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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

Last World Cup of 2013

I’m almost feeling nostalgic knowing that I won’t compete in a world cup for at least 4 months. I said almost because I’m ready for a break from everything that comes with world cup climbing; good and bad. In the last event of 2013 I didn’t climb very well; it’s a bit sad to see my final place at 10th but good things come along with that specific number as well!

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This past weekend was the last world cup of the season; it was a lead event and took place in Kranj Slovenia. Earlier this year I won my first Bouldering world cup not so far away in Log-Dragomer. I was excited for the weekend having won the event in 2011. In 2012 I came to this event pretty sick and finished in 12th place. This year, I was sick in Valence so I was glad I got that out of the way.

I made the trip out there on Friday the 15th. A couple of flights from Toulouse and I was picked up by Christina Stutz and Jessica Pilz in Salzburg to finish the trip. Qualifiers for the men were the morning of the 16th; nothing out of the ordinary happened. I topped both my qualifiers along with another 13 climbers. The routes felt good, I slowed down my climbing to get used to the wall and was feeling good. One thing that I don’t like is doing the semi-finals on the same day as the qualifiers. I prefer the balance of doing 2 routes on each day over 3:1. [assuming of course I made finals :)]

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In between men’s qualifiers and semifinals were the women’s qualifiers. I chilled in my hotel, played my first LoL game with Hyunbin, Jakob, Mario and Lucas then just relaxed. A few hours later we were back in semifinals isolation.

Some people might look at my 10th place finish and start looking for excuses; honestly I have none. There are a few things that didn’t align perfectly leading up to the event but that’s pretty normal. I had a good warm up, I was having good times with my friends and I felt good starting the route.

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On the route, I didn’t climb very well. The biggest challenge I faced while climbing in this round was the inability to find a good rhythm. I also didn’t feel very comfortable going through the route. At halfway, I knew I had been climbing slowly and I tried to speed up. After making a big error in one of the cross overs I started to get pumped. I still managed to fight for 4-5 moves but fell with my hands just opening up. It’s the worst kind of pump for me. I can’t fight anymore, I can’t power myself through the moves and I just fall, slowly but surely.

As I fell, I was disappointed. I knew I hadn’t climbed very well which saddened me. I untied and waved at the crowd while smiling. Without knowing results, I knew that the chances were pretty high that this might be my last lead climb of the year. I tried to think of the whole season in that moment, not the last climb.

I didn’t even know final results for a long time after; I didn’t really want to know. I wanted to watch the rest of semi-finals and be happy for my friends who would advance into finals. After I watched everyone climb, I found out I finished 10th. Funny enough that cheered me up pretty quickly. Why you ask does that cheer me up? Some of you already know why but it’s purely so I can make the following statement!

“I finished in the top-10 in every Lead and Boulder event in 2013”

Yes, I missed finals by a few holds but still finish 10th. Whenever I don’t climb well, I can’t be unhappy if I don’t make finals. I’m the first one to say that I should’ve climbed better, not that everyone else should’ve climbed worse…

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The next morning I had absolutely nothing to do… I woke up, had some IFSC meetings in the morning and played games in the afternoon. Finals were to start at 5pm and I was pretty stoked to broadcast on the live stream. I tried to think about what I would say and what not to say as well.

I met up with Dan and the rest of the broadcasting team up in the booth 15 minutes before the observation and the next couple of hours went pretty fast. I don’t even know how long I was broadcasting for, but it was tons of fun. I’ll admit that broadcasting for the men is much easier than for the women. I can just tell when the men will fall, rest and clip and with the women… well I can’t as accurately.

Jakob Schubert won his 3rd world cup of 2013 in exciting fashion falling on the last move. Adam Ondra and Sachi Amma filled the podium falling mere moves below. On the women’s side, some of the favourites seemed to get bogged down on a difficult move at two-thirds. From what I could see, they really wanted to full crimp one of the holds that you should (imo) pinch. The problem was that the crimp was too close to the wall behind it and there wasn’t enough room to full crimp. The next option is open crimp or pinch. Mina Markovic from Slovenia who ended up finishing 3rd spent over a minute deciphering what to do before finally just committing. She fell a few moves later just running out of juice. A similar thing happened to Jain Kim from Korea who ended up finishing 4th. Momoka Oda and Akiyo Noguchi were the only two girls to climb higher. They fell on what seemed to be the same move but after a closer analysis Momoka was awarded a + thus giving her the victory.

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After the finals finished, there were a bunch of awarding ceremonies. For the overall 2013 World Cup the podiums were as follows:

Women’s Overall:

  1. Jain Kim – 625
  2. Mina Markovic – 605
  3. Momoka Oda – 491

Men’s Overall:

  1. Sachi Amma – 572
  2. Jakob Schubert – 535
  3. Ramon Julian-Puigblanque – 420

For the combined overall (lead, boulder, speed) podiums were as follows:

Women’s Combined:

  1. Mina Markovic – 648
  2. Akiyo Noguchi – 634
  3. Momoka Oda – 628

Men’s Combined:

  1. Jakob Schubert – 755
  2. Sean McColl – 651
  3. Sachi Amma – 507

Now that the lead season is over, I get to think back on how long it really was. I started training in early January getting my strength back. My first world cup of the year was in April and I’ve been going non-stop since then. Because this post is already a nice length, I’ll sign off here and write another next week reflecting on the season!

I also have one more competition of the year, the La Sportiva Legends in Stockholm.

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Valence World Cup

The most recent world cup of the 2013 season was in Valence France this past weekend. It was an interesting one to say the least. It included a crowd of 3000, it marked the last International competition the venue would hold and the night between day I and day 2 of the competition, I was up all night with food poisoning! Let’s go back a couple of days before I catch up with that last sentence. I took off from Toulouse Thursday afternoon and was in Valence 4 hours later. It was past the technical meeting but I was already registered so I got something to eat, checked my running order and chilled in my apartment. I booked an apartment so I had a water boiler and I could cook my own food if I wanted. Qualifications were Friday morning and everything went really well. It was a bit cold in the morning but getting to the competition motivated me to start warming up. Over the course of a couple of hours I had warmed up and topped both qualification routes. It was sometime in the afternoon by the time I had finished and I was starving. I went and bought some food from a small local store and went back to my apartment. [singlepic id=606 w=500 h=400 float=center] I had a sandwich made up of a traditional baguette, sliced meat in a sealed container and some camembert cheese. I went to bed around midnight but at 1am things started to get bad. I could feel it the whole night that my stomach was grumbling but I never thought I’d actually throw up. At 1am I did… I puked and felt better. I ate a couple of tums and tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work and 20 minutes later, round 2 came full swing. I spent the next 3 or so hours puking and sitting in the bathroom feeling like I wanted to die. I managed to get back and remember checking my watch which said 4:21am. Luckily for me semi-finals isolation didn’t close until 11:30. I woke up the next morning feeling terrible. I couldn’t even think of food. I forced a protein bar down my throat before walking back to the competition. On the way, I grabbed some liquids. I needed water, sugar anything… I spent the morning basically laying around in isolation with the occasional walk outside in case I needed to throw up again. Preview was followed by more laying around in isolation until I was forced to warm up. It actually felt better climbing than I anticipated. I felt like I had no energy and I knew the semi-finals were going to be a battle. I spent the rest of the isolation time just sitting underneath the heater lamp to keep warm. [singlepic id=607 w=500 h=400 float=center] I climbed much slower than usual mostly because I was just really tired. I climbed pretty well, made a mistake in the middle but climbed within the last 5 moves of the route. I fell pumped, tired and exhausted; I wasn’t going much further on a good day. As I lowered, my stomach grumbled and I felt sick again. After untying I ran off to get some air. When I came back inside I felt miserable. I found out it was enough to make finals which made me smile but overall I still felt sad. I compete because I love being there, climbing and feeling good. When I compete and I feel so crappy like this, I just don’t want to be there anymore. I left the competition feeling sad and went to rest in my apartment. During the rest, I had a nap, ate a couple of bananas and tried to regroup. I hoped the finals would motivate me and I hoped even more that I would just have fun. The most important thing for me is having fun… During the finals isolation, all my friends inside cheered me up. For most of the hour or two I was in there, I just laughed and talked with the other finalists. I barely remember what we talked about but it was exactly what I needed, to talk listen and laugh. I also found the time to do a few boulders so I was warm for finals. The presentation and observation was also fun in front of the crowd of 3000 and I was the third climber out. Before starting my route I listened to music, I didn’t want to know where they were getting on the route, I didn’t care. I came out and knew I was only 5 minutes away from the end of the competition. I took some deep breaths and got inside my own head. The route was bouldery, hard and I took the risks I needed to take. I climbed pretty fast but consistently until I was near the last traverse of the route. I achieved my goal of where I wanted to get and I actually didn’t feel very pumped yet! The next few moves changed that completely; as I was climbing I felt like I wasn’t going to do much better. After my feet cut a bit un-expectantly, I lost a lot of juice and I knew I hadn’t clipped yet. I chose to do another 2 moves and skip the clip. I fell on a hard move out right towards a big volume sloper. Check out my video just below… As I sailed down towards the ground, I didn’t feel sick at all. It made me smile and I waved to the crowd. They cheered and all I could was keep waving. I was so happy that I had enjoyed the route and didn’t feel sick. As I untied I actually thought I was in 2nd place. It wasn’t until they said I needed to sit in the leaders chair that I realized I was actually the highpoint. It didn’t last very long as Adam Ondra was the next climber who beat me, but it was nice while it lasted. After Adam, I’m sure most of you know what happened, everyone else made mistakes, some big some small. In the end, they all fell lower in the route and I held on to my second position. I’m honoured to have another silver medal and again so close to the gold. After the night I had, it was nice to have fun in finals once again. I knew it was possible to be on the podium but I didn’t expect it! [singlepic id=605 w=500 h=400 float=center] So that was my weekend. I walked away with another Silver medal, a funny story and good and bad memories. It also re-enforced my mentality on how much I tie having fun to competing. If I’m not having fun while competing, I’d rather not be there at all, regardless of my placing. Full results are at the following links: MENS & WOMENS I’ve had another few days to relax and I’ve found my appetite again. The last world cup of the year is in a couple of weeks in Slovenia and I’d like to be in tip-top shape if possible. If nothing else, it will mark the end of a huge world cup season which started in April for me.

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The Asia Adventures

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

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