18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

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. 


  1. Great post. I am inspired in a way I have only felt by watching the final scenes of Braveheart! Thank you.

  2. Paul, always remember that the only thing you can't do is the one you don't try or the one you give up on. Recently somebody posted a status on FB: Remember the guy who gave up? Neither does anybody else.

    Model your mental approach on Michael Jordan - got cut from his high school team and one of if not the best of all times. Because he never gave up. Never got discouraged long term. And, believed in what he was going.

    Here's to the celebration that's coming your way!

  3. I enjoyed watching you vault today at the Simplot Games. Well done, qualifier! I have some photos of you, too.

    1. Thanks. Please send them my way if you can.