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.
 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tucson Elite

I competed in Tucson, Arizona last weekend at one of the most fun competitions of the year!  Every May, the majority of elite American throwers head to the University of Arizona for a meet that features only field events, and focuses on the throws.  It's always exciting to see long-time friends and enjoy great weather!

Two meets are held at Tucson Elite; one on Thursday, and the same format on Saturday.  In the past, I've thrown both days (because why not and it's good major championship experience), but this year I knew my knee couldn't quite handle that quick of a turnaround yet.  I watched and cheered on Thursday and competed on Saturday.

Here's the Coach's Eye video Russ took of my first and best throw:



It traveled 59.97m, which is exactly the same result I had in Doha Here is the results page for the entire Saturday meet.  All six of my throws were better than 56 meters, and my last one felt superior technically to the other ones.  I took six hard throws again, and my knee felt great!

So, this was my third competition of the season right around 60 meters.  I'm very forward at delivery, stemming from not accelerating quite enough alllllll the way through my crossovers and pushing with my right leg.  Staying back and not pushing is what I have been working on for the last week, and I feel pretty good about it going into my next competition.  I'm doing my best not to be impatient with my distances, as seeing the video tells me there's much more there and simply being on the runway still brings me so much satisfaction!  A little bit of aggravation helps focus the mind, though, and feeling competitiveness creep back into my system is doing that for me.

I leave for Rome on Tuesday!  Check the Diamond League website for results on Thursday if you are so inclined, and see Universal Sports for online broadcasting information. :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Doha

A belated recap of the Doha Diamond League!

I already told you that my travel was super easy!  So my body felt pretty good warming up for competition because I'd traveled well and slept even better upon arrival.  I also had a great roommate to pass the time with, and got to see Becky a lot, too!

Persian Gulf: An exploration by Tia and I!

QR (Qatar Riyal) is pretty!

The Souq Waqif was fun to wander with Becky, Mary and Danny!


Remember when my javelins disappeared in Monaco?  That almost happened again.  We were told to check them in two hours before the competition, which Linda and I did, but apparently everyone else's implements got taken to the track that morning.  When we got out to the runway, our javelins weren't there.  Surprise!  I grabbed some of the common ones to warm up with, and after Linda handled talking to the officials a bit forcefully, our stuff made it before the competition started.  No big deal.

My series didn't start great, but I had my best attempt on my third throw at 59.97m and was fourth going into finals.  I did my best to move up from there, but got passed and ended up sixth.  While sixth place is never what I want, I had two 59-meter throws and another one at mid-58m.  And those throws were at the end of the series, which is thrilling for me because it means my knee can handle things.  I'm looking forward to it holding up even better in the future, and practice since Doha has been encouraging me even more.

My technique at this meet wasn't fabulous.  I was open and didn't accelerate very well to my left, but got a little better as the competition went on, and have been focusing on these things since.  My favorite thing about this meet was the fact that I started feeling competitive rather than careful as the series went on.  I missed that feeling, and I'm ecstatic to have it back.  Tucson is next!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pre-Doha

Deplaning in Frankfurt.
City view from the warm-up track!
Doha mosque at sunset from the warm-up track.

Qatar Sports Club.

I'm in a new part of the world!  I've never been to the middle east before, so this is fun.  Qatar is across the Persian Gulf from Iran and a little bit northeast-ish of Saudi Arabia.  Denver to Frankfurt was about 9.5 hours, then after a short break Frankfurt to Doha was around 6 hours.  I arrived at the hotel at 10:00pm local time Wednesday, and slept for approximately 14.5 hours. :)

Since I haven't traveled internationally in so long, I was a little anxious to see how my new knee would handle all the sitting still.  I had absolutely nothing to worry about!  It feels great, and my shake-out at the track tonight made it feel even better.  Excited to see what happens tomorrow!  Schedule here (click "Doha" and then "Startlist/Results") and live stream via Universal Sports here!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Drake Relays

This is a belated Drake Relays wrap-up post!

I competed two Fridays ago at Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.  My family came, ASICS puts on the meet, Russ threw well, and I met some cool new friends, so the weekend was fabulous!  Unfortunately, I could have thrown better, and my knee didn't feel great.

My parents and I at the Machine Shed!

I had a really fun throwing session the Monday before this competition, and I threw pretty hard that day because it was going so well.  Surprise!  My knee was sore the next day, and it stayed sore most of the week.  When I woke up on Friday in Des Moines, it was feeling better, but not totally 100%.  "The show must go on!" I thought, and I warmed up okay.  The weather was perfect-better than I've seen it since USAs in 2010-and I felt like not taking advantage of such conditions would be a shame! 

My first throw was possibly too relaxed, and I've been pushing with my right leg a little bit again, so I landed forward and that did not feel good on my knee.  That throw traveled 56 meters, and would have been an okay start if it hadn't made me so uncomfortable.  When I'm forward (as is the case when any javelin thrower is forward!), there's too much downward pressure on my leg rather than sort of horizontal pressure that lets me move forward and out toward the sector after my block is down.  What happens is undue pressure on the leg, yes, but also pulling down on the javelin and loss of tip control, leading to not-as-good throws.  Stay back and then move forward after your left foot is down, people!

So yeah.  I threw 56 meters, tried a few more times to work through the stiffness in my knee with no improvement, and decided to pass my three finals throws.  I was disappointed to let such a perfect day slip by, but I knew that resting my leg for my next meet was more important.  Drake was only my second meet of the year, after all, and it's going to take me a bit to learn how to ride this competition bike again. 

Even though I'm now 19 months out of surgery, it will take me a while to figure out just how much my knee can handle in terms of intensity before competition and how much rest I need to get ready for meets.  My experience at Drake showed me that I'll have to be smart in how I select the meets I go to this year; it may have been naïve of me to think I could just jump back into a normal schedule in my first full season back in action.  It's important to me to use this year as a building block for the next three seasons; 2015 World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics in Rio are the shining stars in the distance, and preparing myself the best I can for those is paramount.

I'm traveling to Doha, Qatar today for the first Diamond League meet of the season!  This is my first international trip since London, OMG.  I'm excited-nervous already. :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Texas Relays

I just drove back into Colorado Springs after spending two weeks in Austin, Texas in preparation for the 87th Annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays!  Yes, I drove down there because a) plane tickets were super expensive, b) oversize baggage fees for my javelins are super expensive (now more than ever) and c) I wanted to.  I listened to Divergent by Veronica Roth on the way down and Insurgent, the second of the three-part series, on the way home today.  Books for fun, YAY!  I also refuse to see movies before I've read the books, and I'm going to see it next week.

Anyway, I competed yesterday!  My two weeks of practice with Ty leading up to this meet were good, but like I said already, I was nervous.  Just like the one time I got to see him last year, I showed up in Austin and was really tight in my upper body: I short-armed the throw a lot and just got away from the pressure too quickly.  I've known for a while that this is a problem, but struggled to fix it on my own.  I focused on my arm instead of keeping a big chest, lengthening my left arm and initiating the throw with my legs.  To fix a technical issue, the majority of the time you need to figure out the cause rather than just address the symptom!  I always know what I feel, but visiting Ty helps me figure out why I feel those things.  So important.

So, because of what we worked on in practice, my two main technical cues going into competition were keeping my entire left side solid (related to initiating the throw with my legs) and keeping a big chest at the front of the throw.  My other goal was to enjoy myself!!  I talked to Wendy on Thursday about how to do that: I had some pictures that make me happy printed and stuck them in my binder as a reminder to smile.  Nervous energy+happiness+solid technical cues (that I had been visualizing like crazy)?  Good stuff.

My warm-ups felt nice and relaxed, but weren't awesome, which I love.  I like to feel connection, but I'm not a big fan of perfect warm-ups.  On my first attempt, I was as relaxed as I could be with all those first-meet jitters, led the throw with my legs okay, and remembered to keep a big chest!  All of those things could have been executed better and I didn't have much speed on the throw since my approach was a bit short for this meet, but when I looked up, the javelin was invisible.  I love those throws, and it has been a long time since I've seen one of mine fly that way!
That first attempt was 60.45m, which I am thrilled with for a meet that is a month earlier than I would normally open a season, and especially after 18 months of rehab and climbing my way back to throwing confidence.  After throw number 1, shaking hands and a congratulatory hug from Ty, my nerves dissipated a little too much, and I didn't have a whole lot of energy for the rest of the meet!  My series suffered from a lack of competition mental endurance I think, and even though I know my knee is strong and sturdy, it still hurts a little when I throw hard on it.  I'm excited to build that competition experience back up! 

I'll compete again at Drake Relays, and I can't wait to see my family (both ASICS and biological, haha)!  I'd love to see you there if you can make it. :) Until then, I'm focusing on having a strong left side and nice big chest in practice.  So pumped about the next few years!