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.