Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

It's been too long since I posted, so why not get one more in before the end of the year, right?? It's Christmas Eve... What do you think I'm doing today?

Vaulting of course! We have our last practice this morning, and then I'll be booking it home to be with my family. I'll get about 5 days with them before I'm coming back to TN. Originally we were only given 3 days off, but my parents are moving to New Zealand for a year (I know!! Crazy, right??) and they leave at the beginning of January. Since I don't get to see them often, I decided to skip a vault practice and come back a little later. I need some quality time with the family before they head to the other side of the world without me...

So training has been going well overall. I think if you had watched my last few practices, you would think that I have had some miserable practices. But I've actually been happy with the progress. We moved from 4 lefts to 6 lefts two weeks ago. That switch went surprisingly well. I moved through a lot of poles pretty quickly and started to put things together. This week we have moved back to 8 lefts, our full run. Last practice had lots of run throughs, but not the bang-your-head-against-the-wall-bring-me-to-tears kind of run throughs. They were actually productive. Even with very minimal sprint training because of my injuries, I am so much faster than I have ever been. My run is 2 feet farther back than it was in the summer, and 5 feet back from where I was starting this time last year. So all-in-all, the approach to the box feels VERY different. And it's taking some getting used to. But I'm so ready for today's practice. It's going to be a great one!!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grrrrreat Day!!

So training has been humming along. My injuries are all improving. I was officially released from physical therapy this morning for my foot. Finally! And apparently getting new running shoes every once in a while helps too. Thanks to New Balance Knoxville I have a few awesome pairs of shoes to rotate through. Since they hooked me up with shoes my foot and shins have significantly improved. I can't thank them enough!
We have made a few adjustments in my training, mainly getting my sprints off the track and onto the turf. So far it's definitely paying off. I had possibly my best jump day EVER today. My legs were feeling good, I could actually jump off the ground for a change. Today I made some significant strides in my actual technique in my jumps. I was able to get my grip on the pole up to 11'7 from only 3 lefts, or 6 steps. As a reference, last year from 3 lefts the highest I could hold was 10'. Over a foot and a half higher.... It's going to be a good year!! :)
I also cleared 11'1 today from 3 lefts EASILY. I was over it by at least 6", and on that jump I was only gripping 11'5. On my last jump of the day I came sooooo close to clearing the bungee at 11'7, gripping 11'6. As Roman said, the bar would have stayed... That's a 9" push!
For those of you that need all of those numbers translated, the box that the pole is planted in is actually 8" below track level. So if I am holding 11' on the pole, my actual grip is 11' minus 8", or 10'4. So to clear a bar that was exactly my hand grip, it would have to be at 10'4. Hopefully that makes a little more sense.... I know that a 9" doesn't really sound that impressive. But I am only running from 6 steps. The farther back you run from, the more energy you'll be able to put into the pole. And the more energy put into the system, the more energy you will get back out of it. So if I can push 8" or 9" from 6 steps, imagine what I can do from 16 steps..................... Holy crap I'm so excited!!!

Of course we don't have any footage of my best jumps today, but here is one of the vaults from this session. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's Been a While


I know. But I have a hard time finding something to write when I'm not feeling positive. And the last 3 weeks have been a struggle. Things are thankfully looking up now.

So after my last post, I had a week of post-engagement happy times with Geoff before coming back to Knoxville to get ready for fall training. I was feeling great and I was very positive because my foot was feeling much much better. But things took a turn for the worst when the physical therapist examined my foot and said that in the 6 weeks I'd been resting, my foot showed minimal healing. The tear must have been worse than he thought and that this could in fact be a career ending injury since it's in my jump foot. More than anything, I was shocked. It was definitely not what I was expecting to hear. I shed more than a few tears and had about 15 minutes before I got to work to properly freak out. Then with some much needed discussions with the parental units and coach, we decided to hold off on the drastic life changing decisions before I saw another orthopedist and actually got an MRI.

It took a little over a week to see the orthopedist, get the MRI, and get the results. The doctor was amazing! Spent at least 30 min with me each time answering the millions of questions I had. He's definitely on speed dial next time I have any issues. (Dr. Brantley Burns at TN Orthopedic Clinic if anyone is in need. They are GREAT!).
So the verdict: No torn ligaments. Never had any torn ligaments. Just an acute case of plantar fasciitis. Whew!! That was quite the scare. As anyone who has had plantar fasciitis knows, it's painful and annoying and there isn't an easy fix. It goes away when it wants to. After discussing the options, I decided to get a cortisone shot. It's given some people I know a lot of relief in the past so I thought it was worth a try. It has been 9 days since the shot and it is already less tender. Definitely not back to 100%, but getting there. The physical therapists are much more aggressive now that we know there is no tear. Sometimes it seems like they're doing their best to MAKE a tear, I was crying on the table yesterday. Really. And it takes A LOT of pain to make me cry. But I trust that they are helping. It really is feeling better.

So now it's back to fall training. I haven't been given the go-ahead to run on the track or try jumping yet, but I am running on the alter-G treadmill at work. It's crazy! It takes some of your body weight off so that I can do all the running workouts pain free and not get too far behind. Check it out:

And of course I can do all the gymnastics that I want. :) I will post more as it comes. Hopefully I'll be putting up videos of my short run jumps very very soon.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

WE'RE ENGAGED!!!

Alright. For those of you that want to know the juicy details here it is!

Ever since my parents have announced their upcoming move to New Zealand, Geoff and I have been having some serious talks. To be totally honest, we both knew REALLY early on that this day would come. So it was really just a matter of time. We knew we had to make it through next year with as little major distractions as possible, both because of the importance of the competitive seasons and because of Geoff is just starting grad school. Plus, family means a lot to me. I didn't want to reach any major milestones in our relationship while my parents were out of the country. We had basically decided that we would get married in the fall of 2013. So our two options we were left with were wait to get engaged after my parents returned from NZ and have a super short engagement, or get engaged now and have a really long engagement. I get stressed enough with everyday life, so the longer we have to plan the wedding the happier I'll be. :)

So I knew things were coming, I just had no idea it would be this soon! I knew Geoff was going to have an important talk with my Dad last weekend. He didn't tell me, but it was the only time we were guaranteed to see my parents before they left the country. It didn't take much guessing. Once both my parents knew, we started celebrating and it kind of felt like we were already engaged. But Geoff needed to talk to his family too before we made things official. It worked out that he had to leave Pinehurst before me to make it to some meetings at ETSU. So my mom brought me back on Thursday and we met Geoff in Banner Elk. There is a gorgeous river just outside of downtown that is a special place for the two of us. We had one of our first dates there, and it is a place where we both had the first inkling of how great things would be. :) We parked by Geoff's car and his only instructions were for me to come find him. My mom waited in the car, and I set off down the trail. Once I spotted him in the middle of the river, it seemed like it took FOREVER for me to make my way out there to him over all the rocks. He was waiting with a blanket, two champagne glasses, and the Bruno Mars song 'Marry Me' playing on his iPod. He filled the champagne glasses with apple cider he had kept chilled in the river and asked me right out there on the rock. So perfect!!
But the best part was THE RING! We are designing our own ring using diamonds from my both of my grandmothers' rings, plus some from my mother. I'm so excited that my ring with have true sentimental value. I definitely wish my grandparents could have met Geoff, but this way I think that they will always be with us. Unfortunately we can't afford the setting that we want just yet. So in the few days while I was in Pinehurst and he was back in TN he was working hard, unbeknownst to me. This is what he proposed with:
I LOVE it!! Absolutely!! It is so perfect! We have also decided that I will wear one of my grandmothers rings in the meantime to make it seem officially official. (In case there were any doubters... :) ) And he also made me a small ring out of hemp that I can wear to practice in. So I am never at a loss for rings to wear! :)

As we said, the wedding will be a long time coming. Fall of 2013, in Pinehurst at my parents house on the lake. So start planning time off now! We probably won't set a date for a little while. We will have to schedule the wedding around our competition seasons... Of course. Haha. Those of you that have already been through the wedding planning process- any and all advice is welcome!! I took one look at the wedding books at Barnes and Noble and was instantly overwhelmed... Good thing we have plenty of time. We'll find out how good we are at procrastinating....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Injury Update

So. I have gotten a few different opinions on my foot. The week we decided to end the season I started seeing a physical therapist in town to figure out what is going on and to start treatment. I also went to see an orthopedist during some down time at home with my parents. Both of them came back with the same diagnosis: I have partially torn 3 ligaments in my foot. For the anatomically inclined, it's the Abductor Hallucis, Flexor Digitorum Brevis, and the Plantar Fascia tendon. (Don't explain my injury and leave me alone with Netter's... I get curious).

The only thing I really need is rest. Both gave me a timeline of about 4 weeks out, which is perfect. I have already been resting for 2 weeks, and I have another 2 weeks before fall training is scheduled to start. So overall, I'm optimistic. And I really do think it's a one time injury that I can overcome and move past. But I will say that it will be nice to put on a real pair of shoes again and toss this boot aside. With some care and attention it doesn't need to be a nagging injury that hangs with me until the end of 2012. In the meantime I will be enjoying my time off, trying to relax and get refocused for the year to come!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sad Day.

It's been a rough few weeks for me here. I have made some progress on the runway. Definitely turned some heads at my last couple of meets. It feels good to finally feel comfortable with my run and plant. The unfortunate consequence is that I have ended up blowing through poles so the improvements haven't resulted in any spectacular meet results. But progress is progress and I can't be disappointed with it.

Unfortunately I feel like I have been fighting off injuries the last few weeks. Our schedule had me competing in 2 more meets. Both of them are here at home, the last 2 installments of Friday Night Heights. With the way training has been going, I had no doubts that I would end the season with a big result. But my body has other plans. Since our last meet over a week ago, I have been trying to manage an issue with my heel. I was able to practice last Monday, but since then I have pretty much been limping around. It always is excruciating in the morning, then it starts feeling better by practice time in the evening so I can do at least a light workout.

But after a week of pretending it's not a big deal, tonight's practice was a slap in the face. It was actually feeling a lot better during the day, and I did some short run warm up vaults. But when I tried to sprint for a full run I could feel it escalating. And I just knew if I jumped on my heel at full speed it was going to hurt. A lot. My coach took a look at it after I decided to pack it in for the day. Just the little bit of poking he did sent the pain through the roof. I was almost in tears and couldn't put any weight on it. We both came to the decision that I should just end the season a few weeks early, and schedule a doctors appointment ASAP.

I have 4 weeks exactly until we are supposed to start our fall training. I am optimistic that we can get this issue sorted out quickly. And the rest of my body will be welcoming the break. I even have a few weeks off from work, so I can really do some relaxing. I think I will get to spend the entire time with Geoff, which I'm sure will be just what the doctor orders. :) And even though it is a premature end to the season, I made it much longer into the summer than I ever have before. Now I am confident I can jump well all the way through August. I know I have made significant and permanent changes to my vault since my move. And I'm looking forward to putting in some hard work this fall. Next year... it's going to be BIG!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weeeeellll.....

So. That wasn't what I was hoping for. My first NH in a while. I was really excited during warm ups at the meet today, because for the first time in 2 weeks my legs felt awesome! New shoes made all of the difference. My run and plant felt spectacular!! They are really coming together. And everyone noticed too, which did make the NH a little less painful.
The bungee was at 13'6 during warm ups and I had 2 great attempts at it with a decent amount of height over the bar. Given how everything felt I was certain that I was going to get a PR. But as it turned out, the top end of my vault hasn't progressed as much as my run and plant. I had just enough hesitation before I started pulling that I was just running into the bar every time. It was very frustrating, and I was pretty upset. But I know things are moving in the right direction. I haven't really practiced at all the last 2 weeks because of how rough my legs felt. So I need a lot more work on the runway in practice. It will come. I have no doubts. :)

Keep Moving Forward

So... It's been a crazy few weeks!! Vaulting is definitely progressing. My last competition was 2 weeks ago. Though I didn't have a new PR, I jumped on my 13'7 poles for the first time (which, if you know me at all you know that's a big deal!). And the following Monday I had possibly my best practice ever. For the first time I was conceptually able to move my focus past the plant onto the second half of the vault. It felt amazing! Since then I have been dealing with some really bad shin splints so we have taken practices pretty easy. The good news is that I think the only problem was that my shoes were really worn out. And I just bought them 2 months ago! I guess that's a sign of how much we've been running...

The best news of the last 2 weeks is that I have a job (finally)!! And I couldn't be more excited. I am working for Eddie at the Health Shoppe in West Knoxville. I'm doing my best to catch on quickly, but there are literally thousands of awesome products for sale in there. So I am trying to study up when I'm not in there so that I can actually help people that come in rather than just manning the register. But everyone that I work with is awesome. I'm really excited to be there. If you're in the area you should stop by and say hi.

I have three more meets left in the 2011 season. My goal is ultimately to get a new PR. I have been making drastic improvements on so many different aspects of my vault that I'm starting to get a little impatient to see some results on the runway. I know it's coming. I have also started to work with a great sport psychologist in town. I have a new mental strategy for approaching my vaulting. Today will be my first day trying to put it into action. I am super excited about it. Maybe later on I'll let you know what it is, but for now it's my secret. :)

We are competing again at the Friday Night Heights series on the UT track tonight. Hopefully the weather will hold off... It's sunny now, but the meet starts at 6pm and according to the weather channel there is a 100% chance of thunderstorms at 6.... Wish me luck!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Help Support Geoff!!


So those of you that know me well have heard, but for everyone else let me fill you in... My boyfriend Geoff Fryer has qualified for the BMX world championships!! Unfortunately they are in Copenhagen, Denmark which isn't exactly a cheap trip. But races like this are what we train for, so we're doing all we can to raise money so that he can make it to the race. Here are the T-shirts that we are selling:

If you would like to get one and help support Geoff on his journey, simply visit his blog (http://flyerfryer.blogspot.com/) and donate $20 or more. Be sure to include the size you want and where to send it if you aren't local for either of us. If that is too confusing you could also give your donation here on my page too, I'll make sure he gets the money. Promise. :)

Just a note on why supporting a rider like Geoff is worth it: while he's had an incredibly successful downhill career, he is very new to the BMX scene. He has been racing barely a year and he's already qualified for the world championships. I think that says a lot. We both know that we couldn't make it through our careers without support from amazing people like you. And even if you can't afford $20 right now, every little bit helps. We will be eternally grateful. :)

Friday Night Heights-Thursday Installment

So last week's meet went well. My goal for that meet was really just to have fun, relax, and takeoff. I had no run thrus, which is the first time I had a day like that in a long long time. My grip was very very low and I was on a very small pole, so the height wasn't anything spectacular. But my run felt great and I had fun.

This week Friday Night Heights was moved to Thursday night instead. (HUGE thanks to Chris Kane who covered my coaching for the night so I could compete) We had some vaulters come down from Virginia Tech, plus a couple other local collegiate girls. So we actually had a good sized group and everyone had company to jump with. I inched my grip up a little, and jumped on the biggest poles I've ever jumped on. The only problem is that I was blowing through my poles.... And my grip is still almost a foot below where it should be! Haha. Looks like I may be running out of poles soon. Overall I was happy with it. It was progress. And the men had a GREAT competition. Ended with a 3 vaulter jump off and 2 guys going 17'4. Good night! Looking forward to more Friday Night Heights, and possibly some street vaults in the future?? :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wish Me Luck!!

In a couple of hours I'm heading down to Tom Black Track here at UT for my first meet in what feels like forever!!! Tim Mack has gotten some officials together so that we can have some USATF certified pole vault meets here in town. There are 4 post collegiate vaulters here (training with 4 different coaches... craziness) so getting the chance to jump locally is huge for all of us. The US Championships are less than 3 weeks away. I think only one of us has a realistic shot at qualifying, but it's on all of our minds.
I feel like my practices have gone well lately. I am running from a full run finally, but still gripping low on a really small pole. My biggest challenge has been to push myself past my comfort zone. We have moved my run back significantly, and I'm really trying to push that free take off. Trying and jump up onto the pole rather than simply running off the runway and just letting it take me up. They are really small changes that will have a big impact on my vault. And it's taking me a while to come around. I am still having a lot of run thrus. I know I could go ahead and move my run in, move my grip up again back to where I was last season. And I would have a realistic shot at qualifying in the next 2 meets. But I would rather not give in, keep everything where it is and just push through it a few more weeks until I make that breakthrough. It may mean waiting another year to get my shot at competing at Nationals, but I know it will pay off immensely in the long run.
It will just take one good day on the runway to get over this hurdle, so I am not totally discounting my chances yet. Today my goal is to build on my last few practices. I want to push myself to relax and open up my run. And take off right from the start. I am not worried about heights right now, I just need to embrace that my run feels different and just go with it. If I can minimize the run thrus today I will be happy regardless of the height!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Great Friends, Good Company!

It's been a few days. Quick update... Saturday I had a great running session. I was feeling pretty tired since it was the end of the week, but I had a great day. We did 40m pole runs with the pole and I dropped about 0.40 sec off of my time. I was pretty happy with that. As soon as I was done got a quick haircut (had 8 inches chopped off! Much much improved!) and headed to Nashville to watch our good friends Greg and Mandy get married. Mandy is now officially Mandy Bandy, which I think is the coolest name ever! :) It was a gorgeous ceremony, with hundreds of cicadas providing the background music.

Sunday was a nice relaxed day off spent on Geoff's family farm. It's always nice to catch up with family. Monday I got to vault from a full run for the first time since indoors. If you account for the change in my grip, my run has moved back 3-4 ft in just 2 short months. So it is taking me a little bit to get used to how different it feels. I am much faster on the runway, and I am also trying to move my step back. So I am having a lot of run throughs right now while I make the switch, but I am still taking off on a lot of them. And I am starting to get used to it. I think I should have it down and dialed in very soon!

My body is rebelling a little bit over the last few days, so Tuesday was an easy day of sand pit drills and light pole runs. But everything is improving and getting smoother. Today I vaulted again, but I actually had some company out on the runway! You have no idea how awesome it is to be around others working towards the same goal. The past 2.5 years have seen lots of lonely workouts. And if I have had company it has been high schoolers that usually just make me feel incredibly old. So it was a welcome change, and I think it worked well. 3 vaulters and 2 coaches, gettin' it done! Hopefully we can have another practice like that soon! I loved it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Inspiration

I know I am giving my life up for sport, and I should be watching Nike commercials and football movies to get my inspiration to keep going. And I do. Sometimes. But I always try to remember that in the end, it's just sport. Life is more important. And people like this inspire me more than anything in athletics ever could.

What a Spring...

So this is what the radar looked like here yesterday...All those storms were moving north east, so it was a very rainy day here. I actually did a full warm up at the track before I noticed a massive black cloud headed my way. The last time I saw a storm coming towards me at the track it was a pretty harrowing experience. I never want to get caught standing in the middle of the street when it's raining sideways again. So I decided to play it safe and I packed up the poles and made it home just before the brunt of it hit. It was supposed to be a vaulting day, but we ended up just sticking with imitations, sand pit drills, a few light pole runs, and some sprinting later in the evening. Much easier (and safer) to try that in the rain.

I was disappointed that I didn't get to jump yesterday, but I think it was all for the best. When I got out to the track today I felt like I had a much clearer picture in my head of what I was supposed to be doing with the plant and jump. Trying to master an exaggerated free take off into the sand gave me a pretty good idea of where the pole should be and what the jump should feel like than any simple explanation ever could. So today was miles ahead of Monday, and I think as my last practice running from 12 steps it was probably the best. It didn't translate into clearances. I had lots of height on the bungee I just kept bumping it on the way up because I wasn't getting upside down fast enough. But the pole felt a lot smaller today than it ever has, which I think is a good sign that my run and plant are improving. And the biggest improvement: I made it through 15 jumps with no run-thrus! I'll take that any day.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back at it in the Gym

Today we headed back to gymnastics to get more work done on the bars. I feel like this is a place where I can really work on the intensity on top of the vault. The most important drill we are doing is on the high bar. Basically trying to pull up to handstand from a very slight swing. My biggest challenge has been to try and forget all of my gymnastics training. In gymnastics all of the swings are done with straight arms and a long body. But in pole vault basically I'm trying to get upside down as fast as possible so that I have the speed and power to get a big push off the top. So how pretty it looks doesn't really matter, it's just the intensity that's being put in. I still tend to have a nice long hollow body and pointed toes, and I swing out too far so I just end up coming back to the bar in a pullover. But every practice it gets a little better.
We did add a couple of new drills on the rope that were pretty entertaining. The first is a backflip on the rope. The flip itself is pretty easy, but being able to get upside down and pull on the rope so that the flip actually gets up in the air isa lot harder than I thought it would be. The second drill was to hang upside down on the rope, then try to hop up the rope. The first time it felt insanely awkward, kind of like the first time you try to walk when you're upside down in a bridge (if you've ever tried that.... haha). Your body doesn't quite know which way to move to get you to go in the direction that you want to go. Challenging, but really fun! One other thing I got to do today was play around a little bit on the rod floor. Tumbling never fails to make me smile. :)

My biggest challenge so far is to figure out how to keep myself from holding back.... I tend to be caught up in making all of the drills and vaults look perfect, and worrying about the consequences and what everyone around me will think. But holding back is not the path to setting records. This is the task that will define my pole vault career. If I can overcome it there is no limit to how high I can jump. If anyone has advice on how to overcome my mental setbacks please don't hesitate to share.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sand

So yesterday's vault practice wasn't the best. To recover from it a little we went back to the basics in the sand. All I did was 6 step jumps into the sand for over an hour. It was probably about 40 or 50 jumps, but by the end I really felt like I was making progress. The first few things we focused on were moving my hands earlier (starting the plant earlier), then speeding up the last 3 steps, and then making sure I could see both arms in front of me before I jumped. I felt like I could master all of those without too much difficulty. Then we moved on to trying to have a free takeoff, basically jump before my pole hits the sand. It's not a difficult concept. And I have had coaches in the past that have talked to me about it, but it has never been a priority so I have gotten very used to feeling the resistance on the pole before I jump. It's a lot more comfortable. So even though I don't have a long history in pole vault, this is going to be one change that will be difficult to make. Call it a bad habit if you want. But I'll be able to make it happen. From 2 steps I can do it almost all the time, from 6 it wasn't so consistent. Towards the end I figured out how to change the plant and jump to make it happen, but it's still not very consistent.
After the sand we moved to the track and did some easy pole runs with a plant. Very simple, there was just a shoe on the track that gave me a reference of where to start the plant. I was amazed to find out that even when I'm jogging and even though there was no box I still planted late. The problem is that I started to think about planting when I got to the shoe, which meant that it actually started 2 or 3 steps later. I feel like this was a HUGE revelation because I do the exact same thing on the runway. And there is an easy fix, start thinking about the plant earlier. Simple, right? The kicker is that when I try it out on Thursday it's going to feel really uncomfortable and really wrong but I've just got to turn off my brain and make it happen. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Shoes and GYMNASTICS!!

Being a distance runner for 8 years, you would think I would be pretty adept at monitoring when it's time to get new running shoes. But when you're running a lot of long runs, it's also really easy to keep track of your mileage. On the track however, it's hard to know how many miles you run on a weekly basis. During the first few weeks here in Knoxville my legs have felt shattered. The short morning jogs and stretching have been keeping me going, but it was rough. I figured my body was just adjusting to the new training load, but it felt pretty bad. I was actually worried I might be developing some injuries at the end of last week. But I had a revelation and finally bought some new shoes on Monday. It's like night and day! I feel like I have taken a week off! Now I am incredibly excited for the weeks to come. My workouts are changing, we're going down to some shorter sprints, different plyos, and different drills on the runway. Should be lots of fun now that my legs are back!
I also got to relive some old dreams last night. I was given the option of weightlifting or going to an adult gymnastics class for my second workout yesterday. Can you guess what I picked?? :) It was a blast! I surprised myself (and a few people in the gym!) with how good everything felt. I didn't want to push it and get hurt, so I didn't try anything too crazy. We mostly tumbled on the rod floor and stuck to the basics. But it was awesome. The guy coaching the class said I could head over to the other rod floor and try some harder tumbling (yes, this gym has 2 rod floors. Full T&T length. Plus 2 full size floor ex, 4 pits, 6 competition tramps and all the other goodies you'd expect...... it's massive!). But I decided not to push it. I don't think my spatial awareness is still there after 9 years. I did get to play around on the beams a little too. Maybe next time I'll be a little more daring and try some stuff into the pit... :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jobs, Storms, and REALLY Good Training...

Ok, so it's been a few weeks. I feel like I am starting to settle into life in Knoxville. I was busy with the job search until early last week when I landed 4 interviews. Now it's the waiting game to see how things shake out. I am excited about all of the options, but I'm not a fan of waiting so it's fairly stressful right now.
As you may have heard, we had a couple of thunderstorms around here last week.... Luckily we were spared the brunt of it. But it was still pretty scary. Tornado watches and warnings all day. The worst came at night with the hailstorm. It was intense enough that Bailey and I took cover in the closet for a little while. In hindsight, a top floor apartment isn't the best for situations like that. Meeting my first floor neighbors is now a top priority. But like I said, I was lucky. My car took a beating, but it will be fixed in good time.
On to what you guys really want to hear about: Vaulting! So I can say that it hasn't been a super smooth transition. But I think it's to be expected. It takes me a little while to take to new coaches. It's always a totally new language to understand, literally this time ;) I have definitely felt like I only halfway understood what I was being asked to do. But this week has been a big break through. Things have definitely started clicking both in communication and in actual performances. I had my best vault practice so far on Tuesday. All of the hundreds of drills that I have done on the track since last fall are FINALLY starting to show up on the runway. My run and plant are feeling comfortable for the first time ever. We have done a lot of sprinting and it has been tough, but very exciting. I can already tell a difference on the runway. Every day I have had to move back. And if my pole runs are any indication, my full run might move back as much as 10 ft!
Overall, its very very exciting. The goal right now is just to improve something every practice. Even on the days where I haven't been on form, I have improved in some aspect. All in all it's very encouraging! I will update again soon! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ouch!

Other than one small bump in the road with my first vaulting day, practices have been going well here in Knoxville. Last Monday we were run off the track by thunderstorms so the day was cut short. But this Monday it was sunny and gorgeous, so I got the full enjoyment from the workout. (Oh yes!) It started with about 45 minutes of plyometrics. Think bounds, frog jumps, lunges.... It definitely went better than last week but I still have work to do. The main workout was next... 8x80m. I wanted to post this workout up because I was pretty proud of myself. All of them were right around 11.3 sec, which I realize isn't terribly fast. But I was running in flats, from a standing start, and on legs that felt like lead weights. I'd say it's pretty good for someone with 8 years of distance running in their background. It felt really good, I may be coming around on this whole sprinting thing. But it was a very good thing that Tuesday was mostly upper body workouts with gymnastics and weights.... My butt hasn't been that sore in a looong time! Haha. :)
The rest of this week is a bit of a hassle trying to get track time with the Sea Ray Relays in town. The UT team is barely allowed on the track so us other folks aren't left with much. I will be competing Friday at 1pm if anyone wants to come out and watch. It's really just a practice for me, but there are 32 girls entered. Several of them are capable of 4 meters or higher so there will definitely be some good jumping to be seen. Plus there will be high jump, mid-distance races, sprints, hurdles, and throwing all going on while we are vaulting so it should be an exciting day. Just as long as the storms hold off....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Places, New Faces

So I did it! Just finished my first week as a Knoxville resident. The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind getting everything sorted, moving, and then trying to get settled in, all while making the transition in my training too. Leaving Boone was not easy. I have made a lot of close friends there. I made it through all of the goodbyes fairly well, the only time I truly got choked up was finishing my last practice. Daniel has done so much for me over the last 3 years. There is no way I would be at the level I am if it wasn't for him. I know it's not really goodbye, it's simply the next step. But it was still hard.

The move was rough, but I owe a HUGE thank you to all the friends that came out and helped. I really don't think I have a ton of stuff, but it would have taken Geoff and I so long to move it all on our own. I will find a way to pay all of you guys back somehow. I basically tried to hole myself up in my new apartment most of this week so that I could get all of my furniture put together and boxes unpacked. Now that I am officially moved in, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Though the final stage was very quick, the actual move to Knoxville has been a long time coming. It is refreshing to think that I may not have to move again for 5 or 6 years!!

There are so many big changes between life in Boone and Knoxville. It was cold and snowing when we pulled out of Boone last Saturday. Aside from a few passing storms, it has been sunny and gorgeous every day in Knoxville. I feel like I moved from the middle of winter to the middle of summer. I had to buy some sunscreen because I already got cooked on my first day out vaulting. I can't say that practices are a ton harder, they are just fairly different. And the volume has been upped a LOT! So the first few days it was a big adjustment, amplified by the fact that I wasn't really getting any recovery time because I was having to drag furniture around the apartment and unpack boxes every moment I was at home. But it's all done! And the ice maker in my apartment is getting put to good use making my ice bath every night.

I'm looking forward to some more intense training ahead. And while I do the job search, I'm going to make sure I get out and about and see all that Knoxville has to offer. For anyone that wants to come visit, there are museums, a zoo, an aquarium, awesome greenways, public gardens..... But I'll be sure to always remember the reason that I am here. My outdoor season will officially begin this weekend. I will be jumping in the Sea Ray Relays at UT. Because it is so close to this big coaching change, I will limit myself to a shorter run (12 steps) and focus on getting a good push off of the pole rather that focus on getting a PR. The rest of the season is still up in the air, but I will be sure to update you guys soon so you can come out and watch. Cheering fans are always welcome!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not Content With the Waiting....

While I wait to finalize the location of my immediate future, my training is definitely not on hold. In fact, I feel like I'm progressing faster than ever. Last week I managed to finally master a drill that my 14 years of gymnastics has been getting in the way of the last couple of years. Once I got that drill, it really did feel like a lot of things clicked. Right away I was able to get some pretty significant improvement in my short run vaults. I had one great day vaulting with the high school group in town. Then I had a couple of up and down days where the troubles can be blamed only on myself. For some reason I had convinced myself that my normal starting step was a foot back from where it actually was. So I ran through several times because it felt very off, of course since I was at least a foot out. Thinking I was just having an off day, I tried to make it work refusing to let myself give in and move up. But now that I have established myself as a complete idiot, I'm looking forward to my next vaulting day where I get to leave those silly mistakes behind me. I will have a lot more to combat next time, since it will be my first day vaulting outside this season!! Exciting times! In the meantime, it's back to the tentative moving plans that I must say are looking much more definite. I may be in Knoxville by the start of next month!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Big Changes? Or No Changes?

It's been a while. But the last couple of weeks have been really hectic, I don't really know how to make sense of it myself. The indoor season ended with a final meet at App State. Overall it wasn't a bad meet, I definitely jumped better than I had at a meet all season. But it wasn't good enough. I had really high hopes heading into the indoor season. It was my third year in a row thinking I had a shot at getting to indoor nationals, and for the third time I wasn't close. This year is definitely different, I am much more confident in my jumping. And technically it is finally starting to feel like it's coming together. But it's just too late.

After my last meet, my coach and I met to discuss the plans for the outdoor season. I knew in the fall that the end of the indoor season could bring some big changes to my life, and it's looking like I was right. I was given a choice: I could stay in my current training situation in Boone (which, lets be honest is very very good) or I could move to Knoxville and train there. It really was a HUGE decision that I didn't take lightly. I made my choice to leave Boone and head back to Tennessee. There are many bonuses in Knoxville, but the biggest deciding factor for me was really my vaulting. I have been training in Boone for two and a half years now. I truly appreciate how far I have come, and I can't say thank you enough to everyone that has helped me here. Meeting Daniel and getting to train with him has truly changed my life. And I won't necessarily be leaving him behind as a coach, he will still be involved. But I do feel like I need a big change. I have become very comfortable with the training here, which can be a good thing. But I feel like I am getting a little complacent. I am letting myself get away with some things in my training that I am not happy with. Knoxville is scary, I really have no idea what it will hold for me. There are so many unknowns. But I think that getting myself out of my comfort zone could be the best thing for me. I know my vaulting is progressing, but I need to find a way to push past what I'm used to and finally make that breakthrough.

Once the stress of making my decision was over, I had a couple of days to get somewhat excited about the move before it felt like the bottom dropped out on it. The situation has changed, in the end it is definitely for the best. But it puts my immediate future totally up in the air. The pieces aren't coming together in Knoxville like I originally thought. It is frustrating for me, because I am the type of person that doesn't really waver on decisions once they are made. Other than vaulting there are a lot of things hanging in the balance like jobs, a place to live, and all the other things that come along with a big move. I had started informing people in town I was leaving last week. And I spent the weekend looking for apartments and scoping out Knoxville with friends. So if it turns out I am not moving I am going to feel like a pretty big fool. The most stressful part for me is that I feel out of the loop and like the situation is out of my control. It is not a situation that I do not like to be in and I am definitely losing a lot of sleep over it. My biggest fear is that this will drag on and have a negative impact on my outdoor season. All I can do now is assume I'll be moving soon and keep planning along those lines. Hopefully it will all come together in time...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hikes, Bikes, and One Awesome Weekend

Happy Valentines Day everyone! I'm not too big into the holiday. And I'm spending this one alone. But Geoff and I made up for it by having an amazing weekend!! Saturday was Geoff's day to plan an outing and Sunday was my turn. Great minds think alike, because we both planned things that took advantage of the gorgeous sunny weather! On Saturday we picked up some hot coffee at Earth Fare and went out to hike around by the river. I have been absolutely dying to spend some time outside, so I loved every minute of it. And then we took our time getting back to town, just driving around on backroads enjoying the scenery. It was nice to finally be able to relax together.
Sunday was quite a bit more active. I borrowed a bike from one of Geoff's friends and we headed out the the 4x and slalom courses behind ETSU. With how gloomy the winter has been I know Geoff had been itching to ride. I haven't ridden a bike other than my road bike on a trainer in years. And I haven't been on a mountain bike since at least 2005.... So needless to say I was pretty nervous. I was prepared to eat it a lot and make a fool out of myself, but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun. I didn't fall, and I actually started getting the hang of it again by the end. Maybe I have found my next sport to try my hand at... :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yay for the Training Room!!

I never thought I would be excited to be back in the training room, but today I was ecstatic to be there! As a post collegiate athlete, it's really hard to get the kind of consistent medical attention that you get used to in college. It's up to you to stay on top of icing and rehab on your own. And to be totally honest, that is hard to keep up every day. But thanks to some great friends, I have some help now! My new best friend is Sara. I have a few nagging injuries that keep coming back year after year. I think with a little help from Sara every morning I will be in tip top shape, and most importantly I'll be able to avoid those big injuries that can quickly ruin a season. And I'm super excited to be able to ice bath every day!! Woo hoo!!

And on another good note, vaulting this morning was great! We stuck with a shorter run, focusing on getting my plant out early and then being really aggressive off the ground. I really felt like I was making some good progress. I can't wait for Friday when I get to apply all of this to my longer run! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Niswonger

So this past weekend was the Niswonger Invitational at ETSU. It's a track (and meet) that I know very very well. I was definitely excited about it. But with all of the travel issues the week before it was a challenge getting recovered in time. Surprisingly, on the day of the meet I was actually feeling great! One thing I have come to expect from Niswonger every year is a REALLY long wait. After warmups I had to sit for almost an hour and a half before I came in, and that was only 4 bars from opening height. 15 girls no-heighted, or didn't clear their first bar. It was rough.
Again, my results weren't exactly what I was hoping for, but there was definitely progress. I started at a higher bar and cleared it on my first attempt. I haven't had a first attempt clearance since the first meet. And most importantly I started on bigger poles. All of my meets so far I have used my 12'4 poles for at least the first bar, but this time I jumped straight to the 13' poles. The last few weeks I have spent a lot of effort trying to simply get used to running from my full run, and now that I'm getting comfortable I am really going to be able to attack my vaults. I still have some technical improvements I can make, and we have decided to take the weekend off so that we can focus on making some changes. My next meet will be back in Boone at App State again. I'll keep you updated on how practices are going. I am really really looking forward to finishing the indoor season with a big jump!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Summit

So the National Pole Vault Summit turned out to be quite the crazy trip. Overall, I was disappointed with the experience. I have been to the Summit twice before, in 2007 and 2009. Both times I had nothing but great memories. I always loved the lectures, the elite competition was exciting, and the competition itself was always a lot of fun. But this time around was different. I don't feel like I got much out of the lectures, though I think it had less to do with the lectures being different as it did with me just having a lot more knowledge on the topics. The question and answer session with Brad Walker and Tim Mack was really good though. It was just the college and open athletes in there with them, so were a lot of great questions about training. And the highlight of the lecture day was by far Willie Banks' talk as the keynote speaker. If you don't know who he is, he was a world record holder in the triple jump. Check it out, very inspiring!!
The competition itself on the whole was very disappointing. Maybe I have a different view on everything this time around because of how far I have come in the last 2 years, but it was just unimpressive. In the elite competition on Friday night, only one girl cleared higher than 14 feet. Two of the top vaulters in the US, one a former Olympian and the other a World team member, both failed to clear a bar at all. I don't think this takes anything away from the girls. They are all great vaulters. I think it just illustrates how difficult it was to jump at the Summit this year. For my own competition on Saturday, I think it was possibly one of the worst run meets that I have ever competed in. I was with a really good group of girls, most of them are capable of jumping 13 feet or higher. But the situation was just terrible. About 10 minutes into warm ups we were told we were only getting 20 more minutes on the runway. Normally you are given about an hour to warm up. And once we started competing the hardest thing to deal with was the crowd. I really like having people watch me jump. In fact, the more the better. It really gets me going. But what I don't like is when all of those people are standing just a couple feet back from the runway. It was like a party down there. And no one was paying attention to the vaulters that were competing. From where my coach was standing at the box, he couldn't see 30 feet down the runway to catch my mid mark. I don't watch the other vaulters much during the meet, but I think the results tell it all. Everyone was struggling. Only 5 girls cleared higher than 12 feet.
Overall I was very proud of myself with how I handled the situation. For the day I only had 2 run thrus, and I know exactly why I ran through on them. It's an easy fix. It was my first meet running from my full run and I handled it well. I finally moved up onto my bigger poles. And I finally felt like I put together a decent jump over a bar:

video
So I am very happy with how I handled the situation. But the experience was bad enough that we will have to think really hard about whether or not we will add this meet to our schedule again.
The trip back was a great way to top off the weekend. Our flight out of Reno Sunday morning was cancelled. Since there were at least 3 big conventions in town the earliest they were telling us we could get out was Monday evening. So rather than sit there and be unproductive, Geoff and I rented a car and drove by Lake Tahoe over to Sacramento, CA. We were told that the pass was covered in snow and that we wouldn't be able to make it without chains, but it was a gorgeous sunny day up there. Definitely made me wish we had time to stay a while.
Glad he was able to stop before he needed to take a runaway truck ramp!
We were able to get on a flight out of Sacramento Sunday evening, and we met my coach in Phoenix and we were all on the red-eye back Sunday night. I am not a fan of all-nighters so it has taken me a while to recover from that. But my next meet is actually TODAY in Johnson City! It has been an easy week letting my body recover from the travel, and I'm really excited to be back and Johnson City jumping in front of friends and family again. I've got good feelings about this!! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reno Time!

So this time tomorrow night I will be in Reno, NV getting ready for the Pole Vault Summit. This morning was my last training day in Boone before the early flight out tomorrow, and I am happy to report that it was a GREAT one! Many of you know that I have been trying to move my run back to 8 lefts for a little while now and it hasn't happened for one reason or another. But today I was ready!! We had to move my workout earlier so that 5:30 am wake up came early!! But I was ready and excited. And the vault session went great!! No run thrus from 6 or 8 lefts. And I had to get past some distractions that in the past I have let get in my head. Overall I was really proud of myself. Now I am definitely ready for Reno. It's going to be a great weekend!! As long as we can get to the airport in the snow.....

Monday, January 24, 2011

And Again...

This weekend was my second meet in a row in Boone, and unfortunately it wasn't a stellar outing. We were competing in the basketball arena at App State, which to be fair is not my favorite place to vault. It is a very nice arena, but for vaulting there is a lot of cement and the pit is pretty old. The last time I jumped in there was 3 years ago. In warm ups at that meet I landed in a hole in the pit and left the meet on crutches. Thankfully I learned my lesson and I didn't have any issues this time around.

There were some tough things to deal with this time around. Practices didn't go too smoothly last week. Our original goal had been to move back to 8 lefts, or 16 steps in practice. That didn't happen. But we decided to go ahead and try it at the meet anyways, at least in warm ups. And I had to do it without my coach.... (I owe a huge thank you to Meredith, Mandy, and Coach Ward for helping me with my steps and standards). Warm ups was great thru 12 steps. But moving back to 16 steps I just couldn't get comfortable. I felt like I was too far away, and when I moved up it still just didn't feel right. I am not worried, though. Usually the first day moving back there is a lot of adjusting. It takes me a few runs to get used to the extra speed, and at a meet there just aren't enough jumps. I know that when I go back this week it will go smoothly.

I moved back down to 12 steps for the meet. Unfortunately I didn't improve on my height from last week, but there are a lot of positives that I can take away from the meet:
-First of all, my body felt great! I have been struggling with some nagging injuries lately, but I recovered well for the weekend.
-I opened at a higher height than the week before.
-I was jumping on stiffer poles than the week before.

So far it has been a slow start to the season, but I think a lot of things are finally coming together. Physically I am really to jump big, and mentally I am really getting close. I am very excited for the meets coming up in the next 2 weeks. First is the National Pole Vault Summit in lovely Reno, NV! And then the first weekend in Feb. I'll be back in Johnson City for the Niswonger Invitational at ETSU. It's going to be a great couple of weekends!

Here are some photos from my first meet. I wasn't jumping at my best, but they are still some decent photos.

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Meet Done!

This weekend I finally got to compete again!! It was a small meet at App here in Boone. Overall I am pretty pleased with how the day turned out. It was a rushed morning, but I was able to settle down and get in a good mindset for the meet. The men competed first, which makes predicting when the women will start a little challenging. But thanks to Daniel, we timed it perfectly on Saturday. That doesn't happen often. Our goals for this meet were simple: no run-thrus and clear a bar. Personally, I was trying to prove to myself that I can be mentally tough.

I think I definitely accomplished all three things. I had no run thrus all day, I had no misses until the height I went out on, and I was able to stay in a good mindset all day. I ran from a very short run, only 12 steps. And I was able to jump on the same poles that I used from a longer run last year. The height was definitely nothing to write home about, but it's a great start. It was the best beginning I have had to a season. The only place to go from here is up!!

My next meet will be Saturday at App again, but this time it will be in the Convocation Center. If anyone is interested in dropping by, I always love support!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year, New Me

So I know I am long overdue for the obligatory New Years post. But this isn't going to be filled with well intentioned resolutions and wishful thinking for the year ahead. I am making some drastic changes in my life, and the New Year has come at a convenient time to implement them. They have been a long time coming, so I will call them what they are: changes. Changes in the way I eat, the way I think, the way I train, and the way I live. Resolutions seem so impermanent. Tradition leans more towards breaking the them than actually following along. How many people do you know that have already begun to break theirs? So I am not making resolutions, I am making changes. And not just for the year 2011. These changes are in place until I finish with my athletic career. So here it goes...

1) Changing the way I eat:

VEGAN

My parents made the change last summer. I was skeptical. Athletes, especially speed and power athletes, need protein. Lots and lots of protein, right? How is it possible to get all of that on a plant based diet? Plus, I love cheese. I never thought I could give up cheese. But if someone presents new ideas that I disagree with, I want to know more. I finally read the books my parents were giving me. The most important is the China Study. I am only halfway through, but the first few chapters were enough to convince me that I needed to make a change. Not just for my athletics but for my health.

SOY FREE

I am not going to get too technical in this explanation, but my reason for going soy free traces back to the isoflavones found in soy. These isoflavones disrupt the normal functioning of the thyroid which can lead to serious thyroid problems. They also bind to estrogen receptors, essentially mimicking estrogen in your body. And as an elite athlete, increased estrogen levels whether real or induced is the exact opposite of what I want. Being vegan and soy free are a tough combination, but anything is do-able with the good planning.

CAFFEINE FREE

Caffeine blocks the fat burning pathways in your body. It also does a number on my stomach, so this isn't too difficult of a change. And I feel better already! :)

2) Changing the way I think

It's no secret that I have struggled mentally with my vaulting over the last few years. The last outdoor season was the worst it's ever been. After my move I expected all my problems would just melt away. When they didn't, I was at a loss. I know that my training this fall was good, the best fall that I have had yet. But still things just didn't feel quite right. It took some pretty low lows in the last several weeks to force me to make some realizations. I had to ask myself why exactly I am doing this. Why am I still vaulting? Am I vaulting for my parents? For my coaches? For my boyfriend? For my friends? The somewhat selfish yet brutally honest answer to those questions are all no. I am vaulting for myself, and no one else. So I have to take ownership. No one else can fix my problems. They all may care about me, and they may be invested in my success. But I am vaulting for myself, because I love this sport. And because I have an insatiable drive to be the best vaulter that I can possible be. So I need to stop making excuses and get out of my own way. Once I realized this, the progress has started coming. With all of the snowstorms in Boone, I have had many days alone to do some soul searching. And it has been very good for me. The last few practices have been great. And I know that this is just the beginning.

3) Changing the way I train

With the progress I have made mentally, I feel like I have a renewed fire inside me. I have more drive to commit to every workout than I ever have before. The training itself may not be changing, but the way I approach every practice is new and different. And very very exciting!

4) Changing the way I live

If I am truly committed to my goals as a pole vaulter (and I really really am), then I need to focus everything in my life around my vaulting. A year ago I think I had it down. But there have been a lot of changes since then... new town, new apartment, new jobs... It seems like just about everything in my life has changed except my vaulting. I have been using this change as an excuse for way too long. I was very unsettled here, and at times I still am. But that does not mean that I can let it impact my training. Starting now I am organizing my life so that everything is focused around my vaulting. If that means that I skip some trips to visit family, then I have to skip them. If it means I miss the end of a tv show or movie so that I can be in bed by 10, then I'll do it. I've let all the little things slide for way too long. It's not going to happen anymore.


My competition season starts now. I have 2 meets here in Boone, then I am headed out to Reno, NV for the Pole Vault Summit. Today I had my first practice jumping over a bar since last summer. It went very very well. For the first time in a long time I feel calm, relaxed, and confident. I'm ready to show everyone what I can really do, one step at a time.