on my second try. Only Daniel Woods, a Russian and myself finished that problem in semis. The third problem in semis was another that I got fairly mad about. I found that the problem was a lot easier if you were tall. You did a pretty easy move up to a sloper facing towards the left, and then you had to match feet and throw your foot out left to a small foothold. The problem was that if you’re short, your right foot doesn’t stay on and it’s very hard to stick that foot out left. I tried that move about 6-7 times during my 5 minutes because the first move was so easy. Out of those tries, I stuck my foot on that hold only once. Yeah, it might just be me whining because I didn’t do the boulder, but at the end of the day, it’s my opinion and I express it freely. If you agree, cool, if you don’t, that’s fine. Generally at World Cups, the problems are super good, the biggest thing that I don’t like is when moves are clearly easier when you’re tall. I don’t even mind dynos as long as the tall competitors MUST jump as well. It’s all part of the game. Well that was the third world cup, and if I would’ve done the first easy problem, again, I would’ve made finals which is unfortunate but the way the cards were played. After only doing the second problem in 2 tries, I finished in 16th place. Kilian won his 4th World Cup of the season while Akiyo also won again for the women. Full results for the WOMEN and MEN.

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Vail World Cup, 2011

Another world cup has come and gone, and sadly, I seem to struggle in Vail. This year however, it was a different sort of struggle as I was actually painfully close to making finals. This is the story of how that all went down, and how close making finals, winning, and coming 16th can be at the highest level in bouldering which can be also called a World Cup. It was Friday morning, and I was getting ready to go to qualifiers in Vail. I had come in the night before on a flight from Seattle with my mom and dad. We got to our hotel and just had a pretty mellow night. On our drive from Denver, we had stopped at a Wal-Mart to grab some food and passed by a Subway for dinner. As it was the next morning, I didn’t eat much, I tend not to eat very much food the morning before competitions. I headed to isolation and saw many of the competitors I had seen the previous weekend in Canmore. Most of the Europeans had come straight to Colorado to grab a quick session at Catz or the Spot in prep for the physical boulders at Vail. The qualifiers were pretty standard in my opinion. The first boulder was pretty easy and definitely the easiest of the 5. Most of the competitors flashed it. [singlepic id=181 w=480 h=320 float=left] The second boulder was made up of Teknik Pinch series. I tend to not like problems like this so much mostly because I like climbing boulder problems that have a variety of holds, moves and sequences. This problem was very straight forward and only tested whether you could hold on to one type of hold. It was a good problem, I just thought maybe in a World Cup, it could be a bit more varied. After a couple slip ups in my performance, I managed to fire the problem 3rd go. [singlepic id=185 w=480 h=320 float=right] The third problem was similar to the second in that it was made up of mostly one pad crimps with the exception of the starting and finishing holds. It was also 12 moves long not including bumps which I think is a bit long. I fortunately read the sequence pretty well right off the bat and managed to flash it. Good thing too, because after the 12 moves, I was a bit pumped and would’ve had to make a big decision on whether to even try it a second time if I’d have fallen. [singlepic id=190 w=480 h=320 float=left] The fourth problem in qualifiers was one that I really liked. It had a variety of movements and a few different type of holds. It started with a sort of press up into a pinch, the punched left to a hold, before doing a semi dyno to the bonus. You matched the bonus while turning it to an underling, then fired up 2 moves to the top. I thought the problem was great. It was pretty hard, not impossible, 7 moves and overall pretty good. I also managed to flash this problem. [singlepic id=196 w=480 h=320 float=right] The fifth problem in this opening qualifiers wrecked havoc on my system. It looked like a pretty obvious boulder with a sort of mantle up onto this feature, then a jump over the lip to a snaky looking hold. Standard I thought in my head. My first try, I ended up trying the right method but just didn’t execute the jump well enough. I then started doubting that method and started looking for new ones. In that error, I found a bunch of chalk up on the ceiling of one feature, and I thought I had to mantle underneath it with both hands. That led to 2 or 3 tries in which I would flail towards the snaky hold and come sailing down. I must’ve tried a handful of different sequences around that boulder with the same finish, me laying back down on the mats. Frustrated I couldn’t even touch the bonus hold, I finished the qualifying round with 4 tops in 6 tries. [singlepic id=202 w=480 h=320 float=center] After the round, I was pretty confident that it would pass for semis. Generally, when the problems are like that, you need 3 flashes, 4 tops, and 5 is rock solid. Turns out that was exactly what you need. There were two competitors from the Netherlands that squeaked in with 3 flashes. I qualified in 14th spot with my 4 tops. In the qualification, there were 7 climbers that flashed all the boulders! Among them were some of the favourites to win including Daniel Woods, Kilian Fischhuber and Dmitry Sharafutdinov. Semi Finals Everyone knew that the semi finals would be a lot harder than the qualification. With 5 climbers that flashed all the boulders, they had to separate those ties as well just have people fall more in general. After qualification, I just wanted to stay out of the sun. I took it easy for the rest of the day, and for the rest of the night as well. Semi finals started the morning on the Saturday so I took my morning routine of going to Starbucks then heading to isolation. Because i qualified 14th, I was actually one of the first few climbers going out. 7th if I recall correctly. After a nice warmup, I was ready to tackle semi finals. I’ve never made finals in Vail, and this is the 3rd year that I’ve come. I came out ready as ever and saw that my boulder was a giant slab… awesome. Not discouraged, I read the route, made the initial jump and flailed hard on the last move. The boulder consisted of a pretty easy jump, to a big move, and then… I don’t know. I didn’t do it. I think I was supposed to switch my right hand to a palm, but I just couldn’t commit to it, and I’d fall before I could think anymore while on the problem. I know that slab is not one of my specialties and I continued not in the least discouraged. [singlepic id=208 w=480 h=320 float=left] The second boulder looked to be pretty interesting. It had an unusual start, and then what looked to be a big move and then two hard moves to finish. I got to the big move to the bonus on my first try, but couldn’t stick it with jumping. On my second try, I figured I’d just get bonus, so I set up in this lovely dropknee, and slowly went up and touched the bottom of the hold with my middle finger. This is a picture of me going up to touch it. [singlepic id=215 w=480 h=320 float=right] After touching the hold for a good 3 seconds, (which according to IFSC rules shows control of the hold), I came back down, tried to jump and fell. My 3rd try was similar. After coming back down, the judge didn’t give me control. After talking to 4 coaches from other European countries including Austria, Germany, and Netherlands, they all agreed I should get control. I guess the IFSC delegate disagreed with how the rules were “meant” and eventually rejected my appeal… Onto the third problem in semi finals. From the ground, it looked nice, and simple. Just because a problem looks simple, does not by any means make it easier. I knew this problem was going to be hard just by the fact that there was a sort of mantle, and mantles are hard! The first two moves were physical with a jump onto this big volume. From the volume, you had to reach up to the zone, then magically mantle the volume, grab another volume and continue to the top. I knew it involved something strange. I managed the jump to the volume on my second try and was positioned on the bonus, but kind of wondering what to do next. I managed to turn my hand slightly, but I then decided to match hands, when in fact you had to bring your left foot up onto the volume before you could physically continue. At the end of the day, only 3 competitors finished this problem, all of them making finals. [singlepic id=222 w=480 h=320 float=center] The last problem was also a very nice problem. It was very obvious from the ground what you had to do, squeeze, and then pull up. After a few failed attempts, I was down to the last minute of the semi finals. I had jumped to the bonus hold on my second try and didn’t get it right. I was positive I’d hit at least the bonus on my last try and hopefully send the problem. I left the ground with 40 seconds to go, long enough for one last attempt. I got up to the bonus in half that time, and then was trying to figure out the last few moves. After some brutally hard moves up at the top of the problem, I could hear the 5 second warning buzzers going off as well as the MC saying I had 5 seconds left. Through the cheering of the crowd, I managed to cross over and match just as my 5 minute buzzer was sounding. I looked left after matching and saw the 4:59 starting to countdown, which means a second ago, I had completed my climb within the 5 minutes. I knew it’d be close but again, they didn’t give it to me. Talk about a rough day… [singlepic id=231 w=480 h=320 float=left] [singlepic id=233 w=480 h=320 float=right] Them not giving number 5 was understandable. I understand that you have to control the finish hold for 1, 2 seconds before getting control, and I probably only controlled it for .79 seconds. But the zone on number blows my mind. Not getting into too much, but I believe it was still a mistake on the behalf of the IFSC delegate.   So I “on paper” finished with no tops and 3 bonuses in a handful of tries landing me in 15th place. Sadly, I didn’t make finals. To put it in perspective, I completed the last problem. I know I didn’t complete the problem in time, but assuming I started the problem a handful of seconds earlier, that 1 top would’ve pushed me into 9th place. I was pretty close on the first 3 problems, and if you finish 2 problems, you find yourself in finals. So after completing semi finals, I was actually very happy with how I had climbed. I knew that to make Finals, you have to climb very well, and I had only climbed well. I keep my head up and I look forward for the next competition, which is next week in Eindhoven. There are tons more photos of the competition taken by my father Terry McColl in the photo gallery for Vail. Full results for the Vail World Cup can be found at the following links: Mens Results Womens Results

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