18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Monday, January 30, 2012

Boise Idaho 1/28/2012

This was the last height I cleared in Boise of 17'6.5" (5.35m). I felt too far away from the pit and was going to bail on the jump, but wound up finishing it at the last moment possible. So it looks a little odd.
This was my best attempt at 18'1" (5.51). Not spectacular, but a step in the right direction.

Another 1,000 miles round trip in the Subaru, another $250 spent, another 17’6.5” (5.35m) competition. Some would be frustrated with a continuing result that is not near the one you have been working for. However, this was not the case for me. Mildly disappointed after my final failed attempt at 18’1” (5.51m) I walked off the pit with my chin up and a smile on my face. I didn’t go there to jump 18’, I went there to jump 19’. The following 2 or 3 bars in the progression were far more important to me. One of the first comments I made to a friend was that it was obvious to me that I jumped better that day, then I did the week before, it was a shame the final result doesn’t look better, because the jumping was better, and will only improve because of it. I achieved technical and psychological goals necessary to move forward towards 19’ heights, not 18’ heights. I felt things on the runway and on the pole that were extremely close to what I expect of myself.  So if you go on the Boise State Athletics website and search results from this past weekend you will see my name and to the right of it you will see 17’6.5”, and this will tell you nothing. This competition was much more than a height cleared, and although I may sound like a broken record, it was another important day that taught me what I needed to know for my next competition.
So, 4 days at home to recover, train, and mentally prepare, then another 1,000 mile round trip in the Subaru, another $250, and another successful competition to tell you about.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Staying on Task

This is a difficult week to write. Coming off such a large event, your thoughts continually wander back to the occasion and its outcome. Forward thinking becomes more difficult and at the same time most necessary.
I have been doing my best to dwell more on the things I learned about myself than the things I saw in others. I did take some great advice away from some very respectable people. However most of it was more along the lines of reinforcement of the ideas and philosophies I have taken on. It was fantastic to hear such renowned minds repeating things that have become as important to me as ones religion.
But I digress; this is what I was talking about, and I return now to forward thinking. Now it is time to take the knowledge, whether new, or strengthened, and put it to use. I know what must be done now, and I know I can do it. It’s that simple. I have spent the week painting a picture in my mind of what I want to see and feel during my next competition. I have seen it from all angles, the stands, the track, the pit, the ceiling, through my own eyes, and back at my body as if the pole had eyes of its own. It’s a wonderful show reel, and I look forward to living it.
This short week of prep has already ended, and I feel great about how I handled it; a careful balance of recovery and progression. Although it was four days ago it seems like yesterday I had just pulled back into town after another long trip, funny I should leave again in 8 hours. Normally I would give myself a days rest between a travel day and competition, but I decided not to this time. I don’t need it. I have a plan in mind and an intense drive to complete it. Without to much distraction, I want to arrive, get the job done, and stay on task with an invigorated confidence that will fuel the attack on my next endeavor in the story.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Video and Afterthoughts on Reno 2012

Here is a shot of the last height of 17'7" I was able to clear.

A shame I didn't finish this jump. But that's 19' speed.

What’s the worse thing about the Reno Pole Vault Summit? When it is over, now I have to wait another year until the next one.

Well guess what friends? The final doubt, eluding my every effort to block out, has finally been put to rest. For months now I have purposely not run through a fly-in timer for fear that my unorthodox yet necessary style of self designed training was not effective enough on the speed side and my current running ability was not up to par with the other elite vaulters of the world. By not testing it with timers, I felt I could remain confident enough in my abilities in the ‘not knowing’ for sure how fast I was actually traveling. Thanks to Dave Nielsen and Idaho States timing system at the Reno Pole Vault Summit, it is now clear that I am fast enough to jump well over 19’. I can hardly believe it myself, but in the two weeks leading up to Reno, I noticed that when I did get up to speed in short workouts, I was feeling pretty fast and even mentioned it to my brother and girlfriend. Turns out, I wasn’t imagining it. Rock and Roll! This fact has already given me a boost in confidence that I thought was already close to maximum capacity. 
What did I learn from the event itself? Oh by the way for those of you who didn’t know….
I placed 5th with a vault 17’ 7” or 5.37m
So what did I learn? Sorry to say that I let excitement and greed get the better of me once again. The energy of the event is hard to deny and keeping yourself under a rational level of control is even harder.  So I need to stay calm, trust in my decisions and finish all my jumps. I am wasting way too many attempts by trying to just feel my way through a jump instead of bowing up and going for it. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, so this is my statement to you, I will not make this mistake again.
Plans have changed. Knowing what I know now and feeling the way I do I’ve decided to continue traveling indoors and competing, leading up to the USA Indoor championships in New Mexico where I will compete for one of the two positions available to represent the USA at the World Indoor Championships. I was on the fence about making a final decision to pursue a serious indoor season, but this weekend I was reminded that I get better through competition. Practice is great, but its not the same, I respond and learn when it counts. So what better way to prepare for the Olympic Trials then through continuous competition and success.
So instead of the two week break I had planned, I’m headed back on the road to claim the victory that is close in hand.
I’m not a few sessions, or meets, or weeks, or days, or jumps away from “figuring it out” it’s in me today and I’m dying to show it off. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reno 2012

In about 10 hours I should find myself southbound on interstate 95.  Departing Idaho I will patiently  pass through Oregon’s dreary 55mph speed limit, on a road that is clearly safe enough to be labeled 70mph. Attempting not to grind my teeth in anticipation I will eventually reach the open arms of the Silver State and its much more logical opinions on transportation. My time here was perfectly timed and taken advantage of, but it was planned preparation for where my journey leads to next.
My final destination, Reno, NV. For those of you who don’t know, Reno is home of the world famous Pole Vault Summit. The most special event held for our elaborate sport. Every year athletes from all over completely sideline what is most likely a carefully drawn out year of training, to rest, taper and prepare for this mammoth occasion. It is not a trial for a championship event, it gives out no medals or ribbons, it will not be televised and will not grant you fame or legend. Yet every athlete attending will put rational thought aside and grip higher on bigger poles, and charge down the runway with more vigor than they will experience in most competitions for the rest of the season.
It is not a cut throat event, perfect strangers participating in competition are happy to share their own equipment, help you with technique and offer assistance in any way possible. It is a massive, crowded building filled with friends. As you lookout over the thousands in attendance it’s hard to grasp the fact that you all share a common and powerful bond created by an amazing sport.
An ocean of like minded individuals.
Every four years the event is a starting point for aspiring athletes chasing Olympic dreams. This is one of those years. The fact alone sets a stage for a far more exciting and intricate Summit. People are different during an Olympic year, powerful, focused, and hell bent with determination. The ingredients are clearly in place for an electrifying brew worthy of memory.
Last year I was attempting to recover from a major injury that still plagues me today. Then, unlike now, I didn’t understand it and had taken 6 months off of vaulting. On Christmas day that winter, I broke the silence. Not too long after I got the call from a Summit Director who asked me to attend. I told him I wasn’t near ready to be competing with constant relapse and unexpected setbacks in training looming around every corner.  All that was asked was that I do the best I could. That I could commit too. Its Reno after all, anything can happen. I went there with uncertainty but departed with poise. The rest of that story is history, and I’m sure you can dig it up in this blogs archives. As fun as it was, the presence looks far more promising.
Tomorrow I will arrive in Reno saturated with confidence. This time I can say with certainty, I am ready. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 Opener and The Choice

So I scraped up some money and slipped off to Boise Idaho this weekend to participate in my first competition of 2012. I felt a different level of commitment and confidence as I pulled out of the driveway on Thursday knowing that this was the first road trip to kick off this highly anticipated season.
Before I get into my thoughts on the matter I’ll fill you in the competition. With severe pain in my right shoulder blade, nagging soreness in my right quad and IT band, and now a strain which seems to span through my entire left rib cage I still easily managed to jump 5.35m (17’6.5”). Not the best result, but not bad for a season opener. I also accomplished two important training goals on the day, which were more important than the height cleared as they will initiate a passage to greater heights in the near future. It was another great learning day and only helped heighten my confidence to another level. Mistakes were made, but regrets are a waste of my energy. The same mistakes will not be made again and I can be better for it.
It should be clear to you now that I am pursuing what I feel is my greatest chance for success through a path not of perfect technique or physique, but of mind and spirit. I may not have had a choice in the matter as I have been dealt poor odds in the health department making it difficult too both, amend my technique, or increase my fitness level. I’ve learned to hang onto what I have in both departments and maximize it through the power of mind, which has proven to remain my only option. But the belief in what I am doing grows stronger each day of this new year.
During grueling training sessions in and after college I can remember pushing through intense pain and agony to finish workouts that were basically designed as “gut checks”. Sometimes with several intervals left for completion, my body was already begging me to stop, and one important idea or philosophy forced me over those humps every time the doubt of ability crept in. I knew that I would finish, and finish as strong as my body was capable, not because I chose to, but because I had no choice. Quitting or giving partial effort did not compute, they were not even options. I had to finish with everything, every time. That’s how I succeed, and it can be valuable for much more than gut checks. It’s hard to describe the thought and rationale through words, but it was extremely powerful and I hope that its depth can get through to you in some way.
I’ve taken that underlying principle of triumph created by an almost existential level of commitment out of the training regiment, and placed it into competition making it my statement for 2012.
 I will succeed, trust my decisions, and accomplish all I have set out to do, not because I choose to, but because I don’t have a choice. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mold the Mess

You can’t be the athlete that you were in the past; you have to be the athlete that you are right now.
The same applies to life. You can’t be the person you were in the past; you have to be the person that you are.
Too many variables have taken place that led to alterations in the path you once saw lying in front of you. From then until now it has shaped you and your life into a completely different entity.
The strength that you lost must be held onto in memory with great pride, but ultimately let go of for further use. The flaws that you lost must be a lesson for a future without the same mistakes. Both of which are gifts of knowledge you can choose to share with others helping them mold there own more positive entity. 

I cannot be as physically gifted as I once was. I cherish the ability I had and the memories and stories it gifted me.  With some of it gone, I can leave behind the flaws that abused the gift.  Already I have proven that I can perform at the same level with less physical ability because of a better understanding of who I am now, and who I was then, as an athlete, and a human being. The transformation was unavoidable. I’ve done my best, to mold the mess, as I see fit.
I will prove that I can perform at a higher level than I ever have by accepting the person I have become, not by trying to be the person I was. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Some brief advice on a Number that is now a Symbol

Keeping track of what you do in training is important, especially as a vaulter. Being able to look back and find a successful pattern in training can be extremely useful. At times in my career I have enjoyed the task of entering the data, and at other times it has made me sick to my stomach. When you are having a bad string of competitions or workouts, and you force yourself to continue recording them, rewriting them, and essentially reliving them, it can be extremely painful. Painful to the point of swearing on paper and turning a hard bound book into a projectile while cursing its horrible existence during flight. At one point in my career I was so fed up with it that I just quit writing in there, because I had nothing good to say, and put faith in myself to do the right thing and be able to look back at the blank period and know that its absence of information was the best thing for me at the time. Which worked by the way. But generally I am religious or diligent about entering the data.

As far as I know, most post collegiate and a large number of serious collegiate and even high school athletes keep an athletic journal. If you fall into one of those categories, I have something to share with you. You may have already thought of this or have been doing it all along, but I'd still like to share. In my athletic journals for years (not sure how many, more than 10, but since I have practiced the use of them) when I have scribbled the date each day before an entry it looks like this '1/07/12'. An easy and quick format with little importance so I can move on with my entry which seems much more valuable than the date. However on Jan 1st of this year a thought began growing in the back of my mind, and yesterday, I decided that after a decade of recording the date a certain way, its time for a change, I wrote in '1/07/2012' and it felt different, very different. The gravity of the number 2012 to an athlete is undeniable. The number itself has become a symbol of the Olympic games. Its on posters, websites, TV ads, billboards and even the radio. You can't escape it, and you shouldn't. Each time it pops up in these ads, I get chills. So each day, when I enter the date in my journal, I will write the full year, and for now that year is 2012, a powerful number, and a delight to write. I recommend trying it, and after you enter it for the first time take a moment to look at it and soak up the potent inspiration that is now attached to a once meaningless number. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Simple Fix

Yesterday I had a wonderful back yard vault session at a friends place, followed by a short but sweet ring workout. I had a goal in mind during my jump session that can only be described as unorthodox. My goal was to grip to high on to big of a pole and get rejected from the pit multiple times until eventually forcing my way in and taking jumps where I barely make the mat. The main focus being that the poles felt too big, I felt uncomfortable and I forced myself to start and finish jumps regardless of the constant temptation to quit midway.
I was jumping from shorter approaches so the danger was minimal to nonexistent, but I must say, I just had a blast. It was so much fun, to fail, on purpose, then turn around and ultimately succeed with forced effort. It was a lesson I wouldn’t teach to many others, but I know it’s exactly what I need at the moment. The series of poles I have been traveling with are a bit odd. I have a 15’ 195lb, borrowed from Idaho State University which was once left behind by a former vaulter and friend, a 15’ 7” 190lb and 195lb on loan from one of my former athletes and good friend who in seasons to come will be one of the USA’s best, and from there on I have 16’5” length poles and above. So every time I make the switch from those 15’7”s to a 16’5”, the difference is more than I can handle. Even though it’s a logical change in flex number (stiffness rating) and grip height (the measurement of height where my top hand is placed on the pole), and I will most likely land safely in the pit, the change in poles makes me feel to far away and I tend to bail out of (or incomplete) jumps.
So I’m mending that problem. Sunday or Monday, I will perform the same session on even longer poles, with higher grips, from longer runs, and take it even further in the next session. It’s a much more primitive way of looking at such a complicated event which boasts hundreds of books, videos, articles, essays and theories revolving around different scientific and mathematical insights, but sometimes you need to just stop and realize, “your using a stick, to jump over another stick” and generally its not the guy with the biggest brain who takes home victory, it’s the guy with the biggest balls.  Calculated risk, some call it, I think we to often over calculate. Sometimes it’s easy to forget these simplicities, and I’m glad I’m taking a moment in training to remember.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Power and Time

Life is a constant repairing process, part of what shapes us is how we choose which things must be attended to before death. You will not fix everything. There is so much that is broken and knowing this can be overwhelming. What order do you address the issues surrounding your life? Should you extend outside of your immediate reality or stay focused on what is right in front of you? If you chose to take on challenges afar, then you will continue to dwell on what you left behind. If you chose to tackle what is right in front of you, you will still have uneasiness about the wrongs you possess the power to right. It appears to be a conundrum. But it doesn’t have to be. We all must learn that we are not gods, the center of our own universe, maybe, but not omnipotent. You must accept that in the time you are given you hold a great power to make change, but time itself is working against you. You will not be able to right all the wrongs that consume your thoughts. This in turn defines one of life’s most valuable lessons, letting go. You must learn to let go of things. Although the capacity for all the solutions may lie in your hands, the time needed does not. There are a great many things, you won’t be able to change, accept that, let them go, and focus on what is right in front of you.

I say this to you, because I struggle to teach myself to do the same.
In life and athletics I have failed more times than I have succeeded. The courage to continue on after the defeat is what gives the most magnificent reward.