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!
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. :)
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!