Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vacation recap!

I'm baaaack.
I wanted to share a few pictures and stories from my vacation this fall. I've been thinking about exploring the world of digital photography for a while, but I'm a pretty careful consumer, so it took some prompting from Russ while we were in Colorado Springs for me to actually purchase a camera. I couldn't be happier that I took the leap, because it was just in time for our trip to Estes Park, Colorado with his family, then on through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone on the way up to Washington to see my family!

The week we spent in Estes Park meant lots of time spent in Rocky Mountain National Park. We did our first summit hike; to the top of Mount Ida (elevation 12,880 feet)! From there, we camped in Grand Teton National Park one night and hiked a little, then saw a lot of the south half of Yellowstone the next day before camping for the night and leaving the next morning! Needless to say, we need to go back. Then on to Washington for seafood, huckleberries, hikes, and card games with my family, plus a trip to Seattle to see Russ's college friends. :) Enjoy the barrage of photos! It was a fabulous, amazing vacation.



































































Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daegu (World Championships)


For the third time at a major championship, I did not make the final.

Yes, I'm extremely disappointed. (This interview makes me look a lot happier than I felt after the competition.) Yes, I cried literally on my room's floor when I was alone. Yes, I've dwelt on it for days. But am I completely shocked and surprised with the result? Not at all.
This season has been a nightmare for me.
I was inconsistent all the way through college, and was SO happy to be throwing far every single time I tried last year. I had a goal of throwing 61.00m in my first three throws at every competition possible in 2010 because I know how important that is for qualifying rounds at World Championships and the Olympics. I had a purpose for the success I was having, and I was so confident in my ability to do the same thing this year when I started out at Drake Relays in April. But, big surprise to me, I've struggled to throw even 58 meters all year long. I'm faster, stronger, more explosive and healthier than I was in 2010, but I haven't been able to time up my technique with those new physical abilities, and I never realized what a fine line that can be.

Everybody struggles sometime. Multiple people and multiple competitors have told me that this year, and now I know what they're talking about. I've never had a season that I felt like was a fight all the way through until this year. Now that I've experienced feeling good physically but throwing poorly without knowing why though, I've gotten such joy from getting some understanding back in the last few weeks. I felt awesome warming up on Thursday and had really good connection and alignment, but to think that two or three weeks of good practice throwing could overcome a whole season of inconsistency and a lot of bad results was pretty ambitious.

I miss the days when competing was simple and fun, and I'm looking forward to learning from the experiences I've had this year, throwing more in practice next year, and generally just enjoying myself again. I've learned a lot this year about how to value experiences over results, but you only say that when the results aren't what you want. The bottom line is that I'm disappointed and that I want better for myself, and I'll make that happen in the future. This World Championships hurt the most because I finally felt like I had the tools to make my first final. Beijing in 2008 and Berlin in 2009 showcased me being naive and inexperienced; wanting so badly to make the top 12 but not having any idea how to purposefully accomplish that goal. The competitor that I am now is very different than that, and someday the growing that I'm doing will pay off.

I have felt so much support in the past few weeks and even after my competition;
THANK YOU.
Mike and Ty were here and at my practices, I know the national team staff pretty well after having worked with them for a few years, I got awesome therapy while here, I knew more of my teammates than I ever have before and felt comfortable introducing myself if I didn't, and I roomed with Jillian Camarena-Williams, who is not only the first American woman to ever medal in the shotput, but also a good friend who made me a sign to wave around during my competition! Overall, I'm moving forward, and have had great chats with people who have been in the sport for a long time and know a thing or two about success. I'm happy to kind of throw this year away, but retain how I got some of my connection and timing back here at the end. So many people have told me that once you have a rough year, you know better how to handle yourself in the future and have a clearer idea of how to work things out and what to focus on later. I almost feel like I belong in the sport even more after going through something that it sounds like everybody has to.

My season is officially over! I didn't get into Zurich, so I'm not going to Berlin, even though I loved that meet last year. I go home to San Diego tomorrow, I'll be apartment-hunting for the next week, and am off to Colorado next weekend for some quality outdoor time with Russ, who I feel like I haven't seen for months!

Friday, August 26, 2011

...and so it begins!


The IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea begin today! Huge shout out to Aretha Thurmond, Gia Lewis-Smallwood, Stephanie Brown-Trafton, Kibwe Johnson and Michael Mai, who are competing in their qualifying rounds to kick the American throwers off!

I arrived here on Monday night; I flew from San Diego to LAX, LAX to Tokyo, Tokyo to Busan, South Korea, and then rode a bus to the Athletes' Village. By the time I got to the bus, I was so tired that I have absolutely no idea how long that trip took. I think it was probably 5 hours. Okay...more like two. On the 12-hour flight from LAX to Tokyo, I had my own exit row by the bulkhead; two seats to myself with all kinds of leg room! It was probably the longest and easiest day of travel ever. The only bad thing that happened was that I had a Mom moment and left my favorite water bottle somewhere in the L.A. airport!

The Athletes' Village here is amazing. This is only the second time that there has been a village for World Championships (instead of just a hotel), and the LOC (Local Organizing Committee) did an awesome job!! There are four bedrooms and two bathrooms per suite, plus a big living room and kitchen. Jill and I got the master bedroom, haha! The air conditioning is fabulous, and each suite has its own wireless internet router! The dining hall is in the basement below all the different buildings, connecting them, and while the food leaves much to be desired, it's convenient and sufficient (plus, I brought my own healthy snacks and tuna packets, and there's a grocery store down the road with peanut butter). There's a fitness room with a fantastic sauna, and the practice track, weight room and throwing area are actually in the village! Honestly, it's exactly like living at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, except with more living space and worse food. I'm a happy camper!

Speaking of camping, Russ is on an amazing fishing trip through Colorado right now, and I'm really excited to meet up with him and explore the wilderness on vacation! Before that happens, there's work to be done and fun to be had here, though!

I threw in practice on Wednesday, and it was better than the majority of my practices this summer, but not as good as the ones I've had at home in the last few weeks. I'm extremely happy to say that I've found my alignment and connection again, and I'm working on reproducing those feelings on every single throw I take. We've figured out which rhythm and speed I should use in my full approach, and keeping all my energy moving in the right direction is getting easier and easier.
It's so nice that Worlds are finally here.
This season has been a pretty surprising roller coaster ride, and it's great to finally be resting a lot to let my body soak up all the hard training I've done for the last nine or so months! I'm happy that the focus of the season has finally arrived, and that I feel like everything we've done this year (and last year!) has led me to this competition. That was the plan all along. :)


Thursday, August 11, 2011

London

I competed last Friday in the Aviva Grand Prix Diamond League meet in London. The competition was stellar; Barbora Spotakova and Christina Obergfoell exchanged the lead multiple times, and Goldie Sayers and Madara Palameika had good showings, resulting in some unusual attention being paid to the women’s javelin! I ended up fifth with my first round toss of 58.25m (it might've been 58.29, I can't remember), and had a few other decent (decent, still not good) efforts beside that.

I was in a really good place coming into this competition. My travel on Thursday was absolutely easy, despite the fact that I had all my luggage with me (see previous post). I’ve generally had good experiences in London and was happy to be at my last meet before going home to San Diego! Being in Europe for just one month is a lot easier than two, I tell you what, but I’m ready to be home nonetheless. My practices lately, while not amazing, have improved, and Dr. Ross has helped me remember to focus on how to succeed, not just success itself.

I’ve been to London three times now. There are a lot of people that go to the meets that I do that have been to London much more often than me, and
I think this was everyone’s first time seeing the sun there.
I walked down to Starbucks and the grocery store before leaving for the competition, and was surprised to find myself squinting and sweating on the way back! I actually saw some views of the city from my second-floor window on the double-decker bus we took to the stadium! I wore shorts to throw in! It was pretty fun. Add to that the great atmosphere of the Crystal Palace and the fact that I speak the same language as the meet officials (or, as one of them told me a bit snootily, “Almost.”), and I felt great during warm-ups.

I focused on getting to my left foot quickly in warm-ups and holding my left side strong at the block. When I do this properly, javelin tip control is much less of a problem than it has been throughout this season. In the competition, I was more aggressive and trusting of myself on the runway. I did get to my left foot satisfactorily quickly, but didn’t hold my left arm and chest up the way I had planned. I know what to work on and I’m happy to be home to work on it before leaving for Daegu on August 21st for World Championships!

A word on external motivation…
the Diamond League final for the women’s javelin this year is in Zurich on September 8th. I have no Diamond League points and no prayer of winning the series; Christina Obergfoell (who was my roommate in London and who I already knew is awesome!) locked up the overall victory with her win last week. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go to Zurich, though. I fully understand that I don’t deserve the chance, but I’ve experienced some things lately that make me grateful for my position, regardless of the fact that I haven’t performed how I want to so far. After throwing in Paris at the beginning of July, I was riding the elevator up to my hotel room when the Zurich meet director asked me what happened that day. If you’ll remember, I got last in one of the best Diamond League meets ever for women’s javelin. I told him a little about what’s been going on, but mostly knew that the excuses I have are things that he and everyone that has ever been around a struggling technical athlete has heard before. He said to me, “Well, you should figure it out, because if you don’t, you’re not coming to my meet.” You might think that’s harsh, but I already knew that. What he said next was the cool part: “And that’s bad for me.” It took me by surprise that he would tell me in not these exact words that he wanted me at his meet! Then in London, as we both got off the bus at the stadium at the same time, he said, “Kara, would you like some motivation from me?” I already knew what he would say, but answered, “Sure!” He told me that if I threw far that day, I could come to Zurich. You may remember that last year, I didn’t get into Diamond League meets at the beginning of the year. It took an American Record followed by a victory at Prefontaine to get me into the following meets in the series, so I’m familiar with needing to throw far in order to get into meets. It serves as positive motivation for me to have this kind of pressure, and the unique thing about this situation is that someone who has the power to give me an opportunity actually told me how it was. I’m thankful for that; if he didn’t maybe want me there a little bit, he wouldn’t say anything. I highly doubt that he was impressed enough with my performance in London to let me in, but I know that the opportunity was there, and that bodes well for the future. I was encouraged by my experience in London, and that’s all that matters. Here’s to a solid two weeks of training, lots of rest, and on to Daegu!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Travelin' with Javelins

Since April, I’ve traveled on airplanes with javelins a total of 15 times, and 7 of those times have been internationally. A conservative estimate of what I’ve spent to put them on the plane with me is $600 total. That’s pretty cheap, considering my pole-vaulter friends spend FAR more, but I’d like to share a little bit about the experience!

When I travel in Europe, I have my javelin bag, a big suitcase, and a rolling Eagle Creek convertible backpack, as well as a purse. I need to take a picture of myself carrying all that stuff sometime, because I’m sure I deserve the looks I get. I left Cologne for London yesterday morning (competing today!), and it was the first time this summer that I’ve had to get myself to or from the airport without any help from my dear boyfriend, adventurous parents or various meet transportation. I consider that fact to be a triumph! Our apartment this year was on the fourth floor of a super cool (in both senses of the word) building in a very convenient location. When I say convenient, I mean it was close to training and grocery shopping (which were the only places Sean and I went for the last week!). Going to the airport, however, was a different story. It’s not too bad of a trip, but last year we only took one train to the airport, while this year, we had to change trains once from home to the Flughafen. Add to that construction going on along the normal route, and I was a little nervous about my solo trip! Not to mention, I totally forgot which platform I was supposed to go to once I got off the first train, and I wasn’t even sure where to get off at. I’m a disaster sometimes.

I’ve gotten used to the Cologne train system enough to know where to look for information and understand enough German to listen to announcements and find my way, so getting on the right trains and arriving at the airport was no problem: It might’ve even gone faster than it ever has before! That doesn’t mean that I’m not stressed about it and/or sweating profusely because of all the stuff I’m carrying though. So when I show up at the check-in counter, perspiring visibly and toting one oddly-shaped and another overweight bag, maybe the man/woman behind the counter isn’t too happy to see me. In all my travel with javelins, I’ve never once thought that maybe I’m ruining their day a little bit by showing up with something they don’t normally see!

On my way to Pre this year, I stood at the United check-in counter in San Diego for literally 40 minutes. I wasn’t in line for that long, I was waiting for the man behind the counter to call the actual plane I would be flying on from San Francisco to Eugene to make sure that my 8-foot-long tube would fit on board. IT’S A PLANE. I CAN FIT THEM IN MY CAR, WITHOUT STICKING THEM THROUGH THE TRUNK. I flew Delta to New York and had to pay $175 each way for them. When that’s the only bag I check (which was the case for Rome, Pre AND New York), I feel like I should get a little bit of a break. On the way home from New York, the ladies at the check-in counter wanted to MAKE SURE I knew that my bag was oversize. They said, “Ma’am, this is over 80 inches long,” and I said, “Yes, I know,” and they said, “But, that’s oversize,” and I said, “Yes, I know,” and they said, “MA’AM, this is an oversize bag! It’s longer than 80 inches!” and I said, “YES, I KNOW! HOW MUCH DO I OWE YOU?!” I learned about inches and feet in elementary school. I bet they didn’t know how many meters long the javelins are. I know that, too.

I understand why an oversize bag costs more money, and I also understand why airline employees are concerned about putting an oversize bag on a small plane. I’m fully aware that I’m not the only person flying on each plane I board, and I think that the other people on that plane have also probably checked luggage. All that said, I’ve just begun to realize why I’m met with such hostility sometimes when I attempt to check in my javelins. People don’t like change or things that are unfamiliar to them. In the same way that I’m uncomfortable if I don’t know exactly which train I’m supposed to get on or precisely where the check-in counter is at each airport, every new airline employee that I meet during check-in doesn’t know what I have in my bag, or whether or not their boss will be upset with them if they put it on the plane. Before I started traveling to track meets at the end of high school, I didn’t know it was possible, either. I look at people funny if they travel with cardboard boxes (I’ve seen it!), and other people look at me funny because I have a bag that’s taller than me. I think that maybe it’s more common for dogs to travel in the cargo hold than javelins, now that I’m thinking about it. I’ve seen multiple dog crates come out of the oversize luggage area when my javelins do, and I ALWAYS want to pet them.
I do my very, very best to educate the public (what little of it that I encounter in airports) about what’s in my crazy bag. The VAST majority of people who actually talk to me (instead of just stare curiously) think I’m a pole vaulter, which most of the time just angers me, but is a huge opportunity to teach them a little bit about the sport of track and field. If you know me, you know that when I think I’m being mean and snooty, I’m probably being nicer than most other people. Sometimes I try to have an attitude, but it just doesn’t work because A) I have no practice and B) I chicken out and say something nice after something that might, maybe, possibly be considered harsh.

Basically, traveling with javelins is inconvenient, somewhat embarrassing, slow (because you have to talk to people and explain yourself most of the time), expensive, awkward, and really not that bad. I do my best to greet check-in counter people with a smile every time I get to the airport, and perpetually work on my positive and understanding attitude and communication skills when people are SURE they know what’s inside my bag. I’m thinking about having “JAVELINS” embroidered on my next case, but I’m sure the same happenings will still occur.

Any ideas for colors/patterns/designs for a new case, by the way?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bottropp and Monaco, etc.

Since I started blogging last year, I've really enjoyed reading friends' posts, writing my own as an outlet about track, and finding fun blogs to follow that have nothing to do with my day-to-day life. I've suggested that others both start and refresh blogs, and discussed with a fellow devoted blogger just how difficult some posts can be to write.

Last year, it was extremely easy to update everyone on how I was doing. I was happy to report that, for the very most part, things were great! I competed better than I ever had before, and when I didn't, I couldn't wait to get it all out in a post and move on. This year, I've been disappointed time and again because I feel awesome and end up throwing crappy. It's hard to keep coming back to the keyboard when I know I'm going to write about something that's discouraging and frustrating. I have a lot of people that I can talk to about how competition is going and how I'm feeling (Russ, my parents, Britney, Mike, Maggie, Jamie, Ty), but I guess my blog is where I put stuff to move past it.
So here we go.
I threw in Bottropp, Germany on July 15th. It was a tiny meet that was actually really cool to be a part of. Russ and I took the train up there and back in the same day (only an hour one way), and there were a lot of American athletes, plus a German teammate of Russ's that he hadn't seen in years! Cool! I was looking forward to a low-key, low-pressure situation where I could focus on positions and not worry as much about distance. Unfortunately, my competitive nature got the best of me, and once again I tried too hard, waited too long to put my left foot down at the block and lost the tip of the javelin, only throwing 57m and placing second. Russ took video though, and for the first time since like April I saw what I've been doing on film. That meant that we went to practice that Monday armed with a plan and positivity on my end; I was a lot closer than I thought!

The Herculis Meeting in Monaco came next, on July 22nd. I love Monaco!! It is gorgeous, has fabulous weather all the time, reminds me of San Diego (just fancier), and I did well there last year. I felt awesome (again) warming up for the competition, and my warm-up throws actually went way better than they had in recent meets. My first throw felt like the good ones from warm-ups and it flew pretty well, but landed way, way too close to me. I adopted the same attitude on each throw; do what I'd been focusing on in practice and the distance would come. Unfortunately, neither one of those things happened and I ended up last. Again.

I've been feeling really sorry for myself for a while now, and I wanted someone to just come along and magically fix me. There has been this desperation to figure it out right now, and I think that has been my downfall. Multiple people have advised me to just be patient, and that has been really difficult because of my own expectations, but I'm trying my best. I did have a revelation yesterday:
The season's not over yet.
Tomorrow, I'm going to practice and I will think the whole time about how I can still accomplish my biggest goals for 2011. What I need to do to get there is slow down, be more disciplined than ever in my technique, and remember why I do what I do in the first place. So here we go!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paris

I'm embarrassed, discouraged and in awe all at the same time. I guess the emotion of being "in awe" during a competition isn't the most productive, but witnessing (and being a small part of) last Friday's Paris Areva Meeting was cool (World Lead by Christina Obergfoell, great depth of competition), and also terrible.

I warmed up okay. My body was pretty achy, which it had no reason to be after my first business-class international plane ride! The weather was fine and we were in a stadium, meaning wind wasn't really a factor.

My first throw sky-rocketed and landed at like 55-56m (as far as I could tell; it could've been more or less). I had too much pride and intentionally fouled it. My second throw went right out of the sector, but I ran through the foul line as soon as it left my hand because I could tell where it was headed. There were only 8 women in the competition, so I knew I would make finals, but figured I should have a legal mark to do it. That meant that I marked my third throw, even though I knew it was bad. To find out how bad, you can look at the results, because I'm not going to say it.

After that start, I really, really had to fight to get back up to 58-ish meters, which happened on my last throw and still meant that I was last by 3 meters. I have to take pride in the fact that I did manage to claw my way back to a distance that would not have been last in (I don't think) any other Diamond League meet except the one that I got last at in Zurich last year. And three people didn't throw over 60m in Zurich last year, whereas I was the only one to not throw over 60m in Paris (and I threw a meter farther in Zurich).

I've been in Cologne, Germany since Sunday, training at a facility in Leverkusen where I've trained for the past two summers. I'm happy here! I know the city, I'm familiar with how to get around, I'm living with a group of people I like in an awesome set of apartments that are equipped with washing machines and internet, and my little bit of German has come flying back to me! My idea of how to throw has also come back to me, and now I just need to apply it. I'm competing at a small meet in Bottropp, Germany tomorrow afternoon, and I'm looking forward to a low-key setting (with some familiar faces) where I can focus on remembering that good technique means far distances.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

USAs!


I competed at the 2011 USATF Outdoor National Championships yesterday, and came away with my fourth straight national title (including 2008's Olympic Trials Championship)!
I'm happy.
I'm happy that I threw farther than I have been in recent meets.

I'm happy that I put a decent throw (59.34m) out in the sector on my first toss, since I was the very first thrower in the order and had an opportunity to make a statement early.

I'm happy that I competed well, not only against the other girls, but against my recently-chattering brain!

I'm happy that I kept my USAs winning streak alive.

I'm happy that I really took to heart all the amazing encouragement I've received over the past few weeks from people that I care about and who I know truly care about me.

I'm extremely happy that I didn't have any right sector fouls. :) In fact, my fourth round throw landed on the left side of the sector. Booyah!

I know I have more work to do. I'm spending a few days at home in Washington and I'll be back in San Diego on Wednesday morning. I'm really looking forward to building on this competition's technical progress in practice, and getting even more great training in! Thanks a bunch to everyone who has offered support and congratulations! Thanks especially to my Coach (Ty Sevin) and Sports Psychologist (Dr. Ross Flowers), and huge awesome-job-you're-the-best-training-partner-ever-appreciate-your-help-always shout-out to Mike Hazle, who won his first national title in the men's javelin on Friday after coming in second to four different guys for the last four years! Well deserved and long-awaited victory! Proud of ya. :)

I've been confirmed for the Paris (July 8) and Monaco (July 22) Diamond League meets! I'll be spending most of July in Cologne, Germany, living with a group of friends from the training center. I loved living there last year and am looking forward to spending time in the same place again! I definitely have my work cut out for me in the coming competitions, but it's nice to feel like I'm rounding into a good mentality at the right time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

CVOTC "Tune-Up"

I competed in the meet here at the training center on Thursday. I wanted to have a low-key, fun meet after New York and before USAs! Some dear friends of mine threw the javelin for me to make it a legitimate meet; thanks ladies :). It was fun, but each time I got on the runway, I got all tight again.

I threw 56.98m, which is better than New York, worse than Pre and not nearly where I want to be. In the middle of the competition, I took another step out of my approach, which means my approach is now exactly what it was last year (and I loved it last year). After the competition, I practiced for about another hour, throwing out of that new/old full approach and finishing up with some shorter stuff at the end. Practice was great and I think I threw myself out of some things by the end of it, yay!

It's strange when we change things that don't need to be changed or we forget about things we worked on for a long time. But those things don't matter as long as we realize how important it is to focus on basics and execute simple things we know we're good at. I'm looking forward to practice tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2011

adidas Grand Prix NYC

Well, I got sixth again. This time though, sixth meant I also got last place. I only threw 54.62m, intentionally fouled two of my throws, and had two sector fouls. My last throw (the one that went 54m) landed about an inch inside the right sector line.
Needless to say, my alignment is off.
I still feel physically awesome. I was a little more achy than recent weeks on Saturday, probably because of the slight sickness I've had and all the travel I've done in the last three weeks, but a little achy shouldn't mean 54m. Last year, I threw at Drake Relays and had two meets at Tucson Elite before USAs. Those three competitions were low-key and fun, and I got a chance to really trust the technique I had developed. I wasn't trying to win on every throw, I was just trying to solidify the things I had done in practice. This year, I threw at Drake Relays, flew to Rome a month later, went to Eugene the next weekend, and competed in New York the weekend after that. Rome, Eugene and New York were much more high-pressure than my competitions last year, and dealing with external pressures from having prior success has been something I thought I was prepared for, but perhaps wasn't.

I think it's important to talk about the mental side of track and field. I started working with Dr. Ross Flowers here at the training center last year, and his help has been invaluable. I get to talk to him this afternoon, and I'm craving a good, tough conversation. After I threw 61.56m in 2008 at Big Tens, I suddenly felt like I needed to throw that far every single time I competed, and (in my head) it seemed like people following my career would be disappointed if I didn't. Not true. I realized eventually that people were watching me because they were excited to see me succeed. Sure, they'd be a little bummed if I didn't throw far, but if I did, they'd be happy. I wanted to make them (and myself) happy! It took me a while to learn how to use other people's energy as a positive thing, and I think I'm dealing with the same kind of stress now. Every athlete takes a different path to where they want to be, and I'm doing my best to learn and grow from everything I experience!

It's pretty cool to receive congratulatory text messages/facebook messages/voice mails/tweets when you do well, but something that I took a lot of comfort in this weekend was that people didn't hesitate to contact me to tell me how much they are still supporting me after a poor performance. I feel blessed to have people in my life who cheer for me and lift me up when I'm feeling a little bit down. I try to be that person for them when they need it, too! Part of athletics, though, is always moving forward. So, on to practice today and away from a meet I'm happy to leave behind.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prefontaine Classic


I had my worst result ever at Hayward Field this weekend (58.39m). I also suffered my first career loss at that venue with a 6th place finish. I'm disappointed, but the way I felt physically did not show in my results!

Training this year has been much more challenging than last year. Yeah, I worked hard in 2010 and was in good shape, but 2011 has been vastly more well-rounded as far as total-body focus along with many ever-important technical sessions. Ty has been teaching me to throw the javelin with my legs and whole body instead of just using the arm felixibility and strength that I've always known are there. In the competitions that haven't gone like I wanted this season (Drake and Pre), I've resorted to old ways.
Obviously, I don't revert on purpose.
I'm simply having to learn to use a higher fitness level and more speed on the runway; to make adjustments. My timing was off in Eugene this weekend because I didn't trust myself to stay behind my block and hit correct positions with the power I was bringing to the throw. I'm frustrated with myself for not being brave in the moment, but I'm feeling very positive about the fact that I'm healthy and haven't had to miss nearly as much training as I did last year! I need to just hone in on some technical cues in practice and trust my positions in competition.

My parents and brother came to the Prefontaine Classic this weekend! I love my family because they are competitive and, of course, only want the best for me. When I don't perform to my potential, I know they love me anyway, but I also know that they're feeling disappointment too. I don't take that as pressure, I take that as reassurance of their belief in my capabilities as a javelin thrower. They want me to be as great as I want myself to be, and I love that!

Up next is the third installment of women's javelin Diamond League meets. I'll throw in the adidas Grand Prix in New York on Saturday!

When in Rome...Learn

I competed in the Compeed Golden Gala (my event's first Diamond League meet) in Rome, Italy on May 26. Sorry for the delay in writing a blog about this one, but I'm nearing the end of a flurry of recent meets and haven't had much time between training, volunteering, travel and competition!
Things I Learned in Rome:
1. Eliminate distractions whenever possible.

At Drake, I wore a back brace to support my cranky SI joints. No matter how prepared you are for your attempts during a competition, having to put on an extra piece of equipment each time is just obnoxious! I've been seeing Brett the rehab master here at the training center regularly for adjustments and exercises, and ditching that back brace is always a celebration. I didn't even bring it to Rome, so getting ready for my throws was simplified. Javelin, shoes, Kara...check, check, check. I also learned how the zipper on my new uniform jacket works. I know that sounds stupid, but I struggled with it at Drake and it really drove me crazy. To put on and take off my outer layer with ease was a relief.

2. A little adventure never hurt anybody.

Becky and I went to see the Vatican on Tuesday night (the day we both arrived in Rome and two days before competition). We didn't stay long, but glimpsed the ancient tourist attraction from the outside, ate some delicious gelato, and wandered around for a while enjoying a game of "Tourist? Or Local?". I do better at competitions when I don't take myself super seriously, so it's always nice for me to get out and see the sights a bit! After the meet, dinner was served at a party around the pool, and I love to socialize, so it was great to meet some new people and catch up with others.


3. Sleep is my BEST FRIEND.

My flight landed on Tuesday at about 10:30am. I kept my eyes open until 8:30 that night, and didn't open them until 10:30am on Wednesday. I took a nap from 1:00pm-3:30pm that afternoon, then went to the track to do my pre-meet workout. I fell asleep at about 11:30 that night, and slept until 8:30am Thursday (competition day). After a quick breakfast, I fell asleep again from 9am-3:30pm, waking up in time to grab a mid-afternoon snack and get ready to leave for competition on a 6pm shuttle. I. Felt. Awesome. That's approximately 32 hours of sleep in a 53-hour period. You gotta do what you gotta do!

4. Sometimes, you just get lucky.

I was delayed out of San Diego on Monday about an hour. Unfortunately, my layover in Chicago was only a little more than an hour. I spent my first flight sort of nervous, but also knew things would work out if I didn't make it. After all, I've learned from past mistakes and now always have everything I need with me. I found out during the first flight that the man across the aisle from me was also going to Rome. He was a lot more nervous about making it than I was, and also a lot more clueless as to where our connecting gate was. Walking as fast as possible without completely leaving him in my dust, I showed him to our next plane, which was delayed about 20 minutes, meaning I had time to grab a quick sandwich at the totally convenient deli nearby! After I ordered, strange man from my previous plane surprised me by buying my veggie wrap, even though all he got was a banana. Then I hid from him in the totally convenient women's restroom until my flight boarded. I had an empty seat next to me on the flight despite the fact that the rest of the plane was completely full! When we got to Rome, my javelins were there waiting for me even though the connection in ORD had been tight. Made a short connection, free lunch, open seat AND javelins arrived safely? Fabulous!

5. Good plans work.

During warm-ups for competition at the Olympic Stadium in Rome, literally every one of my competitors kept one or two of their javelins with them to throw in the warm-up area. I had checked in all of mine. I don't expect to be able to throw in the warm-up area at regular-season meets, because it hardly ever happens that way! But when everyone else was doing it, I felt a little foolish. Then I said to myself, "Kara, you never do that. Stick to the plan," did what I usually do and then relaxed until we were called to go inside the stadium. What do you know, my warm-ups on the runway felt fine and I competed pretty well in prelims, throwing 62.76m on my third attempt when I felt like I needed a better mark to ensure that I was top 8 and would go to finals. The other plan that worked well was to train through Drake completely. I definitely could have and should have thrown better there, but having such a strong training base this season is going to serve me very well in the long run. :)

6. Chill, baby! And take care of number one.

When we were led out to the runway for warm-ups, the men's pole vault had just started. Even though there are two different places that both the pole vault and javelin can be contested in every stadium, we were both on the same side. That meant that the pole vault and javelin runways intersected at a T, and a man stood with an orange flag throughout both competitions, prohibiting a javelin thrower or a pole vaulter from doing their thing at all times. This was especially problematic during our warm-ups, as there's not an ample amount of time for them in a stiuation that doesn't involve potential violent collisions. I saw the problem as soon as we arrived, so I grabbed two javelins and took them into the field, away from the chaos. A few meet people told me not to, but if I'm not getting a chance to go down the runway, I'm gonna do what I have to to be warm to throw. Sorry I'm not sorry. :) It was silly that both men's vault and women's jav took twice as long as they needed to, but it ended up being kinda fun to be so close to another field event. The mantra that we should worry about things we can control gets put into practice in all kinds of situations!

I learned a whole lot at this meet. I think mostly it was a refresher course though; a re-introduction to big time competition and how to handle certain stressors. I didn't respond well when Barbora passed me in the sixth round and ended up fourth overall, so that leaves me hungry. Rome got me excited about Pre, but that didn't turn out how I wanted it to. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Modified Approach

I had trouble with my approach at Drake. I added two carry steps this year (running forward with the javelin over your head; each left foot strike counts as a step), making my approach four carry steps and three crossovers. Last year, I used two carry steps and three crossovers, meaning that my approach this year got a lot longer, less aggressive, and more likely to have mistakes in it.

The point of adding more carry steps is to get more speed by the end of the approach. Unfortunately, if you don't use that speed correctly, there is absolutely no reason to include the extra steps! Acceleration is one of the most important factors in good javelining, so if you're not accelerating throughout your approach, something is wrong. Take a look at this video of my best attempt at Drake.



Pretty constant speed, not much acceleration, just blah all the way through, slow left leg at the end.

Yesterday, I had a good throwing session. We're throwing 700-gram javelins right now, and I've been pleased with how my last few practices have gone. At the end of throwing sessions, we practice approaches. After one mock approach using four carry steps yesterday, Ty simply said, "You just look tired." I felt tired.
By the end of that long approach (distance runners, no laughing) I was just feeling lost and scatter-brained,
so we decided to shorten it by one carry step. Huge difference. I'm very excited about using this slightly shorter approach! I feel more comfortable at the end of it and much more ready to throw far out of it than the extended version. I can accelerate throughout instead of feeling like I have to hold something back for the end. I'm pretty pumped to put it to the test in Rome next Thursday. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Drake Relays

I went to Drake Relays! I threw the javelin. I hung out with my family! I came home.
Those were my emotions this weekend. I was excited to go to the meet, but for some reason not that pumped about actually throwing my implement. I wanted to throw far, but the process of actually using my body to do it was somehow boring once I arrived at the competition venue.
I couldn't (or wouldn't) get my energy up and hold my technique together simultaneously.
By the end of my six throws, I was moving decently fast on the runway, but nothing held solid at the end of my approach to give the javelin any energy. I ended up throwing 57.74m (189'5") on my final attempt. I had two other 57m throws, and one farther sector foul (when the javelin lands outside its designated target area, which is large).

I know what I need to fix. In the meet, I tried to focus on all of the technical things we have been working on in practice. The problem was that I tried to focus on all of the technical things we have been working on in practice! When I get to a competition, I need to have laser focus on a few very important technical cues, and execute them to the best of my ability. I simply am out of practice at that kind of mindset, and I'm excited to get back to it in practice in the next few weeks.

I also think that it is extremely important to always be thinking about where you want to end up. At Drake, I was just throwing to throw at Drake. I didn't have a fire in my belly about hitting this season's distance goal or competing simply to throw the farthest I possibly could or preparing myself to throw at USAs/Worlds to the best of my ability. Striving to constantly be better is something that I always want to do, but an idea I forgot about last Friday.

Moving on. :) It has been confirmed that I will compete in the first women's javelin Diamond League event in Rome, Italy on May 26! I'm really looking forward to it, because last year I missed out on the first two Diamond League meets for my event. It will be really nice to begin the race on the actual starting line this year!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Staycation

It's rest week again! I didn't have practice yesterday, and I don't have to do anything today, tomorrow, or Sunday (although I'll do a little something Saturday).
I decided to get away. I'm at a secret location, relaxing by myself in San Diego. :)
This last block was awesome. You already know that I threw a practice PR three Mondays ago. What you don't know is that I threw another one (actually two) this Monday!! The week and a half in between those good days was pretty bad. I love when I can have a few frustrating practices, forget about them in order to move forward, and then come back more focused than before!

Ty, Mike, Andreas, Daniel, Tero and his coach were watching my practice on Monday. It has been extremely fun to have so many fabulous javelin throwers (the Germans are here, too!) and international gurus of the sport around, because there is quite a different energy at the track than when it's just Mike and I.

Andreas and Mike had all of the javelin throwers and Russ over for a barbeque last Friday. It was simply amazing to look around at all the talent eating cheeseburgers in one room! Each event in track and field is so specific that I always try to take advantage of relaxed social situations like that one. You can only get to know someone so well when you're competing against each other! The happiest guy at the party was Sean, as he set a new personal record at Mt. SAC Relays last weekend! He threw 81.62m, and there's nothing quite like that PR high that lasts a few days after competition. Good job, Sean!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

HAPPY birthday

Three or four people have told me that it’s all downhill after the age of 25.
Whatever, I say.
I love birthdays. I tell Russ that mine is coming up at least a month beforehand. A lot of people might say, “Well, Kara, you’re only 25. Wait ten years and then tell me you love birthdays.” But I challenge you to enjoy each and every year of your life. You’re alive, right? Go have a good time with that. You can't go backwards, so don't waste time wishing you could.

I was brought up in a house where your accomplishments were praised, and your birthday was filled with happiness and celebration. I simply don’t understand how a birthday could be treated like every other day! It doesn't have to be a huge deal, but it should be noticed and appreciated. To me, April 10th each year feels a little bit like hitting the pause button. I get to spend a day still feeling like I’m the age I’ve been for a year, while also wondering what the next age will bring (and, chances are, it won’t be that different). I ponder what I’ve done so far, and what I’d like to tackle next. I do what I want, and I get to hear from people that I love!

This year’s birthday was so much about friends. People went out of their way to spend time with me, and it meant a lot! The calls, messages and texts that I got from people from all walks of life really made me appreciate how much I’ve been exposed to and how lucky I am to have met such awesome individuals from so many different areas (and eras, for that matter).

Don’t complain about your age. Enjoy a day that's all about you; there's only one guaranteed opportunity to do that each year!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Practice PR!

We all know that practice distances don't count. They aren't officially measured. Only you, your training partners and your coach can vouch for them (and those people might be a little biased). A lot of times, practice throws are fouls.
But when you have good practice throws, you're just happy.
When macthrowvideo.com featured me on their website last year, someone asked me if I had thrown farther than the American Record (thanks again, Cyrus!) in practice. I absolutely have not! I'm not a "practice thrower." Mostly, we focus on technique during the two sessions per week that we're on the runway, so I try not to be concerned about how far my javelins fly. But there are times that we bring the intensity up and measure throws to kind of check in with how preparation for competition is coming.

I set a training goal last year to throw 60 meters in practice. I never achieved that, but I raised it this year because of the success that I saw in competition during 2010. So, although I'm really happy about meeting last year's goal today and setting a new practice personal record :), I'm more excited about striving toward this year's aspirations.
Outdoor season has begun,
but not yet for me! My first meet of the season will be Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. I throw on Friday, April 29th at 2:00pm!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Off the Runway

I haven't been on the runway that much lately. The throwing sessions that I have had have been super beneficial, though, yay! I've mostly been on the computer (see the new CVOTC Track and Field blog) and getting treatment/waiting for my left SI joint to calm down.
I've also been volunteering my time!
Although I get paid a little bit for it, I don't think of being a tour guide at the training center as a job. It's actually really fun for me; people, surprisingly, always ask different questions. It's neat to be able to share something with them that they've never encountered before, or might not have ever had explained fully to them. A little while ago, a group of athletes from The Larry English L.E.A.D. Foundation came for a tour. We walked them around the training center and showed a video. It never ceases to amaze me how everyone gets mesmerized by footage of inspiring Olympic moments. Watch the video in that link and tell me you weren't just a little misty-eyed.


I started working with Athletes for Hope after the USATF Annual Meeting in the fall of 2009. They help athletes get connected with volunteer opportunities in their communities. It took me a while to figure out which organization I wanted to become a part of and to really get the ball rolling, but last summer I finally attended my orientation as a San Diego Humane Society Volunteer! I got trained in my specific program, Dog Activities, in February, and last Wednesday I had my first hands-on training day, walking these pets under the supervision of an already-trained Volunteer. I'm loving it.

Ian, Stacy, Sandy, Russ and I drove up to LA last Thursday for the USATF Olympians Night at Staples Center before the LA Kings vs. St. Louis Blues hockey game. We met a few athletes and answered some questions about Track and Field and life in general. A small group of people came, and it was really nice to have the time to actually have a conversation with them! Then we got to stay for the game. If you've never been to a professional hockey game, go. It's super fun.


I have my second training day at the Humane Society tomorrow. :) Can't wait to see the puppies!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Me? Explosive?

Last week was rest week. You read that right; last week was rest week. It wasn't rest Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday,
it was do-what-you-want-when-you-want week.
Mike and I went to hot yoga at the Chula Vista Yoga Center twice, did three recovery workouts (general strength and abs), and I went on a long, leisurely bike ride with Russ! I absolutely loved the time off, and took advantage by getting tons of therapy! Three chiropractic appointments, 2.5 hours of massage, one shoulder mobility torture session, and one acupuncture appointment later, I felt pretty awesome heading into the first week of this new block.

I didn't squat at all last year. Literally, not one time. Our leg lifts were single leg, and mostly step-ups. That means that I hadn't squatted since approximately June of 2009 until I did yesterday. Front squats are on my program this block, and my legs hurt. I look forward to getting those neglected muscles in shape again so I can get some actual work done!

I've written recently that my gymnastics skills are coming along nicely. Our new gymnastics regimen is a lot more about strength than spatial awareness and coordination, like the last block. We did a bunch of posterior-chain strengthening with the Keiser machines today, followed by high bar srength with muscle-ups. The most I had done in a row before today was 3. On my first set, I did 4. Then, Ty said the most he'd ever seen a girl do was 5 in a row. I started out on my second set by doing 6. Then Ty said, "If you do 8 you don't have to do any more." So, I did two more. Then, we figured that there was no reason not to do 10, so I did two more.
Not only did I figure out a skill, but now I'm strong enough to perform it repeatedly...and fairly well!
The most exciting part of the gymnastics workout this afternoon was that, right after I exploded out of the bottom of the movement to pull myself on top of the bar on one of my repetitions, Ty remarked on the power that I had exhibited. I've never, ever thought of myself as an explosive athlete, and to hear him say that and feel powerful and explosive in the skill is really gratifying. I really look forward to applying the stretch-followed-by-explosive-arm-strike feeling that I've gotten in muscle-ups to the javelin.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Day

Last week, I had some of my best throwing sessions ever. On Monday, Mike, Andreas, Ty, and Asmund let out a collective, "ooooohhhh" after one of my throws, which was pretty awesome. I was throwing on the runway and hitting consistently good, closed positions. On Thursday, Ty had Mike and I throw off of the grass for the entire session, which feels awesome on your body compared to the track surface! I hit even better positions on the grass, mostly because I wasn't going as fast as on the runway. I'm super encouraged! Here are two of my throws, and one of the light ball throws that we do at the end of practice.




Since we had a relatively easy day on Thursday, Ty told me that I had to throw 57 meters on Monday. I was pretty excited to see whether or not I could throw far when I wanted to instead of accidentally hitting positions and having things work out! Alas, when I brought the intensity up and tried to throw far, it didn't quite happen that way. By the end of the throwing session, I finally remembered that I needed to focus on positions more than just speed and aggression, but by then I was pretty tired. Instead of 57 meters, I threw 56. I'm disappointed, but afterward I remembered that I didn't throw during all of February last year because of a back injury. I'm pretty happy with how yesterday went when I think about it that way.
My parents are coming to visit this weekend!
I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving in Hawaii, and I'm really excited to show them around. We lived in San Diego when I was a baby, so I know they're familiar, but my Mom has never seen the training center before! Hopefully the rain that's in the forecast is short-lived!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I'm a gymnast! ...kinda.

One of my training goals for the year was to do a kip (and I do mean a kip). I do gymnastics with Mike, Melinda and Becky twice a week, and in every block before this one, I've simply been building my strength while the three of them flip and twist and spin like crazy around me! Becky looks like this, and I've been doing pull-ups and basic strength things on the high bar...kind of embarrassing sometimes.
When there is evidence all around me that I'm behind in training (nevermind that Becky was a level 10 gymnast and Melinda and Mike have done this before) I get extremely motivated to improve.
I quietly have worked on improving my strength on the high bar (3 pull-ups the first day to 3 sets of 10 now) and on the rings so that I could have my shot at learning some tricks!

Last week was rest week. You may remember that I thought the week before that was rest week, but I was wrong. That means I really needed to recharge my batteries this weekend! I took full advantage: got away from the training center, borrowed Ian and Stacy's dog London, a vizsla, and took her to the beach, went to the zoo with Russ and even met some of his family we didn't know lived here! I was ready to come back to practice on Monday, and I was extremely ready to try some new moves on the high bar on Tuesday afternoon.
I did a kip.
Then I did like 7 more of them! Then I tried some muscle-ups, and I did those, too! I am absolutely loving gymnastics, because progress is so measurable. You either can perform a skill, or you can't.

As Dr. Ross said when I told him I had achieved a year-long aspiration on the first day I tried, I need to modify my goals a little. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Progress

Technical focus is paying off! Last Monday, my legs were pretty good during throwing practice. Thursday, my arm and javelin tip control got better, but my legs were awful. Today, I put them both together okay! I was able to be explosive with my legs, have a fairly substantial impulse, and get my left leg down before I initiated a good arm strike, keeping the tip down.
Yay!
Thanks to interim coaches Mike and Andreas, who are awesome for watching me throw while Ty is in Colorado with Becky and Melinda; they opened their indoor seasons on Friday! I don't know if you know this,
but Mike and I are pretty excellent training partners.
We work really hard, and he knows exactly what to say to me to push me in practice. Sometimes he motivates me so much that I feel guilty about not having good ammo to fire back! I'm more of the positive, happy, point-out-good-things-you're-doing kind of girl than one that can think of scenarios he'll get fired up about, anyway. :) The addition of Andreas to our regular training regimen has been super cool, too; obviously. We may not do the same things in practice each day, but it's always good to get a fresh perspective on things, especially when javelin knowledge is coming from such a reputable source!

Lifting has been going awesome, too. This block, we have front split jerks for four sets of two reps, and we hook ourselves up to a Tendo unit to measure our power. At the beginning of the block, I figured I'd have trouble with a certain amount of weight, but it turns out that I'm a lot stronger than I think! My power increased with each session until today. That's okay though, because this is the beginning of week 4 of this block,
which means I'm spent,
and ready for all the rest that is coming my way at the end of it. :)

I realized today that my birthday this year will mark ten years since my first javelin competition. On April 10, 2001, I threw 107 feet in a meet in Oregon. I was pretty excited to figure out that that milestone is coming!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Technique and Normalcy

I returned to San Diego from Colorado Springs last Monday morning, and went straight to practice; my first one with 500-gram javelins. That's always a little awkward, as my problems with lunging forward as I throw are blatant with a lighter-weight implement. When I throw heavy javelins (700- or 800-gram ones), my arm and upper body are forced to stay back, and I get a big stretch before the implement is released.
Not so with a dinky javelin!
I have to make sure I'm patient and really learn how to purposefully wait on the release. I'll do my best again today.

Another problem I've dealt with in my throwing for a very long time is controlling the tip of my javelin at release. I'm pretty flexible (understatement alert?), so I pretend that I can feel more stretch across my shoulder by breaking at the wrist when I throw. This makes for loss of distance because my power isn't going into the javelin at the correct orientation; the tip gets too high. This week, I'll focus only on keeping my wrist in line and making sure my javelin flies correctly. It's a little bit daunting to think about fixing this, because it is something I've always struggled with. Better late-ish than never...

I'm so happy to be back at the Training Center and able to practice normally every day. It's fun to travel and see family and get my workouts in elsewhere, but
never is training as beneficial as when I'm in the environment I'm familiar with,
with my coach and training partners. Four or five solid months of training regularly here is an exciting idea for me!

I know what my goals are, but I haven't written them down yet. Soon, I'll write measurable goals for training and competition!