My friend, Ben Ploetz, owner of Austin Pole Vaulting and Throws, surprised me last night with an invitation to come down this morning and join him for a morning jump session before a bunch of youngsters arrived for a group practice at noon.
I got there early and Ben wasn't there yet, so I took off to find a restroom. It's about an hour's drive from my house, and I was chugging coffee all the way. The vaulting facility is in a big warehouse complex, and I guess now that I think about it, I could have gone in the back doors, where some other people were doing something in an adjacent section of the building, but I headed back up the road, found a McDonald's, went in and used the facilities, then promptly took a wrong turn on the way back.
My sense of direction has always been pathetic. I pretty much knew I was headed the wrong way, but whipped out the GPS just in case. Sure enough, U-turn.
Ben arrived shortly after I pulled in the second time, and we both got to warming up after a little bit of small talk, then this former college decathlon champion, showed me some sprint drills I can work on to help improve my speed, and some little drills with mini-hurdles to also improve running mechanics with and without a pole in hand.
Then, it was over to the main pit for some two- and three-left jumps, where Ben finally got me to stop making my little hop-step start to the approach, and use a smoother, rock-back type start that hopefully will make my run more consistent.
Good vaulters, their run and take-off is very consistent. When they plant the pole and take-off, most all the time, they are hitting the same mark -- the same spot on the runway. When you do something the same way every time, or at least close to it, it is a lot easier to make adjustments.
When you're not so consistent -- like me -- it's kind of hit-or-miss, hit-and-hope.
Eliminating that little hop-step, so that I'm consistently starting from the exact same distance each run, was awkward, and that's why I never really tried to make it happen. But I stuck with it today, and the rock-back technique started getting more comfortable. And my take-off got better, too.
I'll use the rock-back tomorrow when I go to my regular Sunday practice at Jack's place. Jumping two days in a row is a little iffy, especially with Nationals coming up in a few weeks, but I'll take it easy today. Everything feels fine, so if I don't do anything crazy, it'll be all right.
Anyway ... how are things going with you?