Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful for Change (Week 8!)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

When I hurt my knee in July, I started working with a lady I called my “emergency sports psychologist,” Wendy Borlabi.  She’s fabulous, and is now just my normal sports psychologist (since it’s not an emergency anymore).  Before I had surgery, she gave me a book to read called Who Moved My Cheese.  It talks about how to best deal with change, and is very straightforward (like how dealing with change should be).  Not only is Wendy awesome, but her book recommendations are, too, and while I like to think that I knew what to do before I read the cheese book, it helped me calm down even more about all of the changes in my life recently!

I’m moving to Colorado in one week.  I had major knee surgery 8 weeks ago (I ran on Tuesday (at decreased body weight) for the first time since then!).  I will be living in a dorm room again instead of an apartment or house.  I’ll be working with a new athletic trainer.  I won’t see Dr. Rintala twice a week anymore, so I’ll have to work extra hard on my own at DNS stuff.  I’ll have to make new friends.  I will now be working with both of my coaches in a satellite situation (Ty in New Orleans and Jamie in Chula Vista).  I’m starting grad school in January (YAY!).

That seems like a lot of new stuff to me!  But, instead of resisting the change and just wishing that things could stay the same, I’m embracing new opportunities and keeping a grateful attitude for the chance to experience more of the world.  Whenever things change in my life, I do my best to try and keep the good things from the past in some capacity (realize that I can come back to Chula Vista and visit, know how often I can call or text Britney to chat, look forward to facetiming with the Waltz clan, get so excited to meet Lil’ Miss Whoozit for the first time), but let go of the things that aren’t working and move forward.

It’s okay to feel like I’m a bit lost in a maze when it comes to adapting to change, but sooner or later I’ll find my way, and I might just be rewarded with positive experiences.  I’m excited about moving to Colorado because I’ll get to wear big comfy warm coats and boots, hot coffee will actually taste good instead of making me sweat, the aquatic center and sports med at the Colorado Springs Training Center will be amazing, I already know I work well with Eric Lawson in the weight room, I’ve found a photography club I can maybe join, and grad school at DeVry University (thanks, USOC, for the scholarship!!!!!) will afford me the opportunity to make new friends.  Also, living in the same city as Russ’s family is exciting; even if they’re not my family, they feel that way.  And since Russ’s family is in the Springs, my family gets me for all the holidays. :)

Has something changed in your life recently?  What can you do to make a seemingly negative change, positive?  If things always stayed the same, we wouldn’t have a chance to adapt and improve.  Use change to propel yourself to be better.  That’s my plan!

On this Thanksgiving day, I'm also so very grateful for the chance to be with my family (in Washington with Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Brother, Brother's Girlfriend, and Russ), for my parents' amazingly good and soft dogs, and the fact that I'm already 8 weeks out of surgery and doing great!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 5.5

Rehab has gotten so much more fun since my last blog!
I thought that walking over hurdles, doing glute bridges, and not being in horrible pain during passive flexion was fun, but I've come so far in three weeks!  I got to start swimming at four weeks.  I'm not on crutches at all anymore (I need to get that one out of my car so I don't have to see it every day).  I get to walk backwards on the treadmill now (try that; it's really weird).

Week six post-op starts on Wednesday, and apparently that means even more new exercises, so I'm really excited.  For the first few weeks after surgery, I was thinking I wouldn't lose too much mass from my left leg, but I was wrong.  I now have "Little Leg," "Big Leg," "Little Butt," and, "Big Butt."  I've never experienced muscle atrophy like this before, as I only had a splint when I broke my arm in 2004, not a cast!  It's really, really strange.  Maggie and I dubbed my left leg, "Model Leg," because celebrities usually have knobby knees, and only since seeing my quad diminish like crazy have I realized that their knees always look knobby because they have minimal muscle above them.  Now, I can relate!  (Just ignore the fact that my leg is still 15 pounds heavier than any actual model leg.)  I know it could be much, much worse, and I've been told often that I will spring right back once I get to do more resistance stuff.  Yay!

My Mom came to visit for a weekend two weeks ago, and Russ just left yesterday after a 10-day stay, so I've had lots of company and lots to do!  I wanted to share my typical daily schedule, just so you get an idea of what I'm up to.  Between rehab, swimming, seated training, and recovery stuff, the weeks are flying by!
-Hand bike for 20 minutes.
-Throw medballs; seated on the ground with my back against a swiss ball.
-Upper body lift (bench press, pullovers, back pulls) with a core circuit.
-Bike for 10 minutes.
-Rehab: soft tissue work and stretching followed by an hour-hour and a half of various strength exercises.
-Recovery: NormaTec, followed by Game Ready/stim.

-Swim: step-ups, four-way hips, bicycles, walking, deep water jogging, actual swimming (without kicking).
-AlterG for 20-30 minutes at 50% body weight.
-Bike for 10 minutes.
-Rehab: soft tissue and a few exercises (these are my rest days).
-Recover: NormaTec, followed by Game Ready/stim.

Gotta go get on the hand bike!  That thing is way more difficult that you would think.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Knee Rehab Update #1

Warning: There are post-op pictures at the bottom of this post!  They're not gaping wounds or anything, but if you don't want to look at bloody steri-strips, don't! :) 
As many of you may know, I tore my ACL on my fourth throw at this summer’s Olympic Trials.  I decided to compete at the London Olympics anyway, and am very happy that I made that decision; it was my favorite Olympic Games so far, despite being the scariest thing I have ever done!  After that, I moved all of my belongings to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Russ’s family is and where we will both take up residence in December at the Olympic Training Center there.  We hiked and camped and just enjoyed the absolutely gorgeous fall (see pictures here) for about a month.  I wore my custom DonJoy brace on all outdoor excursions! When I had appreciated all I could having a normally-functioning left leg (and worked very, very hard to have it ready for surgery with pre-hab), I returned to San Diego to undergo surgery by the very talented Dr. David Chao.  He works with the San Diego Chargers, and has operated on numerous other Chula Vista Olympic Training Center athletes, including Mike!

I couldn’t have chosen a better surgeon, procedure (there are many options), or recovery plan for myself in this process.  Dr. Chao was the man who read my MRI on July 6th and encouraged me to go to London anyway.  Chris and Quincy haven’t stopped their flow of positive helpfulness, Chris kicked my butt to get me in shape for London and for surgery, and Wendy continues to say exactly the right things to make me smile gratefully and hope for the future.  I will be in Chula Vista with this awesome support group of therapists and friends until after Thanksgiving, when I will officially move to Colorado and begin forming new relationships, the closest probably with a new athletic trainer!  I’m nervous about the change, and worry a little that I’ll be leaving behind the best situation for my healing knee, but I trust that things will work out.  I’m awesome at rehab, and I know that patience and hard work will prevail!
Now for some recovery details so far! 
After a lot of thought and research, I chose to get a bone-patella tendon-bone autograft ACL reconstruction from the ipsilateral knee.  This means that Dr. Chao removed the middle third of my left patella tendon along with bone chunks from my tibia and kneecap, drilled through my tibia and femur at the precise angle of the anterior cruciate ligament, and inserted those bone plugs into the holes he drilled.  The fact that this method lets bone heal to bone makes it the strongest option in ACL reconstruction.  If I were to have used a hamstring tendon instead, the soft tissue of the tendon would have to heal to the bone inside my knee.  The recovery is easier with a hamstring tendon graft, but some patients that use hamstring grafts permanently lose strength in the last part of contraction.  I wanted to heal as closely to my normal self as possible!  Allografts (cadaver tissue) can also be used in ACL reconstruction surgery, but patients in my age group see the largest failure rates with someone else's tissue.  To get my knee fixed and then tear it again would be devastating, and I wanted to give myself the best chance in avoiding that!  The forces that are put on my leg throwing the javelin versus in an athlete doing something else (like skiing) helped me decide that my best option was to use my left patella tendon.  I feel really good about the decision!

Russ was here taking care of me for the first week after surgery.  The poor guy had so much work to do! I had a drain from the surgery site that had to be emptied and measured periodically (gross), and pills to take every four and six hours.  I needed help getting on and off the couch and feeding myself, and he treated me wonderfully! Much to everyone’s disappointment, the pain medication I was on had no side effects except that it made me sleepy.  Ridiculously sleepy!  All I did for four days or so was sleep and drink water.  I had visitors (thank you Britney, Maggie and Jamie!), and I managed to leave the house to go to dinner at Ian and Stacy’s on about day 3.

For the first two weeks post-surgery, I laid on the couch hooked up to my CPM and cold therapy machines, doing various exercises every hour.  Russ and I watched three seasons of White Collar while he was here, and I blazed through four Game of Thrones books after he left. I've also started re-watching Friends. :)

I got to start physical therapy at the training center about three days after surgery!  The most horrible thing about therapy so far has been regaining the flexion in my knee.  I had never felt any pain like it.  Imagine that you hit your knee with a giant hammer 5 minutes ago, so it’s still aching like crazy.  Then imagine that someone set the skin on the front of your knee on fire, and that you are supposed to lie quietly and pretend like nothing is wrong.  Maybe you should even have a pleasant conversation with the person who started the fire, because you think that will help ease the weird, awful pain, but instead it encourages that person to increase said pain.  This necessary evil was the bane of my existence for the first week and a half or so of therapy, but I think that the reason it was so unbearable was because it was so new!  Once I grew accustomed to the sensation, I could tolerate it much better, and I was well ahead of the doctor’s goals for me at my two –week post-op appointment.

Things have gotten exciting in this third week!  I get to walk without a brace or crutches in the training room, and without crutches, but with the brace on in the house.  Today is supposed to be my first full weight-bearing day, and I feel great. I started doing upper body workouts again on Monday, and I’m beginning fall upper body training this coming Monday!  I’m very excited about all of the (seated) medball throws in my future.  I walked for 20 minutes yesterday on the AlterG, and am getting better and better at stepping over little hurdles.  I have a little more swelling still than I would like, but I promised myself that I would see this as a restful time, and I need to be patient.  Plus, Chris says that I’m ahead on all counts of 95% of the patients in lots of ACL protocols he has looked up, so I’m okay with a few setbacks if they happen.  I’m ahead of the game so far, but I’m trying not to pressure myself to stay there if I need to rest in order to heal properly.  It’s really fun knowing that I will have a sound knee again as long as I do what I’m told!

My Mom is coming to visit this weekend!  I’m very excited to see her and maybe have her help me clean the house, haha. It's tough to wield a vacuum without two stable legs!


One week post-op:

Two weeks: 

Three weeks:

Like I said, I still have more swelling than I'd like, but I tried the NormaTec today and acupuncture yesterday, and it seemed to help a lot.  Hopefully we're on to something!  Please let me know if you have questions. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

London 2012: The Knee Story

First of all, London 2012 has been a really good experience.  I knew what to expect this time around, from being bombarded by emails from team managers, to receiving an overwhelming amount of new gear and having to find a way to get it home (thanks, Carol and Liz!), to the logistics inside the Village, to the length of time between the warm-up track and competition.

I was considerably more comfortable with myself and my preparation for this Olympic Games than in Beijing.  Not saying I didn't prepare well for Beijing, I just understand my training and how big competitions go better now than I did then.  Bum knee and all, I felt more ready to compete well here than I did four years ago.

This post is going to be knee-centric, and I'll post another one soon about my overall experience with more pictures and stuff!  Here is the story of my left knee, from the Trials-on.

You can read my blog about Olympic Trials here as a back story.  When I wrote that blog, I didn't yet know what was wrong with my left knee.  The night of my competition at the Trials, I drove home to my parents' house in LaCenter, Washington.  The next morning (Monday), I flew to Spokane, Washington to help out at Ironwood Throws Camp, which I'm so glad I did!  Those kids were awesome.  Tuesday evening, I flew back to my parents' so I could spend the Fourth of July at home with them and my brother (it's never just the four of us anymore!).  Thursday, I finally arrived back in San Diego.

All those pre-made plans meant that I didn't get my knee looked at until Friday.  The doctor that did tests immediately after the competition in Eugene mentioned my meniscus, and Quincy and Chris seemed to think the same thing at my first appointment back in Chula Vista.  We did range of motion stuff and all kinds of rehab exercises, and then, "just to make sure it wasn't something more," Chris came with me to get an MRI at Dr. Chao's.  I thought I'd be fine to go alone, but boy, am I glad he was there with me.

Call me crazy, but I like MRIs!  I've only had two in my life, but both resulted in fabulous naps.  Since I had full range of motion in my knee, had already done well in rehab that morning, and had only heard the meniscus word from doctors up to that point, I never expected to hear Dr. Chao gently break the news of a complete ACL tear to me.  I had run (with a slight limp) a victory lap at Hayward Field!  I didn’t feel or hear a pop or anything.  I had a little bit of pain and just a tiny amount of swelling, but it felt like it could've been much worse, and like nothing a little treatment and rehab wouldn't fix.  I always imagined that an ACL tear would be right up there with the most painful things in the world, but it turns out that stingray poison wins by a huge margin.  I was completely and utterly shocked that that’s what I had done.

Had I been at the doctor’s office alone, I think I would still be crying with disappointment.  Chris Garcia is not only a fabulous athletic trainer, but a super motivating and supportive person.  He and Dr. Chao immediately started discussing the likelihood that I could compete well on a torn ACL in my block leg.  We had tape and anti-inflammatories.  I picked out a custom DonJoy red, white and blue ACL brace and got fitted for it that day.  I got to take a stim unit and Game Ready machine home with me to use while I watched reality TV (this summer was the first time I got to see the Bachelorette finale in 3 years!).  Unlike an athlete in a contact sport, I have predictable steps in what I do; there aren’t sudden collisions and changes of direction, so if I was careful about my foot placement, we decided I would be fine!

The next week was packed with rehab exercises, lifting and bike workouts to keep my quad tone, get as much stability in my legs as possible and maintain my power.  I have pretty good balance already, but Chris really pushed me, and it was awesome.  Honestly, I love rehab and always have!  When I finally got to London and talked to the team doctors about my secret injury situation, they were really impressed with my quad tone, and I was so proud of the work Chris and I had done!  Blam!  If this were the ACL rehab Olympics, I would absolutely win gold.

There came a point when we had to try throwing again.  My first practice back, I only wore the brace, and it was set at a 10-degree block (my leg wouldn’t be able to extend past a 10-degree angle).  It was low-intensity, but I took too many painful tosses regardless of not throwing hard.  Next practice, the brace was blocked at 20 degrees, and I had a massive amount of tape on my leg.  It was better, but my knee could still extend a little too far when I blocked, making it really painful if I were blocked off or too far forward.  I had about six throwing sessions in the 21 days between my diagnosis and my departure date, and we ended up with even more tape on my left leg and the brace at a 30-degree block.  My last throwing session was my best one yet; I could throw an inconsistent 54 meters at what I would estimate was 75% intensity, but I knew I would need competition adrenaline to be brave enough to hit a hard block.  I was throwing in those three weeks with weird, hesitant technique I’ve never employed before.  There were moments of brilliance, but visualization was my biggest asset, as I knew I could practice in my mind much better than I was practicing in real life.

The physical side of this whole ordeal has been the easy part.  I started working with Wendy Borlabi right after getting diagnosed because I knew the timing of this injury was a bear of a mental problem.  She and Chris have been amazing encouragement and strength for me.  I would not have made it to the Olympic runway without them, Ty and Jamie!  Even with their support and that of my amazing friends and family, this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I have never been through such an emotional roller coaster for such an extended period of time.

I would be overjoyed with my progress one day (I ran!  I skipped!  I did my normal warm-up without my knee shifting!), only to return the next morning for practice in pain and with so much frustration that seeing Britney reduced me to sobs of such intensity that they rank fourth on my list of lifetime hard cries: 1) when Grandma passed away in December, and (tied for second and third) when it was family dogs Nani and Nio’s times to go.  I’m good at focusing on the task at hand though, so when I had a job to do, I did it to the best of my ability and stayed as positive as I possibly could (which is pretty freaking positive!).  The hardest part of every day was bed time, when I had no task to occupy me and my mind was free to fabricate vivid mental pictures of what competition would be like.  I fought so hard to make those movies in my brain into what I wanted to happen at the Games!

Re-living the last month through this blog is actually much harder than it was going through it at the time.  I did my very best to not let myself feel the negative emotions of the situation at the time, and I only really had four or five days that I would consider bad.  That includes the time I was in London.  Now that it’s over, it’s easier to be bitter about the poor timing of my injury, but that doesn’t suit me.  Yes, my PR would have won a silver medal this year, but there’s no use in what-ifs, and perhaps everyone else’s results would have been completely different if I were healthy and in the final.

I’m proud of my 56.23m effort on my first throw in the qualifying round last Tuesday, but I know I could have thrown a little bit further.  That first throw was my shot; I knew it would hurt a whole lot to throw at competition speed, and that I would be automatically hesitant on subsequent throws.  That’s exactly what happened; even though throws 2 and 3 flew well, it felt like my body simply refused to transfer energy properly through my busted leg.  The shakes I got immediately after I was done with my third attempt told me just how badly I wanted to succeed, but also clued me in to how much I had just asked of my hurting body!  The overwhelming feeling I had the next day was simply that I was glad to be done; I am no longer living in fear of the pain of throwing without an ACL!  This was my second-best major championship distance yet, and two meters better and 11 places higher than my first Olympic showing in Beijing.

I apologize if anyone feels slighted by me keeping the extent of my knee injury a secret!  I knew that if I talked about it with everyone, it would give me an excuse to not try my hardest to overcome it at the Olympics.  Thank you so much to everyone who offered me strength, whether you knew it or not!  I needed and used every single positive word.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Personal Opinion

I don't know how many of you who read my blog have heard about the Rule 40 drama going on around the Olympics, but I wanted to write a little something that explains my personal stance on the issue at hand.  I was nervous to take part in what felt like a Twitter revolution on Sunday evening, but in the end I wanted to support my teammates and make a bit of a stand about something that I don't think is right.  Now, I'd like to explain my two cents.

Rule 40 prevents 2012 Olympic athletes from mentioning companies other than official Olympic sponsors on social media.  

If you know me, you know that that means I can't tweet, blog, or facebook anything about the company that has supported me for three years, and feels like a family now more than ever.  I completely understand that exclusivity of sponsorship deals makes them most valuable, and that that is why the IOC put these rules in place.  In my opinion, that should only mean that the companies who support Olympic athletes that are not Olympic sponsors should be prohibited from using said athletes' likenesses in their advertising during the Games.  Saying that athletes themselves can't mention their sponsors seems to me like an encroachment on my freedom of speech.

I consider the javelin to be a lesser-known Olympic sport.  Sure, it's under the umbrella of the "most-watched" Olympic sport of Track and Field, but I understand that the javelin isn't the 100 meter dash.  The Olympic javelin champion doesn't get a title like, "World's Fastest Man," or, "World's Best Athlete," they just get a medal and a fabulous day!  But talking about these rule 40 issues with teammates got me thinking about the even lesser-thought-about Olympic sports: Badminton, equestrian events, team handball, sprint kayak, archery, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, fencing, etc.  I'm sure that the equipment necessary for those sports is very specialized and expensive, and that they have sponsors that provide them with it so they can train and compete at their best.  If I'm in a sport that's mainstream, even if my event isn't, and I've had a lot of help from javelin manufacturers and back brace-makers and a shoe company, who makes the shuttlecocks, stirrups, handballs, paddles, arrows, hair gel, ribbons and swords that these athletes need?  And shouldn't they be allowed to show their appreciation for such specific support?

I want to be clear.  I completely understand the rule as it pertains to companies promoting themselves as being attached to the Olympics through their athletes.  I believe recent articles are calling them potential "ambush marketers," which seems harsh to me, but I can see (from a seemingly unfair business side, which is often how business is) how non-Olympic-sponsor companies could "devalue" Olympic sponsors' messages.  I do think that athletes should be able to thank whoever we please via social media, though.

I just wanted to give my perspective as an athlete in a lesser-known-event-that-requires-specific-equipment-and-help.  I've never really been a part of something controversial, and that is not what I intend this blog post to be.  I simply wanted to explain my personal thoughts surrounding what is going on, and move on.  I don't plan on talking about it any more, because I have work to do. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

London Calling!

I was asked recently what kinds of foods I'll eat while in London, and realized that I never posted about in-season eats!  I wanted to share a little bit about what I eat during competition season, what I take with me when I travel, and what I can expect to consume while at the Olympic Games.

I've been to London three times before, and it's one of my favorite European cities!  From what I've seen, the city streets and sidewalks are fairly wide compared to other places I've visited, meaning two throwers (or maybe just Americans?  Ouch?) can walk side-by-side without being uncomfortable.  Even though it rains a lot, that makes me happy to a point because I'm from Western Washington!  People speak English there, and I've found grocery stores with fairly familiar products in the past.

British food, however, is not my favorite.  In my 3 trips to the city, I've stayed at the same hotel each time, and maybe that doesn't give me the best idea of what's available.  I did get to meet up with my friend Laura from Purdue in London in 2009, and we got some street food and had dinner at a pub with her friends!  It was fun!  I really think that good company makes food better sometimes.

My favorite British food is bread pudding.  It is also the complete opposite of what I try to eat during the season!  When the season really gets rolling, I don't eat many carbohydrates (bread, pastas, sugar), and stick to mostly vegetables and proteins.  I love a big salad with all kinds of veggies, nuts, seeds, cottage cheese, avocado/guacamole, and fruit in it.  I'm strict when it comes to sweets during the season, too!  So, bread pudding, being a carb and a sweet, is just not on the menu.

That leaves me with bland roasted meats and fish, soggy steamed vegetables, and fruits that seem to be less flavorful than in America, too.  Again, this is only my experience at one British hotel speaking, so I'm optimistic about what I'll find in the Olympic Village!  The dining hall in the Village in Beijing was filled with buffet lines consisting of lots and lots of different varieties of food.  There were "American" options, Asian selections, and lots of Italian things to eat.  Even if there's a lot that doesn't look appetizing, you can probably find something that will be good for you!  The USOC has a training facility in London that is specifically for the American athletes, and you can sign up for dinners there that mainly consist of American food.  That place was awesome in Beijing!

There aren't a lot of snacks available in the Olympic Village (or anywhere when you travel abroad), so I'm bringing some stuff with me so that I can recover after workouts.  Here are my essentials:

EAS 100% Whey Protein Powder
     I think I'll take a mixture of vanilla and chocolate.  I mix this with water or milk after workouts, and throw it in smoothies!
Balance and PR Bars
     PR Bars are amazing.  Check out the link!  I love them!  Balance bars are delicious and not as good for you, but I've been using them for a long time and I'm familiar with them.
Peanut Butter
     Good for a delicious shot of creamy protein and fat when you're feeling hungry.
     YUM.  This is plane food for me.  I also have a cranberry/almond/pistachio trail mix that I like.

That's about it for eats at the Olympics!  Meet my new friends from Maggie and Britney; Champion is the Build-A-Bear dog on the left, and my Pillow Pet elephant from Britney's trunk is pointing up for good luck!  They're very patriotic!  I have amazing friends. :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Olympic Trials

I’m so grateful to have an awesome support system of family, friends, ASICS, and CVOTC people!  I’m extremely touched by everyone’s encouraging words and actions, and I can’t say that enough.  The number of people that I had cause to hug during the lap the top 3 women took around Hayward Field after the final was overwhelming; I can’t believe the amount of people I knew personally who were in attendance!  Amazing, and so humbling.

The qualifying round went almost exactly as I had hoped it would.  Ty and I seemed to be on exactly the same page; throw far on my first toss and sit down.  This year at Olympic Trials, the meet organizers decided to make the automatic qualifying standards in the early rounds of the field events the Olympic Games A standards, therefore allowing athletes to chase said standards during qualifying.  In 2008, the auto marks were much lower, meaning that if an athlete threw far enough to automatically qualify for the second day of competition, they couldn’t keep throwing to try for a mark that would make them eligible for the Olympics.  Coincidentally, the automatic qualifying mark at the Olympic Games and World Championships is usually the A standard of that year, so this seemed like excellent practice to me!  I wanted to throw 61 meters on my first toss, not only to secure a spot in the Olympic Trials final, but to practice for major championship qualifying rounds of the future.

I didn’t quite make that mark, but I was very happy with my approach and execution of Friday’s competition!  I was relaxed, did a pretty good job of hitting the positions that have been working well for me in practice (I could’ve hidden the javelin behind my head a little longer), and felt confident on the runway.  My first throw flew 60.49m (198’5”), so was not quite the auto mark, but I passed my second and third throws regardless, and easily moved on to yesterday’s final.

My general warm-up on finals day was very similar to what I had done in qualifying, but I didn’t feel quite as strong on the runway and wasn’t hitting quite as solid positions.  Nevertheless, my warm-up throws flew well, and I felt confident going into the competition, especially as the first thrower in the order.  I wanted to make a statement early and move up from there.  My first throw made a mild statement; 59.09m wasn’t enough for me to feel completely relaxed moving forward.  I was a little bit forward and not as aggressive into my block leg for the first three throws as I had been on Friday.  They were all fairly similar in distance, and not nearly what I felt I was capable of coming into the competition.

I feel awesome.  I feel strong.  I feel like I’m finally understanding my technique again and having fun on the runway because I can be relaxed and conscious of what my body is doing during the throw.  I was so excited coming into this Olympic Trials final: I’ve been waiting to PR for two years now, and while I’ve learned that expecting to throw far is dangerous, I know I’m in shape for it.

That’s why I’m so bummed that I tweaked my left knee on my fourth attempt of the day.

I was forward on all my throws in preliminaries, but I was even more forward on my fourth throw.  I approached the runway knowing that I needed to attack my block better than I had in prelims, and I brought more speed than I had previously into that left leg.  Unfortunately, my upper body being forward and on top of my legs instead of at an angle behind them meant that lots of pressure got forced down into my knee instead of forward through my whole leg.  I think it bent backwards a little bit, and since I’m usually blocked off (my left foot plants more toward the center of my body than the left side when I throw), it probably got slightly twisted as well.  That throw still flew 56m (it would’ve been great if I hadn’t just let go of the javelin after I felt pain, haha), but I couldn’t put pressure on my leg for a few minutes afterward, and it’s stiff and a swollen today.

Until the sixth round, my 59.79m throw from round 3 led the competition.  I’ve made it clear that winning USAs and Olympic Trials is very important to me, but yesterday, I reluctantly realized that staying healthy for the Olympics was more important.  Ty and I decided that I should pass my fifth and sixth round throws in order to not risk further injury, and although I wanted to be ready to respond if someone threw further (which Brittany Borman did), I know I couldn’t have thrown better with how my leg felt.  We did the right thing.  I ended up second overall, and for the first time in years and years and years, the United States is sending a full roster of women’s javelin throwers (Rachel, myself and Brittany) to the Olympic Games.

This Olympic Trials was vastly different from the experience I had in 2008.  I’ve been involved with the professional side of track and field for three years now, so I know many of the competitors who were vying for Olympic spots over the past two weeks.  Some of them are my best friends.  I can’t believe how much more emotional it is to monitor results, watch interviews, and read articles when you know someone in almost every event.  The highs are higher, and the lows are lower.  I shed happy tears and many sad tears for my peers, and learned a lot about managing the emotions that I have for other people’s performances.  In many ways, I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been heading into a major championship, and I’m also better prepared.

I love London!  I’m looking forward to going back for a fourth time, and I’ll happily be joined there by family and friends, including a large group of John Purdue Club members!  I don’t know yet what’s happening with my knee, but if I need to stay home for the next month and just focus on rehab and training, that’s what I’ll do.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Best. Practice. Ever.

The official website of the Olympic Trials is  If you click that link, you'll see the TrackTown 2012 logo in the top left corner with a scrolling message that circulates between, "Best. Time. Ever," "Best. Town. Ever," and, "Best. Team. Ever."  That last one and the title of this post are all I could think about after Tuesday's throwing session!

I won't go into much detail, because I want to keep that practice's power for myself, but I wanted to write down the cues that worked so well for me the other day.  Maybe they'll help one of you, too.

1. Relax out of the back (at the start of the throw).
2. Hide the javelin behind my head once I withdraw it.
3. Tall, relaxed upper body.
4. Accelerate with a closed left side to my left foot.
5. Throw over the left foot!

I also like to pick a focal point out in the sector; typically just a little bit above eye level, and as far away as I can see clearly.  It helps me keep my chest up.

I have one more throwing session (on Monday) before I leave for the Northwest!  I'm going home for one day before I head down to Eugene on the 27th.  I get to see these babies again:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

New York

I have totally slacked on writing this post!  The reason is simple; I'm home and I'm loving it.  I left for Ostrava on May 21st, and New York City was my last stop before coming home on June 10th.  It's good to be here and I've been soaking up the normalcy!!

I threw 60.33m and placed third at the adidas Grand Prix last Saturday!  That is my second best distance of the season, and I scored my first Diamond League point since 2010.  The stellar competition between Barbora Spotakova and Sunette Viljoen in NYC and the absence of some other international women highlight the fact that I have some rounding into shape to do, but I'm really happy to be where I am going into the Olympic Trials.

Stina told me the day before the competition in New York that only six athletes would get six throws, and there were nine of us.  On Saturday, I did my general warm-up slowly and thoroughly, and my body felt pretty good.  I was also in a great mood; my 3-week trip was almost over, it was a beautiful day, and I was determined to have fun at the meet!  In throwing warm-ups, I focused on relaxing my upper body, accelerating through my crossovers, and throwing the javelin over my left foot (aka having good alignment).  A few of my warm-up throws traveled probably 57-58 meters, and at one point Barbora said to me, "What are you doing in meets that you throw like this in warm-ups?" (She was in Rome the week previous, haha.)  I said,
"I know, right!?" 
I was happy to have some validation in my warm-up throws through her comment; I felt good about them, too!

After the first two rounds of competition, I was sitting in sixth, and was determined to move up in the standings before finals.  I wasn't about to take a chance that I would get knocked out of the top 6 and not get three more throws.  I accelerated a little better through my crossovers, hit a little more solid of a block, and kept my chest up way better on my third throw than the first two.  It was my best attempt of the day by about five meters, and kept me in third through rounds 4 through 6.

The rest of the day was really fun!  We threw around noon, so I got to watch women's shot and see Tyson Gay's return to the 100 meters before heading back to the hotel to get cleaned up and go to dinner.  Jill, Sarah, Julie and I wandered through Central Park and in and out of shops on 5th Avenue after eating; it was a beautiful night, and I appreciate NYC the most when there's some greenery visible.

Here's my favorite "New York Life" picture from the weekend.  I don't know who this lady is, but she's on the phone and juggling a lot of stuff while buying food from a cart on the busy streets at sunset.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


The 2011 Compeed Golden Gala was my best competition of the year.  It remains the only A standard distance I've recorded in the qualifying period (after May 1, 2011).  Rome this year was terrible, however, and I'd rather forget it.

I had been in Europe for nine days by the time competition rolled around on Thursday, and I felt pretty good.  I had a throwing session on Monday in which I focused on staying closed as I got my left foot down quickly, and it was pretty successful!  In warm-ups Thursday, I did the same things, stayed relaxed, and felt very positive walking out to the runway.  Alas, I finished seventh with an embarrassing distance that I'm choosing to ignore.  I tried too hard in the competition instead of slowing things down and hitting good positions when the first few throws didn't go well, and I'm moving on!

I spent last season wallowing in self-pity after each bad competition, and while I allowed myself about an hour on Thursday to be upset and BBM back and forth with my Mom and Russ (who are both amazingly comforting when I'm being miserable), I refuse to repeat last year's mistakes.  Rome was only one meet, and I'm better than that and will accomplish much bigger things this season!  Do I regret disappointing myself and the people who got me there?  Yes, but losing is a part of sports, and I need to be done apologizing (to others and myself) for and dwelling on things long after they are over.  My plan is simple; relax, believe in myself and get better.

I'm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this week, staying at Jeff and Elaine Gorski's house until I go to New York on the 7th.  I'm excited to be here adjusting to east coast time and working with Jeff, who has been a part of my career literally since it began eleven or so years ago.  We had a good throwing session this morning at Duke University (thanks, B.J.!) with Adam Burke, and I'm really looking forward to the massage they set up for me tomorrow. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ostrava Golden Spike

I competed on Friday in the Ostrava Golden Spike IAAF World Challenge meet.  This meet was really fun!  Their liberal use of exclamation points and enthusiasm for the javelin were my favorite things about this little city in the Czech Republic.

I arrived at my destination at 1:30am on Wednesday morning after a 10-hour flight from San Diego to London, a 4-hour layover in London Heathrow, a 2-hour flight from London to Vienna, and a 3.5-hour drive from Vienna to Ostrava.  The trip seemed very easy compared to some I've taken, and that direct flight from San Diego to London was fabulous!  I slept pretty well at night for the next few days, and amazingly well during my 4-hour snoozes after breakfast each day.  Staying awake between 9am and 1pm is just really, really difficult for the first week or two in Europe!  The same thing happened to me last summer in Germany.

Shake-outs and pre-meet workouts went well before Friday, and I felt ready for the competition in the days leading up to it.  Thanks to the foam roller Russ got me for my birthday and the exercises I've learned from Dr. Rintala, I thought I had kept my body in check pretty well after traveling such a long way.  Apparently I can't fool this silly body though, because I woke up really achy in my right shoulder and left lower back on Friday morning.  It also felt like I was running through sand; my mind was yelling at my legs to accelerate once I hit my crossovers, but my body wasn't listening.  Jan Zelezny himself told me how open my left side was too, and I knew that, I just failed to fix it during the competition.

All in all, this wasn't a bad meet for me.  I opened with 59.79m, which is a tiny bit better than both of my first throws in Tucson.  My second and best throw of the day went 60.00m, which means I've had two competitions at 60 meters so far this year.  This meet was better in distance than all but one of my competitions last year, and all of my marked throws were better than some of my results in 2011.  The thing I'm most upset about is that Martina Ratej passed me in the last round, and I didn't respond to her throw, meaning I ended up sixth.  That response will come with time though; I'm getting more comfortable with competition-paced throws as this month goes on, and I'm happy that I have technical points to concentrate on.

Spectators hanging off the back of the stadium seats; the only available viewing space. :)

The meet itself was so fun to be a part of!  The huge crowd loved Barbora, of course, and the officials even stopped the men's pole vault (whose runway crossed ours) during our fifth round so we could finish our competition uninterrupted.  Javelin throwers are usually the ones that would get held up, so it was kind of amazing to witness!  The hotel was right across the street from the stadium, so I got to get cleaned up in time to watch the men throw, as well as enjoy the rest of the meet.

Tero Pitkamaki on the runway in warm-ups.

I spent my weekend 
on the outskirts of Rome in a military compound that apparently doubles as an Olympic Training Center.  These are the unwritten (now written) rules:

1. No wearing shorts to meals.
2. You must purchase your own towel and toilet paper from a store that's about three miles away.
3. Breakfast and dinner are not served on Sunday.
4. Only one electrical outlet shall work in your room.
5. Contact with the outside world is prohibited (no internet access will be granted).
6. The drain in your shower will be clogged with someone else's hair, which will float around your feet.
7. Walls in residence buildings may not be thicker than 1 inch.

I actually slept great this weekend, because there wasn't a whole lot else to do, and I went to dinner at a Pizzeria last night with the friendly Canadians who were also trapped staying there.  Pizza in Europe is my favorite!!  I got my lift in this morning before we left for the Rome meet hotel, and had an easy (and fun!) throwing session with some sprints this afternoon.  Competition in my first Diamond League meet of the season is on Thursday!  I have tomorrow off, so I'm gonna go check out the Colosseum. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tucson Day 2

I had another season best on Saturday at Day 2 of the Tucson Elite Throwers' Classic!  I'm happier with the second day of competition, because I was more consistent than I've been in a long time.

Some weird things happened on Saturday!  

1. I found the only pile of ants in the whole track complex and proceeded to lay down in it to relax before the competition.  Luckily, I noticed early and they were only tiny little black ones, not red and scary.  I'm a disaster sometimes.
2. I forgot my back brace at the hotel.  As soon as I noticed that it wasn't in my backpack, I said to myself, "Forget about it.  Move on.  Nothing you can do now."  If I'd let myself dwell on its absence, it would've become a bigger deal than it needed to be.
3. We warmed up on the soccer field adjacent to the track complex.  This was kind of cool, as throwing in a warm-up area before a competition starts is what happens at the big meets.  Since Tucson tries to mimic a Worlds/Olympics qualifying and finals scenario, this deviation from the norm seemed fitting!

My warm-up went better on Thursday than it did on Saturday, and that's the way I like it sometimes.  A good warm-up messes with me a little bit; I think I lose focus because it seems like I've just "got it," and then I don't hit positions as well in the competition.  A shaky warm-up brings my focus right down to what I need to do.  My plan going into Saturday (as previously mentioned), was to relax on the first four throws and then get after it on the last two.  I also wanted to get my right leg out of the way going into my block to make the right-left transition faster than Thursday, and to control the tip of the javelin a bit better.

My first throw went 59.67m, or exactly one centimeter further than my best throw on Thursday!  That made me chuckle.  I had a solid block and kept my arm back, but didn't quite hold my chest up like I wanted to.  My second attempt went 60.36m with a little better upper body position.  Then I threw 58m and had two 57m attempts before finishing with a forced 60.03m on my final toss.  Here are the results (click on "#13 Women Javelin Throw") and Paul Merca's recap.

I stuck to my plan okay!  I actually stayed relaxed almost all the way through the competition, because it was going well.  I had nothing to lose on my last attempt though, and the crowd clapped for me, which always pumps me up!  I felt ready for that extra adrenaline, but my technique didn't quite agree, and the javelin flew pretty much sideways to 60 meters.  Cool, though!  The javelin flew sideways to 60 meters!  Which means it might fly further if it were straight. :)  My technical take-aways to work on are javelin tip control (as always), making my right-to-left transition fast (as always), and finishing the throw a little better; I felt like I let go of the javelin a millisecond too early on every attempt in Tucson.

I'm happy with two throws in a series over 60 meters at this point.  I've been throwing so much in practice all year that I'm really excited to be competing now.  As hard as you try to throw at a high intensity in practice, it always feels much faster in competition, and I'm looking forward to getting comfortable with that. I'm in the Czech Republic (a new country for me!) for the Ostrava Golden Spike on Friday!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tucson Day 1

I threw 59.66m here in Tucson yesterday on my first attempt for a win and a season’s best.  It was a relaxed, closed, strong-left-side throw, and then I tried really hard to throw further, got tight, and couldn’t get past 56ish meters the rest of the evening.

I was happy with my first throw.  I was excited to build on it!  But when I didn’t, I walked away from the competition frustrated and hungry for Saturday, when we’ll compete again at the University of Arizona’s track.  The fact that this meet is supposed to mimic an Olympic Trials/Olympics/World Championships qualifying round (Thursday) and finals (Saturday) makes me realize that I did have my best throw on my first attempt in “qualifying” though, and that’s good.  It just should have been over 61 meters to make certain that I made it to the next day.  The rules aren’t as stringent here though, so I get another chance on Saturday.

I have been training hard.  This last block, while focused on speed rather than strength and power like the two months before it were, still had a lot of volume and a lot of sessions.  This week is rest week of that speed block, and I actually had all of Tuesday off!  I haven’t had a weekday totally off for a long time, and it was fun.  I’m feeling slightly more rested than I have for the past three months, but I know that I still have a while until my body is totally ready to use all of the stuff I’ve put into it in training.

I am fairly happy with my technique on my first throw yesterday.  I attacked the block but kept my upper body relaxed, which is something I’ve been really focusing on since Drake.  My block leg has gotten increasingly more solid in recent weeks, and it held really strong.  I was pretty closed.  I’m not happy with the tiny hitch I still have in my right to left transition at the block though, and when I start to push my chest gets way forward because I get an even bigger hesitation in getting to my right.  Ty told me that the plan for Saturday is to relax for the first four throws, and then turn it up on the last two.

A lot of people asked me yesterday if I was throwing on both days of competition, and seemed surprised when I said, “Absolutely!”  This year, we’ve literally thrown every day in practice, and I see no problem with competing twice in one week.  Monday marks the start of a new block for me though, and for this one I’m only going to be throwing twice a week.  While I’m thankful for all of the repetitions I’ve had and practice I’ve gotten in letting my left side be strong at impact, I’m really, really excited to get some rest in between throwing sessions and in preparation for the big meets this summer.  Olympic Trials are only a month and a half away!  That’s kind of a long time still in terms of locking technical things and feelings in, but it’ll be here before you know it.  I should probably buy my ticket to Portland... :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Things that Inspire

There are a lot of directions that inspiration can come from in your life.  I love an experience that sticks with me over years and years.  Sometimes, I'm doing something completely unrelated to whatever motivated me in the first place, and all of a sudden I'm reminded of someone or something in my life that made me want to be better.  Remembering and reflecting on the situations that have formed you is pretty fun.  These are some of mine, in somewhat chronological order.

1. Talking to my parents in the car throughout my childhood.

My Mom drove me everywhere growing up.  For a period of time in middle school I think I was on a school swim team, club volleyball team, club basketball team, and an indoor and outdoor soccer team all at the same time.  That's a lot of practices, games, tournaments and sleepovers we had to get to!  I absolutely cherish the memories of meals she brought me to eat in the car, discussing my day at school while I changed into the next sport's uniform in the back of the minivan, and the dissection of all the action with both of my parents when we were finally driving home after days filled with games.  In sixth or seventh grade, my parents and brother picked me up from school in the motor home so we could drive down to Fairfield, California for a softball tournament.  We stopped and saw the Redwoods, played lots of cards, and I guess I played some first base in there, but spending time with my amazingly supportive family is what stands out the most to me.

2. Watching Jeff Skiba win the 2001 Washington State 3A High Jump Championship.

This was my freshman year in high school, and I was pretty brand new to Track and Field.  I had thrown about 118 feet coming into the state meet, and had no idea what to expect out of myself.  I saw the boys' high jump competition from afar, and was impressed with the results, but even more impressed when I realized that Jeff is a below-the-knee amputee, and he won a state championship against all of the able-bodied athletes.  That blew my 15-year-old mind.  Eight years later, I moved to Chula Vista, having always remembered seeing this guy compete, and lo and behold, he trains here!  I was pumped to meet him for the first time, and told him how excited I'd been to witness his performance at Lincoln High School in 2001.  Come to find out, he's done a lot more than that since.  We find ourselves in the weight room together fairly often, and it's so fun to cheer him on.  What a great guy.  He's even throwing the javelin now! :)

3. Coach Zuyderwyk telling me, "You can do that," when I didn't know it myself, yet.

I can't remember in which year this happened, but Coach Z described the killer stair workout I was expected to do in the next half hour or so, and in response to my dubious look, he said, "What?  You can do that."  It wasn't a challenge or a question; he said it in a way that made it a statement, and I just thought, "Oh, he's right."  I did the workout, was better for it, and never forgot how he encouraged me to improve in a simple way that made me feel like I could accomplish anything.  I've applied this attitude to a lot of stuff since. :)

4. Talking to Serene Ross at a home meet at Purdue.

I very fondly remember sitting on the javelin runway in nice, sunny weather after a home meet at Purdue my freshman year with Serene, a former American Record holder in the women's javelin and fellow Purdue Track and Field Alumna.  She is one of the sweetest, most straight-forward and athletically explosive people I know, and I soaked up every word she said about how to get the most out of my college career.  This is the first time I can remember talking about post-collegiate javelin with someone, too.  Serene is awesome.

5. Seeing Barbora Spotakova throw 65 meters off of a five-step approach.

I missed the 2007 Track and Field season because I had a stress fracture in my low back, but that was the summer that I started dating Russell, so I'm okay with it.  Russ got to compete at the Prefontaine Classic that year, and I rode down with him to watch the competition, hang out with Britney, and enjoy a short road trip with my new boyfriend on the way back up the coast to my parents' house.  This was the last competition they held at Hayward Field before renovating the place in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Trials, so the javelin runway was still fairly close to the East grandstands (this map shows the old layout).  I sat in my awful plastic back brace and watched Barbora struggle from her full approach.  About halfway through the competition, she switched to a really short run, seemed to focus on positions, and tossed the javelin 65 meters, no problem.  My PR was 56.19m at the time, and I was impressed.  I also felt like immediately ripping off my brace and heading for a workout, but I let patience prevail.  There's nothing like witnessing an easy-far performance like that to drive the importance of relaxation in throwing home.

Russ and I, somewhere on the Oregon Coast!

6. Coach Lathrop not giving me another shot at a bench press.

I believe that strength and conditioning coaches are some of the best people out there.  Coach Lathrop at Purdue was entertaining to say the least (he introduced us, by way of his son's CDs, to Girl Talk), but when it came to getting work done, he accepted no excuses.  One time, I think during the 2007-2008 school year, I was doing a bench workout with him.  I had one set left at a pretty heavy weight for me at the time, but something that I definitely should have gotten if I was focused on it.  I didn't get set well, kind of chuckled when I needed the spot he gave me, and got up from the bench thinking I'd get another try at it.  Instead, Coach Lathrop said, "Nope, you missed that opportunity.  Strip the bar down."  I did not see that coming, and will never forget the sinking, disappointed, ashamed feeling I had knowing I hadn't given the lift my best effort.  Coach Lathrop was one of the first people I wanted to catch up with when I went to visit Purdue in 2010. :)

7. Witnessing Russ do practically anything athletic.

Russ is strong.  He is fast.  His standing broad jump is ridiculous.  His backward overhead (that's Leif Arrhenius) and forward underhand shot throws are literally some of the best in the entire world.  He amazes me.

I think I could go on, but these are the things that stick out to me today.  Numbers 1, 3, and 5 are situations that I probably think about most often, because my parents know the most (next to Russ) about the inner-workings of my athlete brain, I learned a lot about believing in myself at Purdue, and I try to never take opportunities for granted.

What inspires you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drake Relays

I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa last Wednesday, and competed in my fourth Drake Relays on Friday. The results left me feeling like I want a whole lot more, but the overall experience was great!

 I slept in until 11:30am on Thursday morning, because my flight from Denver had been delayed the night before, and Larry the shuttle driver dropped me off at the hotel close to midnight. I haven't been getting a ton of rest lately, so I knew not to set an alarm; I wanted every last bit of sleep I could get, and I love a King size hotel bed all my own!  After breakfast/lunch at Quizno's, I went on a recovery/pre-meet run around downtown and found a beautiful business park to stretch and do some explosive stuff. I love a close-to-the-hotel pre-meet! Then, I picked up some awesome swag from ASICS (including new GEL-Cirrus33s) before heading to dinner with Stacey and her team!! Stac was my teammate and co-captain at Purdue, and is one of my favorite people; she works hard, always has a smile on and is so fun to be around. I laughed so much at this dinner!

Things went fine Friday morning; I arrived early to the track, took my time warming up and stayed out of the wind as best I could while the first flight was finishing up. I have to be honest: The weather sucked. I am not one to even notice conditions usually, taking it upon myself to compete awesomely in spite of poor situations. I actually don't mind a headwind one bit, and have thrown well into them many times. This 30 mile-an-hour, gusting, left crosswind that occasionally turned into a diagonal headwind (also known as the worst possible direction of wind for right-handed throwers) was terrible, though. And, because I didn't use my left side well enough and am not getting to my left foot fast enough for my liking, I only managed 56.58 meters. My four measured attempts (that didn't get blown out of the sector) were all around 56 meters. I'm fairly happy with that consistency in those conditions! Ty was okay with it, too.  Check out this picture from The Columbian (my hometown newspaper!) of me levitating before a throw!

Could I have thrown better? Yes. Was I completely ready to compete yet? No! I've been training so hard since returning home from Australia, and I'm so excited to let that training work for me soon, when my volume goes down and I get tons of rest. Recovery is one of the most important parts of training, you know! I'm also pumped about my understanding of patience this year; it's good to throw far later in the year, and have that success last the whole summer, rather than fizzle out halfway through.

The rest of Drake Relays weekend was so much fun! I got to spend time with my Mom and Grandpa all weekend (thanks for driving us around and for all the food, Grandpa!), hang out with all the ASICS people, help Russ in the discus (he lets me "coach" sometimes), and actually watch the rest of the track meet! It was also great to meet some new people.  The fabulous ASICS videographers also made this recap video.

This weekend, I'm heading home to Washington for like 24 hours just to meet my parents' brand new puppies!!! I am so happy I made the decision to go; if I waited until I'm home for a few days around the Trials, they wouldn't be brand new anymore! Expect random, adorable photos in future blog posts. Here's one my Dad sent along on Friday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mental Vent

I feel like I’ve been asked a lot lately (in interviews, by visitors, etc.) about the past few years in my career. While I have the answers to peoples’ questions worked out in my head and have been able to express them in conversation, I thought it wise to write everything down, get it off my chest and move forward even more than I already have.

If you’ve followed my career (or maybe even if you haven’t), you know that I had a good year in 2010. Last year, however, wasn’t great. Sure, I won nationals, threw okay, and got to compete at a lot of prestigious international meets, but I didn’t have a good handle on my technique, I was hopeful rather than pursposeful, and my confidence was not high.

Expectation can do funny things to people. I tell myself that I wasn’t complacent in training last year, because I know I did everything I could to be prepared physically for the season. The truth is, though, I probably wasn’t disciplined enough in my technique (whether because I was confused, in pain, or simply lazy and expected the past to work for me) to really solidify things before competitions came around, and that resulted in little freak-outs when things didn’t go well from the outset. I learned new things about javelin technique that I believe have carried over into this year, but I didn’t understand them well enough (and wasn’t brave enough) to apply them at competition pace during 2011. I also focused so much on the new ideas I was learning that I simply forgot to keep in mind the basics that had gotten me where I was.

During training before the 2011 season and as the season progressed, I found myself trying to move backward in time; to remember what it was like when I was throwing far before. That was a problem because my body could do different things than it could in the previous season. Instead of working with what I had and figuring out how to move my implement from there, I hoped that I could regain technique that I had used previously. Using the same cues that you’ve always been familiar with is great, but applying them might feel different than it once did as you gain strength or add speed. I understand that now, but then, I slowed down drastically and waited for the good positions I had felt to come back. I didn’t bravely forge ahead and trust all the extra power I’d put into my body like I should have, and when I released the javelin in competitions, I’d look up and hope to see it going far rather than knowing I’d put everything possible into my throws.

A big reason I didn’t feel comfortable attacking each and every throw is that I’d developed an inflamed left SI Joint in training at the end of March 2011. Our athletic trainers at the center assured me that it was just inflammation, so I started rehabilitation exercises with Brett. The rehab helped, but felt like a band-aid on a wound that should get stitches; I knew that I had either started working on the problem too late, or that I needed more reassurance that I wouldn’t majorly injure myself by continuing to throw. I also kind of ignored the problem in that I didn’t ever talk about it and didn’t wear a back brace enough. I pretended I was fine when I knew I wasn’t, because I wanted to succeed despite pain and wasn’t patient enough to maybe admit that I needed to solve the problem before trying to throw far. Waiting to put my left foot down too long felt like it was protecting me during a throw, but any javelin thrower knows that what your body thinks is good for it in the javelin is probably the exact opposite; a delayed left foot touchdown for me meant shooting pain and a collapsed chest position all season long.

So, pain plus not being tough or smart enough plus not trusting my technique all added up to a disappointing season in 2011. I ran a lot during my off-season. I got away from anything javelin-related, spent time outside and even enjoyed workouts that I found in magazines (LOL). When I came back to Chula Vista and my SI Joint still hurt after all the non-javelin rest I’d given it, I wanted to know for sure that we weren’t dealing with something major, so I had an MRI. The normal results showed me that I could push my body without worry; that I wouldn’t suddenly crack my pelvis if I hit a block too hard. From there, I’ve been braver and smarter about training. A little bit (okay, what felt like a lot) of disappointment from last year fuels my fire. The fact that I had my best showing at a major championship ever in Daegu and that it was one of my best competitions all year is evidence of how badly I want to succeed on that stage. I did a lot of growing last summer, and I’ve remembered that this spring in how my training has gone.

I’ve mentioned Dr. Rintala a lot recently, and I’ll say again how happy I am to be working with him and learning his deep stabilizing exercises. The fact that I feel much more stable in my core and SI Joint has allowed me to be really disciplined in my technique since starting to feel the benefits of those exercises, so I’m actually pleased with how things are going. I was really frustrated with my technique for a while (mostly in Australia), and switching up my habits helped me solidify some things, both technically and in my mind. I’m not someone who has ever watched a lot of video. I’m pretty aware of what my body is doing, and the way things feel has always been my best feedback, along with comments from my coach. In Australia, Russ filmed some of my sessions, and what I saw was surprising; I didn’t like it. I decided that maybe the time had come to take more video, and since I’ve done so, I’m much happier with how things are progressing. I’m careful to not get video-obsessed, because I think that’s dangerous and nit-picky, but I’m absolutely loving holding myself accountable; the camera shows me exactly what happened, and reviewing film fairly quickly lets me remember what the throw felt like. I know that no one cares about my career as much as I do, and I’m moving forward with discipline, eagerness and a whole lot of motivation about the upcoming season.

Here’s my schedule so far:

Drake Relays, April 27
Tucson Elite, May 17
Tucson Elite, May 19
Ostrava, Czech Republic, May 25
Rome, Italy, May 31
New York, June 9
U.S. Olympic Team Trials Qualifying, June 29

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rest Day Eats

This is the last installment of my four kinds of days of eating! Here's what I ate on Sunday, my only true day off during my current four-week training block.
-Smoothie on my way to church: Banana, protein powder, frozen blueberries/strawberries/raspberries, milk, vanilla greek yogurt and spinach.

I slept in and hustled out the door with my breakfast. It was okay to just have a smoothie, because I had really exciting lunch plans!!
-Yellowtail fish taco.
-Bowl of Clam Chowder.

I picked Kara Kessans up for lunch at the best seafood restaurant in San Diego! She is an athletic trainer at Purdue, and was in town for a friend's wedding. She was a huge part of getting me ready to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Team through her rigorous schedule of rehab exercises after my L5 stress fracture in 2007, and I couldn't be more grateful. :) Mitch's Seafood is in Point Loma, right where the charter fishing boats leave to go on their trips, so the scenery is great! They also have the best clam chowder of my life. The only negative is that they used to have a bread bowl option, which got discontinued. Then you could still order grilled sourdough toast, but alas, now that doesn't happen either. :( Oh well, less carbs and still delicious!
-3 Trader Joe's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. These are gone now, and I am HAPPY! I have no will power when yummy chocolate things are in my house.
-Grilled yam fries with plain greek yogurt!

I bought these crazy huge, bulbous things that must have been a Diane or Garnet variety of California Yam at Henry's, and Russ sliced them up, tossed them in olive oil, threw them on the grill and sprinkled them with sea salt and pepper! He was sure they would be nasty, but we were both extremely happy with the final result. I love experimenting with new and weird ingredients! -New York Strips! It's nice to date a grill master! -Salad: Romaine lettuce, yellow bell pepper, alfalfa sprouts, goat cheese, strawberry, kiwi, snap peas, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. -Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale!

Russ's first batch of home brews is still the best Nut Brown Ale I've ever had, but this was pretty good. :)