Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pole Taping

I'm bringing my poles home today to get them re-taped. I use black friction tape with sticky spray and haven't changed them since Australia so they are getting a bit slippery. Also I'm on some bigger poles now so I need to measure grips, etc. I think the highest I have held is 13' 3" but that will go up maybe this weekend to 13' 6" if I can move up again on poles. My plan is to jump in two divisions in order to have a chance to experiment.

As you know our poles are marked with flex numbers which are etched into the pole about a 1/4" tall. No one can read that. Not only do I mark the flex numbers BIG on the poles with a permanent marker, I also color code the tape so I can't pick up the wrong pole. Colored rings at the grip and my bottom hand tape match these colors so I can easily see what's next. Blue is first place so that's the tape color on the biggest pole. Red is next, followed by yellow and then green as they get smaller. Since I have a lot of poles I have sub colors like white, gray and purple for the smaller ones and orange and maroon for bigger ones. It's a project to re-tape them all but highly worth it. More soon. Bubba

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Wait

The problem with meets is that you need to rest beforehand. Sure I stretch every day and will do some strides today but that's pretty minimal. Since I have meets on the next two weekends I need to be sure I'm fresh for both so that means MORE rest and stretching. It is what it is. I train to vault well in meets so I defeat the purpose if I minimize my chances. I've often said I'm glad when a string of meets is over so can get back to training since that is what moves you forward. BUT, if you dont have these periodic checkpoints then you don't know if what you are doing is working. Have a great day! Bubba

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Day

Another messy weather day but I only stretch later today after my drive anyway. Chance of snow at the northwest end of my drive today. Nothing to report except I'm feeling some tightness in my IT bands, side of leg by the hip, from the hard lifting. I have a stretch series that fixes this. I did it yesterday but I have four more stretch days before Saturday. It's not something that can be injured but it can affect the hamstrings if ignored. Gotta hit the road. Have a great day! Bubba

Monday, December 28, 2009

Moving Up the Lifting

I've been ramping up the lifting a little so today was another step. My bench was 4 X 205 which is decent for me but not considered really strong compared to others I know. I will do a max next week and then back to the grind as I will have three weeks between Joshua and Reno.

As a follow up to yesterday, all things being equal, you jump higher and have a greater potential on bigger poles. So that's the big deal about moving up to them. If you don't jump the same you may actually clear a lower height. That's why the practices will remain on relatively small poles. If I can't convert the same technique on a bigger pole it's not worth the risk.

Fortunately my jump has progressed enough that I can use bigger poles by using better technique and hand pressure instead of solely depending on running faster. In fact, I try to run 5% easier and hit my positions 10% better. That works on paper anyway. We will check it in the real world on Saturday. Have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, December 27, 2009


As I approach the nine week out point before World Indoors in Kamloops on March 5, I've spent the last three days reading my blog about my prep for Sydney. Not being injured is a big deal but I'm also aggressively and safely using bigger poles. I'm also running more.

If I can remain cautious I think I can advance to the next level which is consistently over 13' 6". It all comes down to dialing in your jump on bigger poles. The best way to do that is to practice on smaller 14' (4.30m) poles and then hit the bigger ones in meets. That's why Kris wants me to hit big poles sooner this next weekend. You get good at it pretty fast but the only time I'm fresh enough to do it is a meet. Looking forward to the challenge. Bubba

Almost Forgot

I lifted this morning and then got going on other things before I realized I haven't posted anything today. I think that is a first. Lifting at the gym went well as usual. I'll lift in the garage tomorrow and hopefully get a little running session in when I get back in town after Tuesday's travel. Of course it's supposed to be cold with 70% chance of rain that day. HATE the winter!! Give me 100 degrees any day. At least then I can go out at 7 AM when it's 80.

I'm expecting to feel good for my meet this weekend which is always a good thing. There are three guys in the masters division - actually five but two are now hurt. The first two will start at 9' 2" and then I will start at 12' 2". Kris wants me hitting my big poles early so that's the plan. There won't be a long wait and I can see what they feel like. So the one I jump 12' 6" on will be used for 12' 2", the one I jump 13'+ on will be at 12' 8", etc. It's supposed to be a fast runway and he wants me moving through poles fast to get to my biggest ones. Of course I'm a little scared about that but it's a good plan so we will go with it.

It's summer in Sydney now so they are coming into their main season. I got a quote from my friend, Phillip Carrero, today that I liked so much that I put it on my website. Hope you like it too. Have a great evening! Bubba

"Thinkers think and doers do. But until the thinkers do and the doers think, progress will be just another word in the already overburdened vocabulary of the talkers who talk." - Submitted by my friend Phillip Carrero of Sydney

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Signals - Protecting Me From Me

Yesterday I felt some weird little things in my hamstrings but not anything to worry about as I seemed to feel pretty good otherwise. After taking out the trash this morning I noticed an odd little grab in my upper back on the left. Today on my way over to the track it was 39 degrees. We usually wait for 45 but I had to be there for the All Comers meet. After warming up to get a few jumps in I noticed six people on the runway ready to vault in the meet. I expected 2-3 and I would just jump after them. As they neared completion I got up to get moving again in order to vault and I felt pretty dead all of the sudden. I did my running workout hoping that would warm me up. Still did not feel great. I chose to look at all of these signals and not risk getting hurt so I put my poles away without vaulting. As I got back in the car two hours after I arrived, the temperature had only risen to 41. I think it was a good call.

Considering that I jumped in a meet a week ago and trained very hard this week, including an excellent jump day on Wednesday, it just makes no sense to force the issue. I have meets on the next two Saturdays so I can't come in run down or hurt. I'm comfortable that this was the right thing to do.

Could I have vaulted today? Yes. Would I have gotten hurt? Probably not. But my experience is that if you force a tired body, it takes longer for it to respond back to feeling good and I really want and need to feel good for the next two weekends. Have a great day! Bubba

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope you all have a great Christmas or holiday season with your families. This is my first Christmas without my mom, who died on April 19, of this year. She suffered so long before she finally went that I'm very much at peace with her being gone, because she is finally at peace. Dad's doing great also as he came over yesterday for dinner. We're going to see my sister today whose husband committed suicide a month ago. Ying and yang of life (and death).

Nancy's mom is in a nursing home now following her stroke on October 13, the very day I won the World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia. Her 93rd birthday was a couple of weeks ago and she's doing well considering. Fortunately the home is only a mile away.

My point is that family is important and I am more appreciative than ever. I am equally appreciative of you guys and gals. I feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful network of close friends. Thank you so much for that and all the best!!

I'm off today and will try and jump tomorrow. We have our end of the month All Comers meet that we have the last Saturday of every month. I won't compete in that as I need the practice session to continue what I started the other day. Also I have meets on 1/2 and 1/9 so I need a controlled environment rather than a 3rd consecutive meet.

So have a great day and I will report back tomorrow. Bubba

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Front Levers

Getting ready to go lift but I found this video of a guy doing front levers on a high bar. I use this as an explanation of what I have changed in my vault to get on bigger poles. I used to hit the pole, release the tension (not realizing it) to get vertical, and then try and catch the pole again before/as it came out. As a result I could get deep in the pit until the bar went up and then I couldn't get in enough to make it. Clearly I was losing too much energy.

What I do now is make no attempt to go vertical but rather stay upright as long as possible and try and force my hands up and over until they are in front of my face. Some place along this path the hips will automatically come up. As long as you don't break at the hips at this point, the pole will roll forward and get you in deeper even on the biggest pole. It's definitely a mental discipline but it works.

Have a great Christmas Eve! Bubba

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nice Place to Start

The game plan is to make my 44' (13m) run and smallest 14' (4.30m) poles the new baseline. I rushed through my warm-up because of the threat of rain but it went well. BTW - 71 degrees out today. It's supposed to be a high of 53 tomorrow.

I felt I could have gone at my start height of 12' (3.66m) from my 33' (10m) run but that's not the plan so I moved back a stride to 44' where I knew the pole would feel fairly small. I figure this will help protect my legs from having to run too hard. Made 12' on the 2nd attempt by a long way and then easily cleared 12' 6" (3.81m) on the next vault - both on the 17.5. So on jump #4 of the day I'm already at 13' (3.97m). I moved up a pole to the 17.2 and had two super jumps and one OK jump and stopped. I had a lot of bars and running to do and didn't want to get rained out so I felt six quality vaults were perfect since I will jump again on Saturday.

Technically I stayed upright longer, kept the hand pressure throughout the vault, and didn't allow the hips to break during the swing and BOOM - one jump fix as the vaults were excellent and very controllable. At 13' I started to really dial the jump in and nearly left it up which would have been a pole PR.

This is a very good session to build off of so I'm very pleased. To put this in perspective, the 17.2 is a pole I would never use in a meet because it is too small. It's basically a warm up pole yet I nearly made 13' on it today from 44'. That's what I'm looking for - grooving in high level technical jumps on my smaller 14' poles. Great day for progress. Bubba

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day Off

I travel on Tuesdays so that gives me some time to think while I drive and listen to the radio. Jim Rome was talking about seeing LA Laker, Kobe Bryant, at a Mexican food restaurant on a Friday night during the off season. He was leaving about 10 PM after watching part of a basketball game in the bar. He told Rome that he had to go home and get his lifting in that he had run out of time in the morning. Rome quizzed him about being world champion and the off season, etc., to which Kobe replied, "I couldn't go to bed without getting the workout in or I would feel like a bum. You can't get those missed practices back".

I feel the same way but I have always called it the "no miss rule". Once Dean and I were driving to Texas from Southern California and would be gone a week. We did doubles for the whole week before we left so that we wouldn't miss a training session. Now I'll miss or adjust one but only for health reasons. Sick, injured or rundown will cause me to adjust or even skip. I feel that since I take my time and make sure that all of my sessions are quality ones, I don't feel so bad if I need to adjust or skip. What I will never do is go through the motions just to get done. I try to focus on every single exercise within every component as if that is the only thing I will do on that day.

Hope you have a great day. Drizzly and 74 today. I'll try and jump in the morning depending on the weather. Worse case I'll go out on Christmas Eve. Bubba

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Planning

Another great lift/bars/stretch session in the garage today. I almost got to the point I could sweat. It's not that cold but tell that to the cement floors of the garage. Nice and productive day.

Right now I've got pole issues that I'm trying to work out with Kris and Bruce Caldwell at Essx. Bruce makes my poles especially for me so they are more expensive and can't be run in a big batch. Also I need a particular flex number so if he misses it then that's a wasted pole ($450). More on flex numbers below. Because of this he usually makes 2-3 poles at a time for me. I'm not sure he has the time and resources to make this happen in the short term so we're juggling options.

The fact that we are having this conversation means that I'm on my biggest poles, which begs the question, "now what?" On top of this I will have to ship one set of poles to New Mexico for USA Elite Nationals, where I will jump on the Sunday morning before the Friday that I jump in Kamloops, BC, Canada, for World Masters Indoors, where my main poles will be shipped to.

Coincidentally the meet I just went to may have the hidden answer. Altius is pole company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (where Essx is also) who hosted the meet I just jumped in. I have three Altius carbon fiber poles that I have never used. The two biggest poles come right after my biggest Essx, and the smallest I could send to New Mexico to serve as my biggest pole for that trip. Of course I would prefer two new Essx poles but if that doesn't happen in time then I have no choice in the interim.

IF I need those poles in Kamloops I would like to have used them in a meet first. This will probably happen at Joshua on 1/9 or Reno on 1/28. I will have a better idea after this next meet in Belton. Kris and I think we have the technical issue figured out that will clean up my jump on the big poles so this should literally be a "one jump fix". What that means is that you make the change on the very next jump and you're set. I'll know for sure by Belton and I expect that to be true. If so then these big poles will be too small and now I'll go to the Altius. Just have to play it by ear.

I've been asked the question of flex numbers. Simply put, a pole is placed on two supports, like sawhorses, and a weight is hung in the middle. I ruler measures in centimeters how far it bends down. The bigger the number, the weaker the pole. So my smallest 14'/4.30m pole is a 17.5 and my stiffest is a 14.9. Ideally you want the spread between poles to be .2-.5. The nearer you are to your biggest pole, the smaller the gap will be because you have less room for error. AND it's not like I'm getting younger so you don't want to buy a pole you may never get to use because you will never be strong or fast enough. Of course I thought that happened when I got my 16.5, and now five poles later I need more poles again. GOOD PROBLEM, I think!? have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back to the Gym

It felt good to get back to work in the gym today. It's funny how a workout helps you recover faster than rest does. When I woke up this morning I didn't feel too bad so that's a good sign. Since I have a meet in two weeks I'll only have two practice jump days along with all of my other components. That should be enough for what I'm trying to accomplish technically.

Had I put yesterday's 12' 6" jump on the pole I jumped 13' 1/4" on yesterday I would have boomed over 13' 4", so that's the only focus - better technique on bigger poles. For my practice purposes, a "big" pole is a small pole where I run from a stride or two closer. Looking forward to it.

As far as goals right now, they are only technical as that will produce the heights. For example, if in Belton I make 12' 6" (3.81m) I would go to 4.01m (13' 1 3/4"). If I don't make it my result will only show 12' 6". I'm OK with that as it is more important to make myself hit the right technical positions. When you try to jump high for that sole purpose, it rarely works because you tend to forget what got you there. Perfecting technical issues nearly always pays off. If I do that then 13' 6" (4.12m) is a realistic new baseline. If I put my 12' 6" jump from yesterday on the biggest pole I used yesterday, I'm over 14' (4.27m). So the heights will come when the technique does. Gotta be patient.

Have a great Sunday and thanks for being here. Bubba

PS - to briefly explain all of the focus on technique to the non-vaulters. Pole vaulters tend to cover up mistakes by moving up to a bigger pole that throws you harder. The problem is that you risk injury trying to always jump on big poles and your technique actually becomes even more sloppy. Jumping on a smaller pole from a stride or two closer makes it "feel" big. You also can't run as fast from the closer run so you are more dependent upon proper technique to move the pole forward enough to complete the jump. With the shorter run you can also take more vaults and accelerate the learning curve.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Decent Day - 13' 1/4" (3.97m)

I competed today in Granbury, Texas, west of Dallas/Fort Worth. I'm glad I made the 4.5 hour drive yesterday when it was daylight as there were some back roads involved. I got to the hotel and checked in and then headed over the 3 miles to the facility to drop off my poles. Since I was scheduled to jump at 8 AM sharp, I wanted to have everything done that I could in advance. Very nice facility. The heaters worked great too.

Typical night before a meet in the hotel. I'm falling asleep at 7:15 but still wide awake at 10:15. That said I slept great until 4:45 when I woke up to pee and decided I'd better go ahead and get my banana and protein drink going since I was leaving for the track at 6:30.

Everything went smooth. Got to the place and checked in, entered the raffle to win some poles, said hi to a bunch of friends and got to see Becca from Her website is the glue that holds our community together.

Warm up went good as I cleared 12' (3.66m) from 44' on my smallest pole (14'/169/17.2) and then on consecutive jumps from 54' on my 17.0 and 16.5. As I wrapped up my warm up I checked the list to see how many other vaulters were jumping. I'm always the first on the runway when there is no crowd. That way if something is a little off I can work through it rather than stress that I'm running out of time. I also feel better the 2nd time around after my warmup. For the record, all of my 14' poles are cut to fit my carrying case and so they won't knock the bar off when they come through to the pit after the jump. My grip range today was 12' 10" (3.91m) to 13' 3" (4.03m).

The list showed five guys and only three of us showed up. I knew Don wasn't coming but Steve Warr in the M65 was also a no show. Hal Theodore looked great but on his last jump in warmup he pulled a hamstring and withdrew. So with me and M70 stud, Don Islet as the only jumpers we knew it would go fast.

Don started at 9' and made 9'6" also before a heartbreaking last attempt miss at 10' (3.05m), where he easily cleared the bar but his pole knocked it off. Hence my cut poles. Always sorry to see that happen.
I started at 12' (3.66m) and made that easily on my first from 54' on the 14/173.8/16.5, as you can see from the photos below. Next I moved up to a bigger pole but stayed at the same run and made 12' 6" (3.81m) easy, also as the photos show. Actually I can't get the order fixed so the 1st photo is 12' 6" (3.81m) and the others are at 12' (3.66m).

The plan Kris and I had was to get to the 14/178.3/15.7 for 13' 1/4" (3.97m) from my 64' run. I know if you're not a vauter this seems like an odd height but here's what happens if you jump 13' in a meet - in the national/world rankings it gets rounded down to 12' 11 1/2" because there is no exact metric equivalent to 13' so I specified 3.97m or 13' 1/4". I made that on my first jump as well but no photos as the guy had moved over to the girls pit. Do we blame him?

I took one at 13' 4" (4.06m) but the pole was too small so Kris had me move back to 75' and up to my biggest pole, the 15.4. I've never left the ground on this pole and haven't gone from this run in over a year but it felt pretty good. The 2nd jump I bailed out because I was too under at take off but I caught a pretty good ride and had a nice attempt on my 3rd jump. Surprisingly this pole also felt too small on the last jump. This is what we were hoping would happen as I move my run back.

I don't feel I jumped as well as I could have at the higher bars because I was rushing the top of the jump. This is very fixable in practice on my smaller 14' poles from a 44' run. I think some big jumps are coming but I have to keep it in perspective - if I don't vault technically the same on the bigger poles it negates the benefit. Fortunately you fix that in practice as I have done many times before.

SO, two meets and two new indoor PRs (Personal Records). Can't argue with that I guess. Now back to the gym hardcore tomorrow and try and get a real quality vault session Wednesday. My next meet is in Belton, north of Austin on 1/2. Like Kris says, "you're easily on those poles now so let's get back to fundamentals".

On top of feeling like I'm making some progress, I did not get hurt today even though these are easily my highest level jumps since I returned in 2005. BTW - I had the flu Monday and Tuesday. I feel very fortunate and somewhat lucky how things turned out today. Nothing spectacular but signs of progress. All the best! Bubba

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heading Out

Getting ready to go get the poles and hit the road for the meet near Dallas. I jump at 8 AM so I'll stay the night at the meet hotel rather than leave my house at 2:30 AM. I may report more later while I'm bored in the hotel. Have a fun day. Bubba

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Territory

This is my 72nd post since I started this blog. For the Sydney trip I posted 71. So are we going uphill or downhill? My view is that things discussed here are things that vaulters think about every day. The offseason sucks - no meets, meet results to read, bad weather screwing up your schedule, etc. But this time is absolutely crucial in deciding if you have the base to have a good year. A lot of it is using instinct to keep from getting hurt. Another part is making sure you get the most out of every session and not get caught just going through the motions.

This blog has nothing to do with my commitment to my training or event, but rather is a reflection of my will - I may not be the best, or in some cases even very good at what I do, but I show up every day. There's a lot to be said for that. If that helps any of you get through this time of the year, I'm thrilled. Believe me, venting here helps me more than you know. Have a great day!! Bubba

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Better I Think

I had a couple of times yesterday that I felt nauseous and was afraid I was slipping back. At one point I even got the chills and had to go back to bed for a bit. I'm starting off good today but I'm going to remain cautious not to do too much.

Yesterday when I was on my way to the bathroom to potentially throw up, I remembered that one spring morning in 1975 when I was in one of the school's vans traveling to a meet 7 hours away. I was coming down with a flu and they had to pull over four times for me to throw up. It was a Thursday and we were going directly from this meet to a Saturday meet a couple of hundred miles away. The goal was to just make my opening height of 15' to get some points for the team. I ended up on the biggest pole I had ever used (15' 6"/180 - Green Catapole 550+) and got my first 16' vault at 16' 1" for a new school record - my first.

Not that I expect miracles on Saturday but that is the most positive thought I could associate with still feeling somewhat like crap on Wednesday when I leave for a meet in two days. Bubba

PS - I thought I had the photo of that 16' 1" (4.91m) jump but couldn't find it. This is 16' 6" (5.01m) one week later on a Pacer III, the newest and grandest pole at the time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Feeling Better

The HELL that was about 12 hours for me yesterday has evolved into a pretty fast return to strength and appetite. Unfortunately for Nancy, she started her 12 hours last night about 8. Finally hers too is subsiding so she's able to sleep, an impossible goal in the midst of the wretching. Thanks for the advice Dean - you're right about the recovery time frame.

So what did I miss? Very little actually as I would have had a nice gym lift with bars and stretching yesterday, but today is my scheduled off day as I travel to see client/partners. I stayed home from that today. Tomorrow I'll get to some strides and stretching and be back on track. I hope to recover full strength by Saturday.

Don got his injections for his osteitis pubis yesterday and feels better but will skip the meet this weekend. I think that's smart as he's taken this long to resolve the issue; what's a few more days. He has been able to vault at a low level and has been progressing on his technical issues so I'm sure he will make a quick recovery.

As I've mentioned before, Don and I grew up vaulting in each other's backyards as kids. When he is jumping we vault together 1-2 times a week which is helpful for both of us. He will be 54 next year with an M50 PR of 13'. Just what I need, another stud coming into my age group soon. It will only make me train harder to try and stay ahead. That too is not bad for either one of us.
Don's biggest moment came in Louisville in 2007 at the National Senior Games. I was coming off of a bad hamstring so was unsure I could jump, but things went pretty well and I was in the lead going to 12' 6" (3.81m). At that height there were four of us remaining. Don makes it on the first jump to seal the win and I get 2nd. That's pretty cool, two training partners getting gold and silver, but the best part was that had Don not made 12' 6", he would have gotten 4th and no medal at all. He's a great friend and competitor so I'm glad to get him back out on a full time basis after screwing around with his insurance company for nearly two years.

Have a great day and thanks for hanging in here. Bubba

Monday, December 14, 2009


I woke up with the flu at 3 AM and this is my first attempt to sit up without throwing up or going to the bathroom. I'll have to let you know how tomorrow feels. Today I would have to get better to die. Bubba

PS - I guess this is why I felt weak yesterday.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Updated Plan

I went back out to see Kris at a break in his clinic at the school and we decided that my benchmark when healthy needs to start from my 44' run on 14' (4.30m) poles. The feeling is that it will set me up to be able to move through bigger poles from longer runs without getting hurt. Since I can use my first one or two of my nine 14' (4.30m) poles from 33', the 44' should be easy for the smallest. I like it. Don't get me wrong; jumping 12' (3.66m) from a 33' (10m) run is a good baseline, but I need to extend it out to the next run as soon as it becomes a daily event. I'm there.

This conversation came about because today I only took four jumps before I was on my first 14' pole and I considered starting on it from 33'. Kris also doesn't like what he saw at his meet last week that I have good speed but don't blast the take off and maintain my pressure when I running from further. He and I both think that this will be the gradual solution.

Saw my friend, Rick Hagedorn, out coaching kids also. Rick is from Southern California and we have many mutual friends out there. He's one of only nine Nike Sprint experts who do seminars around the country. Great guy and resource. His former girlfriend and still best friend died of cancer close to a year ago now and he has moved here and adopted her daughter. Super guy!


OK Day - Weather Still Sucks

Well I didn't get hurt. That's about all that mattered today. It was 46 and so foggy I couldn't see the top of the standards when I got there. By the time I left it was merely overcast and 48. It's still supposed to get to 71 today but it's noon now so I don't see it. At least there was no wind.

I got to the track early because I knew everything would be wet and the box would need to be cleaned out. I also took my time so that I didn't get too far along in my warm up before Kris got there. At 9:35 I assumed he was slowed by the fog and just started without him. Sure enough he had left a message that his truck was slow to start and that the fog was too thick to drive fast. He got there about five minutes after I finished my running and about half way through my bars. That's alright. I'm sure it as much more frustrating for him than me as he already had kids showing up for his clinic when he got there.

I started on my 4m (13')/14.7 and made 12' on my second attempt from 33' 6". Moved to the 14.3 and did the same. Then took three on my smallest 14' (4.30m) pole from the same run, almost getting in enough to make the bar. My technique was solid and I was able to make small corrections from jump to jump. I could have done more but I have a meet in six days so no need risking getting hurt.

I normally lift legs the day I jump but this week will be strung out as I don't have time to do both rotations of my training so I'll lift at the gym tomorrow. I could have gone today but I didn't feel as good as I thought I should have for having two days off. Part of that can be not stretching yesterday. Lance Armstrong said that during the Tour de France, you always need a day off but you feel so much worse after the day off that it's a mixed blessing. Same for me. If I don't stretch I don't feel like I have a relaxed open stride. That said I was at 33' 6" today and my best is 34'. Because I was a little flat I'll lift the short rotation (lower volume) tomorrow instead of the long one (higher volume) today.

In short I'm happy the with way I vaulted but wish I would have felt a little better. Even so, I was using decent sized poles from my short run with no strain. I also felt a little weak on the bars so there's another reason to take the rest of today easy and hit it again tomorrow.

I'm excited to vault next weekend and am already walking through pole/run scenarios for my height progression. Should be fun. Have a great Sunday! Bubba

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Waiting to Vault

As predicted it's drizzly and 47 so I'm waiting until tomorrow for Kris to get here. I won't jump a ton but want to get some quality vaults in. Kris has seen me jump a lot but rarely sits out with me at a practice one on one unless I'm going up to his place. I want to walk through some issues I'm working on so he can see what I'm trying to do in the vault. We're on the same page on 99% of the jump but I think the 1% is probably a matter of semantics - saying the same thing but different. This is important because he predominantly coaches via email and phone. And a GREAT job he does.

A week from right now I'm driving home from my meet in Granbury near Dallas. It's important that I step forward in every meet. I hope that I can use the 4.30m/15.9 from 54' or at least make it feel real small from 65' again. If so then I will have the chance to get back on the pole I jumped 4m on in Sydney; the only time I ever used it. At some point I need to make that pole too small also so I can get to the biggest one. Bubba

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Weather is My Friend Today

Don was scheduled to jump this morning but he's having some problems with his dad's health and will wait until tomorrow. I had decided that I would not vault today since I'm still pretty beat up from my last few sessions. I could do it but it's not worth the risk. I'm interested in getting better, not getting injured because I won't rest a trashed body. So that's today.

Tomorrow I'm scheduled to vault but it's supposed to rain from noon today until about 3 PM tomorrow. That could change but I'm not going to worry about it if it doesn't. I'll take the extra day of rest and get a good stretch in. This could be the weather protecting me from me again.

IF that happens and the weather remains crap through later tomorrow, the sun will be out Sunday and it will be 71 degrees as opposed to a high of 50 for today and tomorrow. Even better, my coach, Kris Allison, is coming to town to do a clinic at our high school meaning he can coach me first. I think this is the optimum scenario but I know me, if it clears out early I'll jump tomorrow in order to stay on schedule. I'm praying for rain and/or my own maturity to kick in. REALLY - will one extra day of rest make me slide backwards? NO!! I need to wake up and be rational. Bubba

UPDATE - I just talked to Kris and hired him to work with me for an hour and a half before his clinic starts. He normally doesn't charge me because I helped him get his club started but I felt he needed and deserves some motivation to get here earlier since he has to drive 3.5 hours. NOW, I'm excited!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another Day at the Office

Good lift day in the cold garage today. It was 32 (0 C) so I turned on the space heater to warm the place up a little before I got out there so it wasn't too bad. It's like anything else; if you decide you're doing it no matter what it has a way of getting done. I love having a schedule. It's just so much easier when I don't have a choice or have to think.

Speaking of schedules, Don wants me to jump with him tomorrow, which is my rest day. I may be OK with that unless the weather is better Saturday. On Monday, Don's having a very painful injection in his pubic symphasis - right in the soft center where the two pieces of the pubic bone come together. I've had this before and the injection works. This should put an end to nearly two years of on and off training for him. Between that and the fact that we're both jumping next weekend in Dallas, I'm trying to be flexible with his schedule.

My REAL motivation for jumping Friday would be to get to vault again Monday, whereas if I stayed on schedule for Saturday, that would be my last day until the meet the following Saturday. It's more of a curiosity since it would be five days from Monday to Saturday and I want to train between the two. I will have five days between USATF's Elite Nationals and World Masters Indoors in Canada so I'm thinking this would give me an early look into what that might feel like so I can make training adjustments.

That's it for today. Thanks for being here and have a great day! Bubba

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

Looking at my post today it reminded me of the first time I met and spoke with Vitaly Petrov, the great Sergey Bubka's coach. When asked about his 2, 4, 6 step drills he said that not only does it teach the mechanics for a dynamic take off, but that "ALL pole vaulters are strong and fast so I must take that away from them". That's why I jump so much from a shorter run.

His observation of US vaulters was that we had a lot of energy and enthusiasm but regularly disobey the laws of physics. He noted that the Russian athletes were much more workman like but never disobeyed the laws of physics. He felt that many of our athletes were superior to the other athletes he saw but were being held back by poor mechanics - i.e. disobeying the laws of physics.

My favorite quote from that first meeting was his answer to the question, "How high can Sergey vault?" He said, "For money or sport? For money he does what he needs to make the most money but for sport, I have seen him clear 6.40m (21') many times." At a practice at the 1996 Olympics I saw him make several nice attempts at 6.30m (20' 8") with a bungee. Here's what it looks like to put the bar up for him. Have a great night. Sorry for the small photo but there's a little guy on the shoulders of a 6' 6" (2m) guy so they can set the bar high enough for Sergey. Bubba
I booked a hotel room for the meet next weekend because we vault at 8 AM. The last time we went to this meet we left at 2:30 in the morning for the 4.5 hour drive. I'll go in the night before this time and get some rest. Bubba

Pretty Good Day

Of course no one likes to have a vault session where you never get out of your sweatsuit but that's the way it was today, and will probably be for the better part of the next two months. I used this as an excuse to stay on small poles and work some technical details without rushing to get to the next pole. Because of this, I had a solid and consistent technical effort and feel I gained some momentum toward progress.

Started at 10' 6" (3.21m) from my four step run 22' (6.50m) and made that and 11' (3.36m) on first jumps so I moved back to six steps or 33' (10m) run and stayed there the rest of the session. I skipped 11' 6" (3.51m) and went to 12' (3.66m) and made that pretty easily after working through a few more poles and refining some technique. The only missing piece is not allowing the hips to break during the swing. It wasn't horrible but I didn't get to it as a focus point.

Next session (Saturday) I'll try and use my two biggest 13' (4m) poles from 33' as I won't be able to get in enough to complete the jump from such a short run unless I do that part right. Long story short (too late) was that it felt good to have a session where I didn't care what pole I was on on what height the bar was on - I just wanted to vault technically correct. It was fun to have a day like this.

MOmentum. The MO you get, MO you CAN get!! I feel like I'm really starting to gain some training momentum and my body is finally responding. I felt pretty good out today even though I had hard training sessions since my meet on Saturday. The key is to get quality work done and don't get impatient and start jacking up grips and poles. It's too cold and I'm training too hard right now to be inviting injuries. Save the big poles and runs for the meets.

We will see where Saturday goes but I'm guessing I'll end up on my lighter 4.30 poles with some higher level technical jumps. The cleaner you can get on your technique on the smaller poles, the harder the big poles will throw you. The jump at 4m at Sydney felt no different than my practice jumps today on small poles and short runs. The difference is I can jump a lot more jumps without the risk of injury if I stay at the lower level. This also conditions my body for jumping so that I am less likely to get hurt when I step up a level.

Right now I have a bag of poles for practice and a bag for meets and rarely do I ever hit a meet pole in practice nor do I use a meet approach run. It's a philosophy - if I can't do it right from the closer run I can't from the next one. When I get it right there for a couple of jumps then I move back a stride. In March I won indoor nationals from a 44' run though I've already run from 64' in my first meet last weekend. That's the same run I ended on in Sydney. I think when I run consistently from 77' to 88' in meets, big things will start happening, but not if I don't carry over the same technique. It's a process that consistently proves correct. You move on when you're proved you're ready. If you go before then it slaps you back down.

Thanks for being here and listening. Looking forward to Granbury (Dallas) on 12/19. Bubba

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiting for the Rain

Today is my off day as I travel to see my client/partners. It's 73 today and the rain is clearing out. Supposed to be 48/58 tomorrow so that's workable for a training day. Not that I have a choice.

The only revelation I have made is that I will continue to lift twice a week (four sessions) and get all three running days in even on weeks I have a meet. I can't afford to have that much down/rest time like I take before a big meet. I especially need to crank back up my upper body strength so I can overpower some bigger poles. I think that is the biggest difference in my vault since I switched over to utilizing all of this hand pressure. I used to be more of a "swing" vaulter and now I'm using more power. Not to say that the years of being a swing vaulter haven't paid off, but I'm now dependent upon explosive upper body to move big poles. I like it a lot better but I can't afford to miss my lifting. I'm not intimidated by big poles because I know I can use both speed and power to move them. That's a good feeling.

That's it for today. I'll report back tomorrow. No meet this weekend but I have one near Dallas next weekend. Bubba

Monday, December 7, 2009

Indoors vs. Outdoors

I got a few emails about why my indoor PR would be so much lower than my outdoor PR and also inquiring what is the difference between the two types of jumping. In general, indoor PRs are lower because these are the first meets of the year so you're usually not in great vaulting shape yet, and you don't have a wind assisting you to run faster. That said, the world record is a little higher indoors than out - 20' 2" to 20' 1 3/4". Another thing to consider is that many athletes don't have that many opportunities to vault indoors.

We are an exception in our area because vault coaches have built indoor facilities to stay out of the heat and cold. Two of our meets this year will be at indoor football practice areas at high schools that have a couple of runways/pits on the perimeter. My coach, Kris Alison, spent a fortune to build a huge building to house an entire training center with weights, gymnastics, etc., with two pits and runways inside.

My deficiency? For me personally I made some technical changes to my vault in very early 2008. I could take off and get in on a big pole but when the bar went up I either wasn't in far enough to attempt a clearance or would come down on the bar badly. This meant that I was letting pressure off of the pole in order to go vertical. Recovering from an ankle sprain on my take off foot I decided to get to the bottom of this by starting on tiny poles. That year I blew indoor nationals in Boston and got 4th because I did not trust my new technique which required that I use stiffer poles so that I always felt tension on my hands. It was a very frustrating lesson but that ended my season with a jump of 11' 1 1/2" (3.40m). I vaulted 13' 5 1/4" (4.10m) outdoors that year.

As I sometimes do, I took this new discovery to another level and tried to see how big of a pole I could jump on from 33'. I got on my 14'/170/17.2 but in the process strained my triceps and got a tendon inflammation. I screwed around with this rehab for about 4-6 months before a sportsmed orthopedic physician injected cortisone at the tendon attachment and showed me how to train around the problem. So in 2009 I was only able to vault in one indoor meet, indoor nationals in Landover, Maryland where I won with my opening vault of 12'. At 12' 6" I got a little hamstring ding and stopped.

This year I have seven indoor meets on the schedule and I'm already in decent shape so I'm hoping to create a training environment that puts up some good marks all season long. At the end of this season I will take a very long break and re-tool my running and lifting for 2011 when the National Senior Games will be in Houston and the World Masters T&F Championships will be in Sacramento. I will be 58 and my age group will be full of young guys much better than me unless I make this overhaul.

Got a garage lift and bars this morning as well as a speed endurance running session today. Looking forward to it. Have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Official Results From LSPV

I've got a gym lift today and speed endurance tomorrow. I travel Tuesdays and hope to get a good vault session Wednesday. Got plenty to work on. Here are the results from yesterday. I was 36 years older than the 2nd oldest person. That still cracks me up. Bubba

PS - I was disappointed in my vault timing as the pole I wasn't really getting in on should have been too small from that run. I need to hit bigger poles from a shorter run to fix this before my next meet. Running further and faster to come up short on a pole that usually works from one stride closer is not a good sign. You shouldn't use speed to make up for technical misfires and that's what I was forced to do yesterday. Sucks!!

Results from the 2009 Lone Star Indoor Open
Moises Gomez, Tec de Monterrey, 4.61m/15'1.5"
Mykhal "Blake" Luther, Lone Star PV, 4.31m/14'1.5"
Jon Johnson, Lone Star PV, 4.31m/14'1.5"
Daryl Burrell, Lone Star PV, 4.01m/13'1.75"
Jordan Worthington, Los Canguros, 4.01m/13'1.75"
Doug "Bubba" Sparks, The Woodlands PV, 3.86m/12'8"
Oscar Longoria, Lone Star PV, 3.86m/12'8"
Carmelita Correa, Tec de Monterrey, 3.71m/12'2"
Darci Joseph, unattached, 3.56m/11'8"
Marc Bolles, Lone Star PV, 3.51m/11'6"
Mason Gill, Lone Star PV, 3.51m/11'6"
Malachi Bauman, Los Canguros, 3.36m/11'0.25"
Chaney Turney, Lone Star PV, 3.36m/11'0.25"
Isabella Smith, Tec de Monterrey, 3.36m/11'0.25"
Cameron Barbier, Los Canguros, 3.36m/11'0.25"
Augie Gmitter, Lone Star PV, 3.21m/10'6.25"
Meredith Driskell, Lone Star PV, 3.21m/10'6.25"
Kally Long, Lone Star PV, 3.06m/10'0.5"
Walter Taylor, Pratt Athletics, 2.91m/9'6.5"
Brianna Akins, unattached, 2.76m/9'0.5"
Sadie Sublowsky, Los Canguros, 2.61m/8'6.75"
Ana Cecilia Cantu, Pratt Athletics, 2.45m/8'0.5"
Annie Harwig, Lone Star PV, 2.45m/8'0.5"
Larisa Rodriguez, Lone Star PV, 2.45m/8'0.5"
Kristi Pratt, Pratt Athletics, 2.30m/7'6.5"
Kara Zuspan, The Woodlands PV, 2.30m/7'6.5"
Marisa Lozano, Pratt Athletics, 2.15m/7'0.5"
Dorian Garcia, Tec de Monterrey, NH
Luis Carlos Nevarez, Tec de Monterrey, NH

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Survived My First Indoor Meet

When I left the house for the 3.5 hour drive at 5 AM it was 19 degrees. Fortunately last night about an hour before dark the sun came out and the wind picked up so it dried things out so black ice wasn't an issue.

When I arrived at Kris' place it was 25 outside and felt like 15 inside his steel building. He had heaters going in the spectators area but the runways were certainly cold. He opened the big garage door to let some sun in and that helped a little.

There is no evidence that the cold makes poles stiffer but they sure feel that way when you're body is somewhat frozen. A couple of times the spray I put on my tape to make it sticky made my hand numb because it was so cold. By the time my warm up was done I felt OK considering.

We had about 40 vaulters entered including some guests from Mexico so everything today was metric. To avoid ties in rankings Kris did metric plus 1 cm. We had eight people on our pit starting at 3.41m (11' 2"). I started at 3.71m (12' 2") and made it on my first jump from 53' on the 14/169/17.0. At 3.86m (12' 8") I felt I had no chance on my next pole from that run because it may be too big and if I moved back a stride it may be too small. So I moved back to 64' and skipped the 16.5 and went right to the 15.9 carbon pole that I made 3.90m (12' 9 1/2") in Sydney on. I made 12' 8" easy on the first jump but the pole felt really stiff. At 13' 2" I moved my grip up a couple of inches and had about 9" of height but came down on it. I went ahead and stopped without taking my last two jumps. I felt I needed to be on that pole to make it but I would have to run faster. Since I haven't been on 14' poles since Australia, and it was still under 40 degrees. I didn't feel it was safe to try and run harder so that was my rationale to stop.

So my day was 4 X 12' in warm up from 53' (14/169-17.0) and three meet jumps with a clearance at 12' 2" and 12' 8", and a miss at 13' 2". Seven total vaults but my body feels good and safe. It's been nearly six hours since I stopped and my toes are still cold. I know I'm a wuss.

We did a mixed group so we had two girls in our group. I got 3rd place of the eight vaulters and we calculated that I was 36 years older than the 2nd oldest vaulter in my group. Pretty funny.

I give my vault grade a "C" because my timing was inconsistent. Most of that will fix itself as I have not run that far or used 14' poles yet so it takes a day or two to get used to getting to the box with more speed and power. If you miss your take off timing just a little then your body gets knocked out of position.

BTW - my indoor PR (Personal Record) going into today was 3.67m (12' 1/2") so both clearances were indoor PRs. Hopefully I'll be back over 13' at Dallas in two weeks. Even though I get a "C" I'm happy with the height considering the cold and no vaulting at this level. I was a little surprised I made 12' 8" that easy with such a sloppy vault. I'm optimistic as I return to the grind.

Have a great evening and thanks for being here. Bubba

Friday, December 4, 2009


I got my poles from the school yesterday since today is forecast for rain and snow. Sure enough about 9 AM we got some pretty big flakes flying and it's only going to increase until 9 PM tonight. Then it clears out and gets down to 19 degrees.

I've just got an easy indoor stretch but it's nice to see the snow if you don't have to train in it. By the end of the weekend we are supposed to be back in the 60s.

BTW - weatherman is the best job in the world as everyone expects you to be wrong yet you still get paid. Have a great day! Bubba

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meets in New Mexico & Canada 5 Days Apart?

In a round about way through my friend and fellow M55 vaulter, Bob Crites, I am going to be invited to jump on February 28 at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships for the elite athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

There will be an eight man field vault on Sunday morning at 10 before the elites jump. The top two in the elites meet go to World Indoors in Doha. It's the big showcase meet for US elites this year so getting to be part of the warm up act is really awesome. VERY cool.

If you have watched this blog closely you already know what I'm thinking - I'm vaulting on Sunday in Albuquerque, leaving Wednesday for Canada and jumping in World Masters Indoors on Friday. That's five days from meets in New Mexico to Canada. I can make that work training wise but my poles will already be in Canada.

I've already emailed Kris this morning to see how we should split up the poles for each trip. Clearly Canada is the BIG event but I need a vault session before then anyway so I'll use smaller poles in Albuquerque. I also skip poles in my series depending on the meet so I'll take the big poles to Canada and the in between poles to New Mexico. I think. We'll look at that some more this weekend.

SO, pretty exciting opportunity. Last year I got to vault at the 100th Drake Relays and this year will be the first time ever that masters have pole vaulted at the elites national meet. It's one of those things you can't say no to. Have a great day!! Bubba

UPDATE - It's official, I'm in the Masters Exhibition at the USA Track & Field Indoor Nationals for the elites. Should be fun!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting Ready for Saturday

Today was a normal lift in the garage. The weather was in the low 50s but I have a heater out there anyway. Believe it or not we are supposed to get snow on Friday. That rarely happens!
Kris will have both pits indoors on Saturday so I'm going to the meet. He is also adding extra heaters. He has a HUGE steel building in the middle of nowhere so it attracts some wind. It's also a quarter of a mile from the New Braunfels airport so I'm sure at some point when Don gets his plane we will fly in for a session. It's a 40 minute flight rather than a 3.5 hour drive.
Coincidentally when we drive I always pick him up at the airport where he will keep the plane.

Have a great day!! Bubba

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Up In The Air

I'm not sure that I'm jumping at Kris' meet this weekend. He is having an indoor section and an outdoor section to make it go faster. I don't blame him for that but I'm only interested in an indoor mark, so if I'm scheduled on the outdoor pit I probably will stay home and practice instead. It's hard to say since we are supposed to have temps at 25/36 and he is supposed to have 26/44. Of course indoors that doesn't matter. If it's under 45 I don't jump outdoors anyway. I especially don't drive 3.5 hours to jump outdoors in the cold. Tomorrow is 36/53 so that may be my best shot. We'll see. Have a great day. Bubba

UPDATE - Looks like the whole meet will now be inside so I'm going.