Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 Statistics

I averaged my results on the year once, and it was really fun!  Here we are again:

Average of Top 5 Competitions: 63.89m
66.47m (Longhorn Invite)
64.94m (USAs)
62.97m (London)
62.85m (Prefontaine)
62.21m (World Championships Qualifying)

Average of All Results: 61.72m
60.82m (Texas Relays)
59.07m (Drake Relays)
66.47m (Longhorn Invite)
61.76m (Shanghai)
62.85m (Prefontaine)
61.64m (Oslo)
64.94m (USAs)
61.71m (Paris)
61.44m (PanAms)
62.97m (London)
61.10m (Stockholm)
60.34m (NACAC)
62.21m (Worlds Qualifying)
60.88m (Worlds Final)
57.58m (Zurich)

If you take Zurich out of the equation (which I'd like to, but won't, haha), the overall average would be right around 62m.  I threw 61m 10 out of 15 times, but only threw over 62m (the Olympic A Standard and clearly at least what it takes to make major championship finals now) one third of the time.  I definitely need to work on that next year, and part of that is NOT competing in fifteen meets in one season!  It was awesome, but way too many for an Olympic year, and I look forward to tailoring my schedule with Rio clearly in my sights!

Catch-Up

While 2014 was one of the busiest years of my life (planning a wedding, going to school, self-renovating a home with Russell, and keeping up with competitions was sleep-deprivingly awesome), 2015 was also crazy for different reasons!  The house is done and we're married now, but I still took classes every session, and I traveled much more than I did last year.  A busy schedule means that whenever I was home, I slept and spent time with loved ones instead of blogging regularly.  I won't apologize for maintaining my mental health, as it's just important as the physical side of things!  :)  Here's a recap of my season since the Longhorn Invite, very much abbreviated and focused on take-aways and summaries instead of details.  I will write another blog with averages, too!

Shanghai
The Shanghai Diamond League on May 17 had me really nervous for some reason!  My travel there was pretty great, and Tia and I were roommates and adjusted well to the time zone (the first time that has really happened for me).  I didn't get enough body work done while there, and my upper back was not happy while I was warming up!  My thoracic spine gets pretty upset on long flights like it took to get to China, and when I don't get it adjusted upon arrival, I struggle.  I also felt pretty lethargic despite adjusting to the time zone well, and had a hard time getting my intensity up in time for the competition.  Starting the competition out with a 56-meter attempt did not make me happy, and I was glad to improve to 61.28m in round two.  I further improved to 61.76m during finals, and ended up 7th overall.  I simply kept my chest up better on my better attempts instead of being afraid of the finish, but wasn't super thrilled with the results.  That's a long way to go for 7th, which is a position I've finished in in a lot of Diamond League competitions!  I was ready for more.  Finished Season 3 of Arrow on the way home. :)

Prefontaine
I really, really wanted to go to Pre on May 30th this year, since I hadn't competed at Hayward Field since Olympic Trials in 2012.  I needed to get my head around the venue and feel strong there again before USAs and 2016 Olympic Trials, and it worked.  My first attempt (follow the link) was 62.52m, and round three traveled 62.85m to put me in second place by the end of the competition.  Christina said to me at practice the day before the meet, "All I know is that I have been here twice, and I have won twice," so when she passed me in round two I really wanted to answer back, but my round three improvement wasn't quite enough.  That's okay for now!  Watching the video from that meet tells me that I'm still not staying back in the throw enough: I push forward with my right leg right before I hit the block, which sends my upper body forward and down rather than letting it stay back and then accelerate up and outward for more power.  That last-second forward push also causes me to lose the tip of the javelin, which is never okay, but especially hurts you in Eugene.  It could have gone better, but I felt really good about this meet!  Here's a flotrack interview.  I'm terrible at remembering numbers in the moment, haha.

Oslo
I had never been to Norway before!  I've heard really cool things about the coasts of Norway and was excited that Oslo would have some water even though it's sort of inland.  Plus, it's always fun to see my friend Andreas!  Starting at Pre, I added some intensity to my warm-up with the help of Wendy.  I learned from Shanghai that I needed to get myself going a little earlier so that I could start the competition with a bang instead of wasting my first round on nerves and tentativeness.  That involves more video-watching and music-listening to get excited.  I tried to recreate my successful warm-up from Eugene in Oslo, but it didn't quite work as well.  Perhaps jet lag had something to do with that, but I felt physically pretty good and started the competition with 61.64m, which was my best attempt through all six rounds (with two others also over 61m) to end up 6th.  Sixth place is better than seventh, but I couldn't help feeling a tiny bit frustrated anyway.  But I was still thrilled to be starting competitions strong and keeping my bottom numbers up!

USAs
USATF Outdoor Championships were back in Eugene, Oregon this year.  I love it when that happens because I get to go home and see my family and the puppies!!  I was also pumped to be heading there with Russ, who competed on Thursday while I was scheduled for Friday evening.  I absolutely love watching him throw, and was so proud of him for battling through this season's cumulative small injuries to throw 64.34m and finish second!

My training plan has worked out this year such that we discovered that I throw well in the first week of a new block, so that I am sore from new exercises.  I did NOT see that coming, but am really happy to have learned such valuable information!  So, going into competition on Friday, I was sore, I felt like travel had caught up with me a little, and there had just been a lot going on in the weeks before USAs.  I had a course project due the Sunday before that and took my final on Wednesday morning for four hours.  Little logistical things that go on surrounding national championships mixed with real life stuff can just be hard on you.  Warming up for the meet had me worried: I was really achy, it was really hot, and I just didn't feel like myself.  I didn't feel powerful, but I knew that I was, and that focusing on specific technical things could get me where I needed to go.  Cue intense focus on acceleration all the way through my throw and keeping the javelin hidden behind my head, plus good posture through my run.

Round one went 64.94m, a little bit to my surprise!  Despite not throwing far in warm-ups, I did feel connected to the implement, and that feeling continued in round one.  I just felt strong and confident, and that was really, really fun at Hayward Field.  My sixth round throw flew 64.45m to reinforce first place and my sixth total National Championship, but first as Kara Winger!

Paris
My body HURT in Paris after two first Weeks in a row, and I had a lot of trouble getting going.  Managed 61.71m in the third round to move from tenth or so to fourth to make it into finals, and ended up 6th.  Was frustrated to feel so terrible after I had worked through the same sort of feelings at USAs and done well!  But I was lined up to spend almost two whole weeks at home after this trip, so super excited to get some rest/normalcy.

Pan-American Games: Toronto, Canada
My brother got married in Seattle on July 19th, and I competed on July 21st in Toronto, three time zones, two long flights, and one whole country away, haha.  I knew going in that I wanted to do both and needed to just suck it up about the travel and such, and I'm really happy that I chose to compete at my first PanAms, even if it wasn't under ideal circumstances.  We (Russ competed, too!) arrived at the village around 6:00pm the night before competition, managed to get checked in, eat something and get some treatment (which I desperately needed on my back) before a team meeting at 8pm that lasted until 9:15pm and illuminated a problem: My competition bib said, "Patterson."  While I like my maiden name, I chose to make a quick switch this season and didn't want any confusion happening!  So making sure I spoke to the correct people about it and had a solution lined up for the next morning took a while.  By 10pm I was in my room laying things out for the next day's meet, and just thinking about maybe doing some jump squats and abs as a sad excuse for a pre-meet, when a knock on my door brought news that our competition time had been changed.  Instead of an 11:30am start time, we were now going to begin throwing at 10:05am.  As in, less than 12 hours after getting this news.  Crazy things happen before major championships, I have always been told!  Despite all that, a stiff headwind, and kind of intense back pain warming up early the next morning, I managed to throw 61.44m in the last round to move into the lead from second (after my fifth round throw), only to move back to second overall.  Liz had to beat me on her last throw, in front of her home crowd (Canadians), at a meet that she had expressed to me was really important to her.  The roar from the stands was really awesome, and it was special to be a part of. :) Plus, my silver medal is really cool!

London
I was super excited to head back to the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, as I had never competed healthy there before!  I felt MUCH better than I had in Toronto, thanks to a few nights of a LOT of sleep.  I ended up fifth at 62.97m, and was happy for the day.  I thought that Stockholm would go better.

Stockholm
I loooooved the city of Stockholm!  I went on an Ocean Bus tour. :) I had a lot of school work to do that week and not a lot of time to do it, so between all of the travel I had been undergoing and that stress, I got sick.  I felt terrible during competition and did my very best, but only managed 61.10m for sixth.  I still walked away being happy that my bottom numbers were staying up, though!  Traveling home sick was a bit miserable.

North American, Central American, Caribbean (NACAC) Senior Championships: San Jose, Costa Rica
This meet was fun to travel to with Russ, and we got to be roommates!  I also wanted to go with him on this national team trip because we met on a NACAC Under-23 team in the Dominican Republic NINE years ago, and going to the "same" meet again together sounded fun.  It really was: The main focus of this meet was to get Russ a World Championships A Standard via a victory, and he accomplished that!  A first place showing at an area championship counts as an A Standard, so he qualified for his first World Championship and got to come to Beijing with me based on this meet!  That was WELL worth the trip.  We competed on the same day and both struggled to throw far, but got the job done in winning our events.  I threw 60.34m on a day when I found it a little difficult to focus (Russ had competed right before me, and I was so excited that he had gotten the job done!).  It was so, so awesome to be there together and imagine what Worlds would be like!

IAAF World Championships: Beijing, China
Russ and I first traveled together to Tokyo, Japan for training camp, which was amaaazing.  We loved Japan!  Ate legitimate sushi and awesome ramen noodles with good friends, explored a temple and surrounding area, and brought home really, really cool kitchen knives from the tiniest little store vendor.  Plus, the people at Juntendo University, where the throwers practiced, could not have been more excited to have us there!  Just an awesome time.  I continued to get my back worked on and was so excited to see Ty and have throwing sessions with him for the first time since May.  I was encouraged by how I was starting to feel physically by the time we left for Beijing.

Qualifying rounds have gotten to me in the past, but everything I've been through made this experience seem different somehow.  I'm so glad I competed as much as I did this year, even if I was exhausted by the end of the season, because I was comfortable out there with so many great athletes all around me.  You can't help but feel nervous during qualifying, but I was the most equipped I've ever been to handle it.  I can still do better in the future, but I hung on with 62.21m to grab the last (12th) qualifying spot through to the finals!!!  My friend Goldie Sayers had told me the day before that she did some research: She said that the furthest it had ever taken to qualify for a World Championship final was 60.39m, so I believe I set some kind of record, haha.  I had a feeling something like that would happen this year, as the automatic qualifying mark was 63.80m, which is WAY further than I've ever seen it.  That's a reflection of the depth in the whole world, something I also experienced all year!

My body (back, knee a little, left shoulder) hurt a little more for finals than it had for qualifying, but I pushed through it the very best I could, and drew on all the experience I've earned traveling from meet to meet.  It was really cool to be competing on the very last day of World Championships, as every athlete on the track was trying for a medal.  I love being able to draw on other competitions' energy, and have experience doing that just enough to not get distracted!  I always want to have fun when I'm throwing, and noticing when others are accomplishing dreams is pretty fun.  I could only throw 60.88m for eighth place with bad chest positions and a slow left that day.  I left the Bird's Nest absolutely thrilled, though.  I had traveled to China to compete in World Championships with my husband, and done better than I ever dreamed the first time I came to the same place seven years prior for the Olympics.  Plus I made waves in a year that I didn't know if I would be fully confident in my knee at full speed without a brace.  So much positive, but my body was breaking down a little, too.

Zurich
The Diamond League Final was only four days after the World Championships final.  The flight there was so easy, and adjusting to Europe time after being in Asia is a piece of cake compared to going from the America side!  Still, though, my back was totally done.  My first attempt resulted in a terrible back-wrenching spasm of pain that was only relieved after Liz let me borrow her foam roller to pop it.  After that happens though, getting things to relax really quickly is next to impossible.  I was really proud of being tough and improving after that disaster, and very grateful to walk away without any significant injuries.  My worst result of the year: 57.58m for ninth.  Someday I will figure out how to compete in Zurich! :)

What a ridiculously busy season, with so many positive and awesome things in it.  I'm so, so grateful for my coaches, agents, ASICS, QALO, Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center athletic trainers, family, friends, and you for following along.  I've learned so much and am already applying it to my mental game for Rio in 2016!


Friday, August 14, 2015

My Personal Opinion (Part 2)

I'm an ASICS athlete.  I love being an ASICS athlete.  The mantra, "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body" is something I think about a LOT in this athletic journey.  They re-signed me when I tore my ACL in the year that my first contract expired.  I could not be more proud to represent this company and everything it stands for.  Beijing will be my third World Championships Team as an ASICS athlete.  I have always been bothered by wearing a different company's brand on national teams, and am glad that Nick Symmonds began a conversation about the professionalism of the language surrounding the requirements that I've always tried to work around myself.


The article linked in that last sentence (and again here) by Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated is my favorite one on the subject, and echoes my thoughts on everything that has happened.  Here are some additional ones:

1. There have always been double standards in apparel requirements at major championships.  I practice and compete in the regular season in ASICS gear.  When I am at a Team USA event, I wear Team USA gear per the (vaguely-worded) statement of conditions and reminders that have always been in place.  My teammates at these events who happen to be sponsored by the company that sponsors USATF (Nike) also wear their team-issued apparel, but are permitted to mix in their regular-season gear as well.  I have already seen Instagram posts and Twitter photos of my friends in their bright orange, cheetah-print singlets at training camp in Japan instead of a variation of red, white, and blue.  I understand why they do this: As an example, I received zero tank tops in my team-issued gear this year-an item of clothing that is a staple in my training.  Athletes whose private sponsorship coincides with USATF's are simply bringing enough of their own clothes to get them through a week of practice without doing laundry every other day.  Because of the statement of conditions, I don't have that option.  And I think that double standard further supports the claim that USATF is "owned by Nike".  If I can *ONLY* bring Team USA gear, everyone else should only be permitted to wear Team USA gear.  The only reason I have enough apparel to wear is that I've stock-piled the few items of team-issued clothing that I actually like wearing since I started making national teams in 2008.

2. It seems to me like a lot of people have missed the fact that athletes are permitted to wear unbranded apparel surrounding Team USA events.  I bring a lot of these items, as I'm more comfortable in them than a competing brand's clothing, and I make sure by doing so that I'll have enough to wear.  Sometimes I think that being "unbranded" at a major championship makes just as much of a statement as wearing ASICS would.  I have the team-issued gear, but I choose not to wear it more often than I do.  And obviously I love that these rules have never applied to shoes.  I ordered these and these specifically to sport in Tokyo and Beijing!
   

3.   Don't get me wrong: I agree with more clearly defining what constitutes an "official Team USA event" at major championships.  I just wish that the multitude of athletes sponsored by companies other than the one that sponsors USATF had had a chance to talk about this in Beijing, much like we did in London about Rule 40, first.  I'm hoping that this will still happen, but unfortunately Nick won't be there to join the conversation. Nick is outspoken and passionate about his beliefs (even if others (including me) don't agree with everything he says).  He has proven himself a knowledgeable navigator of the firestorm that is social media (and media in general), which is obviously important in this day and age.  He's been "controversial" before.  And before that.  And before that.  I'm not sure that any other current track and field athlete could have played this role like Nick Symmonds, and I told my ASICS rep so when he asked my opinion.  While I can't agree wholeheartedly with "burning USATF to the ground" and would never say that contracts written by the organization are piles of excrement (to put it politely as Nick didn't), I can support the quest for increased professionalism in language used to describe USATF sponsor relationships and athletes' obligations to abide by them.  And I will at the USATF Annual Meeting in December.  There's a link on that page referring directly to the fact that 2015 is a Law and Legislation year, and bylaws can be changed with proper proposals.  Here's our chance.  Again, I applaud Nick's efforts to get this conversation started, but what Russ and I have talked about and fear is that rash decisions based on one individual's experiences to create controversy around the only revenue stream that keeps USATF afloat will result in loss of that revenue stream, and loss of the sport.  What if the contract that USATF signed through 2040 specifically required that statement of conditions?  I wouldn't call it good business, but it's a business tactic to intentionally make readers of the statement of conditions assume that the vague wording means they're only allowed to wear team-issued gear.  They're ambiguous on purpose in a sort of lie of omission way.  So if the statement of conditions was a required stipulation in the contract that USATF signed, wouldn't changing it be a violation of said contract?  The company in question has been known to pull sponsorship suddenly before (and in a similar case with my old training partner).  I'm totally speculating here, but that's where my mind went.  Legal entities that put these contracts and their supporting documentation in place are professional organizations, and changing the wording of them to better support athletes' individual rights (a worthy goal) needs to be sought after in an equally professional manner.  And using inside voices.

4. It's hard to be a multiple-time World Championship team member sponsored by ASICS, watch Nick Symmonds speak out against a "contract" that I've (along with many others) continually worked around to represent my sponsor anyway, and feel like he has my back.  Some of the articles posted on the subject have posed questions about why track and field athletes can't unite in a common goal, and my answer has always been that we're not competing in the same sport.  Financially, in terms of personal experiences on international circuits, fan-base-wise, and for other reasons, we have very little to relate to each other on across event groups.  It's hard for me to trust Nick Symmonds with speaking for my sport, because his perspective is very different from my own and that of at least one other field event athlete that I know pretty well (my husband :)).  I want to trust Nick and all of my fellow athletes, but I just don't know a lot of them.  I have loved the opportunity to get to know some people from other event groups on the circuit, and that trend should continue tenfold for us to all be able to cooperate.  Similarly, one of the biggest perks of belonging to the ASICS family is that I get to be buddies with Sharon Day-Monroe, Heather Kampf, Becky Holliday, Ryan Martin, Amanda Smock, Alysia Montano, and other diverse and awesome people.  I have actual relationships with them because we have actual conversations at meets, and I love cheering them on.  If that feeling of camaraderie can expand to Team USA to help us work together, I'll be thrilled.

5. I thought it was pretty lame of USATF to state that they wouldn't enforce apparel rules on athletes' personal time in Beijing after all of this business went down, but then I read that Nick was aware that USATF felt that way before August 9th.  But then I read that USATF was "unaware" that the letter in question (stating that athletes should only bring team-issued gear) went out with the uniforms, and I went back to feeling like that was lame.  I remember receiving similar letters in all the shipments of gear I've gotten from USATF over the years, and I've always taken them as mere suggestions.  Of course I'm going to bring ASICS gear and my uniform: I always do.  I'm traveling directly to Zurich after World Championships, so obviously I need my regular season uniform, and wearing the familiar gear that I love reminds me of the constant support that ASICS provides me at the most essential time.  I know that putting this letter on blast only strengthened Nick's arguments, and that's why he did it, but I wish for his sake that he had taken it as a suggestion rather than a rule as well.  That doesn't change the fact that it's silly for USATF to have been "unaware" that the letter went out and was worded that way.  That long-term major oversight (if that's what it was instead of a subtle attempt at furthering USATF's sponsor image with suggestions veiled as rules) is unprofessional.

Overall, I'll be ready to have conversations about increasing professional language and definitions in required documents after the season is over.  I think that an opportunity was missed for athletes to have this conversation in Beijing instead of on social media (or perhaps in supplement), as there are a lot of athletes with a dog in the fight (By my count, 36 of 62 female athletes are sponsored by a company other than the official USATF sponsor this year.  I didn't take it upon myself to compile data for the men.).  I'm old enough and experienced enough now to feel like I can bring something to this discussion, and I'd like to do so in a professional manner.  I haven't been to a USATF Annual Meeting since 2011 for various reasons, but Houston should expect to see me this year.

Traveling to Tokyo for training camp with Russ tomorrow!!!!  Now to pack a kaleidoscope of items.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Longhorn Invitational

So. Happy.

I had my third competition of 2015 yesterday at the University of Texas at Austin's last collegiate home meet of the season.  I'm three for three on setting new Mike A. Myers Stadium records when I show up at this track!

Jess Delic of Akron and I after the competition.  Photo credit: Jess!
The field of women was small, the weather was pretty great, and my body felt decent after a 13-hour drive from home and a week of new workouts, but lots of rest otherwise.  I warmed up really early because the men's competition took an unexpectedly long time, but it was hot enough that it didn't matter much as long as I stayed hydrated and ate something.  It was SO FUN to be able to stay warm!!  That is sometimes a struggle in Colorado.

I warmed up on the runway relaxed but with just enough pep to feel explosive and ready for competition, and stopped warming up earlier than I have in probably two years, haha.  When you're finally confident, you don't need to take 50 warm-up throws looking for a feeling.  Plus, I was trying to manage warm weather for the first time in forever, and didn't want my energy to get zapped before competition even got going.

My focus in practice lately has been more speed through my crossovers.  Coming back from surgery has been a long, slow, careful process of increasing intensity in my throw, and it finally feels like it's the right time to really turn it on.  I attacked through the end of the throw a little too well on my first attempt yesterday, and my block ended up right at the foul line with no way to save the throw!  I've never ever done that!  The javelin's flight wasn't ideal, so I made a note to fix it.

I backed up for throw number two and attacked the end again.  The timing of my legs was great and my block held strong, catching the javelin back and at a much better angle than is my norm.

It flew 66.47 meters.  

If I had kept my chest up and finished the throw even better (and been a bit more closed at the block to let that happen), who knows what the reader board would have said.  I also still felt close to the scratch line.  Attempts three, four and five all traveled over 63 meters!  I tried to keep my chest up better on those ones, but the timing wasn't as good with my legs and that means that I lose the tip of the javelin.  I was pretty pumped up for my last attempt, but tired on a rare (for me) hot day and emotionally a little drained, so it only went 59m with terrible flight.  Here are the official results (scroll down to "Women Javelin Throw" about halfway down the page).  I want to be clear that I compete for ASICS: I'm working to get the results all corrected.

video
Video courtesy of Fabian Jara Dohmann, my friend at UT.  This is 63.21m, my 5th attempt.  So much more there.

Favorite things about yesterday:
1. I threw my 80m Nemeth on all 6 throws.  My American Record implement is a 70m Nemeth "Standard" javelin, but I've known for years that I needed to master higher-quality spears (thanks to an awesome email from Miklos Nemeth himself).  At Drake, my 70m Nemeths didn't check in, because after years of throwing them into hard ground, they're now too short to pass inspection.  I took this as a sign to not use them in competition anymore.  I'm ecstatic that this transition is finally happening.
2. At USAs in 2010, I knew what I wanted to accomplish technically, I felt physically awesome, and throwing 66.67m was what felt like my absolute best, my pinnacle, my 100% top effort.  I did not feel like that at all yesterday.  I dropped my chest and didn't fully finish the throw, my approach is still shorter than it was even last year as I continue to get comfortable with speed, and it's MAY 3RD.  Among other things.  So excited.
3. Hard work DOES pay off, and patience is paramount.  Related: Trust your instincts.  Check out my IAAF Athlete Profile under "Progression" to see my yearly best distances.  I haven't thrown over 63 meters in five YEARS.  I spent 2011 pretending that my back and hip pain wasn't hindering my performance, and wasn't brave enough to pause competition to address it.  That problem lingered into 2012, and I also believed I needed to be super lean to be fast, which decreased my recovery capacity and strength levels and (my opinion) helped me toward a torn ACL.  Two years of healing from that surgery have allowed me time to discover the rest of my life and fully recognize the best thing that ever happened to me in Russ and our relationship-now-marriage.  Through his support (and that of family, friends, ASICS and my coaches), I finally have confirmation that doing my best to enjoy the process and trusting my own path WILL work out.  I threw over 63 meters four times in the Longhorn Invitational, after five years of life lessons, learning, hard work, love, and fun.  Struggle can only break you if you let it.

I have never in my life felt such affirmation as I did yesterday.

Moving forward. :) 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Relays Recap

This season feels busy so far!  I've competed twice, and I'm going to do it again tomorrow.  With school, a visit from my parents, enjoying our newly-complete house interior, and travel, I have made no time to blog.  Here we are :)

Texas Relays was my first competition of 2015, and the first one I was knee brace-less for since the 2012 Olympic Trials.  While I've been practicing bare-legged all year, meet speed and emotions are a bit different.  It was scary!  I was nervous!  I was all over the place technically!  But on my last throw, I gutted out 60.82m.  I wish I had video so that I could be baffled by it, but it felt really good to just get competitive and make something happen.  The only difference between throws 1-5 and number 6 was energy and a slightly bigger chest.

Drake Relays last weekend was really fun.  My ASICS family is always awesome to hang out with, the camera guys were rockstars in the cold, my parents and Grandpa came to cheer, Sharon threw the javelin with me, meeting and catching up with other javelin girls continues to bring me joy, and my competition bib said "WINGER!"  Fellow new wife Sara Beam was even wearing a QALO, a brand that Russ and I were recently introduced to and are big fans of!  As for the competition, I was overall unsatisfied with 59.07m as my furthest attempt.  However, for the first time in what feels like forever, I confidently made technical changes as the meet went its course, and improved on positions to ultimately feel like I threw decently far on purpose, not just with my guts.  That's important!  The focus of Drake Relays was technique, as discussed previously with Wendy, so I consider it a success.  Add even more confidence and speed to that equation and get a throw I love.  I'm all about continuing to improve the technique too, duh.  I was also okay with my consistency at Drake.  Excited for the future.  Check out the ASICS Facebook page for a few videos!

Competition tomorrow in Austin!  It's interesting to be around the NCAA system again as I visit Ty more at University of Texas.  I'll be blogging about that and the meet tomorrow soon!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Girl and her Medball: How to Train Alone

This is my third January in Colorado Springs, physically separate from both of my coaches (Ty Sevin at Texas and Jamie Myers in Chula Vista).  Practice yesterday had me thinking again about how hard it can be to train by yourself, but also about how far I've come in succeeding at just that.  If you're a people-person like me and find it difficult to work toward your goals alone sometimes, maybe you can learn from my experience!

Challenges:

Boredom.
Going to the same places and having nothing to distract you from the mundane parts of training can get old.  I do a lot of the same repetitious pre-hab training throughout the week.  Sprints are exciting, but the rest periods between repetitions often see me twiddling my thumbs.  I started a new sprint regimen in practice yesterday, and each rep requires three minutes of rest!  That is forever when you're alone!  Medball throws can be the same.  My 200 reps yesterday flew by, but it was the first day of them.  With additional volume comes more down time, and a wandering mind sometimes.

Loneliness.
I used to train with Mike Hazle.  High-energy, always-moving Mike Hazle!  Practice was constant entertainment and lots of pushing each other.  Before Mike, my training partners at Purdue were various and equally awesome.  Now, sometimes Russ is with me at practice, but he's mostly up on the discus field at the Air Force Academy while I'm down on the javelin runway.  I love the times we're in each other's near vicinity, but I'm mostly on my own.  That has taken me a long time to get used to.

Feedback.
I pride myself on being coachable, and I've always enjoyed throwing sessions in real-time with coaches, discussing which technical issues are going on.  That makes it difficult for me to be alone in throwing sessions.  I can always tell Ty what I'm feeling in a throw and agree with what he sees, but it's much more difficult for me to tell myself what's happening without someone else's eyes on my technique.

Remedies:

Mental focus.
Boredom provides an opportunity to strengthen your mind.  Those three minutes of rest feel long, but if I cut them short, I'm not only giving in to a weak ability to focus on the task at hand, but I'm compromising the physical goals that the training is working toward.  I've learned to visualize how the next sprint is going to go during my rest time, and when I do, I push better and I'm faster.  Same with timed rest periods during lifting.  When you get your full rest, your body is better prepared to complete the next rep, and if you allow yourself to exercise your mind the same way, you're getting even more out of the workout than your coach might have planned.  Sometimes training IS mundane, but allowing it to work the way it's supposed to and not giving in to your own silly impatience will reap benefits later.  Thinking about the big picture of why I'm at practice in the first place (Beijing 2015 and Rio 2016, for two) also helps me stay in the moment.

Finding ways to make practice work, even on vacation, is part of mental focus.


Gratitude.
This plays into big-picture focus, too.  The last few years have taught me that taking the time to appreciate the opportunities you have in any moment is a powerful exercise.  Mike was excellent at this.  Almost every morning he said, "What a great day at the office!"  I used to have consistent 70-degree weather and beaches, and now I have views of gorgeous mountains and a beautiful new strength and conditioning facility to be thankful for.  I also have a healthy body, an amazing relationship that I'm lucky turned into what is so far a really fun marriage, wonderful family, and a fantastic support system that includes my excellent coaches.  If you're not grateful for something in your life, change it.  Let yourself appreciate where you've come from, and recognize the tools you have around you that will make it a pleasure to strive for your goals.  If those are people, tell them thanks.  If those are things, be grateful for them every day.

Florida sunrise at the beginning of December on my way to the gym!


Tennis courts for shuttle runs by the beach.  Grateful.






Music.
Music at practice was never essential to me until I started training alone.  I've never loved throwing with headphones in, though, which makes the bluetooth speaker Russ got me for Christmas perfect!  I've been obsessed with the wedding playlists I made for us since September, and I don't see that enthusiasm fading any time soon.  Some of my absolute favorite songs that I know I'll love forever:
Oh Honey: "Be Okay"
Halestorm: "Beautiful With You"
Hellogoodbye: "Here (In Your Arms)"
Alesso: "Heroes (we could be) [feat. Tove Lo]"
Colbie Caillat: "I Do"
Gavin DeGraw: "I Have You to Thank"
Becky G: "Shower"
Pick whatever speaks to you, and observe the energy it brings to your training.  I used to think that throwing practice needed to be all business to learn from it, but I know now that it needs to be fun when I'm by myself.  Plus, typically at bigger competitions there is usually music of some kind blasting, so I even feel like I'm practicing for future situations!
"Training Partners"
Sometimes geese show up at throwing practice.  When I'm home in Washington, Beau and Brandy observe my training.  I might sound like a crazy person, telling the dogs what I'm working on or describing my throwing cues to a flock of honkers, but it works for me!  Of course I love when Russ trains with me, and I have great relationships with the coaches and sports med staff at the Olympic Training Center, so real people are involved in certain parts of my training, too.  There's an amazing lady named Christel who trains at the Air Force Academy, and a lot of Mondays we're at practice together.  Chatting with her is always inspirational.  Involving the world around you in your training somehow can make you feel like you have training partners, even when you don't.  I absolutely treasure trips to the gym with my Dad over holidays and doing abs while my Mom is on the Nordic Track.  Bring the people you love most into what you're working toward and you'll feel like they're always with you.

Honkers in Portland at Concordia Throws Center.

Beau "helping" me jump.


Video.
I have come a long way in self-sufficiency at throwing practice, and a huge part of that is being disciplined enough to bring video equipment with me to record what's happening.  Then, I can share it with my coaches electronically.  Not only do I get feedback right away in a throwing session, but watching the video later and describing my thoughts via email to Ty helps me analyze what's going on for longer than I would if I had him at practice with me.  I can absorb what I'm thinking better by having to communicate with him long-distance, and can then apply it to the next practice more effectively.  This is a benefit that I did not see coming!  Plus, think how cool it will be to have such detailed documentation of years of my training.


Everyone is different.  You probably have your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to training by yourself.  What are they?  How can you get better?  Every new experience allows us an opportunity to improve something.  See solitude as a chance to work on yourself rather than a punishment, and you'll be surprised!