Finally, the blog post you’ve all been waiting for (or didn’t know was coming) has finally arrived. I told Ingrid that I would post well over a month ago after PR-ing at 16′ 0.75” (4.90m), but I started and scrapped numerous blog posts due to the blasé subject matter and shameless self promotion. Let me sum it up as follows: biggest meet of the season + adrenaline + big pole + grippin’ and rippin’ = results. I wish I had more to say about it, but I just started my approach, blacked out, ended up on the pit and the bar was still up. The jump didn’t feel special, it just felt lucky. Today, however, I had some jumps that made every practice, every pole run, every session in the weight room worth it.
Let me set the scene: coming off an indoor season that was the best of my career on paper (a conference championship and a PR at the IC4A championship with a few other accolades to top it off), I approached this outdoor season with a feeling of apathy. How am I supposed to respond after meeting my career goals and draining every ounce of energy and willpower in the process? The hunger just wasn’t there, and I was scared as the Dickens that it wasn’t coming back. Worst of all, garbage weather and a stomach virus made the first three outdoor meets a wash. I knew things were bad when I told friends to not even bother coming to a home meet because I was uncertain about how I would perform. It seemed there would be no respite, but blessings often come in disguise.
This weekend’s Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton is usually one of my favorite meets of the Spring: we get to cut out early on a Friday morning, the weather’s usually nice, and the competition is always strong. It all started well enough, but my optimism was literally and figuratively dampened when I woke to the soft patter of rain drops on my hotel room windowsill. “Great,” I thought, “the pole vault Gods are frowning upon me again.”
After several hours of deliberation amongst the officials, the vault was moved inside to Princeton’s not-too-shabby field house. I felt like I’d caught a break, not having to deal with the weather and all, but you’d think I was running into a headwind based on how my warm ups went. Jump after jump, I struggled to move poles that I was crushing indoors. It seemed like I was in for another lackluster meet until a bit of advice I’d gotten from resident vault Yogi, Coach Hoogasian, popped into my head: on any given day, you don’t need to be on your biggest pole to jump your best. While this is a sentiment that has been echoed many times over, it was his countenance that popped into my head and encouraged me to swallow a slice of humble pie. Feeling like I had nothing to lose, I grabbed a 15′ pole that I was comfortable with for my last run-through, loaded it up, and got off the top unlike I have in a long time. It was that moment that captured the essence of pole vault that had been missing: fun.
Calm and composed, I cleared the first two heights of the meet (4.40m and 4.60m) on my first attempts. For lack of a better term, I could just FEEL it. It’s such an indescribable, but incredible feeling to be “in the zone”. The essence of which is so hard to capture and can be frustratingly ephemeral at times. Fortunately, I was able to catch lightning in a bottle, and I loved every second of it.
By the time I was up to attempt 4.80m (15’9”), I was ready to put together one of the most complete jumps of my career. Sure enough, despite a slight tap of my chest, I cleared the height, but most of all, I did it on a modest pole.
You see, the moral or the story here is that you can’t measure success in feet and inches. Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction to PR-ing or winning a meet, but there’s nothing quite like vaulting well. When everything comes together for a good jump, it’s like kissing that boy or girl that you’ve had a crush on for a long time. The weight of the world melts off your shoulders and you’re overcome by the most pure and infectious joy possible. This is why I pole vault, and this is why I will continue to pole vault until I’m wheelchair bound or suffering from the lasting side effects of enjoying the sport too much. I may never vault this high again, but I know darn well that I’ll be able to jump this well again, and you bet your boots that I’m going to have this much fun again.
As I’ve said before, this is a sport that can tie people in knots. While, we may struggle at times, it’s always an opportunity to take a step back and consider why we engage in such an esoteric and convoluted sport. I had a pleasant reminder today why I devote so much of my time and energy to vaulting, and I hope you all find what drives you.
Until next time, vault safe and vault happy!