Friday, October 10, 2014

Luzern-on (Catch-Up)

HI!!

Man, life.  I think that opportunities to look around you and realize just how awesome it is are abundant, but sometimes it takes a lot for us to notice. 

The last two years of my life have been…epic?  Drastic?  Tumultuous?  GREAT.  Torn ACL, move to Colorado, surgery, go back to school, rehab, engagement, buy a house, return to competition, renovate the house, plan a wedding.  Keep up with family and friends.  Make new friends.  SUCH a rich existence because of the amazing people that I’ve shared all of this change with. 

I’ve been thinking lately about what it will feel like to be completely myself again on the javelin runway.  I’m so close to that, but I knew going into surgery that it might be a long, long time before it happened: In athlete years, injuries stretch time.  Feeling helpless in your own body is dangerous because you can get reckless and make things worse, so being prepared to be patient is vital, especially in two years that feel like four.  The conclusion I came to in these thoughts is that, if we have lofty-enough goals, we don’t feel completely like ourselves until we’ve surpassed our own expectations. 

I read this book recently called Stumbling on Happiness.  It taught me a lot about memory and expectations while being entertaining, which was nice!  I learned that memory tricks us.  In the moment, good things are great!!!  They’re great, but maybe not as INSANELY great as we expect them to be.  Then, over time, we remember them as being just as insanely great as we originally expected, even though at the time we were happy, but not as crazy happy as we thought we would be.  Regardless of our feelings in the moment, what we remember later is that we WERE insanely happy!  So weird.  So, when I think about my past career and everything that I’m proud of, I remember feeling even better than I probably did and even happier than I know I was.  The result of all of that skewed perception is that I won’t be satisfied until I feel better than I remember feeling and I’m happier with my success than I recall being.  I love that motivation.  Be better than you were yesterday sort of thing.  I’ve been feeling hints of surpassing old Kara throughout this season.  But I won’t feel totally like myself on the runway until I’m better than I’ve ever been. 

With all of the change in my life and all of the new adventures I’ve started (Home ownership!  MBA!  Renovation skills! New knee! Marriage!), I feel like I’m pushing boundaries in literally every area that I can, and that includes enriching all different kinds of relationships along the way.  The expansion of literally all of my horizons makes me feel like I’m getting a fresh start in my career, because I’m sort of a different person.  I could not have asked for a better re-introduction to competing internationally than this season has given me, and that was extra apparent as I traveled to Marrakech, Morocco for the second Continental Cup competition of my career.

After Vancouver in July, I traveled back to Europe for the second time in a week to compete in Luzern, Switzerland and my fifth Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco (one of my favorites!).  Just like Rome, though, I hadn’t had time because of all of the travel to switch up my training since six weeks prior, and my body knew it and didn’t perform!  I didn’t throw 60 meters in either competition and left Europe again frustrated, but knowing exactly what happened.  Refocusing and a new training block for a competition in Chula Vista that USATF put on for us worked, and I had a season’s best of 62.90m at the very end of July!  I’m simultaneously encouraged and frustrated by these 62-meter distances, because like I mentioned above, I don’t think I’ll feel truly like myself until I’m BETTER than my previous self, and my technique is definitely not there yet because of continued minor distrust in my leg.  It’s coming, though.  I can throw far with technique that I know will only get better over the next two years heading into Rio.

I forewent another two trips to Europe for the last two Diamond League meets and a competition in Rieti, Italy because there was just TOO. MUCH. TO. DO!! in preparation for the wedding.  I’m so happy I did so, because I know it was the right thing to do for my soul and my relationship, and I’m happy to leave myself hungry for the next two years, as they’re very important :).  That being said, I continued to train around wedding preparations, and I competed in my second Continental Cup competition on September 13 in Marrakech, Morocco.  I simply cannot believe how fortunate I’ve been to come back like I have this season, thanks to the awesome support system I somehow lucked into.  I didn’t know if I’d be accepted to ANY overseas meets this year because of my injury hiatus, but I earned a spot in one of the most exclusive meets of the year. 

Africa was a new continent for me, and the travel after all of the wedding stress and not traveling for a month or so was pretty brutal.  I spent the day that I left being surprised and frustrated by the wedding industry’s inadequacies, and was on-edge because of that.  Not an awesome way to travel.  

Anyway, I got my customary ridiculous amount of sleep before the competition and fought through some caffeine-withdrawal headaches to make it to the team meeting the night before, where I found out that the supplied javelins I had counted on when I didn’t bring my own would not, in fact, be provided.  Liz Gleadle to the rescue: She let me check in her 85m Nemeth-an implement that I regularly practice with but am not super comfortable using yet when the pressure is on.  Anyway, I was told some javelins would be available at the warm-up area for competition as well, so I figured I’d just roll with the punches and try to stay as relaxed as possible.  When I got to the warm-up area, it was getting pretty dark, and no one turned the stadium lights out by the runway on for me.  Literally as I walked away from my in-the-dark warm-up throwing session, they turned the lights on.  It was sort of fun to throw in the dark though, and I figured it was the last meet of the year and anything could happen regardless of my warm-up situation.  When you have your shoes and your uniform (and in my case, my knee brace), you’re good to go.  I didn’t take too many warm-up throws because my volume in practice has been lower and I didn’t want to get tired or lose whatever snap I had at the end of the season.

So, we get out to the runway (amidst the smallest crowd I’ve ever seen at an international competition), and the officials are measuring the sector, with tape stretched back onto the track surface and no end in sight of the obstruction to our warm-up throws.  We all grabbed javelins and did footwork and stretches and such for a few minutes, until an official literally snatched the implement out of Kim Mickle’s hands and ordered everyone to put them back.  I’m still not clear on why.  But we were not allowed to touch the javelins for another 20 or so minutes, at which point we each had time for approximately three trips down the runway before it was time for introductions.  All I could think was, “Are warm-ups REALLY over?  No….” 

While very few warm-ups is normal at a major championship meet, it is clearly stated that that will be the case before the competition.  At a meet of this caliber, it’s insane to me that the officiating was so bad and there was no communication about what would happen if that kind of warm-up situation was actually the plan. 

I threw worse than I have thrown in years.  Other people dealt with things better than I did and had good performances, and I’m happy for them.  In the moment, I honestly was happy to walk away from this competition with a healthy knee and without injuring anything else on my body, which is all too common when you’re recovering from one thing and not paying attention enough to another.  I know why I threw poorly: In a season when I needed to know that my knee was ready to go to have the confidence to do well, it has been really difficult to deal with other things that are thrown at me.  Those “other things” have been few and far between this year, but pretty much every obstacle I could have thought of was a factor in this competition, from a brand new culture and area of the world to the worst officiating I’ve ever seen.  I wasn’t ready for the extreme end of the mental struggle, and therefore I was guarded physically, really pushy with my right leg, and had no power.  The no power thing is probably also because of stress.  Then, I experienced the worst travel home that I can imagine.  I won’t go into details because I’d rather forget it.


I am still satisfied with this year as a whole!  I couldn’t have asked for a better re-introduction to the international scene, and I look forward to starting the next training season fully healthy and knowing exactly what I’m capable of in the next two years.  But now, some much-needed rest and enjoyment of other happy things in my life!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lausanne and Harry Jerome

Two continents, two weeks, two competitions, two different versions of Kara, similar end results. 

Lausanne, Switzerland is my new favorite European competition.  Flying into Geneva was fun because it was pretty countryside, then the mountains that we could see from the shuttle all the way into the city of Lausanne kept me smiling.  The stadium setting was fantastic, and I didn’t get treated to the view until competition day because of rain the day before, so it was a fun surprise.  We also had a view across Lake Geneva to France from the hotel, and I always love water.  I wish I’d had time to venture out and find some local food or take a boat or paddle board out, but I was working on a bit of a cold after not getting enough sleep in Sacramento (USAs is always so busy).
Lake Geneva outside the hotel the morning I left.

The field assembled for Lausanne Diamond League was a really good one.  Almost all of the girls’ season’s bests were better than mine, so I knew I needed to start the competition strong.  After not doing that at USAs, I was determined to make it happen.  It’s usually easy to have energy at the beginning of overseas meets for me too, if I’m feeling even halfway decent.  All I did to throw 61.77m in round 1 was stay a little bit tall and keep my arm back a tad.  Whenever I feel any bit of connection to the javelin these days, I can tell it’s at least a 60-meter toss.  That's fun.

My second throw was also over 60m, but the rest of my series showed my cold and were only around 58m.  I got tired, and ended up 6th overall.  Getting passed at the end of a competition and not being able to respond is not a fun feeling, but the fact that I started this competition well kept me content after this meet, and enjoying the gorgeous night, beautiful setting, and great performances elsewhere on the track made it a great experience!

Athletissima Stadium!  Mountains!  I gasped when I walked up here.
This year when I’ve traveled to Europe, I sleep as much as I can on the flights over, arrive two days before competition (either morning or evening), and then continue to sleep as much as possible until it’s time to throw.  It’s pretty ridiculous how much time I spend unconscious when I’m only in Europe for a few days.  There’s no reason to try to adjust to the time zone when I’m just going home again, and my body is awake when the actual meet is happening, because it’s usually about 10am at home when it’s time to throw in Europe.  The problem happens the night AFTER the meet.  In Lausanne, I spent about six hours pretending to sleep, and when I finally gave up and went outside for a recovery workout before getting on the plane home, I was treated to fantastic colors in the clouds over the bay.  I’ve seen enough amazing sunrises in my day to tell you that they’re worth waking up for.  So pretty!

Recovery workout sunrise :)
The next meet on my schedule was the Vancouver Sun HarryJerome International Track Classic.  I competed at this Vancouver, B.C. meet in 2010 and loved the trip, because my Canadian family came, I threw well, and I got to spend time with Russell!  This time around was no less wonderful, as my Mom drove up from home home, I got to catch up with my long-lost friend Melinda, and the meet has grown into something really great for athletes and spectators alike.  It's small enough so that you can keep track of everything from the stands and they take really good care of the athletes they bring in!

Mom and me! Lots of quality time lately! :)

Fisherman's Wharf for dinner on Wednesday.  Love love love seafood!
I consider Vancouver successful for a completely different reason than I was happy with Lausanne. 
I was almost over my cold, but my quads were insanely sore for no reason.  I had done the same squat workout I’ve done for this entire block on that Monday, and by Thursday, especially my right leg was still super tight.  No idea what happened.  Sometimes there isn’t an answer!  So I didn’t really know what to expect out of the competition.  I took way too many warm-up throws, trying to feel positions that my body was resisting getting into.  So when the meet started, I was already tired.

My prelims were bad.  I threw terribly enough times in 2011 to know that it happens, and I like to think that I learned not to freak out about it that year-that any competition can be saved by just one throw.  My first four attempts in Vancouver were really pushy with my right leg, fairly slow, and very forward, with no discipline to keep my right arm back at all.  I can’t understand how our bodies like to do the exact opposite of what we know will be good for them when they’re hurting!  Since my right quad was so sore, it should have been easy for it to shut down and not push me forward into my block, but nooooooo.  It pushed and it pushed and it pushed, and it blew my chest down.

I talked to Wendy after Lausanne about conserving my energy throughout a competition, as like I said, I’d gotten tired there.  Before my fifth round in Vancouver, I laid down in a sunny spot in the grass and was just quiet, so I could focus on positions and get pumped to hit them.  All I wanted to do is what Ty told me to before this meet: Attack the last three steps, stay back and tall, and then explode through the release.  Before that round I had done my habitual sprint about six people before my turn, some high knees, etc. between every throw.  That’s routine, but not necessary, and certainly could sap my energy.  Before rounds 5 and 6, I decided to forego my habits and just trust myself.  Because of my leg soreness and continued recovery from sickness, I also felt pretty slow out of the back of my (admittedly short) full approach, so I added an extra little jogging carry step to bring more speed.

Round 5 was mid-59 meters, because I managed to keep my arm high and stay tall through my chest, kind of.  Round 5 was not enough to take the lead, so I went back to the grass to repeat what had just worked.  Round 6 saw me bring more energy to those last three steps and keep my arm back even longer, allowing 61.56m to take the lead and keep it!

61.56 meters is exactly my 2008 PR, and I love that memory.  61.56 meters is also exactly 2 centimeters short of the meet record I set at Harry Jerome in 2010, so that’s a bummer, but since Harry Jerome is now part of the Canadian National Track League and it wasn’t in 2010, 61.56m is now an NTL record.  Fun.

Swanguard Stadium in Burnaby from the stands.
I’m in Switzerland again for a competition tomorrow!  Luzern/Lucerne is supposed to be the prettiest place ever, so I’m excited.  It was rainy today but even so, I believe the stories so far!

Pretty covered bridge in Luzern/Lucerne near the hotel.  Did abs in there today because it was pouring rain.

Lake Lucerne!  Can't wait to see the mountains in the sunshine :)

Luzern Swan.  They're everywhere.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rome, NYC, Sacramento/USAs!

Whew!  The last three or so weeks have been a bit packed, so I’m catching you up on Rome, New York, and USAs here.
I competed in the Rome Golden Gala on June 9th
 
in the 1964 Olympic Stadium.  I love Rome!  I’ve gotten to visit some of its more famous places and wander a bit in the unknown ones, too.  It is overall beautiful and the weather never disappoints!  I’ve competed okay here and I have also been terrible.  This particular performance was on the bad end of the spectrum, and I don’t think I was really prepared to feel disappointment yet after being simply grateful all year to just be on the runway. 

Rome practice track/warm-up area.

It's very...Roman. :)
There were 11 girls competing in Rome, and I knew that they would probably take 8 to finals.  In the third round, I was in eighth, and Linda Stahl was after me in the order and hadn’t yet recorded a mark.  She is a proven competitor!  I knew that she would pass me if I gave her the chance, so I brought some extra energy to the throw, but didn’t do anything different technically (I continued to let my left hip collapse at the block and push my chest too early).  No improvement: I stayed at 57.30m and in eighth place, and just as I suspected, was passed and ended up ninth (also known as the first person not to make finals). 
Huge bummer and unexpected (and unwelcome) blow to my still-fragile ego.
I grumpily made the long journey home, but was cheered up by dinner with good friends in Charlotte during my layover and looked forward to a day or so of complete rest.  After a new lift on Monday, throwing on Tuesday was surprisingly fantastic!  My chest and shoulders were tight from different weights than my previous six-week block (we extended it from four weeks because of all of the competitions I was attending), and having some pressure in my upper body again REALLY helped me feel positions better.  After complaining to Wendy about Rome a mere three days earlier, having a great practice again made me feel silly for being so impatient.  I realized that my body was probably just bored in Rome, and that mixing it up in training again might be just the ticket to prepare for USAs. 

New York came first though (on June 14th), and was a good test…

My travel to New York for the Adidas Grand Prix went a little differently than I had expected, but I arrived in one piece (and so did my javelins) and had lots of time on my hands that weekend to write a paper for my eighth Keller Graduate School of Management class.  After finishing that paper and taking my final this past Tuesday, I am officially halfway done with my MBA!  I am excited.  Anyway, New York.

Sunset skyline!
The two other times I have competed at the Adidas Grand Prix, we have thrown at like 7am.  I exaggerate, but really, 9am EST, so at least 7am MST and 6am to me when I was living in San Diego (PST).  Obviously, you just have to deal with it, go to bed earlier and throw, but going to the meet and expecting competition time to be early meant that I was THRILLED to see that we threw at 1pm this year!  Amazing!  Happy Kara! 

Despite some scheduling and administrative challenges that the meet officials seemed to have in coordinating with the event officials, the competition ended up good for me!  I won’t go into detail here about my slight altercation with the infield-picking police, because I already gave the meet feedback.  I tried to do some advocating for my fellow javelin throwers as the only American in the field.
In round three, I was in sixth.  In New York, they take six people to finals.  I knew I needed to improve to secure my spot-which I’ve done in New York before in the third round-but I still couldn’t do it.  I had to play the waiting game to see if Sofi Flink would pass me (which she is more than capable of with a PB over 61m).  I was upset with myself for not being able to respond when I needed to, and feared that I’d have a repeat non-performance from Rome.  This time, though, I got lucky and made it through, and as soon as that happened I knew I needed to take advantage.
My first throw in finals went 62.47m because I finally held my left side a bit stronger and hid the javelin behind my head a little longer.  My fifth round throw traveled further than 61m, as did my sixth round throw.  Three throws over 61 meters and fourth place overall was a very exciting day for me!  Something clicked, even though those felt like possibly my worst technical 60-meter throws ever.  Confidence restored.
The ladies of the 2014 Adidas Grand Prix!
Practice between New York and USAs was better than it has been for a long time.  Sometimes training in Colorado gets hard, because my body doesn’t feel as explosive at altitude, and there’s not as much air to hold the javelin up, so it flies differently than at sea level.  When you feel pretty good in practice and that’s not reflected in how the javelin is acting, it’s frustrating.  Not last week, though!  I felt connected to my implement and nice and relaxed on the runway, but aggressive enough to get my block down at a decent speed.  Russ was SO CUTE and came to watch one of my training sessions.  I got to go home to see my parents and the puppies the weekend before Sacramento.  Life was good.
Sacramento was even better. 
My competition at USAs was the most like myself I have felt in a very, very long time.  I had to extend my approach past 9 javelins for the first time since Olympic Trials 2012 because I was bringing more speed into the throw than I have in what feels like forever.  I felt powerful.
I didn’t start the competition well.  I was extremely nervous at last year’s USAs because it was my first meet since surgery.  I was nervous at this USAs with excited energy, so shaking hands and being fired up (from not only competition, but injustice to javelin and hammer throwers) meant my first throw was only 56 meters.  I took the lead in round two with a 59-meter attempt by attacking the block a bit better, but my chest was still really forward and I wasn’t keeping the javelin hidden/my arm back.
I knew 59 meters wouldn’t do it for this USAs.  There were like 6 girls registered for this meet over 57 meters, so anyone was capable of anything!  That is unheard of in the United States!  I was so excited to be a part of this field because of the increased level of performance across the board.  You go, American girls.  Let’s keep moving the mark!
My body felt great on Thursday.  The way I felt physically reminded me of USAs in 2010 (just post-ACL and a little more careful); really powerful and just brimming with energy.  So when Brittany tossed 62.05m in round three, I had more confidence that I would respond than I’ve had in years.  My attempt in that round traveled 62.43m, round four was another 59m throw, round five went 60-something, and I finished off the competition with an attempt at 62.28m.  I won my fifth national title.
Stadium view from the podium.  We threw outside on the practice track, though.
 
All I did to throw further was move faster, and kind of hold my left side and kind of keep my arm back.  I’m still really forward, which doesn’t allow lots of pressure to build in my chest before the throw happens.  I have to stay back (keep my weight over my right hip, kinda) in order to let stretch between my left foot and my right hand be created, then fight to stay back and closed to keep building that stretch and pressure until the javelin accelerates out into the sector!  Timing is everything, and being forward does not good timing make.  So while I’m very, very happy to have won a fifth U.S. National title, I know that I could have had much better results on the day.  Two throws over 62 meters and a strong body get me excited for the rest of the summer, though!
Plane sunset with an ocean view on my way home.
 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tucson Elite

I competed in Tucson, Arizona last weekend at one of the most fun competitions of the year!  Every May, the majority of elite American throwers head to the University of Arizona for a meet that features only field events, and focuses on the throws.  It's always exciting to see long-time friends and enjoy great weather!

Two meets are held at Tucson Elite; one on Thursday, and the same format on Saturday.  In the past, I've thrown both days (because why not and it's good major championship experience), but this year I knew my knee couldn't quite handle that quick of a turnaround yet.  I watched and cheered on Thursday and competed on Saturday.

Here's the Coach's Eye video Russ took of my first and best throw:



It traveled 59.97m, which is exactly the same result I had in Doha Here is the results page for the entire Saturday meet.  All six of my throws were better than 56 meters, and my last one felt superior technically to the other ones.  I took six hard throws again, and my knee felt great!

So, this was my third competition of the season right around 60 meters.  I'm very forward at delivery, stemming from not accelerating quite enough alllllll the way through my crossovers and pushing with my right leg.  Staying back and not pushing is what I have been working on for the last week, and I feel pretty good about it going into my next competition.  I'm doing my best not to be impatient with my distances, as seeing the video tells me there's much more there and simply being on the runway still brings me so much satisfaction!  A little bit of aggravation helps focus the mind, though, and feeling competitiveness creep back into my system is doing that for me.

I leave for Rome on Tuesday!  Check the Diamond League website for results on Thursday if you are so inclined, and see Universal Sports for online broadcasting information. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Doha

A belated recap of the Doha Diamond League!

I already told you that my travel was super easy!  So my body felt pretty good warming up for competition because I'd traveled well and slept even better upon arrival.  I also had a great roommate to pass the time with, and got to see Becky a lot, too!

Persian Gulf: An exploration by Tia and I!

QR (Qatar Riyal) is pretty!

The Souq Waqif was fun to wander with Becky, Mary and Danny!


Remember when my javelins disappeared in Monaco?  That almost happened again.  We were told to check them in two hours before the competition, which Linda and I did, but apparently everyone else's implements got taken to the track that morning.  When we got out to the runway, our javelins weren't there.  Surprise!  I grabbed some of the common ones to warm up with, and after Linda handled talking to the officials a bit forcefully, our stuff made it before the competition started.  No big deal.

My series didn't start great, but I had my best attempt on my third throw at 59.97m and was fourth going into finals.  I did my best to move up from there, but got passed and ended up sixth.  While sixth place is never what I want, I had two 59-meter throws and another one at mid-58m.  And those throws were at the end of the series, which is thrilling for me because it means my knee can handle things.  I'm looking forward to it holding up even better in the future, and practice since Doha has been encouraging me even more.

My technique at this meet wasn't fabulous.  I was open and didn't accelerate very well to my left, but got a little better as the competition went on, and have been focusing on these things since.  My favorite thing about this meet was the fact that I started feeling competitive rather than careful as the series went on.  I missed that feeling, and I'm ecstatic to have it back.  Tucson is next!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pre-Doha

Deplaning in Frankfurt.
City view from the warm-up track!
Doha mosque at sunset from the warm-up track.

Qatar Sports Club.

I'm in a new part of the world!  I've never been to the middle east before, so this is fun.  Qatar is across the Persian Gulf from Iran and a little bit northeast-ish of Saudi Arabia.  Denver to Frankfurt was about 9.5 hours, then after a short break Frankfurt to Doha was around 6 hours.  I arrived at the hotel at 10:00pm local time Wednesday, and slept for approximately 14.5 hours. :)

Since I haven't traveled internationally in so long, I was a little anxious to see how my new knee would handle all the sitting still.  I had absolutely nothing to worry about!  It feels great, and my shake-out at the track tonight made it feel even better.  Excited to see what happens tomorrow!  Schedule here (click "Doha" and then "Startlist/Results") and live stream via Universal Sports here!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Drake Relays

This is a belated Drake Relays wrap-up post!

I competed two Fridays ago at Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.  My family came, ASICS puts on the meet, Russ threw well, and I met some cool new friends, so the weekend was fabulous!  Unfortunately, I could have thrown better, and my knee didn't feel great.

My parents and I at the Machine Shed!

I had a really fun throwing session the Monday before this competition, and I threw pretty hard that day because it was going so well.  Surprise!  My knee was sore the next day, and it stayed sore most of the week.  When I woke up on Friday in Des Moines, it was feeling better, but not totally 100%.  "The show must go on!" I thought, and I warmed up okay.  The weather was perfect-better than I've seen it since USAs in 2010-and I felt like not taking advantage of such conditions would be a shame! 

My first throw was possibly too relaxed, and I've been pushing with my right leg a little bit again, so I landed forward and that did not feel good on my knee.  That throw traveled 56 meters, and would have been an okay start if it hadn't made me so uncomfortable.  When I'm forward (as is the case when any javelin thrower is forward!), there's too much downward pressure on my leg rather than sort of horizontal pressure that lets me move forward and out toward the sector after my block is down.  What happens is undue pressure on the leg, yes, but also pulling down on the javelin and loss of tip control, leading to not-as-good throws.  Stay back and then move forward after your left foot is down, people!

So yeah.  I threw 56 meters, tried a few more times to work through the stiffness in my knee with no improvement, and decided to pass my three finals throws.  I was disappointed to let such a perfect day slip by, but I knew that resting my leg for my next meet was more important.  Drake was only my second meet of the year, after all, and it's going to take me a bit to learn how to ride this competition bike again. 

Even though I'm now 19 months out of surgery, it will take me a while to figure out just how much my knee can handle in terms of intensity before competition and how much rest I need to get ready for meets.  My experience at Drake showed me that I'll have to be smart in how I select the meets I go to this year; it may have been na├»ve of me to think I could just jump back into a normal schedule in my first full season back in action.  It's important to me to use this year as a building block for the next three seasons; 2015 World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics in Rio are the shining stars in the distance, and preparing myself the best I can for those is paramount.

I'm traveling to Doha, Qatar today for the first Diamond League meet of the season!  This is my first international trip since London, OMG.  I'm excited-nervous already. :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Texas Relays

I just drove back into Colorado Springs after spending two weeks in Austin, Texas in preparation for the 87th Annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays!  Yes, I drove down there because a) plane tickets were super expensive, b) oversize baggage fees for my javelins are super expensive (now more than ever) and c) I wanted to.  I listened to Divergent by Veronica Roth on the way down and Insurgent, the second of the three-part series, on the way home today.  Books for fun, YAY!  I also refuse to see movies before I've read the books, and I'm going to see it next week.

Anyway, I competed yesterday!  My two weeks of practice with Ty leading up to this meet were good, but like I said already, I was nervous.  Just like the one time I got to see him last year, I showed up in Austin and was really tight in my upper body: I short-armed the throw a lot and just got away from the pressure too quickly.  I've known for a while that this is a problem, but struggled to fix it on my own.  I focused on my arm instead of keeping a big chest, lengthening my left arm and initiating the throw with my legs.  To fix a technical issue, the majority of the time you need to figure out the cause rather than just address the symptom!  I always know what I feel, but visiting Ty helps me figure out why I feel those things.  So important.

So, because of what we worked on in practice, my two main technical cues going into competition were keeping my entire left side solid (related to initiating the throw with my legs) and keeping a big chest at the front of the throw.  My other goal was to enjoy myself!!  I talked to Wendy on Thursday about how to do that: I had some pictures that make me happy printed and stuck them in my binder as a reminder to smile.  Nervous energy+happiness+solid technical cues (that I had been visualizing like crazy)?  Good stuff.

My warm-ups felt nice and relaxed, but weren't awesome, which I love.  I like to feel connection, but I'm not a big fan of perfect warm-ups.  On my first attempt, I was as relaxed as I could be with all those first-meet jitters, led the throw with my legs okay, and remembered to keep a big chest!  All of those things could have been executed better and I didn't have much speed on the throw since my approach was a bit short for this meet, but when I looked up, the javelin was invisible.  I love those throws, and it has been a long time since I've seen one of mine fly that way!
That first attempt was 60.45m, which I am thrilled with for a meet that is a month earlier than I would normally open a season, and especially after 18 months of rehab and climbing my way back to throwing confidence.  After throw number 1, shaking hands and a congratulatory hug from Ty, my nerves dissipated a little too much, and I didn't have a whole lot of energy for the rest of the meet!  My series suffered from a lack of competition mental endurance I think, and even though I know my knee is strong and sturdy, it still hurts a little when I throw hard on it.  I'm excited to build that competition experience back up! 

I'll compete again at Drake Relays, and I can't wait to see my family (both ASICS and biological, haha)!  I'd love to see you there if you can make it. :) Until then, I'm focusing on having a strong left side and nice big chest in practice.  So pumped about the next few years!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nerves

I’m opening my season on Friday morning!!!

OMG, I’m opening my season on Friday morning.

Mike A. Myers Stadium

Remember how I said I’d shout my schedule from the rooftops, and do it early?  I do too, and I’m sorry that I’ve been a chicken and haven’t done that.  Not only does the 9:30am start time of women’s javelin on Friday atTexas Relays prevent any local high schoolers from coming, but the truth is, I’m nervous.  I know I’m in great shape.  I know that all I need to do is trust the process and trust my body and eventually things will work out, but that doesn’t stop the nerves from bubbling up.  This will be my first full season back from major injury, and I’m excited about that, but I want to be open with everyone following along about just the kind of experiences this journey is giving me.  Real, semi-gut-wrenching ones.  I’ve been hiding because I’m scared, and competition will be the only thing that can break me of that fear.  You have to throw in higher-pressure situations to get used to truly throwing harder!  Fear has never stopped me before, and it won't now, but I am feeling it.

Looking back, I felt the same way upon my return to competition after hurting my back and missing a season in 2007.  My attitude toward throwing has been similar to what it was that year, and my training this year has been similar to what we did leading up to 2010.  Ty’s words after my first throw off the runway with him last Wednesday were, “Oh, Kara, you’re gonna throw so far this year.”  I wholeheartedly believe him.  I wholeheartedly believe in myself.  There is just always this nerves hurdle when you’re returning from a hiatus!  Expectant nerves.

I always expect a lot from myself, in every aspect of life.  Surgery (and subsequent recovery) taught me how to manage expectation over a long period of time though, and that’s a lesson I feel like I’m applying now to throwing.  In 2010, I was awesome.  In 2011, I was not.  And in 2012, when it mattered the most, I was injured.  Patiently waiting for my knee to heal and for my body to be ready to throw again has been a huge challenge, but one I’ll carry with me in this three-season push toward the next Summer Olympic Games.  I’ve always wanted to throw far, all the time, but both being injured and feeling embarrassed in 2011 helped me see that timing is everything.  The build to the most important stage in my sport can take a while, and I need to be prepared to continue being patient.  I’ve known this for a long time, but I hadn’t truly learned it until being forced through the long ACL healing process.  Knowing that the road to Rio is still a long one will help me keep each meet’s results in perspective.

So, on Friday, these things are important:

1.       Have fun!  My nerves will continue to build until then, so I have to remember to enjoy what I’m doing to be successful.  Being extra serious when I’m nervous does NOT help me.  I remember enough about competing to know that!

2.       Hit good positions.  I’m finally getting a little bit of a feel for the javelin after months of training with overweight implements and throwing into a net.  This meet is EARLY as far as when I “normally” open up my season, so I know that my timing isn’t there yet, and being disciplined in hitting strong positions gives me my best shot at throwing far.  That’s ALWAYS true, but especially early.  Set a standard for the rest of the season.

Those are the important things.  Keeping it simple in my first meet will hopefully let me relax even more about it.  I don’t need to put extra pressure on myself when I know I’ll already have tons of built-up nervous energy.  I just have to channel it the right way!
Ultimately, I’m really looking forward to continuing my javelin journey again.  I have this unyielding dream that I can’t quite grasp yet but I feel every day in my bones.  Getting back on the runway is the only way to reach for my lofty goals, and I’m embracing the emotions that come with each step of my process so that I can learn from them later, need-be.
Bevo, the University of Texas at Austin's living mascot!
 
Austin is fun!  Texas Relays looks like it’s shaping up to be a really cool event, and one that I’ve wanted to attend in the past!  I’ve met some really great people in the week I’ve already spent here, and a lot of them are planning to come to the track on Friday, so I’m looking forward to seeing them in the stands.  I have every reason to have an excellent experience here!  I just have to get out of my own way, which I've done before. :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Video Action!

Heeeeey!  So, I've been getting more and more comfortable with my knee and my technique with each practice, and wanted to share a bit.  In an effort to be totally transparent with you all in this recovery process and climbing back to where I know I belong, I want to talk about the difficulties and the victories!

December 16:


December 19:


January 19 (lower intensity):
video

January 29 (getting better):
video

January 29 (best):
video


January 23 (fast forward to about 20 seconds):


January 27:


Things I'm happy about:
  • Attacking my block.  I can't tell you how fun it is to have confidence in my left leg.
  • Carrying more speed into my throw than I ever could last year, followed by chasing the javelin out over my block. 
  • Controlling the tip of the javelin better than I have in a good while.
Things I'm working on:
  • Not pushing with my right leg after my impulse.  This is an old, stubborn habit that I knew I would probably need to re-break after surgery.  I guess I'm happy with how it's going, but (unreasonably) frustrated with the fact that it reared its ugly head again.  I need to give myself a break on this one, but I'm a perfectionist I guess.
  • The pushing with the right leg makes my upper body shift forward, the tip of the javelin come up, and my left shoulder open.  So those are three technical cues that I'm working on, but all of them can be fixed (the way my mind and body work) by waiting to put my right foot down and not pushing onto my block leg.
  • Carrying more energy through my impulse into the throw.  I feel floaty a lot of times, and I don't like it. 
  • Not being blocked off.  Allowing my right hip room to move through so I put more power into the javelin.   
I've been throwing a lot of overweight implements and doing just a ton of ball throws (medball and single arm little weighted ball alike), so I'm really excited about the coming months when I get to throw mostly competition-weight implements.  The session in Chula Vista (January 19 above) was the first time all year that I've thrown just 600g javelins, and even though my timing felt a little weird, it was a super fun session!!  Excited!