Packing

I am currently on the road, in Chula Vista training before I go from here to Europe for my first competitions of the 2019 season!! I left home on May 1 and will return to Colorado on June 9.

Here is a video I made of me packing!! It’s long, but perhaps entertaining? If you’re looking for this specific kind of video. The equally interesting blog follows.

These are things you actually need while traveling as an athlete:

  1. Competition Shoes.

  2. Wallet/Purse (with passport if traveling internationally).

You can purchase EVERYTHING else. And you can also purchase competition shoes if you really need to. So just try to stop worrying about having stuff. I often pack all my crap, then when I’m walking out the door and I know I have way more than I need, I think to myself as I’m locking up, “Why do I need a house??? I have everything I need here with me.” Except for Maddie and Russ, but that’s a different story. It’s a really freeing feeling to finally realize that you’re going to be fine if you forget a few things.

All of that being said, I do like to feel prepared. I’m going to blog about my entire packing process! My strategy is to pack for about a week clothes-wise (and really that turns into closer to two weeks’ worth of stuff). I bring extra toiletries in travel sizes to continue making my suitcase lighter as I go (and I’m taking steps toward sustainability in travel because I’m sick of going through so much plastic container waste), and have the same strategy with snacks. I like to carry Tide Pods for laundry in Europe because that’s the part of European laundry that stresses me out the most (figuring out how to buy detergent in local-language laundromats). I bring a fair amount of electronics, but technology these days means that my entertainment devices are light and manageable and have good battery life (and fairly compact chargers). Therapy tools are just part of my training gear and something I don’t think twice about bringing. I only get one suitcase to check, because my second checked bag is my javelins, so I have to be smart about my packing, and I’ve grown to love the challenge and (to me) simplicity.

Since I bring javelins, everything I carry looks like a lot. I get asked often if I need help wielding my luggage, but that’s only because people see the giant javelin tube and are unfamiliar with it. I’ve been traveling with javelins for nearing two decades, so I am very, very used to fitting them through doorways and into overhead spaces in train cars and through folded-down rental car or Uber backseats. I know to watch the ceiling height as I go up an escalator. It’s easier for me to take an escalator than a European elevator that might be just big enough. The fact that all I have besides my javelin tube is a suitcase, backpack and small duffel bag makes my job really easy, it’s just that people don’t perceive it that way. I love being self-sufficient and mobile on long travel days by packing as light as I can. Read last summer’s travel blog!

The bottom line in packing is to pack the essentials, and then a few things that bring you joy. I have this towel turban that I wear around my house after I wash my hair, often. It’s not something I usually pack, but if I need a little pick-me-up on a trip, throwing that in my bag is a super simple way to stay connected to home and little luxuries! The combination lock I take to the gym is nice for me to have on the road, because I really love finding pools to swim in all over the world, and that experience is so much more fun when I’m not worried about getting robbed. My USB mouse is not an essential by any means, but it makes me happy.

Here are some lists of what I pack, complete and arranged in the way in which my brain works:

Javelins:

               RockBack Case
               4 javelins (usually all Nemeths)
               a pair of socks per javelin
               some sponges in there with the bbs to keep them safe

Suitcase:

Side one:

Snacks (see video) in eBags packing cube
               extra toiletries (see video) in eBags packing cube
               Training and competition clothes:
                              Long tights
                              Short tights
                              A few pairs of shorts
                              maybe a pair of sweats
                              Tank tops
                              Short-sleeved shirts
                              Long-sleeved shirts
                              Jackets/sweatshirts

Side two:

Sandals/flip flops
               a pair of regular shoes of some kind
                              8 or so pairs of socks stuffed in the shoes
               extra javelin shoes and spikes
               Foam Roller, with these inside:
                              Lacrosse ball
                              some KT tape
                              underwear (7-9 pairs)
               hat, stuffed with the following:
                              Real bra
                              bikini if I feel like it
                              warm hat and gloves
                              lap swimsuit
                              swim cap and goggles
               Sports Bras. I bring a lot a lot.
               Regular clothes:
                              a pair of shorts
                              a pair of jeans
                              a few tank tops
                              a few short sleeve shirts
                              a couple sweaters/long sleeves
                              A rain jacket
                              Perhaps a dress that I won’t wear but I’ll pretend I might

Small duffel bag (sits on top of the suitcase as you roll through the airport, gets carried on the plane):

               Competition shoes
               Competition uniform
               Field hockey ball
               a few snacks
               pajamas (underwear and a tank top for me)
               Liquids/gels/aerosols in their 1-quart container
               Other essential toiletries in an eBags packing cube
               my small makeup bag
               a small padlock
               knee compression sleeve
               compression socks

Backpack:

               Laptop & charger
               wireless mouse
               iPad (with earbuds) & charger
               GoPro & charger
               portable battery & charger
               Noise-cancelling headphones
               wireless earbuds
               power/outlet converters & safety pins
               Notebook with training pages
               Training journal
               a few nice pens
               water bottle
               glasses
               sunglasses
               a few snacks
               neck pillow/eye mask

Snacks (in an eBags packing cube in the suitcase):

               Instant oatmeal packets
               Dried fruit
               Peanut butter packets
               Rx bars
               Peaceful Fruits
               Crystal Light/Propel/Gatorade packets
               Instant coffee or espresso
               Powdered coconut milk creamer
               some chocolate

Toiletries (in an eBags packing cube in the suitcase):

               Shampoos and conditioners
               Facewash
               Face lotion
               sunscreen
               floss/mouthwash/toothpaste
               feminine products
               nailcare kit/toenail polish/toe separators
               extra hairties and bobby pins
               razor/razor blades
               contacts
               deodorant
               cleansing wipes
               dry shampoo
              

I always wear my training shoes on the plane in case I have to run through an airport (common occurrence). After I get through security with my backpack and duffel bag, I often decide what I’m going to do on the plane and transfer those things to my backpack and the things I won’t use from my backpack to the duffel bag. I just like to pack each bag the same way each time so that I know that I’ve got everything I like to have! Typically my backpack for an international flight ends up containing:

               iPad with earbuds
               portable battery and cord to charge phone and iPad
               my wallet (with chapstick, money/membership cards/etc., passport and phone)
               filled water bottle
               a few snacks
               compression socks/knee compression sleeve
               neck pillow/eye mask
               noise-cancelling headphones
               sweatshirt/jacket
               Bluetooth headphones
               glasses
               toiletries I’ll use on the plane before I go to sleep (with my water bottle):
                          toothbrush/floss/toothpaste/mouthwash
                              my night guard
                              extra contacts for when we land
                              facewash
                              face lotion
                              cleansing wipes and deodorant

I’m probably forgetting something. But that doesn’t matter so much!!! Haha.

Rookie Mistakes

I had a great question from someone I am really excited to see make a debut in professional track and field this summer about looking back on first-year struggles. Rookie mistakes, if you will! While I’m really proud of how my rookie season went, there are a few things that I wish I would have known, or at least been more comfortable with.

My first real professional season was 2010. Hanging on for dear life after a collegiate season in 2009 doesn’t really count, but what I see now about my PR at USAs in 2009 is that Coach Zuyderwyk prepared me well for the post-collegiate season, I just didn’t have the experience to take advantage of that at Worlds that year. When Russ and I moved to the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center in the Fall of 2009, I had no idea what professional athletics was about. I changed coaches (read: training philosophies and technique), I had a new training partner, and all of a sudden I had all the time in the world. That year of training was phenomenal for me, and I hope most rookies have the same experience: Removing the stress of not only school, but other on-campus obligations meant that my recovery was amazing, friendships were fostered well, watching Russ grow as an athlete alongside me and having more time for each other made our relationship stronger, and I just thrived with more javelin-specific information. One of the constants I think for everyone in that first year of training as a professional athlete is that leveling up your training (volume and intensity and intention) means you’re exhausted all the time, therefore rest is a natural thing to do! Your recovery is really important, but it’s also just automatic. I slept constantly in 2009-2010.

AR during rookie season…

AR during rookie season…

I had a little back hiccup, but regardless of that, I was really well-prepared for the 2010 season. I started in April, competed a few times in May, and then the focus of my year was USAs and beyond (end of June/beginning of July resulted in two of the three furthest throws of my career in winning USAs/setting the American Record and winning Prefontaine). When I went to Europe after that, though, I comparatively struggled. I had some really good showings (mid-64s, lots of top 3 placings during the Diamond League’s inaugural season), but I wasn’t at my best in Europe, and I absolutely crumbled at the very end of the year, when it mattered most (an “off” year, the Diamond League Final and the IAAF Continental Cup were the biggest meets of the season).

Photos from Pre 2010:

So, you’ve had this great training year in which hopefully you feel totally free to train how you want/are coached and see weekly improvements, because now this is your job! Even if you have another job, that is my wish for you. I LOVED my first full year of full-time javelin throwing, and I continue to love the build-up to a season to this day. The process is fun and I hope you agree. But now it’s season, and that’s where you get to shine! Here’s a little bit of how:

DO

Crush it.

               You’re clearly an excellent athlete. You deserve success just as much as the next guy. For a while after my knee injury, I was just happy to be there, and there were times that I was too much in awe of the athletes I was competing against to allow my own performance to shine through. Maybe that’s a personal problem, but you can do both. Be a sportsmanlike, respectful force of an athlete. Burst onto the scene even more than you already have.

               One of the best things I ever did in preparing for a professional career was look the stigma that a rookie year is perhaps your most difficult right in the face and refuse to accept that outcome. It was my mantra all year, “This will be my best season ever,” because I had heard that most post-collegiate athletes struggle, and I decided I would NOT be one of them. Recognize the odds that are against you and use them as positive motivation. Rise above.

Communicate with your coach.

               All season, wherever you are. Continue to check in, because that person cares just as much about your success as you do, and wants to help facilitate performances moving forward. Provide them with all of the information they need to do that. Tell them how you adjust to time zones, what you’ve been eating and how you think that affects your training and performances, what your sleep habits have been like, and how you’re finding the process of hydration in places where water fountains are less available than the USA. Your coach can help you with strategies beyond technique and training plans, and might have suggestions about how you can best prepare for competitions in your new international process. I had a coach for a long time who wasn’t necessarily responsive to my communication. Having Dana and Jamie in my back pocket for encouragement, but also adjustment on the fly is so comforting. Even when you’re all alone in a foreign land, you’re not alone.

               That first 2010 professional season of mine? When my performances fell off at the most important time? I had a meeting with my then-coach after the season in which he said, “Oh yeah, I expected that to happen.” I can’t imagine my face. We were clearly not on the same page. Be on the same page with goals, positivity, honesty, etc.

Foster your agent relationship.

               Your agents are your friends! They’re professionals who have been around this sport longer than you have and will continue to be part of it long after you’re gone. They’ve seen lots and lots and lots of athletes succeed and know which recipes work for different kinds of people. Allow them to really get to know you via open and honest communication. Accept their help, whether that’s bringing you a water bottle in the warm-up area, ordering a competition jersey last-minute, going out to dinner, or changing a flight because you got sick or something. They work for you, sure, but that’s a rude attitude: They might have a vested interest in your success, but they’re also all huge fans of the sport! They love watching you win for multiple reasons. Recognize them as the positive force in your support team that they are! It can be a really fun relationship, especially when it lasts for a long long time.

Focus.

               Decide what your goals are with your support team early, and stick to them. It’s so understandable to want to make a huge splash in your rookie season, as early as possible. But what’s actually important? The mark of a truly phenomenal rookie is showing up at the right time. Big marks are always fun, but consistent places on national teams and perhaps international podiums (we are the World’s Greatest Team, after all) for many years is the mark of a true professional. A fantastic rookie season is so so so fun, but the true superstars are those who show up, meet after meet, year after year with incredible marks and performances, especially when it counts the most. Christian Taylor. Caterine Ibarguen. Tom Walsh. Allyson Felix (I believe so much in that Mama’s comeback: How could you not?).

               The flip side of that (focus on performance at the right time) is that all opportunities are important. The biggest ones are the most important, yes, but you’re going from being a big fish in a small pond (NCAA) to every competition being high-stakes. Do your best to prepare mentally for much tougher fights week in and week out than you’ve had before. This is not at all the same as a professional debut, but my senior year of high school, I got fourth or something at the Washington vs. Oregon high school track meet that I had always wanted to win. The competition was fairly good for my capabilities back then, and I was really disappointed. I remember so clearly my Dad saying, “Well Kara, this is what it will be like now.” After that meet was Golden West and USATF Junior Championships, and then on to college where everyone was going to be better than me. Then eventually on to the professional ranks. He was SO right, and I remember that lesson all the time in my training and competition. You ALWAYS have to show up in professional track and field, or you will absolutely be left in the dust. You can do it. And one off-meet is also okay. You can RE-focus.

               Don’t party too much. Youth allows you to recover a lot easier than I’d be able to now (ha!), and I’ve been so impressed by younger athletes’ maturity on the circuit in general, but it needs to be said. Get your rest in the midst of the season.

Have fun.

               I LOVE this sport and life. It is a blast to see the world through athletics. I can’t believe that some people don’t embrace the opportunities that international competition affords them through sightseeing and other adventures alongside competitions. Dana and I paddleboarded with Barbora in Prague last year. I’ve been to the Colosseum and Vatican Museum by myself multiple times. In 2010, a bunch of friends from the CVOTC and I rented out Cologne’s beer bike. Living in Offenburg last May and riding a borrowed bicycle to commute for three weeks was so fun. Russ and I went on vacation with the Kuehls to Austria in 2015 and then hung out in Paris before and after his last competition. Tokyo training camp and sushi dates with him were amazing that year. We held a koala bear and saw quokkas do backflips in Australia in 2012. I’m going to Bergen, Norway for my first meet of 2019 at the end of May, and then staying to train and hike and have fun with Sigrid for a week.

               Not everyone is like me, sure, but I am so incredibly grateful to track and field for expanding my worldview. I think it had already done that via collegiate teammates before my professional career, but I love this earth so much more than I think I would if it weren’t for being able to see it in my travels to throw the javelin. Take an afternoon to be amazed by where you are in a way that doesn’t involve track and field. The sport is already fun, sure, but there’s more to life.

Berlin ISTAF in 2010 was one of my first experiences just having fun and performing well at a meet:

Learn how to travel.

               For performance, I mean. For you. Some people fly back and forth to Europe for each competition. Other people have a training base in Europe for the summer, and travel to meets from that second home. There’s also a sort of in-between that I enjoy most: Destination-hopping for a month or so at a time.

               There are a lot of ways to succeed, and everyone is different. If you’re someone who can hop off a plane and perform well, kudos to you, and I’m also very jealous! I have been able to be decent at that in the past, but it’s not my optimum situation. I loved living in Germany for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but I also had my future husband and a lot of friends around constantly. I was in Europe for two months in 2017 and got the closest I’d ever been to a mental breakdown from homesickness by the end of it (there were other factors involved, but 2 months solid is a long time). My away-from-home limit is 4-5 weeks, so I’ve figured out how to travel from meet to meet with little training camps in between, then come home for training and rest. AirBnB, VRBO, Uber, and public transportation apps in different countries now make that process SO much easier than it used to be, and I get a lot of joy and peace out of planning my own lodging and training situations after deciding on my competition schedule and receiving air transportation that my agents plan for me.

               Talk to friends in the sport and reflect on how travel has gone for you when you’ve performed your best. Perhaps do a training camp at some international destination and figure out when your body feels best before you have to deal with that factor going into a competition. Next time you travel to a drastically different time zone for anything, just take notes on how you feel. Plan for success.

DON’T

Stretch yourself thin.

               You don’t have to compete every time there is an opportunity. You’re young enough to be able to! But don’t feel like that’s what’s expected. In the same vein, protect your rest time when you’re at home. It’s so easy to fall into catching up with all of your friends when you come home from travels, but if there’s more work to be done, recovery time from travel and training again is super important. Definitely get your mental game up by spending time with loved ones, but remember that a season can feel like a marathon, and prioritize rest (mental and physical).

This was a mistake of mine, as much as I enjoyed it. Russ and I lived in a tiny Cologne apartment in 2010, and had very different competition schedules. I wanted to spend time together and support him, so I traveled to a few of his competitions to cheer him on. They are still some fabulous memories, and I can’t say I regret that, but maybe my circumstances are different than yours: I knew this was my future husband so wanted to protect the relationship, but did galavanting around Europe mean I performed at my best and/or got my training in? Maybe not.

Get caught up in early season numbers-yours or others’.

               This is absolutely a rookie mistake. Focus on what matters, and stay in your lane. If you have a huge mark early, cool, maybe count that as a confidence builder, but remember that you have to do that again-or better-when it matters. Worlds this year are not until late September/early October. That is still 5 MONTHS away. Calm down, haha.

Look at other grass.

               You know, how the grass is always greener elsewhere? The grass is green where you water it. A rookie mistake is looking at what is working for other people and thinking that you’re doing something wrong. You’re now a professional track and field athlete for a reason, and that reason is the people that have prepared you for this moment/season. Trust your team and your own process rather than jumping ship to someone who might be promising you things, but doesn’t have your best interests at heart like those who have been there for you for years. Continue to water your own grass.

               A little caveat to that is to recognize where there ARE opportunities for you that stem from your rookie success. I had different agents in my first year of professional competition, but I was told multiple times that I didn’t get into certain competitions because of who my agents were. So when, at the end of my first professional season, I had the opportunity to switch to the wonderful JRS Sports Management, I did. Water your grass, but if no amount of watering will make it better, you may get new grass. You’re in charge of your career (you care the most about it).

Get homesick.

               Okay, you’re allowed to be homesick (I get this way more now with the Madeline, as I can’t talk to her on the phone). But figure out a way to just make that discomfort normal as you continue to travel the world and dominate. Everyone feels the drag of a long season, but prepare for it mentally as best you can. You will get to go home, I promise. Stay in the moment while you’re still at track meets, and don’t let homesickness derail your success on the track or in the field.

Some fun attention comes from rookie success:  Donald Miralle  took these images in 2010 and I got asked to do other things after a good year…more on that in a future blog!

Some fun attention comes from rookie success: Donald Miralle took these images in 2010 and I got asked to do other things after a good year…more on that in a future blog!

 Take quiet notice throughout this year of how it’s going and how it could go better. Continue to be in the moment, sure, but also don’t be satisfied! Whether your notes are mental or you actually write stuff down, just remember that you want your career to be amazing now AND amazing later (hopefully even more so). So be honest with yourself and your team about how you can improve. Your ideas on that matter, because you are the one performing and representing all of you. It’s absolutely a team effort, but giving everyone all of the information you gather aids in that teamwork. Cheering for you!! I’m such a fan of track and field.

My Athletic Journey (Part 2)

Big picture item:

Self-reflection is important. Be honest with yourself about where you can improve. You’re not perfect.

 

Part two of My Athletic Journey will cover the professional part of my career, including USATF National Championships in 2009. Again, I’ve told my “life” story many times, and the chronology of it is available in other areas of the internet, so I want to talk about stuff that has happened to get me here through a current, overall lesson lens.

In Part One, I mentioned my major back injury in 2007, and how the recovery and core strength gains I made changed me for the good and, from where I’m sitting, put me on the 2008 Olympic Team. Injuries are opportunities, and that has absolutely been true in my professional career.

Russ and I moved to Chula Vista the Fall after I graduated from Purdue (2009). In February-ish, Mike and I were doing some testing: Overhead forward shot throws as far as we could. Something felt really weird, and after some tests, I was told that I sprained a facet in my thoracic-lumbar junction (a bony vertebra process right in the middle of my back). I had excruciating pain if I tried to arch after that. My previous injuries were either overuse or things that had clear protocol to heal, and then I did this traumatic thing that didn’t seem to respond to anything but rest, and sometimes not even that. I didn’t throw for a month. Nothing seemed to work. I finally tried a fantastic sports acupuncture clinic in Ocean Beach, and the season was saved! I opened at 61.80m at the end of April, the second-best throw of my career at that point. I learned that rest is best and patience is worth it, and to be my own self-advocate as far as looking for new therapies sometimes. I also learned things about risk vs. reward in training programs (how to train smart). Do I need to measure a heavy overhead forward shotput throw? Probably not then, and definitely not anymore.

I tore my left anterior cruciate ligament at the Olympic Trials in 2012. In September, I went under the knife for my first ever major surgery: A bone-patella-bone ipsilateral ACL reconstruction. I had no idea what I was in for. No one could have prepared me for the weird physical extreme discomfort that surgery and the healing process can bring. Becoming accustomed to the sensations that accompany getting range of motion back and breaking up scar tissue is very weird. Trusting that things that feel completely abnormal are normal takes practice. I had never done lower extremity exercises beyond regular exercise before (no one ever taught me how NOT to tear my ACL), so the process of teaching my glutes how to fire and learning how my knees should move was incredibly rewarding. Realizing how deficient I had been in certain areas made me see the rest of my body differently too, and helped me focus on the details of training moving forward to protect my health. Rehabilitation-based exercises will give me confidence in throwing for the rest of my career.

In 2015, I was having the time of my life in the first half of the season. I threw 66.47m in May and won USAs with a big series for me and 64.91m. Then, my left shoulder was torn just after nationals. I may have had existing rotator cuff damage, but something beyond my control tore my labrum, and the rest of my season suffered. I managed to get 8th at World Championships and silver at PanAm Games, but the pain in my left shoulder prevented me from having much length in my right arm, and was a huge, painful negative in a lot of my training. Making the decision to have surgery to fix it in October 2015 put the Rio Olympics in jeopardy for me, but I knew how bitter I was becoming about the injury. That simply wasn’t good for my overall wellbeing, and I also knew that I couldn’t accomplish what I dreamed of while feeling how I did (physically and mentally). My 13th-place finish in Rio is still painful, but I know that I did my best with what I had. My entire left shoulder saga was a big lesson in the fact that life is sometimes not fair, but that we have control over our attitudes and actions.

My last little injury story is about the Spring of 2016. I drove home from Austin in early April, and somehow managed to impinge both a fat pad in my left knee and my right shoulder. I know the shoulder is from my right and left sides playing tug-of-war in my surgery recovery process, but the knee made any kind of explosive movement really painful, too. They were both fairly minor things, but also both prevented normal training for a while, and forced me to cancel plans I had made to compete in May. I’m glad. We adopted Maddie the Dog at the beginning of May, and I got to spend a solid seven weeks with her, bonding and helping her adjust to her new home (her third and forever one, but she didn’t know that at the time and was nervous). If I hadn’t been forced to rest, our bond might not be so close, and that’s irreplaceable to me. Family first.

PanAms and shoulder tape.jpg

PanAms 2015

note L shoulder KT tape.

Something I’ve been reminded of again in the last year or two is that change is my friend. New situations and ideas are stimulating, I think to everyone. I’ve never perceived change as stressful though, even when it maybe should have been.

Some Universities send their freshly-graduated seniors to USATF National Championships (eligibility is up, but they pay for the trip and often the athletes wear the school uniform). Not so with Purdue, which is fine, but was also scary at the time. I traveled with Russ to Eugene in 2009, but we stayed separate from each other (he with Adam, me in the Springfield Motel 6 alone). I borrowed my Mom’s car and drove it from Vancouver to save as much money as possible. My coach wasn’t with me. I had the craziest, most inconsistent series of my life, but I also PRed by 2.5 meters and started my post-collegiate career off with a second senior national championship. Relying on myself, it turned out, was scary but also awesome.

After one year of training with Ty Sevin as my coach, Jamie Myers as my strength coach, and Mike Hazle as my training partner, I experienced the magic of my 2010 season. A thrower’s first post-collegiate year is “supposed” to be really hard, but living in Chula Vista, where my then-boyfriend Russ also felt supported and motivated, prioritizing the thought process that 2010 WOULD be successful despite the odds, and finally getting enough sleep after college translated to all that change meaning amazing results and experiences.

The 2015 season might’ve ended with a surgery, but it was also fantastic in a lot of ways, because it was the first year I was fully back from ACL surgery (I competed in 2013 and 2014, but wearing my knee brace both seasons and with tentativeness). Going through a period of basically 2.5 years without a true full-on javelin throw and then having the success that I did at the beginning of 2015 blew my mind. I felt like a new thrower, because I kind of was after all that rehab and patience. I also had a new name, and similar to the stigma that the first year out of college is difficult, many throwers have struggled in their first season after tying the knot. Russ and I were fully aware of that, and vowed to each other that the Wingers would succeed in 2015. We both medaled at PanAms, won NACAC Senior Championships 9 years after we met at NACAC U-23’s, had great USAs performances, and roomed together at Worlds (and I, by no coincidence, had my best performance at a major).

Jamie Myers is my fantastic strength coach of almost a decade and reliable, honest friend. He has been my training and competition sounding board for as long as he has been in my life. So, when I was fairly devastated at the end of the 2017 season, having a debriefing conversation intermingled with motivated musings from both of us got me excited about the future again. We talked about how there is always room for improvement, for anyone, and that Dana Lyon, my good friend of 14 years, might be the perfect fit for a new technical coach. She was and is. Jamie and I discussed and continue to discuss shifting focus to exercises that actually address issues that I have and impact javelin performance rather than too much general stuff. It’s so fun to continually adapt. This felt like a huge leap, as it meant taking a lot more of an active role in planning my training than I ever had, and I had to practice that to be confident in it. It was a lot easier for me to trust Jamie and Dana than myself in the beginning of this new coaching and training process, but I absolutely love our teamwork now, and we all wholeheartedly believe in my abilities. It’s super fun to be reinvigorated by them.

That last bit leads me to the idea of finding your keepers. Build a community that continues to show up. People who make it obvious that they like you and want to be part of your life in positive ways. It helps a lot if you do that for them, too. Russ loved me through some of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, and helped me grow enormously in ways outside of athletics. Dana had already been popping into my USAFA practices for five years before I asked her to coach me, and has always been a light in my life. When I found out I tore my ACL, Jamie and Maggie (his wife, my lovely matron of honor) were my first friends who knew and comforted me with quality time together, since Russ was out of town. Chris Garcia has been an incredible resource and enthusiastic supporter ever since I first met him in 2011. There are many more on the personal side. Recognizing these keepers shouldn’t be difficult with just a little bit of self-reflection. Is it easy to be around them? Do you feel motivated to be better when you leave them or talk together? Is there enough laughter? It’s okay to have great relationships with the people you work with. You also have to learn to deal with people you don’t like, but your inner circle should inspire you, and probably vice-versa. Lift each other up.

One of the specific questions I got about this phase of life was, “How do you balance the need for income while training professionally?” As the need for income as an adult is a real thing that everyone deals with and a necessary factor in anyone’s journey through life, it feels appropriate to address that a little in this blog. Without income, I wouldn’t have been an athlete for close to a decade now. I sort of attempted to answer this question (about the business of track and field) in a podcast I recently participated in. This world of sponsorship, ambassadorship, prize money, and donations from family and fans/supporters is difficult and ever-changing, but can be a really fun challenge. The true answer to this question is that I never expected to make money as a professional javelin thrower, but I have. Part 2 of that answer is that I am very careful with my money, and have saved and invested a good chunk of it. I’ve had a couple of really good contracts and a couple of pretty good prize money years, and the way I treated that income fuels the thinner times. I’ve always been aware that income in this sport is fairly unpredictable (and had a few good mentors to clue me into that fact), so my strategy has been to support myself between income opportunities by saving. I don’t ever want to be unable to train the way I know works for me because I’m frantically running out of funds. So I save, and I hustle.

Changing my training in 2018 to a lot fewer hours per week means that I have more time to devote to other projects. Some of those generate income, while others might in the future. In the same way that change doesn’t cause me stress, a lack of consistent income doesn’t necessarily either, but that is only because I am just comfortable enough with how I save money when I have it coming in in bigger quantities. I am the perfect amount of comfortable financially and motivated to continue attracting income opportunities. I also enjoy compartmentalizing my life in this way: Training is when I’m fully devoted to just getting better, and the other hours in the day are spent working to support that time (and spent with Maddie the Dog). I’m a huge fan of people who work full-time and also compete in track and field. If I had to do that, I would embrace the challenge. Many people with “real” jobs work out regularly, so if your training is focused enough, what really is the difference? You can pursue multiple dreams at the same time, you just might need to be a really good communicator. Which I think we all should strive to be. But that’s another blog.

I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the USOC and USATF for at least some of my financial stability. I have been part of the USATF Resident Athlete program at both the Chula Vista and Colorado Springs Olympic Training Centers for the entirety of my professional career. Training facility and sports medicine costs can be huge reasons that athletes (especially in the throws, I think) don’t last very long after college. I’m very grateful for these two organizations for lifting that burden for me. The coaching staff at the United States Air Force Academy has been very generous with their facilities and welcoming attitude for six years as well!

 Again, rapid-fire answers to the original question to wrap up!

“(College graduation) to present, how you became the athlete you are now, the steps that you took.”

1.       Be brave. I had no idea what this career would look like or how far it would go, but I was willing to embrace progress over perfection.

2.       Continually check in with and perhaps re-set goals. What’s working? What’s not? Has progress been completely derailed by injury? What goals can you set within that new framework?

3.       Have a companion. I can’t put into words how much I love my husband and his role in my career. (This doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, but mine is.)

4.       Keep having fun. This is related to checking in with goals. Enjoyment and passion should be goals, IMO.

5.       Celebrate. Too many people just bore through some of the things that should enrich life. The little moments are the big moments!

6.       Check your own ego. Javelin will humble you. Starting over is an opportunity to start better.

7.       Do something else, too. I didn’t realize how much I missed having other things in my life until I went to grad school. Grow in other ways alongside athletics.

8.       Take care of your body. Stretch a little every day. I go to the public gym just to go in the hot tub and steam room some days. Get as much sleep as you can. Recovery is everything.