Saturday, February 26, 2011

Birmingham Grand Prix and home again!

Its the morning of the USA Indoor National Championships in Albuquerque and I thought i better write about my last couple of meets before i have another and have to write about all 3.  

I had a meet in Prague and struggled a bit.  My run felt really good but i just couldnt dial in my last 2 steps to hit a good takeoff.  For me to put together a great jump I have to be completely over top of my takeoff foot so that i can jump up into the pole.   Well at Prague I kept being under on my takeoff so i just kept moving back, well i got to the point where i was too far away and so I was reaching a bit for my takeoff, because of this i never really put a good jump together.  I made my opening height of 5.30m/17'5" but no heights after that.  

So I headed to my next meet in Birmingham, England with a few ideas of what to change and how to improve on my last meet in Europe.  It was my first time to the UK, and it was nice to be able to read everything and understand everyone.  The meet in Birmingham was a IAAF Grand Prix meet, which just means it was a high level meeting, with a good amount of prize money, and since i didnt finish as well as i wanted to in Donetsk I knew i needed to finish well here and come home with some money in my pocket.  

The venue for the meet was really nice, it was a lot like Madison Square Garden with large stadium seating on the sides.   My plan for the meet was to jump on the poles i was comfortable with and move up when i needed to.  I started the meet at 5.35/17'6" on the 5m 13.3 and continued to make 5.50/18' and 5.60/18'4" all on the same pole and all on my first attempts!  I was sitting in first place as we went up to 5.70/18'8" and i thought that if i put a really good jump together i could make it, well at the same time my run was really coming together and my last 2 steps were really sharp.  I blew through on my 1st attempt, moved up to the 5.10m #3 and blew through that.  3rd attempt i moved up to the 5.10 #4 or 12.7.  I remembered all to well coming down on the bar in donetsk with the standards at 60 so i moved them in to 55, came down, had a pretty good jump and just barely clipped the bar again.  I wasnt happy about missing 5.70 again but i ended up finishing in first place!  

I came home the next day to my beautiful wife, and relaxed most of the week.  Thursday we came down to Albuquerque for indoor nationals today.  I jump at 5:45pm mountain time or 7:45 eastern.  For the first time they are having a live webcast of the meet at  Wish me luck!

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Prague, Chzech Republic

I made it to Prague after the meeting in Donetsk.  What a great time i had!  It was an amazing experience to be around such talent, past and present.  This truly was a World Championship final, maybe missing 1 or 2 great vaulters.  The trip as a whole was not too bad, not nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be.  The flights were fine, they are taking much bigger planes from Kiev to Donetsk than they were a short time ago.  I flew on a 737 rather than the old Soviet prop planes I have head so many stories about.

The competition itself was a lot of fun, its hard not to be disappointed with the height because of how close i was to making 5.70.  My last jump of the competition i decided to move up to my 5.10 #4 or 12.6, now this is the replacement for the pole i broke just a month ago.  I was feeling good, and knew this pole would put me over 5.70 easily.  Now of course i look back at it and wonder why i didnt have the standards closer than i did, 60.  But at the time, in my amped up mind I thought it was perfect.  I came down the runway hit the biggest pole of my life, went for a ride over the crossbar and barely scraped it on the way down.  AAAGGGGHHHHH Is really all that comes to mind when I watch that video.

I remember sitting in a Q&A with Toby Stevenson one time and said the only way to be a professional vaulter is to jump high enough to give yourself great opportunities, and once you get those opportunities you better capitalize on them.  I kind of feel like i could have capitalized on this opportunity a bit better.  But I must move on, I have a new plan for the meet today. This year I have been starting on the 5m poles and then once the comp starts i try to move up to the 5.10's.  Well in Donetsk i was second guessing every decision i was making about moving my grip, changing poles and where to put the standards.  So the game plan for today is just to start on the 5.10's holding down and hopefully that will help me to know what to do better.

I will tell you this trip has been a little dissapointing so far.  My results are fairly good, 5.55, 5.53, and 5.60, the best, most consistent indoor ive ever had, but I should have jumped 5.65, 5.63, and 5.70, you saw the videos, barely knocking down all three of those bars.  So today Im gonna show my poles whos boss.  Lately they have been in charge, not today, today Im in charge.  Today is my day, Today the bar stays up.  Im not promising anything because you never know what can happen in the vault, but I will promise you this, im going into this comp with a different attitude.  Something needs to change, Im not ok with being mediocre, and 5.55, 5.53 and 5.60 are just that.

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh how I love traveling!

Don't you just love it when you have everything planned out perfectly. Flight booked, poles in storage at the airport, and all I have to do is walk 5 min, jump on a train, transfer to one other train, pick up the poles at storage and check in at the airport. It all sounded so promising, a day of international travel with little to no stress. Wouldn't that have been nice! It started off perfectly, breakfast, coffee, tickets in hand and out the door, supposed to end up at the airport at 8:45am almost 3 hours before my flight, plenty of time. First train is right on time, 7:17, I jump on, ride it for about 20 minutes get out and head right to the next terminal to jump on the ICE train straight to the airport. I have about 8 min until the train arrives and as I wait an announcement comes blaring out in german of course. I can't understand anything other than Frankfurt flughafen, airport, I look around and noone seems happy. In fact they all start to leave, I still have no idea what's happening but I can tell its not good. I frantically start looking for an information desk or someone who can help me. I finally find out that the train is cancelled due to some damage to the tracks or something. A nice gentleman tells me there's another train going to the airport from the main station, he tells me to jump on train 10 and go to the main station. I don't even hesitate, I know I'm in a time sensitive situation and don't have time to mess around. Luckily the guy was telling the truth, so I get out and immediately find a kiosk, luckily it has an english button so I can read it. It says there is a train going to the airport that leaves in 5 minutes and gets there the same time as the other train I was going to take! I rush to the terminal, the train comes and I get on, I exhale, that was a close one. I was pretty proud of myself for not panicking and figuring out where I needed to be in such little time. Now its time to relax, so I go to the cafe car and order some coffee, enjoying the sights of the German countryside and a few castles here and there. The ride is only supposed to be an hour, at one point I hear an announcement,(on this train they repeat everything in english) that says the train is running 7 minutes late, no big deal. I wait until about 5 min to go, get up and walk towards the door. 5 minutes go by, nothing, I think maybe there a few min off on their estimate. 20 min go by, 35 min, nothing, finally they come on the announcement and say that we are running 75 minutes late! What! Now I'm freaking out because I'm only going to have 80 minutes to retrieve my poles from the baggage storage area, and find my gate and check in. We finally get to the airport and I learn I have to take a bus to my terminal, YES! that helps so much! I finally get to my terminal and have maybe 45 min until my flight. I run to the counter and tell the lady I have stabhochsprung poles in the storage, it doesn't matter how many times I've heard that word(german for pole vault) said noone every understands me. So I start motioning my hands to try and convey pole vault poles to a lady who is looking at me like I'm on drugs! Finally she understands, tells me to run and get them and she will check me in. I get back, and she tells me it will be 16 euros/kg my bag is 30kg! She asked if I wanted to leave the bag at the airport, I laughed and said I wish. I pay her, because I'm pretty sure I will be reimbursed at the meet, and I head to my departure gate. I made it! I'm covered in sweat from running around with my backpack and huge bag, oh yeah and those freaking 30kg poles, that's like 66lbs! Stupid things... So here I sit, my flight is delayed of course, I don't know how long but I know its long enough that I couldve walked here instead of ran everywhere!
This is the life of a professional pole vaulter. Traveling abroad is pretty cool, like I said experiencing the new cultures and the people I meet are unforgettable. But throw a 17 foot 65 pound bag in there and your perspective changes quite a bit. But as my good friend and agent told me today in an email, "enjoy the adventure." Guess that's all there is to say about that.

Always Pursuing,

Monday, February 7, 2011

A lovely week off

So I didn't have a ton of time to write about the meet in Landau so I just threw up some videos to keep everyone happy for a little while until i had the chance to sit down and write a little more.  So here is me writing a little more, which may turn into a whole lot more, i guess we will just have to see.

I tell you what if i didn't have the few friend i have here or have met the people i have met things would be a whole lot harder.  When i heard i would be staying with a local family in Landau i got a little nervous, i think as anyone would in a foreign country.  I cant say enough about the Kiefers, the family i stayed with.  Whats funny is that most Europeans know some English, actually most can understand you and answer your questions, while most Americans couldn't say 5 words in another language, now I know there are exceptions but it makes you feel kind of bad being here and not knowing their language.  I wonder if they feel the same way about me as i sometimes do about foreigners in USA who dont speak English... ANYWAY the Kiefers are wonderful people I wish i could have stayed for much longer than just the 1 day i was with them.  They actually lived in the Detroit, MI area about 20 years ago.  There are 3 boys i think 17, 21, and 23 and their mother, I found out that their father died in 2001, I don't know the details but thats tough.  They live only about 1/2 mile from the track and gymnasium that the comp was held in.  Its really the people here that make you want to come back, and the Kiefers are a family I surely hope to see again.

Right, the competition, now I told you i wasn't planning on doing this comp, it just kind of presented itself, or should i say the Lord had it planned the whole time.  One thing Ive learned about competing here, you young guys listen up, its all about the relationships, if you can get the crowd to like you more than likely the meet director is going to like you, and thats where your money's at.  When i met the meet director Jachen, he told me that Bjorn Otto (German Superstar vaulter) had committed to coming to their meet, so of course they had advertised he was coming.  Well I guess less than a week before the meet Bjorn pulled out of the meet, Jochen heard i had nothing to do and invited me to come.  So now i know that I am the main attraction, not just another name on the list.  As Im warming up for the meet I give some kids high fives, thats a sure fire way to get the crowd liking you.  Now the gym is only so long so i have to come from 8 lefts, one shorter than my long run, but the box (where you plant the pole) is like an inch deeper than normal which will make it easier to get on bigger poles.  Warmups start and im feeling pretty good, the crowd is coming in, the runway is fairly fast and im jumping fairly well.  I decide to come in at 5.23m/17'1 because i dont want to sit around and the higher you can go over a bar the louder the crowd is.  Make it first attempt, next is 5.38m make it first attempt.  THe meet record is 5.52/18'1, so i pass the next bar of 5.48, and go to 5.53m.  By this time there is only 3 guys left, I come down first attempt and missed, Karsten Dilla from Germany comes down his 2nd attempt and makes it, now the pressures on.  I come down my second attempt and make it pretty easily.  We both decide to pass to 5.63m/18'5", Karsten is close but not too close, and as you saw on the video i was damn near over the bar and barely knocked it off.

Now I thought i had gotten 2nd because Karsten had jumped 5.48, but as they were announcing the winners I won the meet! thats an extra 200 euros from 1st to 2nd! I also got this huge trophy, theres no way i can put it in my bag, I already packed way to much, so i think i will have to leave it here and get it another trip.  So for the whole weekend I made a nice unexpected paycheck.

After the meet I decided to go with my German friend Michel Frauen to his apt in Leverkusen, Germany, they have a great training facility here and since i have the whole week before my next meet that's important.

Sunday Michel asks if i want to go to the sauna, very normal thing to do here, especially after a workout or competition.  I said yes of course, I had just did 2 meets in 3 days and my body was feeling a bit beat up.  So we go to the sauna, Im not sure how to describe the place we went other than a European Ymca i guess.  We walked in, checked in at the desk and got a locker key, walked into the locker room and Ive worn compression shorts.  Michel looks at me and says "we go naked, your in Germany of the free."  I should of known, so I stripped the shorts off, put a towel around my waist and we walked out into the great unknown.  As we walk out of the locker room, I immediately notice that this is a coed sauna spa, i guess ill call it.  All the saunas in the main place are packed so we go outside to another small building and get into a 70 degree citrus sauna , we stay in there for about 10 min, leave and walk outside to a cold shower which makes me scream like a little girl.  We walk back into the building and see there is a super hot sauna in a few min, so we go and find a spot, the temp inside is already 90degrees Celsius.  A lady walks in and begins to pour water on the stones, now its really hot, she starts waving a towel around which you think would feel cooler, but its just pushing that hot air right into you.  I survived until it was done, we walk back to the showers, by now i dont feel as strange being naked because everyone is or donning only a towel.  I scream a little more in the frigid shower and we go inside and sit around a fire and relax for a bit, after this its back to the sauna this ones only about 80 degrees, after which we went for a swim outside in a warm pool.  I really had to think about this, because it is so much different than anything in America, it was very awkward to me at first but i ended up really enjoying the experience.

Its very noticeable when i go to Europe the obesity epidemic we have in America, now i have a few theorys why the people here are fitter than we are, but maybe its as simple as once or twice a week everyone takes some time to really truly relax.  To sweat out the impurities, the stress of work, and get away from the never ending technology that seems to rule our lives.

I told Michel when we left that was definitely the most European experience I had ever had, and I had to thank him.  One of the coolest things about coming here is you have to go outside your comfort zone, this was a very extreme case of it, but it helps to open your mind to experience new cultures.

Its Monday, tomorrow we are having a little jump session and then thursday I jump on the train to Frankfurt and fly to Kiev, Ukraine for Sergey Bubkas meet in Donetsk.

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Saturday, February 5, 2011

5.53 make

Always Pursuing -Mark-

5.63 near miss

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Landau, Germany

5.38 make

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Linz, Austria to Landau, Germany

The start of the meeting in Linz was not looking good.  I didnt finish a jump all of warmups, couldnt really figure out what was going on but it wasnt good.  I knew that once the bar went up things should be better.  I started at 5.25/17' just to make a bar easily, well it took me all 3 tries to make it easily!  Talk about some unneeded stress!  But on my third jump i was feelign much more confident on the runway, my last 2 steps were much more crisp and i decided to pass to 5.45/17'9".  Came down first time and made the bar, thats a little better!  5.55/18'2 was next, came down, same run same takeoff, first attempt make!  Now i was on the smallest pole in my bag which i usually only warm-up on, but whatever tool is needed to get the job done is the right one.  We went up to 5.65/18'6" and now there were only 2 of us left, myself and Fabio Gomez deSilva from Brazil, my first two tries were very close but i couldnt keep the bar up.  Fabio came down on his last attempt and had a great jump and made it to win the comp.  I was actually pretty happy with the way things turned out since they had started so badly.
Here is my 5.55m make.

After the meet I was motioned over to someone who asked if I wanted to travel with them and jump in a little German town called Landau. Now I had no plans for 9 days until going to Donetsk so i was more than happy to go with him and get in another meet. The next day we left at 7am and drove for 7 hours to Landau, Germany for a meet today. For those of you who have seen the new NeoVault movie, this meet in Landau is put on by the same director as the meet in Jockgrim, Germany. In NeoVault that is where Derek Miles jumps 5.81m/19'1". The meet director's name is Jochen and he is a super guy! I have been staying with a German family who has been so gracious and hospitable, this morning for breakfast the table was filled with so many different choices, I cant thank them enough!
The meet today is at 4pm or 10am eastern time.  It is held in a small gym and they told me the ceilings are 7m high, which is about 23ft.  I told them it wont be a problem until i am attempting 6m haha.  It should be a lot of fun, i hope to get some great video to post here later tonight or tomorrow.

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good Morning USA!!!

Well after an 8 hour flight to Germany, a 2 hour flight to Vienna, and a 2 hour van ride to Linz I made it!  Its good to be here, theres always a lot of stress that goes into getting here, making sure the poles make it, did i pack everything, and so on.  Its the morning of my first meet here in Linz, I am staying in this dorm like hotel, its not a 5 star place but Ive had worse.  I have 2 roommates, Richard Hurren from the UK and his training partner Andy.  Ive competed with Rich a few times so it was good to see him again.  Im excited for the comp tonight, Fabian Gomez from Brazil is here (18'10), Kostas Filipidas from Greece (18'10), and about 7 or 8 other guys, so its shaping up to be a pretty good competition.  I surprisingly slept well the last 2 nights, i usually have trouble the second night but i fell right asleep and slept through most of the night.   THats all im gonna write for now, gotta grab some lunch, and get ready to go, I vault at 7pm this time which is 1pm eastern time, I will try to get on facebook after and update here as well.  Wish me luck!

Always Pursuing -Mark-