Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nothing Really New to Report

Of course I always have something on my mind but today was just a normal day back in the gym after an off day. I continue to feel strong so I'm passed the settle in period to the new training load. I should be able to make steady progress from here on out. I'm still coming to grips that it is only the end of March but my total focus is on a meet on June 20th, National Senior Games, and July 13, World Masters Championships. I treat them like they are next week because we all know how time flies and gets away from you. That said I'm in no real rush to jump or compete and will do it when it feels like I'm ready. Back with the mode of investing pennies daily looking for that dollar (or $5) when I need it. Thanks for being here and have a great day! Bubba

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Travel Day

This is my travel day and off day from training. I've been waiting for a slow day and to get a little more "age" under it before I announce that my wife Nancy, has indeed become my lifting training partner. We go on vacation in 10, days but for very nearly a month now she has lifted with me both in the garage and at the gym. She says she is really surprised that she enjoys the process. Never being a gym person she even enjoys that. Her form has immensely improved and she says she's starting to feel better. Good for her!! Have a great day! Bubba

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Things Happen for a Reason

People come into your life, go out, and sometimes come back in, and sometimes then they stay forever. We've all had these experiences and there always seems to be a reason, though it's not always apparent at the time. For the last three running sessions I have not been able to get in the shed due to construction/renovation to the press box above. Apparently this too has happened for a reason. Today, in my 3rd such running session, I found out that I am now well enough to not only get out of breath, but well enough to hurt something else other than my healing hamstring ding. I ran 8 X 100 and 8 X 50 and I felt really fast. Trying to stay within myself I quickly learned that I have no speed endurance. Almost all of my previous running has been with sleds or a pole or a hill so I can power away without fear of jerking a hamstring. Without those barriers to slow me down, my body now has to figure out how to handle my real speed and it's not doing a very good job. On the 4th 50m run I started feeling what could turn into a light strain on the inside back of my left leg. Not hamstring or groin, but from the tendon that comes up from behind the knee, the semimembranosis. Of course I did not let this develop further but it became sore enough that I ran the last three much slower. It is still sore tonight but certainly not injured. I remember flaring this up doing four step vaults at a high level and it was OK to vault again three days later; so I'm not concerned. Still, this shows me that things happen for a reason. What's funny is that this type of running was exactly what I was planning for the first four months of the off-season. Now I know its a weakness, I will continue with it now. That said, I would not have known about this chink in the armor had I not been able to get to my sleds, etc. So yes, things happen for a reason. Have a great evening and thank you for being here with me. Bubba PS - Happy birthday this past Sunday to my friend and fellow Woodlands PV Club vaulter, Gary Scheffe. Gary had the unfortunate timing to turn 55 and join the toughest age group in the world. Welcome Gary. It will be great to have you on the field with me in Sacramento at the World Championships.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Strength Returns

Apparently I have made the corner physically as all of my weights went up in this morning's lifting. I will see how the running feels tomorrow. If that is better I'll feel pretty good about trying to jump a week from Saturday. Pretty much that will be the test of where I am. If it doesn't feel right I'll wait two more weeks when I expect to be perfect. My problem is two weeks from today I will be out of town from Monday through Friday so no training that week. I'd rather try to jump before that rather than after it. Besides, it will be five weeks since Albuquerque and that was a minor ding so I SHOULD be ready. Feeling cautiously optimistic that I'm at least back on the launching pad to a big ramp up to some big jumps. Thank you for your support and have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Like That; Penny Pays Big Dividends!!

I've said many times that training is the process of taking a single snowflake and gradually turning that into an avalanche. By Reno and Nationals I was where I needed to be but yet I still needed to raise to another level physically to be ready for Worlds. I also tell me kids that the vault is like a bank account in that you have to invest energy into the take off if you expect a big dividend on top of the jump. With that in mind, the penny got on top with at least a dollar today, yet I'm still along way away from being the $100 bill I'm shooting for.

Yesterday I was crippled and limping around from the hard running. My body felt like it had a hard workout but also like it was learning to run fast again. All week I have felt like crap and today - I am NEW! I got into my cardio this morning and everything was easy. I go to my lifts and everything felt light. So like I suggested, at some point either me or my body would give up and get with the program of the other one. Today the body gave in. So from experience I am now on the path to progress toward the goal.

Diet & Supplements My great friend for over 30 years, Dean Gregory asked that I discuss this. Dean was my training partner during perhaps the hardest two years of training in my life so he knows and understands training principles. Besides being a certified genius, he's very instinctive into what works and paths to take. He's been behind the scenes to my training since my ramp up to Sydney. He will also come to Sacramento from Washington State to watch me jump. But I think my answer here, as well as my rationale will surprise him and everyone else. I don't take any supplements and I'm not that careful with my diet.

Let's start with the diet. Three letters in that word spell DIE. I will eat whatever I want in small doses. I try not to ever feel full but I will eat one decent/regular meal a day and everything else will just filled in with whatever sounds good. So breakfast is usually cereal and fruit. Lunch is usually out and dinner is something small. If I eat out for breakfast then that is my big meal of the day so the rest of the day is more limited. I do not drink alcohol but I drink TONS of tea and some diet drinks. I flush my body to keep everything moving because if I don't my body tends to retain water. I can go up 6-8 lbs. (3-4kg) if I don’t do this flush. That said, I never drink during workouts nor carry water around the gym. OK, so weird but that's me.

Supplements are different story. For 11 years I was a lead instructor for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. This is where the profit money went from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Our mission was to teach high school coaches how to coach their athletes. Our resources as far as research were unlimited and the team of instructors was a who’s who in every event. In the pole vault it was Jan Johnson, Dan Ripley, Mike Tully and his coach, Dave Johnston, me, etc. So every event was stacked like that with coaches and I spent most of my time trying to learn how what they did could help me and my vaulters. Here’s what I learned;

87% of elite athletes say they take supplements “just in case they actually work”, or to “make sure the gaps are covered in whatever they may be deficient in”.

People mainly took their supplements when they were training but tended not to when they were off. So was the improvement due to consistent training or supplements.

There is no double blind proof that any supplement provides an athletic advantage. YES, higher levels of the vitamin were present in the blood and urine, yet performance did not change.

The ONLY legal supplement that provided a benefit was creatine monohydrate, which makes you retain water and increases bulk, and many times causes cramping. So there you have it. I eat regular food, don’t drink water or energy drinks during training, and take no vitamins of any type. Not very exciting and contrary to most thinking. Again, I’m just weird that way. Thanks for your support and have a great day! Bubba

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Goal - Roll Like A Bentley

Yes this is my last dog and his name is Bentley, like the Rolls Royce. So every night at my house is a "Three Dog Night". If my plan is correct some time next week or the next my body will stop fighting me and I will get the results I'm looking for. So in dog terms I went from "Tuffy" whipping my butt, to feeling like a "Pansy" in an effort to roll like a "Bentley". Though it will still require sustained effort, I will have turned the corner and my progress can start to appear.

Today I got to the track and the shed area was roped off as they are doing some type of press box construction this morning so I couldn't get in to get my sled or heavy pole. Improvising I did 10 X 100m + 10 X 50m. I guess I'm getting better as I never felt my hamstring ding and I can now run fast enough to be out of breath. Hate that but love it because it means now I am healthy enough to get into some sort of shape.

Being fit or in shape is relative to what you are trying to do. I need speed and speed endurance so I can take lots of longer runs on bigger poles. That requires a different base than I had. I feel I was half way between where I was and where I need to be so I'm hoping to bridge that gap with these efforts.

Of course it's nearly 90 degrees now so that takes about a month before that too puts you at another level of fitness. Right now I feel good with the plan. Hopefully it will suck less soon. It usually does. I'm guessing next week or the next at the worst.

Don jumped again this morning. He's been jumping twice a week plus other training. He too is beat up so it's hard for him to progress because he rarely feels good when he jumps. He also will get the reward later when he is rested and can benefit from being stronger and faster.

Gotta run but thanks for being here. Have a great Saturday! Bubba

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Body Hates Me - I'm A Pansy

Pansy the Schnauzer vs. Bubba the Pansy

Coincidentally, our miniature schnauzer is also named Pansy. Each dog in that litter was named after a flower so there was a Daisy, Lilly, etc. Today, I am a pansy and so is she. Well she is every day.

I'm currently in a period of extreme conditioning and my body hates me so I'm not that happy either. It liked the short burst heavier stuff and really dislikes this deeper longer pain I am causing, so it is rebelling against me. It's just the way it has to be and this training period was actually planned last May.

I remember reading that Bo Jackson once told a group of seniors that his perception of level of exertion was no different from theirs in that they both reached a level that felt difficult and then a point where they had to stop. They had that in common so they could follow the same rules that he did. If one day 100 lbs. (45kg) feels light and another day 50 lbs. feels heavy, then you're a fool to attempt 60 lbs. on that day. On that day 50 lbs. IS 100 lbs. so don't be stupid. I always play this relative exertion game and it keeps me grounded. Which is a good thing because right now my body HATES me and I'm a little pissed at it for being so slow to respond!!

I'm doing a whole lot of drills with a big pole right now which include planting the pole and taking off into a regulation plant box that MAY slide a cross the grass a little if you hit it just right. If you don't you're flat on your back.

This reminds me of my time at UC Irvine when we got a German decathlete in. He had a PR of 13' 9" (4.20m) yet would grip over 16' (4.90m) and would take off no matter where he happened to be at the box. He could be 1.5' (45cm) out or under and still jump. We used to take bets where he would land or if he would break a pole. Needless to say I couldn't watch or be responsible for this chaos.

My approach was to remind him that as a decathlete he needed to warm up every day no matter what event he was going to do so I gave him a series of plant and take off drills that he did six days a week. I did not let him vault for four months. When I did I only allowed him to slide the pole from six steps for the next two months. All this time he was still doing the daily plant and take off drills. That year he vaulted 16' 9" (5.10m) for an improvement of 3' (1m). How?

My rationale was that he was such a bad vaulter that I couldn't let him vault. Instead we worked to perfect this series of drills that he did for 30 minutes a day for six days a week within his general warm up. When we started him back we kept him close enough so that he could not use speed and strength. The end result was that his drills became his vault, and his old vault no longer existed.

SO, that's what I'm doing. I'm using all of these drills to perfect my plant and take off so that when I jump again I'm better. I started doing this a little before Albuquerque and had several vaulters tell me how much better my plant and take off looked. I figured I could easily incorporate more of that if those are going to be the results.

I think it's a good plan since I'm not vaulting. Besides, it keeps me in touch with those mechanics without the risk of injury. Certainly using a 16/180 (4.90/82kg) pole gripping near the end and actually taking off into a heavy box will HAVE to improve my plant and take off mechanics, or I will have a new set of bruises and scrapes from landing on my back on the ground. That's what I'm hoping and counting on.

Enough for the night. Thank you so much for your support and have a great evening. Bubba

Thursday, March 24, 2011

About What I Expect to Feel Like + Milestone

Tuffy - is MUCH tougher than me today!!

I'm grinding through week two and feeling the effects of my body adapting. Some things felt OK and some felt like crap. I just adapt and go with it. Doesn't help to bitch; just keep showing up. Hoping sometime next week or the next I adapt and start feeling strong again. Right now my Yorkshire Terrier could kick my ass. Have a great day! Bubba
PS - Went over 18 million pounds lifted today since I started back on January 1, 2005 - 18,037,466.
BTW - I found out today that our high school district meet will be at the same stadium that our National Senior Games will be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day Off

I switched my Wednesday running day to Tuesday because I hated running after being on the road all day and feeling full from a business lunch. I really don't like off days but this is the day to do it so there you have it.

No special thoughts other than starting to finalize plans for Worlds. I got my hotel back in August at Dean's suggestion but still need to look into flights and rental cars. I try to do something "vaulty" as Mike Soule calls it, on my day off. I found out in Albuquerque that our hotel was not on the master list and that could result as being good info as things close out from the local organizing committee.

There's a big USATF meet Friday night and they just added the masters vault as a feature on a fast board/rubber runway in the middle of the football field. I'd love to do it but I need to stick to my current plan.

I'm torn in a lot of ways because I used to ramp back up through a bunch of smaller poles when I get a ding, but this year I have just trained a couple of weeks longer and then come back at or above the level I left off. I think it's real important that I keep that mindset. Everything needs to be high level quality even if it take a bit longer to jump again. So far I think I'm doing good but who really knows until you get out and try. Fortunately that's still almost three weeks away. If that doesn't feel right I'll wait two more weeks and by that time I'm certain I will be ready.

That's it for tonight. Thanks for being here. Feel free to come to Sacramento and stay at my hotel! Could result in exciting fun! Bubba

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Circular Logic

As I settle into the grind my body feels fairly crappy yet is still responsive to the training demands. Of course I will make adjustments if I feel I am at risk of a ding, but I still continue on with the main base of the grind. This is normal when you train to try and get to the next level of speed and strength/power.

When you feel this way you can't vault at a high level. Once you rest to vault you can't seem to progress physically anymore. To make this work I try to cycle into hard training, and then have a meet, and then cycle back to training. The problem is that if you have three meets in a row you suddenly feel like you are stuck physically and need to get back to training. Almost like I got out of shape by jumping in too many meets and not practicing enough.

All of this said, I have jumped less this year than any other year yet my average meet vaults are about 4" (10cm) higher than last year. I have many more meets than practices this year. In fact I haven't jumped in practice since early November. We have a new pit and I've never been on it since I have only jumped at meets - 4" higher. WEIRD!!

I'm comfortable with my technique but it needs some cleaning up. I plan to vault at four of our All Comer meets spaced two weeks apart. That will give me a little over three weeks left before the National Senior Games and another 3.5 weeks until Worlds. If I go to Nationals in Cleveland that will be 2.5 weeks after worlds. So the way it looks I will jump only 6-7 more times this year - NONE in practice. Again - WEIRD!! But whatever works. Never done this before.

To put this all in perspective, I have ONLY been on 14' 7" (4.45m) poles since mid October yet last year it took me half the season to be able to practice on my 14' 1" (4.30m) poles. Sure I would love to jump more but I think it's more important that I jump less but at a higher level. Seems to be working so far. It seems you can either vault in practice or raise your level physically because you can't do both at a high level at the same time at this age. Nice to know. NOW, I'd like to ramp up to being able to and I'm sure I will try to jump two days a week along with my other training - next year.

Next year I will jump 2-3 days a week starting back at the lowest levels and run 4-5 days a week. THAT will be fun!! Have a great day and thanks for the support. Bubba

Monday, March 21, 2011

NSG - 12 Weeks From Today!!

Seems so weird to be grinding away in a hot garage in March while thinking about the details of a competition 12 weeks from today, Monday, on June 20 - the National Senior Games/Olympics will be here in Houston. BUT - that's the way I like to do it. Right now 12 weeks seems like an eternity but I know it will go by very fast and I will feel like I didn't get everything out of it that I could.

I MUST get into a better level of conditioning. I know that sounds strange because I'm fairly fit but it takes a different type of body to jump high on big poles with long runs and high grips and I just don't have it yet. I hope 12 weeks is enough because I have no other choice. And after that? It's on three weeks and two days until Worlds in Sacramento.

Now for something completely different. Joel Pocklington is a pole vaulter in Australia. His coach is the great Mark Stewart who also coached Steve Hooker, the world's current World and Olympic champion and the owner of the second highest vault in history. Here is Joel's idea of fun and cross training. Enjoy! Bubba

BTW - here are the outtakes of when things didn't quite go as planned.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

European Championships Results

The combination of the US National results and the European Championships results serve as a good preview to the upcoming World Championships.

Well, Wolfie jumps 13' 5 1/4" (4.10m) to win, my friend from Great Britain, Allan Williams is 2nd at 12' 9 1/2" (3.90m), and my friend from Iceland is 3rd at the same height.

Had a great time with Allan in Sydney as he got 2nd to me there. I believe this ties his current PR but he is capable of so much more. As he has learned, it's very hard to compete AND be an elite coach at the same time but he's doing a good job of it. His club, Polestar, is a great club and he is an outstanding person, coach and athlete.

Off to the gym. Got lots of work to get done! Bubba

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sore & Achy

One friend told me it sounded like I did a lot this week for as much bitching as I did about missed workouts. I guess since I am sore and achy I did much more than meets the eye. That said, this is the beginning of a pleasurable grind.

I'm trying to decide if I will jump in five weeks or seven. I'm sure I will warm up on five and see how it feels but it wont bother me to grind away for seven to give me a bigger base.

Tried to bump the weight on the sleds with the pole today and that won't work. Not that strong yet. I'll stick to the plan and just survive it for now. Have a great evening! Bubba

Friday, March 18, 2011

Back to Routine

I'm very much a creature of habit and hate getting off track. I say that but it seems I'm always making adjustments. Still, I would rather know I have a schedule to train by and now I seem to be back on it. My little car business trip took me 627 miles so running in the afternoon after that hardly seemed "normal". Yesterday's gym and today's garage felt very good; like I'm getting back in the swing of things.

This morning I went over 12,000 bar drills since I started back on January 1, 2005. Sometime next week I will cross over 18 million pounds lifted. Like I say, you have to just keep showing up. The days you do something add up just like the days you don't. I remember in college if I missed a class it was hard to go back, and if I missed two I felt like I would be arrested if I showed up. Same with training; you miss a day or two and it's hard to get back. But with all of this bitching I only actually missed one day, Monday. It happens but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I think it was Tuesday that I got a note that the National Senior Games are 91 days away. Since that is the first of my big three meets this summer that put things in perspective for me - I have only three months to get myself to yet another level. Doesn't leave much time for missed sessions.

Levels are funny because you can figure out as you go about what it takes to get to the next one. The question then becomes, will my body take it? I was emailing a friend yesterday about my Facebook account only being for training and vaulters. I figure there are old folks who are elite sprinters, weightlifters, triathletes, fitness competitors, bodybuilders, etc. I have "friended" all of these in an effort to learn more about how I can become better. I guess you do have to leave "home" to go to school. It's interesting to see and hear how each of these factions look at their training. It enlightens me as to how to look at my own.

My first year back (2005) after the two Achilles surgeries, and three years off, I got 3rd at nationals in the M50 at 11' 6" in Honolulu with a massive tailwind. Two weeks ago I got 4th at 13' in the M55. My point is that everyone is stepping up so I had better do so as well. I've closed the gap but I'm not there. BUT, that's what makes it fun. As hard and grinding as it can be, the whole journey and process IS fun.

Thanks for being here and have a great day! Bubba

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Baaaaack!!

Tough to get on schedule after the short travel week but here we go. Ran yesterday and felt OK. Hammy still has a sting in it but I could run 10-15% faster. Today was a good gym lift. I should be able to get back to reality tomorrow. Have a great day! Bubba

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Out Early Tomorrow AM SO, Here You Go

I was reading "10 Questions" in Time magazine with Mike Tyson. When asked what it takes to be a champion he said, "You must be diligent and committed. You must train what you hate like you love it. The first time I knocked someone out I was jumping up and down and excited. My trainer asked why I was behaving that way. I trained for this and this is the expected result. Anything else would mean failure". Food for thought. Bubba

The Woodlands High School All Comers Schedule
Pole Vault at 5 PM

Tuesday, May 24
Tuesday, May 31
Tuesday, June 7
Tuesday, June 14
Monday, June 20
Tuesday, June 27

Survived the First Rotation

I always amazes me that with how much I train that I still get sore if I miss even one of my three day rotations. Of course I miss the last one before a big meet and the first one after a big meet so max I'm missing 6-7 days, yet I still feel beat up when I start back. I felt especially trashed last night after my running, bars, sled, pole drills day but woke up today feeling better.

I did an abbreviated first gym workout as a ramp up and everything felt good there. SO, now I will miss Monday's home lift, but will do Tuesdays running on Wednesday. Missing one workout is not bad considering I will be out of town the better part of three days. I hate to say it but it probably will do me good to let my body recover from the past three days.

I find it very effective to ramp up and ramp down when going through long training periods. I was going to jump in a meet on April 2, but now I'm thinking I should leave that alone and wait another two to three weeks before attempting to vault. Sure it sucks not to vault but I want to be sure I am 100% healthy because I will start right back on my meet pole series.

The great American vaulter, Mike Tully, (silver medal in 1984 Olympics) once told me his idea of rehab was go home with some beer and watch TV. Repeat daily until he was well enough to jump. I don't drink and I think I would go crazy if I didn't do anything, but again I'm not the athlete that Mike was.

I learned early on that any ding or injury is an open door to hitting the training harder than ever so you come back better than you left. Believe me, if I got 4th at nationals how do I do at worlds? Better get my butt to work. Have a great day and thanks for the support? Bubba

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Make That a 3 to a 4 + Love / Hate

I'm glad I had bad weather and was sick so that I had a full week from nationals before trying to run on my leg. Because I found out very quickly the hamstring is more of a 3 or a 4 instead of a .75 to a 1. There's a little stinging behind the left knee that kept me at about 20-30% speed on all running. So though I stopped last week without apparent injury, I would not have gotten down the runway on the next attempt based on how it feels today.

So here's the silver lining. First, I did not get a full blown injury but more of a ding. I have no limitation of range of motion. Next, the type of training I am transitioning to is better to start slowly with. I was telling a friend how much I absolutely hate moving into this type of running; not because it is so hard but because it is so long and boring as you will see in a few minutes. But now that I CAN'T go fast it made me really enjoy the day. So hate turned to love as I really had fun.

Basically you have to take a hard look at yourself and ask what it takes to get to the next level and why did my body fail me the last time. These are parallel paths - move forward, fix what was wrong. What was wrong was that I did a ton of speed and power stuff but very little of it with no resistance so my legs did not respond well to their new quickness. I also did not do my normal running/striding the day before the meet, even though I stretched. BIG mistake. Then I tried to start on too big of a pole which shocked my body into too much too soon. So there's not much to change to fix that. Just don't be STUPID!! Easier said then done but I will try with new eyes.

Going forward I have over three months before the National Senior Games in Houston and about four months before worlds in Sacramento. If I don't treat this like an off season and blast away at my training level I will not be competitive this summer. I have found out that I am jumping well at a high level. To get me over the hump to be on bigger poles with less effort means a new type of grind. Pretty excited about it after today.

So when you hear that today was my run/sled/drill day here's what actually takes place. NOTE - I'm not vaulting now so I need a ton of take offs and plant drills with an over sized pole. Thanks and have a great day! Bubba
  1. 1/2 mile stride straights / jog curves
  2. high bar pullovers to max
  3. 1/2 mile stride straights / walk curves
  4. high bar pullovers to max
  5. 1 X 50 hill for speed
  6. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  7. 50m X carioca sled shuffle facing left with big pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  8. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  9. 1 X 50 hill for speed
  10. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  11. 50m X carioca sled shuffle facing right with big pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  12. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  13. 1 X 50 hill for speed
  14. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  15. high bar pullovers to max
  16. 1 X 50m hill / sled+10 lbs (5 kg)
  17. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  18. P-bar Bubkas with 5 lb. ankle weights
  19. 50m high knees with pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  20. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  21. 1 X 50m hill / sled+10 lbs (5 kg)
  22. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  23. 50m goose step with pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  24. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  25. 1 X 50m hill / sled+10 lbs (5 kg)
  26. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  27. P-bar Bubkas with 5 lb. ankle weights
  28. 50m step out with pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  29. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  30. 1 X 50m hill / sled+0 lbs (5 kg) with heavy pole
  31. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  32. 50m power skip with pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  33. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  34. 1 X 50m hill / sled+0 lbs (5 kg) with heavy pole
  35. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  36. 50m power skip with pole and 5 lb. ankle weights
  37. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  38. 1 X 50m hill / sled+0 lbs (5 kg) with heavy pole
  39. walk back with 3 X slide box plants and 3 X pole drops
  40. P-bar Bubkas with 5 lb. ankle weights

Friday, March 11, 2011

Well, It's a Start!

I slept better last night between coughs and managed to lift the same way; between coughs. I feel better but sound worse. Or maybe I don't feel that much better after all. Doesn't help that The Woodlands has thousands of HUGE pines (hence Woodlands) and they are all emitting pine dust all over everything. Great for the breathing if you already have a cold.

I kept weights low and movements deliberate. I guess the best news is that I forgot I had a little hamstring issue to watch. I'm quite sure it's still there at some level but I never felt it today. That's an improvement because when I was setting up Nancy's lifting Monday I DID feel it when I bent over and picked up heavy weights.

This week Nancy started lifting with me. She walks daily but has never been much of a weights person. When we first met she tried it and made improvements very quick but I think we had her do too much too soon. This time we're going slow and easy and she's really enjoying it. I think it will be good for me at the gym because it will make me slow down a little between sets. I think sometimes I rush my rest so I'm not taking up the machine or so I can get to the next one. I hope she stays with it for both of us.

I'll have a running/drill day tomorrow and then gym lift Sunday then I'm on the road Monday through Wednesday. Thanks again for all of your support! Bubba

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Got a Cold So I'll Wait

I feel better than yesterday but I'll play it safe and wait until tmomorrow. Until then, here is an animated bear trying to pole vault. Bubba

Late Add - Poles got back safely.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

National Senior Games Pole Vaulter Reunion

I know that many of you are planning to come to Houston for the National Senior Games. Some have inquired about finding poles to use. I will check and see if our local high school will allow their poles to be used and feel pretty sure it won't be an issue. My coach Kris Allison may also have some poles to rent. I'll check with him too.

If you're under 65 you vault on Monday, June 20, and if you're 65 or over you vault on Thursday, June 24. With that in mind, we will host an All Comers Masters PV Meet at The Woodlands High School on Friday afternoon, June 17, followed by a BBQ at my house 2 miles away. This way you can try out poles you may need for the NSG.

In addition, the very next day is the Quintana Beach Vault - We will make the 90 minute drive to watch the masters section of that meet on Saturday morning at 9. If you vault on Thursday you may want to enter and compete at the Quintana Beach Vault - HUGE tailwind and very fast runway.

I live 25 miles north of Houston in The Woodlands off of I-45. The meet in Humble is about a 25 minute drive to the southeast but long before you reach Houston. There are plenty of hotels of all classes along I-45 near our house and the high school, or along State 59 in Humble. If you're coming in for any of these events we can caravan over to the NSG on Monday morning.

Scroll down here for a shot of our facilities - As you can see we have two pits and about 140' of runway. Plenty of shade on the main end. Here is our city website -

Please let me know if you think you are coming. Thanks and see you soon. Bubba

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Day About Nothing

Normally I don't train the first rotation after a big meet which means my first day of training would be Thursday. However, because I will be out of town next Monday and Tuesday I thought I might at least get through today's running. My new club sponsor is Adidas so I got some new shoes and thought I would take it easy on those and feel my way through my hamstring. I also got some new ankle weights for big pole drills and bar work so I packed the car and was excited to head out to a long but easy session. Cue the rain - POURING, and getting worse all day. There's my sign to wait until Thursday. Things happen for a reason so I'll listen and wait. Thanks for being here. Bubba

Monday, March 7, 2011

Regrouping - Last Day Off

These are screen shots from my 13' 5 1/4" (4.10m) jump from Reno for technical discussion later in this post. Click to enlarge.

The good news is that I can classify my hamstring on a scale of 1 to 10 to be out .75 to 1. It's there but I've got to do something pretty quick to be able to feel it. Of course this means it is very vulnerable to actually becoming a ding, yet falls well short of an injury. I've never had a take off that felt like that one that didn't cause at least a level 5 injury so I feel I got very lucky.

Fortunately my plan was to go back to hard training for four weeks without vaulting anyway so therefore my base strategy does not change at all. I did make some adjustments to the training but they have nothing to do with my leg.

I'm switching my running from Wednesday to Tuesday so I can do my sleds in the morning when the grass is still damp. Later in the afternoon the sled really bogs down when it hits thick clumps of grass and that has put unnecessary pressure on my right Achilles; the good one. I've also added some warm up running of 8 X 100m grass running. I do two laps of striding the straights and jogging the curves, followed by two laps of striding the straights and walking the curves. It's as much conditioning as it is a warm up. I'm not just running sled pulls between my sprint drills but will rotate with raw speed reps, sled and a heavy pole with a sled.

I was super pleased with how good my run, pole drop, plant and take off felt at nationals and this is a direct result of the extra big pole drills I did during the month. I had several people comment on how good my plant and take off looked and this is normally noticed as my weakest link. It makes since to not only continue those drills but to expand them further since I'm not jumping. After four weeks I will start jumping once a week, trying to use the biggest pole from the shortest run and get the most out of it. I'll jump in a meet on Saturday, April 2 and that will give me my first outdoor mark of the year.

The 2011 indoor rankings close with me at 3rd with 4.10m (13' 5 1/4"), which is an indoor PR. I think it's funny that my two meets over 13' came after four and five weeks respectively of no vaulting and only training my speed, power, bars and plant/take off. My technique needs some refining so I'm looking forward to that. If you look at the above stills from 13' 5 1/4" in Reno and the video from ABQ, the difference is that in Reno I was on a bigger pole so it threw me while I was still in a good position. If that ABQ jump was on a bigger pole, the top would have been clean because it would have thrown me before I could fall out of the right position. So that is the mission; how much can I get out of my smaller poles? Teach myself to hold those positions longer so that in a meet I won't have to. As I always tell my kids, "if you can get a small pole to lift you then a big pole will launch you". It all comes back to being able to hold a good position on a small pole. Then a big pole comes back before you can fall out of the good position. This is HUGE as far as advancing your technique. Priority #1 when I start jumping in practice again.

Besides the four guys over 13' at nationals, we have other Americans who are also at that range; Murray Mead jumped 4.10m last year and Bob Crites, Mike Hogan and Dan West will certainly be there too. These guys will be a factor at Worlds, not to mention a handful of foreigners including world record holder Wolfgang Ritte from Germany. In that meet you may very well see a 13' get 6th.

The bottom line is though I am in a good place I have a ton of work to get done between now and then if I intend to be able to contend for a medal; which I do. If I fall short it won't be from lack of preparation. And here's a secret; I never have taken this year seriously as far as being a factor for a medal. To me it's a "train through year" as I get ready next year for the 2013 Worlds and World Masters Games. Why? I will turn 60 just a few weeks before those meets and will be the youngest in my group, whereas this year I'm on the old side. So the goal has always been to win the National Senior Games at home in Houston, and then make a strong showing at worlds in Sacramento. I'm in a position to do that. So close but SO FAR as work remaining to be done. I figure anything I can do this year is only momentum going into my lead up for 2013. BTW - the offseason 2012 is already in place in writing.

Over the last two meets I have been challenged mentally and did quite well. At Reno I didn't make 4.00m and 4.10m until my last attempt. At ABQ I made my opening height and 12' 6" on 3rd attempts while managing an injury that could blow my leg up on any jump. Certainly not optimal situations but a great test of mental strength and focus. Considering I almost always make my jumps on first attempts, I was thrilled to pass these continuous challenges. My guess is that jumping once a week will give me the consistency back from jump to jump so I can avoid this type of drama. STILL, glad to have pulled out the clutch clearances when needed.

Thanks for hanging here with me. These big meets are really stressful but also very fun. It's been a tremendous outlet to have you all here. Then when go to one of these events and meet so many people who tell me they read this daily, it makes me feel great and keeps me going. I almost always hear, "I feel like I really know you", and they really do. I'm not only comfortable with that but I love it!! PLEASE, come up and introduce yourself as I truly enjoy meeting fellow vaulters. As vaulters, supporters or fans, we are all in this together and we all face the same issues and challenges. So thank you so very much for your support. Now back to work for me - tomorrow. Bubba

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Historical Perspective

Much has been made of yesterday's best M55 vault contest in history. To put in in perspective, here are yesterdays results followed by the past five World Championships and the 2009 World Masters Games. I have highlighted in blue a mark that would have been in our top four. Only 4 of the 18 medal performances would have made our top four yesterday. Never has there even been two vaulters over 3.95m and we had four. Going to be very interesting in Sacramento.

2011 National Masters Indoors - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Gary Hunter - 4.31m
Charlie Brown - 4.10m (will be ammended to 4.21m)
Kirk Bentz - 3.95m
Bubba Sparks - 3.95m
2010 World Indoors - Kamloops, BC Canada
Kirk Bentz, USA - 3.85m
Erno Mako, Hungary - 3.75m
Dan West, USA - 3.55
2009 World Masters Games - Sydney, Australia
Bubba Sparks, USA - 4.00m
Allan Williams, Great Britain - 3.50m
Phillip Carrero, Australia - 3.30m
2009 World Outdoors - Lahti, Finland
Wolfgang Ritte, Germany - 4.25m
Bill Murray, USA - 3.85m
Valeriy Plotnikov, Russia - 3.35m
2008 World Indoors - Clermont Ferrand, France
Wolfgang Ritte, Germany - 4.31m
Marc VanVliet, Netherlands - 3.40m
Nicholas Phillps, Great Britain - 3.30m
2007 World Outdoors - Riccione, Italy
Handinger, Germany - 4.00m
Iwinski, Poland - 3.85m
Hawkins, Canada - 3.65m
2006 World Indoors - Linz, Austria
Karel, CZE Republic - 3.90m
Bogdon, Germany - 3.90m
Seppo, Finland - 3.40m

Story behind the story
Albuquerque Councilman and pole vaulter friend, Brad Winter was highly effective in yesterday's championships coming to Albuquerque. Not only that, he is responsible for that great track we competed on. The $1.2 million track was sent to the Staples Center in Los Angeles and refused in some type of sponsor stand off. When Brad told Mondo that $1.2 million was out of the question they told him they had the one intended for the Staples Center sitting in storage and he could have it for $500,000. Deal done, he now needs to convince city hall that they should tie up the convention center for three months at a time. These efforts culminated with USATF Nationals last week and Masters this week. The track is open to the community on Tuesday and Thursday nights with All Comers after the college meets on Saturdays. Next they are trying to lure a big high school invitational. Great seeing you and catching up Brad and congrats on your vision and efforts to see it develop. Bubba

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lessons Learned - Grateful Not to Be Hurt

A long and trying day that ended with a first jump clearance at 13' where I stopped because I felt a little hamstring twinge at take off. As predicted, we made history with four guys over 13' with me being the 4th. My buddy Kirk Bentz jumped the same height but I had misses at 12' 6" and he did not. Charlie Brown was 2nd at 13' 5" and Gary Hunter won with a new American Record of 14' 1", exactly what I said it would take to win.

I'm disappointed that I could not continue but pleased that I did not get a ding or injury. I will train and condition for the next four weeks without jumping just to be safe. So what did I learn?

My plan was flawed to start on the 2nd pole because I did not realize it was much bigger than pole #1. I jump on it all of the time but only after I am warmed up. SO, in an effort to move the bigger pole in warm up I called on my body to be too quick and snappy too early on and I started feeling a hamstring ache and flare within two jumps. DANGIT!!!!!!!!!!!! I took one more jump on #1 and stopped. For the entire time I waited to vault I was certain that my hamstring would give out on me before I ever cleared a bar, maybe even on my run through. So to get all the way to a 13' first jump clearance was a victory in itself as far as meet and crisis management.

In retrospect my training has been good but I've trained my body to be faster and quicker yet with no jumping it doesn't get to "test" the new body. After this four weeks I will go to jumping at least one day a week. I'm very pleased with my progress but I can't have misfires like today. Had I just started on the regular pole and warmed up during the meet like I always do, I would have been fine. It was good enough for Reno and should be for now. You can't jump start that speed and quickness on this body that quickly. I've learned.

So how bad did the day get? I didn't make my opening height of 11' 6" (3.51m) until my 3rd attempt. So much for saving jumps by starting higher. Preparing to jump higher too soon caused me to tweak my hamstring whereas my normal plan would have avoided this trauma completely. In fairness I made the bar by a very long way on both jumps but on #1 I brushed it on the way down and #2 my pole hit it after I easily made it. Now I make it on #3 or go home with nothing. All I could think was pulling my hamstring on a 3rd attempt no height. That would be a very long eight week rehab thinking about my stupid mistakes.

The next height was 12' (3.66m) and I made it the first jump. Not so lucky at 12' 6" (3.81m) where I too made it on my 3rd. Same thing, brushed on the way down with huge height then boom it on #3. What a HUGE waste of jumps. Now I'm at 13' and on my first jump I feel a weakness and a twinge just as I leave the ground. Not knowing if I'm hurt or not, I complete a great take off with a sloppy clearance and it stays up. I had no choice but to stop or very certainly be limping around with ice on my leg right now. Hard decision but the right one.

Here's that jump at 13'. When I look at the video and I'm about to get out of the pit the only thing I was thinking was "Am I hurt? I can't tell yet. MAN I sure hope not!" Then I got up and was fine. Close call. Scary that I did not know if I was hurt or not during the jump but just went through the instinct and finished it while hoping for the best. Here's a direct link so you can hit pause and advance frame by frame.

The other thing I learned was concerning my grip being 2" too low. It needs to stay at that grip I have been using. When I moved up the 2" the poles felt a little mushy like I was slowing the vault down from over gripping.

I met some great people and had many come up and tell me they read this blog. Thank you so much! As you know, we're in the same boat so I'm happy to share my struggles with you. Great seeing you all and thanks to everyone for your support. Back to work for me. Bubba

Morning of the Meet

The facility - click to enlarge

Got my luck penny & ready to go!

I got in yesterday, had lunch and went to the track to pick up my package and find my poles. Everything went smooth as expected. Laid low at the hotel all day and never got around to getting online as I just used my phone for email. That's when I remembered I hadn't posted anything here. Sorry. I pretty much go into hiding before a meet in order to block out all of the noise. Not really trying to get focused as much as empty my mind. Usually it works.

Got up this morning and had breakfast when they opened at 7. I'm at the back up hotel, the Embassy Suites, which is very nice. Since I didn't enter this meet until after Reno the main hotel was all booked. I'm fine as I like this one.

The WMA LOC (World Masters Athletics - Local Organizing Committee) is here to promote worlds in Sacramento so I had a nice visit with them. Looking forward to that meet but today is the preview of the Americans of course. We will see how it goes.

The funny thing about big meets and resting your body is that you never know how you feel until you warm up. When you don't train, everything that ever hurt will hurt. It's like oil to the Tin Man on the Wizard of Oz. Get moving and things should feel better but I was really tight on my stretch yesterday. In Sydney I felt like absolute CRAP during the running and sprint drill portion on my warm up and when I hit the runway I was suddenly very fresh and loose. I had no idea I would feel good at Reno either as I felt terrible striding down the hall. Today I haven't tried anything yet. I'll get a bath with some music and then get out and stretch but even that won't tell me how I will feel. That is a mystery always reserved for when you hit the runway. Hoping for the best.

I'll head over about 10:30 MST and I jump at 1. I think the M60-69 goes before me so I'd like to see a little of that. After I jump my local teammate Matt Kowalski jumps so we will video each other. BTW - results for the entire meet are here -

That's it for now. Thank you for all of your support. I'll follow up when it's over. Bubba

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Almost Outta Here

I'm getting ready to finish up my packing. Had a nice long stretch today in the garage and feel ready. Thanks to all of you who have wished me good luck and given me advice as I greatly appreciate it.

As you know, in the pole vault you compete against yourself, not another vaulter. Sure they give medals for places and you would like to get one, but ultimately all you can hope to do is be ready physically and mentally and then PR in the biggest meets. Here's to wishing for that result. Thanks again! Bubba

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Poles Arrived + Final Plans

The poles arrived in Albuquerque today!! YEAH!!! It's always comforting when you get that confirmation. Now the focus turns to getting ready to vault. Also I had my last workout today with 6 X 50m sled/hills and everything felt fine as expected.

I'm sure you have noticed that this blog is personal in that I reveal all of my thinking so that I can sort the components out on the table in front of me and you and then find what I hope becomes a successful plan. Like motivational speaker, Tony Robbins says, "a plane on the way to Hawaii is off course 99% of the time but still gets there because it makes thousands of corrections along the way". I think I'm about the same as one thing I'm pretty sure of one day gets contradicted on another. That's just part of my reasoning process.

SO, I've decided I need to start at 12' (3.66m) on my 2nd pole, the normal pole I jump on for this height. Starting on one pole bigger in warm up will make me do what I need to do technically correct from the very beginning of the day. I need that if I expect to be able to call on those cues when the bar gets higher and the poles get bigger.

I have been starting at 11' 6" (3.51m) just to make sure I could use my big poles but since now I have jumped on all seven poles I don't have to be so cautious anymore. Reality is that I start at 12' in practice from 6 steps so why would I not from 10 in a bug meet when I feel great? In fact two years ago I jumped 12' at nationals from only 8 steps so it's not the height but the pole set up I was after by starting lower. I don't think I need that Saturday. Why?

We have 15 guys jumping in my group and that is a lot. I think at 11' 6" there will be a lot of guys still jumping so that means more sitting around after I clear while waiting on 12'. If we lose a few there and a few more it 12' it will become a little quicker between jumps as Kirk, Charlie and Gary come in a little later (12' 6 - 13'). I'd like to hit the transition so I have a jump or two in with the mid group just before the top guys come in. I think this means the least waiting between jumps for me.

I was talking to a friend today and the comment was that everything I have done to get ready for this meet has me in the perfect position to have a really good day. My response was that I know that and that's what scares me. I've been to meets and everything felt perfect but I did not do well. It's my job to address and focus on technical issues so that can't happen. Then there is no one to blame but me if I don't do well. And that's the way I like it. Have a great day and thanks for being here. Bubba

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feeling Better

Getting ready to go to the gym for a long stretch. My body feels pretty good and usually by Tuesday or Wednesday I get a hint of how I will feel Saturday. So far so good. No matter how I feel I must pole vault correctly or it's a moot point. I'm not someone who works out and also vaults. I'm a vaulter first, who trains hard when I can't jump.

Winter in Texas is not a good time to jump. It's March 1, and 37 this morning. It will be 80 this afternoon but the kids have the track at that point. So warm mornings are my opening to vault and there have been none since November. I can't wait to vault again in practice. We have a brand new pit that I haven't even been on yet.

This will be my first time to vault since Reno, five weeks ago. I have a feeling this has become my winter - jump in meets and practice all other days. Of course this bothers me but I'm hoping that all of the big pole plant and sprint drills have given me some edge even though I can't vault. I've done about five times more than I did before Reno so that I can simulate take offs. Hoping for the best. Take care and thanks for being here. Bubba

Poles will be in El Paso at 11:30 tonight and ABQ tomorrow.