Monday, December 6, 2010

How we do it in the High Country!

So here in the high country we are in the middle of our first big snow of the year. A lot of people around are pretty sick of the snow, but personally I love it! When things like this happen, workouts get switched around a little. Here is how we do our strength training during a storm like this...

Equipment needed:
1) A good sturdy snow shovel. (I didn't own one, so thanks to Daniel for letting me borrow his.)
2) And a fair amount of snow. At my house I have about 9.5 inches (and proof for all of you doubters out there!)

There's really nothing complicated about the workout.... Just shovel away!
Here are some before photos of my driveway:
And here are some after about 45 minutes of work:

I realize that there is still a lot on the driveway. Now that I've worked a while I must admit that it is much much easier to shovel a paved driveway. Note the fact that it is STILL snowing. It's supposed to keep this up through tomorrow. Hopefully this shoveling should get me out the driveway and on my way to work. We'll see how it is getting back up the driveway tonight.... wish me luck!

On the agenda tomorrow: building a snowman! That is if I can handle braving the cold. The high is only 17!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's All About the Money....

It's the elephant in the room, right? I know almost all post-collegiate athletes struggle with it, especially in an under-funded sport like track and field. Some discussions I have had with friends lately have made me realize that there are many misconceptions that come with being a professional athlete. I am going to be a little more candid with this post, and give everyone a small view into my life.

I do not think my situation is unique in any way. I know there are hundreds of post-collegiate athletes around the country struggling to make it by, working multiple jobs, just to get the opportunity to train and compete in the sport that we love. The typical road to becoming a professional track athlete begins in high school. Next is the NCAA level. Having experience at both the Div III and Div I levels, it seems getting scholarships in college are more due to luck and circumstance in many cases, rather than pure ability. Only a handful of track athletes coming out of college will receive sponsorship money, and the majority of those that get money are only partial sponsorships. They cover equipment and travel funds. You can earn more money from winning bonuses and prize money at various competition, but for even the top track athletes their annual salaries pale in comparison to the multi-million dollar deals that the typical professional athlete in the US secures (think football, baseball, basketball, and even hockey and soccer). Out of all of the vaulters in the United States, only a handful of them have a full sponsorship. You could count them on one hand. So even in the best of situations it's hard to make a living solely as an athlete in this sport.

Now for my side of the story... As track and field athletes go, I have taken an unconventional path. I did not become serious about my vaulting until 2 years ago. So I skipped all of high school and most of college. I am a relative unknown on the national track scene. I have all intentions on changing that this season, but that isn’t helping me get to those big meets early on.

Starting where I have, a lot of things are working against me. But I am truly lucky to have my parents support. They help me cover the rent and keep the heat on. But everything else falls on me. While I was living in TN working on my masters, it was a constant struggle. I was working 3 different jobs in 2 different states, in addition to my full time studies and training. I was living in TN, but traveling to NC at least 2 times a week so that I could vault with my coach.

Now that I am in Boone, life has settled down considerably. I am lucky to work for 2 amazing companies, Banner Elk Winery and New River Gymnastics, that are both very understanding and flexible with my schedule. I am training more than I ever have and I am making it by. But as the indoor season gets closer, I am starting to have to limit my work hours. I don’t have the option of working weekends anymore as I start traveling for competitions. The combination of not being able to work, plus having to travel more is deadly. I am really banking on a good season so I can attract at least a few small sponsors.

Some days it gets to me more than others. I’ll look through Facebook and see at all the fun that my friends are having on their time off, and I get pretty down. All of my time off is spent on the track or in the gym. But when it really comes down to it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t get to see my family and hang out much with my friends any more, but in the end it will be worth it. I truly love every aspect of my training. I can’t wait to get those competitive juices flowing again so that I can remind myself how amazing this sport is.

In the meantime, if anyone has ideas on sponsorships or ways to get donations for my training funds I’m open to all suggestions. You can comment here or shoot me an email at steph.simpkins@me.com. I’m very interested in what other athletes are going through, or what opinions others have on the topic.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend


I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I know I did... I spent Thanksgiving day having an awesome lunch with friends and professors from ETSU, saw Harry Potter, got to catch up with some long lost buddies, spent an odd hour in Wal-Mart, and played Operation (the real old school board game) with Geoff. Couldn't ask for a better day. The rest of the weekend was spent in Morristown at the NBL National Race for Geoff and the rest of the Blue Chip team. Geoff raced well, and I had a blast hanging out with the rest of the team and the friends and family that came by to support him. I wish every weekend could be this awesome. Now it's back to training. I'm starting to get very excited for the upcoming season... It's just a few weeks away!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I made the paper!

An awesome journalist in Boone wrote an article about me this week in the High Country Press. For all of you folks in Boone it will come out in tomorrow's paper. But you can check it out online too...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Impressive

I know a lot of people have had this on their blogs lately... But I think it is worth another post!

And I would like to give a huge congratulations to the ETSU Mens Soccer team (and coaches!) on their big conference championship this past weekend. A huge win for such a young program.

Training has been going very well lately. All of my vaulting has been from 2 steps, or 1 left, which has proven to be very challenging. But I think it's going to be immensely helpful once I get back to a longer run. And I think I am able to do more things on the top of my vault now than I was even a few weeks ago. I still have a lot of room to improve, but now I definitely feel like I can get where I need to be. Here is some footage for you to check out:

video

Unfortunately for now, I have picked up the seasonal bug from some of the little ones that I coach in the gym. Hopefully it will pass in a day or two, but until then I'll just have to struggle through. Hope all of you can get through the season without catching this!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Snow!!

It's November now... And with November in Boone comes SNOW!! :) It's good to see the stuff again. Bailey and I had a gorgeous drive through the mountains in the snowstorm tonight. I love how quiet snowstorms are... Don't you?

Something else has come along with November this year: A totally revamped training plan! We've had some awesome discussions lately about my training and we are making some major changes in how things are put together. My volume of training is going to go up significantly, and everything is focused around our technical goals for the year. We're doing more sprinting with the pole, more plyos, more gymnastics, more sand pit drills, and changing up the vaulting. It feels very drastic right now, because we're only one week in. But I don't think it'll take too long to get into the swing of it. I was already very excited about the upcoming year, but now that everything is more focused my excitement is off the charts! BIG things to come! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Website

Our club has a new website up! Check it out: http://www.tailwindpolevault.com/

And we will be hosting the first of hopefully many pole vault clinics on November 13th. So if you know anyone that wants to try vaulting, or that already vaults and wants to learn from some awesome coaches, definitely tell them to sign up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Goood Luck!!

I just want to give a big good luck to everyone racing in Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals this weekend at beautiful Lake Tahoe!! Wish I could be there to cheer everyone on, I know it's going to be a great race!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I have finally finished the third week of the block and am entering a much needed recovery week. Last week was pretty tough, but it was a great week! For my weighlifting I cleaned 115 lbs from the floor for 3x5. And I didn't miss a single lift. That's the most I have ever lifted for 3x5 by far. And I shrugged 225 lbs, which is quite an accomplishment. Especially if you had seen my shrugs last block! Haha.

So I think it's about time for an update on the rest of my life other than training. I am finally feeling somewhat settled in Boone. And I have been enjoying work, though it has been a tough transition. I was able to spend the summer focusing solely on my training, so making the switch from no work to work 7 days a week hasn't been easy. But I can really say that I am enjoying every minute of it. The first 3 days of the week I coach gymnastics at New River Gymnastics. Then I work at the Banner Elk Winery the rest of the week. Working at the winery is awesome. I love getting to meet new people every day. And some really amazing people stop by. I have met a surprising number of couples from my hometown as well. So if you are in the area, go ahead and stop by! I'll give you a great wine tasting, and if you're lucky maybe you can join in on some grape stomping!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gymnastics Isn't Fun

I never thought I would say that.... But this month of training has brought it out of me. Overall everything is progressing. Instead of doing 3x10 in the weight room we have dropped down to 3x5, but the weight has increased. And we have finally added some short run vaulting in, which has been awesome! There are some videos up on my youtube channel. These are REALLY short runs, like 2 and 4 steps (1 and 2 lefts). But the biggest and most painful change has been dropping my Friday lifting workout and adding a day in the gym. To give you and idea of how painful it is, here you go:
10x swings on P-Bars (deceptively easy start!)
10x pull ups on Rings
10x dips on Rings
1x Rope Climb (Climb as high as you can with no feet, then the rest of the way with feet)
10x Bubkas
The first week we did 2 sets of everything. The second week it was 3 sets. This Friday I am dreading having to do 4 sets.... Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Youtube

For anyone that is interested, I'm starting to post some videos on Youtube. This is mostly for training purposes, so it's going to be everything from the past two years... The good, the bad, and the ugly. But hopefully through it all you will be able to see the progress that I am making. My username is boog707. Here is a link to my page:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Geoff!!!

I got the opportunity to spend last weekend in Louisville, KY watching Geoff race in NBL BMX Grand Nationals. If you have never been to a BMX race, it's quite the experience. Geoff had some great races and managed to finish 4th in the main. He ended up ranked 3rd in the nation for the season. This is just the start of his BMX career, so be sure to keep an eye out for him in the future!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Made it!

I have officially finished my first 3 weeks of training for the year. We did a hard block of 3x10 in the weight room, with the heaviest weights I have lifted for 10's. It all felt really great. Call me crazy, but I really love the hard work! I will definitely enjoy my recovery week, but I'm really looking forward to getting back on the runway. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Finally

So it's been a while, I know. I am very sorry. It's been a busy month of traveling. After I got back from California, we made the decision to call it a season. The main reason was that my body was just really worn out from so much traveling and competing. And ending the season with a national championship isn't really a bad way to go out.
I was home from California for less than a week before Geoff and I headed out on a road trip to Colorado. That place really means a lot to both of us so we were really excited to have the chance to visit. While we were there we had the opportunity to train at the USOC in Colorado Springs. I had been on the campus many times as a visitor, but never as an athlete. It was amazing to train alongside Olympians. I absolutely felt like I belonged there and I can't wait to go back!

While we were there we also got to visit with some long lost friends and family. :) To everyone we saw, thanks for taking the time to visit with us! We are both so lucky to have friends and family like you! And rest assured, we will end up back with you in Colorado one day...
Once we finally made it home from all of the traveling, I took some much needed days off before heading into the SPEC lab at ETSU for some preseason testing. The results weren't as amazing as I had hoped, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that I'm performing no where near my potential, I've got a lot left in me!

This week marked the beginning of my new training year. There have been a lot of changes in the works that I am really excited about. Living in Boone will make my training so much easier, and I have a lot more support behind me now. I think things are really going to start coming together. I have a couple months of hard training ahead of me. There won't be a ton of exciting results until meets start again in December and January. But I promise to keep you updated!

Monday, July 12, 2010

National Champ!


This past weekend I made the trek out to San Francisco, CA for USATF Club National Championships. Given that I haven't really been around that long in this sport, it was my first Championship meet experience. And with how the last few meets have gone, our goal heading into the meet was simply to clear a bar. After that the plan was to win. It was also my first meet in two years without my coach. But thankfully the other vaulters competing were all really nice and amazingly helpful.

The meet went surprisingly smoothly.... until the very end. Warm ups felt great. I had been struggling the last few weeks getting my takeoff in the correct spot, but every vault in the meet was right on. I even managed to run from my longest run, 8 lefts. That in itself was a pretty big accomplishment because I had really struggled mentally the last few times I tried to run from that far back. I decided to open the meet at 11 feet (3.36m). My first attempt had the height, but I was on too small of a pole. Thanks to some convincing from the other vaulters I moved up onto my 13'1 ft poles and made the second attempt easily. Just to make that bar was a huge relief! At 11'6 (3.51m) I had another really easy clearance and won the meet! Just like that!

I decided to move the bar to 12' (3.66m), but at that point I had lost my edge. Mentally, I was done. I had accomplished what I had gone out there to do, so I really struggled to keep my focus. Also I had managed to take a spectacular fall in practice the Monday before the meet and hurt my foot a little. It isn't a bad injury, but it is on my takeoff foot and the impact of the jump really bothers it. So between the injury and my lack of focus, I couldn't get it together to make a good attempt at 12'. But regardless of how high I jumped, I am very happy with the result. A win is a win. It feels even better given how much I have struggled in meets lately.

This time next week Geoff and I will be enjoying beautiful Colorado! We are road-tripping it out there to get some much needed time in the Rocky Mountains. We're both looking forward to training at the Olympic Training Center for a week, and getting the chance to catch up with old friends and family. After that, the rest of the season is still undecided. There are a couple of street vaults we are considering in July and August, but depending on how my body is holding up this National Championship may have been the end of my season. We will see!I will be sure to keep you updated on what the next few weeks have in store!

Thanks to everyone for all of the support and encouragement, you have no idea how much it means to me. And a big thanks to my brother and his wife for putting me up last weekend in California! I am sure I wouldn't have had the same result without your help.
-Steph

PS- To everyone that has been complaining that they can't comment on my posts, I have fixed the problem. Should be open to everyone now. :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And Again.







So my third NH in a row... I've never had a rough patch quite like this before. It's hard to swallow. Especially since practices have been going so well. Technically, I know I'm ready to really get some big jumps, it just seems like every meet I have things working against me. Organization at the last 3 meets has been dismal. We never know when I'll actually be jumping, how much time I'll get to warm up, how long I'll have to wait after warm ups.... It's been hard to manage, but I need to get used to it soon.
This weekend I was competing in Myrtle Beach. It was a really small meet. It wasn't horribly run, but I did only get 19 minutes on the runway to warmup. That's a lot less than the 30-60 minutes I'm used to at college meets. The wind was pretty strong too, switching from a cross wind to a tail wind. I definitely let it get into my head more than I should have. I had a hard time reading the wind and I didn't really have any good jumps all day, in the meet or in warmups. And I had way too many run thrus. But I've had a few days to think about things, and I've had some great discussions with everyone about the situation. I'm going to make some adjustments and hopefully get things sorted before I have my next meet in 2 weeks.
The bonus of the weekend was that I got to catch up with a lot of friends and family. Unfortunately I didn't put on a great showing for them, but it was amazing being able to see everyone. I wish I could have a cheering squad like that every meet!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Not what I was hoping for......

So my last two meets didn't go exactly as we had planned... Two weeks ago I competed in the NC State Games at Johnson C. Smith University. It was really my first day ever moving back to my long run. We've been trying to get back to 8 lefts for at least a year now and it's finally time to make it happen. Warmups went amazingly well. I took some of the best jumps I have ever taken, including 2 from 8 lefts on my bigger poles. I was jumping almost a foot higher than I ever have. Unfortunately I had to wait about an hour in the almost 100 degree heat before I started competing, and I ended up no-heighting. I had taken more warmup jumps than I normally do in the process of moving back to 8 lefts, and I was so excited with my jumps in warm ups. I did a very poor job of managing the long rest and let myself get mentally and physically drained. But despite the NH, there were a lot of good things that I could take from the meet.
Last Friday was a different story. I competed in a meet at UNC Charlotte, and while the facilities were better and the heat wasn't quite as stifling, I was not on form physically or mentally. I ended up having two different full warmups on the runway (neither went particularly well), and I didn't take my first competition jump until over three hours after I had initially started warming up. It's tough to manage long rests, much less two of them. I ended up with my second NH in a row. I had come into the meet with very high expectations for myself, which made the NH even tougher to swallow. But I had the opportunity to go back home to Pinehurst, NC for the remainder of the weekend. Spending time with amazing friends and family does wonders for returning some confidence.
Next on the schedule will be a meet in Myrtle Beach, SC so anyone down in the area should come check it out! This will be my last meet before heading to CA for the Club National Championships in a few weeks. Despite what the recent results would indicate, I definitely still feel like I'm making progress in the right direction. I know some big results are just around the corner!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Getting Started...

So here it goes... I am finally starting a blog. This should be an easy way for everyone to follow my training and competitions as I do my best to follow my dreams.

For those of you that don’t know me, or are just getting to know me, here are some basics. I still feel very new to this world of pole vaulting. I grew up in gymnastics, truly my first love. I competed for 14 years, through my senior year in high school. In college I ran cross country and raced bikes in sadly misguided attempts at becoming an endurance athlete... But I’m eternally grateful to my cross country coach for finally convincing me to try vaulting my junior year. Given the laid back atmosphere of Division III athletics, my first few years of vaulting were pretty relaxed. I had some amazing help from many coaches, but it was mostly just playing around and having fun. It wasn’t until I met my current coach 2 years ago that I realized I may have a future in the sport. So I really only have 2 seasons of serious training under my belt and I know I have so much more progress to make.

So as of about 22 months ago, I have centered everything in my life around my training. It hasn’t been an easy process. Because I coached myself a lot of the time I had developed too many bad habits to count. My coach was faced with the unenviable task of reinventing my technique from the ground up. We’ve changed everything from my run, plant, and takeoff all the way to my swing and turn (which, to be honest, didn't really exist a few years ago). It has been monotonous and trying at times, and good results are often few and far between. But things finally seem like they’re starting to come together.

The last month and a half has been quite the whirlwind. Six weeks ago I was a happy homeowner, working 2 jobs, finishing grad school, and driving 1.5 hrs to practice a couple times a week, doing the rest of my training on my own. It wasn't exactly the easiest set up. But since then I’ve sold my house, graduated with my masters, finished all my jobs, and moved out of state so all I have to focus on is vaulting. It’s a huge step, and a decision I didn’t take lightly. But I really do have an awesome situation here. I’m lucky enough to have a committed coach, good places to vault, run, and lift, and at least for now nothing else to distract me from my training. I also have some amazing support behind me in my friends and family. I wouldn’t be able to follow my dreams if it wasn’t for your help, I can’t thank you enough!

In the immediate future, I have 2 meets coming up in Charlotte, NC at Johnson C. Smith University. The first will be Sunday, June 13 and the second is Saturday June 19. They are small meets, but they will a good place for me to test out all my recent progress in practice. I will be sure to update results, and anyone that is in the area should definitely stop by. The more support the better.

That’s all for now! Be sure to check back soon.