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.
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