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.

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