18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Video of my Christmas session

So I've been feeling good this week, and Christmas was a little dull sitting around at home alone while my girlfriend was at work. I decided that it was about time to try vaulting again. Also since the facility was most likely empty for the holiday, I figured, I could get away with an extravagant warm up. Didn't plan to jump on these things at first, but it just worked out that way. It was a lot of fun, and it was extremely easy  to swing upside down once I got the skates off. After cutting the session short yesterday, to be safe, I felt great last night and this morning. Hoping I will be able to do again soon and gradually push a bit more each week leading up to Reno and possibly make an athletic appearance.
Hope you enjoy the video. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


All i want for christmas are my two front teeth.....
Or a spine. Take your pick. It actually would have to be a few teeth in the back of my mouth. That's where the attention is needed these days.
But now I know how that kid without teeth feels. I'm a vaulter without the vault, and the jumps just haven't grown back, no matter how hard I try. Maybe I'll write a catchy song about it. That's probably a bad plan. However my back has been feeling rather good lately, extremely good actually. I've been testing it with strain that would normally leave its mark, and i have been coming out on top. The good christmas spirit of Old St. Nielsen left me the keys to the track. So guess who gets to jump for christmas. This guy. Merry Christmas everyone.

PS- I can vault over your christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Benefiting from Insomnia

Insomnia is something that almost everyone gets the joy to experience at some point in there lives. I've often thought in athletes it comes from a lack of exercise. If you are resting or tapering your training for a meet, your body isn't worn down from the regular hard day of exertion. Sometimes I feel that athletes confuse this extra energy at night, with the nervousness associated with what one could call pre-competition jidders. And they very well could be right. I know I've spent countless nights staring at foreign ceilings anxious to see what the next days event had in store. Looking back now I always thought it was the unrelenting race of thoughts and ruckus of my mind that kept me awake. But maybe it was just a mere lack of exercise that allowed my brain to run wild. Whatever the case, with this injury i can only do so much training. I can only ride the bike so many days in a row before i want to pull my own hair out in handfuls. Those of you reading who have been condemned to the stationary bike know exactly what I mean. Some days you just can't force yourself onto that saddle. I sneak in my running days here and there, and even a quick vault session from time to time but its nothing close to what I used to be able to do. Therefore, lack of exercise, lack of sleep. I'm wired from years of hard training, to be tired at night from conditioning, without that conditioning, the sleep doesn't come so easy. Granted, I am up for other reasons at times. The pain in my back does keep me up some nights still, not my back so much anymore, but that dam sciatic nerve. Nights like tonight, a nice little fire in my upper glute. So i hang out in my cold living room alone stretching, strengthening, and attacking trigger points in my back and legs. Then I break out the ice pack, lay flat on the ground, prop my legs up on the old chair and meditate until the nerves settle down. Its a common routine, but it works, and sometimes I'm grateful for the pain, because without it, I wouldn't take the time to meditate. My mind drifts off to amazing places, some from the past and some for the future. As complicated as life gets, its in those moments I see how simple it really is. Just do what makes you happy. Pretty basic, very cliché, but ultimately true. If your not happy, your not alive, your just another robot. A machine programmed by society to go through the motions and standard procedures with a plastic smile. Don't let them tell you when to smile, go find it for yourself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

That 50 Percent

After a tough year of vaulting, a serious injury, and a home meet scheduled on the same weekend as The Reno Pole Vault Summit, this looked to be the first year that I would not attend the event in the last decade. Sad to say, but it seemed only logical. Lat week an organizer called me and convinced me to come. I told him I would most likely not be competing, although the idea of being a part of an event with that much energy, possibly for the last time, is very appealing, regardless of the outcome. He then went on to tell me that I should represent myself there not only as an athlete but as a coach. I was very flattered by this and it made me realize that I do want to remain heavily involved in this sport after i retire the tuxedo. I feel like I can be a huge help to athletes of all ages but mostly those trying to make the taxing transition from college to professional vaulting. I would say over the years I've seen something like 50 percent of elite college vaulters slip through the cracks there first year out of school and then disappear never to be seen or heard from again. Its that 50 percent that I'll be going after. They need help on the journey, just like I did. I look back and can't believe how far I went with a measly personal best of 5.60m (18'4.5"). I got to compete at the Olympic trials, travel to Africa, Europe, Taiwan, meet amazing people, and go on crazy adventures. Part of it was luck, part of it was drive, and a huge part of it was the support I gained from people around me. I want to become that support system for someone else, even if its only 1 person. I look at my athletes at ISU who plan on continuing there careers out of college and see the many hardships that lie ahead of them. Money, insurance, injuries, travel issues, mark chasing, social pressures of conformity, slipping out of the job market with a college degree in your pocket. I'm constantly trying to think of ways i can help them when they are done, and I intend to implement as many as possible in the future.
Right now my life does revolve around an injury. And i intend to compete again someday. But I do constantly think about the next generation.
So yes I will be going to Reno this year, but not for me, for them. And hopefully I'm not completely full of shit, and have something to offer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A set back is a step forward

So after my burst of motivation and energy I find myself limping around the house, moaning and groaning when I sit down or stand up. Waking up to muscle soreness that......well you get the idea. Just because I could jump again I thought I could do all the stuff I stopped doing (all together in about 3 days). And now I'm paying for it. I thought I had it all figured out in the weight room as far as keeping my body sharp. Turns out, there are a lot of areas that you just can't train without some good old fashion hard sprinting. The back hurts a bit which was to be expected, but that shouldn't slow me down. However I'm experience a strange tingle in my left quad that is bordering numbness. Before I push it that far I decided to shut it down. Shut it all down. Not knowing exactly which returning exercise has irritated that particular nerve stem I have to back off of everything until it feels normal again. As hard as it is with the fresh taste of vaulting in my mouth, its the smart thing to do, and that's who I have to be now. When it returns to normal I can pick apart those days, splitting up the new training items, and if the problem returns it will be much easier to decipher the cause. Like I've said before, guess and check. Each week I learn something new that is ultimately helping me in the larger scheme of things. I've already got a dam good idea of what it was though, and I'm pretty sure its not from the vault. Obviously I'm biased, but we'll see. 

I realize now that I will never be the athlete that I once was. I will never be able to do heavy squats, cleans, jerks, snatch's, or lunges again. I will never be able to pound away at the ground with plyometric training like I once could. I will never be able to block my left leg into the ground at high speeds to launch over a high jump bar or to wing a javelin with a violent roar.
Well the list goes on. And i don't want you to think I'm rambling on about what I've lost or this is some weak aim at your sympathy. Because honestly, I got my chance to do all those things, and I went for it, and I enjoyed it. But none of those things hold a candle to the vault, and are not an absolute necessity for success in the event. And if I can find a way to continue to vault, that's all that matters.
Because I can't train like I did in the past, does that mean I will never jump as high? No it doesn't. I think that I can still have a lifetime best, its just going to be a little more difficult with what I have to work with now. Before I was getting by with athletic ability, the guts of a hard worker, and balls of steel. And that was fine. Now the game has changed. I have to train smarter than ever. I have to be more humble than ever. I have to become emotionally disconnected from all new obstacles thrown in my path. And most of all continue to learn and grow stronger from it.

Short term failure is just fuel for long term success.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snap, Crackle, Jump. That's right, I jumped.

On July 31st 2010, my left leg went numb, graciously handing me a "No Height" at what could have possibly been my final competition as a professional pole vaulter. On Saturday December 4th 2010 I stepped on the runway for the first time since that crushing day. After a chiropractic adjustment Friday to my upper back the wave of pain relief was inspiring. Changes in therapy and training over the past few weeks have led me to believe that my lower back is now healthy and strong enough to plant a vaulting pole once again. I put a cap on my jumps, 3 was to be the maximum, then the assessment of pain levels throughout the next 24 hours would be the dynamic that guides me to the following week. 3 jumps I took, from 10 steps on 15' poles. They weren't the prettiest, or highest, or inspiring, but it was me in the air once again. The results are in, no change in pain, no sleepless night, no numbness in the leg. A serious overpowering hunger for more? Check.
I know what your thinking, he's going to hurt himself again. You may be right, but if you think that's the case because I'm going to push myself to hard, to soon, then you are wrong. I've invested far to much time, energy, resources, and emotion to throw it all away for one hint of success. I'm going to continue to take my time, listen to my body, and remain on task. Because my health is still more important than my height in the air. Yes there is a degree of peril, but there is for every vaulter. Those of us who minimize it, carry on. I know my body better than any doctor, and I plan to take care of it. But without great risk, there cannot be great reward.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Injury do to Injury

I've found in times in my career injuries tend to draw in more injuries. It's like the universe knows you have one, so its sends you a few more. Maybe its to get them all knocked out at once. Maybe its to kick you while your down. Maybe its to give a true test, pushing you into a greater depth of dedication. Far beyond what you knew you were capable of. Pass this test and future trials in life may seem minuscule. Fail and future obstacles may may become so overwhelming that giving up goes from being an option, to a normal occurrence.
How does this apply to me you might ask. Well about a month ago I felt a sharp pain at the top of my spine just below the neck. I've felt things like this before, so i ignored it, just as I ignored my lower back pain for several years. Being extremely upper body oriented in my training as of late, the new pain strengthened till one morning about a week ago, I woke up and realized it had become something I need to address. I'd rather not divulge all the details at the moment, honestly because I feel like a candy ass, but I'll just say it feels a lot like my lower back. Hoping that I'm overreacting, do to my sensitive nature on the subject of injuries lately, I'm adjusting my training once again. Extremely frustrated and angry I push forward. Not looking back and not looking ahead but taking every day as it comes.
There is a real son of a bitch attacking my thoughts, telling me that the injuries are related, and my spine may be done with this life. I fight him everyday and I'm still winning. The more limited I become, the stronger his voice gets. I keep telling him, sorry you cynical asshole, I'm not finished yet, so pipe down in there and let me do my thing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turning 30 and the Legend of Laurens Looije

Today is my 30th birthday. What can I say besides....Holy Shit. Where did the time go. In my mind time stopped after my 21st birthday. I remember it like yesterday, "its legal for me to drink? Thats no fun."
Not long after the year of my 21st, I met one of my favorite people to date. Do to chance we met and became great friends, but more like brothers.
Laurens Looije is one of the greatest Dutch Pole Vaulters of all time. During his time and training camps with us over the years in Pocatello, he was between 31 and 34 years old. Every time someone, who didn't know him, discovered his age, they were shocked by the numbers coming from his mouth. Wise in his years but young to the eyes. Lau was one of the most fit, strong, fast, truly powerful and healthy people I knew. He had amazing technique, advice, life experience and his jumping was just something special to witness. He brought so much pure power down the runway that it was like you were anticipating an explosion to take place at the point of impact. Spending time with him over the years, friends locked in amazing adventures, he made me realize that I wanted to keep pole vaulting at an elite level long into my 30's. I would say to myself, I want to be like Lau when i grow up (but really meant, at that age. Cause I'll probably never really grow up), and I would repeat it to him and others. But I wasn't just talking or joking, I was being serious.
November 27th 2010, here I am, way up in some beautiful mountains, officially 30 years old, I look at myself and think, I almost pulled it off Lau. Not quite, but dam close. Speed, strength, power, wisdom, desire, friendship, life experience, I did pretty well. Health on the other hand. I just couldn't quite pull it off brother. Its not my fault that my body can't keep up with my desire and dreams. But that doesn't mean I can't remain patient and still pull a rabbit out of the empty hat. You helped me learn that anything is possible when a pure passion and love exist's for it. Thank you for that.
I miss you my friend.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

USA's Greatest and Living Room Training 11/25/10

When I slowly rolled my aching body out of my warm bed at 6am, the thermometer read -10 degrees F. I look out my icy window to once again see white in every direction trying to glimmer some reflection of light in the darkness. Another cold snowy day in the forecast.
It seems like each day of this week has presented a different obstacle. The indoor football field I do my running workouts on has been rolled up leaving a lake of cement behind. The weight room I lift in flooded. The gymnastics gym I work out in shut down do to weather conditions. And now, of course, everything is closed for the holiday. No weights, running, stationary bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, nothing. Where does that leave you? The always amazing living room workouts fabricated only by your pure creativity and drive to be a champion.
In times like these, when all access to facilities is blocked and your preciously thought out training program must deviate, a small feeling a helplessness or sorrow can set in. Its easy to just blow it off, or even convince yourself that you need the rest. It's in those moments, call it a small lapse in judgement or motivation, where I think about the greatest American vaulters of all time. Tim Mack, Jeff Hartwig, Brad Walker, Toby Stevenson, Johnson, Huffman, and many others. They wouldn't let this day slip away. Because champions know each day is a chance to get better. I can see Jeff right now looking out the window at the snow with a 300lb python on his back doing squats until his quads give out. Toby laying on his coffee table with a surfboard buried in books on his chest benching it like there's no tomorrow.Walker pounding away at a heavy bag, hanging from his pull up bar, with visions of Hooker and Bubka burning in his eyes, the taste of records breaking in his sweat. These are the great men of pole vault, and they know the living room workout.
Rain, snow, flooding, power outage, road closers, even injury, no obstacle is to great for them, so it won't be for me. I picture them in my mind as I fight of the nausea associated with the 100's of reps it takes in the living room, to match the muscle failure much easier gained with heavy weights.

These are the exercises getting me through the week. I generally do 5-8 sets, with reps of 10-30 depending on the exercise.

Push ups (wide grip, close grip, regular, one arm)
Squats (on the homemade balance board consisting of a metal pipe and an old skate deck)
Curls (with the heaviest objects available around the house)
Pull ups, (of course. Everyone should have a pull up bar in there house.)
Dips (on the two front room chairs.)
Handstand push ups (against the wall.)
Abs, (Abs, and more Abs)
Shoulder circuits with water jugs, or my metal tube full of sand (front, lateral, diagonal, reverse fly)
Timed Core holds (60-90sec, front, left, and right)
Pull overs (with the tool box)
Single arm row (with the tool box)
Circle push ups on the pvc pomelletes, (both directions, good stuff, one of my favorites)
Single leg squats, (1 foot on the couch or chair)
Tons of back exercises
Stretching, lots of stretching

Time is a necessary commodity often overlooked by athletes. Don't let the day slip away. It's not what you didn't do, its what your not doing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Challenges in training, and that old chair. 11/23/10

Every week is a learning experience for me.
With every injury an athlete endures, they become 2 steps closer, then they had ever planned, to becoming a therapist someday. Each injury is a new learning experience. You become a student of your own body. Which proves to be more complicated than you could have ever imagined back in high school biology.
Major challenges for me over these post collegiate years have revolved around the absence of medical insurance. Its amazing how resilient your own image of the human body becomes when you don't have the option of going to the doctor. Not to mention how creative and motivated you become in solving your own healing needs.
Off the top of my head; since I have been out of college I have broken my left hand, had calcium deposits cut out of my right hand,  separated my left AC joint, torn major ligaments in my left ankle, dislocated my left knee cap, tore my left groin, ruptured the fascial tissue in my right wrist that holds a major tendon in place (still unrepaired), and pulled my right bicep tendon. Each injury came with new training, therapy, and patience. But when you love something this much, any hurdle can be overcome.
As annoying as all those injuries were, they don't hold a candle to the barrier placed before me with the discrepancies in my spine. I have already written, scribbled, typed, and retyped about 6 training programs since my first injection in early September. I write them in 2 week cycles in an attempt to make the next two week cycle slightly harder with an unofficial goal of gaining enough strength and recovery to return to the runway by late February or early March 2011. In all of the weeks of programs I've written since September i have only been able to fully complete 1 week of training, the way I wrote it out, without too much pain. Thinking I finally had it figured out, I attempted the same workout the following week and failed. I was so excited and had that joy ripped right out of my hands only 1 day into the week. That was last week. I took 3 days off and then started over again. New workout, new exercises, cut this, add that.
So here I am. Guess and check, guess and check, guess and check. Just like in high school biology, only this time I'm the frog pinned down to the table and the results are whether or not I can sleep at night, or function the next day. I sit here by my window, watching the snow come down, in the same chair where my father wrote for countless hours of his life in a place 700 miles from here. Funny I can't help but think about the the old man, his stiff shoulders, cramped neck, blood shot eyes, pounding away at his laptop with such passion and determination. We're so different and so alike. Buried in a pile of notebooks, spread sheets, and legal pads all full of my own scribbling and thoughts about my body. Somewhere in that pile of  fire starter holds the key to my next two weeks of successful training. Patience and pain for now. Triumph will come.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A necessary obstacle -11/20/10

For those who don't know already. A friend asked me to write this. I sent this to him, who sent it to someone else, who posted it on the internet.
 But it is where this story begins.

-The Tuxedo Doesn't make you Indestructible After All.

In April of 2009 I started feeling a strange pain in my hip. Thinking it was muscular I would take some time off practice then press on again never missing a competition. 

In Dec 2009 I was doing lunges, something in my back popped and I collapsed to the ground in the weight room. Not being able to afford medical insurance for the past 6 years I did what I always do, I stayed home and didn't ask for help. 3 to 4 weeks went by with sleepless nights, several missed work days, 0 activity aside from any therapy exercises I could manage. I was able to function again with a much lower level of pain by January, and long story short, I competed. 

I completed a whole indoor season including a trip to Taiwan, then competed outdoors up until the Gill Factory Vault in July. The pain in my back and hip had grown severe, but the season was so frustrating too me regardless. I thought even with all that pain, I should still have been jumping much higher. Speed and Strength was all there. I would watch myself on video and it was like seeing a stranger. 

While at the Factory Vault I thought that the runway felt strange, like there were dead spots in it, and even more strange was that when I did my warm up the day before, it felt solid as a rock. I went ahead and tried to compete, posting my first No Height of the outdoor season. I couldn't help but notice that I kept tripping over things that day, and after awhile I realized I was only catching my left leg on these items. By the evening large portions of my left leg were numb. 

A friend and former vaulter was attending the factory vault who had undergone several back surgeries do to with vaulting, and is currently using a cane to assist his numb left leg. After picking his brain for awhile I panicked and realized that I must go see a doctor with or without medical insurance. After finding 0 reflex response in my left leg he ordered an MRI. The results were rather unsettling. I have 2 bulging discs 2 herniated discs which are both pinching separate nerve stems to my left leg, and one "healing" fracture in L4, which they are guessing could have been broken up to 1 year earlier (i'm guessing Dec 09). 

I had 2 choices, a $20,000 surgery, which would most likely be the end of the Tuxedo man, or start getting injections right away to prevent permanent nerve damage and possibly with the right therapy be back on the runway by January or February. The injections I'm receiving usually cost about $1,300, but I found a doctor with a big heart who is doing them for $500 a piece. 

As wonderful as that is. I can't afford a single one at the moment. Being limited in mobility I can't go out and raise the money doing labor like I normally would, and jobs are pretty much nonexistent in Idaho. I work part time for ISU Track and Field, but its not even enough to pay my regular monthly bills. I usually fill the quota with meet money, camp money, or labor money. And none are an option right now. 

I have received the first two rounds of shots and they are working! After the second round I started to get small reflex response in my left leg so I look forward to the next round on October 13th. However I have to pay at least the $500 for the first shot by then or they won't do it, and I'm struggling to make it happen. I've got nothing to sell, no savings, an empty checking account, a mountain of debt, and hardly any income, but I plan on being on that runway and better than ever by February at the latest. I hate to ask for help, but i need this next shot bad and the clock is ticking.-

I call this a necessary obstacle because my career had gone stagnant since the Olympic trials in 2008. You can make goals all day long, but if there isn't something deep down, something magical, unexplainable, driving you towards that goal, it's just something you wrote on a piece of paper, mentioned to a coach a friend or loved one.  It's that unexplainable area of the brain or heart that I struggle to tap into. In my career all of my best performances in championship meets have been my first time there. Its the excitement of being some place new, a place where only the best go. But after that first exciting experience, it loses that magic and unfortunately becomes routine. 

Without any shred of doubt, pole vault has become my ultimate passion in life. Without it, I would be lost. However obsessed I may be with the event, I still lose site of why I'm doing it. This injury has helped me see the magic again. I've had several people tell me to give up the sport forever, and others tell me a return to vault is possible, but a return to the National level is not. The news was hard to hear at first, however its probably the best thing they could have said, and I should thank them for helping to fill me with a new drive and motivation to prove them wrong, and return stronger than ever. 

I don't know if anyone will even read this. If so, never let anyone brainwash you into thinking you can't do something. Sometimes it gets you into trouble, but sometimes it takes you to new levels and places you never imagined were possible. I intend to show you first hand.