Monday, August 31, 2009

Ho Hum - No Schedule Yet

I've been on the business side of healthcare for 22 years now, specifically working with relationships between physicians and therapists. Because they are always with a patient and I am always on the phone, I schedule all of my phone calls. So this morning I do my bars and get the garage set up to lift before my 8 AM call. I call the guy, as scheduled last week and he needs me to call him back in 30 minutes. Of course this kills my workout because he just split my only allotted time for the day. I'll have to skip the stretch but I went out and cranked through my lifts with minimal rest in order to be done before I have to make this phone call. As you can figure, I'm totally booked from that point forward. So "Ho Hum" is a way of saying "let it go" and get your work in anyway.

We're expecting the final competition schedule today so I know what time I vault. It's not on the website yet but these folks have done a great job at communicating with us. There website does say the Games begin in 40 days. Sorry but until we are under four weeks I have a hard timing feeling like it is real.

I'll get a long stretch in tomorrow and am considering jumping again Wednesday rather than wait for Thursday since I lifted legs yesterday after I vaulted. We'll see how I feel. Have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Patience Rewarded + Random Thoughts

Nancy and I were to have breakfast with my dad and sister-in-law this morning so that put me warming up at the track in the dark at 5:45 AM with my first jump at a bar at 6:45 before the sun showed up on the horizon. Because of this I re-thought my plan to start on the first 14' pole. I reasoned that at the last practice I had to go to my 43' run to use my 13'/14.7 and 14.3, so today I would try and use them from 32' and be more aggressive. That turned out to be a good plan as I again made 12' on each of those two poles. I did not try higher again as I was looking to solidify a few technical issues. I mention this because I ALWAYS raise the bar after a clearance. I will start progressing the bar again next time.

After these two clearances I moved back to 43', skipped my first 13' carbon fiber pole (13.7) and went right o the biggest 13' pole (13.2) I have and IT was too little. I went into the shed and got my smallest 14' pole (17.5) and made 12' by quite a lot, yet that pole was too small. So my patience was rewarded. I had a total of eight vaults but all were at a high level and far more consistent technically than the last time. I guess my rehab is over because I felt well within my physical abilities and never felt at risk of injury though I've not been on a 14' pole since August 11, at Nationals. The good news is that the pole felt too small from the 43' run, as it usually does when I'm jumping well. So at least physically I'm back to 100%.

Reality check - I'm still four poles down (weaker) from my normal big meet start pole (55' run) and one down from my start pole if I choose to start my meet from a 44' run. My opening height is always 12' (3.66m) and my objective is to easily make it on either of these pole/run choices. Knock on wood but I have made each height except my final height on the first attempt of every meet I have been in for the past year and a half. Part of this is that I use a much bigger pole than is needed to make the heights. Remember that I just cleared 12' from 22' 6" last week whereas I start at 43' or 55' in a meet. The difference is from 22' 6" I made it by a few inches and on bigger poles I make it by over a foot with a bigger margin for error.

I'm going to move up my leg lift day and do it today so I will feel good again on Thursday, when I hope to use only 14' poles. These next three sessions will solidfy the poles I will take to Australia.

I found out yesterday that my friend Tom Rauscher is going in the M60 group where he should be a threat to win. Hoping the best for him and look forward to seeing him. He won't be on our flight but will arrive Sunday as we get there Friday.

There is one "official tour company" who books this trip for all of the athletes. So almost all of the passengers on our flight will be athletes in various sports going to the Games. The LA to Sydney leg is 14 hours so I'll try and sleep as much as possible since we arrive at 8:25 AM. I'll want to be on their time immediately so oversleeping has always been the best way for me.

That's it for today. I jump five weeks from Tuesday but the email activity has jumped drastically as final plans are being coordinated. Tomorrow I find out what time I compete and then will know what time it will be at home. I got a new netbook with a wireless adapter that can work off of my cell phone so I can remain in contact. That's it for now. Thanks for being there. Bubba

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Training Adjustments

It's a lazy day waiting on the jump day tomorrow. I saw Don this morning to pick up some poles that just got back from Stanford. We've decided that if I can get on my first 14' pole tomorrow without pushing my run then that's the plan. That would give me four high level vault days before my poles get shipped. I feel fresh so we'll give it a try. Worse case it will be too stiff and I will move back down.

I'm adjusting my lifting from 28/18 reps to 18/12 for the rest of the way as that is my standard in-season ritual. I think this will make me feel a little better on jump days. In fact I skipped today also so I wouldn't be stiff for tomorrow. So after the jump day I'll get back to a more normalized training pattern. Until then I'll hold my breath and hope for the best. Bubba

PS - Looking at my training log I was off two days, had a bad vault day, and now took two more days off. To the outside that might sound odd but from my seat it's making sure I stay uninjured and not over trained. Today is the two week mark of this program and I have already lifted 190,379 pounds and done 154 bar drills. The body has to be eased into that type of training load. If you listen to your body it won't have to yell at you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Olympic Stadium Weather From a Local

Another change in plans as I won't lift legs again today. I'm feeling surprisingly good after yesterday so this may be the window that I can feel totally healthy in my legs. The old me would have just charged forward and made a twinge hang on longer or even worse, turn into something of concern. I'm already at a level that I could be able to earn a medal so I need to be smart and not try to force things that don't need forcing.

Below is the response from Phillip about the weather conditions in the Olympic Stadium. Bubba

Thank for the question Bubba, always ready to promote my country...

Weather at the main track:
(This below may not agree with ad billboards, it's my own appreciation, out of experience there.)
Sydney Athletics Stadium is known for having had all four seasons... in one comp.
At other times it's good, of course. For instance beautiful sunshine... while it rains everywhere else. Or viceversa.

All tracks in Sydney are built with the main straight pointing north-south.
Reason I mention this is that the runway they use the most is an E-W one, on the left side of the track.
There is a runway next to the opposite straight and another one right next to the main stands, also N-S.
The problem with the side runway in September to November are the left winds (southerlies coming eventually from the roaring 40's) with bursts of head wind, not nice. Last season we also had rain squalls until December.
We can't help with the wind unless we move the mats. For the rain I use a sticky Krylon repositionable spray. When you dry the grip (need to keep at least one towel dry) it becomes sticky and you can jump. If your towels get wet, then you've had it.
If there is a strong southerly (left) or westerly (head) wind we can request the mats be moved to the back straight for a tail wind.
When the wind stays tail, then that runway is beautiful, but that depends on the weather front, and that is not always predictable, actually hardly ever predictable.

We have, at times, moved the mats to the rear runway only to find out that after warming up the wind shifted to being tail in the previous runway.... you just can't win in this place sometimes. You know... I tried not to whinge to the officials and maintenance crew, and just let them do what they think best for once... the result has been a whole comp with nice tail wind and another with side and some bursts of tail wind. Not bad considering we would have moved the mats in the first place and end up with head winds after the wind shifted.
I know for a fact that the maintenance crew doesn't know why they do what they do, but they seem to guess right more often.

Well, really in the 1960's my coach used to say we had to learn to vault with head wind, with side wind and with tail wind, in rain or shine. I don't mean I learned how to do it, I mean that it's good if we learn to vault in all weather.
When I compete in Sydney I remember his words quite often, though!

There is a runway with no wind, of course. Even if there is wind, it opens and blows next to the pit, not into it. That is the runway next to the stands. But my experience tells me that you need to have Steve Hooker, Tim Mack, Eugenie and Brad Walker, all at once, for them to use that runway, otherwise it will not happen.

So, my honest advice is "come prepared". In other words, stiffer as stiff pole, pb pole, training pole and soft pole. Fresh tape, rosin, lighter fluid, sticky spray and chalk/magnesium powder plus a couple of towels.

Now, after saying all that, sometimes that runway is really, really nice. I have movies of Sergey training at 6.10m on that very same runway. Saw Kim Howe clear 4.65m there and young Blake do the NSW U18 record with 4.95m.
They seemed to have no problems whatsoever...

Kind regards,
Phillip Carrero,
Level 2, ATFCA pole vault coach.

East & West Pole Vaulters,
PO Box 155, Campbelltown 2560. Australia
Phone/Fax: 61 02 4647 0988
Mobile: 0466 224 663

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bad Day on a Good Day

Sometimes you feel good but jump crappy. Today was one of those days - hate them!! I guess a bad day of jumping is better than a day that I'm injured so I shouldn't complain. My technique was all over the place today. I did one good thing on most jumps but it takes more than that. I think part of it is I was feeling pretty good from the two days rest and I was being super careful not to run too hard. As a result my timing was very inconsistent. For example, on my next to last jump I was too careful on the run and came down on the bar at 12' pretty hard even though I had a lot of height. On the last jump I ran right and hit the pole hard with my arms and it was way too little.

The number one thing is to create pole speed with a solid body at take off. You're either the bug or the windshield as far as energy transfer goes. I started on the 15.0 (13-176) from 32' and made 11' and then 12' on it but I wasn't getting in as far as I was the last day when I felt flat. That's a mystery to me. A big part of that is that the box is starting to come up on me faster as my run improves and moves back, so if you're a little off there you lose energy. That's a one day adjustment so I should be past that now.

I moved back to 42' the 14.7 (1380) and made 12' easy. Moved to the 14.3 and did the same. I didn't try higher because I was too inconsistent. Part of the problem of "rehab" is that your run is closer so the poles you are used to moving may not move as easily. For example, I was at 42' today and I'm normally at 44' or 45'. It may not sound like much but 2-3' further back with only 8 steps is a big difference in speed and power. That said, I feel healthy enough to start to attack my run and take off like I'm used to.

Long story short - very frustrating as I had some components of some very big jumps for the level I'm vaulting at, but I never did the same thing right two jumps in a row. My vault requires pressure on my hands and when I catch myself finessing I get into consistency trouble. When I jumped 12' from 22' the other day I HAD to do everything right or I wouldn't be in far enough to go for the bar. Today was flat out sloppy. I need to be more aggressive on may take off step while still being cautious on the runway speed. Bubba

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Pain of Rest

I remember during the Tour de France that Lance Armstrong said he hated the days off because he felt so bad the next day. Today is my second day off and I feel pretty beat up but more than ready to resume training. Everything "heals short" so you have all of these little aches and pains that you really don't feel when you're always active. I guess it's like the "Tin Man" getting oil. Once those joints get moving they feel much better.

Tonight I'm working on structuring my training to go hard until I jump with Kris in New Braunfels on September 11 - 10 days away. I have to take my poles there anyway to ship to Australia so I might as well get a good jump session in. Actually I will ramp up to that point and that day will be my last high level vault day. After that I'll go back to 13' poles and work on technique.

I'm jumping tomorrow morning early (7 AM) because I have a ton of business work to get done. My training partner, Don Curry, is coming out to help. I'll be careful but each practice until I go to Kris will be a little more intense as I move through to bigger poles and longer runs. It is nice to be completely healthy no matter how temporary. Oh yeah, I don't feel that thing in my right leg at all so the break was the right call.

Some might question that my hardest vault day would be a month out from the big meet but I think it makes perfect sense. When you jump on small poles your body gets used to that timing so you hold technical positions for longer. That's a big problem as it is hard to hold these positions for very long. Then when you switch to a bigger pole it throws you very hard before you can fall out of the desired position. More importantly it lessens the chance of injury to train on small poles.

That's it for today. Thanks for being there. Bubba

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Change of Plans

Ah, the joy of the blog outlet of stress!! I'm listening to my body and trying to be mature. After 10 straight days of training with no rest day, I have decided to take Tuesday and Wednesday off and then resume my regular training schedule Thursday instead of staying on this compressed one. This will give me a rest day every two rotations.

I've made this decision because my training and vaulting intensity is rising pretty fast and I don't want to risk injury. For example, these very short run jumps make the right hamstring a little sore and weak feeling because of the quick step right before I take off. NOTE - a vaulter usually strains the left hamstring so the right one is more sore than strain. In fact I don't think I've ever strained my right one since I was 12 years old. I felt it warming up yesterday and even more when I ran afterward yet I was able to vault at a very high level. Still, that's too big of a signal to ignore.

I can't imagine that lifting legs today would make it feel better to jump by Thursday so I skipped it. I hate it but you just have to try and be smart here as I compete six weeks from today. If it bothers me at all on Thursday (never does) then I won't jump and will just run but run easy with a focus on rhythm. I've only had this a few times and it goes away real fast if you don't irritate it. So let the patience begin and thank you for yours. I need the outlet. Bubba

PS - the bottom line is that if I had to compete Thursday I would be fine - 100%. What I'm concerned about avoiding is repeatedly training something that's telling me it's tired. It may not bother me much today but could possibly turn into something bigger and we can't afford that to happen.

M55 Final PV Field for World Masters Games

Here are the competitors for my group in the World Masters Games. There are some very good vaulters in the field as expected.

Henry Charrois Canada
Richard Watson USA
Bubba Sparks USA
Klimov Klimov Kazakhstan
Jerry Moylan USA
Phil Carrero Australia
Allan Williams United Kingdom
Bruce Arnold Australia

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to My Baseline

In my last post I had guessed that I might be back over 12' in the next 2-4 sessions. I wasn't expecting it to happen today but it did. I knew I would be sore from the heavy leg lifting Saturday but it wasn't too bad. What's shocking is that I made 12' three times on three different poles with the first time being from 22' on my 4m/15.9, easily the biggest pole I have ever used from that run. All I can figure is that I have spent a lot of extra time on bars with straight arms which really increases leverage on the pole. Then when I jump I try to do the same thing AND not allow my hips to break. WOW - three poles up and 1' 6" higher from the 22' run. I had a couple of very average jumps at 12' 6" with no chance of clearing as the pole was too small. This is exactly why I go back down to tiny poles and short runs - to revisit and correct sloppy technique.

I got a total of nine jumps in today with six from 33'. The poles feel mushy so I tried to go no more than 2-3 jumps per pole before moving on. I ended up jumping on four poles from two runs. I also had a heavy running day with 8 X 100 and 8 X 50 hills. On Thursday I'll start from 33' on the pole I ended on today and remain cautious. I'm beat up but not injured. I guess I feel bad in a good way. Bubba

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Start of Week Two + All About Poles

It has been a long nine days but I've kept the intensity low to medium and my body is responding well. In that time I have lifted 190,357 pounds and done 122 bar drills. Workouts range from 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. The competition is six weeks from Tuesday so I'll ramp up slowly and try not to let my intensity get away from me so my body starts running down. I need to remind myself that this is base training and not meant to tax me to the highest levels and risk injury.

Pole Reunion
I got my poles back yesterday from Nationals in Wisconsin. We sent two bags of poles and they only returned one, leaving mine behind. When they did get the delivery back to us it was delayed because we were in California. To put it in perspective, I vaulted in Wisconsin on August 8th and I got my poles back on the 22nd. Hence, we will send my poles to Oz about a month early. Supposedly all "sporting equipment" is being held a central location and then distributed to the venues where we compete. The only thing that gives me comfort is that the company handling the shipping also coordinated the Sydney Olympics.

Kris and I decided yesterday on the poles to ship. My bag is corrugated PVC with ridges on the outside and smooth on the inside. It will hold 7-9 poles depending on the thickness. The stiffer the pole the thicker it is. You need many poles to cover changing weather conditions and how you feel. If you have rain and a headwind and you don't feel well you had better have a small pole. Or as I found out at the Quintana Beach Vault this year when conditions were great and I felt good, I was left attempting a new American Record for my age group without my biggest poles. I left them at home because I didn't think I would need them. So my biggest pole was too small and I was not even close.

Why So Many Poles?
Big poles throw you harder but require more energy and there is less room for error as mistakes are magnified creating poor timing. You learn and develop good timing on small poles and then progress that technique slowly to bigger and bigger poles.

Poles are like fishing line in that they are rated first by weight and then by flex number. So a 1480 means a 14' 180 lb. test pole. The problem is that there are many "flexes" between a 1480 and a 1485. The feeling to the vaulter is about 1 lb. stiffer for every .15-.2 flex points. The flexes come from the manufactures hanging a weight from the center of the pole and measuring in centimeters how far it bends down. The bottom line for us is that the bigger the flex number, the smaller the pole because it bent down further. So my 14? poles are 17.5, 17.2, 17.0, 16.5, 16.2, 15.9, 15.7, 15.5 and 15.3. So I'll take the ones I mainly use at meets and leave behind a few in between poles that I can practice on. With all of that said, MOST of my practices between now and WMG will be on 13' poles which require less energy from me and allow me to work on technique without getting hurt. I have 22 poles at a retail cost of about $400 each. Fortunately through relationships and sponsorships, I didn?t pay near that much.

There are three big pole manufacturers and a few smaller ones. I exclusively use Essx which are made by my friend of 30+ years, Bruce Caldwell in Fort Worth. When I was an elite vaulter he was the National Sales Manager for a big pole company and I got some comped and some at reduced prices. Later he started a company called FibreSport and I vaulted on the very first pole he ever made. It was only fitting that I would do the same when he started Essx. Not just because he's my friend but I truly believe these are the best poles made. Here's my "endorsement" -

That's it for today. Have a great Sunday. Vault day tomorrow - can't wait! Bubba

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Friends, Plans & My Coach

Six weeks from last night (Friday) I will be in Oz. I leave Wednesday night but because of the time change and 14 hour flight it will take two days to get there. That's both scary and exciting as I continue to press forward with my training with the greatest caution. After the first week my body has not yet started rebelling against the training load so I will keep it easy and consistent. Today after breakfast I've got my hardest of the two leg days so I'm sure I'll feel that when I vault Monday. Also as I move through to bigger poles I'm sure adjustments will need to be made.

New Friends
Yesterday I got an email from a fellow competitor from Sydney, Phillip Carrero, who is in my age group. He sent an invitation to practice at his place, borrow poles, or whatever I might need to make our trip a fun success. He had heard of me through Alan Launder. I Googled him to learn more and found out that he is quite the accomplished artist. Here's a link to his website If you click under "Pole Vault" he has some very impressive pieces. Well done Phillip and I very much look forward to meeting you and hanging out with you and your group. Count on me for Sunday's practice before our Tuesday meet.

We're now supposed to get our final schedule and list of competitors on August 31. I have set my last big pole practice in New Braunfels for Friday September 11, as my poles will leave for Oz on that day to assure plenty of time to arrive safely at the Games. I have other poles to train with but my "meet series" of 6-8 poles will begin their journey before me. Hopefully I can count on Phillip and Alan as my back-up.

In 1997 I shipped poles to South Africa and they never arrived. Seven weeks after the meet they found them in Germany and got them home to me. I had to borrow poles for those World Championships from my fellow American, Charlie Barnard. I got 3rd and he got 4th with me on his poles. I felt pretty bad that he missed getting a medal because he helped me out. But you can ask any vaulter and we all would do the exact same thing. We always help each other, even during the competitions. It's never us against each other but rather us against ourselves. That is one of the things that make our event so unique.

I go to New Braunfels (170 miles away) to see my coach, Kris Allison, ( Kris has been highly successful as a vault coach for all levels of athletes since he left his job as a math teacher to take of his club full time. He has a massive training facility and can vault both indoors and outdoors. He had the first Texas high school girl to vault 4m (13' 1/2") and coached the current collegiate champion, Jason Colwich of Rice University, 5.72m or 18' 9 1/4", to 17' (5.20m) in high school. When I arrived back in Texas in October of 2001 I coached Kris and helped him start his club. Over the years, the student has surpassed the teacher as I run everything I do by Kris and report to him daily. I can clearly say that any success I've had since my return to competition has been hinged on Kris and his expertise. I see him maybe 6-8 times a year and jump at his beautiful facility 2-4 times, but we email and talk constantly. He is truly a great friend and invaluable part of my team.

That's it for now. I can't say "team" without talking about my medical guys but I will do that another time so I can devote the entire post to them. You don't compete at this level at 56 years old without constantly having something that needs attention. More soon. Bubba

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Value of Leverage

Whenever I get a ding I move my run back in and work my way back up poles and runs as a way of augmenting my rehab process. It gives me a chance to focus on technical issues that may be slipping. Big poles require more energy but they throw you harder and can cover up some mistakes that cost you efficiency. That said, my focus has been to keep my body as long as possible without the natural urge to break at the hips to try and get vertical. Breaking at the hips cuts your leverage in half at exactly the point you need it most. This mental discipline, to wait when you want to go, makes a huge difference in your results. Today I got to see a little of it firsthand.

My best vault from my 22' run is 10' 6" and I have matched that the last two sessions. Today I decided to stay at that run and move up a pole, something I have been unable to do in the past. I knew that I would have to stay long and keep pressure on my hands or I would not be able to get in on the pole and therefore would not be able to attempt to clear the bar. It worked and I was able to make 11' on the pole.

I knew the pole would be too small for 11' 6" so I went into the shed and got the next pole up. I tried four times to use that pole from that run this year and was never close. Sure enough, I made 11' on it and then on my 3rd attempt, made 11' 6" on that pole. Amazing breakthrough to move up two poles and jump a foot higher than my previous best while being careful with my legs. It just goes to show that it's more about position than speed.

The great coach, Vitaly Petrov, of the Sergey Bubka, starts all practices from two steps, then four steps then six steps. The idea is that ALL vaulters are strong and fast so we need to take that away from them in order for them to learn how to work with physics instead of against physics. I think my success today reflects that thinking.

My next jump day is Monday and I will move back to the 33' run and start moving through poles as needed. My guess is that between 2-4 sessions I'll be over 12' again (my baseline start height) and then back to 44'. It's important that I don't just move up poles to make the bar but rather stay with the focus on an easy run with better mechanics. I need to allow leverage to be my friend and not be in such a big hurry to add back in the speed and power. Fun day!! Bubba

PS - if I had to jump in Sydney on Tuesday, instead of six weeks from Tuesday, I would be able to use one of my smallest meet poles and clear at least 12'. That height should be enough for a medal. That means I have no reason to do anything but to remain cautiously optimistic and very careful not to get hurt. Keep training hard but jumping under my present physical level.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Meaning of Oz + Games We Play

The Meaning of Oz
I'm out of town on business tomorrow so here's what I wanted to post. I've gotten a few questions about why "Oz" is in the title of this blog. Quite simply, Australians call their country "Oz" and themselves "Ozzies". And as we learned from the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, "Oz" is also a state of mind.

I have some pretty good Ozzie connections but this will be my first trip there. In 1992, after their housing connections fell out, two Australian Olympic pole vaulters, Simon Arkell and Adam Steinhardt, lived and trained with us for the last three months before they went to the 1992 Olympic Games. In 1996, Simon came back and trained with us again before the Atlanta Olympics. He is still a great friend to this day.

At the 1996 Olympics, Simon's longtime personal coach, Alan Launder came to visit practice and could not get in. I was one of two coaches selected to assist all of the Olympic vaulters so I got him in for the day and that began a long friendship. In fact, Alan was just in The Woodlands this summer doing a pole vault clinic and signing copies of his bestselling book on pole vaulting, "From Beginner to Bubka". He also coached me at the Quintana Beach Vault. With 60 years in the sport I see and talk to Alan any time I can. He will fly over from Adelaide to Sydney to be my coach for the World Masters Games.

Games We Play
NOTE - What we compete in is generally called "Masters Athletics". We call it "Track & Field" but the rest of the world calls it "Athletics". We compete in five year age groups so I am in the M55-59 since I am 56. Masters officially starts at 40 years old. Athletes younger than that are allowed to compete (not in worlds) but called "Submasters". If you are 50 you enter a division called "Seniors". There are seniors only meets like the National Senior Games/Olympics.

There are a number of championship meets that we attend. Here is the list and their frequency;
1) Each year USA Track & Field hosts an Indoor National Championship in March and an Outdoor National Championship in late July or August. It's the two times we know we get to see our friends from around the country. USA Track & Field is the governing body of our Olympic Team as well and in international competitions, like Australia, we wear USA uniforms issued by them.
2) Every odd year there are World Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships. This summer they just completed those games in Lahti, Finland. In 2001 they will be in Sacramento, California. As the name describes, these are only "Athletics" and no other sports.
3) Every even year there are World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships. Next March these will be in Kamloops, Canada. This blog may actually continue to there.
4) Every odd year we have the National Senior Games - 18 sports with over 10,000 athletes. We just finished these at Stanford University. In 2001 they will come to Houston.
5) World Masters Games, which I am training for, are every four years and offer 28 Olympic sports with over 28,000 athletes beginning at age 30. This year we will compete in the stadium where the 2000 Olympics were held. This will be the third Olympic Stadium I have vaulted in as I won twice at meets in Mexico City, jumped in Atlanta, and now will compete in Sydney.

All of these offer you the opportunity to see the absolute best age group athletes in the world. It keeps you hungry yet humble. Most importantly, a reason to work out.

Have a great day! Bubba

Twice the Pain Today

I?m going to do a double today as I will drive to Austin tomorrow and lose the day. I lifted legs and arms/shoulders at 7 this morning (18 reps) and will do big lifts for chest and back this afternoon ? 6,4,2. I?ll jump again Friday hoping to get on the next biggest pole (1365) from 22? or so. I figure by Thursday of next week I will be back on my regular 13? poles with a little longer run and will get more aggressive.

Right now practice is like a meet. I make my first 2-3 heights and then when I have three misses I stop ? maybe 6-7 jumps. I also only use one pole per day whereas when I?m healthy I may take 15 jumps on 4-5 poles. Hopefully I?m only a couple of weeks from getting back to there. Right now I?m really trying to clean up my technical issues as small poles are more forgiving. So far so good. Bubba

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Jump Day - No Injuries

Today was my 2nd attempt to vault at a low level and physically it went much better than last time. I didn't jump any higher but was on a bigger pole from the same 22' run. My leg did not bother me at all so I was able to run a little more aggressively thus making the pole too small to be effective. This is definitely a ray of hope that I will start progressing.

How about Issy nh'ng World's and Jan Johnson's daughter, Chelsea, getting 2nd? Another example of big meet surprises. Gotta hit the road. Bubba

Monday, August 17, 2009

Training Adjustments + Golf and Pole Vaulting

Hot day I the old garage. I lift my upper day in the garage because I have high parallel bars in the backyard and I also have a workbench to do a different type of stretching routine. In Texas, the temps can easily get over 100 degrees this time of year so you can imagine the garage. I also lift heavier on my upper day doing sets of 8,6,4 on one day and 6,4,2 on the other with my stretches in between.

Training Adjustments
This week my schedule is all over the place because I will be driving out of town to meetings on Wednesday and Thursday. Because of that, and since I?m at pretty low intensity, I will compress my week and take no rest days. These means I will jump every third day until I get back on my Thursday and Sunday jump days. This will happen a week from Thursday. Obviously I?ll change that if I feel at risk of injury. The bad news is that I?ll be in the gym or garage before 7 AM on both Wednesday and Thursday before I hit the road.

Golf and Pole Vaulting
WOW. My last post regarding big meet shake ups came true on the golf course yesterday as the 110th ranked player in the world took down Tiger Woods after Tiger was ahead the whole way. That has never happened in 14 previous attempts. The defending champion, Padraig Harrington, was also tied going into the final round and fell by the wayside with a quadruple bogey. Golf is largely a mental game dependent upon a series of small fundamentals done perfectly with great consistency. So is pole vaulting.

I tell the kids that in this sport you have to have the mental discipline to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and then go find the next uncomfortable. This is harder to do in a big meet unless that?s the way you practice.

Another funny golf to pole vaulting comparison is that both tend to have only a very few really good attempts or jumps over a long session but it?s those rare successes that draws us back out the next time.

Still No Schedule
We were notified by management in Sydney that today we would receive an email with our final competition field listed and our exact time to compete. I?m anxious to see who I know and what time locally we will jump. I?ll keep you posted. Bubba

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Embracing the Grind + Fear of Failure

Embracing the Grind + Fear of Failure

First, I?m happy to report that the healing groin muscle in my right leg did not hurt at all after practice yesterday or today so clearly I?m finally on the road to recovery. That?s a big stress reduced. Jumping is always the test and yesterday I had a 50/50 chance of flaring it. Since it didn?t I?m probably done with this ?ding? even though I will continue to ramp up slowly. BTW ? my little jog in 10? 6? jump from a 21? 6? run yesterday would have gotten 4th in the National Senior Games at Stanford that I just watched as a spectator. My normal opening height is 12? which would have been 2nd.

Embracing the Grind - As I settle back into to training I remember how hard it is to get my butt out there when I don?t feel fresh physically, which is most of the time. I picture myself on the field at big meets and know that every session I get through will be money in the bank on that day. I remember Bo Jackson telling a room full of senior citizens that his perceived level of exertion is no different from theirs and that he had to monitor his daily. Some days the training will feel easy but on most it will not. This is your body rebelling against change. When I feel like crap I drop the weights and make sure I am more deliberate and perfect in everything I do. So my day is labeled wither ?Quality? or ?Intensity?, depending on how I feel. But I do it at all costs. Those work days add up just like missed days do.

That said, today I lifted legs and arms/shoulders for 28 reps. No matter whether it takes two sets of four sets to get to 28 there is one thing for sure ? it?s going to hurt. I take 10 breaths between exercises and five breaths between sets so that things keep moving. I may do an 18,10, or a 12,8,8. Whenever my body fails I stop and take five breaths and take up the count where I left off. I?m currently doing this one day a week per lift day and 18 reps on the shorter rest rotation. I lift four days because whatever you?re trying to do in sports, it?s easier if you?re stronger.

Work/rest ratio is important not to get hurt so I make a lot of adjustments by instinct. Yes I could complete a scheduled component but if it feels wrong I?ll substitute something else or skip it if it might cause an injury. The objective now is to ramp up slowly and complete all of the work. So today was great but it sucked ? in a good way. I lifted 45,835 pounds in about 40 minutes and added 20 more high parallel bar reps. If it's worth doing it's worth recording. Sergey Bubka can tell you what he did on this day when he was 11 years old.

Fear of Failure ? EVERY single pole vaulter fears the ?nh? or ?no height?, which means you did not make your opening height in three attempts. My opening height is almost always high enough to get a medal in big meets but Worlds will be a bigger stage. Strange things happen at big meets in that someone always comes out of the woodwork with a big performance and someone pretty good falls apart. My first national championship in college I was ranked 10th going in and didn?t expect to be in the top five. To everyone?s surprise including me, I won. The next year I won again with only the 6th best mark. Because others had jumped higher I felt no pressure to repeat as I was just happy to have gotten one championship.

Flash forward to 1997 to Boston when I won my first Masters National Championship. That same year I was 3rd at World?s in South Africa. Sounds and felt so easy. Reality check ? this March was the first time I won another National Championship and Sydney will be the first Worlds since South Africa ? that?s a 12 year drought. Guys and gals I?m putting myself out there to you because I can only train my butt off, try to be smart and instinctive to progress yet not get hurt, and then roll the dice on the big day. I?m scared and I like it.

As of July 27, I had the 4th highest jump in the world, only 2? behind #s 2 and 3. That guarantees me absolutely nothing. My best friend and training partner, Don Curry is a 13? vaulter in the M50 group. He was hurt going into Stanford yet tried to jump because a low height would get a medal because of athletes who withdrew, didn?t jump well or didn?t show up. So a guy who jumps 12? every day could not make 9? 6? to get a medal in a huge meet because his body failed him on a day he has trained for all year. Even worse, he won this meet in 2007 and I was 2nd. That scares the hell out of me, just like me not being able to jump at Stanford. This simply cannot happen in Australia even if I have to come in undertrained yet healthy.

As much as I try I will be unable to keep the fear and negativity completely out of my mind, I will simply have to gain mental strength by challenging myself in training with many do or die situations. My past success in big meets comes mainly from ignoring everyone else and making a ?mechanical checklist? of things I?ll need to do well to succeed. I'm first on the runway for warmups so I don't feel rushed and have time to make last minute adjustments if needed. I focus on one technical component per jump and that takes my mind off of the other stuff. I sure hope it works at least one more time on October 13. Dumb as it sounds, I already have butterflies when I put myself on that field mentally. Game on ? the mind either makes you stronger or weaker and I will face that opponent every day between now and then in my training.

Thanks again for all of your kind words and support. It means the world to me, as well as this opportunity to vent. Bubba

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First Day Back to Training

It was a decent first day with no injuries or pain. Of course I?ll have to wait a day or so to see if that is true but at least I left the field that way.

Today - 8 X 100m @ 40-70%, 8 X 50m hills at 50-70%, six vaults from a 21' 6" run, clearing 10' 6" on a tiny pole, 10 X high bar pullovers, & 10 X parallel bar vertical extensions.

Rationale ? this time of year you take things back down to basics to refine technique and build a strength and speed base. For me that?s what I also do for rehab from injuries. My previous best jump on the tiny pole I used today was 10? so the 10' 6" clearance is a Personal Record (PR). My best of the year has been 13' 2 1/2". Still, today shows that the technical improvements are coming along. Think of a scale model - if I can perfect a vault on a smaller scale then I can transfer that efficiency to higher level on bigger poles and longer runs.

Injuries - Words of Wisdom - I got an email from a friend recently who said something so simple and profound, "pole vaulting is about having a good place to jump, feeling good when you jump, and working hard and continuous enough without getting hurt, that you can continue to experience periodic breakthroughs". Along those same lines, my late friend and orthopedic surgeon, Glenn Almquist, MD, told me that training at the elite level is like walking on a balance beam - if you fall off one side you get hurt, and if you fall off the other you're not progressing. The older you get, the more narrow that beam becomes. At dinner after the Drake Relays, 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist, Toby Stevenson said, "Yeah, and it's a longer fall and climb back up too!" AMEN!!

There is a difference between an injury and a ?ding?. An injury will keep you out for 6-8 weeks and a ding can range from 3 days to three weeks. Fortunately or unfortunately I have become a master of the ding in that I always seem to be nicked but never out with anything big. I?d love to avoid those dings all together. I believe the answer to that is better conditioning. Here?s the history of my current training and it is updated almost daily Bubba

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preparing for the Fight

Hello friends. This web log diary or “blog” is about my impending trip to Sydney, Australia where I will compete in the World Masters Games, along with 28,000 other athletes over the age of 30 in 28 events from over 100 countries. I will be in the Men 55-59 pole vault. I compete on October 13, 2009.

The link to my pole vault site is and the link to the World Masters Games is here There is a neat summary video here

Why a blog? As a 56 year old athlete we train for events like boxers train for fights. I have just over eight weeks left before the event. Frankly I'm hoping this will keep me sane and entertained as the stress mounts and the time gets closer. I've found in the past that letting others in on the behind the scenes stuff did just that.

In 1996 I spent five weeks in Atlanta with the Olympic pole vaulters and then in 1997 I went to the World Masters "Athletics" (what the rest of the world calls Track & Field) in South Africa. Both times I chronicled my journeys and it was fun. Why should this time be any different?

Reality - Let's start with the fact that on July 11, I was slightly injured at our USA Track & Field Outdoor Masters Championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I stopped during the competition to avoid further injury yet still got 3rd and the bronze medal. I thought I would easily be healed by August 8th when I would compete at the National Senior Games in Pal Alto, California, but I was not cautious enough and had to watch the meet as a spectator. Now eight weeks out from Sydney I'm scared to death about every move I will make in training as I cannot afford any further setbacks or miscalculations. This is not an inexpensive trip and my performance must be dead on if there will be any hope to win a medal. Heck, it costs nearly $1,000 just to get my poles there.

Injuries are prevalent at the highest levels in our sport. Managing them is essential to remain at the highest levels. For example, I won the USA Track & Field Masters Indoor Championships in March at Landover, Maryland, even though I was injured on my 2nd vault of the meet and had to stop. So in this short segment you see I have had injury issues at all three of my big meets this year. Not great for the ole confidence.

Tomorrow will be my first training session following my forced vacation as a spectator at the National Senior Games. I’ve got that sting reminding me not to be stupid. I plan to report my progress (or lack of), rationale and even my frustrations as I prepare for the biggest competition of my life. Thanks in advance for your support and coming along for the ride. Bubba