Two weeks later, it was time to “jump” again.
My second pole vault practice.
Part of me did not want to do it. Part of me thought the whole thing was ridiculous. Pole vaulting? What the hell is wrong with you?
You’re about to turn 60 years old; you’re way out of shape; at least 40 pounds overweight; couldn’t run a mile if your life depended on it; sore as hell from lifting weights at the gym last week for the first time in months; and you’re going to drive back down there, spend the better part of an afternoon watching young kids fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and at some point, you’ll finally get up and probably make six or eight feeble attempts to perform a halfway decent take-off and flop onto the landing mat.
What the hell for?
You really think that one of these days, you’re going to sprint down that runway, plant that pole, spring into the air, swing powerfully up and through, and catapult yourself over a horizontal bar perched across your path?
Uh-huh, OK …
But I did it.
Again, I sat and watched for a long time, and then three little junior high girls showed up, wanting to learn to pole vault. It was obvious none of them had ever done it before and watching them struggle with it was somehow encouraging. Even so, I waited until all the other kids had finished their workout and headed home before I was ready to get out there and try again.
My first attempt was actually not too bad. Way better than the first time. Just a few strides, plant the pole in the box, hang on and jump. Land on your butt in the pit, crawl out and go again. I went about a dozen times this time and was about to go again, when something told me that was enough for one day.
Brian loaned me a pole (which I still have in the garage, Brian) and I took it home for some backyard practice. The idea is to run a few quick steps and practice the take-off. It’s a good incentive to learn proper technique because if you don’t do it right, you can easily crash and burn on the hard ground — which I definitely did a few times — instead of a soft mat.
And so began my pole vaulting career.
You can read the whole story in a book I wrote about it, “Finally Fit.” Find a copy HERE.
Later that year in October, Bubba moved from California to Austin, and we started training together.
I’ll talk about that in tomorrow’s blog …
Meanwhile, I mentioned yesterday that my friend, Troy, messaged me and told me I finished last year ranked 22nd in the country among Masters vaulters in my age division. Pretty dang cool, I have to admit.
Since I wrote “Finally Fit” two years ago, a bunch of people have told me that my story inspired them in various ways. Troy, who played football at Kansas State, was one of them. I never knew Troy until he messaged me out of the blue one day and said reading my book inspired him to get back into pole vaulting 35 years or something after he last vaulted in high school. We have jumped together at a few competitions since then and become good friends. How cool is that?
One day, I got a two-page handwritten letter in the mail from an Olympic pole vaulter from Canada, who told me that she read my book and it inspired her to stay in the sport as a coach after she retired from active competition.
I have met vaulters from all over the country since I started this — national champions, world champions, world record holders, Olympians.
I’ve jumped at the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno; competed in the Texas Senior Games, Oklahoma Senior Games, Kansas Senior Games, and the National Senior Games. I even became a certified personal trainer specializing in senior fitness to try and help other old farts improve their health and fitness.
My life has turned around 180 degrees, and my message is this:
It’s never too late to achieve a dream.
Until next time …