18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

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.