18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Man in the Arena

This is a quote my Father asked me to read after my defeat on Monday. Thanks Dad.

-The Man in the Arena-
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt

I really did try my best. You can blame conditions or officials, but 11 men still rose to the occasion and I was not one of them. They earned their right to compete again on Thursday for the mere 3 positions available on USA Men's Olympic Pole Vault Team, and I commend them for there performance. It is hard for me, but I will remain in Eugene for the duration of the Olympic trials too eye witness who continues on and I will proudly applaud them. The painful truth about the Glory of the Olympic Trials is there are (hopefully my numbers are close) 9 running events, 8 field events, plus the Decathlon and Heptathlon equaling 36 events (men and women combined) they take roughly 24 athletes per event and 3 make the team, making around 864 competitors, and only 108 of them go to London. Meaning 756 of those athletes and their families leave Eugene in tears.

The best way to describe how I've been feeling, since my final failed attempt in the prelim, is confused. There is pain, and anger that is perfectly natural, but mostly confusion. I don't know what to do now. After the competition I was so lost, I went to the warm up area and ran, then I stretched, then I ran some more. With my headphones blasting I kept my emotions at bay. I could not bring myself to leave the warm up area for two reasons. I knew that once I set foot past that barrier, I was no longer an athlete at the Olympic Trials, but a spectator. The second reason being that I didn't think I could face my friends and family that waited outside the gates. 

I did eventually leave, despite the strong urge to sleep there for the next week or year, and I have been doing surprisingly well. Thankfully I am here with some of my favorite and most beloved friends and family. They are making this all much easier for me. Hiding out in the Mountains outside of Cottage Grove where cell phones and internet are not functional, we've been filling our time with hikes, wildlife siting's, icing our legs in the river, playing Koob in the driveway (an awesome Viking game of throwing sticks and logs), climbing 100' pine trees, and unloading hundreds of rounds of ammunition. It's all been a great distraction, but real life has to pick back up eventually. 

Everyone keeps asking me 'what are you doing now?', meaning, now, a month from now, a year from now, etc., and the answer continues to remain the same, I don't know. I really wish that I did, because that would be a fraction of the clarity that I am surely lacking. I'm having some difficulty pulling my mind out of these newly acquired bad memories or even seeing one day into the future, but thankfully I'm managing to enjoy the present. I keep telling myself that there is a lesson to be learned from all this, and in time I will decipher it. Maybe a lesson is not the best way to describe it, but better, a reason. What that reason is, will only be revealed with time and remaining in the moment and staying out of the past is the best way to allow the mystery to unfold. I'm guessing that it must be an absolutely fantastic one, to make up for this disaster. For every low, there is a high, for every trough, there is a crest. I'm at the bottom of a trough, and I'm excited to see the view from the top. 

I am starting to see the future as a road on the map. I was headed down one road that led to a particular glory, but I have been diverted. I'm still heading in the same direction, but my destination has changed. I've already driven through all the storms, obstacles and steep grades, I have smashed through the point of no return, where a quitter would turn back. A parallel route to a kind of glory, only this road is completely foreign, unknown, mysterious, and unpredictable. Probably a better suited route for a guy like me anyway. The adventure continues.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reaching Out for Help

            In 2004 and 2008 I traveled and competed for months spending every dime I had, and exhausting all available credit given to me to post a reasonable qualifying mark for the Olympic Trials. In 2004 in a tie with two other athletes at 5.50m, we were bumped off the final list by 1 centimeter. I went to the 2004 Trials, watched from the stands, and even had to look at my own biography printed in the event program (they must have ordered them before the final lists came out). I looked at a picture of myself amongst great athletes and I made a promise that never again would I watch an event like this from the sidelines. 
            In 2008 I sat next to the phone waiting for a call saying that I was one of the last athletes to be accepted into the competition. The phone call came, but came with bad news, “you will not be competing at the Olympic Trials” a voice said, heart break followed, I had failed again, and broken my own promise. My Subaru sat in the driveway at the ready, full tank of gas, poles loaded on the roof rack, clothes, uniform, and sleeping bag. I remember wondering the hills on my mountain bike, and playing hours of disc golf over the next 24 hours to try and help kill the pain, but nothing seemed to help. The following morning, another call came, “your in the meet, you need to get to Eugene as fast as possible.” Knowing the Mens prelim was in about 48 hours, I had to get from Pocatello, ID to Eugene, OR as fast as possible. Convinced to fly by a great friend, I charged a one way plane ticket to my credit card, hopped a flight and headed over. The same friend Paul Gensic drove all the way to Portland (because poles can’t be flown into Eugene) picked me up and let me crash on his tiny hotel room floor despite the fact that his pregnant wife was in the room with us. It was so kind of them to look after me and I am forever grateful. The Gensic family was helping me with meals, Paul’s parents even chipped in. Other than that, I was eating a mass of free crackers, chicken salad, yogurt, and granola bars provided in the few athlete hospitality areas to supplement the meals that I was unable to pay for. The story gets funnier from there, but is long, to summarize; Parents came for awhile, crashed with them, coach came, crashed with him, hitched a ride to Seattle and back to compete, slept on the ground in random locations in Seattle, came back to Eugene and hitched a ride to Idaho in a car my coach borrowed, poles fell off on the road at one point. It was an interesting trip to say the least.
            So as you can see, money, was not something I had. It was hard for me to swallow when I found out that the other two athletes my Coach had come to work with at the Trials were both paying him $1,000 dollars for his travel and his trouble. He and I both knew that this was an impossibility for me, and he never asked for a dime. But to this day it is still a blow to my ego, was embarrassing at the time, and upsetting to the other two athletes. There was nothing I could do. After a summer of competition I was able to lay $500 aside and gave it to him immediately upon my return to Pocatello, hoping that I could come up with another $500 as time went on. I couldn’t, and it still bothers me.
            This time around I want him to know how important it is too me to pay him that amount or more. A wonderful group of people put together a fund raising event for me before I left on this last trip to southern California. When they gave me the money they said ‘use this money in the best way you see fit to give yourself the right situation and opportunities to make the Olympic Team’. Having my coach there at the meet is the right situation and best opportunity for me to have a chance at making the Olympic Team. So using some of that money to pay him seems logical to me. He is not a rich man, and has developed his own set of hardships in the last year. He needs help, just like I need help, and I need him. He would go for free, but I don’t want that. After traveling around California this past month, I still have enough money to get to Eugene and handle all my expenses, but I don’t have enough to pay Dave, and I have too. It’s hard for me to explain how important it is to me, but it is. I can spare about $500, again, and a good friend of mine is throwing in $250. So I only need $250 more, then I reach my $1,000 goal for a coach who in my opinion is worth $1,000,000. I don’t like asking for help, and I don’t like asking for money. This is humbling and difficult for me. So I’m reaching out to you. My donation button on this blog is directly linked to a checking account I can access from anywhere. If you can spare a few bucks and want to help me and help the man who got me to where I am today, please do. It’s easy to donate and I will be forever grateful.
6/21/2012 -The money came in. No need for anymore donations. Dave is getting his well deserved $1,000! Thank you so much.-

            On a lighter note, the radiator in my car cracked today and luckily I was only a few miles away from one of my best friends Steve Murschel, who is an amazing mechanic and was still at work. I’m so glad that it happened today while I was in town, instead of tomorrow when I will be hundreds of miles from home, on my way to one of the biggest Track and Field events in the world. A few bucks out of the travel fund, a brand new radiator, the Subaru, as always, presses on and I’m confident it will carry me safely on yet another great adventure. Thanks for bailing me out again Steve.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Staying Relaxed, 5.55m Plus Video

       There is a lot I want to say, but I'm so tired. You know how you feel after driving through the night, or missing a night of sleep out partying or working? Well that's how I feel, and I've pretty much felt this way for a few days. I'm experiencing a fog of delirium, and writing at the moment seems a bit difficult. After competing in a sequence of Thursday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (which was a brutally hot day) with lots of driving in between, I'm out of it. My body is beat down, and my mind is crippled. But I do have some video of my jumps yesterday so I will put them up, and possibly write more later. Before I give up on my literary ability for the day I must share something.
        I finally understand how to give myself the opportunity to really jump high. By relaxing and allowing it to happen, things have become much easier and feel effortless. Even with the amount of fatigue I've had, I've been higher in the air with ease. By trying so hard in weeks prior to force a result I was creating an even larger obstacle in my path. I had become my worst enemy, as the saying goes. When I finally relaxed, I disconnected myself emotionally by becoming carefree or fearless of an undesired outcome or complete failure. I just turned by brain off and enjoyed the ride. At some point you have to realize that you are so physically fit and technically prepared from all the time you put in, you have to stop trying so hard to use that fitness and technique, and allow it to do its job without trying to force it to, you have to step out of its way and take the ride, get out of the drivers seat and become the passenger in your own body. It really works, and pole vault suddenly is easy and fun again. With proper rest and a continued path of relaxation through the release of fear and anxiety I believe more in myself and dreams than I ever have.
         Here is some video, sorry for the rough angle but my tripod is a piece of junk, and Tyler did his best. Thanks for shooting for me buddy. Here is my third attempt make at 5.55m (18'2.5"), which was also my opening height that day, because I figured I was only good for a few jumps and didn't want to waste any. There is also a clip of my first attempt at 5.61m, which was my closest height wise, the other two were good jumps, but blow-throughs (which means my pole was too small) and not as impressive looking on video. Enjoy, I'm going to take a nap now, possibly for a few days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quick Update

       I jumped my opening height of 5.40m (17'8.5") at Mount San Antonio College yesterday on my first attempt. I was unable to clear the next height of 5.60m (18'4.5"), but it was for much better reasons than my previous few outings. On my first attempt, my pole was too small, I grabbed a bigger pole, my second attempt was no good, and my third attempt that pole was too small, way too small, which is a great sign. By being more relaxed on the runway and emotionally detached from the outcomes of the future, I was on bigger poles, higher in the air, and very consistent, with what felt like much less effort. Pole Vault felt easy, and fun again, as it should. It was a great day of jumping and I'm excited to be back enjoying what I love doing. There are still questions about what fate has in store for me in the next few weeks, but I know better now than to allow them to consume my thoughts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


           My intension in starting this blog and continuing with it has always been the hope that it can inspire others who need it most, and in the process I’ve realized that it has become a valuable tool for me in dealing with the difficulties of the life I’ve chosen.
I felt it necessary to submit an update, but it probably was not the best of timing. After my last posting I received a few phone calls and emails from people close to me, expressing their concern. Despite my efforts, I was unable to gloss over my real feelings with positive truths as usual, and readers saw right through into its grim nature. I do my best to be as open and honest as possible sharing the real world of post-collegiate pole vaulting, but as any athlete will admit, some days you just can’t spin positive out of what feels like a cloud of negative surrounding you. I must apologize for that, so I am very sorry.
            The reality of how I truly felt Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is simple, I felt like shit, I was pissed, and depressed as hell. But I didn’t really want to share that, because what good does that do anyone, including me. I don’t like complaining, and I don’t like bringing other people down when I am down. I generally distance myself from society until it passes and in this case I fear my self pity may have infected a few others. But now, it’s ok to talk about it, because it is in the past. I’m not down anymore, and no, I’m not glossing again, I’m being 100% honest. I feel resurrected. It just took me longer than normal to shake the frustration and anxiety associated with the powerful fear of failure. I’ve left that coward behind, and I don’t expect to hear his whining little voice anymore.
            It started happening sometime last night, I finally began letting go of that fear, and when I woke up this morning it was gone completely. Like exorcising a demon, I feel better than I have in weeks. Sounds almost manic, but believe me it isn’t. Science hasn’t created a pill for the symptom I have, “obsessing over triumph”, and if they do, we should probably rally together to destroy it.
            Everything is happening exactly as it should be, or it wouldn’t have happened this way at all. My faith in myself has been returned with new vigor, and the nightmare that I saw in front of me has been wiped clean with visions of success and happiness.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Back on the Bubble

          The beginning of this rest period didn’t turn out quite to be the magic I was expecting. Warming up yesterday I felt fairly rested and ready to go, much better than the previous few competitions I have attended, but it was still not enough. I thought I had a logical plan in mind to prevent the previous running and approach problems that have been occurring, but that logic, based on numbers, cost me. I wound up failing to clear a height once again, in track and field we call that a “No Height”. It was embarrassing and hard to swallow, two appearances at the Olympic Training Center, and two horrible looking failures in front of my friends and peers. On top of that I got to see three great vaulters move up on the national list once more, moving me down now to a four way tie for 19th in the US. I was excited for each of them, and was positively charged by witnessing there success, but I could hear a small voice of fear inside who continues to try and grow stronger. That damn voice, it knows that there now is a distinct chance that, unless I increase my season best by a centimeter or so, I may not even get the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Trials. Scary right? I know. Rumor on the OTC campus is that USATF is saying they would rather have 20 male vaulters compete at the trials rather than 25 if possible. As of last night, I am one of those guys right on the edge again, "on the bubble" as they say, and there are still 10 days to compete and post qualifying marks, and plenty of capable guys out there.  
            I don’t like the sound of it, anymore than you do. I try to block out thoughts like this, but they find their way through. There is a great deal to be positive about though, despite all these setbacks I still have not revealed my true capability. With some more tapering in the upcoming days I will be sharper and stronger than ever. The anxiety associated with trying to best my own mark would normally trick me into competing several times in a row, but this time I told myself absolutely not. I could compete tomorrow, but I chose not too, knowing that very capable and talented guys will be, and may push me down the list even further. I can’t allow myself to continue to follow other people’s paths, I know what is best for me, and I have to stay calm, focused and patient.  So I’ve chosen to compete again on Tuesday, giving myself the proper rest my body needs, despite a strong urge begging me to try again tomorrow.
            This all seems so unnecessary to me, I truly expected to have jumped higher by now. I never thought I would have to deal with this stress again, and here I am, for the third time. At this point accepting whatever fate has in store for me is probably my best line of defense. I’ve done absolutely everything in my power and can look back on this period of my life with no regret despite the outcome. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

V10 Engine

            From late April to early May I forced what felt like a few too many meets into a short block of time, the results of which proved to be physically daunting, but mentally empowering. I even have entries in my training log stating that I should probably not push my body that hard for the rest of the season, or ever again. So without having too try too hard at a guess, what do you think I did once I got down to Southern California…… three competitions in six day’s. You can see that I didn’t exactly take my own advice. What can I say? I got bit by the bug immediately after arrival, and momentarily lost site of the big picture. When there are opportunities to succeed, it’s hard to pass them up despite your better judgment.
            After failing to clear a height at the third meet, I knew it was time to reassess my diverted path. Before contacting my “voices of reason” (a few very important people), I was struck with a strong curiosity, how much rest have I actually been taking?  So back to the training log I go. Minus resting with the flu (because that doesn’t really count) in the past 4 weeks I had taken exactly 3 days rest, and even on those days I did some kind of warm up or activation. So I pressed further into the pages of my journal 5 weeks 6 days rest, 6 weeks 8 days rest, 7 weeks 10 days rest, 8 weeks 12 days rest. I finally stopped. It seemed though the further back I went the more logical my training had been. It’s clear that the week of the flu throws the rhythm off. After feeling recovered enough, the anxiety of having missed 5 days of training took over and I began pounding away to play catch up everyday for 10 days straight, including 1 competition in the mix before I finally took a day off, only to compete the following day again, then again 2 days later…..idiot.
            So what does it all mean? Well for starters the negative outlook is that I’ve broken myself down a bit, and have now forced an involuntary rest along with this revelation of sorts, but there is nothing so terrible that it won’t heal in a few days. I do see a massive benefit too all this, having gone far enough back into the pages of my journal I’ve realized that I haven’t truly rested for a competition outdoors. In other words, I’ve been traveling around with a V10 engine, but when I compete I’m only firing on about 7 cylinders. Which was always the plan, and appears to still be on track, but the frustration associated with poor performance results easily clouds the big picture allowing me too veer off at times, but not anymore. 
            Pat Manson once told me that you should look at training like putting money in a bank account (maybe I’ve told you this before, or he has) all the hard time you put in, is an investment in yourself, and its building interest daily. At some point you have to stop investing, make a massive withdrawal and go on a spending spree. He may have phrased it differently, but you get the point. My investment days were high quality and now reach back years, not months. In my opinion I’m sitting on a sum greater than ever, meaning that my days of manic spending are just over the horizon, and that its time to engage those last 3 cylinders.