18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

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.