Monday, May 7, 2012

Belem, Brazil

I felt pretty hopeless when the bar went up at the beginning of the competition in Belem, Brazil. For the second meet in a row I hadn't left the ground in warmups, the cues I had been working on at home weren't working, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make a bar.

I knew what to expect, I jumped here 2 years ago, jumped well, cleared 5.55m/18'2" and nearly 5.70m 18'8". I knew the pit was small, apparently I forgot how small tho, the front buns came out to the end of the box and it was only as wide as the standards. I know the pits in the past were much smaller, the problem is that when you practice and compete only on bigger pits your perception can really get messed up with a much smaller one.

This meet and the last my run had been consistent, hitting my mid and takeoff marks, absolutely no reason I shouldn't have been jumping in warmups and getting on the poles I needed to. If you haven't figured it out yet, this sport is 90% mental, you can work out all day long but if your standing on the back of the runway not sure of what is going to happen all that muscle and speed isn't going to get you anywhere, believe me I know. So there's this epic battle going on, sometimes I feel as tho I have an angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. The little devil has been winning lately, saying things like; "your grips not quite right" or "the wind isn't a straight tail, its bugging you isn't it." Now when the confidence is high your not thinking about every little thing and the angel wins, she's saying things like "your running so fast, the pole feels good in your hands" or "this pole is nothing, let's grip a little higher and really go for a ride."

The battle is on, devil: "your gonna no-height this meet, you came all this way to no-height," angel: "you got this, your run is on, once the bar goes up your good to go." Devil: "that's what you said last meet and guess what you happened...NH!" Angel: "its a new day, and there's no way in hell your gonna let that happen today, now get yourself together."

I've had battles like this before, I think every vaulter deals with it, I think Steve Hooker called it the yips. I try to settle myself down and stay cool, the UV index is 11 and heat index over 100! I figure I can make 5.20m/17' on my smallest pole a 5.10m 13.8 but not much higher, what I know for sure is I'm not going to clear any bars if I don't leave the ground. My legs are feeling good as I take my first attempt, and that devil is just whispering in my ear and I run through again. I'm really not liking myself now, I'm afraid that I'm gonna take this next jump and blow thru and then be down to one attempt. Second attempt I start my run a little easier so I can try and feel myself accelerating into my last few steps. This time I'm drowning out all voices in my head with fear, fear of what my wife Amanda will say if I no-height this meet. She doesn't really like me being gone anyway especially when I don't do well. I take off! I take off and make the bar, big sigh of relief, BIG sigh of relief.
I still wasn't confident in my run or takeoff, something was off, my hands were so late in moving to takeoff. With the pit being so short I was feeling far away and so everything was happening late. I passed to 5.40m decided to stay on the small pole because I really needed to hit one good so I would feel confident going to the next pole. First 2 jumps were not good, getting a little closer but not close enough. Now each jump I'm figuring it out a little more, my acceleration is good, I'm moving my hands better but I'm still leaning back a bit at takeoff. I'm down to my final attempt and I know if I hit one good this pole is going to be too small, so I grab the next one, hit a takeoff and make the bar! Gosh, not sure if I've ever had to work this hard to make 17'9", but I'm still alive. The bar goes to 5.50m/18' and I'm feeling way more confident than I was after warmups. Angel: "now your getting it, keep those hands high and you gotta step through that takeoff, you make this and your in the lead." My 3 jumps at this height were my best of the day, on my second I did all the things I wanted and smashed the pole. I go up to the 12.8 my last 5.10 before the 5.20's, I had the standards at 55, came down and put another pretty good jump together just hitting the bar on the way up. I was bummed but proud, bummed because I felt if I had made that bar I could of made the next couple, proud because I had won the battle! I didn't give in to that voice of negativity, and I had finished in 2nd which was way more money than finishing last.

A few people were pretty surprised when I told them I was doing all these meets in such a short period of time. Sometimes you have to go through the fire to find what your made of. I can tell you that after that comp I know what I'm made of, I am ready for just about anything, I know what I need to do in the future and I am so much stronger because of it. I'm looking forward to these next few meets, Fortaleza on wednesday, Ponce, Puerto Rico on Saturday and then Shanghai, China next week. I want to increase this confidence with each meet and just get better and better, and I think I know how to deal with that little devil if he decides to show his face again.

Always Pursuing,
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Its about that time...

Oh man this is usually the way it works, I think about writing on here and dont, I have a meet and really think its time to write but dont.  Finally I decide its about that time to get on here and update all of you who I know are just chomping at the bit for my next post.  That being said since my last post I have done 3 meets, Siena Heights, Drake Mall Vault and the Drake Relays.

Siena Heights was a small meet about 2 hours away from me up in Michigan.  The coach texted me and invited me to jump on their brand new track with a raised runway on the infield.  I was to be in a wedding the following weekend and would miss the Kansas Relays so of course I was excited about the possibility of getting a meet in.  The weather held out for all the competition, it was cool around 60 degrees but a nice tailwind was blowing.  I came in at 5.40m, 17'9" made it on my second attempt but was having some trouble with my approach.  I was getting up to top speed too quickly and just felt out of control at take off.  I went to 5.60m 18'4" and it started to drizzle rain.  I was still trying to get my run under control and  was coming down on the bar.  I was disappointed but knew that I needed to start my run a little easier and accelerate into the take off.

I had a couple more long run practices really locking in my approach and can say that other than a few jumps in the three comps my approach has been consistent,hitting 56'6" mid and taking off at 14' which is right where I need to be.

The Drake Mall vault has got to be one of my favorite comps in the world.  The atmosphere is awesome, music is lound and the energy is electric.  4 years ago I jumped 8 inches higher than I ever had before at this meet jumping 5.71m 18'8" so it has always had a special place in my heart.  This year I was excited again, eager to put all my hard work on display and get a big mark out there.  Before most meets I take out my notebook and write down my goals for the meet.  Things I want to hash out beforehand and cues I want to remember during the meet.  My main cue for the drake mall was to live in the moment, embrace each jump as its the only one I get that day, not thinking about the next jump, what height im at or whats happening in the future.  The meet started and as always at the mall vault it was hard for me to contain my excitement, I came in at 5.35m 17'6" made it on my first attempt with a blow through, which is a good thing.  I went up to the next pole at 5.50m bailed on my first attempt, and put together one of my best jumps on my second attempt.  I ran through the takeoff hit the arms and all of a sudden i ran into the bar, the pole was too small!  Now usually this wouldnt be that big of a deal, i would just go to the next pole have the same jump and make the bar.  What made this different is that the next pole was my first 5.20m 17' pole, I had had the 17' poles for a few months but never jumped on them, now i would have to take my final attempt on a longer pole that I had never jumped on, I was nervous.  I gathered my courage, ran down as hard as I could hit the takeoff, I could feel I was under, the pole felt like a big noodle bending so much in my hands.  I was caught off guard but before I knew it the bar was coming towards me so i turned up, smacked the bar on the way down and it stayed!  I was pumped, not only had I taken my first jump on that pole but I made it and that meant the competition was still a go for me.  I knew now that as long as I put a bit better jump together the next bar and ones after where attainable, or so I thought.  The next bar was 5.62m 18'5" and that stupid run demon got a hold of me and I hit 3 different spots on my takeoff and was so out of position that I couldnt even attempt the bar, AGGHHH.

I came away from the mall vault disappointed again, knowing that I had a great chance of jumping high and couldnt put it together.  But I also knew that I had that pole now, I had made 18' on a crappy jump which told me that with a good jump I could jump a whole lot higher.

Amanda and I spent the next couple of days in Des Moines enjoying the nice weather and hanging out with the other vaulters.  I was anticipating the relays Saturday hoping we would have good weather and i would have another chance at jumping high.  The day came and the wind held, we actually had a nice tailwind the entire comp but for some crazy reason 4 or 5 of us were really having trouble.  I was hitting all the right marks on the runway but just couldnt leave the ground.  I have had warmups like this before and knew that once the bar went up I would put it together.  Well the bar went up and i couldnt put it together and ended up with a big fat NH or no-height.  I was pissed, straight up, I never want to end up with a NH but especially when were lucky enough to have decent conditions you want to jump well.

Now Im home packing up for the start of a pretty crazy 3 weeks ahead of me.  Thursday I fly to Brazil and jump in Belem and Fortaleza, I fly back to Atlanta on the 9th and catch a plane to Puerto Rico where I jump in Ponce.  Then I fly home for a few days and head to Shanghai, China for a Diamond League meet.  The Diamond League is the biggest series of international meets in the world other than world champs and the Olympics so it will be a great chance to jump with some great competition.

Im excited, I know that all the work Ive done is really coming around and now its time to just jump and let it all come out.  Im also excited because I know theres not much else I can do, Ive put it in the Lord's hands because I know anything is possible through Him.  Where really getting close people less than 2 months to the Olympic Trials and Im pumped to see what God has in store for me.  Thanks for reading, Ill try to update while on the road.

Always Pursuing -Mark-