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!