The Welsh Indoor Record Aftermath

So for anyone reading this who doesn’t know, last Sunday I broke the Welsh indoor record for pole vault. Everyone on my facebook will be well aware as I ended up spamming my feed with loads of retweets and messages of congratulation, for this I apologise, but don’t really mean it. In case you missed it, heres the video:

This turned out to be my last competition of the season, so this becomes a really good point to re-cap where I’ve been for the last year, how my season went as a whole and where things go from now. Basically, yes, this ones going to be all about me, and being about me its going to be long, but i’ll try not to turn it into a mastabatory exercise. Don’t worry, I’ll return to boring training next week so the usual collection of random, partially thought out ideas about recovery and anything vaguely training related will be back soon.

A little history

Pretty much a year ago now, I broke down in training, 4 years of trying to manage an insertional achilles problem on my right foot with conservative measures had failed. I left an easy running session unable to walk for the next few days. The inevitable had arrived, I had no other options left, I needed to undergo an operation. Thanks to Sport Wales and Welsh Athletics the process was quick and the operation was performed at the end of March, cutting into the heal, removing the protruding part of the calcaneous which kept digging into the achilles, removal of the bursa and just generally tidy the achilles up so it looked pretty again. What followed was two weeks in a cast where I had to move back into my parents house because I was completely helpless, followed by 4 weeks in a super sexy big plastic boot and then a slow and steady build back into weight bearing and eventually exercise.

To fast forward a bit, past the weeks of standing on one leg and doing walking drills, I was running flat out in trainers by the end of June. Pole Vault was always going to be the most stressful on my delicate heel, and I didn’t manage to get to do the one thing that I really wanted to be doing until the end of October.

From here it accelerated, I competed off a short run in France in December, where the fact that I hadn’t competed in the vault in over 18 months became clear as I produced some good jumps but was extremely inconsistent. I also did my first pole vault session off my full run in December.

We spent most of January as a training group in South Africa. This was a breakthrough trip for me, I began to not fear the day after training. Flare-ups and pain reduced in the hot weather i put together another two full run pole vault sessions to be proud of. A grand total of 3 full run pole vault sessions in the last 18 months and I headed back to Cardiff to do my first Indoor athletics season since 2010.

January 26th – Welsh Championships, Cardiff, result – 5.10m

A good competition, happy to achieve my first Commonwealth B standard and hints of better things to come.

February 1st – Vault Cardiff, result – 5.05m

A learning experience, I got too cocky after things going well the week before, good competitors and a great atmosphere I got caught up with competing when I still needed to remain focussed on my process. 3 training session and one competition is not enough practice to be unconsciously competent at anything

February 9th – Sainsbury’s Trials or whatever they’re called now, Sheffield, result – 5.30m

Knowing that the progressions were unnecessarily aggressive and that medals were more likely to be won on count back, I used the lessons from the previous week to really concentrate on my focus and managed to win bronze by jumping 5.30 on my first attempt over 7 other guys attempting that height. Second B standard and first National medal in 5 years.

February 16th – Birmingham Games

I ended up skipping this week due to a niggle in my back picked up in training. Assuming that I could recover from the emotional and physical stress of the Trials in 2 days and perform another training session like I had after the previous two competitions was a mistake that I could have paid more dearly for.

February 22nd – BUCS, Sheffield, result – 5.20m

Having received my pass and minor corrections back for my PHD just a month earlier I didn’t even know I was eligible for BUCS till a couple of weeks before, but was so glad to be involved. Clearing 5.20m I was sitting third behind Dan Gardiner and training partner Nick Cruchley, I was feeling good so passed 5.30m while they both cleared. 5.40m, with me jumping third, we all failed first time, I’d put a good jump up so when the other two went clear I passed to 5.50. Everyone put good jumps up at 5.50m, it was close but it was also an awesome competition to be part of. The height of some of the jumps just need a bit of refinement and gave me confidence going into the next competition

February 23rd – Scott Simpson Invitational, Cardiff, result – 5.45m pb

The culmination of all of the seasons experiences: development of comfort with the jump, the key technical focus, ability to handle increased arousal. Pumping music created a great atmosphere for the competitors and all 8 spectators. my 5.35m clearance had me pumped, a seasons best and my Commonwealth A standard.

Up until this point, all of my marks had been noted as p.o.b.’s (post-operative bests). A way to note my improvements from the operating table without trying to compare myself with where I’d been previously, this was a big step forward to perform an outright p.b. (personal best), higher than I’d ever jumped before, less than a year after one of the lower moments of my existence.

March 1st – Vault Manchester

This was to be my final competition of the season, but we withdrew. Having achieved my standards, a personal best and more importantly, survived the indoor season, this was a sensible time to shut the season down. When I cleared 5.45 (see video) I felt like I had room to spare to go higher, but thats not going to go away, I’ll just save it for outdoors. The benefit of an extra recovery week for me far outweigh the risk of one more competition, its too easy to get greedy.

Now why do I write this? 

Am I looking for sympathy? No, theres far better athletes that I know who’ve come back from far worse, this is just my story for what its worth.

Do I think this is an awesome story? in terms of rags to riches its no “Mighty Ducks”, but you know, someone might read it and enjoy it. I don’t consider what I’ve done anything great, it probably falls closer to stupidity. Stepping away and getting a real job that pays real money would be the far more sensible thing, rather than spending years training for a game of jumping over the stick using another stick. But pole vaulting is what I want to do, so like a stubborn child I whinged and moaned until I got what I wanted, I’m back pole vaulting.

I write this because if just one person can read this and take something from it, thats awesome. Whether that one thing is to keep trying, whether its learning to focus more, or even if its just that you should really proof-read your blog posts to avoid the number of spelling and grammar mistakes I usually make, then it feels like I’ve contributed something.

Theres a famous quote which goes:

At first they’ll ask WHY you’re doing it, later they’ll ask HOW

Well I still don’t think I’ve worked out the why, I still think its buried in pure selfish enjoyment of what I do, but this blog is a start to detail the how, if/when I achieve something of note.

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