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!!