18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good and Bad Memories of Reno and other Heart Breakers

The first time I jumped 18' was in Reno in 2003, and it was my first competition of the season my 4th year in college.
The first time I wore a tuxedo speed suit in competition was in Reno in 2005. It was black with long sleeves and full length legs. It was an idea I came up with while playing disc golf. I thought I could maybe modify a suit or tux from a thrift store, then I remembered someone. When I took my letter jacket to a local seamstress to be worked on, I noticed strange items of clothing around her house, small items. I inquired about these garments and it turned out that she can't live off of high school kids sowing money, and her main business was making spandex, Velcro, zipper, and snap tear away outfits for the bulk of the strippers in Sacramento California. It had been 7 years since I last saw her, but I figured if anyone could make it happen, she could. My Mom tracked her down with one of my old speed suits as a pattern, then showed up in Reno a few weeks later with it in hand. I slid it on and hopped on the elevator down to the casino floor of the Hilton, and so the journey of the Tuxedoman began.
Not all Reno memories are good. My whole career after college I've always been the guy that fills the field. Never first pick, always last. For several years in Reno I'd been dying to jump in the elite show only to be told at the last minute its not happening. One year, after the meetings were over I asked several times "so i'm not in? I'm not jumping? Because if i leave now you won't find me. Cell phones don't work in the Hilton." "No" they relpied, "you are not jumping on stage". Bummed but accepting, I went to dinner with friends before it was time to go watch the big show. Since I was still considered elite (more like sub-elite) I was allowed to sit on stage. I went to sit down, and the organizers were frantic "where have you been!!? We've been calling your phone, your room, sent kids out looking for you. Your in. Someone dropped out." In a state of shock I was angry and excited at once. My only reply was "I can make it. I'll go change, grab my gear and just get on the runway when the competition starts." "No" they said. "Its too late now, we're starting." That was the hardest Reno elite vault I've ever had to sit and watch. I look back without regret though. There is nothing I could have done different. If I really deserved to be on stage with those guys, then it wouldn't have been up for debate. I'd rather be automatically picked rather than hanging on a wire all the time as a possibility, or last resort. It drives me to work harder.
It reminds me of how many times I've actually just been bumped. One year it came down to me and Grande at the end of the last meeting, and of course Grande took the last spot and i took a walk. But I did win the "B" group that year.
In 2004 I took out all my student loans to travel around the US chasing a mark that would get me into the Olympic trials. When all was said and done, they took 24 athletes, I was 25th on the list by one centimeter. When I went to watch the meet, I was even in the program, full bio. It was like a knife in the heart. In 2003 they took 18 men to the USA Outdoor championships, I was #19 on the list by one centimeter. I got to sit in the stands and watch that meet as well. In 2007 I was having a terrible year, then suddenly the last week I could qualify for USA Outdoors, I started blowing up. I got a good enough mark to get on the list. I bought a ticket to Indy, planned all my travel and was headed out of town that Wednesday. That Tuesday I had my last jump session before I left town, I planted a little crooked, and landed on the standard base, but my left spike decided to get tangled in the mat on the way down. It tore everything in my foot and ankle. It hung there like a piece of mangled rubber. I couldn't even move it if I tried. It felt completely disconnected. I was supposed to be on a plane the next day headed for a US championship that i finally felt ready for, then suddenly it was taken away from me by one bad jump. That night I called USATF and told them I had to scratch from the meet I had been training all year for. I hung up the phone, sat back in my desk chair and wept like a child, uncontrollably.
As dreary as it all sounds, all these events were the catalyst that fueled a 2008 season that is my most memorable of all time. Making the Olympic Trial finals, and being part of such an awesome event will stand out in my mind until the day I die.
In my eyes I've never been the greatest vaulter. But i've never been a quitter either. I've been through some terrible times, and I have always prevailed. Isn't that the formula of a winner, a champion......

PS- My back is feeling pretty dam good. You can bet your ass, I'm packing a pole bag for Reno. See you there.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Unwanted Update

I've always been of the opinion that you should do your best to keep bad news to yourself, especially if it may have a negative effect on others. This is the same reason the blog has been quiet for more than a week now. However negative it may be, I feel like those of you who do care about my well being deserve an update. Please don't get down because of me. My goal with these ramblings is only to boost others spirits, not bring them down. Those of you who know me can be at ease, because you must realize that I always land on my feet, and it takes something like a metaphoric nuclear blast to stop me once I've started a journey.
Last week I hurt myself moving a mat as you may know. Each day since, my back pain has amplified without any reason or aggravation. I can no longer bend down or sideways. Without too much detail, I'm in pain all day and night. If you know nerve pain, you know what I'm going through. This is why I have not been writing lately. If the pain persists for another week, I will be consulting a doctor about another injection, and other options. 
Its hard for me to accept the fact that I was vaulting from a competition run just 9 days ago. I can still embrace that amazing feeling I had while in the air, it was ecstasy, and now i fear that the chances of that happening again are weeks and possibly months away.
 I will hold onto that success everyday when i don't want to roll out of bed in pain, when i think this is the end, or when I fight off the urge to give up. That day from a full run was magic, and it will keep me going until I reach the next one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Action and Reaction

For every action there is reaction. Does that mean for every positive instance there is a negative one looming in the darkness? I'm not qualified to answer these types of questions. However in my life it seems to be the case. I can name several occasions where something incredible has happened to me, only to be followed by something equally life altering only on the opposite side of the spectrum of human emotion. Some of those stories are actually some of my favorite to tell. Sometime I may write about them. For now, as I write these words I realized that I am leaving something out. Each time the massive positive is followed by the massive negative, it leads to something positive in the end. Almost like a frequency. A wave length of highs and lows, crests and troughs. Maybe there is already a name for what I'm speaking of. There is probably some profound scientist somewhere who has developed an equation or graph linking the correlation of emotional events, and physics. But I'm no scientist. I just want to know why I had such a great day, one of the best in weeks, and then that day was harshly followed while I was slapped to the ground by the universe once more.
The day after such a successful jump session this week, the outcome inspired my coach to comment, "if your going to be jumping from a full run again, why not compete?" His logic seemed sound to me. Competitions tend to be fairly short, or less jumps than one would take in practice. We have a handful of home meets coming up, and it wouldn't cost me anything to enter in them. Then who knows, maybe something really exciting could unfold. So the plan was set, and I was so excited about it. It was like Christmas morning. I couldn't have been given a more precious gift. That night for the first time in my life I experienced what I can only describe as an allergic reaction. Something I have never had the pleasure of dealing with in my life. I noticed the hives first then the plugged nose, ears, bloodshot eyes, itchy throat, then swollen throat. I loaded up on anti-histamines and blacked out. The next day, I was the same, all day. I had a lot of work to do this week preparing our facility for the first indoor meet of the season. I was trying to move a large piece of football turf and I did something to my back. The pain was not sharp and immediate, but 5 minutes or so later, a large portion of my left leg went numb again. 2 days have passed since, I'm still sick, but not as bad, and my leg is missing some reflex but I think its a bit better. I feel like I'm back to square one. But then again, if things come in waves, I'm back on the bottom of the trough, and I have no where to go but up. When I reach the crest once again it's going to be fantastic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Perfect Day

Last week I went back to a 12 step (6 left) approach when my coach and I were reunited after the holidays. It went extremely well and didn't hurt me at all. My line up the pole continues to be tremendously better than it was before I was injured. I was wondering if it was a fluke the day I jumped after I pulled the skates off my feet, and it something to do with the missing weight of the skates. But it wasn't. I'm lining up fantastic. So the decision came down from the boss at the end of the session. "Next week, full run." 
Up until today I was both nervous and excited about it, but trying to keep it in the back of my thoughts as nothing. After a long warm up on the ski hill with a close friend this morning, somehow I knew, today would be the day to try it out. I went to the track, warmed up with a little silly gymnastics play, spiked up, and went for it. No pop-ups, step-through's, swing-ups, and so on, it was straight to business. 2 jumps from 10 steps (5 lefts), 2 jumps from 14 steps (7 lefts) then straight back to 18 steps (9 lefts) I took 4 jumps from there with zero run-through's in the entire session, and only one jump where I didn't swing upside down, but when i did swing upside down, I could feel that I was doing the same thing I've been seeing on video from my shorter runs, and there appears to be a great improvement in my jump. It's one thing to do something from a short run (easier, generally), and its another to do it from full (much more difficult). Granted I was jumping on a pole that is generally very small for me these days, but it is still a pole I have jumped 18' on in competition. Even as small as it was, when I stepped on the back of the runway for the first time in these months, I felt fear of my most favorite thing in the world once again. I must admit that when I started my approach the thought of not planting the pole crossed my mind several times (and yes, you can have several thoughts in that short moment it takes to run 30m) but I fought the fear off with a small technical "que", and when I was thrown off the top of that pole I was greatly rewarded with all that power and energy transfered into my body once more, in that moment, life was perfect again.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The wrong direction with the right intension's

It’s strange being injured with high work ethic. Some days when I'm hurting I tell myself "well it’s ok to take a day off", or sometimes in my case unfortunately, a few days off. Since I can remember, I have always had this slightly psychotic voice inside my head that screams at me, “never take a day off, never be in the back of the pack, never skip the last set of a lift, never miss the last interval of a running workout, never quit, if you allow this you are a coward, real champions finish what they start.” But that is not exactly the case in real life. Real champions are smart, is probably a more accurate way to put it. Smart, that's a tall order for an athlete. It’s a whole lot easier to be tough. Some people wouldn't agree with me, but they're wrong. Being tough is a snap.
I look at this holiday period I purposely used as an excuse to rest, and I feel like a lazy piece of crap. That crazy voice in my head, possibly a prime motivator, is tearing me apart. But in reality this break was probably very smart. I've been getting after it since well....I guess I never really stopped. I just found other ways to channel that energy, mostly in the weight room and on the bike. Now with all these rest days under my belt, I feel soft, behind, and disturbed with myself. Hopefully I'm wrong, and my first session back will be fantastic. I've learned so much in these past months, and I have been so patient. I feel the time to implement it all with minimal flaw, has finally come. Like I’ve invested all this money in the bank and now I finally get to withdraw some walking around money.
After the few jump sessions I have managed to sneak in, in meditation I've realized that in the past few years I've been trying so hard it’s been detrimental to my goals. It’s a funny concept, someone trying so hard and wanting something so bad, the path that it has led them down is ultimately the wrong direction with the right intentions.
Now days, I must accept the fact that less is more, and more is less. It was so much easier being dumb and tough. I miss those days.