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


  1. such an honest post...i love it! i'm always rooting for you...

  2. Bravo KP! Well said: "I know that no one cares about my career as much as I do," I believe you've got something special. Desire + Passion + Discipline is a great formula

  3. You are such an inspiration! Can't wait to see you and compete with you at the Drake Relays!

  4. Kara this is awesome! Keep up the awesome work! It is so cool to be able to read your blog and follow your journey!