Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Long & Winding Road!

The Long & Winding Road!
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You feel good, you feel bad, you feel fast, you're suddenly "hurt" without an event.  Weirdest thing in the world.  I'm running this morning and I feel pretty fast.  Good so far.

Careful not to push it because I have the Masters Pole Vault Symposium in 10 days, I'm shocked when on my 2nd 40m stride, I suddenly feel like my right hamstring is about to cramp.  I spent the rest of the session at 40-50% in protection mode, after comfortably running 70-85% over the last few practices.  No clue where this came from and if it's even anything to worry about.

I'll see how I feel on Sunday's running, but right now I don't think I should vault at the symposium. I'm gaining so much momentum that I hate to risk a setback for something that really doesn't matter.  Stay tuned.  Thanks for checking in on me.  Bubba

On my last post I said I would share the last song I heard before I walked on the the field for World Masters in South Africa in 1997. That meet was a huge challenge because I had strained my hamstring just 22 days before the competition.  Strangely, I pulled it again during the meet on my first jump clearance at 4m/13' 1 1/2".  It popped right when I left the ground but I cleared the bar.

Somehow that jump hung on for the bronze medal, my first world championship medal.  Twelve years later in 2009 I won the World Masters Games with the same height, then a meet record by 1'/30cm, which still stands today, 8 years later.

The song was Van Halen's, "Aftershock", played here on the John Stewart Show in 1995 -

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Gaining Momentum!

Gaining Momentum!
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When I'm ramping back up after a big meet or a phase break, it's sometimes harder than others to get back into the groove.  For some reason I've really struggled recently with focus and motivation because of all of my work project stuff.  I trained of course but it was far less than fun.  Suddenly this week, my head kind of kicked in and I was excited to train.  After a couple of days I noticed that I'm improving again.

Improvement is always welcome, but working when you're not is the defining statement about where you're going.  I remember once when I was a kid that my dad told me that I was lazy.  I had no idea what he was talking about as I got up a t 4 AM and ran or lifted before school, trained with the team and then stayed late.

He pointed out that these were things I wanted to do.  He said when I could attack the things I didn't want to do with the same passion, I would find success and happiness.  He was right, and then it became easy to build on that momentum.

I've always said that an avalanche began as a single snowflake.  I've managed to get my self back to the snowball state but I'm looking for that avalanche.  Here's to a long hard winter. Fight through the stuff I dread or hate until I love it again.  I'm on my way because I heard my dad's words, reminding me that I am nobody until I can be happy with myself and my efforts.

Random memory, In 1997 just before I went on to the field for Indoor Masters Nationals in Boston in 1997, I played Republica's, "Ready to Go" - 

That was my first national championship as a master.  Later that year I walked out onto the field for the World Masters Championships in South Africa, and played what song?  Find out tomorrow.  Thanks for checking in on me.  I so much appreciate your support and friendship!  Bubba

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More Running!

More Running!
Image result for another brick in the wall
Like everyone, I dream I can't run.  And then I wake up and realize what a struggle it is to run well as we age.  I try and model my stretching and other components after masters sprinters who are still really good.  TODAY, I felt fast.  Doesn't mean I will tomorrow, but today I felt fast, FINALLY.

What I noticed was that with a sled and/or ankle weights, I could run fast, but after the acceleration phase, I couldn't hold my running form together.  I could run hard this way but not necessarily fast, and once I hit speed, I fell apart.

I decided to commit the first 14 weeks of this year to learning to run again with no weights or sled.  It's been really weird because I get up to speed now and I seem to be gaining some sense of running and stride control.  Sure, if I go out too fast I fall apart a bit but not like it was before.  If I run rhythmical, and gain speed under control, I can get up to about 85-90%, like this morning.

To make this more interesting, school started yesterday so my running starts at 6 AM in relative darkness and I finish right about the time the ant farm of the kids hit the campus.  Not exactly optimal time for speed work but it's my only slot.

This is only week three of 14 but I'm very encouraged that I'm having some definitive learning and improvement.  A year from now when I'm getting ready for worlds, this ongoing effort should produce significant level changes.  One step at a time and another brick in the wall.  Have a great evening!  Bubba

Just Another Day - Oingo Boingo -

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Working Through Stuff!

Working Through Stuff!
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I'm having to cope with some issues that in the long run will benefit me.  I strained my right shoulder just before Auckland and I'm slow to gain strength back on bench and incline. Frustrating.

Another issue is that I'm training a little lighter and more lean than usual.  I'm doing this because when I would drop down to be at the proper weight I would feel crampy and dehydrated.  Again, frustrating because I don't feel as strong, but it's really for the better.

As I found out in Grand Haven, these deficiencies didn't stop me from gripping higher on bigger poles from one stride closer. I need to remember this and just chill and find the new normal. I can say that my legs feel a lot less tight this way too.

The biggest thing that will benefit me is to continue to progress through these 14 week running programs and keep up my base lifting and bars. The more I can stick to this, I will keep making progress.  CHILL DUDE!!

NOW, if at the Masters PV Symposium on September 9, if I'm up again on poles and grips, my case will be made.  I'm fully expecting that. Thanks for checking in on me today!  Bubba

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Running Man!

Running Man!
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I'm learning a lot about my running from this current program.  As I said, for the past three years, except for on the runway, I haven't run a step without ankle weights, sleds or hills, or some combination of these.  

I have done this because I need to be able to cover more ground on the runway.  I tend to have good turnover, so my issue with hamstrings has come when I'm all turnover and no ground cover. 

As we age we lose strength and flexibility.  Getting stronger is great for ground cover, and I work daily o flexibility.  Genetics determines your turnover but you have to keep it sharp. So it would seem I had the right combinations and you can't really argue with the performance success at a highest level of competition.  But if I'm going to offset age, I need to try some other things.

What I have found is that even though I "push" to cover ground with these other techniques, when I get up to speed my body instinctively starts braking.  So when I get on the runway I feel I have a limiter because I'm not used to running open past the "push" point.

Today is day one of my two days per week that I run.  I do 3 X 40m hills, then these 9-12 "sprints" -, followed by 3 X 40m hills again.

Running with no ankle weights or sleds has really made me focus on running well.  Each repetition I'm past the drive phase and forced to "open up" my stride where pushing is no longer the focus.  This is very tricky so I don't step over my abilities and get hurt.

The goal on all runs is to run rhythmical.  Speed means nothing if it's not rhythmical, and speed will come if your rhythmical. So my first hill may be at 20-30% but that's a perfectly timed stride within the day's ability that won't hurt me.  On the sprints I get up to spots where I'm 80% with a great open stride.  It's very difficult to remain open and not start braking after the drive phase, but I'm getting better at it.

I remember when Tom Tellez was talking to the elites in Reno, he showed video of then WR sprinter, Leroy Burrell's five years old son running.  He was demonstrating that the natural pattern is not to push off or reach out, but was to strike the foot straight under you as you gain speed.  This action "spins the wheel" of the strides rotation.

My guess is that I may do all 14 weeks like this with no weights or resistance until I learn how to run again. The next 14 weeks I'll go with 1.5 lb. weights and the next one with 2.5s.  If I have time for another 14 weeks I'll do a step down where I do one of the three sets at 2.5, the next at 1.5 and the last with no weight.  

What surprises me is that after these types of short sprints, when I hit the last 3 X 40m hills, I feel weak and low, like I'm running in quicksand.  I really think these ending hills will keep the good part of those mechanics in place because as I can run near 100% on them.  Thanks for hanging gout and indulging this explanation!

Another Supergroup, Black Country Communion with legendary guitarist, Joe Bonamassa, former Deep Purple singer and bassist, Glen Hughes, and Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham - "The Great Divide" -

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Brief Pause!

A Brief Pause!
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I'm very attuned to my body in that I know when to push it and when to rest it and how much.  This week, after 10 straight days of training, I took a three day, or "one rotation" break.  I feel I could have easily pushed through, but I've had some giant things going on with our business that's literally had me "on call" for input in various meetings around the country.

I feel I'm getting stronger, and I did not miss a running, leg lift or bars day, my biggest priorities.  I could have done something, but a combination of my distraction, and my approaching feel of over training, caused me to take the more cautious road.  Back at it tomorrow.  Thanks for your support!  Bubba

Super group, Chicken Foot with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith and Van Halen bassit, Michael Anthony - "Soap on a Rope" -

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunburn Confirmed!

Sunburn Confirmed!
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Continue the charge - Never quit!!

As I hoped, today's running was much better than Sunday. I was able to run much faster today compared to last week.  I had very little hint of a flare at any time.  I'll continue to be careful but I feel I dodged a bullet.

Here's the deal - basically a easy week of tapering before a big meet, followed by and easy week of recovery.  That's a two week "break".  When I return, I ramp up with lower weights and intensities. So basically three week period of cumulative maybe 0-50% effort.  Coming back is challenging, but if I don't do it this way I get hurt.

Training has been tough as my body adapts to a hard routine again. I get it, but as I age it's frustrating how fast you can lose strength, and how bad it feels trying to regain it. I do know that once the momentum reverses and goes positive, that it's easy to continue to improve.  I figure another week I'll have some real progress.

My friend and former decathlete, Ed Derse, used to talk about how, just when you feel like you're an athlete again, you start weight training and your body feels devastated trying to adapt.  He goes on to say that after several weeks of this, when his body has adapted, he has to go back and questions why he thought he was an athlete before, if he's this much stronger now.

I know for a fact that when I jump only, that within three weeks I'm down 3-4 poles from fading strength and loss of horsepower on the runway.  My friend, Wendell Beck, told me in Auckland that he's finally come to the conclusion that you can train or jump, but not both.  I believe I can still jump once a week and make physical progress, but not as fast as if I ran my strength and speed program two rotations a week instead of one.

The bottom line for me is that I have to keep challenging the physical and speed improvement, which is harder and harder as aging tries to reverse me.  With that consideration I'm improving if I stay the same, but of course we will never be able to buy into that.

Here's what I know - Reno/January/biggest pole gripping 11'10" from 6 lefts, Auckland/April/same pole gripping 12' from 5 lefts, and Grand Haven/July/same pole flex is way too small with a 12'2" grip from 4 lefts.  On September 9th at the Masters PV Symposium, I hope to end up four poles bigger from 5 lefts and a 12'8" grip.  

Clearly what I'm doing is working, but for me to get where I want to be by Malaga, Spain next year, I'm going to have to continue this consistent hammering.   Thanks for checking in and have a great day!  Bubba

Badass Lemmy and Motorhead - "Ace of Spades" -

Sunday, August 13, 2017



After my running Wednesday I felt pain in my left groin in the area where I have had a hernia was.  There are three possible issues.  

1) A hernia, which is unlikely since I've had them and had extra mesh put in.  If it were that it's not a big deal anyway. 

2) Osteitis Pubis, or an irritation of the abdominal attachments to the pubic bone.  I haven't done any lower ab overload or overuse for it to be this.  If it were, a single painful injection into the pubic symphasis makes it go away.  I've had six in the past and it always works.  

3) More than likely it's "Sunburn" as my former orthopedic surgeon, the late and great Glenn Almquist would say.  When you introduce a new component at a fairly high level, it creates a reactive and protective trauma.  He says it's like going on vacation and getting too much sun the first day, and now you have to stay out of the sun, and then be careful upon your return.

I'm sprinting very fast (for me) as I"m running without ankle weights for the first time in three years.  I'm super careful about my tempo, so I never felt an "event".  It crept up on me and has since subsided 90%.  So far so good.

Today I had this type of running again, so I skipped yesterday's plant and take off drills to come in clean.  During my running today I limited myself to about 50% effort (after 80% last time), and only occasionally had a hint of the issue.  

Unlike Wednesday's run, where it flared up about 30 minutes after I finished, today it has remained calm. I think this confirms the "Sunburn" diagnosis. Sounds good and gives me a little peace of mind, but the proof will be if I can up the temp again this Wednesday without a flare.  Hoping and expecting the best, but if not at least I know the plan.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.  Today our pre-meet anthem came on right in the middle of the grind.  Before I walk on to the field for a major competition, the last song I play is ACDC's, "For Those About to Rock, We Salute You".  I play it as a tribute to my friends and vaulters we are about enjoy together as our brotherhood.  Enjoy!!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dead Man's Party!

Dead Man's Party!
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Yeah - I feel like I've been shot at and missed and shit at and hit.  Very typical as I near the end of week one. My strength is coming back already, but getting past the initial soreness and stiffness is par for the course.  And this is after only one week off!!  All of this said, I am making progress.

I've decided to vault in the Masters Pole Vault Symposium on September 9, at the Gill plant in Champaign, Illinois.  I originally thought I would pass and train through, but ...

I was looking at my calendar and saw that I have four full weeks of training, followed by a "free week" for a phase break, befoe this event.  This is exactly what I do before a meet - 4-6 weeks of training, followed by the "off/active rest" week, and then a meet.

Over time we have adopted certain songs for our masters cause. Since we're all "old" and in most people's minds, "nearly dead", then Oingo Boingo's, Dead Man's Party is a great theme song for us.  Enjoy!

Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Success is Not Glamorous!!

Success is Not Glamorous!!
I run a very busy healthcare management business.  Like you, I'm buried with calls and emails, and even though I'm in California I start on Eastern time.

What I've learned is that by 9 AM I'm either having a good day or a bad day, and either way I don't feel like working out.  Because of this I get up at 5:30 AM to make a run at calls and emails so I'm out of the door to training between 6:45 and 7.  When I'm done by 9, it's noon in the east so I can easily catch up again around lunch.

This is very much a love/hate relationship.  I'm not thrilled about getting up and getting going, but every day I make those extra steps when my will tells me no, is a small victory.  

Today I walked into the gym feeling preoccupied, and as I started my body felt like crap.  I knew every weight was going to feel heavy and I was going to have to somehow remain totally engaged.

WHAM, Van Halen's, "Atomic Punk" comes on my mp3 and immediately my attitude says "Attack".  Long story short, a potential lost day turned into a great day as I really committed to the process without judgement, and gained some more mental strength.  

Yes, success is not glamorous.  In fact, this morning it felt down right ugly, but somehow managed to put lipstick on the pig.  Have a great day and thank you for following this stumble through preparation.

Get off your ass and MOVE is the message I got this morning from - Van Halen - Atomic Punk

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Speed Work

Speed Work

I'm on day two of week one of Jim Hiserman's running program.  I have done thos program many, many times so obviously it works.  ;-) I warm up and warm down with 3X40m hills. 

I'm running the first six weeks with no ankle weights, the next four with 1.5 lbs and the last four with 2.5 lbs.  For the past three years I have not run a step without the 2.5 weights, sleds or hills unless I was on the runway.

Because of this I feel very fast on these runs.  I have to be super careful not to get hurt.  I'll explain the weighted components at a later date when I get to them, but here's the principle.

You can not significantly increase your one rep max by doing sets of 10, but you can greatly increase your maximum number of reps by lifting 8,6,4,2.  On the running side, never running further than 40m, but always with at least one form of resistance, usually two, I can run a very fast (for me) 200m.  So lifting heavier not only makes you stronger, it greatly increases your speed endurance without the pounding of track workouts.

I found this song  and guitar lesson from Chris Dahl in 2011.  Always a good training song.  "Love Me" by Chris Dahl

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hope & Numb?!

Hope & Numb?!

Some of these are going to be long and some short.  There will skipped days and catch up days.  Please bookmark and hang in with me.  Thanks for coming along on the ride.  Always glad to hear from you.

Hope & Numb?!  I know this sounds weird, but bear with me.  As mentioned yesterday, my training is not a plan, but a work in action.  I build hope by the expected result, but the execution itself ranges between detachment and intense focus, which leaves me comfortably "Numb".  

There is a satisfaction in turning what may seem like monotony into a focused challenge.  I never look ahead to the next exercise or even the next set or rep.  I get everything out of every rep and every set as if that one item were a workout in its entirety.  This keeps me engaged.

My music is the escape, just like you feel on a long jog or bike ride.  By the end I have a sense of not just survival, but accomplishment. This feeling causes me spiritually to "submit".  In physical terms this would be the same has walking across the room and hitting your toe very hard on a coffee table, in that the pain is so great that you bend over or drop to your knees in submission to the pain. Exercise makes me physically, mentally and spiritually "submit", which helps to keep me sane.  Well somewhat sane.

My workouts leave me physically and mentally spent in the most pleasant way because I always stay within myself.  This means I stay within about 60-80% of what I think I'm capable of on any given day.  One day 100 lbs/40kg feels really light, and other days it feels heavy.  

I adjust my intensity load to ramp up from 60-80% of what I think I can do perfectly on any given day, without regard to the numbers on the weights. Just because I lifted something last time, and it feels heavy today, does not matter to me.  I simply adjust my scale up or down to match the desired perceived intensity I'm targeting.

The bottom line is every day is a victory, and "another brick in the wall".  The satisfaction of these combined efforts, and resulting aura, is a peaceful numbness that I enjoy and feel I deserve.   And this brings me full circle back to "Hope".  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

Linkin Park - Numb

Monday, August 7, 2017

My Current Training

My Training
Here's the breakdown of what I do for my training, along with some notes.  BTW I know it's hard to leave comments so please comment on Facebook under Bubba Sparks, or private message me via Facebook Messenger. Thank you!!

General lifting rules - 8,6,4 until I can do 3X8.  When I can do 3X8 comfortably with great form, I move up and revert back to 8,6,4 until I again can do 3X8, then move up again.  This isn't a "plan"; this IS my training.  These days and rotations have changed a number of times to find what works for me consistently so here is the final product.  Stretch between all sets.  ENJOY!!

Sunday/Wednesday - Vault &/or Run
I run a series of 14 week speed development programs created by my friend, Jim Hiserman.  I start and end with 3X40m hills.
I will run this 14 week cycle three times before Malaga.  Week one began yesterday.  14 week cycle one - no ankle weights for weeks 1-4; 1.5 lb. ankle weights for weeks 5-8 and 2.5 lb. ankle weights for the last six weeks.

On cycle two I will go 7 weeks with 1.5 lb. ankle weights, and 7 with 2.5.  I will do the last cycle with 2.5 lb. ankle weights for all 14 weeks.  NOTE - for the past three years I have only used the 2.5s.

Gym - Seated & Standing Calf - Abs = Machines

Monday/Thursday - Lift 

Bench/Lat Pull Superset - on the lat pull super set, one set = wide hands/palms away, followed immediately by hands close and palms facing.  Both exercises = one set.
Power Sets - One giant set of standing curl, upright row, overhead press and lateral fly.  These four exercises are back to back with no break and make up one set.  On set two I start with the 2nd exercise, and set three I start with the third.  This makes me fatigued at a different place each set.
Concentration Curl/Lying Triceps Press; Close Hand Bench Superset.  Just like it says, I alternated between the curl and the triceps superset.
Leg Extension/Lying Leg Curls
Abs - Dip Bar Bubkas - Doing Bubkas on a high bar are uselss because you can't extend past vertical because the bar is in the way.  Try this on a P-Bar in the gym and you will get great results.  Again I do 3X5 with 2.5 ankle weights -

Tuesday/Friday - Lift 

Incline/High Bar Front Lever to vertical - NO SWING or hip/knee break.  Hang, force your hands down and your hips up until you are vertical.  I do 3X5 with 2.5 lb. ankle weights except lock off at vertical.
Straight Arm Lat Pull Down/Standing Cable Triceps Pushdown - and then your standard push down.  This is all one set.
Incline Bench Alternate Dumbbell Curl
Lying Leg Press or Hack Squat

Saturday - Vault Drills - All on a huge 5.10 pole gripping 5m

10XEach - Standing - right hand pole drop, left hand pole drop, both hand pole drop
Walking 6 step plant, Walk three strides/6 steps and run plant, run all steps
Hurdle Take Offs - Slide the pole and hit a heavy slide box that will knock you on your ass if your body isn't stiff and your arms locked straight.  I use a sled with a board in front of it.  Five take offs each with these focus;
Reach out of joint and drive the pole with hard first top hand contact, right then left, now hold your split.

Music is a big part of what gets me through training.  Today's selection is Alter Bridge - "Addicted to Pain"

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I'm Baaack!!

Here We Go Again!
Long before I went to the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, I told Melanie that it would be my last world championships.  1) I really believed my body wouldn't withstand what was needed to get where I was trying to go. 2) I said I didn't think I could ever train that hard for that long again.  So what happened?

Upon review, at Auckland my poles were too small from 5 strides/10 steps that I used from 6/12 at Reno just three months before.  Then in just three months later at the Grand Haven Beach Vault, the same flex poles were way too small from 4/8.  So clearly there was huge improvement in those six months.

Because of this success I have foolishly convinced myself that I should just continue business as usual and hope that between now and the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, Spain in September of 2018, that I might be in the ball park of where I need to be to medal at that competition.

There are a few things special about Malaga. 1) Myself, and dear friends, Wolfgang Ritte of Germany, and Allan Williams of Great Britain will all have just turned 65 and will be the youngest in our age group.  The last time the three of us were in a world championship together, we swept the medals.  Any time that two of the three have been together, the first two places were taken, and anytime one of us competed, the gold was taken.  So we three are arguably the best match up in masters world  championships and we will all be the youngest in the M65 group in Malaga.

2) A high school friend of mine, John Clark, followed my progress to Auckland and made the decision to start vaulting for the very first time.  He is an author and once wrote a book about hiking through Spain.  Small world.  He's now had a number of vault sessions and the plan is for him to go from spectator to world championship competitor, and be on the field with us at Malaga.  How cool is that?  He will probably write a book about it.  ;-)

3) I've been so buried on business travel over the past few years that I truly don't know what's possible for me, and I would like to find out.  I'm hoping to get back over 12' or 3.65m, or "65" at 65.

So today was day one after a week off.  I have had a hip, shoulder, knee and Achilles issues so I decided to shut it down for the year and focus on what it will take to be at a high level next September.  Tomorrow I'll outline my training as I am always asked about that.

If you have followed this blog before then you know I give you the entire gut wrenching story with all of the injuries, rehabs, frustrations that we go through.  Many of you know that my body makes no testosterone, which makes training and vaulting even more challenging.  We are drug tested just like the elites so we have no options.  Because of this I must lift a lot and often in order to protect myself.  You WILL feel my pain and be exposed to my warped rationale of the mental survival of such a grind.  Let's have some fun!  Bubba

Today's song that drove me - Elevate, by the Winery Dogs -