Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Season wrap-up!

So my short, somewhat-miracle of a season has come to a close!  My bronze medal at USAs this year allowed me to chase the World Championships A standard of 62.00m to potentially make my third Worlds team and travel to Moscow, Russia.  I was fully capable of doing that physically, but my technique didn't allow for it.

I only gave myself one chance at the A.  My knee was sore for two weeks after USAs, and I knew it was silly to even consider competing every week in a desperate attempt at a trip to World Championships.  Tom Pukstys was awesome enough to set up a meet at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) for myself and a few other javelin throwers to throw at on July 20, the last day of the chase period.  All or nothing! 

The difference between my left knee on June 20 (USAs) and July 20 was ridiculous.  I felt so powerful, so fast, and so much more comfortable on the runway than I had a month prior.  I had had two great practices at Iron Wood the week before, and I felt more confident than I have since before my injury more than a year ago.  More than anything, it was fun.  National championships were fun this year simply because I was releasing a javelin in competition again, but Chicago was fun because I finally felt strong and sure on the runway.  I've been patiently waiting for that feeling all year, and even though I only managed a 57.12m toss (a season's best and a win!) and will miss Worlds, I couldn't be happier looking at the future of my career.  I also had a huge group of Purdue friends in attendance in Chicago, and couldn't be sad about spending time with them immediately following the competition!

This year, I started throwing javelins in practice in April.  In the previous three training seasons of my career, I've thrown javelins from November (at least) through the end of the season (usually the end of August).  That's five months of technique work that I missed out on this year; I can't duplicate javelin throwing with med balls, as many as I may have thrown!  My shoulders, core, back, SI joints, glutes, and even knees felt awesome in Chicago, but a few great sessions out of only a few months of throwing practices are difficult to duplicate when the pressure is on.  It's hard to not be disappointed about missing a third straight World Championships team, but I knew that if this was the outcome of this year I would be left hungrier than ever for future seasons, and that's exactly how I feel.  I also know what I need to work on and what I loved about my training this year, and am empowered to put those things into practice in the Fall.

I've blogged about how long this journey back to health has felt and I've shared about the hard days, but I hope that the overwhelming feeling I have of gratitude has shined through.  I took a few yoga classes in the week after my season ended, and one day we were asked to consider something that we take for granted in our lives.  Honestly, moving to a new place, making new friends and cherishing the old ones, earning my health back day by day with the help of the best athletic trainers, relying on Russ and my family for support when I needed it, being lucky enough to re-sign with ASICS after a major injury, understanding how awesome my management team is, and knowing that I still have a place at the CSOTC by the grace of USATF even after a post-injury sub-par season left me hard-pressed to think of something.  This year has been amazing despite the challenges I faced each day, and many days because I overcame those challenges.  I'm going to stock up on seeing the beauty in the world through my camera lens during all of August and September before taking this grateful attitude and renewed hunger into my Fall training.  So excited!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

USAs and Iron Wood

photo by Becky Miller
2013 USATF National Championships happened in Des Moines, Iowa at Drake University on June 20th.  When I say, "I competed," I don't just mean that I threw in a competition.  I was absolutely thrilled when my first toss flew 50 meters, but wanted more.  By round 5, I finally got it together and measured a throw at 55.88 meters to eventually place third!  With a short approach, only weeks of throwing practice, and still 6 days shy of nine months post-op, I knew I needed to focus on the basics, and it felt really, really successful.  The competitiveness that shined through was an awesome surprise after so much time away from meets.  The distance was fine, but a top 3 finish means that I can chase the World Championships A standard of 62 meters until July 20th.  I wanted to give myself that chance even in this "bonus" of a season after having my knee surgery.  Why not try?  Overall, USAs was FUN.

photo by Becky Miller
Super proud of this Bronze.

Russ also competed well!  After years and years of solid showings in both shot and disc, he finally earned Silver in the discus.  He's also chasing a World Championships standard, and I'm so pumped about how he looks this summer.  It'd be fun to go to Moscow together!!
What a cutie!  Victory Lap.
After USAs, Russ and I had the opportunity to help out at Iron Wood Throws Camp, run in its 24th consecutive year for the first time by Jarred Rome.  Jarred wanted currently-competing professional athletes to be involved with the kids this year, and I had a blast.
All my campers who wear ASICS. :)
Duncan Atwood and I had twice-daily sessions with our javelin thrower kids from Tuesday to Friday, with an optional session on Saturday.  These kids were so fun to work with, listened, stayed positive even through the soreness that comes along with walking a college campus and training 5 hours a day, and had a huge impact on me. 
Sterling controls the javelin by throwing through a hoop.

Russ shares his story with the campers. :)
I went into camp thinking that I'd probably benefit from talking about the basics with the kids all week.  I thought I might be reminded that keeping things simple can help anyone out, not just a high-schooler.  That happened, but I benefitted even more from their enthusiasm, open-mindedness, and pure love of the sport and event.  On Thursday, my group of beginners released their first few javelins ever, looked back at me with giant, round eyes, and said,
"I LOVE this."

I almost cried, I was so happy.  I relate to these kids now more than ever: I've felt that way all year, too.  I got frustrated right after USAs this year, because all of a sudden, my expectations were sky high.  I threw almost 56 meters, so why am I now not consistently throwing 60?  Silly Kara.  I realized that I needed to calm down, and that going to Iron Wood might be what I needed to do that.  After laughing with the kids and seeing lots of improvement in one morning session, I had the best practice I've had since right before the Trials last year.  Keeping it simple and having fun throwing again was the perfect recipe for connection to my implement and easy, far throws.  On Friday, after three more days of laughing and love for the sport, with extremely tired legs from a week of feverish coaching and demonstration, I had an even better practice on the same runway with these awesome kids.  Working with Duncan in those practices was really fun too, and both of us giving tips to the kids in between my throws was a fabulous experience.  Feeling like a real part of the national javelin throwing community is so important to me, and I won't forget Friday's practice for a long time.  Thank YOU to my Iron Wood campers.  You are amazing.
Duncan taught me how to handstand!  Finally!!
photo by Eryn Vanney :)