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-


  1. Well that's one for the books!:) HE'S still at work! Hang tough! Dad

  2. I'm an American living in Donetsk. Not sure how long you will be in Donetsk, but if I am in town, would like to show you some local flavor (sans the coed saunas)...

  3. Joe that sounds like a good time, i will only be there until sunday the day after the meet, I would love it if you came to the competition and got my attention somehow. Hope to see you there.