For me, as an athlete, it's important to evaluate things I do. So many times I ask myself, "Is what I'm doing, working?" Whether you're an athlete, coach, father, husband, mother, wife, employee or employer, I suggest you have self-evaluation times such as these. As I evaluated my performance and experience from the IHGF World Championships this past weekend in France, there are a few things I learned in my pursuit to be the best thrower and competitor I can possibly be.
When it comes to international travel, getting in a few days early was a great change.
At last year's championship in Scotland, I landed the day before the two-day competition and never felt rested and adjusted. I thought my body would easily adjust to the change in seven time zones, but I was wrong. This year, I sought to change that and arrived Wednesday evening (it would have been even earlier had my flight not circled Atlanta for a few hours). Thursday and Friday were an adjustment that included an awesome nap on the hillside of a 1,000 year old castle, but by that Friday evening I was feeling good and rested and ready to compete. Should this opportunity arise again, flying in with two full days to rest, nap, walk, and of course, eat, seems to be ideal for me.
Don't make last minute technique changes.
I had gotten a tip on wrapping my wrist differently for the stones and, although I had practiced well with it, I didn't "own it." I had made the change in how I wrapped my wrist in a few practices and it had yielded great throws. I, of course, attributed the throws to my wrapping change and not the speed work I had been doing on the Tendo (more on that in a second). The first event of the weekend was the open stone and I was armed with my new wrist wrapping set up; I then proceeded to throw the worst I'd thrown in that event in years. I simply could not tuck the stone and it was largely due to my lack of wrist flexibility which, unknown to me at the time, was being even greater limited by this new endeavor. Thankfully, I changed back for my second and third throws in the Braemar stone on day two (where I made up some valuable points and was a huge boost for me). Again, I go back to the realization that, just because you learn a little change or correction in your technique, doesn't mean you've worked it enough to master it and use it to your advantage. Too many throwers fall into the thought that just because they've learned something new and applied it in one or two practices, they think they can simply write it off as being second nature. It takes countless throws to get what I call a "mindless" adaptation in your technique - as in it doesn't take brain power for your body to do it. I made this mistake in 2013 at the IHGF Championships in the light weight for distance; that, though, is an entirely too long of story for right now. When you're that close to a big games, it's not the time overhaul and correct things; it's a time for fine tuning and rhythm.
It's best to have a few games to knock the rust off.
I was unable to throw in any games leading up to this one, and I think it hurt me. Physically, I was more than ready to throw well and compete, but mentally I wasn't myself. By "opening" up my 2015 season at a games like this, I didn't allow myself to experience a competition setting, winged trigs, different stones, warm-ups, and so much more. Scheduling conflicts, loss of a pro class and family commitments made it difficult to attend a games prior to my trip to France, but looking back, I should have made a bigger effort to get a something in besides practice. Even a demo setting at an amateur contest would have helped. As it happened, my throws in France were the first I'd done in a competition in over eight months. This, was less than ideal, and I spent a whole day Saturday trying to settle down. My head was processing so much, and I struggled with all the variables my body was facing.
The speed work I had done worked, I just didn't apply it well.
If you've seen any of my training from this off-season, you noticed I did a speed block utilizing the Tendo. This is something I had never done before in my years of training, and I liked it. Now, I'll evaluate how many weeks of it I'll do and how soon into the phase I'll do it for my next peaking later this season, but I simply cannot get passed how far I was throwing in practice leading up to this competition. I wasn't able to put it together for any huge throws outside of a big Braemar put and field record in the weight over bar (16'10" with no misses in the driving rain), but in the weeks leading up to this, my weights were hitting 45' and 89', my hammers a consistent 120' and 140' every practice, and my open stone over 58'. Now, for reference, when I hit 47' and 94' in the weights at Utah last year, I was throwing 43-44' and 85-86' in practice. Even when I threw 88' in the light weight at Detroit last year I was only hitting 84-86' with my weight in practice. The same goes for my hammers; I've never hit 122' in practice this early in the season in the heavy hammer, and I had a stretch of light hammer practices where even my "missed" throws were 140'. All this is to say that adding a speed component into my training taught me a lot about my throwing, and I feel is a valuable addition that I'll be using here forward.
Remember, this is fun.
I place a lot of pressure on myself; I always have. I expect to throw well each and every time I pick up an implement. I expect to be in the hunt at every competition. I don't necessarily think every athlete needs to have this belief and outlook, or even wants to, but I certainly do. When I first started in this sport, I was expecting to do better than I had the last time. I wasn't close to winning any of the first games I threw in, but I knew the guys I wanted to chase and to try and get to their level. As I developed (and threw a ton) that expectation never left, only changed to different attainable levels. This past week, as Saturday came to a close, I was frustrated. I wasn't throwing to the levels I wanted to, and I knew I was in real trouble if I wanted a chance at coming away with top honors. Saturday ended with an extra event that didn't count towards the competition, rather, was for extra money. This event, the 60 lb. Keg Toss for Height, was something I had never done before, but was interested in trying. I simply decided that I would enjoy it because I like to throw things. I had an absolute blast trying to figure that thing out and was fortunate enough to not only win it, but set a new field record that was held by a pro strongman. I texted my wife on Day Two of the Championship, "Just trying to have fun today and make my boys proud of me and [my] attitude." My usual response in these situations was, "I'm gonna get this! I'm so angry right now I'm just gonna destroy the next implement that my hand touches!" Knowing that the event was being streamed and my boys were watching me for only the second time in years, I devised a hand gesture that my boys would see and know that Daddy was thinking of them. Not only did this help me have fun and enjoy the day, but it took my focus from frustration and made it one of pride, fatherhood and a sense of doing things that are more meaningful and longer lasting than throwing.
My Heavenly Father has given me a joy for throwing things! Celebrate in it!