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Category — Two Old Men Bumbling To Better Pole Vaulting

Albuquerque National Senior Games 2019

We have been building a tradition of partying all the way down and back to our senior games and this time was no different. The main group went in two cars, Rosaura and I in our forester and my aunt and uncle and three grandkids in another. We went through Arches National Park, Mesa Verde, and Four Corners on our way down, and Santa Fe, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, and Craters of the Moon on the way back. My father flew down and an aunt and uncle drove with a trailer, making 10 is us in all at the games. Party city!!!


Chuck did great at the games, providing us with great entertainment and inspiration.  While running may not be his strongest suit, it certainly helped with the 4×100 team as they set an age group record in the National Senior Games. 

As usual they found a ‘ringer’ to run the last leg.  What was fun to watch was that each member ran well and then the last leg was as if a shot went off and the runner nearly made up the full distance to younger teams.  The Pole Vault went well for him, as he is demonstrating an ability to keep his skills up.  He had a hip injury the previous year and we had been worried about it.  He went through several physical therapists.  It appears that as you age, the common suggestion from doctors is just to deal with it because it is part of growing old.  Chuck and I are both learning that there are often exercises and techniques that may offset problems, so never give up!  He found a different physical therapist who gave him some new exercises and, after some work, his hip problem was dramatically improved.  Let’s hear it for good conditioning!  He came in second in the pole vault on misses at 5’7″.  Not bad for an 86 year old (87 for the Senior Games)!

In the high jump he came in third at 3’3″.  All in all, a good set of games for him.

As you can probably tell, the games weren’t quite as great for me, but I had a lot of fun.  I was a little down in the pole vault this year, doing 9’6″, which was good enough for 5th, though the final results are posted for 3rd (don’t think so!).  I like to tell people that the new blood is only a few years behind me, and sure enough, several great vaulters came into my age category.  My friend Larry Bonnett placed first in the next age division up, which I will join in the next Nationals, so I’m looking forward to some friendly competition.  I’ll be the new blood then!  I was a little down this year in the high jump, also, – must be old age coming up! What made it really fun was that there were so many qualifiers that they had two simultaneous pits at opposite ends of the stadium, so we had no idea how things were going on the other side.  My side had the higher seeds, so the competition was fierce and exciting.  I came in close to my overall place of 8th place just in my group, so I was surprised when I saw the final results.  I made 4’3″ and was pleasantly surprised that my friend Woody Deitrich tied me on the other pit!

Since the Nationals, I’ve pole vaulted 10′ a couple of times, which would have placed me on the podium at Albuquerque, so I know I’m capable. I found I have regressed on some basic fundamentals, so I guess I’ll have to give in and get a personal coach (sigh…). My biggest issue is not getting vertical to the pole, and it appears to show up most in competition, so I have to find some way not to revert when the pressure is on.

The trip home was great, with travel to Santa Fe, the Origami garden, Bandelier, Garden of the Gods, Yellowstone, and Craters of the Moon. All this helped erase the bitterness of not doing as well as I wanted.

In retrospect, I’ve shown a slight slide over the past 5 years, and the new guys coming in are showing signs of great performance. Makes for good competition!

October 13, 2019   No Comments

USATF 2018 Cheney – great results!

For only having been in two competitions this summer, it was nice to peak at USATF Outdoor National Masters in Cheney.  We had family and friends supporting us so, similar to last year’s Senior Games in Birmingham, we had a big cheering section.  The weather was HOT, so that was a negative factor, but it probably kept us from aggrevating potential injuries.

Some of our cheering faithful!! Note the exceptional excitement!!!

Chuck and I had high jump on Friday.   Chuck is still fighting his hip injury, so wasn’t as competitive as usual, but hung in there and was able to place in a tie for second at 2-11.5.  He was disappointed but, hey, he cleared some heights and didn’t aggrevate his injury.

Chuck clearing 2-11

I was not sure how I would do, but it was exciting to be in such a crowd of great high jumpers.  A number of these jumpers in my jump group were national champions in their youth.  I benefited from having high jumped the previous week at Washington State Senior Games and made all my early jumps on the first attempt, which in the jumps is critical.  I missed twice at 4-7 and just was following my rule — do my best every jump no matter what and just slipped over the third try for fourth place.  For not being my main event, I was very pleased.

My first attempt at 4-7

Saturday was our big day: Chuck had both pole vault and 100 meter dash, and I had the pole vault. 

First, Chuck vaulted, and I was having some trouble figuring out which of the other vaulters was his competition.  He looked competitive, but clearly his injury was keeping him about a foot lower than normal.  I saw an older gentleman go out earlier and one hang on longer than Chuck, so I wasn’t sure how he did until he came over at the end and announced he had won the gold!  He was disappointed about his performance of 4-11, but at least he cleared a height, which was a concern coming in.

Chuck clearing 4-11

He then ran the 100 meter dash.  It was clear he was struggling to run normally, but he gutted it out and came in 5th at 30 seconds. Of special note, a 100 year old runner, Orville Rogers, ran the 100 in 40 seconds, which was very inspiring.  Hopefully Chuck will still be in there at 100 years.

Don Leis and Chuck Milliman in 100 meters
Chuck finishing 100 meters

After waiting through two days of events, it was finally my turn to do the pole vault.  The temperatures were brutal – in the mid 90’s.  I don’t like vaulting in very high heat, but everyone else has to endure the same conditions, so it evens out.  I really had no clue how I would do, it being only the second competition of the summer, and I hadn’t vaulted in practice very much because of conflicting activities and personal health issues.  I was pretty sure I could reach 10 feet, but not sure.  I did OK in warm-ups over a bungy.  There was a huge controversy over whether to change the pit direction because of the way the gusty wind was blowing.  I don’t really get involved in those because I feel we’re all vaulting in the same conditions, so what is the big deal.  Some folks felt it might be a safety issue for people not used to adjusting to vaulting into the wind.  In Sequim we get lots of practice in variable conditions, so in a way it gives me an advantage, I guess.

Russell Jacquet-Acea (from our state) once again had a fairly good day.  Larry Bonnett, who has vaulted with me at the National Senior Games a couple of times did well, but not as good as he wanted and is capable of.  It was clear to me there were several quite good vaulters who were capable of over 10 feet, so I would have to have an exceptional day to place in the top three, which was my goal — I wanted a medal, not just a ribbon at USATF Masters!  I’m usually quite reliable as I work up to my top height and today was no different.  I started at 8’6, a little lower than usual, just to get some practice during competition.  I cleared every height up to 10 feet on first attempts.  McKane Lee was helpful with coaching advice.  I was trying to hydrate and sit in the shade as much as possible due to the heat.  McKane’s advice was that I could rock back further each vault, so I just kept trying to rock back more and more with each vault.  After two misses at 10-4, I just cleared it and got a third place finish!  My hamstring was getting tired and I knew I had very few vaults left.  My second attempt at 10-8 I pulled my right hamstring and had to exit competition.  Same thing happened last year, so I’m going to have to train better and manage better to quit injuring it.  Right now it appears I have about 8 vaults at my fitness level in competition.  Not good for days where I have several misses, so I have to find a better way of conditioning my hamstrings.  It was not a major injury, which was better than last year.  When I crashed into the pit after pulling my hamstring I knocked down the crossbar and it hit right on the top of my nose, luckily not breaking it.

I had accomplished my goal of getting a medal at USATF!  After viewing photos after the fact, I was deeply embarrassed.  My form had regressed badly this year, not rocking back nearly as much as I though I was and not using both arms to bend and stay away from the pole on take-off.  I had made progress in the spring, but somehow had regressed badly.

Phil clearing 10’4″ — what if I could actually invert????

Sunday was the last event, Chuck’s long jump.  He is amazing to me, still competing with a nagging injury.  He didn’t jump far, but he jumped, and came in second in the long jump at 5-4.75.

Chuck in long jump

Soooo, Chuck and I got medals or ribbons in every event we competed in, quite an accomplishment!  We had great support from family and friends, and the weather, while brutally hot, didn’t hurt us too much.

Lineup of Pole Vault greats: First row – unknown, Charles Milliman, John Altendorf, Don Isett back row – Dave Butler, Fred Zapf

August 21, 2018   No Comments

Washington State Senior Games 2018 — qualifying for 2019 Nationals

Our schedule was impacted pretty heavily by some personal health events and schedule conflicts, so I was wondering how well I would do at the Senior Games.  This was my first competition of the year, so my expectations were low.  Chuck has been battling a hip injury also, so has to manage that at his competitions.  He participated in the West Sound Senior Games and the Northwest Masters Championships and was still hanging in there with his hip.

USATF Outdoor Masters were the next week, so I was viewing the Senior Games as twofold: a warmup for USATF and qualifying for 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque.

As reported in my prior post, the Opening Ceremony was a hoot!  We were presented an award for Personal Best by the National and Local Senior Games Leaders and our hero Brad Walker, US Record Setting and Olympic Pole Vaulter.

Here’s an article: http://nsga.com/news/olympic-surprise-in-olympia-washington

On competition day we did fine, I vaulted 10 feet, which was better than I expected.  Russell Jacquet-Acea showed significant improvement and gave me a tough battle for first place, but I perservered!  I was just happy to clear a height and qualify for Nationals.  I was super pleased my brother and his daughter came to watch.  I was struggling with my hamstrings on my last vault and he advised me to save myself for next week’s USATF championship.  Smart move!  See my next blog on the USATF track meet.  Chuck also cleared 4-0 in the pole vault, not good, but qualified for Nationals and didn’t aggravate his hip too much.  Dan McGuire helped him manage his injury enough to make the height.  I had attended a pole vault camp with Tim Reilly and Pat Licari and once again was reminded about how slow my progress is and how quickly I relapse to poor technique (not by them, they were great!).  10 feet is good, but when I review photos I see how much more I could do (bummer!)

On to the high jump!  My hamstrings were fine, but my lack of competition showed pretty dramatically — I jumped 4-3 and tied for second.  Five inches less than last year’s nationals, but good enough to qualify for next year’s National Senior Games – yay!  Chuck jumped 2-5, which is not good either, but it qualifies him also.

So, all in all, we are close to our historic levels, qualified for next year’s Nationals, had a great time at Opening Ceremonies, and had a lot of family come and join us for the good time!  Chuck and are managing our health carefully and hope to be in prime form soon, though we’ll see for USATF Nationals.

August 20, 2018   No Comments

Hoopla about 2017 National Senior Games Father-Son Golds!

It has been an exciting spring and summer.  The National Senior Games were excited about our Father-Son Golds and wanted to recognize our fun times and promote the personal best concept for the Senior Games, so they came to our house and created an article and video.  In addition, King 5 did a video on our pit and our fun together.  

Here’s links to several of the articles and videos:

The first is a King 5 video interview at our house:


The second is an interview and video from the Senior


The third is an article about the presentation at the Washington State Senior Games Opening Ceremonies:


August 19, 2018   No Comments

2017 National Senior Games – Birmingham -Father-Son Golds!

What an adventure!

My Aunt and Uncle decided they would like to go with us to the Birmingham National Senior Games, so Rosaura and I headed to Cheney to pick up my Uncle Les and my Aunt Laura, and packed all four of us into our little Subaru Forester with a Thule car top carrier and headed out towards the east.  We decided to make a trip of it, so we stopped at the Oklahoma City bombing site on the way out (very moving!), and planned a variety of stops on the way back — more later.  My dad, Chuck, and my niece, Cicily, flew out and met us at the Best Western in Birmingham.

The games were at Samford University — a very nice facility.  The weather got hotter every day.  We took side trips to the statue of Vulcan and downtown to the civil rights museum and parks.  I hadn’t seen fireflies for many years and got some great sightings at the Vulcan Park.  The Civil Rights Museum and the park next door were very powerful and moving.  We ate at Green Acres, a small café near downtown, and had gizzards, fried green tomatoes, and pickled pigs feet.  Great food and brought back lots of memories of childhood.  A memorable moment was when I was waiting in line at the café and the move Madea Goes To Jail was playing on a TV.  Madea responded to an aggressive fellow prisoner in the way only Madea would, and the whole crowd was captivated by the scene.  We all smiled at each other and shared the comedic moment.


The games were great fun — we had our family rooting section — Rosaura (my wife), Laura, Les, Cicily, and whichever of Chuck and I were not participating at that moment.  The events were stretched over several days, Chuck high jumped on June 7th, Chuck pole vaulted on the 8th, I high jumped on the 8th, and I pole vaulted on the 9th.  Chuck had a 4×100 relay on Sunday, so we attended it before leaving for our sight seeing portion of the trip.

Chuck’s pole vault was the next day.  He was the only competitor in his age group, so our biggest challenge was to keep him from entering at too high of a height.  He was vaulting in a younger age group than his, so he didn’t have to jump alone.  He cleared 3′ and so could relax with his gold medal and see what he could do.  He ended up jumping 5’9″.  I think he was upset that he started so low and thought he might have been able to go higher, but my advice was to make sure he cleared a height, particularly if he was vaulting solo.  As it was, he would have come in second in the next age group down.

Chuck Clearing 5’8 at Birmingham Senior Games for Gold

My high jump was the next day.  Remember that I only started doing this to fill in the time while waiting for Chuck.  I was jumping pretty well, and my friend from the Northwest, Woodie, was very encouraging.  I came in fourth(!) at 4’8″, which is my personal best.  I felt pretty impressed with myself, against all these tall guys.

Phil Clearing 4-8 for 4th

Chuck had a great high jump on Wednesday.  We had no expectation of him doing very well, but we didn’t know Chuck.  He kept just barely clearing heights, which is his practice in both the high jump and the pole vault.  He kept hanging around as people were dropping out of the competition.  I kept a running dialogue with my family about how Chuck was getting close to the podium, then he was guaranteed on the podium, then he was one up on misses with the remaining competitor and it seemed that the air just went out of the sails of the competitor when Chuck cleared the last height on the third attempt, which meant the other competitor would have to clear this height and still clear the next height up to beat Chuck and it was clear the spirit had gone out of the competitor.  Soooo, Chuck won gold in the high jump in the 85-89 age group at 3’5″!

Chuck winning high jump for Gold

My pole vault was the same day, in the afternoon.  There were a lot of people in my group (65-74) and the temperature got hotter and hotter as the day wore one.  I was having a real concern about getting worn out by the heat.  Dan Isett was there vaulting, and is one of my heros, so he and I talked about how to manage the heat, dehydration, and tiredness that resulted from waiting until my height came up.  Vaulters started at 4′ and I waited until 9′ to start vaulting.  By the time I came in there were only three other vaulters still in the competition.  There was a bit of pressure not to no-height, as you might understand.  I didn’t realize that one of the other vaulters still in was in the next age group up. I missed once at three meters, which added a bit of a scare, but by then there were only two of us and I was ahead on misses.  I made the next two heights, finished at 10’6″, and pretty much was wasted trying for the next height.  I can’t say I felt comfortable running down the runway, but I cleared the heights, so I must not have felt that bad.

Phil Clearing a height on way to Gold at 10-6

Finally, after watching my dad and his friends once again win the 4×100 relay on Sunday, we were off on the vacation portion of the trip.  To put it briefly, we went to Selma and walked over the Pettus Bridge, then to the Kennedy Space Center, then Key West (yes!  all the way) and had key lime pie and conch fritters, then back to New Orleans and had beignets at the Café du Monde.  Back to the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, and finally back home. 

As an addendum, we accomplished dual father-son golds in July at the Washington State Senior Games for Pole Vault AND High Jump. The Northwest Masters championships was a little later. I won the gold, but then severely pulled my hamstring on my last vault and couldn’t high jump. Serves me right for weeding in the garden the day before — it always kills my hamstring.

I really had trouble taking it all in.  My dad and I had both won NSGA championships before and I had a vague dream that we could be a father-son combo.  To do it here at Birmingham in front of a larger than usual group of family was beyond my expectations

February 13, 2018   No Comments

2016 Washington State Senior Games

2016 was a good year.  I set the record for the 65-69 age group at 10’6″ in the Washington State Games, up about a foot and a half from the previous record.  I could still make 11′ occasionally, but 10’6′ is respectable.  As you may know, I started high jumping as a way of relieving the tedium of waiting for my dad, Chuck, to participate in his myriad of events.  This has been good in many ways, as we now compete in both the pole vault and high jump in state and national competition.  My dad is competitive at nationals in both events, while I am in the running in most pole vault competitions.  A note on some older vaults: in 2014 I jumped 11’9″ at the Washington State Senior Games, which is my best post high school.  In competition in high school I jumped 12’00 and in practice I had cleared 12’3″ in high school, so I was pretty impressed at making 11’9″.  In 2015 I jumped 11′ at the Washington State Senior Games, which I believe is the last time I’ve jumped 11′ at a major event.  I still think I could reach that again with some improvements in form.  It’s the old aging curve versus improved form curve.

In 2016 Washington State Senior Games Chuck and I performed as follows:

  • Phil Pole Vault: 10’6″ — setting the record for the 65-69 age group
  • Phil High Jump: 4’7″
  • Chuck Pole Vault: 6′ — pretty good for a geezer!
  • Chuck High Jump: 3’5″

Chuck clearing 6′

Phil clearing an early height

February 13, 2018   No Comments

Catch up on 2015 National Senior Games

As you already know, I’m hit or miss with posts, partly because I’m to busy making memories than documenting them, but also because I’m too lazy to update files. However, I should have let you know what’s been happening over the past year(s) and so here is a update on the 2015 National Senior Games.
We decided to drive with my dad, Chuck, in our Subaru Forester all the way to Minneapolis. We love to travel together, so the trip was great. Our friend, Jay, has a brother in Minneapolis area and he generously let us use his apartment for the entire week we were there. We loved the facility at St. Thomas University. The weather was outstanding. On the off day we went to the local wildlife preserve.  On the way back, we went to Custer’s last stand, Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and Mt. Rushmore.

Chuck came in 9th in the high jump and was in a jump off for the top three jumpers, recording third place in the pole vault at 6’5″. I came in 4th place in the pole vault at 11′ and 13th place in the high jump. On the high jump my hamstring gave out and I actually collapsed into the pit on an attempt. Not my best day high jumping, but I had fun.

Fun was had by all and my wife, Rosaura, is always a good sport to accompany us and cheer for us. She also takes pretty good pictures.

Phil vaulting — when will I quit looking up???

Phil high jumping

Chuck (on right) and buddies on 4×100 relay team

February 13, 2018   No Comments

Preparing for National Senior Games 2015

Chuck and I are now through with high school track for the summer and it is time to participate in our training for the summer season.  We had an early meet at Seattle June 7th.  Performance was pretty normal for our first meet, with Chuck clearing 6 foot in the pole vault.  I made 10′ which is a little disappointing given the drills I was working on all spring. Worse was that I strained my left hamstring and have been fighting it ever since.  I have a tendency to push my feet too far in front when I’m trying too hard to accelerate.  We’ve been having some Monday sessions at my house this summer and I’ve really had to take it easy.  Chuck and I have been working the drills as hard as we dare, particularly getting  left hand to our chest.  Chuck has been around 6′ or better for most our Monday sessions.  I cleared around 10’4″ at our home pit even with a gimpy left leg so we’ll see at NSGA 2015 games.

July 10, 2015   No Comments

SHS vaulters post good year 2015

It was another good year for pole vaulters at Sequim High School.  Our senior vaulters all did very well, dominating most meets.  Josh went to state with a high of 13’9″.  While vaulted 13′ at state, he came in tenth a rep rented our school well.  I learned so much from him as we tried to work through the techniques required to finish completely vertical.  One more week and I think he would have had a breakthrough.  Emily had trouble returning to her 2014 form but began pulling it all together the last few weeks.  That’s an area where I need to learn to coach better – the swing to vertical.  Alyse was a one year student showing great potential, but it was sad to only get one year.  Rickie kept on showing improvement every year a placed in most meets, clearing 11′ several times.  I’ll deeply miss all of them.  While we have a few returning younger vaulters, they haven’t spent much time training, so we have a long way to go.  There are several promising new freshmen, but we’ll have to see in which events they are needed.  I’ve picked up a few techniques this year including using the vault platform and drills to better teach extending off the top of the pole.  Now I’m transitioning to my summer schedule – ME!, which I’ll cover in my next post.  Hopefully I will learn to improve my own technique from what we learned together this year.

July 10, 2015   No Comments

Spring 2015 High School Track nearly complete

We have had a good spring. All our vaulters have shown improvement and we have made some progress in teaching technique, though the journey is not nearly complete.  We explored using a vaulting platform this year and it was a rousing success.  Our vaulters can work on technique without the added complexity of the run and the location of the plant foot at take-off.  I got the idea from McKane Lee at Tukwila because it had helped me so much.  After initial trials, Coach Moore has encouraged us to use it as a beginning at each practice.

Our seniors are showing the results of hard work and maturity and we are very proud of them.  Josh has made 13’9″ so far this year and has more to go.  Ricky has shown great improvement each year and has a chance to go above 11′.  Emily is steady as a rock and finally beginning to swing smoothly to vertical.  She has potential to make a big height improvement this week at subdistricts, so we will be working hard on finishing the vault, hoping for 8′ to 9′.  Alyse is a newcomer as a senior and as shown steady improvement, already jumping 9′.  Who knows what her upside is?  Our younger vaulters are showing steady improvement.  I’m hoping our vaulting teaching technique continues to improve to give them the chance to maximize their potential.

As the season winds down, now it is time for Chuck and I to start concentrating on our own technique and conditioning so we can compete at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in July.  We are starting to recover from the shock of the cost of going there and are hoping we both can have a good time and possibly even place well in the competition.  Chuck as usual is competing in every sport and its brother, while I’m adding the high jump this year (for fun).  Coaching a higher performing vaulter such as Josh has helped me understand how to refine technique more, so I hope it carries over to my vaulting.  If so, then I’ll probably owe Josh a big thanks.


May 10, 2015   No Comments

Spring pole vault practice starting 2015

Well, another year of track has started.  At first it looked like there were only going to be a few vaulters, but yesterday we had a crowd.  I’m excited about the potential for this group — the experienced vaulters are picking up where they left off and the new ones are picking up technique quickly. Not to mention the weather.  Is it OK to be happy about global warming?  The weather has been similar to late April all week.

My dad and I are planning to go to National Seniors this year, so there is an added edge to everything.

March 5, 2015   No Comments

Fall 2014 recovery and readiness for the next season

Bummer! I just found I had miscategorized my posts over the summer. They are now categorized properly, so you can look back to see what has been going on.

This fall I’ve been working on my core training. Rosaura encouraged me to join her in boot camp at Anytime Fitness and it has been very good for me. Having someone keeping the intensity going helps me do a better job of full body conditioning. I don’t like getting up at 5:30 in the AM, but that’s part of why it is called boot camp.

I seemed to make some progress last summer in being a little stronger in core strength that translated to being able to swing a little better. I will continue my multi-year work to get to the pole and stay on it.

I hope to go to McKane Lee’s facility a few times this winter to keep in tune. My pit is closed up for the year while it is cold and wet.

November 21, 2014   No Comments

Summer vaulting for the Milliman Boys

This spring we had a good time vaulting with the youth at the high school. Finally high school vaulting was over and Chuck finished running the Discovery Marathon (at 81 years, no less!) – so we could start our own summer vaulting schedule.
Our first meeting was the Seattle Classic. I cleared 10 feet and was not too happy with that.
At the Alki Swashbuckler meet I cleared 10’6″ and Chuck cleared 5’8″. Neither of us were completely pleased with our heights but enjoyed the meet thoroughly, even with a little rain.
The next meet, at the Pacific Northwest Master’s championships I came in second to Dan Guinn at a 10’6″ vault on number of attempts. Great fun, but both of us wanted to do better 🙁

Finally at the Washington State Senior Games I cleared 11’9″! What a day! This was the qualifier for the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in 2015. Dan was fighting an injury, and with this breakout day I jumped 27 inches higher than my closest competitor.
I think I went better because we had started vaulting together with friends on Monday nights and also I worked three times with McKane Lee at his training facility over in Seattle. This must have helped some though it was clear from my videos that I could’ve done much better. I’m still fighting to get to the pole and stay on it.
So this is the best I have done since high school. I went 11’7″ at the Houston National Senior Games in 2011 towin my age division. In high school in an informal meet I once went 12’3″ so I’m feeling very good about this year, only six inches less than my lifetime best! It might actually be possible that with a little more endurance and continuing to work on my technique, I might actually be able to clear 12 feet. Who knows, but I never even dreamed of clearing 11’9″ this summer!

July 30, 2014   No Comments

Good year for our vaulters 2014

We sent two vaulters to the state meet. Conditions weren’t ideal, but both vaulters made me proud. Sarah, our senior, cleared 9′ in a brutal, gusting side wind. Josh cleared 12’6″ in slightly better conditions. We have a good group for next year and hope to see continued improvement. I’m still working on my coaching skills, and Coach Moore is a great coach for the team as well as me.

July 30, 2014   No Comments

Rainy Spring

I’ve been assisting with coaching the local high school vaulters this year on more of a full time basis. I really like the coaching technique of Coach Moore, but I guess he trusts me enough to spend more time on my own. I have been very impressed with the improvement of all the athletes this year. It looks like we’ll be sending four men to sub-district and possibly four women. Wow! That’s by far the most in the four (?) years I’ve been coaching. All four of the men who qualified for subdistrict have vaulted at least 10’6″. There is talk of a dynasty.
We’ve definitely had a bit of rain this year. Today’s practice had a sprinkle all the day and several meets have had rain. I wouldn’t mind a few warm days. I think global warming in Sequim results in rainy spring and early summer.
I’m itching to get on my runway soon. Track season is beginning to wind down and that leads to my own training season. I need to up my running. We ran Bloomsday last week and I was not happy with my fitness level. It seems so much harder to get motivated to run in the rain now. We used to when we were younger.

May 9, 2014   No Comments

Beginning of track 2014

A new year of track has started! I was only able to attend the first day of training this week. It was a classic spring day – sunny, almost balmy at the beginning, then steady, cold rain the last half. I needed to be reminded of some of the basic early season drills (should have done my homework). We have at least four new prospects and most of our veterans have returned, so it looks to be a good year. January and February were tough for me, as I had a lingering cold, but I’ve tried to keep up on my core training.. I’ll have to pick up on my running. I’m looking forward to working with our new training device at home and working out on my new pit. I need to do some work on runway maintenance.
On more personal notes, Chuck will have to work up core strength before vaulting again. I’m always a little nervous at the beginning of the season with my arthritis and trouble spots. It always seems to work out.
Josh, who is on the team, and I are pretty competitive and and I keep threatening to apply a height handicap.

March 6, 2014   No Comments


Well, Chuck developed an injury over the summer. We believe it came from several things: 1) participating in 11 events at the Bremerton Senior Games, 2) trying out a pole vault training device, and 3) not knowing when to quit. He first started noticing some pain in his abdomen after the Senior Games. We implemented a training device in my carport (more on that later) and Chuck appears to have aggravated his injury trying to invert himself using the device. The injury turned out to be a hernia, but it took a number of months for doctors to confirm it and perform surgery. He is now the proud possessor of a mesh to stop the hernia. This reminds me of when Chuck tested his heart pain by going running. He kept wanting to test the pain in his abdomen by trying more inversion drills, which happen to put extreme strain on the abdominal area. As a loyal son, now I’m wondering if I’ll also get a hernia. After his repair heals we’ll take it slowly before doing too much with pole vault drills. He’s doing fine and well on the road to full recovery– already planning to train for the Discovery Marathon.

February 5, 2014   No Comments

One more meet

Chuck and I are on our way to pick up a newer pole vault pit (only about 20 years old)! Our old one is still serviceable, but the seam on one side is seriously separating. I’ll check out the new pit and be letting my old one go to a worthy recipient.

I’ve had a good summer, with my lowest vault at 10’6″ and my highest at 11’2″. Chuck has consistently vaulted 6’6″ to 6’7″. Dick Clintworth helped by yelling at me to rock back farther every vault. Sigh … This multi-year journey to being more vertical is frustrating. It is clearly an issue of the mind, not the body.
One more chance at the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games. I traditionally don’t do well there but I’ve got a chance to keep rocking back farther and get to the pole, so I’ll push once more. It doesn’t help that I have a Pickleball tournament the day before.

August 16, 2013   No Comments

Senior vaulting spring 2013

First: Chuck is always late on the track training schedule because he trains for the North Olympic Marathon until the first Sunday in June, then he starts picking up speed.

I vaulted at the Northwest Senior games at West Seattle on the first Saturday in June. Had a good day at 10’6″. I was happy to see Fred Zapf, Dave Butler, Richard Yeng, Dick Wentworth, Mohler, and a buddy of mine who also makes me a better high jumper. Fred was injured, but everyone else made heights- which counts for a good day at our age.

Chuck and I both went to the Northwest Masters Championships at Mount Hood Comminity College. What a great time! Each year I wonder whether I’ll decline and then I once again clear a surprising height for me. I made 10’11.75″ (good old metric conversion) and 4’6″ in the high jump. What was really a kick was vaulting with John Altendorf and Dennis Phillips who both hold the record in my age group at the meet ( they are in the next age group up now). I actually vaulted high enough to jump with them at 11 feet and 11’6″ – cool!

Chuck vaulted 6’6″ which is good but frustrating to him as he wants 7 feet. He also won 4 other events and came in second in the 100M race. It was dint watch him.

I’ve decided to add the long jump to my list, making my events now the PV, LJ, and HJ. The long jump takeoff translates well to the pole vault so I think it will help me be a better vaulter.

July 2, 2013   No Comments

Update on SHS pole vaulters

Our top female vaulter, Sarah, made it to state. She is a 10 foot vaulter and we are excited about her chances as a senior. We have several others who have excellent potential over the next couple of years, most in the 8 foot range now.
Josh, our top male, went 12’6″ and nearly made it to state. He should make it next year. Exciting! We have a couple of other male vaulters who are improving, but could use more. I tend to talk too much when coaching, but Coach Moore is fairly forgiving and gives me pointers on coaching technique. I think we complement each other because he coaches great technique and I have the hands on vaulting experience and can demonstrate some moves though not advanced technique.

July 2, 2013   No Comments

Good year so far

It has been a good year so far. Sorry about the lack of posts, but I’m kind of shy, believe it or not I don’t like tooting my horn on non-significant things. On the other hand, I believe I am remiss in not sharing our journey with you. I’ll try to do better.
Another point is that I shut down comments except for registered guests be ause of the load of spam. My email is on the home page and you can contact me via that for any purpose including signing up to make comments.

July 2, 2013   No Comments

SHS Pole Vaulting 2013

I am very impressed with the number of pole vaulters we have had turn out this year. We have had four men and seven women turn out. Most are first year vaulters. The number has stabilized to three men (two second year) and six women (two second year). All have cleared heights in competition. While they may be frustrated with wanting to make faster progress, they are showing steady improvement. I’m learning a lot about coaching and wish I were better. Coach Moore is a good coach and has a knack for helping vaulters get to the next level. Our top male vaulter is just about ready to make a step change to 11 feet and beyond. Our two top female vaulters are at eight feet and both are on the cusp of improvement. I was gone for a month in the early season and regret the loss of momentum, but it is encouraging to see the desire and improvement in the vaulters.

April 22, 2013   No Comments

Washington State Senior Games 2012

Well, today was more of a grind.  I felt that I had a pretty good warmup session, then a long wait until I started vaulting at 9 feet.  I started on my 12’6″ 150 pole and was kind of blowing through it, so I went to my 13’0″ 160 pole at 9’6″.  I couldn’t get on it the first vault, the second was better, but still a miss, so I went back to the 12’6″ pole for the third jump and cleared it.  I was still blowing through it a bit, so I went to the 13’0″ pole for 10’0″.  I cleared 10’0″ the first jump and thought all was OK, but still worried about takeoff and getting sufficient speed.  I ended up missing all three vaults at 10’6″ even though my takeoff was better.  On looking at video after the meet, I found that I had been focusing so hard on just getting off the ground that I had lost all verticality, just flagging off almost immediately.  That was a good example of what a lack of confidence can to to you.  I was so focused in the left arm that I forgot to drive the shoulders and drive to the pole, partly for fear of not having sufficient penetration to be safe.  Bummer!

I have some poles that, while not optimal, can simulate intermediate poles from the 12’6″ 150 to the 13’0″ 160, which is a bit of a jump.  My 14’0″ 130 pole is about 145 pounds at 13 feet and the 14’0″ 140 pole is about 155 pounds at 13 feet, which would have provided me with a little more confidence working through the poles.  I did that at Alki beach with the 13’130″ pole and had some success.  I’m going to work on this in preparation for the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games and see if I can adjust to competition day conditions with a little more flexibility.  Having the confidence to know I’m not going to land in the box is critical to me, since I seem to be lacking some of the courage or reckless abandon that some other vaulters seem to have.

All in all, it was not a bad day.  I came in first in my age group, third overall, and qualified for Nationals.  High jump was similar.  I was 4 inches below the Northwest Senior Games at 4’5″, came in first in my age group (easy because I was the only one), and qualified for nationals.  I hope to have more quality practice time coming up, as the past few weeks were pretty dicey here in the Northwest and I was sick for a few days.  Oh for an indoor pit close by!

Chuck had another good day — the bum!  He went 7’0″ in the pole vault, which was great, considering he hasn’t practiced much at all this year since he has been training for 80 miles on his eightieth birthday.  He only got one gold medal, while I got two, so I have bragging rights, but he earned 6 total medals today, so he is definitely the all around athlete of the family.  If he could actually train consistently for the pole vault with his speed I think he could be one of the top vaulters, if not the highest, in the world in his age group.  He would have to change his form dramatically, but he has a bunch of people, including me, who line up to give him advice 🙂

Back to my vaulting today.  I am doing much better at getting vertical on straight pole vaults in early practice.  Translating that to bent pole vaulting is hit or miss still, but much much better than a few years ago.   With continued hard work and conditioning, I believe I can start consistently hitting 11+ feet.  In my age group that’s a pretty good height.  Of course, a whole new generation of top quality vaulters are just behind me to erase anything I have done.  The quest for excellence is never ending.

Phil is not staying tight to the pole

Phil flagging off pole at 10-6

Phil's body is going flat, not up

If your body is not going up, then you are losing a foot or more of height


Phil is hitting cross bar because he went flat

If you don’t go up, then you will go down faster — knocking off the cross bar

July 29, 2012   No Comments

Photos from Alki Beach Swashbuckler Beach Pole Vault

The following are pictures taken at the Alki Beach Swashbuckler Pole Vault meet on July 7, 2012.  There were over 100 pole vaulters at the meet.

July 14, 2012   No Comments

Better results tonight

I was able to get my left arm to stay reasonably straight on a vault tonight.  Now if I can make that repreducible and keep on working on using my shoulders to drive the swing, not my hips, I might be able to move up some more height.  I’m experimenting with putting a video camera on top of the car and taking continuous video until I’m able to check the work.  Seems to be working pretty well.

July 12, 2012   No Comments

Alki Beach Swashbuckler Pole Vault Chuck and Phil

Chuck and I vaulted at the 2012 Alki Beach Swashbuckler Pole Vault event on Saturday the 7th.  We were both part of the masters group that vaulted at 10:00 AM.  Chuck has only practiced about three times this spring, so I was curious to see how he would do.  He looked very good for the amount of practice he has had!


Chuck approaching pit

Chuck clearing 6’1″

I have been working on upper body strength this year, but didn’t expect much because I had only cleared 10’0″ at the Northwest Senior Games a couple of weeks ago.  For whatever reason, I had a couple of vaults with much better form on getting to vertical.  Of course, I couldn’t keep my arm straight on take-off and my right knee dropped, but I knew that I had taken a step forward this year.  I’ve been trying to use my shoulders to drive the pole down and on a few jumps at Alki I seem to have done fairly well.  Still lots to do!  However, I was able to vault 11’1″ at Alki.  This means I was able to achieve 11′ at least for two years now.

Moving the pole to the box — could have been earlier

Note hand to ankle — better than before. Also note back parallel to ground

Phil inverted – close to pole


Phil clearing a height at Alki Beach

July 12, 2012   No Comments

About staying on the pole

Ah… a harder task than it sounds.  It seems several psychological flaws must be overcome, each of which seems to be harder than I thought.

One problem is fear:  One must not be afraid of falling backward onto the runway.  The literature will tell you that is a major benefit of fiberglass pole vaulting.  It helped the vaulter to not have to focus as much on the safety concern when going upside down near the top of the vault.  The vaulter “should” have the confidence to know that momentum will carry him or her into the pit.  This confidence allows the vaulter to rotate the body to or beyond vertical (except in my brain’s case).

Another problem, slightly related, is perception:  Is my arm straight?  Am I vertical?  Is my left hand (I’m a right handed vaulter) all the way to my chest.  Apparently I have flawed perception on each of these points.  My left arm is bent during the vault, creating a bit of an effect of being under.  I could swear to you that I am completely vertical upside down until you show me the video of me flagging off.  My left arm is very traditional – it stays near my hip or, if I’m lucky, almost to my shoulder, causing me to go off the pole sideways.

Ah well, a journey is not completed in a day, though one would think I could learn a little faster. I am fully convinced that I have sufficient speed and strength to go higher, but the mental challenges are quite daunting.

We’ll see how much I can change as the summer progresses.

June 21, 2012   No Comments

Working to get back to form

The journey to excellence is a rough road in my case.  I kind of knew that last summer’s Senior Games at Houston was something of an outlier — I had concentrated hard on improving and worked with Jay at Anytime Fitness on conditioning, McKane Lee at ProVault on technique, and with Brad Moore at Sequim High School following his techniques for teaching young vaulters.  It all came to a head with exceptional weather conditions and luck at Houston.  After that came loss of some technique (straight arm and having trouble getting vertical), kidney stones, and some sort of hip problem on my left hip that was quite painful.  First I had to get back to health, so I finally started running steadily (I had made the mistake of believing that all the conditioning work would mean I didn’t have to run — WRONG!) and began to see results in reduction of pain — yeah!  McKane had successfully shown me my abysmal upper body strength so I began working on  some arm and abdomen exercises with the help of Jay.   We had a lot of vaulters this year in track, so that kind of slowed down my personal vaulting training and the home pit was in need of repair so I fixed it back up.  I really miss working with McKane but the 3 hours each way and the cost of travel is a massive barrier to going over, not to mention that we have fallen into a rhythm of daily schedules that forces us to overcome that barrier before doing anything else.  My results from the NW Senior games helped me realize that my form has reverted pretty badly, but wasn’t unsalvageable.  The northwest weather isn’t exactly conducive to practice anyway, but that is more a willpower issue than anything else.  I’ve started working on my left arm and driving my right hand down to my thigh, but it is largely a relearning effort.  I start to think about my takeoff and slow down before I get to the box.  My right knee flexes and then straightens.

So… right now is still (after several years) about trying to get to the pole and then stay on the pole.  The left arm has to work if I’m going to get on heavier poles (a philosophical issue you will read me discuss later!).

June 21, 2012   No Comments

End of first real practice week of 2012

80 feet of runway in pretty good shape

80 feet of runway and covered pit

Room for improvement

I’ve been working with the Sequim Track Team vaulters this spring and vaulting occasionally with the vaulters, but only a few vaults per week.   Track season finished just a couple of weeks ago.  In addition, I’ve been repairing the runway at my home pit so I haven’t had the ability to practice at home. In addition, I’ve been a little sensitive about the cost and time required to travel to visit McKane at Everett.

Enough excuses. I went 10’00” at the NW Senior Games after a few days practice on Saturday. I came in first place overall.  I’m sorry that my friend Dave Butler was fighting an injury and couldn’t vault.  Fred is looking better — his work with McKane Lee is paying off, it appears.  Looking at the video of my vaults it was clear that I am strongly bending my left arm and doing a miserable job of rowing through. Also, I seem to have no clue how to bring my left arm to my chest. I’ve pretty much lost all progress that I made last year.  I wasn’t able to get on the 13 foot 160 pole enough to clear a height so that didn’t help my confidence.
Oh well, at least I have my work cut out for me, sigh…

I high jumped on Saturday at the NW Senior games and cleared 4’9″ which is pretty good for me.  That was 2nd overall and first in my age group.
Here’s a shot from practice on the 11th that pretty much sums it up. This is on the 12’6 140 pole, so it is a bit soft for me, but it should bend strongly if I’m doing my job.

Well, I now have the runway fixed so I can practice when the weather allows —  it has been iffy weather for a while.  I’ll work on components one by one and see if I can put them together.  I need to get over to McKane’s facility but I’m having trouble with mainly the time commitment of about 3 hours travel for each visit plus the ferry cost each way.  I’ve been working on strength training for my upper body and hope that when I get technique worked out it will translate into more vertical, but the past week or so has been pretty depressing.

Here’s a couple of shots of the refurbished runway and sections still to be repaired:

Dipicts old section of runway with rotted boards

A section of runway in not bad shape (upside down piece)


picture of worst piece of runway

Worst segment of runway


On a more positive note, I seem to be doing a better job of hitting the box upright so I don’t hit the uprights.  I had a problem with that the second helf of last summer and it killed my confidence.  I’m happy to say that running with Chuck this winter has improved the health of my hip and hamstring muscles.  I think I assumed I would stay in shape last summer just by vaulting and I can safely say I was wrong.  Having a kidney stone didn’t help much either.

So, rebuilding confidence and technique seem to be the order of the day.  You’ll see how I do during the summer.

June 13, 2012   No Comments

End of high school track season

We had a good year at Sequim High Track pole vaulting. We carried forward two vaulters from last year. They did well, but didn’t have as many practice sessions and it showed in their performance, achieving the same heights as last year. Unfortunately, this year that wasn’t enough to get to state. We had one new sophmore girl, 3 freshman girls, and 3 freshman boys start this year. All did quite well for their first year. One freshman girl broke the old freshman record by one foot. We sent 4 vaulters to subdistrict and 3 vaulters to district. Good job kids!

I haven’t been vaulting much, as I’ve been working with the vaulters and repairing my runway at home. I had the box sandblasted and powdercoated and had some bad stretches of the wooden runway that had to have the surface replaced. I’m nearly through and getting ready to resume regular practice at home. I’ve learned a few more tips from Brad Moore, the coach here at Sequim, and hope to apply them in my practice. My first meet this year should be the Puget Sound Senior Games at West Seattle Stadium. I have no idea how I’ll do, but I’ll start practicing now and see if I can get up to speed before June 1st. I’m a little behind last year’s schedule so we’ll see.

May 23, 2012   No Comments

Early spring vaulting

I’ve been volunteer coaching with the local Sequim track team and having a blast. We have a lot of vaulters this year and they are improving quickly. Every day I help an athlete become a better vaulter I’m hoping it also helps me become a better vaulter. I try to work out at Anytime Fitness twice a week, mostly on upper body strength. I’m improving slowly but steadily. I’m still running with Chuck in the mornings and Rosaura has started doing more and more running so I’m doing some running with her. When track season is on I don’t have as much time to vault, but I get some reps, especially if we have fewer athletes for the day. Brad Moore is a great vault coach and I learn a lot from him. Our team is quickly getting competitive with respect to other schools and have a good upside still to go. The weather hasn’t been very conducive to opening up my pit, but the forecast for the next few days looks good, so I took the tarp off the top and hope to get some jumps in tomorrow.

April 21, 2012   No Comments

Feeling better – just in time

I’ve been fighting several muscle problems this winter, so it was quite nice to suddenly feel better in my hip. My dad and I are running nearly every morning at seven am and I like the results. I don’t have day broken up so much, my muscles and hip hurt less, and I feel in better condition. I had been avoiding too much running to keep from being to tight in other exercises, but I think the results were worse!

January 28, 2012   No Comments

Winter training 2011-2012

I have been working on upper body strength this winter. I have been fighting some nerve or muscle twinges in my hips that are concerning. Jay at Anytime Fitness has helped us with some exercises strengthen the upper body. I have found that I can’t sprint without some pain, so I’m working back from that (I really seemed to go downhill after the Senior Games!). I ran a local 10K race with my dad in December and that went well — I was tired, but felt fine and my hips didn’t bother me. I think I haven’t been running enough and will pick up the mileage while continuing to work on my core strength. We’ll see if I can get back to where I was last spring…

January 6, 2012   No Comments

Whew! Long second half of summer!

Well, my skills and focus on vaulting went down dramatically after the World Outdoor Masters! I think I wore myself out and had to recover. In addition, I was trying to improve my run and it had a negative effect on my vaulting. Why is it that when I try and improve one aspect of my vault all the others go downhill.

Then, just before the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games I had a kidney stone while at a camp in mountains in Eastern Washington. That was LOT more fun than I care to ever have again.

So… I went from averaging over 11 feet at the beginning of the Summer to not clearing over 10’6″ the rest of the summer. I’m back to working on technique and conditioning. This winter I’m continuing core strength and speed training (well, partially), but I’m adding some drills that focus on my lats. I had several conversations over the summer that have led me to believe that 1) The Summer Games in Houston were a bit of an extreme day for me and 2) I was severely deficient in the muscles that were perhaps the most important ones in pole vaulting. McKane is working with me on my pole carry and plant, which was what I had trouble with the second half of the summer. I had issues with my legs and hamstrings the second half also, so I do think I wore myself out. Well… what a time to peak — at the National Senior Games Championships!

With hard work I should have better pole carry and plant next year with stronger lats to actually do something about it. I’m going to have to relearn how to carry my body longer on takeoff — I seem to have totally unlearned it at the World Outdoor Masters and will have to relearn the whole thing. Some people can pick these things up easily, but I seem to have to learn and relearn the same thing repeatedly.

I think I’ve been a bit down this fall emotionally also, getting overly committed to too many things and having trouble getting going on some of the things important to me. I have always had issues with the ‘velcro’ of life. We add new things to our list all the time, but have a very difficult time getting rid of the old activities we have enjoyed in the past.

Chuck and I are finally back to practicing 2 times a week at Anytime Fitness and taking advice from Jay Bryan, the owner, who has been a great inspiration and coach to us. We are rebuilding our bodies and endurance in preparation for the next year. I haven’t been able to get over to McKane’s as often as I have wanted recently, but I will be going as regularly as I can. It’s a bit of a trip from our house — about 2 to 3 hours each way, so it’s not a trip one takes likely.

November 9, 2011   No Comments

World Outdoor Masters Sacramento

I just returned from Sacramento at the World Outdoor Masters competition. I went with great hopes and came back happy I hadn’t no-heighted, which a lot of people did. Our 55-59 group had high, gusty crosswinds and temperatures in the high 50’s/low 60’s. I didn’t feel right from the start. I warmed up and missed the entire box once. I started practicing on the 13 160lb pole and moved up to the 13-3 165 pole when I felt like I was on it. Something didn’t feel right on every vault. Looking at the misses afterward, it appeared that I was not really on the pole, which was a comment I heard from nearly everyone in our group about their own vaulting. I started at 9-6 and barely penetrated. I had two vaults at 10-0 and cleared the second, but was not getting my hips above my shoulders the entire day. I came in 10th place, which was respectable, given my normal heights this year. At 10-6 I didn’t penetrate ever. In retrospect, I should have started on the 13 foot 160 lb pole as usual until I got to high heights, but I didn’t for whatever reason. My makes at 9-6 and 10-0 didn’t seem to have issues with penetration, but I wonder if I would have felt a little more relaxed with a softer bend and been able to focus more on the getting vertical part. Most people I talked to had to jump on softer poles. Well, I’ve got a lot to think about.

I actually placed about where I expected to. I knew there were several new vaulters who were over 12 foot and more. I would have had to have a breakout day just to be 4th or 5th. However, because of the weather or who knows what, I placed about where I had expected to place with a much higher vault because everyone else was having an off day. Several world class vaulters no-heighted, including Jeff Kingstad, Henry Barela, and Kirk Bentz.

What did I learn? I think that it may be better to get vertical on a softer pole than to keep trying to get the bounce from a stiffer pole. There is less fear of hitting the box or pavement and there should be more opportunity to get the body vertical. Even if I were to blow through the pole, if I could get to vertical fast I would still have a chance, because I was vaulting a foot and 1/2 below my top hand when I was going for 10-6. I’ll be working with McKane Lee to see how to recognize various situations so I can do a better job of adjusting next time. I still don’t have a good feel for how to get vertical, which I find frustrating.

Here is my make at 10-0:


Here is Dave’s make at 7-10:

July 18, 2011   No Comments

Beach Vaults in Seattle-Tacoma 2011

We had a great series of beach pole vaults this summer in Seattle and Tacoma. Mary Saxer won both elite competitions. Her vault at the Seattle Alki Swashbuckler competition of 15-1 placed her in the top ten of the world women vaulters this year.
Here’s her vault:

Scott Roth had a great pole vault also, of 18-1.
Here’s his vault:

Our own McKane Lee vaulted 17-1 in both meets, which is the best he has done for a number of years. Here are both vaults.
Tacoma Freedom Fair:

Seattle Alki Beach Swashbuckler Meet:

I did pretty well, vaulting 11-1 at the Freedom Fair and 11-3 at the Alki Beach Vault. Chuck did 6-2 at the Alki vault, which was disappointing to him after his performance at Houston, but he looked good to me and will be vaulting higher again. Dave Butler was just under 8 feet both meets.

Nothing beats a day at the beach in the sun to go pole vaulting!

July 18, 2011   No Comments

More from Houston

I’m finally back from most of my summer travels and can give a little more about the Houston trip.

We stayed with some good friends at Northwest Houston and traveled each morning to the Turner Field at Humble.  As I related in the earlier post, I had a breakout day in my event on Monday and got the gold medal in the 60-64 age group.  Chuck felt a pain in his right hamstring/hip area on Monday while we were preparing for my event.  It got much worse and by Tuesday when he ran the 400 meters he really felt it.  The heat was intense, over 98 degrees and he slowed down the last 100 yards, since it wasn’t a strong event for him and he wanted to save the leg for later events.  Later that same day he ran the 100 meters in 18.8 seconds, not a great time for him, but I reminded him that he had been training and running a marathon just two weeks before and hadn’t trained for any of his events except some few practices for the pole vault.  In addition, we began to realize that  the crowd was tougher than at Palo Alto in 2009 and we were just starting our track season in the Northwest while many people had already had their state senior games in the south.  He placed out of the qualifications for the finals in both events. Wednesday was quite rainy, with lightning and thunder.  They postponed the long jump a number of times as we kept getting lightning flashes in the area, causing mandatory 1/2 hour delays in competion.  Finally, about 2 and 1/2 hours late, they started the long jump.  Chuck’s leg was bothering him in practice jumps and warmup, so we were very apprehensive about how he would do and whether he would be able to high jump or pole vault in the remaining days.  However, hurray!, on his first jump the pain went away (probably just some scar tissue?).  He wasn’t jumping at his best, but at least he was able to jump 8-10 inches for 12th.  In Palo Alto he had jumped 10-5 and got a bronze medal there, which would have placed him 11th at Houston.  The competition was fierce and he didn’t place in the ribbons. 

Zero for three and the week was beginning to look depressing for him, which was tough for him because I had done so well.  Thursday came the high jump.  He felt good and, while looking a little rusty to me, jumped 3-9.  He looked like with a little practice he could have jumped higher.  He placed 10th (on misses, same height as 4th).  At Palo Alto a 3-8 jump got him a bronze.

Here’s Chuck high jumping:

The 4×100 relay was very exciting.  Chuck’s team looked good and was clipped in the last leg by .08 second by the record holder of the 100 meters.  While sad not to have gotten the silver, the team looked good and got a bronze medal.  They are excited about the next Senior Games in 2013 in Cleveland.  More on Chuck later.

Friday, my friends Dave Butler and Fred Zapf pole vaulted in the 70-74 age group.  Fred has been fighting injuries for some time and I was quite proud of his vault of 7-9 to get a 7th place ribbon.  Dave vaulted 8-2 and got a bronze — great job!
Here’s Fred vaulting:

Here’s Dave vaulting:

Next, Chuck vaulted in the 75-79 age group.  He had only been vaulting about 6 feet all spring, but we felt pretty confident he could jump 6-6 at National.  He barely squeaked by 5-0 for his opening vault and proceeded to squeak by each height of 5-6, 6-0, 6-6, and 7-0!  He got a bronze medal and looked good doing it.  Finally a medal in an individual event!  At the Palo Alto games he jumped 6-2 and came in first by over a foot of the next competitor, so this shows the level of competition at Houston.
Here’s Chuck vaulting:

So, we have a father son combination of medalists in the pole vault at the Houston Senior Games.  I’ll bet that doesn’t happen too often!  Here’s a link to some of the Houston games’ photographer shots of me and my dad.

This is a picture of Chuck and me holding the same pole: http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Senior-Games/105379918831?sk=photos#!/photo.php?fbid=10150296146753832&set=a.10150296146158832.381045.105379918831&type=1&theater

Here is a picture of me appearing to go vertical!!! http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Senior-Games/105379918831?sk=photos#!/photo.php?fbid=10150276726268832&set=a.10150276714568832.378470.105379918831&type=1&theater

Here are still photos of us clearing our respective bars:

In summary, we learned the Southeast crowd is very competitive.  Also, it pays to be the young one in your group (as I was) and not the oldest one in your group (as Chuck was).

On the side Chuck and I went with our friends Don and Carol to the Brazos Bend State Park and saw an amazing variety of birds, turtles, and alligators.

Don’s son is an owner of the Brix wine tasting restaurant in Houston and we were very impressed with the food, the staff, and the experience.

July 18, 2011   No Comments

Breakthrough at NSGA Houston

I had one of the more significant sports days in my life today. As you can well understand, I was a little apprehensive about how I would do in the heat and wind of Houston. I knew I had a chance of medaling at the games. As the day started I felt pretty good in warmups. I borrowed a 13′ 160 pole from Larry Bonnett, one of the competitors in my age group — a very nice person, as were all the people there in the competition. The pole felt smooth, the tailwind was high, but not disruptive, and I was very consistent on my steps from the start — 68.5 feet for a six step runup. I didn’t want to no-height, which probably cost me later, so I started at the closest height to 9 feet they had, which was about 8-7 or so (it was difficult to get english measures all day long). I cleared it easily and the day was on. Larry was clearly my closest competitor. Bob Howard from Washington State was injured an had to withdraw. I successively cleared 9-4, 9-10, 10-4 (2 or 3 at that height I think, at which point I knew I had a medal), 10-11 3/4 (which eliminated Larry Bonnett). The judge called me over and asked what height I wanted. After some thought I chose 11-3, which I knew I was capable of and I was a little nervous about 11-6. I switched to Bubba Sparks’ 13-1 165 pole to get a little more spring and slipped my grip on the first vault, which I missed, so I taped the pole and tried again, clearing it pretty easily. I then selected 10-7 and cleared it quite easily. I talked to Bubba and we switched to a 15.5 pole (the other was 15.9 flex, a bit softer). I think if I had some more time on it I would have done fine, but it was stiffer and my form reverted a bit. I nearly cleared 12-0 on my first attempt but finally didn’t make that height. So, I got a gold medal, I have approximately the 4th highest 60 to 64 vault in NSGA history and vaulted 13 or more inches higher than my closest competitor. There are others higher in that age category, but on this day I was the highest at the Senior Games. I nearly accomplished my bucket list goal of vaulting 12 feet and now am confident I can make it. I have many people to thank — Dick Henrie, Brad Moore, Dave Butler, my dad Chuck, Bubba, Larry Bonnett, McKane Lee, Jay Bryan at Anytime Fitness — each contributed to the improvement I showed this year — a foot over my normal top end height.

Here’s the video of me vaulting 11-7:

Here’s Larry and I on the podium at the senior games with our medals (we couldn’t find the third place guy or we would have had him stand with us also).
Phil Milliman and Larry Bonnett on podium at Senior Games

June 21, 2011   No Comments

Heading to Houston!

Chuck and I are sitting in SeaTac Airport waiting for our midnight flight to Houston for the National Senior Games.  I have an 8:30 AM (Houston time) pole vault competition for the 60-69 age seniors.  I’m nervous, excited, and wondering if I’ll wake up on time.  I had a fairly good week, clearing 11-0 for the first time since 2007.  I looked at my form and was still disappointed.  If I could actually get somewhat vertical I would go a foot higher, but I still flag off way too early.  Well, some day I will learn what my body should feel like and which muscles to use.  Chuck is ready as he can get for having focused on the Discovery Marathon for most of the spring.  He made 6-0 at the all-comers meet the other day and could make 6-6 on a good jump.  If he can regain some of his skills quickly I think he has the strength and speed to clear 7-0 again, but it would be somewhat surprising if he improves that fast by this Friday, when he vaults.  Chuck is also doing the 100, 400, high jump, and long jump at the Senior Games.  The work with Jay at AnytimeFitness has paid off in several ways — I may not have better form, but I am stronger and faster than usual, allowing me to clear higher heights with the same form as normal.  Chuck ran a good marathon on a very hot day (no one above 70 even ran the race other than him, presumably because of the heat), and in the all-comers meet the other day he ran a 200 on no practice and found that his arm action and strength helped him finish stronger than normal.  Well, Monday afternoon you’ll know whether I slept through the competition, no-heighted, jumped about par, or had a good day.  Whatever happens, we’ll have fun or have some good stories to tell.

June 19, 2011   No Comments

NW Senior Games 10-10 on 13-160 pole

It has been an eventful day. I need to fill in other recent events, but I’ll start with this entry on today’s NW Senior Games event at West Seattle Stadium. I was walking barefoot on the beach with Rosaura and the dogs yesterday and punctured my foot on a seashell, not just a cut, but a puncture, next to the tendon that gives me my jumping off my toes strength. I could hardly walk on it after an hour or so and was feeling pretty poorly about being able to jump the next day at the Senior Games. This is my first competitive event since the Pole Vault Summit. I soaked it in Epsom salts per my parents recommendation and it felt a little better. I took a migraine pill (strongest thing I have) and went to bed. My foot felt much better this morning, still a limp. Sooo, I went to the Senior Games anyway and had my best vaulting day since 2007 when I went 11 feet. I vaulted 10 feet 10 inches as you can see in the attached video.

You can also see a number of flaws, most of which I have been trying to eliminate:

  1. scooping the pole
  2. not jumping off my toe on my takeoff foot
  3. not being strong on my arms at takeoff (decided bend)
  4. not driving the pole to my thigh

All these led to not being inverted, but partly due to better strength thanks to Jay at Anytime Fitness and McKane at ProVaultNW.com, and borrowing a 13 foot 160 pole from Dave Butler, I was able to jump higher than usual.  McKane has been working with me on technique, so I was particularly disappointed in my reversion to type on the vault.

The good news is that the highest I went in 2010 was 10’4″, 2009 was 10’7″, 208 was 10’6″ so at least my strength training is starting to pay off.  Now to get better technique.  Dick Henrie gave me some tips tonight that seemed good to me, so I’ll work on them at practice next time, such as thinking more of the left arm as pushing up the pole to the plant position rather than the right arm to reduce scooping, and when I row through the pole I need to keep my head and shoulders back as in doing a back flip rather than pulling my shoulders in and down as I row my arms.  I also high jumped 4’6″ so that felt good, since I do NO high jump practice.

June 5, 2011   No Comments

Second trip to ProVault facility

Chuck and I ran Bloomsday on Sunday, promptly drove back that night.  Monday I had both core training drills and pole vault practice.

Tuesday both Chuck and I went to ProVault at Everett.  We came early enough to watch the high school vaulters run through drills.  McKane kept them on drills for the night, as they had missed some time for spring break.  That was an omen of my night.

We started with simple one step table drills.  When I mastered one drill, McKane would let me go to the next more advanced drill.  I did a little better than the first night, but still had a tendency to pop up, when I should be staying long.  If I regressed, then I was demoted and had to prove I could still master a less advanced drill.  It is frustrating to not just vault, but I’ve been just vaulting for several years and not appreciably improved, so I keep reminding myself that I am trying to unlearn bad habits and grit my teeth.  Finally, at the end of the night I was probably getting tired and not wanting to admit it, so my drills were getting worse.

All told, I proceeded farther than the first night and am feeling better at relearning some basic pole vaulting skills.

Wednesday I practiced the drills at the high school track.  I thought I did OK up to 6 step drills, but didn’t do as well there.  I was doing better holding long into the pit.  At the very end I tried the drill near the top of my 12’6″ 150 pole and was a little frustrated until I went back to a 5 step drill.  Afterwards, I went to pickleball and played hard for a couple of hours.  My body feels the toll of working hard for four straight days.  It was good that I rested today, because I was quite sore — particularly my right leg, which is surprising, because it is usually the left that takes the brunt of work in pole vaulting.  I may have worked it too hard in pickleball without enough rest.

I have core training and pole vault with the high school vaulters tomorrow.  I’ll make sure I’m stretched and recovered before working too hard.

One thing I noticed yesterday — At the very end I tried some pop up drills with the pole and found I was hanging my left leg too long and had to re-learn when to swing it through.  I think that might be a good thing in the long run because that may help me hang longer when needed to allow a better carry forward of the momentum into the popup.  Who knows?  I will continue to do the drills in the order McKane is teaching us until I get them solid and then proceed to the next set of drills when I am ready.  If I can’t use proper technique to go vertical, then I will never reach my goals of going higher, so I have no choice.  Continual repetition of jumping and just trying to go more vertical wasn’t working.

May 6, 2011   No Comments

First Time to ProVault facility

Two weeks ago I went to the ProVault indoor facility in Everett.  Though the time was short, I enjoyed it.  McKane has a first class training facility, with an elevated runway and a pulley driven bungee that dramatically speeds up training for multiple people.  I showed McKane some of our sculptures and he seemed interested.  Dave Butler and Paul were there and we went through a series of training drills.  I felt funny because I felt I was beyond them, but the realization soon came that I was not consistent on the drills.  So much to learn and so few years of life left!

It’s a long trip, otherwise I would go more often.  The trip from Sequim to Everett and back including vaulting lasts from about 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

I’ll try to go every few weeks and use this as an intense training opportunity.

May 6, 2011   No Comments

High Bar Inversion Drills

One recommended training technique is to use a high bar to practice keeping the trailing leg straight when swinging through to the pop-up to vertical.  There are a number of references, such as in Beginner to Bubka, the reference on my home page box to park drills, and some examples in my blog of Chuck and me attempting to perform some inversion drills.  I’ve got some new video I’ll post soon to demonstrate some techniques I’ve learned here at the local high school.

April 7, 2011   No Comments

Sequim weather and good practice

It is good to see the rapid improvement of the Sequim High School pole vaulters.  Brad gives great coaching tips (which I record in my mental log for use in my own vaulting).  He allows me to vault along with the student vaulters, so I can get a good practice and receive some coaching tips custom to me.  He taught the students (all first year vaulters) the high bar inversion drill tonight.  I’ve got some better insight in how to do it now and will include some video in a future blog.  He has a couple of drills that I enjoy on the edge of the pit:

  • Trail left leg and drive right knee and see how far you can go into the pit.
  • Step up onto pit with right leg (simulating a driving knee) and swing through with a straight left leg

For me, we are working on being high with both arms at take of to get behind the pole better, allowing the pole to bend more freely and the inversion to happen more naturally.  My mantra, as always, is long left leg, driving right knee, high extension of both arms on take-off.  I had two good vaults on the 140 12’6″ pole where I got most of it right, landing in the back of the pit with good penetration and good pole bend.  If I can keep consistent on that we could move up to the 150 and see if I can keep a strong left arm.  So much to remember on each vault!

Jay at Anytime Fitness has been working with Chuck and me on some drills to improve core strength, power of movement, and speed.  Other than being a step change in workout intensity, so I’m more sore than usual, I think they are great drills to improve overall conditioning, speed, and power.  If pickleball tonight was any indication, I think I’m seeing a difference already from working out regularly.  My speed to the ball seems better and my consistency of stroke was better tonight than usual.

If you noticed, that makes for about 5 and 1/2 hours of workout tonight, I’m a little sore and tired, but I feel good.  There are a couple of meets coming up in May and June that will let me see if I’m getting better.  I have to say, I respond better to having a coach than training on my own.  A new indoor pole vault facility has opened up in Everett, run by McKane Lee.  I’m excited about getting over there, but the distance and my schedule make it somewhat difficult.  Dave Butler, another senior vaulter, reports that McKane has been instrumental in improving Dave’s pole-vaulting performance.  Given this past winter, I yearn for access to an indoor facility.  Today was a classic day, we had sun, hail, rain, and there were snow showers on Lost Mountain road just a few miles away from the Sequim High School track.  That’s pretty much the standard for this winter.  We still can’t turn around in our driveway in anything but our four wheel drive vehicles because the ground is like a skating rink with so much water in the soil.

Still, it has been fun, and a great journey with the students at the local high school.  They are motivated, willing to to drills, and are showing rapid improvement.  In a better spring I bet they would already have been doing well at meets.

April 7, 2011   No Comments

Hoping to see some partial results

I’ve been working out at Anytime Fitness now for about a month and the weather is finally getting clear enough to start practicing outside.  How does the Northwest ever compete with the rest of the country.  With luck, the high school vaulters at the local high school will still be motivated enough to actually learn to pole vault and make it to some meets before the end of the season.  I think schools should make it a standard practice in the Northwest to design pole vault facilities indoors when they design gymnasiums.  I talked to a recent ex-school board member from Bremerton who had them designed in their gyms — I hope he weighs in here.

Back to the gym:  I’ve been trying to do total body conditioning and will hope to see that reflected in my ability to go vertical.  I’ve been doing some inversion drills at the fitness center and they are, to put it bluntly, pretty bad.  Goals for tonight — rotate past comfort level and work on right leg drive, left leg pendulum.

March 29, 2011   No Comments

Assisting with local track team pole vaulters – first practice

My dad and I are helping with the local track team pole vaulters.  Actually that is somewhat of a mis-statement because I was there on the first day they put the pit out (we live in cold, wet country, remember?) and then I had to go on a trip.  I’ll be resuming my time with the students in about a week and a half and am really looking forward to it.

We weren’t really sure how many students would turn out for pole vaulting.  We expected somewhere between one to three.  Here we were on the blustery, cold day and after carrying the pads out to the pit area and preparing the ground (used tires for the bottom layer — innovative) we began assigning poles to begin the very basics of training for the students — almost all rank beginners.  First came the drills of just holding the pole correctly.  I didn’t realize how many ways you can hold a pole incorrectly, but I have a better feel for it now.  After a while of working with the students on switching from the hip to the overhead position we moved to simple grass drills.  The students would hold a safe distance up the pole and practice running, planting the pole on the grass, and carrying through a small jump to a standing position.

One thing became very evident — it was cold and getting colder.  The wind was blowing about 20 miles an hour and the temperature was 41 degrees and they were in light sweat suits.  After a few minutes of practice, half the students were standing there turning blue.  I kept trying to remind them that if they would move they would get warmer.  I have a passion about pole vaulting, so even though it was cold, I was still motivated to stay out there and work with the students (that and my coat, hat, and longjohns!).

I hated to leave on a trip, because I worried about the staying power of the beginners with such a cold beginning and not yet progressing to vaulting in the pit.  I really enjoy Brad, the coach.  He seems to have a good feel for the sport and training techniques.  I’m looking forward to learning from him — one of my secret goals of the spring.

Some additional notes from the occasion:  We had two students who were of foreign background, so English was a bit of a barrier.  They didn’t know their weight in pounds so we had to do the kilograms to pounds conversion on the fly to get the proper weight poles for them.  I see potential in all of the students and I hope they have the staying power to stick it out until they gain some skills with the sport, but given the cold start several might drop out of the event.  Myself, I am just driven about the sport, but they haven’t yet developed the passion.  They have meets surprisingly quickly so I’m curious to see if they even have pole vaulting at the first couple of meets.  There are several students who appear to already have the basic skills to do well.  It will be fun to see all of them develop over the spring.

March 6, 2011   No Comments

Working out on a regular schedule

This winter has been a kind of a bust for outdoor practice.  We have had a week of snow now.  It has been either rainy or cold for a long time.  I decided to step up and start a regular exercise program with real equipment.  I joined a local fitness club and have instituted a program of conditioning.  I was going to do circuit training on the stations in the facility but as part of joining I had a session with a trainer.  She recommended using more exercises based on balance and core body and moved me off the circuit trainers and onto more free exercises — I think it is the right thing.  Balancing on a ball on one foot is hard enough, particularly with my left foot.  I run a mile to warm up, with 1/2 mile at a faster pace than normal.  Second I move to the balance drills, using an inflated half-ball, doing single leg balancing, squats, tossing weighted balls while balancing, and doing several types of push-up like drills.  I do pull-ups and push ups, then I move to several cable weight drills designed to use the full body while moving the arms.  I do some bench squats with just my own weight (OK, so I’m a wimp) and different leg positions, then some free weighted arm routines.  I’ve added a couple of exercises more tuned to pole vaulting, such as inversion drills hanging on a bar and some somersaults on the floor.  By that time I’m ready for some muscle stretching/relaxing drills.  As I get a little stronger, I intend to add some handstand drills.  I’m trying to get more comfortable with being fully inverted.  I started making progress this past week on fully inverting on the bar, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

February 28, 2011   No Comments

Itching for health and practice

I really enjoyed the Pole Vault Summit. We were able to see scores of people of all ages and skill levels pole vault. I still am the eternal optimist that I can continue the journey to more vertical. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be truly competitive nationally, but I sure enjoy the journey. I enjoy the sculptures and someday there may even be a market for them. I love the feeling of flying over the crossbar. I got sick this past week and the weather has been pretty bad for a long time, making it difficult to pull the cover off the pit and try some vaults. In addition, I always have trouble with the discipline to do core training consistently. That is another thing I will work on. I’m itching to get on with it, all of it. As health returns, the training should commence. The feeling of going beyond the comfort zone of vertical must be addressed. The weather MUST get better.

February 14, 2011   No Comments

First Day of Pole Vault Summit 2011

It has been an eventful day.  Chuck and I both had good days.  We didn’t achieve our stretch goals, but showed improvement and set a foundation for further work.  Chuck went 6’2″ and very nearly cleared 6’10” — just a fraction of touch on the crossbar, but it was enough to knock it down.  I went 10’4″ which matches my last year’s PR.  I was somewhat close to 10’11”, but not enough.  I was more vertical than usual with a crossbar, but still showed some reversion to type.  I felt good about the potential, however.  We had some great sessions during the day, with most notable sessions being Willie Banks inspirational story of the first wave in Track and Field and the use of the clap to motivate vaulters, University of Kansas coach Tim Hays talking about basic drills, Dennis McClanahan covering the training periodicity, and Brad Walker and Tim Mack sharing their experiences and insight.

Bubba Sparks nearly set an American age-group record in the pole vault.

The dark horse and elite competitions were exciting.  I missed the women’s elite because I had to do an errand, but I caught videos of nearly every made height in the men’s competition and the winning vault in the women’s.  Attached is the video of Jack Whitt winning the elite competition with a vault of 18ft 1/2inch.

January 29, 2011   No Comments

Arrived at Pole Vault Summit

Rosaura, Chuck, and I just finished two days of driving to get to the Pole Vault Summit.  I dropped off some materials for Becca’s autograph signing tomorrow morning, we dropped off the poles at the main facility, and dropped onto our beds in the motel room.  We’ll recover later.

The pits are already set up at the livestock center are pretty flashy.  We found out that we (the masters) are vaulting tomorrow night at 5:30, just before the elite vaulters.  That should be pretty fun.  Nerves are already starting to set in.  The Pole Vault Summit back packs are pretty nifty.

I should have some good pictures tomorrow night!

January 28, 2011   No Comments

Pole Vault Summit!

I’m excited about the Pole Vault Summit.  It appears to be REALLY big.  So many vaulters and training opportunities!  Chuck and I are going to try and learn something (a difficult task at our age) and improve our vaulting quality.  Becca is sponsoring a signing activity for vaulters to help raise funds for them, as there isn’t much sponsorship for vaulters out there.  We’ll be putting some flyers and a couple of t-shirts in some bags to help out, if we arrive on time. 

We’ve had three sessions at Bellingham with Dick and Scott over the past month, so that has helped us get a little bit back in shape and work on our winter form.  The mantra is still — “Get more vertical!”   As Dick expressed it, I have to get past my comfort zone.  Current things to work on is to keep the pace constant clear to take-off instead of my habit of lengthening out, and also to remember to release the left hand if I ever do get vertical.

I have no doubt I have it in me, just which year will it be.  Wish us luck.

January 27, 2011   No Comments

Bellingham tonight 2011-01-06

Got to vault with Chuck at Bellingham tonight.  Hadn’t lost as much as I thought through the alternative cold and rainy conditions.  It has helped to keep running with Chuck fairly regularly.  Chuck looked pretty good on a couple of vaults at about 6’6″.  I was able to be up in the 10 foot range +.  Dick Henrie, as always, gave insightful advice.  Particularly, I really have to go past my comfort zone in going vertical.  I’m better able to go vertical, but I’m cutting off early, thinking I’m already vertical.  In addition, I tend to hold on a bit too long with my left arm, preventing vertical takeoff.  Looking forward to next time, in about a week.  Additionally, the Pole Vault Summit is coming up.  I won’t be allowed to sell the glass sculptures there :-<, but at least I’ll be able to rub shoulders with a LOT of vaulters.  That should be some experience.

January 7, 2011   No Comments

Snow days in Sequim

Well, it’s a little hard to vault in 50mph gales, then the snow drifted over the pole vault pit. It should thaw by tomorrow and maybe I can get some winter vaulting in. Here’s a shot of the pole vault pit in the snow:

Snow on Pole Vault Pit from 11/22/2010

We had 7 inches of snow on November 22nd, then the wind blew all night.  We are at the beach, so we had much higher winds than Sequim and it blew the snow off the flat places and drifted around corners and knobs.  Today on Thanksgiving there is a light thaw and a beautiful mixture of terrain and snow.  One of the best weather Thanksgivings I have seen.  In Sequim they had much lower winds, so the snow tended to stay where it fell.

November 26, 2010   No Comments

Chuck’s birthday run

You may have noticed that you haven’t seen news of Chuck pole vaulting the past few weeks.  He is running and training for a special event – his 78th birthday.  He plans to run a marathon a day for three days up to his birthday, November 13, 14, and 15, for a grand total of 78.6 miles.  I’ve been running some shorter distances with him, from 2 to 5 miles, but on the longer runs I usually run the first two miles with him and then return back home.  He has encorporated a fund-raiser for the Sequim Boys Club as part of it and people can make pledges.  I have a pledge of one cent for each of the first 77 miles and then $77.83 for the last mile — just joking, I pledged $78.60 and he’ll get it whether he runs or not, just don’t tell him.

Here’s a picture of him finishing in first place in his age division at the Discovery Marathon this past June, 2010:

Chuck is the guy in the yellow/green on the right

November 10, 2010   2 Comments

Windy days

Today the tarp blew most of the way off the pole vault pit.  We had gusts of over 50 miles per hour this morning.  I vaulted a couple of days ago in a partly cloudy period between the rains.  I was trying to get back in some shape after having been in Needles.  I can make 9 feet pretty much any time.  When I get a couple days of workout I get pretty consistent at 10 feet.  Getting vertical when the crossbar is in place and increasing core body strength are my two continuing work areas.  It would help if I translated that into more disciplined weight training.  I’m working on it.

Here in Sequim it doesn’t rain much, but just enough for me to keep the tarp on the pit and runway.  The tarp on the runway is a little older and needs to be replaced, as it doesn’t keep the runway completely dry.  On days like this, most or all of the tarp can blow off the pit and then it gets wet.  We put some pallets on it a few minutes ago to help keep the tarp down in the wind.  We have an idea for some concrete to act as weights and some bungee cords to tie onto the tarp.  This usually works until the wind action causes the holes to tear and then one is back to putting boards and pallets on the tarps.

We are getting ready to build a carport to house our motor home.  I’m planning to put some rope and swing bar in there so we can do some of our drills here at the house.  It would have been nice to have built it big enough for an indoor pit, but that won’t happen until we win the lottery.

November 10, 2010   No Comments

Fall Breezes In

Most of the winter the pole vault pit looks like thisI’ve been away for a couple of weeks.  The picture is how the pit looks most of the fall, winter, and early spring.

Here’s the routine for this time of year:

  • I wait until the day is dry enough to be safe on the runway. 
  • I take the weights off the tarp on the pit and runway
  • I take the tarp off the pit
  • I take the special tarp for the box off the area over the box and start of runway
  • I take the crumpled tarp over the box next
  • I take the covering board off the box — with luck, it is dry (it has taken me two years to figure out how to keep it dry, but it seems to be working now).
  • I take the tarp off the runway
  • I take a practice jump (today I didn’t warm up — bad boy!).  There is enough residual moisture in the pit to give it a soggy feel.
  • I put a practice bungy at about 8 feet (remember I haven’t vaulted for several weeks, what with the rain and travel)
  • I take a few more practice jumps — form is not great, but am achieving some verticality.
  • I reassemble all the tarps and weights
  • I hope for reasonable weather soon to restart the process.

October 30, 2010   No Comments

October 4th Practice results, 10 feet no pain

Tonight I had a pretty good practice.  I’m still trying to regain my solid right knee and control of the left arm AND get vertical with the cross bar in place, but on the 12’6″ 150 pole I was able to clear 10 feet and feel pretty good about it and have no pain — Yeah!

I’ll probably take it easier tomorrow to make sure I don’t overtrain (did I say I loved to pole vault?  I would vault all day long, if my body would take it), but I’m finally feeling that I can begin to push the height again.

Chuck is working on his form and starting to get a little more control over his left arm. I think if we can work on form for a couple of weeks we can both get better on our heights.

October 5, 2010   No Comments

Fall is here

Chuck and I are settling into the fall season, working on form and trying to improve our skills. I’ve been pain free for a couple of weeks now, so I’m back to doing high bar drills and working on my left arm and right leg form during my vault. Dick, my brother-in-law, has been advising us on our pole placement during take-off, so we are working to eliminate a defect in our pole transfer from vertical to down into the box. Chuck is working on his left arm so he’s not married to the pole.
It is amazing how many skills I had worked so hard to improve had regressed during my injury. Particularly, my right knee was bending at the beginning, then straightening out during the rock back and then re-bending. That effectively serves to reduce the rotation to inversion.
I’m noticing that I am not powering through to full inversion fast enough. It is like I don’t believe I really need to rotate far enough, so I slow down during my inversion and then finish out early. I’m going to work on continuing to power through to full inversion, and then begin the push for height and rotation over the cross bar.
So much to do with old age creeping up on me fast.
The UW has some sessions for people to practice during the winter and I’ve been wanting to participate for several years, but haven’t been able to. I’m hoping this will be the year to make the trip over and get in some practice with other pole vaulting friends and improve my form even more.
I had hoped to participate in some events this winter. The Hunstman games does not appear to have the pole vault any more :-(, so that is out, but the Pole Vault Summit in Reno looks like a fun possibility. They don’t seem to have the age classifications that the masters and seniors meets have, but it would be fun anyway. I may inquire into setting up a booth for the glass sculptures to see if other people are interested in having their own pole vault sculptures.

October 1, 2010   No Comments

Finally back practicing

I laid off pole vaulting for three weeks after the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games.  I finally felt that the pain had subsided enough about a week ago to resume some stretching drills.  If I really extended my body at that time I could still feel a tight spot.  It was kind of weird, I had a tight spot near the surface of my abdomen near the navel and several muscles I could feel nestled near the front inside near the hip bone that hurt when I massaged them.  I wasn’t fully convinced any of these were strains, but sure enough, after enough rest they went away.  I kept stretching, running, and doing some core exercises more intensely until yesterday, when the weather cleared up enough (we live in the Pacific Northwest so drying out the pit is important) to vault.  I did about 8 or 9 vaults on our 12 foot 120 pole and felt great — no pain.  As far as form went, I have regressed some, but am getting my feet to the pole, so I haven’t totally lost it.  I was going to vault tonight but the rains started again — also I need to not overdo it as I resume regular practices.  I think I’ll aim for tomorrow and do some stretching tonight.  Rats — some sun is showing, making the decision harder.

September 20, 2010   No Comments

Olympic Peninsula Senior Games 2010

Chuck and I had a good time at the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games.  We had a fair turnout of pole vault athletes.  I was still nursing an abdominal strain, but vaulted anyway.  By not overstressing myself I found I could go ahead and vault with only a little discomfort (an addict, huh?).  I was able to make 10’00”.  My form wasn’t as bad as at the Washington State Senior Games, but still not as vertical as I can get in practice.  Here’s Chuck on his last attempt at 7 feet, pretty close.

Here’s me making my attempt at 10 feet.

I haven’t done as well in height this year as last year, but I feel I have made progress in form and expect it to show up in height sometime.

September 20, 2010   No Comments

Back on track

Tonight was a good night. I knew I was OK physically, so I started moving up my poles. I cleared 10’2″ on my 12’6″ 140lb pole, then cleared it on my 12’6″ 150lb pole even easier, so I took the standards up 3″ and cleared it first try on the 150lb pole. I didn’t quite get vertical and my right leg is not holding its position very well, but it was probably my best vault this summer. With a little more dedication to completing the invert I should be able to get more vertical. I was pretty happy with my left leg, right arm, and left arm. My policy of trying to hit the top of the pole with my feet to give me concrete feedback that I’m inverting enough seems to be working. Here’s my clearing of about 10’5″, which also was with 24″ depth of crossbar, which is also good depth for me.

August 22, 2010   No Comments

First time vaulting without pain in several weeks

I’ve been taking it very easy in my practices. I’ve had a slight abdominal strain that gave me a pain when I would do anything like a situp, which is the basic move to inversion in the pole vault. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but probably was a combination of trying to stretch out my trailing leg longer and not having enough core strength to put that much strain on my abdomen. I started vaulting on a very light pole the past few days and holding lower. I’ve been massaging the muscle (kind of hard to locate, deep inside between my left hip and navel). Tonight I felt great, so I was able to clear a test height and get my feet near the pole with a crossbar (nothing to do with my injury, but it is a critical test to me to demonstrate not changing form from practice without crossbar to practice with crossbar. I then moved the crossbar up to about 10’4″ and was close to clearing it with no pain on my 12’6″ 140 pole. I decided to stop while there was no pain. Here’s my vault — not quite feet to the top of the pole, but closer than normal for me.

We had a bit of a discovery with Chuck tonight. It appears he’s often so far under on his takeoff that he can slip down the pole nearly a foot. I’m surprised his shoulder is still in place, particularly for a 77 year old vaulter. We’re going to work on steps tomorrow. He’s pretty accurate with a three step approach, but when he tries to extend it he gets erratic.

August 20, 2010   No Comments

Feeling better


I laid off for almost a week and tried some simple drills today on my dad’s light pole and had no difficulties.  I was able to invert and touch my toes to the pole and extend into the vertical position (well, as vertical as I get!).

I didn’t go too long — I’ll practice tomorrow and take it somewhat slow to get back to full form.

August 12, 2010   No Comments

Minor setback

I’m not sure how it happened, but Chuck and I were talking about how to extend more on take-off, so I was trying to stretch more on my left leg on take off and strained an abdominal muscle.  It hurts on certain vaults and on high bar drills.  The Port Angeles Senior Games are only a couple of weeks away, so the timing is pretty bad.  I’ve stopped vaulting for several days and am applying Traumel and massaging the area.  I am excited about how much more vertical I’m getting recently, so the prospect that I may not be able to see the benefits in competition this year is very frustrating.  It’s only one muscle and not a very severe strain, but I can really feel a strong twinge/pain when I extend on the vault, to the point that I’m afraid to have it hit twice because it does seem to get worse if I aggravate it (Of course I tested it and found that didn’t help!).

When I’m vaulting I have a mantra — left leg straight, left arm straight, right knee bent and don’t let it extend during the vault (this seems to be a very significant factor in getting vertical).  Another thing I’ve learned recently is to think of the left arm as a control point so one doesn’t try to power it so much.

August 8, 2010   No Comments

Progress over the past week and a half?

After my performance at the Washington State Senior Games for 2010 where I had my worst pole vault of my years on the competition, I decided to redouble my efforts to keep my form in training AND in competition.  We’ll see how I do at the Olympic Peninsula Senior Games at the end of August.  I have attached a video that takes you through a week and a half of my best vaults.  To the untrained eye they all look about the same, but check out the top of the feet over the pole, the straightness of the body and how close to the pole I am hugging the pole.  If I can get consistent at this, then I can start trying to improve my push off the pole.  Dropping the feet at the right time in the right way will help that.

These shots are my best vaults from the 20th of July 2010 through the 30th of July.

July 31, 2010   No Comments

Washington State Senior Games Pole Vault — Phil and Chuck’s journey

We had a smaller than usual crowd this year, which is surprising, given that this is a national qualifying year. Chuck vaulted 6’6″, which is pretty standard for him. He had a fairly good shot at 7’0″, but as always our challenge is to get that seat up in the air.

I reverted to form again 🙁 and, while I had a fairly good practice run I barely made 9’00” and had a fairly good clear at 9’6″, but couldn’t make 10’00”. On looking at the video later, I realized I had once again reverted to all the mistakes I normally make — collapsed left arm, bent left leg, and not driving the right leg. I chickened out on going to my 14 foot 140 pole because there was a slight headwind, but in retrospect I would have at least gone higher with lousy form. That would have broken my rule of turning into a quality vaulter instead of just bulling it over as high as I can reach.

Here’s Chuck clearing 6’6″ at 77 years old:

Here’s me missing my best attempt at 10 feet, very frustrating:

I decided to learn from my mistakes at the Senior Games and really focus on form. You’ll see my journey on the next blog.

July 31, 2010   No Comments

High Bar Drills from 2010-07-20

We’ve been struggling getting vertical with our normal high bar drills, so we decided to try a slightly different take-off and it appears to be much easier.  We’ll see if that translates to improved rotation to vertical on the pole vault pit.

Here’s Chuck’s attempts.  Notice how much better they are than our prior high bar attempts (you have to look sideways – sorry).

Here is my attempt at inversion. The goal is to go full vertical and stay there.

July 22, 2010   No Comments

Pole Vault Drills 2010-07-21

Practice went a little better tonight.  The left arm is still a project and the rotation to inversion is still going slowly, but the combination is beginning to show progress.  Here’s my best vault tonight on the 12’6″ 150 pole.

I’m finally beginning to actually get my seat out of the pike position.

I decided to try to pole vault on my 14 ft 140 lb pole tonight. That’s a bit under my weight, but I never get near the top. I was actually able to hold the left arm barely and didn’t hang long enough at the takeoff, but at least I got the pole vertical. If I can get my form together over the next two days I have a real chance of having a year’s personal best. If not, I’ll keep working on the 12’6″ 150lb pole.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to get vertical by Saturday, but I’m beginning to feel that with continued work I can keep improving and be more vertical.

Here’s my best vault on the 14ft 140lb tonight. Needs some work, but there’s a glimmer of hope.

Chuck had some good progress tonight. He was holding a little higher and still was able to get more inverted. With the adrenalin on Saturday at the Washington State Senior Games he should have the speed to penetration further and have some good vaults.

July 22, 2010   No Comments

Sunday pole vault practice before Washington State Senior Games

Chuck finally came home from an extended trip to a grandson’s marriage. We picked up his and my joint practices immediately. We are both still on the journey to proper inversion. I’ve been working on my left arm lately, having spent a couple of late evenings re-examining the Beginner to Bubka book again. There appears to be a subtle difference between using the left arm to try to bend the pole and using the left arm to try to get a better swing up, but I think I’m beginning to get it. The point is to hang from both extended arms, which allows you to provide some resistance in your trunk when you are swinging your legs up. I’m finally starting to get a little left arm control, but have a ways to go. My stride seems to be lengthening, so I’ve been more under than out recently. I’m going to set my outside mark a little farther out. It also appears that I’m watching my left arm during the vault to make sure it is remaining stiff and so I’m not fully rotating. Also, I’ve neglected high bar drills lately, so I’m not driving into the vertical position very will. Oh well, lots of room for improvement. I can feel it in my left arm when I’m starting to keep it more stiff — it gets tired.

Chuck appears to have pretty good leg action on take off, but appears to be blocking the pole with his body and still wants to ‘marry’ the pole.  I’m thinking his speed is a little down, probably because he’s not wearing his spikes.

July 20, 2010   No Comments

My performance at Alki Swashbuckler Beach Vault

Good news and bad news:
I vaulted 10’4″ and didn’t miss until 10’10” — that’s the good news.
The bad news is that I reverted back to form somewhat. I’m vaulting on a shorter pole than I used to, so I have to get more vertical to make the heights — on purpose. I have a 12’6″ 150lb pole and for some simple math: I’m holding about 3″ from the top, the box is 8″ deep, and my bottom hand is about a foot and a half below my top hand. 10’1″ is about where my bottom hand is. 10’10” would be about half way between my top and bottom hand. I’f I’m improving going more vertical, I’m not showing it. From the videos Rosaura took, it appears I didn’t have a straight left arm, My right knee did not stay sharply bent in the first half of take-off, and my left leg did not stay straight — pretty much a total reversion to old form. I’m working on this in practice — again! However, the big question is whether I can carry my practices over to my competition vaults.
I may have an opportunity this Wednesday to pole vault at the all comers meet at Shoreline or the USATF Masters meet at Seattle this Saturday. I completely believe I can go over my top hand if I can just stick to my training. I should be able to go over 11’0″, which is good national vaulting in my age group and would be approximately 7″ under my top hand. I last did that height in 2007. I think I’m pulling it together. My goal is to clear at least 11′ at the Washington State Senior Games. The record for the pole vault at the Washington State Senior Games is, I believe, 11’9″ in my age category. That would take a vault 2 inches over my top hand — also doable, but I had better learn what vertical means very soon!

I practiced tonight with my 12’0″ 140lb pole and was working on getting my form back. It went fairly well, but my high bar drills are beginning to convince me that I’ve got to pike a lot harder and get a much better feel for what vertical really is. My other problem is to determine where I’m crossing the cross-bar and how to wait for the pole to get to vertical before I release. A lot ot learn in two weeks.

July 13, 2010   No Comments


I’ve been looking over some of my old pole vault videos and comparing them to recent vaulting and I’m not too happy with what I see. I appear to have lost some strength in my arms to propel me up and off the pole. Also, my legs are bending rather than collapsing in a straight fashion. Third, what I think is vertical appears to be not vertical – my seat is still low and thus I turn and push off flat and proceed to collapse downward. Consequently, I’m clearing about my lower hand, when I used to clear about half way between my lower hand and upper hand. I have noticed my left bicep has been getting a workout lately and I have to be careful with not vaulting too much. That could mean that I’m starting to get more vertical and that I’m starting to push off with my left hand. I’m not sure I’m pulling up with my right arm, but I get the feeling from the videos that I’m pulling too soon with it. I’m hoping the simple solution is to not assume I’m vertical until I really am. I’ve been looking at the cross bar instead of looking up. I’m going to start working on really going vertical.
So, here’s all the things I’m working on right now: drills on high bar to help takeoff, hang longer on a deep bend rather than thinking I’m overbending the pole; keep left arm straight at initial takeoff, learn to row (I’m not sure how to train for that), practice pushing farther into vertical, make sure I’m really vertical before pulling up, including having a straight body in the vertical position. Whew! I am holding at the 12’3″ mark on a 12’6″ pole and should be able to go over my top hand, which would translate to an 11’7″ height. If I cleared my bottom hand I should be able to clear 9’9″, and if I were half way between, then I should be able to clear 10’7″, which is what I cleared at Senior Nationals. Right now I’m on a 140lb pole, and having a little trouble getting onto the 150lb pole due to speed and takeoff. One of the question areas I have is the proper angle at takeoff — equal pressure on upper and lower hands or more on the upper hand?
I really believe I’m starting to get more vertical and better use of the bend, but it is not translating into ability to vault well in competition yet. I have the Alki Beach vault on Saturday in Seattle and will find out if I’m having a pipe dream.
My take from all this is that I know I’m feeling better with the bend and my takeoff. I’m going to have to condition my mind to attempt to be even more vertical than I thought. Also, the last all comers meet I no-heighted because I switched poles after one vault and then couldn’t get on the 150. I’ve got to practice with a cross bar so I will know how deep to put it, I need to find a stable height on the pole, I need to not switch poles at the same height, and I should work to be stronger vertical. I believe I’m on the edge of dramatic improvement, but have nothing to show for it right now — somewhat distressing.
Saturday will be the test.

July 6, 2010   No Comments

Take off drills on leg action for pole vault

It has been a long time since my last post.  Real life hit us in the face.  We visited an aunt and got to participate in the process from her being relatively healthy to her dying of pancreatic cancer in just two months.  She was a special person and will leave a large hole in our lives.  Finally we are back home and practicing pole vault drills again.  Chuck, my dad, just ran the North Olympic Discovery Marathon from Sequim to Port Angeles, so he did a couple very short drills, but is also ready to get back on track.  We are looking forward to some local meets coming up, including the Northwest Masters meet on June 19th.

So, I started by working on my take-off drills.  Todays entry is about my attempt to improve my kick up of the right knee on take off, while leaving the left leg trailing.  I think you’ll see that I improved some since the last post.  Adding a straight left arm makes it more complex and I’ll be working on that.  Next will come adding the delay at the takeoff and keeping my right arm long until I’m inverted, which is much more difficult at present — I get overwhelmed with so much to memorize.

June 10, 2010   No Comments

Early left arm take off drills

These are from 3/16/2010 — The goal is to have a straight left arm on take-off.  It serves a couple of purposes, if I understand it properly — it serves to help keep your body back during the beginning of the vault and it assists in beginning the bend.  Chuck is just beginning to get the idea of what it means to have a solid left arm:

In talking to some vaulting coaches, it appears when holding lower, it is better to put the left arm closer to the top hand because of the difficulty in approaching having the pole and hold parallel to the ground.  In addition, there is some work on the leg position at take-off that will help achieve the desired effect, which is to keep the body behind the pole and lower.

Phil is getting a better idea of a firm left arm, but still needs leg work — notice how the right leg doesn’t hold in the bent position.

May 2, 2010   No Comments

Improvement in high bar drills

We have now had a few sessions on the high bar. You can see some improvement in our swings.

We’ll be making some changes in our routine.  We found out this time that Chuck’s feet drag on the ground from his current high bar.  It is a bit high to jump up to the bar that Phil uses.  We’re thinking of bringing a small box so Chuck can reach the higher bar and then we’ll kick it out of the way.  As you may be starting to understand, our goal is to have a driving right knee and then swing a straight left leg through, eventually becoming vertical in the inverted position — quite a ways to go, but as long as we keep improving we will be happy.

April 1, 2010   No Comments

Early training drills on the high bar

Chuck and I have found a neighborhood park that has a high bar high enough for us to do some pop-up drills.  The first time we went, it felt like our arms were coming out of our sockets.  The goal is to bring up the right knee (we’re right handers) and swing the straight left leg through and try to get to a vertical position.  I didn’t want to tell you how bad we were, but here goes.  We couldn’t even keep the left leg straight on a simple swing.  I’m starting to get my foot near the high bar, but certainly not any semblance of a full pike or even a start at going vertical.  Chuck is starting to be able to keep his left leg straighter, so we are making progress, but a lot slower than we anticipated.

March 19, 2010   No Comments