Friday, July 20, 2012

Euro and downs thus far

Its the trips like this make me want to. hang it all up, at least then I wouldn't have to carry these damn poles everywhere. I'm often asked for horror stories involving traveling with poles, most people are expecting that my poles were strapped to the side of the plane and fell into the atlantic ocean somewhere or the ever popular my poles were cut in half while traveling story. The worst of my stories always involve airports and I'm pretty sure I have a couple more to add to my top five bad experiences traveling with poles from this trip so far.

I guess the best place to start is always the beginning, so here it is my trip thus far. I live right smack in the middle of 3 major airports, Ohare in Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis. This is good because I always have a choice but its very bad because each one is a 3 hour drive, so you can imagine that each time I travel I need to make special arrangements to be dropped off, and I fly around 20 times a year! But on this trip Amanda was on summer break so she was able to drive me to Detroit. I've actually had really good luck flying with Delta, as long as your on a large enough plane they will take the poles and I've had several trips this year that I haven't been charged for the poles, which can cost up to $300 one way! This time I walk up to the counter and there is always a look of alarm from the person behind the counter, "oh my" or "what are you doing with those here?" This time was pretty good I was charged 150 for the poles and sent on my way.

I arrived in Amsterdam and had one of the longest walks to my next gate to catch my flight, first I get slowed at passport control costing me an extra 5 min then again going through security, they for sure thought the 2 tennis balls I had taped together, a simple tool for therapy, was a bomb! This cost me a good 10 min and even tho I was running they had closed the door to my flight about a minute before I got there, ugh. I've done this enough to just shrug it off and proceed to the desk to get a re booking, I wait about 2 hours and catch the next flight to Berlin. Now I'm wondering about my bags and if they made it on my first flight or second, I had no doubt they made it because I ended up having that long layover in Amsterdam. Arriving in Berlin and I wait and wait for both my bags, neither are coming which I'm thinking is fine, they must have just sent them on the earlier flight so I proceed to find where they are stashed. The guy tells me to go to another part of the airport for lost baggage. Now european airports aren't quite like in the states, things are never where they're supposed to be! I get lost trying to find the counter, oh also I'm supposed to be meeting my chauffeur for my meet in Hof who I didn't see as I came off the plane. I finally find the counter and realize that I have somehow lost my bag tags! So now my bags are somewhere and the only way to identify them is the black one with wheels and the huge tube, joy! The next 48 hours are just pure anxiety and phone calls that are going nowhere. Not only do they not know when my suitcase will arrive they haven't even located my poles! How is that even possible? I mean how many 17ft long tubes you got floating around that you can't locate mine? Well with thanks to my wife and brother steve getting a hold of the right people my suitcase arrives the morning of my comp, which is very good because I've been wearing the same underwear for over 3 days uhhhh, sorry for that mental picture but that's what I'm dealing with. Still no poles but at least I can compete, pole vaulters are always looking out for each other and its usually just a matter of finding someone with around the same size poles as you to borrow them. Day of the meet is very windy and on and off rain, I decide to run from a shorter run of 6 lefts because of the conditions and the poles I was borrowing were perfect for that run. Start the comp and I jump 17', 17'4, 17'9, and then I put together a great jump on my first att at 18' and made it! I was super pumped, one of the toughest things to learn in the vault is how to know if your doing something right or wrong and being able to reproduce it. I think that I'm pretty good at that so I'm excited for my meet tomorrow to try it on longer poles

So after the meet I checked with KLM for an update on my poles, now they know they are in Amsterdam,I'm thinking at least were on the same continent. I told them to send them to Cologne since that is where I was heading the next day. I wake up the next morning, get my rental car and find out the poles are in berlin and they can't deliver them so I need to pick them up. Berlin is 3 hours in the wrong direction for me but I had to get my poles. So I drive to berlin get the poles and drive another 6 hours to Cologne, finally arriving at an apartment 2 american pole vaulters are renting before the olympics. Hung out there for a day and then I was scheduled to fly out on air berlin to stockholm at 6am so I was up at 4am heading to the airport. I've flown on air berlin before and really didn't think I would have any trouble checking in the poles, oh was I wrong. I walked up to the counter and started to check in, the lady saw my poles and said "oh that will be an extra charge" I was pretty happy that that was the biggest concern here and thought I was going to be good to go. Well the lady started talking on the phone which is normal, then the manager comes over and they're talking, after about 40 minutes of this the manager tells me it is not possible, my favorite european expression. I plead and basically beg, ask them to just try it but to no avail. So now I don't know what to do, of course I don't want to go to the meet without my poles but if I have to I will. So I'm on the phone with my manager and he's going to come and pick up the poles, I ask air berlin if I can leave the poles there for 20 min until someone picks them up but of course they aren't going for that. They are reallyu going out of their way to not help me in any way. I'm down to about 30 min until my flight, so I take the poles and go down to baggage storage but I have to wait 10 min for them to even open, its only 6am. Finally they open and tell me I must wait for security to come and scan the poles. Another 10 min passes and by now I'm sure I've missed my flight, go through security and sure enough doors are closed. I go back out and tell them I need to be re booked and this lady starts literally yelling at me for thinking I can walk in here with my large luggage and expect to get it on the plane and to have the nerve to think I could get re booked because I was made to miss my flight. She went on to tell me it would be an extra 300 euros for another flight with no poles. I really was just in awe, I had kept calm thru this whole ordeal but I just couldn't take it anymore, I think I was just so overwhelmed with all the stress this early in the morning, remember its only 630am and I'm still very jet lagged. I was totally defeated, emotionally spent, and just wanted to go home.

Well I finally made it to Sweden, wow what a beautiful country! This is definitely a place I would visit on vacation. My poles are also here which I thought was a good thing. I attempted to jump yesterday and every one of us except for one person didn't make a height. Right now I just can't believe the string of events that this trip has produced. I'm on my way to my final meet of this trip in Poland, its going to be a great meet, all the top guys in the world will be there. Hoping to redeem this trip and put on a good showing.

Always Pursuing,
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Posters for sale!

Hey Mark Hollis fans! This is Amanda (his wife) and I'm posting on behalf of Mark. He is competing in Sweden now and I just wanted to let you know of a new opportunity to support him! Some of the vaulters and Vaulter Magazine have teamed up to do posters to help the vaulters with their training funds. Mark's poster is the picture below. On the other side is a poster with vaulter Allison Stokke! 2 posters for the price of one! If you would like to purchase a poster to help Mark/Allison with their training, please follow the link at the end of this post. Half the proceeds of each poster goes directly to the vaulters! Thank you so much Vaulter Magazine for this opportunity! It is so nice to have things like this that don't cost us a dime. 
Thank you so much everyone!

Always Pursuing -Mark-

Monday, July 2, 2012

Olympic Trials Reflection

Just so you all know I don't want to do this, I don't want to talk about my week at the Olympic trials, because it hurts.  It hurts really bad.  But I know that I need to, I owe it to all of you to continue the journey.  Just like the victories are a vital part of any story so is the heartbreak.  And it wouldn't be fair for me to pretend like everything will always go the way you want it to, even when you work so hard at something sometimes it just doesn't go in your favor.  I've said it before and I'll say it again the sport of pole vaulting is cruel, it's cruel to everyone, so if you haven't experienced its cold hand slapping you across the face just wait, you'll get yours.  And I think thats why we love it so much, because the heartache makes the victory that much sweeter.  So maybe we should relish in the defeat, just because we know it's going to push us that much harder and make our victory so much sweeter.  I think as soon as I get home I will put something up on the wall to remind me of the 2012 Olympic trials because I don't want to forget the bitter taste I have in my mouth right now.  The part im trying to not think about is how long I have to wait to get my revenge.  

Going into the Trials I believed that if i could make 5.72m/18'9" I would be top 3 and make the team.  My plan all along was to be in the competition when the bar went up to 5.72m and give myself a chance to make the team.  Warmups went better than they have been going for me in the past month or so, I was confident in my run, and knew that once the bar went up I could get in the groove.  I wanted to start at 5.50m/18' but i wasnt on the pole I wanted to be on to feel confident in doing that so I opted to start at 5.40m/17'9".  The wind was swirling around the majority of the comp and when I stepped on the runway it was blowing in my face.  I muscled through the wind and made the bar first attempt, I was feeling good after that and knew that since i was going up a pole I could pass the next bar.  When the bar went up to 5.60m/18'4" I think there were still 8 or 9 people still in the competion.  My first attempt was a good jump but I barely hit the bar on the way up, I went up a pole and did the same thing on my second.  I didnt want to go up to my next pole yet because it was a pole I had never jumped up and I knew if I upped my grip the pole would slow down a bit and give me more time to make the bar.  I really felt no fear in not making the bar, I believed in my decisions and knew that the numbers added up to making the bar.  I put a great jump together and made the bar on my last attempt!  Now I was pumped, I knew that by going up to my next pole, the biggest one in my bag, if i could put a jump together like the last one I would make the next couple of bars.  

I passed 5.67m/18'7" only Brad Walker made the bar which meant i was sitting in 5th place but if i made 5.72m/18'9" I would take the lead and be on my way to London.  I taped up my 5.20m/17'1" 12.3flex Pacer Carbon pole and was ready to go.  By now the wind had picked up and it had started to rain.  There were 2 of us jumping at the bar so we had 2 minutes to start our attempt.  I waited about the whole 2 min waiting for the wind to switch direction or at least die down.  I started my first attempt and the wind was straight in my face, now on the size pole i was on if your not running your fastest the chance for injury is pretty high, I knew the wind was holding me back so I dropped the pole and ran onto the mat.  Second attempt the wind wasnt as strong i took the jump up but got a little stood up meaning i didnt quite get the horizontal movement into the pit I needed and had to bail the jump.  This left me one attempt, I was praying that I could get a good wind.  The problem I had was that since I was on a new pole with one jump remaining its hard to set the standards where you need them to be.  I left mine at 70cm meaning the bar was 70cm behind were we plant the pole.  The wind was a little better as I started my run but at the middle of my run it switched, I left the ground and gave it a shot, had plenty of height but came down on the bar.  

THat was it, the end of my pursuit for 2012, I think the worst part of it was that I knew I was deserved to be there, I was the best prepared but in pole vault sometimes it just doesnt matter.  

Im starting to look forward, its pretty easy to get down and think about just how close I was.  Im ready to get back on the runway and jump a personal best which I know is right around the corner.  I jumping down in St. Louis on Wednesday the 4th and then in Champaign, Illinois on Saturday at the Gill Athletics Field Fest.  

Thanks to everyone who supported me this year, thanks for buying a t-shirt, that helps so much.  Im going to keep on pursuing and some day soon Ill start looking forward to 2016 in Rio.  

Always Pursuing -Mark-