Yesterday, I went down to Austin to watch the men's pole vaulting finals at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
It was really cool, as it always is to sit there and watch guys jump 18-19 feet in the air. There were so many good vaulters in the competition.
But getting there is a tremendous pain in the ass.
Austin was once such a great town, and in a lot of ways, it still is. But it's just getting too big and overcrowded. On the way home, I sat in stop-and-go traffic on I-35, pretty much all the way from downtown Austin to Round Rock. This was at 7 o'clock! It was ridiculous.
The countdown to the National Senior Games continues. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. I've worked pretty hard so far this year, on conditioning and on my vaulting, but I do have one regret.
Earlier in the year, I started working on my core strength to help me get inverted during the jump. This exercise I started doing involved grabbing onto a set of low parallel bars, swinging upside down, so that the bottoms of my feet are on top, and the top of my head is on bottom, pulling myself up and keeping my arms bent, then lowering my body as slowly as possible toward the ground.
This is the negative part of the inversion movement. When you get to where you can control the descent, instead of your feet quickly dropping back to the ground, then you start working on lowering your body and then rotating back up.
I had gotten to the point where I was ready to start lowering myself and then rotating back up, when I got sick for about a week, and didn't do the exercise at all. One thing led to another, and I quit doing it completely. That was probably 4-6 weeks ago, and I lost quite a bit of what I gained. No excuses. I just quit doing it.
So this week, I'm back at it, and part of my self-destructive mind still tries to talk me out of doing it. I don't understand it.
But I'm back at it, and that's the main thing.
In thirteen days, I'll be on the runway at the University of New Mexico track stadium, jumping with the best 60-64 year-old vaulters in the country. And, guess what -- I'm one of them.
Pretty damn cool.
National Senior Games is two weeks away, and I'm having to learn to balance training with trying to be strong, injury-free, and as pain-free as possible.
My right elbow has been sore since I jammed it on a sliding pole box at practice a couple weeks ago. My right shoulder is always a little sore, just from vaulting, and my left knee has been bothering me for a few weeks now -- just "routine" soreness, I think, and nothing serious.
So ... I don't want to lay off completely, but I don't want to do any more damage before Nationals. I want to feel as good as I can when the time comes.
This morning, I did my core-strengthening low-bar exercises, then I set up my new low hurdles in the side yard, and did some sprint drills through those with a medicine ball and a pole.
I've iced my knee twice today, and I'll do it again here in a little while. It feels pretty good, really, so I don't think there's anything going on inside there, except maybe some inflammation and maybe a little swelling. There's no visible swelling, but completely bending the leg at the knee is not comfortable.
Goodness gracious ...
About a month ago, I went down to Austin for a vaulting session with my friend, Ben Ploetz, who owns Austin Pole Vault and Throws. Shortly after we started warming up, Ben said something about the heat and whipped off his shirt. I don't think Ben has gained an ounce since his days as a decathlete in college. Must be nice.
As for me, I ain't taking my shirt off in public for nobody right now -- maybe never again. When you're 60 years old, and still carrying around 20 pounds too much weight, that bare, saggy chest and love handles are not something anybody wants to see jiggling around.
Today was one of those days it would have been nice, though.
I went to pole vault practice a little before 4 o'clock this afternoon, and it was h-o-t. Damn, I bet it would have felt great to go shirtless. Too bad, that is never gonna happen.
Aside from the heat, though, it was a pretty good workout. I was jumping at a 9-foot bungee, and although I never actually cleared it, I was getting up there, which I'm hoping means I'll be able to at least clear an 8-foot bar at Nationals in two weeks.
I really think I have a good chance to go 8-6. Nine feet is stretching it, because I'm still not getting my hips up high enough, and I'm still not very good at turning over the bar. I've got to lose another 20 pounds, work on my speed, and get my core stronger.
I guarantee this much -- by the end of the year, I'll be jumping 9 feet.
When the Expo Explosion rolls around at the end of December, I'll be clearing 9 feet. At the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno in January, I may go even higher.
Two more weeks until Nationals in Albuquerque, and then some serious training begins ...
Humans holding on to their dignity ....
When my mother was gravely ill with brain cancer, I took her to one of her doctor appointments. She was in a wheelchair, really sick, but took the time to get dressed up, looking as pretty as she could. Always an attractive woman, she still had her pride. She still had her dignity.
I saw some of that same thing today when I went to a maximum security prison in Gatesville, Texas, to do some freelance newspaper work covering a college graduation ceremony. Inmates who attended college courses in prison and earned their degree.
It was all a big pain in the ass, as visiting a prison unit is like nothing you've ever experienced. If you think airport security is ridiculous, try going as a visitor to a prison. Good grief ...
A lot of stand around and wait, and I wish this would hurry up so I can get back home and write my stories, and then do some relaxing.
It's Saturday, for heaven's sake.
Then, early in the ceremony, the prison band played two songs. The first was "Heaven," by Los Lonely Boys, and the second was, "Always on my Mind," by Willie Nelson.
The band was outstanding, and obviously took great pride in their performance. All wearing white jumpsuits, criminals housed in a maximum security prison for who knows how long. The kind of people society looks down on; puts away and forgets about. Yet, they stood up there on that stage and played their hearts out. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I would have paid money to watch these guys play for an hour.
They still had their dignity.
It was something I'll remember for a long time.
I'm really glad I went.