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


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?