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?


  1. Great post, Kara. :-) Especially love #1.

  2. Girl Talk is one of my favorites... reading posts like this inspired me to think of things that inspire me...thanks for the pre-inspiration.

  3. Kara,

    Congratulations and best of luck in this summer's Olympics. It's been a few years, but we used to chat it up in the ice tubs and computer labs at Mackey Arena. I'll be cheering you on.

    Boiler Up.

    Chase Lecklider