Masters Track and Field - the Pole Vault
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Welcome to My Pole Vault Site
"The Insanity Continues"
For those of you who haven't heard my story, last March (2011) my doctor instructed me to consume tons of Fish Oil, lose weight and exercise or else run the risk a quick and quiet demise without any advanced warning. His argument was convincing as my HDL level had dropped precipitously to less than half of the minimal standard. So I proceeded to start dieting and riding my mountain bike in the desert near my home. I soon grew weary of such drudgery as summer approached and I found myself trying to fit exercise in between thunderstorms (with their accompanying mud) and/or the heat of summer days. Then one day, I happened to notice the local Gold's gym - an air conditioned sanctuary! About that same time I had begun to think about the Master's Track and Field records for the pole vault for my age group - which had always struck me as being incredibly and accessibly low. I hate to exercise but I reasoned that if I had an additional target - an athletic goal to work for - I just might be able to see this exercise requirement through.
So here I am, obligated on a two year contract at Gold's Gym and in hot pursuit of those Master's age group records - which I might add now that I've started training, don't seem quite as accessible as they once did. And yes, the HDL issue has been successfully vanquished and my weight has dropped down near my old college weight.
The search for Poles and a Practice Facility
Once I was infected by PV Fever again, I started looking for information on the local PV community. I found that there is none!!! The local school district (R-51) dropped the pole vault from their track programs back in 1984 - mostly because of the cost associated with hiring several new, pole vault specific coaches as mandated by the state. Next I checked out a local university and found that they have a women's track program but next spring will be the first year for them to have vaulters - they don't have poles or a pit at this point. The University also had recently announce plans for a men's track program but again that program isn't far enough along to require PV practice facilities.
During my search for practice facilities I attended the Street Vault at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, CO. It was a fantastic show and I had great time sitting there in the shade with my Brat and Beer, watching the field of vaulters. (I saw my first live 18 ft vault!) But the big benefit of attending the Street Vault was all the contacts that I collected. Soon I was in touch with Pat Manson's and John Carmony's club, "Above the Bar", in Boulder, CO. That's 250 miles from where I live but they are willing to let me join and use their poles and training facilities. Then I soon learned that they strongly encourage parents or participants to donate a pole to their program's inventory in exchange for the privilege of using the club poles away from the facility. I had to buy a pole. But at least I don't have to worry about what I'll do if the new pole doesn't work out for me - I'll donate it to the club and use their inventory to select a progression of poles as I improve. At this point I can't say enough about the great staff at the "Above the Bar" club in Boulder.
The need to buy my own pole led me to exchange emails with Bruce Caldwell, owner of ESSX poles! My good fortune! After exchanging several emails I purchased a new carbon pole selected for me but also one which will fit into the club's inventory if it doesn't work out for me. (It hasn't yet!)
And since there isn't an available practice facility in Mesa County, I have decided to make a practice pit in my backyard. It will be a minimal facility exclusively for my use doing drills and short run work. Then occasionally I'll drive over the mountains to Boulder for vaulting in a real facility. I wish I could afford a modern pit but it just isn't meant to be. Besides, I learned in saw-dust so I'll finish in saw-dust; it's sort of my happy version of "from dust to dust"!
Addendum: I recently (early spring 2013) removed the pit - I realized it was just too hazardous for my legs and ankles - so it's gone.
Welcome to Sports Medicine!
"There are no successful slow vaulters!" OK, I'm supposed to be smarter than this! But as soon as my trainer released me to go run, I immediately started working on "speed" work and strained a hamstring. I was already aware of a prior hernia repair which was failing so I decided to take 6 weeks off to rehabilitate both correctly. This led me to Western Orthopedics & Sports medicine where I sheepishly explained what had happened and what I hoped to do. My Doctor was astonished and he immediately insisted on becoming my "Team Doctor" - I agreed of course - after all, how many people do you know who actually have their own "Team Doctor"? Next, under the able hands of their Physical Therapist my "hami" was nurtured back to health. In the meantime, my surgeon had worked some magic on the old hernia repair and I was back in the gym within about 6 weeks after the hamstring strain.
More Sports Medicine!
But, then one day while at the end of some rigorous high impact pylo exercises, a calf muscle rebelled and required another week's rest. During that rest week I built the pit and the vaulting box, which of course I was eager to try. A few days after competing the pit, I was please to find that by slowly starting with 2 step approaches my legs felt great. Which encouraged me to go with somewhat longer approaches. Then suddenly during one of the 4 step approaches (4 lefts with a 10' 6" grip) I realized that I had over done it again and those first attempts at vaulting were resulting in a very sore right shoulder and a mildly irritated left high groin. I will spend the Christmas holiday in total idle mode - hoping to recover from this latest set-back which has reduced my running speed to ridiculously slow!
I think my body keeps trying to tell me something but I just fail to listen to it.
It was a beautiful day today; my recent weight lifting and running workouts had been going very well and there has been absolutely no indication of further problems with the inner thigh. So I decided earlier in the week to attempt vaulting with a grip of about 11 feet. I started the practice session with several slow runs up and down my "runway" which included high step walking, skipping, single leg hopping etc until I had significantly increased my running speed and gotten my respiratory rate up significantly - I was thoroughly warmed up. Next I established my steps which required 2 adjustments. My legs felt great during all of this exercise and so I was ready to attempt a plant and takeoff with the new, slightly higher grip height.
Bad news - the video shows that my step was about 6 inches under and the plant was late. I ended up with severe high thigh/groin pain as well as discomfort in the small of the back - this latest leg injury may be severe enough to set me back several months. We'll see how it goes but right now I'm resigned to not being able to practice again for a while and probably no meets until summer! Bummer!
Some Small Progress
During the last month while recuperating I had taken my new, stiff carbon pole over to Boulder and exchanged it for a "softer" version from the club's inventory. Yesterday was a beautiful day so I finally decided to take it out in order to practice some two step plant drills. I am happy to report that I was able to work for about 1/2 hour before the left leg started to complain - I quit immediately!!! Today, the leg is a little sore but that is all - it is on the mend but obviously I still need to go slow.
The last thing I expected!
"Every time I think I'm making a little progress, I pull a muscle!" When my wife heard some old geezer say that while talking to a friend, she turned and looked just to be sure she hadn't heard me - it could have been. I know how the guy feels. Today I strained a triceps in my left arm doing pull-ups. Now I'm partially down for another couple of weeks.
Workouts and More Injuries
Two weeks ago I tweaked that calf muscle again while running a few, slow 100 yd intervals. I'm obviously doing something wrong and it started me thinking that I really shouldn't be giving anyone training advice. So I have pulled all training schedules, etc. from this little adventure log. The only advice I'll give is to find a competent trainer/coach and work with him/her.
April, May and June: I took the rest of the month of April off from any form of running but continued to work at Gold's gym. Then in May I started walking up the steepest hills I could find in the desert near our home. My schedule went like this - a day in the gym, a day walking up the hills, a day off and then repeat the sequence with two days off to finish the week.
In June I started running slowly on the track instead of walking up hills. Before running I warmed up with some interval jogging, stretching and doing some pylos. Then I would do 50 yd running/walking internals - I started very slowly!!! By the end of the month I was running 2 sets of 6 - fifty yard intervals - the last 20-30 yards of the 5th and 6th 50s were run at full speed. (I felt surprisingly fast for an old fart!) After the intervals I would cool down with more stretching and finished with a 1/2 mile of slow jogging/walking 100 meter intervals. My left leg and repaired hernia both would need to be iced down after the running workouts.
Now the Thighs
My legs tired badly during the practice at the Above the Bar facility and I seem to have aggravated the slight quad strains that I had been trying to work through. Now I am going to have to limit running again while they heal - I won't attempt to compete at the nationals.
The new "Gold" Standard
Recently I came across a U-Tube video which was a TV article about Don Isett of Texas. Don has been vaulting well this year and he's just won the National Outdoor Championship for our age group of 70-74 year olds. In the TV article he said that he was amazed to find himself vaulting higher in his 70s than he did in High School! Now that's a really tough standard! I really have my work cut out for me if I'm to match Don's amazing standard. (Congrats to Don on his outdoor win!)
No competition for 2012
After practice today I decided to scratch from the rest of my scheduled events for this year - the quads just aren't coming around fast enough to allow any practice before the upcoming meets. I was told I couldn't expect to get ready to vault in just a year's time and I have finally accepted that as a fact. But I certainly did try to give it the ol' college try. Now I'll just rest up my legs for a couple of weeks and then start getting ready for next years indoor season.
After laying off for three weeks to heal the quads, I returned to running on the track - the first session was excellent - my legs have never felt better since I began this little adventure. In the next session, three days later, the left calf suffered a mild strain at the beginning of my warm-up routine. This is a very discouraging injury which is causing me to reconsider the advisability of proceeding with Masters Track & Field at all.
Its been 3 more weeks of recuperation - my weight is up and my time at the Gym is near zero. It is clear that if I am going to continue the health regimen suggested by my Doctor over a year and a half ago, I am going to need a fun athletic goal as well as the health goal. So I will continue to work on vaulting but on a much more scaled back basis. For awhile I will drop all running on the track and just do drills and vault in the saw-dust pit in my back yard. I'll force myself to resume training at the gym. With some luck and if I can avoid injury I may be able to jump competitively someday in the future but that is no longer a priority - I need to stay healthy and just enjoy vaulting at whatever level is left for me.
This will probably be the last post I will make to the pole vault section of this web-site - it is the end of the saga. This spring my left hip and leg became very irritable - they were particularly painful during long car rides and after strenuous workouts. My doctor has assured me that I'm not losing the hip joint and he seems to think that the problem is muscular in nature. Anyway after weeks of avoiding running workouts it has not improved much, if at all. The funny thing is that it doesn't bother me during the workout even when running the stadium stairs or 50 yd dashes (or at least passes as a dash for an old man). Anyway, I just have too much to do the keep up this intermittent schedule of workouts while trying to heal my numerous injuries. But also, the lack of a local practice facility just killed my enthusiasm for carrying on. I told myself I wouldn't compete unless I could do so in a very competitive way. The lack of consistent training and the absence of practice facilities makes attaining that goal essentially impossible. But it was fun for a while - bending the modern pole is a hoot even if I didn't get to zero in on the proper technique!
So it is on to other things while trying to maintain sufficient exercise to maintain good health.