18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Enjoying the Sun

I’m exhausted. What a fun camp that was. It was such an honor to be invited to work along side of such great coaches and athletes. But I’m ready for a rest. In the future I’m going to be better about asking someone who is more able to demonstrate drills and skills while I talk about them, instead of being the crash test dummy myself. My spine is extremely upset with me.
             Since day one I have been wanting to get on the runway to take a few jumps. For starters, the weather is amazing and not taking advantage of it would just be insane but also I wanted to turn up a few big jumps for the campers.  Even at the age I am now, its always fun and inspiring to see someone in action who can perform at a level higher than your own. So today, day 3 of the camp, I decided to jump a bit with the group I’ve been teaching. Technically the session wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. After viewing it on video I am still seeing one major problem, but one of the important changes I have been visualizing was apparent, and that is progress.  I’d have to say that overall the workout was a success in that I was jumping again after almost a month, and I had a great time doing it.
            The pain in my back is not what it was two weeks ago, but it’s not pleasant either. I’m trying to remember a time I’ve jumped without pain, and I can’t seem to drum up a memory less than 2 years old. People continue to ask me, “What will you do when you are done competing as an athlete?” Meaning career wise, and I never have an answer for them. It’s actually a subject that I don’t meditate on. I figure that if I stay positive and focused on what I am doing right now, something good is bound to come up in the future. But recently I have finally found a suitable answer to the question; I’m going to get medical insurance, one way or another. In November, my 31st birthday marked 8 years I have now lived without medical insurance. Those of you who know me well, and know how frequently I tend to injure myself, know that I’ve been dealt a lot of pain in those 8 long years and will most likely be dealt even more in the 8 to come.
            At the moment I remain in the now. Right now, I’m in sunny southern California, I’m even sun burnt. Before I left the trees for this visit I got a text saying a young up and coming vaulter from Arizona State via Questa College named Derick Hinch needed a ride halfway down I-5 to go and assist with one of the legendary Jan Johnson vault camps. Meeting for the first time, we had lots to talk about and as luck would have it, he informed me that a bunch of like minded vault folk are getting together this Saturday, down in the Huntington beach area, to do some jumping and invited me to tag along. So I plan to join them, enjoy a few more days in the sun, some good company, and maybe even some more small success. The camp director has been gracious enough to extend my stay at the host hotel for a few more days. One of those days I plan to do a light warm up, but mainly hibernate, in hopes that I will summon or manifest some reserve energy stored away in a secret place that my subconscious saved for a special occasion in order to take advantage of these wonderful temperatures one last time.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The Presence of Legends

I’m down south in Walnut California (Los Angeles area) to help run a track and field camp at Mount San Antonio College, better known as Mount Sac. Mount Sac is famous for having one of the toughest high school cross country events in the nation, and for hosting the most prestigious and professionally run track and field competition California has to offer every year, the Mount Sac Relays.
Being down in Southern California in the winter makes it easy to realize why so many people live here. It was a sunny 70 degrees yesterday without a cloud in the sky, and all the trees, grass and even bushes are a vibrant green. Being an outdoor type myself, my mind can’t even comprehend how beautiful this place must have been before all these roads and buildings were plopped down on it. But with all this modernity comes many advantages and opportunities.
When I was invited to run this camp I was not sure what to expect. My friend and peer Brian Yokoyama called and said they needed a few extra good people and he would like it if I could make it, so I agreed. That was about all the details that I got. Now that I am here I realize that this is a very special camp and I am extremely flattered to have been invited to help. Yesterday in front of the mass of campers I was invited to speak and tell my story. Guess who else went up to talk and are coaches at this camp…….

Willie Banks; Former world record holder in the triple jump and the athlete who invented the rhythm clap for the audience that is still used today for almost every field event in track and field.
Mike Powell; The current world record holder in the long jump, which is one of the longest standing world records in track and field, set back in 1991 in Tokyo, he broke Bob Beamons record which stood for 22 years, by jumping 8.95m roughly  29’4.5” converted. Upsetting the great Carl Lewis, Mike had unbelievable talent.
Dick Fosberry; Former world record holder in the High Jump, and the inventor of the Fosberry Flop, which is the current technique used by every high jumper in the world.  

All three of these men changed Track and Field forever, for the good of the sport, whether they planned to or not. The ripple effect created by there innovation has touched most of us in the sport in some way, and has changed the lives of thousands of athletes in the years since. It is an honor to be coaching along side of them and I hope I am given this opportunity again in the future.
One last thing I’d like to share is that in 1991, Track and Field was still on TV from time to time, and the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan was aired. A ten year old kid, who knew little of the world of track and field, happened to be tuned in with his father who was sharing in the excitement of the battle between Mike Powell and Carl Lewis as they exchanged the World Record between them, back and forth during the competition, like it was a standard affair. Seeing those two men fly though the air like they had just jumped off the roof of a moving bus was so unbelievable and inspiring. That kid knew, that someday that would be him. He was going to make it happen. That kid was me, and the long jump didn’t wind up being my strong suit, but pole vault is pretty awesome. I still plan to have a televised battle on the world stage, and I have to thank Mike Powell for it (and I did yesterday in front of about 100 people). He is undoubtedly the reason I got involved in the great sport of track and field. 

Here is that competition if you are looking for some inspiration today.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Life of Glamour

Does the life of a post collegiate pole vaulter appear glamorous? It depends on your definition of the term. Today I find myself dragging my feet. At some point during the week I tilted the wrong way while pulling on a rake, stood up with the wrong angle in posture, bent down to pick something up improperly, sneezed with my spine in a poor position, took a bad step on uneven ground without my lower abs flexed in a protective manner,  swung a hammer without tightening the right muscle groups, etc etc, the list goes on and on. One of these things, all of these things, a combination of these things, or even something I didn’t list and is totally out of my control or awareness took place, and now another set back.

These days come almost in a perfect sequence. I thought it was happening about every 6 weeks, but now it seems more like 4. The amount of questions and clues consuming my thoughts, hell bent on solving the mystery at hand, are countless. What did I do this time? I couldn’t tell you. But I can say that I know what to do now, I know where to go from here, and I know it will pass. As annoying and frustrating as it is every time, each time seems a tiny bit less terrible for my psyche. The repetition has become routine, and the thoughts of hopelessness are fewer. Next week, I will be right on track, but this week I’m sidelined.

There are things I can do physically even in the worst of states, I call it my “when in doubt list.” This is where I go to for sanctuary during these down periods. Particularly on this list is; endless pull ups, dips, and therapy. I can spend entire days on those and not aggravate or further inflame the damage already done.

Back to the Glamour; the holidays are a time for giving. I don’t have a dollar to spend on gifts. I had to borrow money this month to pay my bills, again. I have a third of a tank of gas in my car that I have been rationing for weeks because I have no other source of income to fill it again except the change in my ash tray, and that change is dear to me. I am 31 years old and moved back to my parents property. I workout mostly in there yard, and the storage building/workshop I am sleeping in. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to eat. Sounding Glamorous yet?

Part of the point I’m trying to get at, that almost seems lost in the text, is that people don’t appreciate anything, until it is taken away from them. In my case, health and money, neither of which I have ever truly had, but I’ve had more than this.

Even in my poor state, I have a great many things to appreciate, more than maybe I deserve, and I am forever grateful for them. I would list them, but that would take pages, pages and pages. So that being said, I am one blessed and fortunate dude.

Glamorous. My life is glamorous, and being a post collegiate vaulter is as well. At the end of this month I will travel to Los Angeles and get to teach kids how to pole vault along side of the Mexican National Record holder and his coach. The following week we will train together and share secrets of being successful athletes and human beings. Pole vault has introduced and adopted me into a family of people who are like minded, devoted, loyal, crazy, and most of all trustworthy. It has taken me to Europe 4 different times (and will again) to live, train, travel, and compete while seeing parts of the world I would have never known. I’ve run down the runway and found myself clearing bars in South Africa, Taiwan, and the majority of states in the US. I’ve carried my 17’ long bag with pride through packed airports to every kind of car you can think of, on bikes, skateboards, rollerblades and even my old motorcycle. I have performed in a Cave, Casinos, Gymnastics Gyms, Basketball Courts, The roof of a Parking Garage, Parking Lots, Warehouses, The Woods, Backyards, Volleyball Courts, over 7,000' of elevation, below Sea Level, and Malls, on Football Fields, Olympic Stadiums, Beaches, Streets, and even taken a few jumps into the sand and the water. From flaming crossbars, vaulting on wheels, tuxedos, costumes and even in the nude, I’ve done it all.
I am, and always will be, a Pole Vaulter, and I live a life of Glamour.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Number 18

             18 is an awesome number. 18-steps has been my competition approach for 12 years now (even though I plan to make it 20 steps this season).
             18, on the 18th of this month marked 5 months I’ve gone without a drop of alcohol, holding to my commitment to make it through the games. I tell you what, 3 weeks ago on my 31st birthday I was pretty bummed about not getting a delicious birthday beer, a glass of wine with thanksgiving dinner, and the holidays in general without seasonal this, and spiced that, don’t seem near as cheery as usual. But still, I’ve got to pat myself on the back for the show of commitment to this 2012 season.
             18, I can remember my first 18’ vault back in 2003 at the Reno Pole Vault Summit. A huge barrier broken. I weighed 175lbs, I was 22 years old, wearing a helmet in honor of Kevin Dares memory, on an 18-step (9 left) run, on a 16’ 195lbs (15.9 flex) pole holding around 15’6”. Not bad. Suddenly I was ranked #1 in the NCAA (that only lasted a few weeks), and was on the IAAF World Rankings top 10 because it was so early in the year (also only lasted about a week, but still awesome). 
            18, on my 18th Birthday I had just returned home from my first official college recruiting visit to Idaho State University, and knew that I didn’t need to go on any other visits. I was 18 years old when I signed scholarship papers with an NCAA Division 1 program (a huge dream come true). I was 18 years old when I moved 650 miles away from my friends, family, and home in pursuit of glory. 
            18 is the number of days since I pole vaulted last. With all that’s gone on during those days, jumping hasn’t seemed so important. In the back of my mind there is a creepy little voice that keeps telling me that my next vault session will be garbage do to the fact that I took so much time off, lost all that weight, and am feeling overall, to coin the phrase, “out of shape”. I don’t have my journal handy, but I think that I have been back at it for 4 or 5 days now, and I must admit, day 1 and 2 took a toll. That being said, I only took around 2 weeks off. Granted this is probably not the best time of year to be taking time off, but looking at the big picture, two weeks is nothing, and it was essential. So why the stress and needless regret? Seems a bit juvenile now that I look at it in text. I should be good to go.   
            The last few times I have been on the runway I have not felt strong, or fast, and that bothers me. Strong, I am, fast, I’m not so sure, but I’m working on it.  I’m hoping it has something to do with me being so tired. I’m making an effort not to rest for vault workouts as much as I did in the past. Once you start jumping during the season, it seems like you are constantly resting for vault days to keep the quality at a high level, but in time as the season goes on and the volume of jumping increases (competition and practice combined), you spend so many days vaulting, your spending too many resting, and not keeping a handle on your fitness level, at least I don’t. It’s a problem I’ve encountered many times in the past. So I’m trying not to do that as much, and to make up for the lack of rest, take less jumps in sessions so they are performed at a high level before I run out of gas and just go through the motions, which will create bad habits. Not to mention the fact that it is also a form of injury prevention or in my case injury protection and maintenance.
            I may jump this week, I may not. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it if I do.
Always Keeping it Classy, Litchfield out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rest for the Wicked

           Today I am shaking off a feeling of guilt that has been following me around for 11 days. I don’t like to rest, even when it is needed. Part of that is because of my background as an athlete. In high school and college I was always surrounded by the hard working type.  I can’t speak for my coaches but it always seemed like the mentality shared by the programs, I was fortunate to be a part of, has always been something along the lines of “the kids who train till they puke, are the kids that become champions.” As far back as I can remember being involved in sports I realize now that I have always clung to the strongest in the group, competing with them in workouts as if something was at stake, in turn pushing each other to the vomit threshold and beyond. Even in my youth, I knew that this was the only way I could become the best at what I was doing. It paid off and left a hunger for training inside of me that is hard to keep full. Now as an injured old man I have to tell myself things like “less is more” and “rest is best”. Bull shit like that, I hate it. I wish my crappy body could just keep up with my ambition. But just like my mentor Dave Nielsen always says, “You play the cards your dealt.” Some of the best damn advice you can give an athlete. What a wise old man he is. I miss him, I miss my ISU family. Eleven years of my life I spent with that group, that’s a considerable chunk of time. But I’m off topic again, per usual.         
            Funny the number eleven came up again because that is the amount of time I have taken off. Granted I had like six or seven fillings done, and two wisdom teeth pulled, in one day, two states away. I mention the two states away thing because if I was an idiot and hurt my mouth or got dry sockets I would be a long way away from my dentist for repair. So I had to be sure I was healthy enough to start training again. If he lived down the street from me, the number four or five would be more prevalent in this post, describing the numbers of days I should have kept waiting before I started working out again. Thankfully this is not the case. Somehow the patience superceded my hardheadedness and desire to exceed my physical abilities leaving me rested and ready to start fresh.
            One thing that bothers me a bit is my weight. I tell you what, I know how you can make millions of dollars selling the next big time weight loss program. Here it is, convince people too pull a few teeth and they can sit back and watch the pounds fade away as they dream of the day when they could once eat solid food. I have been bouncing between 175-180lbs for months now. I weighed in once last week at 165lbs, then I stopped checking my weight. I’m sure it will come right back, but still, I worked hard for that ten pounds and I’d like it back. The muscle doesn’t stay on like it did when I was 20 years old. I hate to say it, but it sure falls off quick. You really have to be more consistent or more so, religious, with your training as an older athlete.
            The forced rest was probably just what I needed (along with fixing my grill). I’ve got so many injuries anymore I forget about some of them. They are all labeled with levels of awareness or validity. Some of them much more valid than an others, and must be addressed regularly, the others are forgotten or put out of mind. In essence, time off, never a bad thing for the body, but it is a hellacious stress on a state of mind that has been hardened by over twenty years of old school, tough guy coaches, training partners, and programs, and I absolutely love that I still haven’t lost it.   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pressure to Succeed

Well the start of December has been a trip to say the least. Starting in Northern California on November 30th, then hitting Boise, Idaho by car, flying to Portland, Oregon, driving to Dallas, Oregon, and now I will retrace my steps tomorrow arriving back home sometime Friday night December 9th.
The past week my mind has been racing. With too much idle travel and down time to think, my thoughts have a tendency to run wild. Things I have been looking forward too for months are right around the corner and the question of preparation is haunting me. I can’t stand that feeling, and I continue to try and fight it off. What will be, will be and I have to remain comfortable with the thought that I am doing absolutely everything in my power to be ready, knowing deep down that hanging onto that idea will continue to inspire more and more confidence. 
I must also admit that thoughts of the future have been creeping in as well. I’m staying with a friend and former training partner of mine who has really done it right. When he retired from the sport he dedicated years of stress and financial agony to becoming a dentist. With that long road behind him, he has a beautiful family, life, and home. I look up to him now as a successful father, husband, and professional as I once looked up to him as a great athlete who helped inspire me to continue on this post collegiate journey that I still follow today. I hope that someday someone will think the same of me. I often wonder about people whose lives I have passed through that are younger than me. Did I inspire them in some way? I can only hope. Because many of them come to mind who inspired me, and are still inspiring me to this day. As a coach, sometimes I think I learned more from my athletes, than they learned from me.  
            Something else that has been on my mind that I thought I would share in hopes that it will reach someone out there. Briefly I would like to say a few words about the constant pressure an athlete can put on themselves because of the expectations they think others have for them. Friends, family and coaches are usually (hopefully) great support systems, but it is easy to use there support against you if you are dwelling on the possibility of disappointing them with a poor performance result. I too find myself doing this from time to time, even worrying about the expectations of people outside of my inner circle. In these moments I have to remember what my parents always told me from the time I was a child playing club soccer all the way through my post collegiate pole vault career. They would say (and still do) “We love you just the same, no matter the results, and we are proud of you for having the courage to come this far, win or lose.” Those are powerful words, and true. Someone out there loves you no matter how bad things get or how much you might think you suck that day, they don’t think you suck, they think you are wonderful, feel pride in your presence and are happy to have you in their life, a result can't and wont change that. Keep that truth close to you always, because no matter how amazing you are, everyone has a bad day once in awhile, and it doesn’t have to be so bad. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick Update 12/3/11

Just a quick update.
      I only managed to clear my opening height in Boise of 5.15m (16'10.5") then made one classic error at the following bar that cost me all three attempts. I had a hell of a time in warm ups, so I was actually happy to be able to clear a bar, along with the jump looking halfway decent I'll count it as a successful day. The competition itself did teach me a sufficient amount about what I have been doing right, what needs improvement, and what's missing. I was pleased as I looked through the video and analyzed the situation, to see that these necessary adjustments in my training are fairly minor. Now with a one week lapse in my training schedule, due to a massive dental overhaul, it will give me plenty of time to put together a more structured plan to better prepare me for my next competition in January.  This weekend had a uneasy feel to it, like being blindfolded and hoping for the best. A gamble of sorts, but a gamble that has already paid out a valuable chunk of knowledge. When I set foot on the runway again it will be with renewed confidence and ability.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Northbound on I-95

Luckily at midnight last night my good friend was able to get my trusty side kick up and running again.  This may be the last vault season for the old Subaru. Without my buddy Steve (who honestly is more like blood), it was definitely beyond my ability to repair, and far beyond its worth in labor costs. But at 260K plus miles, it has risen from the dead once again, and carried my girlfriend and I over the Sierras, and across the Nevada desert as we trekked north to our most recent destination, Boise, Idaho. With a brief stop in Carson City, Nevada of course, you can’t drive past the factory of the finest vaulting poles in the world without stopping in to say hello. The good folks at UCS Spirit will always welcome you with open arms like family. Visiting the factory is a great treat, especially when you get the pleasure of walking out with a brand new pole that now has even more meaning after having seen its birth place.
So what’s new? I’m in Boise to compete in a small meet on Friday. Up until Tuesday I had only jumped from short approach runs, just a handful of times, since sometime in the first week of September. I decided if I got a chance to visit a facility with a long enough runway, and the weather played in my favor I would give the big run a chance this week. As it turns out, there is yet another great facility close by. I visited Bella Vista High school in Fair Oaks, CA. Once called home by Derek Miles, this facility puts most colleges to shame. Exciting as it was to follow in Big Rigs footsteps for a few hours, I was unable to put on such a show that would do him proud. Running from my full approach was difficult, even more difficult still since I added an extra 14 feet onto the end of it. With some patience, help from fellow vaulters and coaches, I finally managed to make the massive 140 foot long approach work. I’m pretty sure I’ve had running workouts with shorter distances than that. And honestly as low as I was gripping and on such a small pole, in a competition situation that approach will be more like 143 feet. Even after all that struggle I feel that the session ended well and the workout overall was a success.  
Now I have to decide what I want to get out of this weekend. I recently found out that the indoor qualifying window for the Olympic Trials does not start until Jan 1st. So any great mark I gain this weekend cannot be used to get me into that meet. However it is still a mark that can be used just about anywhere else, and will be a great chance for me to see where I am at in this stage of training when I am placed in a competitive setting. You can practice for thousands of hours, but you just can’t replicate the environment, situations, and personal reactions created in such a setting. Well maybe you can, but I can’t, meaning that competitions have become great learning tools for me, especially in the past 10 months as I have had to adapt such a great deal.  So on Friday, I hope I learn something good, or just rock the house. Either way, I’m certain I will walk away satisfied. Being back in Idaho, and getting to hang with brother is well worth the trip.

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Early Test

When the season starts to creep up on you, thoughts of doubt that were minor in earlier weeks, can start to grow rapidly. Did I run enough, jump enough, drill enough, lift enough, spend enough time in the gymnastics gym? The list can go on and on. I'm normally not one who dwells on that kind of useless drama. However, some indoor seasons I like to sneak in an early competition, and this season I chose to do so. With that early competition around the corner, some of those doubtful questions are starting to peak there heads over my wall of psyche. I'm dealing with them fine enough, but the breakdown in confidence frankly pisses me off a bit. Over the course of the day, I will put them to rest through routine, training, and meditation. I'm better than this.
The competition itself is really thrown into my mix of training as a Pop Quiz. Just checking to see where I'm really at, and putting no emotional investment in the result. I generally jump 17'-17'6" in these December meets historically. However, I plan to pop something over 18' at this one, not having jumped from a competition run since the first weekend in September. In prior years this may have been a tall order for me, but I'm different now, I expect more from myself, and I will get more. 
Most Universities have an early competition for there athletes before Christmas break. It is normally off the books and used as a test day. Boise State realized that if it was going to test its athletes than why shouldn't they sanction the meet and invite outside athletes in case something great happens. You never know, why take the risk without the reward? I feel the same way. So I've attended off and on for a few years now and always had a great time. The facility at Boise State University is phenomenal and jumping there is a treat. This year will be even more special for me because my brother is now the Pole Vault Coach at BSU. His presence there has motivated me to attend every BSU competition I'm allowed in. The combination of a great runway, and him in my corner will yield great results. 
So Dec 2nd, I test the waters before this 2012 season officially starts, and jump from a big boy approach for the first time in 3 months. Sounds like a party. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Things with Meaning

              What to say about living in Northern California again? Honestly I haven’t written lately because I haven’t had much to say. I think that part of it is the extreme comfort or contentment I’m feeling being back in the Mountains. A large part of my goal in coming out here may sound funny to some, but it is to find a sort of Spiritual, Psychological, and Emotional center and its proving as effective as I could have hoped. These elements of being an athlete are too often overlooked and the sometimes looming pressures and damages of physical training will tear down these most important facets of being a next level performer. When you are young you constantly beat yourself down with training to become the best, but as you get older in body I think you get stronger in mind. All the old Clichés start to add up and make sense, but dwelling on there meaning is a waste of energy, and forward thinking must be essential. I apologize for the tangent but the issue, in my opinion, is horribly overlooked.
Back to me….
My daily routine.
In the morning I wake up and build a fire. Its still in the 60’s during the day, but at night it gets chilly and colder weather is coming so evening and morning fires will become a must. The wood stove is right next to my recently built workout area. I do 3 sets of push ups, Ab curl ups (back injury friendly), Planks, Opposite arm opposite leg, Cat Camel (back therapy, flossing of the discs), then a reverse row (which is also therapy). I do this in a circuit everyday in honor of the importance of routine taught to me by Daniel Ryland. After that I eat a light breakfast and prepare for either a lower body session or an upper body session. Then I drink some protein, eat some lunch and head out to work on one of my many projects. The projects are a form of meditation for me, but I always make time during some part of the day to sit down and meditate on life and pole vault if even just for a few brief minutes. 
My upper body training has remained almost the same. It is all exercises on the rings only, with the aid of weight vests and weight belts to increase difficulty.  My lower body training has changed. I was spending a lot of time on the bike and the pool. But numbers showed that over the past year, I have gotten slower. I came up with some ways to have a more extensive focus on fast twitch and muscle recruitment in the water and out, but I don’t have access to a warm pool anymore. I also lost access to a stationary bike for now, but I will eventually get a bike trainer when I can figure out a way to make some money. Meanwhile, I do the same bike intervals at the same speed or higher on an actual bike going uphill, and it is a hell of a lot more fun. I do squats hanging weight between my legs from a belt, so it does not put any strain on my back. I also enjoy squats on the bongo board wearing a weight belt. The importance of stabilizer strength is also something constantly overlooked and is the key ingredient to all of my training.
 In place of the pool training I am doing speed work uphill. This is a bit more risky as far as injury management goes. But before I left Idaho to move to Minnesota I had slowly eased myself into stair and ramp/hill speed training with the idea that is was lower impact and a more logical stepping stone to get back to flat land running workouts. When I went to Minnesota I sort of lost site of that part of training and have decided to give it another shot. So far I have been able to handle it, and am very excited about that fact.
After a long talk with my good friend and fellow vaulter Robbert Jan Jansen of the Netherlands a few days ago, he helped me realize something. I’ve been running wrong. Alex Tapplin was the first to point out to me the vital importance of tilting my hips forward with a tight “ab brace” not only for better and more efficient running mechanics, but for the protection of my injury, giving me the ability to have a higher volume of running workouts and jumps. I know Alex and I were on task with that, but once the season started and the jumping took over, I lost focus of it. Since then, I have been dwelling on minimizing and removing all lower body impact from my training. When really I could have probably been spending all this time running, even if it was just in very short distances (like 10-20m) until I break form, then stop. The problem for me is taking things to far, which is a personality trait that has gotten me in trouble and also given me great victory. But that topic is for another day. The point is that I will run till way form breaks, then far beyond that point, putting heavy stress on my back as my hips turn out. This also happens at the end of vault sessions when fatigue and stubborn habits set in, creating a situation where severe damage can take place. Anyway, I am hoping to do this hill training for a few more weeks with 100% focus in sessions in my form and not in the volume or intensity of the workout, just the form. Beating this new physical stature into my subconscious so it becomes the only way I can run. Then I will take that new repair to the track and ultimately, to the runway, where I can only imagine how immense the benefits can be.
So that is what I am up too. I should have never said I didn’t have a lot to say. I guess I was wrong.

-Keep it Classy

Friday, November 4, 2011

Epic Drive, and New Training

So long drives are generally not a big deal for me, especially when you have two people. But if you have two people, two cars, that are both in need of major repairs, loaded to the ceiling, roofs rack pushed to the max, bike rack packing 4 bikes, and all four shocks completely bottomed out with a 1,900 mile drive ahead of you, racing the beginning of winter storms, this changes things a bit. It was rough to say the least, but we made it. The cars and weather thankfully held out for us and now the future is a brighter looking future into the unknown.
Settling in to our new place will take time. We are converting an old office into an apartment and it is going to take a lot of work but will benefit us and our family greatly when completed. The piece of property we are staying on is located in the Sierra Foothills, right in the middle of the trees. The weather is mild year round, and in the mornings I wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and the beautiful sight of massive Oak trees and hundred foot tall Pines. A welcome change. I can't think of better place to clear my mind completely and focus my full attention on this 2012 season.
In the upcoming month I plan to change gears in my training. The bike and pool training has been wonderful and gotten me this far. But a modification is needed as I have been labelled one of the slowest elite vaulters in the US. I've done my best to stay fast but I guess it hasn't been enough. I think that most of my lower body training thus far has been more of a maintenance phase. Rather than gaining any ground physically, I have just managed to hang onto most of what I had while it had slowly slipped away. Not that I could show you, but if you saw my bare glutes and upper ham and quad area, you would see the stretch marks that have replaced the areas of my legs that used to be several inches larger which falls right in line with notches in my belts that I have lost. I have come up with some ways to beef up my legs again. To squat again (hanging weight from a belt and standing on boxes), and to run again (uphill running and sled pulls do not hurt my back near as much). I'm hoping that these new methods will help me gain enough lower body and extra spine stabilizer strength used for the proper motion, to allow me to start doing real running workouts again. Only time will tell, but I am extremely optimistic about it.
I have not pole vaulted in over a month now. I finally feel physically able to do so, but I am choosing not too. The more time I have taken off, the more I realized that I don't need to be jumping. Technical focus and change is probably not what is going to grant me my dream come true. Staying healthy and injury free long enough to make significant strength and speed gains will. I know how to pole vault, it may look a bit ugly at times, and even scary to some hard core technicians. But pretty looking jumps are not historically what got people over 19 feet. It was raw power. A lot of the 19 foot makes over time, are some of the ugliest technical jumps ever, and even some of the athletes that accomplished them will admit it with laughter. I intend to join this group. When I clear 19 feet in competition, we'll all get a good laugh at how funny looking it is. But the bar will stay up, and that's all that matters.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Twist on Pain

I do like pole vault, well I love it. But I sure as hell don’t get to do it very often. Looking back in my journal, I can see that I attempted to piece together a session from a short run on October 4th, before experiencing a sharp pain in my Achilles. Then after a few weeks of therapy and recovery, the pain in my lower leg was nonexistent. I was feeling rather positive about being able to vault again. I even gave my self an extra few days to make sure. During one of those extra days, I bent over (like an idiot) to pick up a box, and I’m sure you have already guessed, hurt my lower back.  However sharp and sudden it may have been, the pain was not excruciating, directed to either side of my back, or ultimately debilitating. It was more like it spoke to me, in some sort of soft evil whisper, and said, “way to go genius, any bets on how long you’ll have to wait to jump now.” Then it laughed at me. It was something similar to a witches cackle actually, not fun laughter. The kind you hear that makes you hate the thing it resonates from. How rude I thought, way to rub salt in the wound.
 To state the obvious, I’m taking some more time off of jumping. I was a bit sad at first. But it dawned on me that it is October, and spending excess hours of vaulting, continuing to damage a back in need of some serious healing, is absolutely pointless for someone in my position. This is the perfect time of year to heal, by staying off of the runway, and carefully getting stronger and faster. Which is an interestingly challenging task in itself the majority of the time. Honestly I’ve probably gained more knowledge and skill through problem solving, by creating such unique training, than I have gained for actual vaulting. But that is beside the point I was trying to make. I don’t need to be vaulting right now, and all these little injuries and set backs keep reminding me of that. They are only taking time away from me on the runway and must be part of the plan, or they never would have happened. So I don’t see them as set backs, but necessities, reminders, and key learning points. Almost all of my regular physical training has been unaffected for the most part.  I am however, itching to be able to do real running workouts again, outside of a swimming pool that is, but all in good time I suppose. It is one of my training goals that continues too elude me.  I made it through an entire year without them and still managed to do pretty well, so I try not to dwell on it and still manage to work around it. Just another chapter in the story, the ending is already written. It’s the pages leading up to it that continue to keep me guessing. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A High Stress Gamble

My girlfriend said it best, “you live, you learn, and you move again.”
I’m not sure why but I have been sort of keeping my move to Northern California under the radar, but the word is getting out. I guess it is because I do feel like a bit of a failure. I left so many great people behind in Idaho that counted on me. I was part of something very special out there, and now I’m sort of lost. Moving to Minnesota was supposed to be a place where I could train full time and work part time but mostly take advantage of a year round indoor training situation. But things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to. Long story short, being here has become a very bad fit for me, and I feel that it is important to remove myself from the dynamic. I ignored far too many things for too long, and as everything started coming to a head I have finally realized the smartest thing for me to do, is get out.

Sure I could go back to Idaho, and the thought had occurred to me. But I left there to have more opportunity as an athlete. Where my career has led me physically, it was just becoming too difficult for my broken body to have the proper conditions to continue on as an athlete there, plus this deal with all its sugar coating, sounded so much sweeter. As a coach, things were great at ISU. But that part of my life currently needs to come second to my athletic goals. So, California it is.

The idea of going back to my home town has been growing inside of me for quite some time. Worldwide the notion of California is beaches and surfers, but it’s a pretty large state, and has much more to offer than just that. I grew up in the Mountains, and I belong there. Being away from them has been more difficult for me than I could have ever imagined. Being surrounded by tall trees and having year round access to rivers, cliffs, trails, and kick ass disc golf courses is the norm for me. In this, most likely final, season of my career as a Pole Vaulter I am finding more and more out about the importance of overall psychological well being, happiness, and spiritual oneness. These things, though mystical or silly as they may sound, are a critical part of success on the runway, and off of it.

So my journey to the Olympic stage now takes me on another epic road trip, this time 1,900 miles. My starter is going out and I’m leaking oil profusely. My girlfriend’s car will jump to massive RPM’s for no particular reason. It took the combination of every penny we had left and a personal loan to get us out of our rental lease. We are still responsible for 2 months of rent.  All gas costs of two cars traveling across the country will more than likely have to go on my credit card as well as shipping our belongings that don’t fit in our two cars. I don’t know exactly where I will be able to vault yet, close by, once I get there. I don’t have access to a traction table, therapeutic, or chiropractic help yet. I don’t have any way to make money nor does my girlfriend. I’m sure the scary fact list goes on, and with all that being said, I am little nervous about it.

Amidst it all, the future still looks brighter, if you can imagine that, and I know things will be fine once we get settled in. I have already contacted as many vault folks as possible in the area and am getting good feedback from them. I’ll be in a place where I am surrounded by good people who I can trust, and that fact alone gives me hope. Things will work out, as they always do, thanks to my family, friends, and the Pole Vault Community.

With a few days of delay, some stress, some laughs, patience, and pain, I will be right back on track and continue down this insane path that ends in London, England

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Having been in Jonesboro with Daniel and Mark has immersed me into a much greater rhythm. Instead of getting up in the morning and feeling like I am training alone all day, I can picture them hard at work hundreds of miles away, and feel like in a way, we are all training together. Mark said it best “like minded people, with a common goal”.  Hopefully this charge can last as long as possible. When it fades I will have to find a way to get back Jonesboro, or cross paths with my great friends again.  In the upcoming months it will become much more difficult to make such a meeting happen.
Meanwhile I am doing well. I’m growing stronger in mind and body each day, and the pain in my Achilles tendon is almost nonexistent. Thankfully I was around smarter athletes than myself when I injured it, and they talked me out of continuing to aggravate it through jumping. With the temptation of being in Jonesboro if front of some the greatest sets of eyes, it was extremely difficult to swallow my pride and sit on the sidelines. Now even with it feeling about 90% I still plan to give it another full week before I test it through some light running. There is no reason to push. The only change in my training it has created is that I haven’t been able to jump, nothing else has been interrupted. But honestly, I wasn’t getting much jumping done before it happened anyway. If it wasn’t the Achilles it was something else.
Although the season was a roller coaster, I was able to get through it and even end on a great note. My body was finally fed up, and has given me plenty of warnings to remain off the runway for a spell so that it can recover from the continuous   beatings I’m putting it through.  Vault sessions were becoming more strenuous. The effort I was forcing myself to put in was yielding lesser results and suddenly my poles had to be smaller and smaller so I could make it to the pit.
 My absence from the runway is already paying off. The chronic pain erupting from my left scapula has quieted down a great deal. The pain in the lower left side of my back and hip has decreased dramatically, and I have something close to 90-95% reflex response returned to my left leg as well as a complete lack of my normal numbing and tingling sensations it encounters throughout a normal day, meaning the pressure from the herniated discs on the sensory and motor portions of the nerve stems in question, are actually retracting. Is it my heel lift? The Spinal Distraction? The lack of vaulting? Therapy? Pool Work? The 20 different daily vitamins and minerals? Happiness? I don’t know, probably all of the above combined. What I do know is, I’m still training hard, the right way, I’m getting better, and I’m not going to change anything to disrupt it. Well maybe one thing in a few weeks, but we’ll get to that. I always tell my athletes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Now I’m taking my own advice, for once.  Imagine me healthy…….. Combined with who I have become. Scary. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Disconnect

Lately I've been questioning my immersion into technology. This is the reason for my absence in writing. Well one of many reasons. My journey has become crazier and more difficult than originally anticipated with this move to the Midwest. But that is life, unpredictable at all times. I'm here is Jonesboro, AR surrounded by the amazing group at Bell Athletics.
We traveled here together from Doctoberfest in Jamestown Kansas. A very special competition that raises funds for a club that doesn't charge fees to its members. What Doc does is very special and goes above how most clubs operate. I wish I could do more to support his efforts, he is an example we can all learn from.
 I come to Jonesboro to get what I call my pole vault recharge, as often as I can. Every time I'm able to stop in, I never want to leave. Being here always sets my mind at ease to all the stress thrown in my path both on and off the runway. When I leave I always feel like I have a little bit better plan, or rather a reinforcement of some my own ideas, with the addition of a few more, from people of whom I hold great respect. The conversations about pole vault and life that take place here go far beyond what you can read in a book or learn from a video. They are, to coin a catch phrase, "priceless".
Now with my new goals and direction I will head up north to continue training, and therapy. During my first vault session here a small tweak in my left Achilles has prevented me from jumping again. I will have to address this issue along with my back problems upon my return to the north lands. The good news is, both my lower and upper back issues have been under control for the past few days which is promising. Normally when i get in this situation of feeling good, I do too much and start moving backward again. As my achilles is flared up, it will prevent me from being over active and hopefully give my back the extra time it needs to continue to heal properly.
I would like to partially disconnect from all this technology. I know its a stretch as communication of all levels now fits neatly in your pocket and follows you all day long like a lost dog that won't stop crying. While I was here I told my friends, if I had it my way I would just jump in my car and drive deep into the mountains for an unknown period of time with no electronic devices or books. I would just train and train and train. Running workouts uphill and upstream, upper body and core workouts using ropes, rings, rocks and trees. Climbing and scrambling around on any surrounding rock formation and suitable tree, like a playground for an adult. If I was not training I would meditate, sitting still, or in motion, on walks, hikes, and climbs. When I returned from those hills, I would be a different kind of athlete.
Without commitment, these types of wild ideas are much more available to us. But you can always argue that its the commitments that teaches us both responsibility and direction.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wanting for an Extended Stay

So I've been in Idaho since Thursday morning, and I'm leaving on Wednesday. To be honest I don't want to go. I'd rather put my girlfriend on an airplane and bring her to me. I've mountaineered thousands of feet, been cliff jumping, hiked up a river, played countless holes of disc golf, worked out in a gymnastics gym, and most importantly spent every minute of it with my friends who are more like family.
Being in Minnesota has not really turned out the way I would have liked and now that i'm back in a place that feels like home, I find myself dreading the day I need to leave. However being here, I realize that I am surrounded by distractions. The outdoor activities are near limitless and staying on task as an athlete sometimes gets difficult when the mountains are constantly calling my name. The relationships I have here will last a lifetime and every time I leave is hard.
The seclusion Minnesota presents has been important to me as an athlete. Being obsessed with outdoor activities and living somewhere with a limited amount of them keeps my mind focused on my therapy, my training, and my jumping. I have been lucky to find medical and therapeutic help from caring people.  But recently it hasn't been enough. It's so much more expensive than I'm used too, and making ends meet is difficult. If not for one family in particular and my girlfriend, I probably would have had to leave by now. I don't like relying on other people to survive. I try to ignore these things and remain tuned into the real reason I am there, but lately it has been hard.
Upon my return I will immerse myself in the training once more and become the emotionless robot needed to succeed. It's not near as fun, but it is necessary. No matter what happens in the next few months, I won't allow any outside interference to get in the way of my athletic goals. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Session with a Legend

I'm down at Oral Roberts, and I had a unique opportunity to work with legend Joe Dial. The trip has been great. Its always nice to get some new feedback from some one you respect. Joe gave me some awesome input and fresh ideas. They are things that i have worked on in the past, but as vaulting goes, one thing leads to another and you lose focus on a technical issue that you know at one point was very important. Luckily Joe gave me a pleasant reminder. This time around I'm keeping much closer tabs on my journal and documentation of important days, such as these, will be re-reviewed regularly rather than forgotten.
I have also been extremely focused on a few things that i I think can gain me a few inches in upcoming months without dramatic changes to my technique or state of mind. They are regarding what length pole I will be sticking with during the 2012 season, what length approach, and what is optimal for me, not everyone else. Every vaulter is unique and finding your own formula for success is important. It was great to hear input about these ideas i have been leaning towards from such a renowned vaulter and coach. It will only build more confidence in which path I choose to take.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Week Off

So today I started I new therapy for my back. It's something simple called a traction table. You may be familiar with the term. From all the things I've heard and research I've done, this is the route I need to take if I want to continue to be an athlete. Regardless of my success this season despite the odds, some better odds would be nice. These relapses continue to set me back weeks at a time. Without medical insurance, or money, access to something like this is difficult to find. But as luck would have it, some one with a big heart and his own story of survival as a post-collegiate athlete has opened the doors of his practice to me, and is determined to help get me healthy. I am very optimistic about this new path. One thing that is a bummer is that I have to take a week off of training during these first sessions. Not necessarily because of the treatment, but because I never take time off unless i am severely injured. So I agreed to stay nonactive for the remainder of the week.
Training is like medicine to me, without it, I get a little crazy. I have a hard time understanding lazy people. The idea of sitting around in front of the TV or gaming system for hours on end sounds like torture to me. Winter is bad enough, even then I find ways to remain outdoors and entertained, I can't imagine confining ones self all year like that. Anyway, now I have to keep myself busy for a week without irritating my back or working out. This will prove to be a special challenge, but I believe in the why, and am excited about the idea of being pain free some day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Birth of 2012

It's been almost a week now since my ankle had a small argument with a pole vault standard. As beautifully rainbow colored as it is, it is healing quite well. Wednesday I was able to complete my regular stationary bike sprint workout, and today I was able to complete my regular pool running workout. If I had a competition this weekend, I think I would be able to compete. That not being the case, I am taking some time off the runway despite the fact that I am dying to get back on. Colorado was a huge eye opener for me, and its been on my mind everyday since. Normally I would be concerned that I need to get back on the runway and repeat this feeling or realization that took place. However looking back it seems more like an epiphany, and I believe it is something that will stick regardless of how soon I revisit my favorite task. This makes me very at ease.

Meanwhile, after my first hard training day, my back is already in a fuss. Not changing anything in my training regiment I realize that something I have been doing has been irritating it, and I have been choosing to ignore it. I must weed this little devil out of my workouts in order to once again mold my program into something that is worthy of producing an Olympian with such severe back problems. Each time I change it, I feel that much closer to perfecting it. But maybe it is something that cannot be perfected and has to constantly change, as I change. Either way, Alex and I already have ideas of what it could be, and have made modifications that look promising. Time is running out and every little detail counts. Ten months until the Olympic Trials. Just ten short months.
If you have ever been a Post-Collegiate or even Collegiate Track and Field athlete, you know that years don't end and begin in December and January for us like they do for the rest of the world. They end and begin in August and September.
Colorado was my final competition of the 2011 season. With its conclusion, the birth of 2012 began. As I drove away from there, I realized that on that day I began what is probably the last season of my career. After swallowing hard and choking back the tears welling up in my eyes, I looked down the long highway in front of me, and told myself; what I do next, will be legendary. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Finally, A Win! 18' in Colorado.

Bear with me as I am a little delirious still from the 1,100 mile drive that delivered me home around 5am this morning.
What an awesome trip. How did I manage to win the Colorado State Fair Vault after driving for 2 days, and being the MC for the 2 competitions leading up to the elite group? I'll tell you how. I didn't try hard, because I couldn't. I was sitting under the tent announcing and my thoughts immediately went back to my time with Daniel Ryland, and one conversation specifically, warm ups. People take way too many warm up jumps. If your step is on, its on. Attempting to make a bunch of technical adjustments in the warm up used to be logical to me, but now I only see it as energy lost or wasted. All you need is a consistent step. Wasting all your energy trying to find a jump that feels right in the warm up, is pointless, and I see that now. Being guilty of this in the past myself, I knew that on Saturday I didn't have the ability to take such a warm up. So my plan was simple, do as little as possible to be confident I can perform. My warm up was approximately, 4 build ups, and 3 jumps from 18steps. That's it, no drills, pole runs, short run jumps, 10 minute jog, active warm up, etc. Once my step was close to on, I was done. Then I took 8 jumps in total in the competition. 2 at 16'6", 1 at 17', 1 at 17'6", 1 at 18', and 3 at 18'5". It felt like a great formula. Normally vaulters want to get all pumped up, and charged on adrenalin, I was literally falling asleep between jumps. I was beyond relaxed, I was down right sleepy. But my mind so empty, so clear. It's not that I didn't care, but I felt so calm it could almost be confused as indifference. It's too bad I was unable to clear a new PR at 5.61m as my jumping basically fell apart when the bar went up. But the competition was a great learning day for me, and I have lots of valuable information to fill my journal with, and am dying to jump again and use this knowledge.
This meet proved to me once more that I am on a journey of the mind and not the body. I am able to do physical feats now with a broken body, that proved difficult in the past for me even when I had a physical fitness level that the likes of super heroes would strive for.
For those of you who saw pictures or text about my foot, yes I did crash in the standards on my final vault of the evening and sprain my ankle. Its fat and hurts a bit, but its no big deal. I've done this before to a much larger degree, and I know this new injury will pass soon. Besides, time off my feet will not only help my ankle, but it will help my back as well. And when I do return to my regular training, it is all close to zero impact, the two injuries having similar rehab and fitness methods I'm not too concerned about it. It couldn't have come at a better time if it was going to happen at all. I actually feel like its someones way of telling me to chill out and not feed off the energy of the meet by taking too many jumps in the upcoming weeks and create more problems in my back. So for a guy with a fat ugly foot, I'm actually feeling completely centered and surprisingly enough, happy about it. I know that this is exactly how things are supposed to be at this moment in my story, and in the final pages I still foresee my happy ending. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Problem Solving

Today I leave Minnesota for my last competition of the season. Outdoors has proven to be quite a challenge. Not knowing what to expect in the beginning, I was happy just to be able to compete at all. After some moderate success indoors, I was unable to match even my third best performance. Looking back I need to understand where I went wrong. Searching my journal for a pattern I'm hoping to find the key. Before I left Idaho I achieved health to a point where I had little to no back pain, no numbness in my leg, and full reflex response returned. Without too much detail, this is no longer the case. I'm actually feeling closer to where I was this time last summer. Did I get greedy with jumping? Most likely. I love to vault, and when you start, it's hard to stop. "Just one more" that is a common term among vaulters. One more, generally turns into 5-10 more in a session, and when you have a cap on your jumps for injury reasons, one more should probably be one less. No one likes to end a workout on a bad note. But that is the nature of the sport. A pole vault competition ends in failure every time, for every athlete including the winner. You end on a miss, or you quit. It does take its toll on the psyche regardless of whether you admit it or not. In some ways you can argue that you never really win, you may have beaten every competitor, but the event itself beats you every time. Maybe that's what makes it so addictive, well one of many reasons. But I'll leave that topic for another day.
I have been greedy, i'll admit it. After this most recent injury I gave myself enough time to feel functional again, but not pain free, or numb free, if that makes sense. The other night I did a warm up and took a few jumps to see where I was at. The session actually went pretty well. Jumping from 6 and 8 total steps, I wound up on a 15' 9" 185 without the aid of spikes. This was a welcome surprise. My plan was to jump the following day from a competition run and prepare for Colorado. The next day I came in and had a mediocre session from an 18 step approach. It was less than ideal. I think that right now I can jump the same height from 10 steps as I can from 18 steps. Doesn't make sense, but I will still compete from 18 steps on Saturday, giving myself the best chance I have of catching a big jump. Since that session i have been unable to walk for more than 100m meters without having to stop. My leg goes numb and the sharp nerve pain travelling down my back and leg creates an uncontrollable limp that I know will only create more problems if I continue to walk. So I stop and do some goofy therapy to take tension off the nerve so I can walk another 100m or so until I reach my destination. How is it possible that i can't go for a long walk to clear my mind, but I can sprint down a runway  at speed, with a 16'5 or 16'9 pole in my hands and rep vaults for up to an hour at a time? It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense logically. But that is who I am now. A strange place in my life, I am confused on where to go from here. Some days get so hard, part of me screams for relief, just give this up. It would be so easy, to quit. So much free time, so many possibilities. Then I remember, there is nothing else I would rather be doing than this. The greatest challenge in my life to date and possibly of all time, has been laid before me. I can't walk away from it now. I have to win, I will succeed. In order to do so, I have to constantly change. This transformation is ongoing and each week presents new obstacles and problems to solve. I must continue to adapt in body and mind. I don't consider myself to be a genius by any means, but even as a child I have always been an exceptional problem solver. Big or small, I always find a way. The equation or puzzle that was once on paper or laid in front of me, is now my life, and I will eventually cross paths with its solution as long as I remain on the journey.
Colorado is a enormous challenge all its own. I have taken the job as MC for the entire day. It's a paid job, and I can't turn down the money. I was happy to do it last summer as I could not compete, and I had a great time being on the other side of the microphone. I did my best to fill in the gaps where I felt other MC's failed in the past. It was draining and a task. After being on the Mic for 5-6 hours this year, I will attempt to jump and continue to ramble on the mic while running a music playlist that I prepared. I feel like this could go 1 of 2 ways. I will be completely drained and unable to clear a bar, or I will be so tired with such low expectations that I will remain relaxed and care free enough to yield an outstanding and unexpected performance. Either way, with the MC gig, or without it, the odds are still against me. So why not take some guaranteed money, roll the dice, and have some fun. So I leave today to begin an 1,100 mile drive, knowing all that. I'm a huge underdog, still with the confidence that anything can happen, and I am going there with the mind set that i can win.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I am dying for a fix. A fix of fear that is. Putting myself into situations of peril has always been a part of my life. Calculated risk keeps you on your toes, and it makes life taste just a little sweeter every time you walk away with it. I have given these things up in pursuit of a dream, my last big push. Given up them all, except vaulting of course, which was recently taken away from me, but I've almost got it back as well. I meant the other things, the outlets as I like to call them. Throughout my career I have argued that without these outlets I would have never of made it this far as a pole vaulter, and I may still have been right. But I'm taking the other route. The one I never was willing to take before. Now in the "twilight" of my physical gifts, I feel that it is an action worth taking, removing all unnecessary risk of physical harm to my body. A wise decision, maybe. Boring, indeed, so boring.
My list of outlets is extensive, but they usually involved a defiance of gravity and/or a great deal of speed. Common bonds between my favorite thing in life, and its close relatives. I love being up in the air, off the ground, at high elevations, and even higher speeds. The aversion to gravity awarded me many injuries and a few broken bones, the draw to speed honored me with a few visits with some honorable judges. Yet none of that has ever been enough to push me away from them. They are who I am, and part of how I came to be. Giving them up will prove to be more and more difficult as the months go on. Times of stress and even seasonal depression have been easily curable on the cliffs, slopes, jumps, roads and more. Now my outlets must be mild, limited, and that fact alone scares me more than any of them ever could. I know deep down, the time is right and the sacrifice will be justified.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 4 of Eternity

I woke up this morning feeling close to normal. The term normal for me does not mean healthy, or healed, it means able. I don't expect to feel completely healed for the rest of my days. I made a choice to pursue what I love with a great many sacrifices, feeling healthy is one of those sacrifices. So I felt close to normal this morning, able, functional. I envy those post collegiate athletes that feel healthy. The two terms used together seem to be somewhat of an enigma, healthy athlete and elite athlete. I'm not sure that many exist. Everyone works around a physical problem or more, not to mention the psychological ones, but that is a discussion you could write a book about. What was the point I was trying to make initially? Sometimes I think the coffee takes over the writing for me. Oh yes, so normal, for me, is waking up with pain that subsides as the morning goes on, some numbness in my left leg that comes and goes throughout the day. But I work around it, and I do pretty dam good still if you ask me. Regardless of how I feel today. Impact is still not an option. I may be able to get away with it, but that's a gamble and could set me back even further. Kind of like the idiotic move I made on Friday by vaulting after I couldn't bend forward for 2 days to tie my shoes. I lost the smart athlete inside, and the younger, dumber, yet crazier side came out to play. Now the smart one has to deal with the boring, tedious aftermath. But my upper body will pay a small toll today at least.
These 4 days in chains have taken forever. Getting hurt right in the middle of a turning point in my season, or career really, is beyond frustrating and maintaining that momentum, and power of mind has been a most unwanted but manageable challenge. I'm ready to hop off these metaphoric dreary side roads with 25mph, school zone, speed limits, and take the on ramp to my highway of glory where I just recently removed all speed limits.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fit and Bored

So i'm starting day 3 of no activity, and last night, I realized how fit I really am. Each night its gets harder to fall asleep. With each day of rest, my body heals and recovers, and the excess energy has been building up like a nuclear reactor, and I honestly want to explode. I am dying to train again. It's only been 3 days??? In the past I would welcome the free time and time off. But I'm different now. The training and jumping is everything to me, and I want it back right away. I'm not rushing into it, and I won't make the mistake of too much too soon. Time has become a much more important factor in my life. The following is an excerpt from an email I recently wrote to a friend.

"My newest conundrum in meditation is that I perceive time differently than i have in the past. Time is no longer just a chronological measurement for me, its a unit of energy. When I look at the months in front of me I don't just see the short amount of time leading up to the trials, I see the limited amount of energy available. I am the battery and my life is the system. How much energy can the system create to store in the battery, and how much of that energy can I use for the end game, the trials? There is only so much energy available in those 11 months. How much gets wasted on unnecessary action? Too much. Energy lost to injury, drinking, late nights, stress, work, drama, etc. I'm attempting to steal all this wasted energy back from now on. It will be used for, training harder, recovering, getting proper rest, buying better food, cooking healthier, an overall healthier diet, hours of meditation, hours of therapy and more.
This is a large part of the transformation i'm experiencing and it's difficult to share with people. Honestly some of the things I'm feeling, I can't describe yet. But I'm working on understanding them better myself.

With this said, you can see why locking myself inside my house has become the driving force towards insanity over the past few days. I am making progress and feel I will be back on my feet within a week. But until then, keeping my motivation at bay creates a whole new challenge all its own. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Brief Rest

I have been in go mode for about a month now and have been making amazing gains both physically and mentally. Charged and ready to jump again I may have gotten carried away. Something happened in my back last night that I chose to ignore and brush it off so that I could have my normal day of training today, taking me one step closer to my goals. However, my back pain did not allow for that, and find myself struggling to sit down, stand up, or bend any direction. Spending the rest of the evening laying on the floor of my living room, with my legs up on the couch, my hips and knees properly placed at 90 degree angles, I assumed the position. The only position I know that can get me as close to pain free as possible. I did not turn the TV on, or the stereo. I felt sick to my stomach with thoughts of what lay ahead. How many days will this take? Will I be ok to compete in Colorado? Will I lose the feeling I just recaptured when I pole vault? It didn't take me long to realize that dwelling on these questions was meaningless, but answering them briefly and moving on could prove quite productive. I've been in this situation before, and it just takes some time. With major injuries there are always small relapses, and that's all this is. I can hang onto to the technical and psychological breakthroughs i've made in the past month as long as I remain focused and positive. With down time I will be able to spend even more hours meditating and visualizing where I would like to see myself, during the vault, healing my body, and walking through life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Blur of Consciousness

Where do I begin......
I could write 100 pages about the past 11 days. This trip was exactly what I needed. I'm going to have to split this up a bit. To be honest my thoughts are extremely scattered. This is probably because I recently woke up from over 20 hours of slumber.
When I left my home in Minnesota (home? more like, place of residence) on Wednesday Aug 3rd I drove 600 miles to Crystal City, MO for 2 days of camp and one day of competition.
Then on Aug 7th I departed on a 200 mile drive to Jonesboro, AR.
After a day of rest and a day of training, we hopped in the subi and headed 600 miles to Concordia, KS. for 2 days of camp.
From there we headed to Henderson, KY 640 miles away on a friday, competed Saturday, then I left there alone at midnight after the competition to drive 750 miles back to Burnsville, MN where i arrived 13 hours later, unpacked, ate some food, and went into a coma for about 22 hours I think.
I'm awake now, and super motivated. Close to 2790 miles of travel (without counting all the short daily trips in between) upwards of 49 hours in the driver seat of my car gave me all kinds of time to think and reflect on the ongoing journey of my life. Everything that took place, happened exactly the way it should have. I learned and experienced a great deal, and in the midst of it all, I realized that I'm going to jump 19 feet, and that's not even the end of the story.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vaulting in a Cave.

The past few days has been an amazing experience. The Cave Vault was the most unique pole vault event I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. Hats off to the Motley Crew Vault Club, and Andrew Amsden for putting together such a remarkable venue. I can't imagine the time, and commitment it took to make such a thing possible, and I can't wait to get back there. The Cave environment was awesome. From photos you can only catch a glimpse of it. The truth is, when we were in there we barely scratched the surface of it. That Cave is 6,000,000 square feet, and 200 acres, 180 of those acres being an underground lake. I'll say again, amazing. Being in such a wonderful atmosphere around true pole vault fans is hard to describe and a delight for the senses. I drove right on down when i arrived, set up camp and lived there for almost 5 days, with the occasional outing to shower and play disc golf of course.The temperature of the cave was a chilly 58-62 degrees. A bit cold if you were sitting, not bad if you were standing or walking, and perfect if you were being active. They had very large pits, but the feeling of running down a tunnel surrounded by the earth gave me a strange sensation of being safe, like being held. I felt beyond comfortable taking jumps there. A truly magical place.
Another notable item was that I broke my streak, my No Height streak is over. The previous 6 events I had attended ended for me in the failure to clear a bar. This meet was different. I was able to make 16', 16'6", 17' , and 17'4". My goal for the competition was to relax, really relax. And I did, and it worked. I felt like i could have jumped much higher than the numbers show, but it was high enough on the day, and I was extremely happy to make some bars.
I couldn't resist the temptation to drive 200 miles south, after the meet, to hang out at Bell Athletics and spend a few extra days with one of my favorite people in the world, Daniel Ryland. The pole vault energy here is unparalleled, and if you've been here, you understand. After a few days of pole vault recharge, I plan to head back to Missouri and do some climbing (body, mind, and soul therapy) then off to Kentucky to put on a great show at the Jumpin and Jammin street vault, now that I've got my head screwed back on straight and held up high.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Everything You Can

I am not one to think backward, but sometimes it can have a useful purpose. If you think back on your career as an athlete can you say “I did everything I possible could to be the best I could possible be.” I don’t think many people can say that honestly. Somewhere along the timeline you made a compromise, or many. You did something you knew wasn't in the best interest of your career. It could have been one occasion, it could have been several occasions, it could be something you are doing right now, yesterday, 10 years ago. Without that compromise, could you have……..
The idea is not to dwell on the thing you know held you back in the past, it’s to learn from it. If you plan to press on in your career you know now that you can choose not to compromise, not to conform. You can remove that crutch from your life, or you can continue to try and work around it without the outcome you so desire. If you are not willing to give it up, you are not truly dedicated to your dream.
That dream, the one that has always been your ultimate fantasy. When you close your eyes and see yourself there, it’s magical, amazing, but far away, and bordering impossible. The sacrifices that must be made along the way are what make the impossible dream a very possible reality. Imagine, living your dream. It’s a cliché heard regularly in normal conversation, but what does that really feel like. It must be so overwhelming and beautiful. Like the warmth of the sun on your face after a cold hard winter. This is a feeble metaphor, for words and phrases are likely not enough to describe the bliss of it. To really know it, you are the only one who can understand it, by closing your eyes and being there.
You can live your dream. But you must let go of everything holding you back. Everything. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

A "Full-time Athlete"

As a season progresses your training must taper off as an athlete in order to peak at the right time. When you practically compete year round, finding that peak point continues to be rather difficult. You have to decide when you think it should take place, months in advance. Then when it passes, for better or for worse, you are normally competing for several more weeks or even months. I tend to lose a great deal of weight during the tapering period, anywhere from 8 to 12 pounds. Losing that weight can give you confidence and take it away. "I'm ten pounds lighter so I should be able to get more pop out of the same poles." "I'm ten pounds lighter, so I must be weaker" These are just a few examples. But it is nice to be bigger. Not just the physical strength but the poise that comes along with it. You walk taller. I used to be 180-185 most of the year. Since I have been injured I have been between 170 and 175. When I returned from a training camp in South Africa in 2007 I was 195 lbs and 3% body fat. The biggest I have ever been, and it felt great. I felt so confident and powerful walking around, but the vault was not so great. I didn't know how to manage the strength. It only lasted a month anyway after my return home, as i quickly shed the pounds with the onslaught of work, coaching, and other life related stress that literally sucks the strength right out of you. Probably for the better though cause as the weight fell off, my results were higher as I jumped 5.55m by the end of the spring season before I tried to land on the standard and rip the insides of my left ankle and lower leg into fragments of what was once a beautifully operating piece of equipment. But I'm getting on a tangent again, and some misdirection, apologies. For 5.55m is meaningless when you think of 5.90m, which is what I thought I was capable of upon my return, and the size poles I was jumping on were big enough to do just that. The point I was getting at was, that when i was in Africa, I had no job, I had not a single responsibility outside of training and vaulting. I worked out twice a day, 7 days a week, including Christmas and new years. I ate right, and a lot, and I didn't have to pay for it. Eating healthy gets expensive.
 I remember asking myself, "is this how Olympic Athletes get so good? Is this the definition of a full-time athlete?" The light bulb was suddenly turned on. It made sense at the time, and I made a vow to myself to do my best to remain a full-time athlete upon my return to the US. Well, as you can guess, that never happened. Regular life took over once again, and the superior athlete, out of body experience, was soon over. Never again had I felt it, what I like to call  "full-time athlete". Recently I have decided to try and achieve this goal once again. I have no money coming in and hardly any money going out, my bank accounts are wiped clean and my credit card balance is evolving into something scarier than the monsters in your closet that made you pull your blanket over your head as a child and cower in fear. However, I still think I can pull it off (not the blanket, but the whole full-time athlete gig). I am making great sacrifices already and removing all unwanted drama and stress from my life, unnecessary expenses, and distractions. My commitment level jumped from like an 8 to a 10. 10 being a level that I never knew myself to be truly capable of. If you know me, you know I don't like commitment, in any way. It takes away a feeling of freedom that I hold very dear to my heart. After all these years, I'm finally ready to let that freedom go and this tells me a great deal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beyond a Turning Point

I feel like writing something. But I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a feeling or recognition of sorts. I can’t tell you how it happened or why. It just did. It was like I’ve been asleep for so many years, and I finally woke up. Something has changed inside of me and it is powerful. I’ve felt it growing stronger for some time now as it has finally erupted. You’ve heard descriptive terms used over time, a moment of enlightenment, the breakout principle, a waking of the mind, etc. There are times in ones life where you have a glimpse of it, or more than just a glimpse. I am experiencing something extremely profound and I feel that it has forever changed me.
You may be reading this thinking that I am mad or confused. However, I have never felt so sane, and even the term sanity feels more variable then it used too. The path to the future I desire has always been in front of me, I just never truly could see it, or understand it until now. The blinders have been removed. The why is becoming clearer. It points to a chain of events in the past month, 6 months, year, decade, life. To write it and read it even now looks strange to the eye, but makes perfect sense in my mind.  
I had a term I used to write in my journals, notes, and even phones. It was a term I created for me, and for me alone. I didn’t often share it, or try to rationalize it with others. It was the part of me trying to get out, the part I have needed most. I have been in a constant battle with myself for so many years, and that battle has finally been won.
That term was, “be the person trapped in your mind.” I have finally become that person. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Power of the Little Things

It’s strange how something so small can be so meaningful. Holding your head up, who would of thought. I don’t mean the term “hold your head up” I mean the physical act of holding ones head up. Picking your chin up when you are down. If you are feeling mentally, emotionally or physically defeated you will notice that you are looking at the ground. You don’t pick your head up to speak to people, look forward, or have positive focus on the future. You have to catch yourself doing it. It could be a hard emotional day, it could be a workout that is kicking your ass, it could be your work, or your studies, you’ll notice now, you will be looking down. Pick your head up, it is a demonstration of confidence. It is an announcement to the world that you cannot be broken. It is the switch that flips your state of being from the path of defeat to the path of triumph.
Your head should be up, between intervals, before an exam, a business meeting, a date, an interview, after a race, a workout, a fight, or a loss, when you get out of bed, before you go to bed, when you walk out your front door, when you leave work, when you see yourself in the mirror, you get the idea. The term gets thrown around a lot but its roots have great meaning that we often forget, and its practice can help you accomplish amazing things.
If you read this, that is your homework. In any situation, pick your head up and stare at the moment with confidence and supremacy as if it were your enemy. You will radiate energy all around you that states, “I cannot be broken.” 
Such a small physical act, yet, so much power.