Friday, May 27, 2011


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! :)