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


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. :)