Sunday, August 16, 2009

ITA: The Interview

So, In The Arena wanted to interview a couple of it's athletes and asked me to be one of the chosen. After doing so it was suggested that I use it as a blog post, so here you go. I hope you enjoy (I really didn't see that last question coming and just about fell off my seat when I read it - good work ITA intern Kate):

1. What is the first sport that you ever played?
The first sport I was really into was soccer. I joined somewhere around 5 or 6 and was real into it until I got to high school. I was a goalkeeper (I was always tall) and was on a traveling team pretty early. That being said, I grew up in a "track house." My parents were coaches - my mom went into labor on the track during practice at UCLA while coaching and I saw my first USA v. Germany heptathlon when I was about 2 days old. Mom was coaching Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the time and had to break out of the hospital to go coach. Although I didn't start competing in track until middle school, it was always around (attached picture is me in the front yard with a hammer).

2. When did you first start participating in the decathlon?
I competed in my first decathlon the summer before my senior year in high school. It was 100 degrees plus in central california on a dirt track. The event I remember the most was the 11th: someone opened up the school's pool and diving board after the 1500m.

3. From your childhood, which of your coaches stands out the most in your mind? Why?
I've been blessed with great coaches. I was with my soccer coach, Tommy Anderson, for 5 or 6 years or so. He was great. I guess pre-high school he was the big one.

4. Who is your hero? What role did this person play in inspiring you to become a decathlete?
That's interesting I think. I didn't really have specific heroes growing up. I guess the closest thing was David Robinson: he was a great basketball player without the flash. He got his job done, he did it well and he didn't need to talk about it or tat up his arm to prove it. Blue-collar. Plus he was a bright guy - went to the Naval Academy. I didn't really get into the decathlon because I idolized anyone in particular. I got into the decathlon because I didn't have one thing I was great at but I could do many things pretty well.

5. What do you love most about the decathlon? What is the hardest part of being a decathlete?
My favorite thing about the decathlon is that there is room for everyone. There's guys with speed for days, they just might not be able to throw very well. There's guys that're big and slow (me) but work your butt off and become technically sounds and you can make up a lot of points in the technical events (throws, hurdles, vault, etc). There is no magic formula, there is no right way. I love coaching it for the same reason - everyone has a different path to becoming the best decathlete they can be, just like everyone has their own path to becoming the best person you can be. The hardest part about being a decathlete is that there is no magic formula, there is no right way... Multi-eventers are a different breed. Like all professional athletes you work your butt off day in and day out towards perfection, however, as a multi-eventer you will never get there. You can walk away from the best meet of your life and there's still a dozen things you wish you can do better. I talk with my athletes about this all the time: you can look at it positively or negatively and it took me a long time to figure this out on my own. You can walk off the track swearing and moping around with your head down because of all the "mistakes" you've made, or you can walk off the field with you head held high knowing that yes, you did a lot of good, but you there's also a lot of things that could have been better. You know what that means? That means you have that many opporutnities to be that much better the next time you step onto the track. It's a vicious addiction but it's also a great thing.
I also have to mention the people. Decathletes are a special breed and as such, the comraderie amongst the group is amazing. Yes we're competing against each other, but like no other sport I've been around, we're competing with each other. It's like this amazing club with a terrible entry fee: many many hours of pain and work. This picture was taken in Italy at Multistars this year. These guys are from all over the world (Germany, England, Kenya, South Africa, the US), none of them had met more than two days before, and hours earlier these guys were all competing against one another. Every decathlete has pictures like these from just about every big meet they've competed in. The 11th event is always worth the previous 10 and all it takes to get there...

6. Do you believe that everyone should try at least one sport?
I believe everyone should try 100 sports. Sport has so much to teach us - mentally, physically, socially, the list goes on and on. Everyone picks up a football, a baseball, or a soccer ball in the US and the majority of us are not going to be good at any of those. Just because you're not going to make $10 million a year doesn't mean you're not going to profit emenssly from the sport. In some form there is sport out there for everyone. Hell, even if you're born to be terrible at all of them, guarenteed the journey to find that out is going to teach you things about yourself and the world around you that you never dreamed possible. Sport is not about what you can be - everyone is so caught up on potential. Sport is about what you become. With your own two hands, feet, head, whatever, sport is about crafting yourself one trial, one error, one triumph at a time.

7. Are you superstitious in any ways? Do you have any good luck charms, lucky clothes, etc.? What are they?
I actually wrote on this earlier this year. If you want a more in depth answer check out my blog post here:, no. I believe in preperation. The adage: luck is when preperation meets opportunity, I believe in that. I actually consider myself to be a pretty unlucky person. I believe that more often than not, I end up on the short side of lucky but as long as I work as hard as I possibly can and prepare as best I know how, there's nothing more I can do so the chips lie wear they fall.

8. What are some of your competition day rituals? Do you have a meal that you always eat before a big competition?
Before a big meet I wake up at least 4-5 hours before the competition for my "neuro wake-up." This often means very early mornings before a decathlon, but with a bit of a warm-up to get the blood flowing make me feel nice and loose coming into the meet when my competition warm-up begins. When the time schedule works out and soemthing is nearby I like to go to the movies in between days of a decathlon. This is a tradition started by Ryan Olkowski and I at our annual meets in Dallas. Otherwise I always ice bath in between days. I'm also a big fan of a cold shower before the 1500m if again, timing and facilities permit.My meals I keep simple - some protien, a decent amount of carbs. Usually I go wth some pasta and chicken or rice and potatoes type stuff.

9. What is your most memorable experience as an athlete?
The NCAA Champs in 2003 and the Olympic Trials in 2008. In 2003 it was the 20th anniversery of my parents winning their last national championships while coaching at UCLA. My dad was in the stands holding the phone up on speaker for my mom so she could listen to the 1500m. Yes I wanted to win, but I was psyched to place 2nd. Hearing everybody yell and scream for me during the 1500m and coming into the stands after that meet to my family on the phone and my teammates in the stands (we had a huge group of 22 qualify for the meet) congratulating me was awesome.The Trials in 2008 I will never forget. Some dissapointments, yes, but being in the spotlight during the pole vault, having 1,000s at a time clapping for me coming down the runway, running in that incredibly electric atmosphere during the 1500m, and hugging my brother during the victory lap, that was awesome. I get goosebumps talking about it still.On the whole though, what I will always remember about the decathlon is being part of that community. The movies in between days in Dallas, the jokes sitting around waiting to long jump, sharing rides, rooms, poles, you name it trying to make ends meet, breakfast in the hotel before Multistars in Italy, "What If" games the multis would gather in someone's hotel room to play the night after day 2. Multis are a whole different breed of people. We may only see each other a couple of times a year, but there's an understanding of each other that exists no where else. We're all crazy, but we're crazy together.

10. What is the pinnacle to your athletic career?
Man was I good in high school!! haha, just kidding.I guess this should be a much easier question that it seems to be right now. Is the pinnacle when I placed top 10 at the US Champs this year? Is being invited to compete in Italy at Multistars, scoring 34 points at my last collegiate meet, in high school when I placed 2nd in 2 events at sections within about 3 minutes of each other, or seeing myself highlighted on the scoreboard in Eugene, Oregon at the Olympic Trials along with Tom Pappas as one of the only 2 competitors remaining in the pole vault?You want the truth? The exact moment that is the pinnacle of my athletic career is reaching into the stands to hug my brother during the victory lap under the lights at the Olympic Trials as 20,000 fans cheered from their feet.

11. When did you determine that your dream of being a decathlete could become a reality?
I didn't really consider myself a real decathlete until I made my first US Champs in 2008. I had to run my butt off like never before during the 1500m at a meet in Dallas to qualify. I did and it was the best feeling in the world.

12. What has been your largest obstacle on the road to becoming an Olympian?
Support. Finding coaching, finding training partners, finding time, finding funding. In that order.

13. If you were able compete in any other Olympic event which would you choose and why?

We were talking about this after the meet at US Champs as we watched the rest of the meet. If I could be amazing at one event (other than my own) I think it would be the javelin or the pole vault...with leanings toward the javelin. I think it would be the most amazing feeling to haul butt down the runway and BOOM! launch a jav into the air, walk back, put my sweats on, and look back to see the sucker land 300 feet later. What a cool event. If I were to choose another sport? Basketball. Although I think it should still be college guys out there competing for us, I still think it's a great situation. The rules change: it isn't about contracts or conference champs or even March Madness, it's a coming together of guys that compete fiercly against each other regularly. They put aside their differences to work as a unit, their powers combined as best as possible in a limited amount of time in order to compete for their country. Take a sport that can be incredibly selfish in this country and strip it away until it's pure. That's what the Olympics are about....kind of like what the relays are about in track...but our sprinters have yet to figure that out so we're terrible at it.

[check out In The Arena's Mike Hazle establish himself as one of the best in the world at doing exactly what I wish I could as he drops bombs at the World Champs in Berlin in a couple days on the 21st.]

14. The decathlon is not a very popular sport here in the US. If you had all the power in the world for a day, what would you do to increase awareness of the sport?

Haha - something else that comes up often when sitting around in between events. We've got some great ideas too! How about running the 1500m in only 3 lanes with hockey boards around either side. The fans can be right there banging on the boards, plus the start would be staggered like a time trial in the Tour de France. If you passed someone in the race, you passed them in the overall standings too. We came up with that at US Indoors this year - lets see Joe Detmer get by me then! (he moved himself up from 6th place to 2nd in the last event alone - he holds the world record for that event).Honestly though, how about teaching the decathlon in high school PE? Everyone can benifit from such training. The decathlon is about using your strengths and balancing your weaknesses. It's about pushing yourself to your limits. Training for the decathlon has a funny way of teaching yourself about yourself. You're going to learn very quickly about what you can and can't do and what it takes to make yourself the best you can be, what it takes to make yourself whole. Everyone is so caught up on what they can't do. In the dec there is something you'll be able to do better than others, the trick is trying to figure out the rest of it in order to make yourself complete all-around. I think everyone can use some of that. Plus, as people understand what it takes to train for what we do and what it takes to do the things the top guys do, we might actaully attain some respect.Also the sport can do a much better job of presenting itself. American loves sports with numbers: On Base Percentages, Yards After Catch, the Triple-Double. Decathlon is all about the numbers - if people actually understood what they meant, I think that would go a long way to helping us out. All-in-all, I just think there's a lack of understanding out there about our event. I'm actually planning on trying to change some of that - we'll see.

15. What will you do as an individual to bring about these changes?

Ha, well, I'm glad you asked. There some major problems with the way the decathlon is run in the US: there is a lack of opporunitites to compete, a lack of opportunities to train, a lack of understanding of the event, a lack of support.I want to create more opportunities to compete. Most track athletes compete once every week or two for about 5 months a year. A decathlete competes max 4 times a year because of the effort a single meet takes and there are very very few (like 1 or 2) that are good enough to compete in single events at elite levels. Competitions enable opportunities: opportunities to test yourself, opportunities to test your opponents, opportunities to be seen. It's very difficult to try to drum up support when you only compete a couple times a year. Who wantst to sponsor someone that they see on the track three times a year? It is very difficult to know where youre training is and what you need to work on when you only have a couple chances to test yourself. You wont realize something is off until it is too late.It is very difficult to create a community when there are so few that see each other so often. Through competition and commradery is the only way to build a base to grow upon.I want to start a national league for multi-eventers. I want it to be team based. This way we can have multi-eventers at major track meets doing mini multis: 3 or 4 events at a time. They can team up and sum scores to try to compete against each other. This will encourage athletes to find each other to creat bonds through team work, this will put decathletes in the national spotlight of the sport rather than simply a weird offshoot you see once or twice a year, this will encourage coaches, managers, sponsors, etc to become involved as the spotlight grows.

16. The decathlon is an exhilarating sport to watch. Does it bring you a sense of thrill and excitement, or a sense of calmness and peace when you compete?

You learn to be a "flat-liner" as one of my football coaches called it. You want to be steady throughout, you can't let yourself get too high or too low. When one event is over, you must put it behind you and move on, good or bad. You can't look ahead or behind without losing sight of the present. This is something I'm getting much better at. This year at the US Champs I couldn't let my horrible 1st day get in the way of day 2. Last year at Trials I missed my first 2 (of 3) attempts at opening height in the pole vault almost ending my meet there. The year I did the same thing in the discus. If you step onto the runway or into the ring with anything on your mind but doing your job, that's when thing go wrong.That being said, you have to enjoy yourself. Momentum is huge and you have to be loose. In the end it comes down to pushing yourself over and over again.

17. If you had the ability to change one rule regarding your sport, what would it be and why?

It would be interesting if we had a mulligan. If we could do over or throw out one event. Some form of contact would be cool too. I was a football player and always enjoyed the contact element - the sport could use some sort of way to compete directly versus another person rather than simply the tables.
Jokingly I always thought it'd be interesting if each athlete was allowed to use a springboard in one event of their choosing...

18. So, you have pretty much made it to the top of your sport. What is the next goal you have set for yourself?

I've always wanted to represent my country by wearing a USA jersey.

19. What is the driving force that motivates you to volunteer so much of your time to the community?

it reminds me that there is more to this than me. My college coach used to say: "there's nothing more selfish than an elite athlete." The is so true - you're always worried about your training, your rest, your nutrition, how the weather effects you, how the travel effects you, it's always me, me, me. This actually used to eat me up quite a bit. I hated that, but since working with The Jets I realized how much good my training could actually do for others as an example or a source of knowledge.

20. What is the most rewarding aspect of working as a mentor?

See above, #19.

21. What one personality trait or attribute has allowed you to excel; and do you think it’s a sufficient condition for success when rooted in today’s at-risk children?

We are all given certain genes and traits, I was given the ability to work my butt off. I was given patience and determination and a stubborness against doing anything improperly or in part. I have the gall to believe that anything can be accomplished through hard work and time.I think this is the largest trait missing from today's at-risk children.

22. You have spent a lot of time working with kids. What is your most memorable story?

The day Devonte talked. Devonte is our 6 year-old superstar. Rememeber his name because he's going to be amazing someday (already is), but I never heard him say a word. A year in a half after joining the Jets he randomly turned to me at a practice to say "I got the new Madden." Simple words, but words none-the-less. It was when I realized that the kids actually have taken me in as one of them.

23. What advice would you give to someone just beginning to work as a mentor to kids?

Be yourself and be patient. Your a special person for being there in the first place. Kids see right through a faker, so just sit back and let things happen rather than trying to force anything.

24. What experience working as a mentor made you laugh the hardest?

Seeing Devonte run at the Boston Indoor Games blowing by kids twice his age and size carrying a baton the size of his femur.

25. If you were to choose a quote which sums up your life or represents who you are and what you believe in, what would it be?

Altius ibunt qui as summa nituntur. They will rise highest who strive for the highest place.

26. What was it that made you choose the decathlon over focusing all of your attention toward one specific event?

I always loved sport and I hated choosing one and giving others up. Decathlon is like trying to be good at everything at once. Plus I was never very good at winning anything but I could rack up 2nd places like nobodies business. A lot of 2nd places makes a pretty good decathlon.

27. How far west would you have to travel from Boston, MA to get a decent tri-tip meal?!

AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! I didn't see that one coming.Although I have found out that Trader Joe's does carry tri-tip, you said decent: my parent's backyard is about 3,100 miles away. It still kills me that no one on the east coast has even heard of Tri-Tip, aka, heaven in your mouth. It's the first thing I request when I go home - it's the first thing any of my friends from out here request after they've visited just once!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

hello again...

So, it's been a while.

For those of you (or that one or two of you...) that have been following this blog for a while, you may notice a simple trend: when things are flowing well, so does the blog. When I take a little break on the track (usually forced), the blog does the same.
The US Champs were an interesting experience for me this year. I honestly had big hopes for this year and for the most part I thought all was on course for all of my big goals. For some reasons things didn't seem to click when they needed to - with really the usual suspects being the weakest links. The first day, all the speed stuff, just seems to elude me. I worked more towards my speed than I have ever before, I finally started building great confidence in the long jump, shot was going to places, my high jump was great early in the year, and even my quarter workouts were going well.
I did again come back with a solid second day. Hurdles were a great start with my fastest decathlon time ever and my fastest race outright since college and disc was the length of half my toe close to being great (twice). Again, I came back with a solid pole vault. Although I'd been jumping higher recently, jumping 5 meters and having no one in the competition jump higher felt great. The Jav was decent (workouts in the two weeks after Eugene showed that I was actually capable of some real great things), and the 1500 was a solid event for me. The second day did a ton for my psyche and outlook, plus im increasingly proud of how my maturity and metal abilities in the event have improved in the last year or two - VERY big pieces of the decathlon.

My goal for a long while has been to break into the top 10 at the US Champs. The score may have not been what I expected, but reaching a goal is reaching a goal. Making the Thorpe Cup USA versus Germany dual meet team has probably been the goal I have sought after longer than any others. Coming into the meet I thought for sure a top 10 finish would put me there, but a missunderstanding on my part on how the team is chosen (5 from placing, 2 at-large coaches choice) meant that I was the first alternate. After a couple weeks of training and no call back I was forced to face an early end to the season and some time off. I was fortunate to spend much more time at home in California with family and friends than I have in a while which was awesome. Something I have learned in the past few years is how important taking advantage of the time you do get with friends and family is. We all have things that drive us and it may take us many places - the key is to be able to roam while still keeping your roots in.

All in all, however, it has been a great year. A great dissapointment to end it, but I accomplished many many things. My first international meet was an amazing experience and means the accomplishment of another of my very longtime goals. I competed and placed in my first US Indoor Championships and I broke through the top 10 at outdoors. Above all, I continued to grow in everyway. The decathlon can be so difficult because you have such limited opportunities to show what you have. With a usual maximum of 4 to 5 meets a year (on the very high end), you can be doing great things all year long with maybe none of it showing on those particular weekends. I feel that I took leaps and bounds in my training in every single event this year. Some of it came out very well - others remained to be hidden. Above all, I continue to be impressed with how I'm growing mentally within the sport. I've always heard that it takes a deceathlete so long to reach a maturity in the event - often not until the late 20s do you really start gaining a real understanding of the sport. I can see how guys like Tom Pappas and Kip Janvrin have been so successfull at such late ages. Even Bryan Clay is far from young now by general track standards, but he's really not starting to really attack the big pieces of the sports (American and World Records). I've been a decathlete for over ten years now and I feel like I'm just not starting to understand what the sport is about and yet every meet I go into I feel like I'm learning even more than I am mastering.

For now I'm just keeping busy in as diverse ways as possible. I'm keeping in shape with everything from rock climbing, to golf, to yoga, mountain biking, lifting, basketball, and this weekend I within 14 hours of one another I tried to learn how to surf and competed in my first 4 mile road race (a friend's charity race).

Hope you're all enjoying a great summer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 1

Day 1 was a tough day. Many in the field would say something similar (or worse), but there are a couple of guys having great meets as well.
Again for some reason my jumps were all over the place and my legs just didn't quite have much pop. We had some gusting winds that didn't help much, but overall the weather was decent at just below 70.
Hopefully my legs come back ready to roll tomorrow and i'll try to put together the day 2 i've been looking for for a while.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

24 hours til Go Time

We've got a day to go until start time at 11am PST. Today's a super easy day for me on the track so got a great night's sleep last night and a nice big breakfast with the family before sitting in 2 hours worth of lines for credentialing. If anything it is kind of cool to realize that at least at some point everyone here is exactly the same. You've got arguably the world's fastest man, skinny little distance folk, and huge throwers all bored in the same line.
In talking though I realized I do love being a decathlete. I met John Smith yesterday on the track. One of the premier sprint coaches in the world with some of the most prestigious athletes in our sport under his charge, as we were parting he had to correct himself: "enjoy the meet," he started "actually, I know YOU'LL enjoy the meet. You guys [the decathletes] always have a great time and get the crowd nice and fired up." Great to hear from someone coming from the end of our sport that can at times seem so far away.
It was definitely great running into a bunch of the athletes and coaches I haven't seen since this time a year ago. Makes it finally feel like Go Time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


We made it in. The ride was decently long yesterday but felt real easy. It's been a while since I've taken a long car trip, but I'm glad we did it this way. Thanks in part to the many stops we took every couple of hours to shake out, the ride felt a lot better than a plane ride would have. Last night we checked into our hotel across from the track and have gotten a couple walks and shake-outs in since. The place doesn't have quite the same pomp as last year's Olympic Trials, but it's still a great facility that I'm sure they'll pack in without much trouble here in "Track Town USA." As one of the directors was quoted in the local paper today in comparison to the Trials: "I liken it to more of a backyard bbq."

However, whereas Eugene maybe a notch down, we've stepped it up at Team Chisam Headquarters. Head over to for your official Team Chisam US Championships 2009 fan kit. There're links to DecathlonUSA's Media Guide and even a score sheet complete with my PRs so you can keep up with the meet to see how I'm doing event to event. Thanks to the Team Chisam CCO (my brother) we're going to use Twitter for live updates throughout the meet. You'll be able to keep up, event-by-event, throw-by-throw, jump-by-jump. Subscribe to the TeamChisam page and you'll be sent web or sms text updates during the meet.
Also, check out the for their Nationals Champs homepage where they'll have the entries (im coming in ranked 10th) , schedule & results (we start Thursday 11am PST), and even live streaming video during the meet (we'll see how much decathlon they show).

Monday, June 22, 2009

150 to go

We're now in Oregon and on the homestretch. We've seen our fair share of rest stops (and have been getting great looks from people on out shake out jogs) but the trip has gone great.
150 miles to Eugene.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

eugene or bust

The final prep finished today with a final dad's day workout the Chisam way: me and training partner Kasey Hill in the blocks, papa Chisam with the starting gun at the local high school. I've been fortunate enough to make it home for the past few days to re-connect with my original coaches (mom and dad) and enjoy some California sunshine. Keeping with the throwback theme, tomorrow we wake up early and load the truck up for a drive to Eugene for the US Champs. When things get too complicated - go back to the basics.
The decathlon is Thursday and Friday but in the car I hope to finish the revamping of complete with how you can keep up with the meet and even some score cards for those of you really keeping up.

Talk to you soon,