Patience, progress and potential energy!

So it happens- an injury, a setback, rock bottom. What’s the hardest thing about hitting this low? It’s not the climb back up; no the climb is what we yearn for, the ability to push, to be in control. The hardest thing is the unknown, the uncertainty, the fear of what if this isn’t temporary, what if tomorrow doesn’t bring improvement, what if the best is in the rear view mirror?

That was me last Tuesday. I was scared, not nervous, down right terrified! What was I doing, was I making the right decision, was this smart, was this really going to make things better, or was I making things worse? I did not have pain in my knee despite a significant tear to my meniscus; a tear that happened over 6 months ago, allowed me to race four 20k’s, one 10k, two 5k’s, and one mile. So was this surgery really necessary? Was this surgery going to make me stronger?

Ever wish you could go back and tell your former self don’t worry, it all worked out fine, in fact it worked out better than fine, you rocked it? Of course we all have! But life doesn’t work that way. And so we drive forward, buying into the potential of tomorrow and optimistic for the progress it will bring.

In one week I went from race walking 15km in warm lingering summer weather, to meniscal surgery and limp walking with a cane. Today marks 5 days post operation and 5 days of being humbled in the most basic ways. I cannot drive a car, I walk down the stairs both feet on each step one at a time, I’m only allowed to bend my knee 100 or so degrees, and today at PT the NuStep congratulated me on my cardio session…10min, level 2, 70 calories burned! But you know what each day I have been blessed by continual progress.

My knee with it’s long eyelashes (;

I can sit more comfortably in the car, I can walk up the steps alternating feet, I achieved 10,000 steps going about my day, I have added ankle weights to my leg lifts, and I can do calf raises now too. And guess what tomorrow it gets even better; I can elliptical for 15min on level 2!

So remember to give yourself a break. Celebrate those small steps of forward progress. Always focus on the progress, never on the length of the journey that still remains ahead. You will get there, I promise and if you don’t it’s because life took you in a different direction. Or better yet, you chose to go in a different direction. But in the end this, this struggle right now will only make you stronger, more appreciative, and that future victory even sweeter!

When you realize just how much stability it takes to walk on grass!

So make a list of all that you can do, draw a line under it with the date. And then watch the list continually grow, and with it your confidence too! And before you know it all that patience, all that perseverance, and all that stored up potential energy will be ready to be converted into kinetic energy. And when it does you’re going to soar!

Head up, wings out!

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London Recap: My “The Smithtown News” Interview

Photo Credit: Katie Burnett

London calling: Nesconset native Michta makes mark at World Athletic Championships in UK

By Anthony Lifrieri

Thursday August 24th print, story on page 15.

It’s been a long road for Maria Michta-Coffey, but she always finds a way to keep walking it.

Crossing finishline, 25th in the World, Fastest time ever by an American at the World Championships, Photo credit:

The Nesconset native and two-time Olympic race walker, finished 25th of 61 race walkers and was the top American in the 20 kilometer race walk at the International Association of Athletic Federations World Championships in London, England, Sunday, August 13th.

“I am proud of my performance but I am not 100% satisfied nor settling,” Michta-Coffey said. “Despite having the fastest time by an American, it was only good enough to place me 25th. My goal is to continue moving up in world rankings and to do so it will require me and the next generation to get stronger and faster.”

Michta ran the race in 1:32:14. She went through the first 5 kilometers in 22:42.37, passed the 10 kilometer mark in 45:29.28, and the 15 kilometer mark in 1:08:49.28.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

“Overall, the race went well,” Michta-Coffey said. “It was by far the warmest day of my stay in London, without any reprieve from clouds. But for a summer championship, it could always be much worst. The race went out rather slow the first kilometer, as no one wanted to command the lead. From there, it got rolling and never stopped. I went out near the middle back and worked on staying smooth and looking ahead to pick people off. By 5 kilometers, I was already in 38th place.”

“The whole race, I kept my eyes focused on the next girl or group of girls ahead of me and worked on closing the gap until they were caught,” Michta-Coffey said. “Having my husband [Joe Coffey] there to cheer me on live really helped, as each lap I looked forward to spotting him and hearing his shouts of encouragement. I also responded to challengers from several racers who tried to come up on and pass me, especially in the final 2 kilometers. A girl from Belarus, who I had traded positions with back and forth during the race, put on a really big surge, but I answered back and refused to let her pass me.”

Along side the support of her husband, Michta-Coffey is also grateful for the support of her hometown. “Throughout my athletic journey I have always been fortunate to have the support of my community,” she said. “It made the journey transcend beyond me. It also makes me feel when I race it’s not just for me, but also for everyone back home who made it possible for me to get to the starting line wearing ‘USA.’ I am very thankful for this.’

The World Championships were a welcome retread for Michta-Coffey, as it was the same location as her first Olympic Games in 2012. “It was incredible to be back,” Michta-Coffey said. “Everywhere I turned I had a rush of memories. I especially loved being back in the stadium, as well as training in Victoria Park.”

With previous experience in London, she knew the best way to tour the town, both in preparation and following the race. “Sightseeing and touristing is always kept to a minimum before the race,” she said. “With that being said, you need to keep yourself loose and fresh, and light walking around is ideal for that. This time around I finally got to go on the London Eye, and also revisited other iconic landmarks like Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. After the race, I stayed a day longer in England to visit Stonehenge and then took a mini vacation to Paris.”

Although she already has represented the country twice in the Olympics, Michta-Coffey is still proud to wear “USA” on her jersey. “Representing the United States of America will always be the greatest honor,” Michta-Coffey said. “I don’t think it is something that I will ever not appreciate. The focus of each season is to prepare, gain strength and endurance so that I am the best version of myself when I race against the best in the world. The mindset is to always be your best when representing the best.”

Michta-Coffey’s performance comes fresh off her victory in the 10 kilometer race walk (45.31.4) at the USA Track and Field National Championships in Englishtown, New Jersey. “ I am very happy with how I have raced domestically, as winning a National Championship is something you should never take for granted,” she said. “However, I also aspire to be better internationally and cannot settle for being the top American without improving my international placing.”

The national championship and world championship performances shows the grit of Michta-Coffey, who’s struggled through physical and mental obstacles. “Considering the challenging year I had, marked by a car accident and a meniscal tear as a result of a weight-lifting injury, I am very proud of how I persevered and how much I overcame,” she said. “It took an awful lot just to make it to the starting line, nevertheless being fit enough to do well in the race. In the end, it may not have been an ideal season but it was still one marked with many successes.”

The reaction you have to finishing a race you gave your all in when your  Oiselle Family shouts cheers of excitement! Thank you Leskos!!

Michta-Coffey will next take part in the Hoka One One Mile race at St. Anthony’s High School, Wednesday Septemer 6th, before calling it a season. “This race is really unique in that it’s an all comers race open to the public with three signature races at the end: the 1 mile race walk invitational and the elite men and women’s 1 mile run,” she said. “It’s such a great atmosphere, giving local track fans old and young a chance to be part of the excitement both as an athlete and as a spectator. After that, my season will officially be over and I’ll finally have knee surgery later on in September. After that, I’ll ease back into the next season of base training while my academic semester revs into full swing.”

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Sometimes its not black and white

Sometimes it’s black and white. We have good days and we have bad days. Sometimes the results speak for themselves and the time is so stellar we know the work has been done and the battle against the clock has been won. Other times the results only show a glimpse of what the athlete has had to persevere. It’s hard to see the array of challenges that colored her past.
Today’s time as it reads printed in the results is nothing to marvel over. It’s slower than my 5k split in my season opener 20k, a minute off my time for the same meet two years ago, and slower than my average pace in my PR 20k. Before two weeks ago I never would have thought a 22:50 5k could give me such optimism nor represent such pure grit and determination.
9 days ago I was in a car accident that left me ever thankful for seatbelts. But there was a price to pay for the seatbelt working. This time last week I fought through a cross training session on the recumbent bike, arm wrapped around my ribs anchored in my sweaty armpit to stabilize my chest. Tuesday was the first day I attempted race walking, it was very sobering to say the least starting off at 6:49/km and only getting one sub 6min kilometer in there at 5:55. 6k was all I could handle that day. Thursday I was one 200 away from throwing in the towel, breaking down in tears but somehow deep down despite what common sense would suggest I went for it. If going slow hurts some much so that you can’t handle your normal easy pace why not try going hard? And in the first 30m of that interval I knew I would be ok and perhaps a test drive on Sat at Penn wasn’t stupid.

Watching me get in and out of bed is still comical, sneezing still unbearable, and easy distance pace only manageable. Everyday has brought progress, there is still a bit to go but I know I will do it, I know it will be possible!

Today was just another 5,000m in the right direction. I am grateful, relieved, proud, and excited to say the least. Tomorrow’s another day, and I can’t wait to take another step forward!

Huge thank you shout out to everyone who has helped especially my Mom driving me to and from my classes while my car is in the shop!

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When going big and taking a chance works out!

img_6032Sunday went well, way better than I would have predicted and even better than I hoped. Why did I break an American Record I had been eyeing for about 4 years? Well any great race performance is attributed to a certain amount of physical and mental preparation. And while I know I am fortunate to have quote on quote natural physical talent I think a greater contribution of my success is mental more than anything.

After crossing the line in Rio my season was over and that meant some well earned rest and recovery mixed with a heavy dose of socializing accompanied with lack of sleep and neglected nutrition. But hey you can only live life making such calculated decisions, adhering to the utmost discipline and sacrificing normalcy for so long before it wears away at you eroding your motivation and drive. Normally this means post Olympic/World Champs I take two entire weeks off from race walking where I can do as much leisure activities and cross training as I please followed by another 1-2 weeks where more and more race walking is gradually added in until I’m into a routine week of base season. This year was unlike any year where I had a “fun” (or more like suck it up and do it) mile race on Aug 31st at the Hoka One One meet just 12 days after Rio, followed by the National Race Walk 10k on Sept 18th. Because of these two “races” I couldn’t completely take off. From Aug 20th-31st I trained a total of 17k RW and 22k running.  From Sept 1st- 18th a total of 70k RW/elliptical with the longest walk being 10k just two days before the race to show myself I could do the full 10k.

The 10k was a huge eye opener in regards to two things 1) I never ever want to enter a race feeling that crummy in warm up, a feeling only magnified once the gun went off and 2) that A LOT of racing is mental and 1/2 of fitness is our perception of the shape we are in. Honestly that 10k “race” made it a heck of a lot easier to do my first fartlek when I did resume training because if I could walk 10k off of less training the morning after a late late night wearing high heels and partying the night away for my best friend’s bachelorette party than I sure as heck could handle 2x(4k/1k) with 4ks at 5:00/km target pace. I had three nice building weeks with total mileage of 101, 123, and 128km and three key fartleks 2x(4k/1k), 2x(5k/1k), and 2x(6k/1k) the later completed one week before 30k race day. This left me one week for taper.


Shoutout to my SEGVT girls for helping me with my fartleks before the 30k!

I knew based off my last fartlek where I averaged 4:59/km for 14k that I could for sure handle 20k at that pace, I hoped to be able to hang on for 25k and could maybe hang on despite crashing to a sub 5:03 average for 30k. How much would I slow 20-30k was a huge unknown and for anyone that’s raced long distance races you know how ugly the crash can be!

Maybe I was crazy for thinking 30k @ 5:00/km was a doable goal but complacency is not rewarded. The night before the race as I thought out my race strategy I wrote this in my journal: img_6037Due to life schedules on opposite coasts I did not even hash this plan out with Tim. Knowing how I race 1000x better with someone rather than solo I talked this race plan out with fellow racers Katie Burnett and Nick Christie to see if they would be onboard with Katie attempting the same fast pace out of the gate. Katie and Nick have both been logging solid mileage geared at conquering the National 50k in Jan 2017. We knew we would both be taking a chance and were both curious enough to give it a shot. After all what did we really have to loose, and the potential to learn and gain a racing experience seemed well worth the risk of a painful crash and burn.

Race morning was a great temp with abundant sunshine at the start and stronger winds than preferred but hey this is fall in NY and with winter just around the corner you embrace that sunny 55deg weather! The gun went off and away we went!  We settled nicely into a 4:57-4:59/km pace. 15016442_10211367089756127_8713985308673676438_oRacing with Katie was great the course was a large 2k horseshoe which meant every other turn the other person had the inside and thus the ideal tangent making it easy to race alongside one another. We could see Mike Mannozzi gaining ground on us. By 11k we were a trio and the pace got ever so faster hitting 4:54s per km. 14908332_10206350945726444_1708333170833717951_nThen Mike continued moving forward and the next thing I knew I was at 4:52/km pace and not even halfway through the race. I had a decision to make, go for it again taking an even bigger risk or settle and ease off. A quick peek227_open_md_dd96e3d1-2dc8-4ef4-a30d-c8594a16417b at my heartrate that was in the mid upper 160’s, screamed GO FOR IT! And so I followed Mike’s lead. We went on to drop a few fast kms, my fastest being 4:48! This was faster than the fastest split in my training fartleks. I managed to hang on to him until just around 24k.  After that point I slowed quite a bit but not before splitting 2:03:35 for 25k and bettering my own American Record by 4 min and 11 seconds! 227_open_md_84998d5a-3873-4d19-b844-657296be0a87My last 5k was very slow as I could feel my sugar levels dropping, and exhaustion started to set in. I was able to keep my stomach in check despite it beginning to express its annoyance with me at 17k! I crossed the line in 2:29:18, over 5min ahead of my PR and 2:12 off the American Record!!!


Thank you to timing for capturing this race electronically and on “film”!

I believed that the potential was in me but would have bet it would take another month of training to reveal it. Needless to say I was beyond pleasantly surprised. Katie went on to PR and was only 3 seconds off my old 25k record despite a quick bathroom stop, yes full out stop! She too PR’d and split her 20k in a time that was probably a top 5 lifetime performance! All the while training to build her 50k engine. Mike too improved his PR as he negative splitted each consecutive 10k finishing over 2min ahead of me! We all decided to go for it, and because we used each other we were able to maximize our efforts. Yes not every racing risk ends like this but when the stakes aren’t too high there’s nothing wrong with giving it a shot.  After all you’ll never know if you don’t try!

Sunday I gave it a shot. I committed to a pace, told myself I was capable of achieving it and then cast away all doubt. I did not over think it, and maintained an unwavering belief, a belief I clung to even when my stomach churned, my legs ached, and a light-headness swirled around. I am starting to firmly believe that training, day in and day out, mile after mile, is more about teaching the mind how to handle a state of uncomfortableness, how to embrace pain, and how to push through more than anything. Yes we get physically stronger with each workout, but we also condition the mind to learn how to cope through the physical pain that is accompanied with racing all the while growing in confidence. In the end, “unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow!”


Post race smiles with new Jr 20k American Record Holder Meaghan Podlaski


When you lost your Jr National 20k Record but you know it only means the future of American Race Walking is on the rise!





Thank you to all who helped to make today’s race possible especially Gary Westerfield. Thank you to my SEGVTXC girls who helped the judges and cheered me on! Of course thank you too to my SEGVT girls who helped give me the confidence in training the past three weeks to go ahead and take a chance with a blistering pace! Thank you to everyone who came to support and cheer especially the Newhoff’s who despite having relocated to PA came to cheer and showed what it means to be part of the Walk USA family. Of course my husband Joey made it possible with handing me my bottles, reading my splits and cheering. I also was super excited to have my Dad there loud and clear cheering and best friend Jon! 

Lastly, thanks to the Oiselle sisterhood for all your good vibes and encouragement. I love being part of such an amazing group of inspiring and uplifting women! Saturday there were quite a number of amazing performances from our Team! #HeadupWingsOut!


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A picture’s worth a thousand words, here’s over 100!

Upon returning home from Rio I washed a load of laundry, 1/2 unpacked 2 of my 3 suitcases and repacked another bag for an extended weekend trip to Montauk. img_3774img_3781img_3799Then when I got home from the beach two days later it was the first day of classes at Suffolk. img_3848In case I didn’t already do enough in August I was back on the track at the Hoka One One 1 mile at local St Anthony’s High School. Wow, talk about having no speed and sucking it up. Then September 14231380_10153931315237358_5055077868157576247_ocame and went and along the way img_3982my sister got married (Congrats Kristie and Eric), I had my best friend’s wedding shower and bachelorette party, 14333049_1784112371835274_2664377171123442047_nI raced the National 10k (not sure we can even call it a race considering how out of shape I was, it felt more like I walked in my Oiselle kit on an official course that was timed)14311442_10205993676914947_6379106271582687308_o, was honored on the field at the Giants game and scored sweet tickets (too bad the Giants blew a great start and earned with a “L”), img_4375and then went down to DC for another visit to the White House and an Olympian and Paralympian Athlete Career and Education Summit. Spare time has been spent catching up on a much neglected social life. img_4554 img_4553 img_4517 img_4506 And there you have it what I’ve been up to and why I have yet to post anything about my Olympic experience. Since I am still strapped for time I figured I’d let my pictures do the talking to give you a glimpse into my Olympic experience. Hope you enjoy!

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“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

The saying if it’s not broke don’t fix it seemed to hold merit. I was feeling well, training well and racing well. But what if I could be doing even better?n-o_7zqb_400x400 What if something wasn’t broke but just not as good as it could be? I haphazardly became aware of InsideTracker
(those syringe pens really caught my eye) through a tweet from fellow Haute Volée Andie Cozzarelli. The scientist in me definitely had her curiosity piqued. I decided I would take a look on the inside and see what my blood would reveal about my state of health and fitness. This is after all something I’ve wanted to do for some time but with new rules and regulations making it impossible to do through the USOC Training Center I hadn’t followed through.

I decided to jump on this opportunity and see how my body was functioning at a more metabolic level. Yes it would involve a dreaded encounter with a needle but the potential to gain information was worth it. I consulted with Jonathan from InsideTracker who advised me to sample 4x a year once during each key phase of training. We would start the first sample collection right at the end of my off season, when I was just coming off of little to no training; poor eating habits, and not prioritizing sleep in my daily life. Essentially this would be me at my worst.

img_4484Sept 26th I had my blood draw late that morning around 9:30am. The test was performed under fasting conditions meaning I was not to eat in the previous 12hrs. Unfortunately due to my geographic location (NY) I am not allowed to get a blood draw at a local Quest Diagnostic Center for InsideTacker to analyze but luckily InsideTracker offers a “white glove service” where a trained phlebotomist performs a blood draw at your house! The phlebotomist who drew my blood did a phenomenal job and the prick was ever so slightly noticeable (did I mention that I am TERRIBLE with needles).

WBC results: Green region is optimized region for an athlete; yellow is for a normal adult, red is either too high or too low. As you can see all my values are clustered around the values 3.5-4.0 except for one at 7.5 which was this May when I felt so terrible.

Before even getting the results I was already gaining insight! InsideTracker affords the opportunity to self-input previous blood work results. I added results from my recent May test as well as last year in July as well as two previous tests in 2013, and one in 2011. This is still a small sample size but already some things became very clear. For starters my WBCs while always in a normal range where definitely out of my own personal normal range this past May. In hindsight this makes perfect sense with how I felt and reaffirms that something was very off when I raced in Rome and wound up DNF’ing (not finishing the race). I wish I had been aware of this service back then as I feel it may have allowed me to get to the root of the problem several weeks sooner and gotten a few additional workouts under my belt.

Additionally, just from inputting previous results I could see that some biomarkers had improved rather steadily since August 2013, for instance my Iron Group (includes: Ferritin, Hemoglobin, Iron, blood Iron binding level, total iron binding capacity, hematocrit, MCV, MCHC, and MCH). This was encouraging because October 2013 is when I started supplementing with iron.


Most recent three tests occurred after I began using an Iron supplement

The timing of receiving my newest result was not only quick (three days) but also perfect as I was away at a Summit and happened to see the nutritionist I have worked with over the years from the USOC. While InsideTracker provides their own target range for each bio marker tested its good to get the perspective of someone who knows you and your more specific training and nutritional needs. While InsideTracker requires you to fill out a questionnaire about your fitness routine, eating habits and preferences and daily lifestyle choices like sleep and stress it is not perfect but does allow you to evaluate a lot of variables that influence one’s state of health. InsideTracker uses this info to make personalized nutritional and lifestyle suggestions. It takes into consideration personal eating prefernces such as being vegetarian or not like a particular type of grain etc etc. It also always you to customize what areas you want to prioritize improving and helps you devise a nutritional plan to reach your goals.

It gives you daily calories target and then allows you to customize a list of food items (and appropriate amount for a serving) to meet your nutritional needs to improve target areas. It also allows you to customize food preferences and once you like an item suggested lock it in. You can literally generate 100’s of possibilities and all the important nutrition info is tallied!

Major take always:

1) It appears I have well recovered from a long and exciting season of training and racing. This is evident in my Iron group. Alicia told me not to get too excited about my boost in RBC as is it is most likely due to less foot-strike hemolysis (more appropriately named exertional hemolysis) that accompanies my training (yes one study done with men who ran 60k showed this not to be the case). The good news is my body has adequate levels to begin more rigorous training again. My hematocrit was the highest it’s ever been and I think I was reasonably hydrated that morning. She explained this is most likely due to time off and my body is once again recovered as endurance training can actually lower one’s hematocrit.

2) It’s time to add a new supplement. To say I am leery about taking supplements is an understatement. As an athlete who is subject to both random and routine drug testing and fully understands I am 100% responsible for what I put in my body, I am beyond afraid of ingesting a supplement that is cross contaminated and failing a drug test. This isn’t easy to do, but it has happened to athletes. Please don’t think that “natural” or “organic” can be equated with clean and untainted. There is no FDA regulation of the supplement industry. But my results have consistently shown that my Vitamin D levels are low. Even after having just come out of a sunshine filled summer. Therefore we have decided to supplement with Vitamin D at least Fall-Winter months.

3) My liver enzymes were high, indicative of recent post Olympic social activities which involved drinking and eating more deep fried processed food at restaurants. This was not surprising but does make me question the health of many adults’ livers. Seeing as I have begun to train for the 30k deep fried food is almost impossible to consume and I have reserved alcohol intake for a cider during Sunday Football.

4) Interesting to me was my cholesterol panel. While not “bad” for a “normal” adult it was not optimal. Now yes my diet after the Games has been terrible and I have consumed way more fatty foods it’s interesting that it’s really no worse than previous tests when I was eating a lot more clean and healthy. I’m going to return to status quo pre Olympic Games eating and see how these levels look again after my next test in December.


Blood Glucose: I’ve only had “optimize level” once, which was this past May when I felt lightheaded during workouts. Illustrates the value of knowing YOUR OWN BODY!

5) Finally my blood glucose was not optimal. It actually has always tested high except for the most recent test in May when I was sick and training was abysmal. It got me thinking if “optimal” for me is actually much higher than other athlete peers of mine. Alicia even cautioned me not to heed too much regarding this biomarker as my nutritional requirements differ from the majority of my competitors. The reason is I have exercise induced ischemic colitis. I cannot eat at least 10hours before training. Every morning I train first thing after waking, when my body is still in a fasting state. I do this on race day too. Perhaps my body has conditioned itself over the years to maintain a higher blood glucose level overnight to keep me from crashing in my workouts. This may explain why I was so lightheaded feeling during training and racing in May. Alicia recommended that I not try to change this at all and instead continue to monitor my blood glucose levels through the different phases of a training and competition year.

Overall knowledge is power but take caution not to try to change too much. If something has worked well for you and it’s unconventional does it really need to change, maybe, but maybe not?screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-5-55-47-pm Also changing too many variables complicates future analysis and makes establishing a cause and effect impossible for each individual variable. My next test will be right before Christmas; I’m looking at it as an early present to myself! After all, like Dale Carnegie said “knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied.” My December test will really shed light on where I need to focus making dietary/nutritional changes that my pre-Olympic “normal healthy lifestyle” alone was not sufficient enough to allow me to get the most out of my body. Then the efficacy of those changes can be measured with another blood draw test in March. Yes this is not an overnight fix; science is a process and a process I firmly believe in!

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More than gold

What is it that makes the Olympics so special? Undoubtedly it’s seeing the worlds greatest athletes coming together all vying for glory, for their country, for their family, for themselves.



But what makes them more special than other world competitions; almost all other sports have some major world championship/cup/grand prix etc at least every other year and in some sports every year. Therefore, a world champion can still be crowned without the Olympic Games. Some would argue that since the Olympic Games only occur once every four years it makes the honor of being an Olympian and thus an Olympic Champion or medalist even greater than World Champion any other year. There is a whole lot more hoopla, fanfare, national pride and hype for the LONDON, ENGLAND AUGUST 12, 2012-Fireworks shower the sky above Olympic Stadium during closing ceremonies at the 2012 London Olympics on Sunday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)Olympic Games than any other major international competition. This is partially because the Olympics are more rare of an occurrence; this is also due in fact to the inclusion of 28 different sports, for a total of 41 disciplines all occurring at the same location at the same point in time.


As a result for two very short magnificent weeks seemingly the entire world is swept up in the awe and magic of the Olympic Games. Everyone and anyone with access to a television or computer seems to be tuned into the Olympics. Newspapers, magazines, websites, and endless different types of blogs are all vying to interview medal contenders, former champions, newly emerging athlete still classified as an underdogs, and even those wide-eyed first timer “nobodies”. In my opinion each form of media with their unique angle of coverage is necessary to making the Olympics as special and as grand as they are. Why, well because for the Olympics they are not just reporting statistics, the raw numbers, the outcomes. Instead what is so special during the onslaught of media prior to the Olympics is the personal connection that is created, the behind the scenes glimpse into an athlete’s story, the personal details the audience connects with. What is it that drives them, makes them tick, makes them get out there and train dedicating endless hours of time, copious amounts of energy day in and day out all in the pursuit of their own Olympic glory?

For the majority of the four years between Olympiads these very athletes are training day in and day out, making sacrifices both in time and money, overcoming obstacles and struggles that would make many throw in the towel calling it quits long ago. And yet here they are, now bestowed with the title of Olympian, now and only now do they emerge from the shadows, crawl out from behind the obscurities, ready to be known, ready to have the spotlight cast upon them, all with their own story of their own unique journey. A journey that for many began years even decades before. It began in the hopes and dreams of a young child. It began when someone else saw potential, saw the possibility, and decided there was something special here that was worth taking a chance on. It began when Mom and Dad without knowing what was in store said yes I will help you, and they said and did this over and over and over again. And along that journey each and everyone one of us has countless stories that could fill chapters of books, the kind of stuff that draws you in, where you find yourself eagerly turning the pages, the kind of stuff that moves you and speaks to you, it strikes some chord perhaps buried deep within you a long time ago. It is the kind of stuff that can resonate with such a wide and diverse audience because regardless of our backgrounds, our upbringings, our aspirations, or our life’s goals there are certain qualities that the dreamer in all of us can relate to.

It is the sharing of these stories the inner intimate details about each and every Olympic athlete that makes the Olympic Games so special. After all isn’t this why we tune in so intently during the Olympics, know facts and tidbits about our athletes that only a year ago we knew nothing about and except for a slim minority would never consider taking time to watch. As I said every major sport has some major championship at the international level every year. Where can you go and watch these events? A very few are broadcasted on tv and often at off times with very little press. For others you’d be very lucky to catch them streamed live on a website, a website often from another country, perhaps a country who takes more pride in such an event. Take my own sport of track and field, NBC will broadcast live at the Olympics, Americans will cheer on from home captivated, screaming
at their television, computers or tablets. As a whole we will sing the anthem with pride every time our flag raises high, as our American athlete stands a top of the podium and is crowned Olympic Champion. Many will check the National medal count list daily and smile a sense of pride and satisfaction every time another gold, silver or bronze medal is added to America’s list.

But they give out the same gold, silver, and bronze medals at world championships. It’s the same anthem, sung the same way, with the same Star spangled banner flying over head when one of our athlete’s stands atop the podium at world championships. The pain hurts just as much racing 26.2 miles at the World Championships as it does at the Olympic Games. A 9.87 seconds 100 meters is just as fast as 9.87 seconds at the Olympic Games, and the title of fastest man in the world is bestowed equally to each. Part of why there is less viewership of Olympic contested sports in non-Olympic years is the pathetic lack of media coverage. But even still for events that are broadcasted somewhere it in no way compares to the coverage and viewership that occurs during the Olympic Games. Why do we care so much during the Olympic Games, it’s because we have been made to care. The hype and excitement leading up to the Olympics is almost inescapable. new-aluminum-1-less-bubble_4There is a gradual build where products start to advertise with Olympic athletes, where these products get a facelift proudly displaying our patriotic colors red, white and blue. It’s a time every four years when your fourth of July outfit is appropriate for what seems like half the summer. The general media starts to talk about it. At first there is a slow trickle of stories focusing on Olympic hopefuls, often highlighting Olympic medal contenders regardless of whether that athlete has yet to be named to the Olympic team. The public is roped in with stories of success and heartbreak. The devasting defeat of not earning an an Olympic Berth helps to bring meaning and put into perspective just how rare and special earning one’s rings really is. Then as spring turns into summer it really starts to heat up as more and more athletes are named to the Olympic Team earning their Olympic Berth. Finally by midsummer the Olympic hype, advertisement, and fanfare are rushing in from every media outlet and it’s all everyone is talking about!

This is why after making the Olympic Team a few weeks ago my life has been a whirlwind. My training is no more focused or intense then it was leading up to a World Championships. My academic load is virtually nonexistent because I am in between semesters. What has made it crazy, busy and hectic in the best way possible is the constant call for my time from the media. This is a special rare opportunity for me to share my story, teach people about race walking, and maybe inspire others in their own pursuits both athletic and academic. I have enjoyed the positive press I have received as it has given me a platform to introduce people to race walking, people that until reading the story, hearing the interview on the radio, or watching that news segment may have never before known of my event within track and field. Exposure is a very good thing for the long-term growth and development of race walking in America. It definitely takes support, especially in the financial area to make it on the big stage and be successful. It has helped me raise awareness of the glaring gaps in the development of an American race walker. It has helped me to point out how we do not have a robust high school program like many other events in track and field, how the lack of inclusion in NCAA further stifles development, and how post collegiate an athlete is virtually on one’s own to financially navigate training and living expenses which often force premature retirement or result in only mild success where an athlete never fully had the opportunity to reach his/her potential. Opening people’s eyes to these gaps and the way in which I persevered, living off my graduate school stipend while I earned my Ph.D. , has also helped me to raise money to help sponsor myself and continue to keep race walking. Most recently, post Olympic Trials, this press coverage has helped me not only get my story out there but has encouraged people to donate to helping me financially afford the ability to have my husband, Mom, and youngest sister travel to Rio to watch me race live.

Cn2xfX3WEAQEM1eI am extremely thankful for the reporters who have taken a chance and pitched my story, who have taken the time to meet me and help their viewers get to know me and my event of race walking, and who have helped connect me with the community back home on a more personal level. Because of you, people have a greater interest in race walking and my own Olympic performance.

What do I expect or hope my Olympic performance to be, well this is more than a simple response that cannot be neatly defined with numbers; neither in time nor in place finished. Often this question is pitched something like, “do you have a chance at medaling”, “what place do you think you will come in”, “now that the Russians are banned how do you think you will place,” “do you think you will be faster than you were four years ago?” The simple answer is no. No I will not win, no I will not medal, and no I probably won’t be top 10. No my time will probably not be faster because Rio will be a lot hotter than London was. No even without the Russians in my race there are still plenty of athletes faster than me, and no I do not think all those athletes are clean, unfortunately doping is not limited to Russians. People’s response to this is somewhere between, “oh you shouldn’t say you can’t medal you never know”, “oh” (with a look of disappointment), or “oh well we’re still hoping you’ll get that gold.” There is nothing disappointing about not winning gold (unless in fact you legitimately had a shot to win gold). There is nothing wrong with finishing last and being happy with it, if in fact you gave it your all both that day at the Olympics and every preceding day to prepare you for that moment. And this is where the media really plays such a pivotal role in the reception of the Olympic Games and individual athlete’s performances. When you get to know the individual athletes, the struggles they fought, the triumphs that made them rise, the challenges they overcame you have a deeper connection and you can measure their success in ways that numbers cannot define.

Would I love to be an Olympic Gold medalist? Of course! I’d be crazy for saying no. But I also know it is unrealistic as my lifetime best is 1:30:49. That’s 20k or roughly 12.4miles (just under a ½marathon distance) at 7:19/mile pace. That’s just over 90 mins, which happens to be the American Record. This means no female in American history has ever gone faster than myself. The World Record is 1:24:38, which is over 5 minutes faster than the best time by any American ever. Last Olympics the World Record was set, as it turns out the winner would go on to test positive for doping. A “clean” athlete has since broken her record. I say “clean” because it’s highly suspect for a dirty record to be broken and by a significant amount of time by a clean athlete. But right now this performance to the best of our anti-doping measures is legitimate. The anti-doping measures are what they are, yes some doping cheats will be caught, and yes some dopers will get away with it. These cheaters may get caught 4 years down the line when technology and testing has improved and samples are retested but as many feel that is too little too late.

So let’s remove doping from the equation because while some dirty athletes will unfortunately finish ahead of me so too will clean athletes. Every athlete has a different story with a journey unique to him/her. My story is simple I was a 10 year old soccer player who watched to 1996 Olympics and fell in love. That summer I knew I wanted to be an Olympian and so the dream began. I was 14 when I was introduced to race walking and 26 when I made my first Olympic Team. I was lucky to grow up in NY where race walking is a part of the track and field program just like any other event such as shot put, long jump, or the 800m run. I was beyond lucky to have knowledgeable high school coaches who recognized my potential at the 1500m distance, a distance less than 1/10th the Olympic distance. They saw my potential, embraced it, developed it to the best of their ability and encouraged me to join an outside club, Walk USA, to be simultaneously trained at longer distances that athletes my age competed at internationally such as the 5k and 10k. I am lucky to have attended college on a large academic scholarship that made sports participation possible. I am lucky to have been accepted into a Ph.D. program that paid their students a stipend to live off of. I am lucky that my graduate school and the lab I worked over 50hrs a week in were as understanding as could be expected of someone being paid to earn their education. I am lucky to say that my parents and husband never made me choose academics or sports and thus I refused to allow anyone else to force me to have to choose. I am lucky that I can multitask beyond belief and could juggle a Ph.D. while training for the Olympics. I am lucky that I never had to pay the bills through race walking and could still pursue my Olympic dream. Now what if I had been paid, what if I had been able to focus more of my time and energy to race walking, what if I could be a full time athlete with all the time needed for rest and recovery for a decade of my life? Who knows but as I said this is MY story and My journey to MY Olympic Dream. How will I measure success on race day? How will you and everyone back home know if I did it? Look to my face, when I cross that line, is it beaming in a smile? Olympic-finish-smileBecause if it is you know I did it. You know I gave it my all, never gave in and never gave up. The time on the clock maybe irreleant if it’s that hot. Yes there are fellow competitors I’m looking to beat. There are some who I will pass and others who will pass me. There will be some I never would have expected to beat and others who will have the race of their life and perhaps pass me. Not racing for a medal or putting a number on my place of finish does not make me soft or any less of a competitor than those who are gunning for a gold medal. In fact I might argue it makes me even greater of a competitor because I have not only had to fight during the race, not just during training in preparation, but I also had to fight along my journey to find a way to become my dream without a conventional path to success. I am not defining this journey, the journey of an Olympic Dream, by success that is limited to a number.

Olympic-race-smilesI hope that my smile inspires others back home to follow their own dreams, make their own paths, and believe in their own potential. I hope it helps to expose others to race walking and overtime a better system is in place domestically to develop race walkers. I hope that others realize you too can be a student AND an athlete at the highest of levels, if you too feel passionately about both. There are ways for adversity to strengthen you. The path to becoming an Olympian never has and never will be easy no matter how many people want it for you, no matter how much God given talent you are blessed with and no matter how much money is thrown your way. Therefore, get ready to embrace the pain, learn how to cope with the set backs, find a support system you can call on when the going gets tough beyond belief. Sometimes having to forge your own path in it of itself is part of the training that makes you so fierce. It’s part of what makes you want it so bad and makes you so damn proud when it’s achieved. Measuring success in your own terms without numbers but in experiences is a way to bring greater meaning to your accomplishment. It also is a reminder that these experiences, this journey, the people who shared in it with you, these memories created, these are all yours forever.

And maybe if we collectively start to define success in our own terms the next generation will look up to doping free individuals. They’ll learn that IMG_7099success that is not measured in medals can never really come with a price tag awarded in prize money. When we start to value the journey, and don’t just support the athletes in their moments of triumph but embrace their struggles, acknowledging the process we start to redefine what success is. We need to hold our role models up to higher standards, standards that are more than gold, standards that come from the values an individual embodies, the traits one portrays.  When we do this then we will have role models that have earned the honor of hero and are worthy of society’s praise and admiration. And the beauty in this is one can inspire just as much in moments of triumph as in failure because one’s character is what is sought after, and one’s character is what our youth want to emulate.

When this amazing journey has come to an end I know I will look back on it all with only the fondest of memories. In 2012 I had the race of my life and you know what I finished 28th. I couldn’t have been any happier that day or even now four years later looking back. I gave it my all, raced a huge PR and took a chance that was worth every risk. This time around I am hoping to once again live in the magic of the moment, take it all in, appreciate where I am, remembering and forever thankful to all who got me there. In 2012 there was a slogan “More than gold”.mtg-pin It meant that there was far more at stake than medals. The glory and honor of the Olympic experience cannot be limited to or defined by three medals. You cannot put a price tag on the Olympic experience. After all as the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, stated: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

I will be down there in Rio after more than gold. And when that smile radiates across my face you will know I did it!

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Financial Struggles, Censorship, and the inability to say Thank YOU!

IMG_1752How is it that I can hold 6 National records, have 30 National titles and am about to represent Team USA for the second time this summer at the Olympic Games and still probably “earn” less than a DI collegiate athlete? Ok well there are a lot of factors at play but two of the largest factors are lack of sponsorship and lack of media exposure. The two go hand and hand and in my opinion are at the root of my financial struggles as an athlete.

For those of you who don’t know me I am a 20k race walker. I was introduced to the event in high school as the New York public high school system has it as an event in winter track for girls only. I am thankful beyond belief for this relatively early exposure. After having won four National titles in high school and having even competed twice at the USATF indoor open championships I went off to college to an NCAA DII school that happen to be in a conference that had race walk only at the conference level allowing me the opportunity to race walk and earn a degree simultaneously. I went on to graduate top of my class and qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2008. Despite an injury plagued year I finished way off the podium at the Trials. So it was off to graduate school to earn my Ph.D. while chasing my Olympic Dream. I lived off my graduate school stipend that over 5.5 years averaged 30k a year, oh yeah and I was living in Manhattan so trust me 30k doesn’t go far at all. Did I mention I was working 50-60 hours a week in the lab to earn my stipend? But nonetheless I persevered on. In 2012 I took a leave of absence in February to optimize my chances of making the Olympic Team. This absence afforded me time but left me with no stipend and no health insurance; a small prize to pay for the potential to achieve ones dreams right? Well it was really the only option I had. The road got harder, especially without insurance as I was suffering a severe injury April-may of the Olympic year but luckily I have strong community ties and my chiropractor and physical therapist saw me on the side. Together with a whole team of people helping and an entire community behind me I did it and on July 1st after 50 laps around the track I beat out my teammate by just over 3.5 seconds to earn my Olympic Berth. I was ecstatic and exhausted and beyond thankful to each and every person who came together to support me not only in training, and donations but in spirit and encouragement too.

I couldn’t have been anymore proud to represent Team USA, NY, Long Island, Sachem High School and all my family and friends. IMG_1755The community dug even deeper upon my return from Trials and we raised enough money to send my entire family, 5 members in all, to London. Now luckily my family is close and having two in a bed and a third person on the floor was of no concern and totally worth it to watch me live my dream. Post Trials shortly after arriving back home after to LI I received a phone call from the USOC. Wow I thought they are calling to congratulate me on making the Team this is so awesome. Except they weren’t, they were calling to inform me that I was in violation of a lot of rules.  For starters I couldn’t have the Olympic Rings up at the background on my blog since I also had a button linked to PayPal for donations. I couldn’t out and out ask for money to help me pursue my Olympic Dream or send my family to the Olympic Games. I couldn’t have any photos of me from Trials up and also ask for money. Because I didn’t own the rights to those photos even if they were photos taken by my family members. I now had to sell the story please help send my family to London. Sounds like I’m asking people to send my family on a vacation not watch their daughter/sister compete at the highest level of international sport and live her dream. I was shocked and afraid as I did not want to do anything to jeopardize my ability to compete.

And so 4years later I had a much better idea of what was in store. What the restrictions would entail.  What I could and couldn’t do. I once again designed team Michta-Coffey fan t-shirts this time no beautifully earned Olympic Rings displayed on the tee. We held fundraisers that said help Maria on her journey to Rio, no mention of what I was doing in Rio! I have yet to post a blog write up from the Trials race because once again which photos am I allowed to use if I still have my PayPal link up.

I knew after the race on the podium the nice sleek Nike jacket I was given to wear was not a reward for my race, it was a reward for Nike, just another advertising opportunity. In 2012 I had no official fancy athletic apparel sponsor. I proudly represented my club Walk USA, a club based on Long Island that has supported me, developed me, trained me, and helped fly me almost everywhere since I was 14 years old. I was sad not to have them shine on the podium but due to the strict logo size restrictions the small Walk USA logo was so tiny on the back of my jersey that it wouldn’t be seen on the podium anyway. This year however It was different. I still represent Walk USA but have recently also been signed by the amazing company Oiselle. I knew getting up on that podium wearing Nike would be a blow to Oiselle and ultimately diminish my ability to future market myself. After all how can one secure sponsorship when there is little to no media exposure and the little we get is censored with logo restrictions, size limitations and forced cover ups. It took my 4 hard years of seeking sponsorship and several attempts to Oiselle directly before being seen in the eyes of a company as a worthy investment. And now my big chance to give back, give the company the spot light, symbolically saying , “see a I told you so, see I do have something to offer you, see I can be a role model that little girls aspire to, see I am on the top and when people see me on the top they can see you too,” had been taken away.

Since this wasn’t my first Olympic Trials podium I knew what to expect and when I first stepped on the podium I jumped up and stuck my rear out. Why, well because Oiselle was written on my racing briefs, albeit in a rather small logo approved size but it was there nonetheless. When Oiselle learned that the podium moment was shadowed by a Nike jacket they were understandably disappointed. They looked into the actual rules and regulations and it turns out no where was I required to wear that jacket! Thankfully I would have another podium moment the next day at Hayward field. This time I was in Oiselle head to toe and we were ready. Surprisingly the staff at Hayward did not insist upon wearing of the jacket (in 2012 it we were repeatedly told we had to where it) and even said it was our choice. I was told in Salem, here is your jacket you will wear it on the podium. Glad to have this clarified the second time around and glad Oiselle got their moment with me!

13600025_10154544358983322_5369638748859512677_n 13537656_10154544358933322_5324849585885239397_nAlso to paint the whole picture in 2012 I lost my Dziadzi (polish for grandfather). Years prior I had given him one of my Team USA hats which he wore quite often as evident in its faded color. This hat was Nike apparel.  When I spoke to Sally from Oiselle asking if after the podium for my victory lap if I could wear my Dziadzi’s hat to honor him as I had done in 2012 she said absolutely. Sally also asked if I wanted to wear it on top of the podium, despite it being Nike she could she the big picture from a personal standpoint of the athlete. This is the side of a company that deserves to be recognized and shared. This is exactly what Oiselle is like, they are NOT a company that sponsors a jersey; they support a community, build a sisterhood, and enable the dreams of athletes like myself.

Here we are only a week after my Trials race and once again it feels like athletes such as myself are being oppressed for not having an official USOC partner sponsor. Don’t get me wrong I am beyond grateful for the Olympic sponsors that make the Games possible. To the USOC sponsors that provide airfare and gear and fuel USOC programs thank you very much. But I would also like to remind everyone that the Games are also only possible because of the ATHLETES and you wouldn’t have world record, international elite caliber athletes without people AND money to support them and their dreams.IMG_1789 It has taken almost 4 years to get an apparel sponsor and I currently do not receive financial compensation, product only.  I have funded my dreams through my graduate school stipend, as an adjunct professor, tutoring and turning to my local community especially Walk USA for help. If we can’t thank our clubs, non USOC sponsors than how are we suppose to negotiate and sign contracts that provide financial sums capable of sustaining a living off of? In a few weeks I will also not be able to thank and acknowledge all the local businesses back home like Mastic Seafood, Egan and Golden Attorneys at Law, Inspire PT, Duke Chiropractic, and Irish Times that have supported me when no one else would. The inability to express my sincere gratitude not only diminishes my worth in terms of marketing but it stifles the pure joy that I want to share with others. Others who without, that moment, that of becoming an Olympian and fulfilling a dream would never have been possible.

So for now instead of taking the time to write up a blog about the rush and excitement of my Olympic Trials race, the joyous satisfaction afterwards of waiting for my TEAMmate Miranda to leap into my arms in pure celebration, or how the three days afterwards my family celebrated enjoying rare quality uninterrupted family time, I instead took the time to share with you the behind the scenes reality of one more thing an Olympic level athlete must endure and overcome.  These IOC/USOC/USATF rules and regulations ultimately hurt the athletes and the ENTIRE community that supported them. They hold us back ensuring that the rich get richer and the rest of us are left to scrape by on what we have, exhaust every possible alternative source of revenue, and celebrate amongst ourselves while some of our biggest supporters are forced into the shadows, behind the scenes, and never to be mentioned.

These constraints will only get worse in the weeks leading up to and through the Games once Rule 40 goes into effect again.  To read more about my 2012 experience with rule 40 checkout my previous post:

FullSizeRender-17To take a stand against this outrageous censorship share this article and post your own remarks! To help me thank Oiselle and all the other non USOC partners tweet and post your hearts out…just because the company cannot express their excitement, admiration, and congratulations of their own athletes doesn’t mean the general public can’t thank the sponsors and celebrate the athletes! For creative statements to post on social media about the absurdity of Rule 40 limits check out

Remember for every “swoosh” you don’t see is an athlete probably like myself who found alternative sometimes innovative ways to make ends meet all for the chance to chase a dream. Yes sport can be pure, and that thrill of competition, the rush of achieving a dream, the smiling satisfaction of a hard fought victory not over others but over a weaker previous self that is why I do this and that is why I will not back down.  I will continue to persevere on, thankful for all those who believe in me and are sharing in my journey. It takes a village!



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Eyes on the prize, full steam ahead!


Unless you have been living under a rock you have heard quite a bit about Brazil recently, 1-Rio is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this August, and 2- there is a Zika virus outbreak in Brazil and much of South and Central America. Therefore A LOT of people have been asking me questions about my opinion on both matters, especially how #2 impacts #1 and vice a versa.

Curious about what my feelings were earlier checkout these two articles:

“The Olympic hopeful for whom Zika hits really close to home”

“Zike causes American Olympians to scramble” (Joe was also interviewed for this one!)

As for now I know everything comes down to numbers and probabilities so here’s to hoping for the best 🍻

“Rio Olympics 2016: why athletes and fans aren’t likely to catch Zika”

Currently, I’m focused on being an Olympic hopeful. I am drawing on all the positive energy and excitement to propel me forward in my dreams of making a second Olympic Team. After I cross the line and punch my ticket to Rio I’ll let the scientist reemerge and re-analyze the current Zika status and all available info. Then and only then will I be able to make any further decisions regarding mine and my family’s travel plans. So please refrain from sharing any negativity, bad press or asking my opinion on the matter. Nothing in Rio right now will impact my race in Salem on June 30th. Until I’ve earned my Olympic Berth my number one focus is making the team! Thank you for your continued support along my Olympic Journey!

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Head up, wings out!


More soon on becoming Haute Volée!

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