18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Sunday, February 26, 2012

USA Indoor 2012

To start out I’ll tell you the results, then I’ll give you the excuses, followed by the truth of it, and what should be taken away.

The results: Today I competed at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque New Mexico. I finished the competition in 6th place with a final height cleared of 17’8.5”. This mediocre result all its own does not tell a good story, and does not do justice to what took place.

The excuses: Feeling a cold coming on in the past few days I took every precaution available to me to hold it at bay. Last night a sinus headache, a plugged nose and cough were polite enough to invite themselves into my body and keep me up until about 4am. Waking up at 9am today, feeling about the same, I was angry and grouchy about the fact that I had to deal with it, and seeing as almost anything that has to do with cold medicine is a banned substance I was afraid to take anything for aid in the matter.
A strange landing in a stiff pit jammed my upper back, handed me a direct cross bar swat to the patella tendon and cracked my neck pretty good during my first attempt at 5.48m (18’, I think it was actually 17’11 ¾”, but instead of typing that every time, I will just say 18’). Dizzy and rattled, I was unable to bounce back right away from the hiccup.

The truth: Once I warmed up today, despite a stuffy nose, I felt physically great and was able to redirect my mind into a state of confidence. Being sick and the late night did not affect me.
It took me 3 attempts to clear my opening height of 5.30m (17’4.5) but when I did, I did it with authority. At the next height of 5.40m (17’ 8.5”) I wish I had it on video, because from my view, the bar looked like it was at least a foot beneath me. The jump felt magnificent. Unfortunately, at 5.48 (18’), a strange take-off, that led to a near miss, landed me in the pit on my elbows leaving my head and neck plenty of room to snap backwards violently. The jump was a “blow through” which means the pole was too small. With pain and doubt creeping in I chose to remain on the same pole predicting that I would not have as much horse power on the next jump, and with possibly my largest mistake in the competition I did not fully complete my second attempt at that height. Now with one jump remaining I tried to stay calm and chose to keep everything the same. My composure came back and with it, power, I blew through again, and that’s that. The little spill did not really affect me physically and I was even able to mentally come around on jump number 3, so it is also an invalid excuse.

What to take away: In the future when I am in a similar situation where I get banged up a little and blow through, I know now that I need to suck it up and go to the next pole regardless. Today, too much reason and psychological internal debate got in the way of real courage, and it cost me. It’s a damn shame too, because for a moment I felt like I was at a whole new level of performance, and what better time to do it.
It will have to wait. The outdoor season is looking even brighter than before. I could walk away from today unhappy and discouraged, but I am having an opposite feeling. What I did right today, has only giving me more confidence in myself and my abilities. The prospect of much higher heights appears imminent. The mistakes I made are a valuable lesson for future competitions with as high and even higher stakes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Video and Thoughts on Simplot and the Road ahead

Here is footage of my series of jumps from this weekend. I had one miss in the competition until the bar went up to 18'5" where I failed 3 times. 5.17m o, 5.32m o, 5.42m xo, 5.52m o and 5.61m xxx.

This weekend was fantastic. It’s always when you stop looking for something, that you find it.
            That is part of what happened to me on Friday at the Simplot Games. All indoors I have been telling my friends I really don’t understand why I haven’t jumped higher by now. With indoors coming to an end I had chosen not to attempt to slip into the USA indoor championships by posting a mark less than the standard, even commenting that I obviously wasn’t ready for a championship meet. But things changed. After giving up on the prospect of glory indoors nationally I felt so much more relaxed. The anxiety of running out of time to perform was wearing on me, letting it go was the best thing I could have done. I entered this competition with absolutely no interest in the final result. I showed up to have a good time.
             It’s kind of hard to be nervous or serious when you’re wearing a spandex tuxedo and a massive top hat. I even made sure that between jumps I put my hat back on and enjoyed myself. The result was great and a bonus to a day that was going to be special regardless of how it ended. It was a lesson I have learned many times pertaining to the proper state of mind, but I was happy for the reminder.
            Can I jump higher, of course I can. An excessive celebration this weekend probably factored into my failed attempts at the following height, but now that it is out of the way, I can clear higher bars by staying relaxed and unshaken. 5.52m (18’1”) is nice to have out of the way, but 5.72m (18’9”) is the next logical step (the standard that is requisite to attend the World Indoor Championships and the Olympic Games).
Ultimately I have to believe that I am capable of heights much higher than this, otherwise this whole pursuit is for nothing. If I want to compete at the Olympics Game I have to aim much higher, and I am. 
            Too often we talk about the pole vault like everything has to be so perfect and technical, and every new inch gained presents its own unique challenge. It’s this kind of thinking that creates psychological barriers for athletes and I myself am guilty of speaking and thinking this way.  Tearing down these barriers seems far more difficult than creating them. But it doesn’t have to be. I need to jump 8 inches higher next weekend to have a chance to make the USA World Indoor team that will travel to Istanbul, Turkey to compete against the world’s best. If I can’t believe that I am capable of that extra 8 inches, then there is no point in even setting foot on the airplane Thursday. 8 inches higher than I have jumped in the last 5 years, 4 inches higher than I have ever jumped, I could see how some would look at it as a tall order, but I don’t. What’s 8 inches anyway? It’s a little more than the length of a standard DVD case. Everyone has one of those, hold one up, take a good look at it, and tell me, is that too much to believe in. No, its not, it’s nothing.  I will not let the length of a DVD case stand in my way of glory. It’s actually kind of insulting, that something so small can threaten to be a catalyst for such a barrier.
            Not even a week ago I was shown technical data that would paint me in a negative light, and stacked the odds against me even further. Although briefly painful to see, I chose to use that information as fuel for my fire rather than extinguish it, and 4 days later, in an Olympic Year, I secured my place as one of the top 5 pole vaulters in the Nation, not just any nation, the USA baby! Sure it’s only the indoor season, but I know I am capable of so much more, and I’m glad that this small step was proof of it. Keep throwing obstacles in my way, I’m only going to get better.
Fun with numbers.
What’s 8 inches?
My step was a bit under when I left the ground for my clearance at 5.52m, which lowered my hips 1-2 inches, essentially lowering me 1-2 inches. Stand up taller at takeoff by getting my feet right underneath me, there’s 2 inches.
I was gripping at 16’, I can easily grip 16’2” or 16’4”. Lets call it 16’2”, there is 2 more inches. 2 + 2 = 4
I went over the right hand side of the cross bar, by being off to the side and creating an angle to the bar you are losing height by not going down the middle, this can be anything between 2-6 inches of height lost. Lets call it 3 to be fair. 2 + 2 + 3 = 7. Getting close.
Regardless of brushing the bar on the way down, I cleared it by a few inches. Probably 2 to 3 inches, but we’ll keep this logical and say 2.

2 + 2 + 3 + 2 = 9 inches.

There is your 8 inches plus a bonus inch, and I didn’t even mention what one pole bigger could do. So, what’s 8 inches? Nothing.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Simplot Video 5.52m (18'1")

I'm so tired but what a great night. I have a lot to say about this competition and what's to come. But for now I'll just give you what video I have because I am exhausted and headed to bed.

Here is my make at 5.42m (17'9")

And this is a shot of my clearance at 5.52m (18'1")

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Downs and Ups

           Well it turns out that I wasn’t as fast as I thought I was in Reno. The USATF official numbers were released today, and guess who was the slowest guy vaulting in the elite competition Friday night? Me. This is exactly why I didn’t run through timers in the fall or winter for fear that I would find this sort of thing out and it would be an unneeded bruise to my confidence. I don’t have many options in my training program, it is specific and unorthodox. When I find holes in it I do my best to fill them, but keeping speed is obviously an issue. Putting the time in on flat ground in speed workouts, and through the use of plyometrics, which I have responded well too in the past, are no longer options. 
            So the question comes up, is there another gear to grab that I haven’t shown? The answer is yes. I have not had a day vaulting this season where I thought I had really opened up and gone full throttle. I’m trying to embrace the fact that I am still even able to jump and enjoy every minute of it. Generally in the vault I have always done my best to stay relaxed and under control. In doing so I don’t think that I hit a “top speed”. There are a lot of terms thrown around that cover this debate, one of which that stands out in my mind is “maximum controllable runway velocity”. At some point a vaulter can find themselves out of control while trying to reach a maximum capable runway velocity. Being out of control in the vault can yield highly undesirable results in an event that rewards the athlete who is the best at calculating there own level of risk.
            Its funny this came up today. Because lately I have been feeling like I have been holding back too much, I am too in control. I even told a few friends this week that on Friday at the Simplot Games I plan to open up the throttle and hope for a good ride. I think the direct quote was, “I’m either jumping really high, or getting hurt.” When I say jumping really high, I mean being ridiculous high in the air, preferable over a bar, and when I say ‘or getting hurt’ I mean I’m taking huge risks and going for it dammit! So the news from this data is no coincidence. Sometimes I need to remind myself some of the main reasons why I have spent so many years addicted to this sport, it’s dangerous and exciting. If I try to make it perfectly safe for myself all the time I will never experience great reward, knowing full well that “Fortune Favors The Bold”  
            Once again I am labeled as the underdog with this painful reminder which felt like a slap to the face.  Hurt, skinny, broke and slow. How could a guy like me ever have a shot?       
            Possibly my favorite song lyric of all time is by Rise Against;
“Chairs thrown and tables toppled. Hands armed with broken bottles. Standing no chance to win but, we’re not running, we’re not running.”
I hope that if anything can ever get through in my writing, it’s that I want to help people believe in themselves no matter what the odds. Just when I thought the scales were tipping in my favor, more negative weight is tossed on the opposing side. When you are a child your peers tell you, you can do anything or be anyone. When you are a teenager they say, well you might want to start being more realistic about what you can do or who you can be, and when you are an adult you start hearing that you can’t do all kinds of things. I want you to know that I still believe in you no matter what stage of your life, and I still believe in myself. You can do anything, and I can be an Olympian.
Never stop fighting for your dreams. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Help Keegan

I haven’t had a whole lot to say lately, but an update feels necessary.
Despite popular opinion I tried to squeeze one last competition into my schedule to possible get an automatic qualifying mark for the USA indoor championships. I did this regardless of the fact that deep down I knew that I didn’t really care to attend. It was my competitive side coming through and replacing my rational thought process. I’m sure it has caused me problems in the past, and I think that it could have this past weekend.
I’m very happy to be back in Pocatello, it still feels like home, but I didn’t feel right about the competition. I was there for the wrong reasons despite my attempts to alter my thoughts on the matter and turn it into a fun positive occasion, I failed. After a long day of driving I found myself delaying the act of even heading out to the venue. Once I was there it took me awhile to work up the ambition to warm up, and with only a few minutes remaining of runway time I managed to take a few jumps before it was closed for competition. I only made my opening height of 5.15m (16’10.5”) and then failed to clear 5.30m. I was a little upset that I didn’t jump higher, but a large part of me just didn’t really care. I understand why, and after mopping around a bit, I’m over it. Mentally recharged, and looking forward for the right reasons I’m very excited to jump this coming Friday in the Simplot Games.

This morning I got the horrible news about a friend and former athlete who I had the honor of working with while coaching at Idaho State University. Keegan Burnett has now survived two accidents that would have killed 99% of human beings. The guy is tough as nails and will continue to press on. Being a victim of such a poor economy Keegan does not have medical insurance and is now accumulating a mountain of debt in medical bills that will hang over his head for years to come. I know that many of us are hurting financially but everyone can spare just a little bit. Keegan is family and I hope all that have read this can find it in there hearts to open there pocket book up and help out. Please, please spread the word, and lets get some powerful support going Keegans direction.

There is a donation fund set up at Key Bank for Keegan. The Keegan Burnett Donation Fund.

Donations can be made in person at any branch; by mail to Key Bank, 1199 10th Avenue, Sweet 

Home, OR 97386; or if you do online bill pay it can be sent to Key Bank for Keegan Burnett Donation 


You can also donate on Facebook

here is the address for updates on Keegan

Here is a link to the story about his accident

Monday, February 6, 2012

Update 2/6/2012

Boise, Idaho 2/4/2012
5.20m (17’.3/4”)

I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t a little upset this weekend. After failing to clear 5.40m (17’8.5”) I held my head high and walked off the pit with a smile, but on the inside I was fighting a demon, and he was raging pissed.

For months now I have designed a confidence level in myself that in years past I did not understand the importance of. Last week I felt it fading for some reason. I attempted to reel it back in, but failed. I had a bad feeling about the upcoming meet and my decision to change my plan and tack another 1,100 mile drive onto my indoor season. Trying to brush it off and look past it, I took the trip and failed regardless. Now I’m confused.

Originally I hadn’t planned on wasting time on the stress that is created by the indoor season. With such a short time frame to get a qualifying mark for the Indoor championships, I didn’t want to burn to many weeks chasing after that mark. I planned to have fun and compete at places I enjoy rather than force competition to satisfy the need for the acknowledgement and personal gratification that comes with qualifying and performing at the USA indoor championships. But now I find myself victim of the same trap I have fallen into year after year. With indoors on its downhill end, I’m stressed about a performance that hasn’t taken place, allowing doubt to creep in and infect my confidence. It sucks, and I’m angry with myself for being in this position again, especially this year.

Last year at this same time I was just starting to jump and compete again coming off of my injuries. The fact that I was even able to jump at all made me so happy, that every time I left the ground it brought me great joy and the results were absolutely meaningless to me. I need to tap into this feeling in the present and remind myself that I am medically not even supposed to be here. I am beating the odds, results are petty. I should be overjoyed that I am doing what I am doing and I know that I am going to shock people with results yet to come. Even as I type these words I am already starting to relax and feel better. Pole Vault is so much more than a result to me.

Being home for about 16 hours now, I will leave again in 4 days.  Hopefully this time I will leave for the right reasons. I want to say that I will jump higher this coming weekend. The statement is a demonstration of confidence. But I have been saying that every week. The confidence is still there, but I’m starting to feel a bit like a liar. So I will say this. When I pull out of the driveway Thursday morning I will leave here with more confidence and faith in myself than I did last week, a smile on my face, and one ultimate goal for the competitions to come, to enjoy every second of it to the fullest. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Passion and Obsession

Oh how I ache. Not sure exactly what it was, but if I had to guess I would say it was from the digging, or the fence building, or the cement mixing and pouring of the week. I’m working on a project close to my heart and when I get going on projects I become borderline obsessed.

When I was a kid I always pictured myself as an X Games athlete, and at the age of thirteen I told my parents I wanted a half pipe at home. My Dad saw the glimmer in my eye, but knew the mass of the project might be more than I understood at such a young age. Unwisely, he attempted to call my bluff and told me that if I built it myself, he would provide materials and advice. I got plans together from an old Thrasher Magazine and long story short I erected a 10 foot tall, 24 foot wide, 42 foot long X Games style half pipe in one summer (at the age of 13). I worked from sunrise to sunset almost everyday. When I wasn’t satisfied with the progress of the day I set up construction lights and worked through all hours of the night until my Mother had to physically remove me from the site. My hands were bloodied by the work, my muscles destroyed, and my mind even more damaged, yet I chose to ignore these facts. The heat of the summer would take its toll to the point where I would hear voices and suffer hallucinations. Falling sleep or fading in conversation during dinner was a regular event. My parents growing concerned for my health began limiting and putting restrictions on my work load, but they had jobs, and in all hours of there absence, I continued to work. I still have scars from that project, but I still have all my fingers. This is how I act when I get excited or passionate about a project or an idea.

I didn’t pursue extreme sports as a profession because they didn’t offer college scholarships, and even at such a young age I was wise enough to know that an education is important when your body eventually gives out on you and your athletic career comes to an end.
While I’m taking this tangent through yesteryear; sometimes I think that the catalyst for my life as a pole vaulter comes down to one simple memory. I told my high school coach it was a stupid event, and he basically called me a pansy, telling me I was scared. I assured him that I was afraid of nothing and took the pole from his hands in defense of my ego and attacked the event with the same passion that erected the massive half pipe in my parents backyard.

I’ve lost the point I had originally sat down to write about. I think that I was going to complain about how beat up I am at the moment and how I was having doubts about the upcoming weekend. But complaining is not my forte and neither is doubt. I’m taking a day off and doing everything necessary to take care of my body so that I can accomplish my goals for the upcoming weekend.

Something I was trying to get across is that I do get a little crazy about some things, projects, etc. Although they all have purpose, sometimes you need to step out of your own skin and look at how much of your valuable energy you are wasting on something that is not bettering you as an athlete. In an Olympic year, especially, everything must come second to your body’s health, your state of mind, and the ultimate pursuit of your dreams. This is why I have set everything else aside, projects, business, coaching, career, and so on. I have placed myself in a bubble that hosts a semi permeable membrane allowing access only to substance directly related to the betterment of my athletic. I need all that energy for one thing, and losing sight of short term goals is a problem. Looking straight ahead, Saturday is right in front of me, and what matters most.

So the rest of the week I will focus on me, and the project can wait for idle time. Even though it falls right in line with the pursuit of my dreams in the long term, it is still a detriment to the short term and its view blocked by an upcoming competition.  Being an injured athlete, you have to be a master of prioritizing. Decisions must be made on the fly and each day reevaluated with care.

Here is a picture of the old ramp before we tore it down this fall.