USATF Pre-camp, Chiba, Japan


Welcome banners made by local school students

It was finally going to happen, I would get to attend my first USATF pre-camp. I was totally psyched to finally attend as all the other years I was too busy in graduate school and couldn’t afford the luxury of taking additional time off before the competitions. While the World Championships were held in Beijing, China our pre-camp was in Chiba, Japan. There were several reasons for this location, it had a climate that was similar to Beijing without the terrible air pollution, it was easy to get to being very close to Nariata-Tokyo International Airport, and had several different training facilities to meet the needs of all disciplines of the track and field team and the local people were the most accommodating, friendly, hospitable people I have ever met.



“Tacos”, salad, and the ever important rice staple

USATF permitted us to attend the camp if we would be there for a minimum of 5 days. We were allowed to arrive as early as the 16th and chose to depart the US and arrive in Japan on the 18th. This would give Miranda enough time to adjust to the time zone difference before competition without being too long for me in case I was stuck eating all my own food. As it turned out the food in Japan was great for athletes. We stayed at a Hilton that was more than accommodating to our needs. I had delicious sticky rice everyday with lunch and dinner and would change up the protein as best a possible although most of the time I stuck to the sliced chicken breast. Aside from an endless supply of rice the next best thing about the food in Japan was that I could eat the salad and raw vegetables with out any concern. The water in Japan was safe to drink, straight out of the tap if you so chose, and thus the salad and vegetables and fruit were also safe. They also almost always had hard-boiled eggs which were a great addition to my side salads.


The hotel was located off a road with nothing much directly around it. About 500m away from the hotel were a series of paths both paved and unpaved. The unpaved had gravel that was too coarse and uneven to provide proper footing for race walking so we stuck with the backstreet “fire/maintenance” paved roads. This was okay for shorter days of 10-12k but not ideal for longer training sessions. IMG_5255For our longer walk days we would take a shuttle bus out to a track called “IWANA” where we would head off on a bike trail along rice paddies and a river. It was definitely hot and humid out which was great because this is what it would be like racing in Beijing. We were literally spoiled out here, by the staff of locals, by our USATF master of all things important, Bejan, and in the sheer fact that I had a training partner!Bejan biked along side us for two of our long walks and carried our bottles in his basket. Talk about being spoiled, not only did we not have to carry our own aid but he is a great conversationalist! IMG_5902The facility was great, we had towels to dry off (we were sweating A LOT because of the conditions) and stretch on as well as showers so we didn’t have to have “WB” (wet butt as Coach Tim calls it) for 45min on the bus ride back to the hotel. We also had post workout rehydration beverages and snacks, no need to have to make your own smoothie when the USATF nutritionist already has it taken care of.
The other place we trained out was a track called JUNTENDO. IMG_5345Once again we were greeted by extremely hospitable staff, always eager to welcome us. We used this track in the beginning when we did one of our last workouts in our taper consisting of 10x1k. There was a little bit of a misunderstanding when reading our schedules, but it turned out well for both of us. In the end I did my 10x1ks a day earlier than IMG_5346Tim initially intended in a torrential downpour. But as my sister knows, we love to train in the rain. Besides it was much better than the alternative of steamy, hot, and humid. JUNTENDO also had a weight room that was available to us. IMG_5356This met our needs well. This was the first time I have ever lifted away from home, because I had never been able to leave before a meet so early. Navigating their weights took a little bit of mental math as everything was in kg, not lbs. My light weight session went well, and I finished up with a shake out 6k run in the outside lanes of the track



post workout smiles, last 5x1k in the bank!

The number one priority of a pre-camp is to get in those last quality workouts and pre-race tune ups while feeling rested and recovered. This was definitely how my experience played out in Japan.
I even got an added bonus, since I was there so early and it was still a good amount of time out before the race I could be a “tourist” and do a little bit of sight seeing.


I spent one day visiting Tokyo proper where, John Nunn, Bejan, and I left at 10:30am and didn’t return until 12:30am. IMG_5589It was an awesome day filled with visiting the Tokyo fish markets, walking through a Japanese Garden, going up to Tokyo Tower, walking around the grounds of a temple, checking out “rush hour” in Shibuya, and of course one’s Tokyo experience could not be complete without a robot show. What’s that you never heard of a robot show? You can’t really explain it other than it was a show like no other, which was bizarre, entertaining, weird and humorous. We often found ourselves saying, did that just happen? I mean it’s not everyday that you visit a city and watch a person dressed as a panda ride out on a cow robot to attack an evil robot.IMG_5729 IMG_5399Oh and how could I forget we had some really fresh sushi for lunch down at the fish market and finished the night off with shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup. My Tokyo site seeing day was amazing not just because of what I saw but because I was fortunate to have two awesome travel buddies and lucky that Bejan was willing to help navigate us in and around the entire city. IMG_5558 IMG_5495 IMG_5572 IMG_5532 IMG_5573 IMG_5609Throughout our adventures we covered everything from the state of track of field in America, the inner workings of USATF, doping, CRISPR technique of modifying genomic DNA, a new dating website, Toyko bathhouses, Iranian “politics” and policies and countless other discussions that were just as diverse.


After that “all-out” touristing day all other “adventures” were much more low key. Miranda and I visited a local temple. IMG_5844We were rather lethargic that day and it was hot out so we kind of rushed through it and probably spent just as much time walking in and out of shops buying souvenirs for those back home. John showed us where we could get chopsticks engraved with peoples’ names in Japanese or English. It’s safe to say that that shop made out very well while USATF was in town.

Keeping with tradition...touching foreign walls

Keeping with tradition…touching foreign walls

Other days after training we went to the local mall just so that we weren’t sitting all day. Miranda and I both had important missions; I had to get Joey a solar powered sumo wrestler and she Pokémon cards for Mike. You see last time I had been to Japan in 2010 for an HCV conference I bought my Dad a solar powered sumo wrestler. It’s virtually impossible to buy my Dad a gift as no matter how hard you try to find something you think would be useful, practical, or entertaining for him it goes unused often under the bed in its original packaging! I happened to by him the toy, last minute at the Tokyo airport thinking well he does like sumo wrestlers, this is as good as it is going to get for gift options. To my delight he absolutely LOVED it! I mean who would have thought that my father a grown man, who is a computer science wiz, the most impossible person to buy a gift for would be so infatuated with this gift. I am totally set for life by the way; I never need to buy him something because nothing else could ever top this. However, I was totally NOT set for life with Joey. He was devastated that he did not receive such a cool gift. Every time we would go to visit my parent’s Joe was reminded of the cool gift he didn’t get (did I mention my Dad has it on display in the cabinet with the TV and family photos). My Dad was also all too happy to remind Joey how cool his gift was. So this is why my side mission was to find Joe a solar powered sumo wrestler.

IMG_5342I honestly thought this would be a long shot as it was 5 years since I had purchased the original one for my Dad. But low and behold what to my wandering eyes should appear but eight solar powered sumo wrestlers, rocking back and forth right in front of me. I was literally giddy with excitement. I learned my lesson; I bought Joey his sumo wrestler, my brother a sumo wrestler (turns out he too was bummed he didn’t get one the first time around), Dad a Ninja (seems his sumo guy needed a friend), Joey a Ninja (can’t let my Dad get something else to hold over his head), and a Geisha girl just for good measure. I kept them all a secret until I was home and could present them in person. It’s true what they say; it’s better to give than receive. Especially when you’ve been waiting to be able to give something for five years! So without a doubt my Japan pre-camp experience was complete in everyway possible!IMG_5939IMG_5900
Additional pictures capturing life during pre-camp:IMG_5210

When International #BirdCamp2015 Team #OiselleVolee

When #BirdCamp2015 Goes International! Team #OiselleVolee


City of Chiba mascout "Chibka" made my local school children. I chose the one with the inspirational message "keep dreaming"

City of Chiba mascout “Chibka” made my local school children. I chose the one with the inspirational message “keep dreaming”

John Nunn's famous Ella's Cookie Co cookie (eat sparingly when in pre-race taper)

John Nunn’s famous Ella’s Cookie Co cookie (eat sparingly when in pre-race taper)

I wish NYC and all places had this law

I wish NYC and all places had this law


I don't think this is what the hotel had in mind when I signed into the gym/spa.

I don’t think this is what the hotel had in mind when I signed into the gym/spa.


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When it’s not black and white, but still worth the right fight!

Ok so track and field has once again been thrust into the spotlight…but while not for drug cheating dopers this time for sponsorship/athlete right infringement disputes.

I have decided to lay out the facts (from first hand experience as a member of Team USA Track and Field) and add my opinion since many people have been asking about it!

Here goes:

Living under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about checkout one of these articles:


The Nick Symmonds/USATF standoff controversy:

Symmonds refused to sign the USATF Team Agreement, due to undefined terms that were in conflict with his individual sponsors agreements. If Symmonds refused to sign the USATF athlete agreement, he would not be added to USATF Team roster for the World Championships, and thus ineligible to compete. The deadline for him to sign came and went and he stuck to his guns and refused to sign and paid the ultimate price loosing his spot on the USA World Championship Team.

The agreement in a nutshell:

USATF (our national governing body for track and field in the United States), requires ALL athletes attending Team sponsored trips to wear the provided Nike gear (or one’s own Nike gear, or non branded gear) in competition, as well as “ official Team Functions”. When an athlete sign’s the team agreement, the agree to adhere to this rule. USATF 2015 agreement

So why the controversy? First let me paint you a picture of the professional track and field athlete in the US.

How Track and Field sponsorship and “making it” as a “professional “ athlete works in the US for Track and Field:

Top ranked athletes in all events seek out/ or the lucky few are sought out by different companies to represent said company or product. What representing that company may mean varies from athlete contract to athlete contract. The best case scenario an athlete gets free product AND a salary/bonus/stipend from this product’s company, in return the athlete actively wears, uses, promotes, advertises on behalf of the company. If you are one of the “endangered species” professional track and field athletes you actually make enough to not only cover daily living and training expenses you can actually call it a career.

The reality:

Track and field receives very little media spotlight attention except once every four years during the Olympics. Therefore this makes it very difficult for athletes trying to market themselves. Why does a company want to invest in you, if you have very little exposure?

What are the major exposure opportunities for US track and field athletes?

USATF sanctioned National Championships (one indoor and one outdoor meet a year), a Grand Prix series of National Championships for road racing and race walk, big invitations such as Penn Relays, Drake Relays, Hoka One One Invite etc etc. Some of these meets are televised on ESPN (a three-five day meet gets 2-6hrs of broadcast time, only key events, snippets, and interviews are televised. The rest of the meet can often (this is as of recently only) be viewed on webcast on USATF-tv. The same goes for invitationals with even less coverage than the major national championships. Runnerspace also does a nice job covering post race interviews available on the web only.

Diamond League meets are another opportunity for some exposure. The majority of these races take place in Europe (two of them, Adidas Grand Prix, and Prefontaine Classic, are in the US). ESPN has some major highlights/coverage of the US meets and sometimes you can catch the European races on something like Universal sports (assuming you have that channel). Other than that it’s watching these prestigious races (where World and National records are often broken) online via webcast.

World Championships are often never on tv in the United States, and difficult to find live webcasts. These meets, like the Olympics, are USA Team funded and thus an athlete doesn’t rep his/her individual sponsor, instead he/she wears the national team uniform. Therefore exposure at the highest stage is limited only to the National Team sponsor, for USATF it’s Nike.

The Olympic Games are even more tightly regulated as a result of something called “Rule 40” which prohibits an athlete from endorsing, publicizing etc any company that is not a International Olympic Committee sponsor. Rule 40 creates a media blackout period prior to, through, and just after the Olympic Games for non-IOC sponsors. For more info read my past blog about Rule 40 during the London Olympic Games.

So you are starting to get the picture now right?

Social media has perhaps become an athlete’s greatest platform for exposure. Through social media I can keep my fans up-to-date on my training, racing, and daily life…as well as all the products/companies etc that help make it possible. Athletes readily utilize social media to broaden their exposure targeting a larger audience, gaining support for his/her sponsor and one’s self alike.

The major problem:

Fantastic! USATF provides us a National Team Uniform Kit (which is the latest and greatest, no controversy there). Depending on the level of competition, duration of travel/training/competition, and time of the season the kit includes the bare minimum of a racing outfit, podium suit, baggage, and some tee shirts, and can be as extensive as an entire checked rolling suitcase bursting with free gear.

Here’s the catch:

As a member of Team USA, you must sign an agreement (for the most part this was always a technicality as you were so ecstatic to have made a team and eager for you kit and the competition to arrive) stating you will represent your country wearing team issued gear…at “official team functions.”Read here: USATF 2015 agreement

At first glance most do not see the harm in such an agreement. USATF is after all providing the gear free of charge, why not wear it?

The issue is if you have another sponsor and it is other than Nike, you cannot represent this sponsor, pretty much in any capacity, during a Team USA USATF Team Function. This includes training and sharing it on social media. Therefore one’s ability to showcase his/her sponsor has been greatly limited. In turn less incentive for other companies to sponsor individual athletes.

The wording:

The current controversy revolves around vaguely defined wording of “official Team Function”. What exactly qualifies as an “official Team Function”? USATF already spells out in your congratulations letter that this includes competition, training camps, and meet hotel. But some argue, who’s to stop them there…could one day this grow to include from the moment an athlete is named to the National Team through competition that an athlete must wear the national team uniform?

Let’s not forget two things:

  1. USATF provides a free Nike Uniform Kit that you must wear when competing but during the rest of the “official Team Function” period one can wear the kit, Nike, OR anything whose branding is non-descript.
  2. USATF is after all covering an athlete’s expenses during competition and training camps.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Airfare to destination (or a travel voucher for a previously disclosed amount if an athlete chooses to book on his/her own. Also worth noting you have flexibility in which airline they book you on)
  • Hotel/lodging during training camp
  • Meals during training camp
  • Medical services (USATF staff’s a full team of medical doctors, massage therapists, athletic trainers, chiropractors, nutritionist, and sports psychologists) Yes these professionals are providing their services free of charge, but many other countries athletes are not so lucky
  • $10 USD per diem (yes not much but all other expenses are taken care of)
  • Access to training facilities (this varies based on locations but includes a training track, weight room, cardio room) in 2012 USATF literally renovated a practice track just for US athletes in London so we didn’t have to fight for space among other countries on the provided LOC track…this included providing us “personal” security to ensure our safety at this off site track
  • Reconnaissance prior to any trip where they scout out the best location and facilities to train, to maximize an athlete’s benefit (you set up your own training camp and it’s not just the expenses you have to cover but the logistics too must be navigated on your own)
  • Location specific extras…for example Beijing’s air quality is a major issue and USATF has arranged for us to have masks and air purifiers to remove allergens

Ok now with all that being said while I am extremely grateful to USATF for all they have provided me in both the tangibles and intangibles let’s get into what I feel is lacking and inadequate…or simply just food for thought moving forward.

The gear provided:

It’s awesome, I love it, don’t get me wrong but the amount is actually lacking when you consider having to wear it for 2 weeks straight (minimum if you attend the training precamp) …especially since we are expected to solely wear this. Here is what I specifically got for precamp-world champs 2015:

3 pairs of socks

2 pairs of shorts

2 pair of capris

2 pairs of spandex tights

3 short sleeve t-shirts

2 long sleeve t-shirt

1 long sleeve half zip

1 singlet

1 racing top

1 racing bottom

1 podium jacket

1 podium pants

1 wind jacket

1 wind pants

1 rain jacket w/hood

1 rain suit pants

1 sweatshirt jacket

1 sweat pants bottom

1 drawstring bag

1 backpack

1 large rolling suitcase

1 small rolling suitcase

1 hat (unisex size!)

Now being as it will be 80-90s the entire time most of the gear will keep me warm inside a nice AC’d hotel, but be of no use for training outside. Let’s also keep in mind that while one races in minimal gear, you also warm up on raceday in at least a t-shirt and shorts and you never want to send off your competition gear to a laundry service in another country for fear of it not being returned, or ruined. Additionally, no sports bras were distributed for this trip. Now as I am not sponsored by another company (ie Brooks, Oiselle, Adidas etc etc) I do have a few Nike brand pieces I have purchased over the years (I actually purchased several sports bras and tanks tops to have enough warm weather gear for World Champs in 2011). I also have been fortunate to have made USA teams for the past 10 years and have some of that old Nike Team USA gear. I also received a Team USA Uniform Kit earlier this year for Pan Am Cup (while a lot less gear) which gives me a few extras of the current pieces. One should also be aware that if you made multiple teams including the Pan AM Games, NACAC, and/or World Championship Teams you were instructed that you only received one larger kit to be used for all Teams so do not trade it or loose it. Therefore a relative newbie or non-Nike sponsored athlete does not have the opportunity to get additional pieces from multiple trips this summer. The reasoning behind this is there are at least 7 Team USA trips this summer alone and being one year out from the Olympics (our gear cycles with each Olympiad with a new kit debuting each Olympic Games) they are very limited in what they have to give out.

Now it would be entirely just to call someone greedy who felt they should receive more gear IF they were allowed to wear whatever they wanted during training and during downtime, however USATF has made this very clear that this is not the case. Therefore if you really require us to wear our gear 24/7 during an “official Team Function” then provide a reasonable amount of gear to cover the entire duration of the “official Team Function”.

The Nick Symmonds/USATF standoff

At first I was a little put off the way Nick Symmonds argument was coming across in the media. He refused to sign the USATF Team Agreement, due to undefined terms that were in conflict with his individual sponsors agreements.

In a nut shell:

If Symmonds refused to sign the agreement, he would not be added to USATF Team roster for the World Championships, and thus ineligible to compete. The deadline for him to sign came and went and he stuck to his guns and refused to sign and paid the ultimate price loosing his spot on the USA World Championship Team.

In defense to USATF: 

  1. This type of language and agreement is not anything new (although this is not justification for it being right/fair)
  2. USATF does NOT require Symmonds to attend the precamp…he can choose to arrive directly in Beijing right before the competition and train in Japan, China or anywhere else in the world of his choosing prior to competing and train, travel, and lounge in whatever he pleases. There is not (at least not currently) a Rule 40 like black out date that would prevent him or any other athlete from doing this.

In defense to Nick Symmonds:

  1. USATF sponsorship policies make individual sponsorship challenging to obtain and retain
  2. USATF/NIKE partnership takes advantage of its National Team Athletes
    • Estimated annual worth $20 million
    • what the athletes are projected to receive is estimated to fall way short at 2.46 million (see ref article here)

A “solution”

1. USATF clearly defines “official Team Functions” so that exactly when the uniform/Nike gear/ non descripted branded gear needs to be worn is specified

-I propose that if USATF is fully funding an athlete’s expenses for training/travel/competition purposes then they are justified in enforcing the Team Uniform policy

-Included in this, USATF would be required to provide an adequate amount of gear to cover the entire length of the said “official Team Function”

2.   Pay your way- USATF can provide an option for all athletes to foot the bill for preamp expenses, including travel, lodging, meals, facility fees, medical service fee…if an athlete chooses to pay then he/she is free and clear to wear whatever, whenever they like during that said period of the training camp

Another way to look at this: the “other” sports perspective

The way other sports NGB and National Teams operate have come up in several articles that have reported on this. The NYTimes referenced the statement by Jill Geer (USATF media spokeswoman) “Steph Curry is with Under Armour, and LeBron James is with Nike. Both men played in Adidas uniforms in the N.B.A. finals last season.” While the statement was made in defense of USATF, and was meant to provide example that sponsorships clashes between individual athletes and federations is not an uncommon occurrence; it is not really relevant to USATF/NIKE’s sponsorship position. Individual/Team sponsorship clashes do exist, however comparing USATF and the NBA is NOT comparing apples to apples. NBA players (like those of MLB, NFL, NHL) are professional athletes who receive salaries from the league. Thus it is more logical/fair/reasonable to require individuals to continually conform to league uniform standards. USATF does NOT pay ANY athlete a yearly salary. The only way a “salary” is earned is based off of placing well at National Championships (5,000 for indoor national champion, 7,000 for an outdoor national champion). I’m pretty sure if Lebron James could at best make 12,000 for winning a National Championship he would object to uniform constraints.

The solution in this case, is provide and require athletes to wear the National Team gear AND pay them a yearly salary. Now we could actually start calling track and field athletes, “professional” athletes. Yes, this could further limit individual sponsorship but assuming (yes this is always dangerous to do) the salaries paid out by USATF we fair and reasonable, and could actually allow an athlete to survive off of, I think most would be in favor of such a change. At least if USATF paid athletes named to the National Team salaries, these athletes would be much more willing to wear the National Team gear exclusively during “official Team Functions”.

What happens now moving forward?:

Clearly Symmonds forfeited his rightfully earned ticket to World Championships to take a stand for something he passionately believes in. The ball of change has been set in motion and let’s hope it continues rolling. It was suggested by another Olympian that changes like this are best negotiated out during the USATF annual convention. I can attest (I’ll admit I only attended last year for the first time) that while open dialogue freely flows at such meetings, the actual impact of this dialogue and measurable change that ensues is very sobering. I would argue that Symmonds has made the strongest possible statement and hopefully it is used as a springboard at the Annual Meeting to create well defined measurable change.

Last year at the Annual Meeting, the AAC (athlete advisor committee) spent great lengths of time discussing and trying to put into words just how you define a professional track and field athlete in the US. No consensus with a clear definition was achieved but I really thought we were on the right track. We left the meeting thinking more discussions were to come, but unfortunately that has not been the case. The purpose of defining who qualifies as a professional athlete was to establish criteria that would be used to determine who qualified to be provided a paid salary because they were deemed professional. We were under the impression that our CEO, Max Siegel, had successfully raked in a “surplus” of funding from new sponsors, and some of this would go to paying professional athlete salaries. Perhaps after this year’s meeting something more concrete will be achieved and implemented sooner rather than later.

Change with in USATF:

Change is definitely needed, how we, as united athletes, go about achieving such change remains to be seen. How will we define what qualifies one as a professional athlete? What is a fair requirement for when National Team Gear/Nike/non-branded apparel must be worn? What is the right answer and how will USATF operate National Teams from here on out, well only time can tell.

The time for change is now, and we must not fall apathetic but continue to fight for reform and improvement within our NGB! We have seen USATF board of executives “listen” to the athletes when the unjust/incorrect disqualification of Andrew Bumbalough was overturned…but we have also seen them ignore the vote of the people the past December regarding USATF nominee for IAAF council. Let’s hope people like Symmonds continue to stay at bat, and attend future USATF annual meetings. Yes often there decisions are made behind close doors and progress is at best slow but for now it is what we have. Oh and yes, let’s not forget our collective voices on social media. We saw how powerful social media was at getting Grunewald rightfully reinstated on Team USA for 2014 World Indoor Champs (albeit USATF took the back ended way out of doing the right thing, at least it ended with the correct athlete proudly racing for Team USA).

I have shared my own thoughts and suggestions, and I am curious to hear back from you. Feel free to comment back with your own take, thoughts and suggestions regarding this “issue”. Please keep your responses professional and free of profane language.


I have qualified to represent the USA at the World Championships this summer. I personally signed the athlete agreement and will be attending both the preamp and competition itself. My intent in writing this was not to defend or bash USATF, rather to paint a better picture of the facts and the current state of USATF and the policies that impact National Team athletes like myself. There are many things that I like about USATF as a NGB and am thankful for, there are however a list of actions, policies, and decisions that I am horrified and appalled by. As a personal disclaimer, I wrote this on my own with my only objective to educate people about the facts and when noted shared my own thoughts, opinions, and suggestions.


Pan Am Games: Part 2 The Race

Rise and shine, it’s race day!


The alarm went off at 4:10 am! Time to get moving, today was race day. Not much left to do, jump into my uniform, wash up, make my aid bottles, and braid my hair. Then it was off to meet up with our team staff and catch our shuttle bus to the course. Just our luck that the bus driver we got was on his first day on the job and had no idea where to go. Good thing some of the coaches and staff knew how to navigate the shut down roads and were able to direct the bus driver..otherwise we would have been walking 2 miles to the race course from where he wanted to drop us off. No thank you, we would be covering enough mileage today!

Once we got to the course the confusion continued…this time in regards to when we would be need to be out of the call room and last have access to our bags, bottles, etc. To make it even more complicated the information (which changed 3x times) needed to be communicated in English and Spanish (God bless the Brazilians who spoke Portuguese!).

Staying cool, warming up:

P1010658After much confusion we were finally suited with our timing chips, numbers pinned, and allowed to warm up. As expected it was warm and extremely humid this morning. The sun was not blazing yet so that was a plus, and I was pleasantly surprised to find much of the course would be shaded, at least for the beginning of our race.  The trick now was to warm up the legs  and have them feeling loose and fluid without increasing core body temperature too much. Studies have shown that preventing core body temperature from rising helps delay onset of heat associated fatigue. In order to do this we wear commercially available cooling vests, or even ice water soaked towels, sometimes both. As was the case race morning I had a mini commercial ice vest that fit much like a construction workers reflective vest and supplemented with a cold towel around my neck. I also poured ice cold water over my wrists and neck prior to heading to the start line.

Before I knew it warm up was over, I had already gone to the bathroom 3x since waking up and still felt like the “tank wasn’t emptied all the way”. Oh well there is nothing more you can really do in those moments. As it turns out on my last visit to the port-a-potty I had the company of a male black widow…yikes! IMG_3928IMG_3912IMG_3918We were called to the start line and each competitor was introduced in English, Spanish, and French, pretty cool! I was hip number 13 which actually worked out well because where I was positioned on the starting line was great for walking the tangents of the course.

And we’re off!

P1010667DSC05712TDSC05708he gun went off and I went for it! Tim and I discussed being smart, and not raising the heart rate too high for the first 8k. We knew to achieve anything big in the race I would have to go into the well, just had to make sure I didn’t dig too deep too early. We went out in 4:31 (for ref my American record pace is 4:32.5 per k pace). Then followed with a 4:29. I felt ok, and a quick glance at my watch indicated my HR was well within the effort I could handle. Then we dropped to 4:25…while my HR was still at an acceptable level I decided to let the leaders take off and hang with the next group of athletes that would form. We still hit another 4:25 k! But once again my HR reassured I was still racing within my means. We came through 5k in a blazing 22:13 (and I was in 6th/7th place), which equates to 1:28:52 (almost 2 min under my American Record). DSC05723I felt great at this point of the race, despite the fact that this 5k split ties my 4th fastest 5k time ever (that’s racing the 5k, and stopping not having to continue on for another 15k!). At this point I had a mini pack with the 2nd Mexican and a Columbian girl. It was great having people to work with and continue pressing on. We came through our 10k split in 45:08. This actually ties my lifetime best 10k (which I split on the way to my 20k American Record). It took a bit of restraint mentally not to push my 10th 1k and dip under 45mins. I’ll have to save that PR for another day.


Coach Tim, getting to coach me live in person! Thanks for making the trip; thanks for always believing!

The next 10k would be where the real race would begin. I felt pretty good through 12k, but by 15k I was really holding back not stopping to go to the bathroom. This was definitely a consequence of not emptying the tank all the way prior to race start, and only exacerbated by going out too hard in the beginning. This was the most frustrating part of the entire race because my legs were a lot fresher and stronger than the pace I was walking at. It felt like we were (minus the Ecuadorian who started conservative and zoomed passed everyone on her way to a bronze medal) all frozen in time, moving forward in the race but nDSC05755ot gaining ground on one another because everyone was individually slowing, badly! I toyed with the idea of “letting it go” and walking at a faster pace, but I know once I “broke the seal” there is only temporary relief before another wave comes and there was just too much left of the race to be displaying my insides outside if you catch my drift.

I finished the race with a respectable closing 1k (faster than the 3rd, 5th, and 6th competitor) unfortunately km’s 12-14 were just too slow and I finished in a sobering 7th place. It was still a season best time of 1:33:07, my best by far for the weather conditions and still aDSC05761 top 10 All-Time US performance.It’s just hard to be happy with that when your competitors are that much ahead of you. The top Mexican girl went on to win the race before collapsing after crossing the line. She narrowly missed crashing before the line as well as being pulled by the judges for illegal race walking mechanics. Brazil raced a very solid strong 2nd place, and the Ecuadorian girl walked the smartest race to capture a well earned bronze. I was 30 seconds off of 4th place, which is why it always felt like I was in the race the whole time. I kept thinking if I could just muster up a little more speed without further aggravating my GI system I could catch them.


It’s hard because the reality is I was 9th seeded going into the race based on season bests, and 7th seeded based on personal bests. Therefore I performed as expected or maybe even better than expected. While the finishing time is in no way a PR, it was definitely PR effort and had the weather been more ideal I felt I would have crushed my previous best. I am happy that I went for it and took a chance. I am also really encouraged with where my fitness is at. My HR was very controlled for such a race, which shows me that had my GI system allowed it there was a little more left to give from my legs/cardiovascular system. I also finished very well considering how close I was to other girls who have personal best and season bests a lot faster than my own. This is another indicator that given the right race and right conditions I am ready to destroy my PR. I am really happy that this is only the midpoint of my summer competition season and am really looking forward to racing in Beijing at World Championships in the end of August. That race unfortunately by no means will be ideal weather conditions (hot, humid, terrible air quality) but will be another chance to battle it out with these same girls and the rest of the World’s best.

All in all, I’m not satisfied, but I’m dissapointed, mostly I’m hungry and eager for more! Cheers to another solid 4 weeks before World Champs!!!

 A huge thanks!

As with any race it takes a lot to get to the starting line. This includes all those who have helped with my training, my recovery, and my general state of happiness and positivity. I have such an amazing network of support that I am thankful for every single day. My family, friends, coaches, and chiropractors are phenomenal! Also special thank you cheering shout out to fellow US race walkers John Nunn (who should have been racing 2 hrs after me) , Mike Manozzi, Jon Hallman and Stella Cashman for making the trip to come out and cheer Miranda and I on live!


My family who got to watch and cheer live; enjoying post race lunch while I recovered!

When you race for Team USA there is a whole additional group of people from USATF that navigate and negotiate all of our travel, stay and training needs when we arrive in the host city. This trip was comprised of an exceptional staff from USATF, some of my personal favorites are Head Coach Rose Monday, Team Manager Marsha, and Tracey Sundland (who was amazing working the aid table). Additionally on this trip I met Dr Roundtree who was extremely helpful immediately after finishing in dealing with my GI recovery process as well as helping figure things out in the future. Head Athletic Trainer Jody Moore was also fantastic, he helped take care of our pre-race needs as well as the very important role of prepping our ice vests, getting enough ice and towels to keep us from heating up too quickly during warmup and was ready to jump into action if need be during the race. He also helped make the right call in preventing me from getting an IV immediately after the race since I didn’t have a TUE (therapeutic use exemption) form on file. While an IV would have helped tremendously rehydrate me post race without stressing my GI system, it turns out that unless I am in the state of a medical emergency and my vitals are not stable I could not receive and IV without a previously filed TUE. And last but not least fellow Pan Am Teammate from 2011, Camille Herron, who was working for the USOC, was there cheering every step of the way! Thank you again everyone!



Pan Am Games: Part 1

IMG_4891The experience:

They call the Pan Am Games the Olympics of the Western Hemisphere, as 41 countries from North, South, Central America and the Caribbean come together and compete in all the events contested at the Olympic Games. The Pan Am Games are held like the Olympics once every four years, always the year preceding the Olympic Games. The first time I qualified was in 2011 when it was held in Guadalajara, Mexico at an elevation of      .  Due to the altitude distance athletes were given the opportunity to attend a preamp at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, CO. I took advantage of this opportunity and had an amazing 10 day experience adapting to altitude, meeting new people and learning some great sports science from USOC top sport science medicine specialist Randy Wilbur. After Colorado Springs we flew to Houston for Team processing (aka get a ton of free Team USA gear) and then to Mexico. I opted to only be in Mexico for just over two days because of my dietary needs which would be more easily met stateside. As a result the whole Pan Am Games experience, the athlete village, watching other events, cheering on Team USA athletes, swapping pins etc etc seemed to elude me.

This time around I was psyched to take full advantage of the entire experience, especially because it was in Toronto, Canada…culturally and dietarily synonymous with being in the US. But to my surprise we were only allowed to arrive 3 days prior to competition and had to be out by 10am the following morning. Wow what a bummer, guess I wouldn’t get to hang around the village meeting new people and spectating other events. Regardless I was super pumped for an amazing race and wonderful experience.  I was feeling so much positive energy leading into the Games and was bursting with excitement, ready to race.

My travel to Toronto was smooth and easy. I met my pilot in the airport prior to take off and got to talking about his daughter’s running and his triathlon races. Then my seat mate was actually flying home to Canada to catch the Volleyball game that night and his daughter’s (who must be very talented) were actually coached by some of those players. He was psyched about the Games and made me more excited just talking about it all. It took us longer to get down the runway than actual time spent in the air. I arrived in Toronto airport (totally decked out in Team USA gear as instructed) and was instantly greeted by Team USOC staff to help guide me through checkin. I got to speed through customs and immigration and got my Pan Am Games credential. Then it was off to Team processing at a local Hilton Hotel. Upon arriving at the Hilton Miranda was waiting for me, she had already gotten all her free swag. After trying on and sizing all my new gear I was ready  to head over to the Athlete Village with Miranda.

IMG_4930IMG_4882In the village we checked in and got our room keys. The room was modest but great. The beds were decently firm so I was happy and we had a bag full of goodies waiting for us. After settling in our Team Manager Marsha gave us a tour of the entire Village. Since we would be there for such a short period of time most extras like the weight room wouldn’t be needed. After our tour we headed to the cafeteria and met up with Canadian TEAMmate Rachel. The cafeteria was spacious and the food was pretty good. Some days the beef was tender and tasty, other days the chicken was a better option. I guess the benefit of staying for only three days was we wouldn’t get sick of the food as it was pretty much the same 10 options every day. That night we watched some of the Pan Am Games competition on Miranda’s laptop and went to bed.


Day 2:


Post massage Normatex pants flush while watching the record breaking 1500m Diamond League Race

We woke up, worked out and had breakfast with Rachel again. Breakfast is always my fav meal and usually pretty easy to find good eats abroad. I enjoyed some toast, hard boiled eggs, juice, and ham. The rest of the day we hung low, showered, got massages, and watched some Diamond League races,  Pan Am Games TV, and talked A LOT! I felt amazing on the massage table and was happy to hear Ena tell me my body felt really well cared for, thanks Dr Duggan and Amico at Duke Chiropractic, muscles definitely wouldn’t have felt so fresh and lithe without continual work from you guys! Before you knew it another day had come and gone and it was bedtime again.

Day 3:

We woke up and trained again. Today was only 6k. It’s crazy to think about that in taper week our last three days of training will equal our race day mileage. I was feeling good and ready to go. The sun came out and the humidity had rolled in. Too bad we didn’t race two days prior, looked like tomorrow would be somewhat of a suffer fest. We got a good indication of how the weather would impact us watching the women’s marathon race. USA teammate Lindsey took the bronze medal, and Sarah fought hard through 18mile. As we would later learn Sarah was battling an injury and hadn’t run anywhere close to 18miles in the past 5 weeks, let alone in one race. I wish we got to hang out with Sarah more, she was super sweet and if she hadn’t come and introduced herself the day we arrived we may have totally missed her. I’m excited to meet up with her in the future as she trains in Central Park and runs with fellow Sachem Alum Jeanna Composti, talk about a small world. I love the track & field community!

Later that day Miranda and I took a stroll around the Village and took lots of touristy pictures. IMG_4857IMG_4866IMG_4873IMG_4898IMG_4877We had to be smart not to stay out to long as midday it was sunny, humid and well into the 80’s. Afterwards we went our separate ways and met up with family that came into town to cheer us on. I love racing internationally and every race is special in it’s own way but when my family can be there to watch me live…it’s a feeling like no other. This time I was lucky to have Mom, Kristie, Katie, Joey, AND Aunt Chris and Uncle Brian. It was so great knowing I’d have them out there the next day. I would also have Coach Tim and Miranda’s parents and Rachel’s Family.

Meeting up with my family Saturday afternoon was the first time I left the Village upon entering on Thursday evening. It’s always a challenge to coordinate meeting up when you no longer have cell service. We survived cell-phone free meet up, and walked to the local distillery area. There we found a nice little cafe and all ordered a drink and relaxed catching up on everyone’s trip.

P1010643 P1010642After an hour or so they were ready for dinner and it was time for me to head back to the Village and eat my boring prerace food. Back in the Village I got to What’s App Tim to go over race plans and boosted my excitement and confidence even more.IMG_4906 I happen to meet up in the cafeteria with Miranda who also had met up with her parents in the Distillery area. By the end of dinner I felt I was force feeding myself but knew it was important to eat a really full meal because I would not be eating anymore until after my race.

After dinner it was time to do some pre-race prepping of aid bottles, uniform, racers etc etc. Then it was time to go to bed. The sun was just starting to set as we were getting into bed, we knew we’d beat the sun up the next day as our alarms were set for 4:10am to be ready to catch the 5:10 bus shuttle! All that was left now was to sleep as best as possible, because come tomorrow I would be on pre-race autopilot!


Goodnight Toronto!

Goodnight Toronto!



June 23rd…the perfect trifecta!



While today is a special day for me seeing as it is my birthday, it is also a very important day for girls all over the USA, and athletes around the world. Today, June 23rd is the anniversary of Title IX and Olympic Day!

What is Title IX and why do I care? Title IX is a law passed on June 23rd 1972 that requires gender equality for boys and girls in all educational programs that are federally financed. Most often we hear Title IX brought up and discussed in issues regarding gender equality in sports, but this is only one of the many important areas of education that Title IX applies to and impacts. I could go on and on about the rules and regulations as well as the impact and improvements that are a result of Title IX. However, I’ll keep it short and sweet in this post. Title IX is important because it forced the world to open its eyes to the power and strength of females. It has resulted in a plethora of opportunities both athletic and nonathletic alike for females of my generation that pervious ones, as recent as my own Mother’s generation were not privy to. I am very thankful for all those who fought, pushed, and advocated for Title IX. The world that I grew up in never doubted or questioned my early childhood Olympic Dreams. And moreover, there were abundant opportunities for me to pursue sports as young as 5 years old straight on through secondary school. I am forever thankful for all my athletic opportunities, I fell in love with the game of soccer when I was a little girl, it is a sport I have always loved and will forever be a fan of. My greatest childhood sports hero was Mia Hamm. Watching her and her US teammates win World Cup Gold in 1999 on tv was amazing. Reading about Mia Hamm’s athletic childhood experiences was an eye opener of just how far female sporting opportunities have come. I take great pride in the fact that I was born on a day when history was made. For more info about Title IX check out these two websites:

June 23rd is also Olympic Day! I guess it’s only fitting that not only am I an Olympic aficionado but an Olympian as well! As stated on Team USA’s website, “Olympic Day is the celebration for youth around the world to observe the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. It is also a celebration of the Olympic Day pillars: move, learn and discover.” People all over the world are encouraged to be active and get moving. The Olympian Association helps Olympians network and set up Olympic Day celebrations in their communities all around the US. For more info about an event in your area checkout the Team USA website.

Did you participate in an Olympic Day Celebration? You may have seen many Olympians and Olympic hopefuls alike tweeting and posting on social media how sports changed their lives and what they did on Olympic Day to bring them one step closer to their own Olympic aspirations. I can still remember watching the 1996 Olympics swept up in awe as Keri Strung stuck her landing, earning Team USA the gold medal. That was the day my Olympic Dream was born. It didn’t matter that I was only 10years old, a good soccer player but in no means exceptional or even great. All that mattered was I became inspired and knew that one day I too wanted to be an Olympian. To me Olympic Day is a reminder to all to dare to dream! Because if you follow your heart and believe in yourself there is an amazing world of experiences waiting. It would be another 4 years before I would be introduced to my Olympic event of race walking, you just never know where the future will take you…hey maybe you too will compete for our country one day!

Ultimately June 23rd is a day celebrated by getting out, being active, and doing something to bring you one step closer to your dream. I may already be an Olympian but the passion  burns just as bright as it did 4 years ago. I am almost 1 year out from qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. Today I celebrated my birthday, Title IX, and Olympic Day with my last track workout before USA Outdoor Nationals. No better way to start the day than with a post workout high! What did you do today?



Katie and I post workout: last day of intervals before Nationals a success!

Katie and I post workout at Seneca Middle School. Today was our last day of intervals before Nationals.


2015 Pan Am Cup in Arica, Chile

Another incredible international racing experience in the books.

IMG_5184Headed into competition my mind was mixed with wanting to medal to bring home some hardware to USATF and being nervous that I was no where near acclimated for the weather. The winter was long and brutal and spring was dragging her feet. I left for Chile with the weather still in mid 40’s during the morning and only reaching mid 50’s midday aside from one or two warmer days (ironically it was 70 when we left). Arica, Chile as expected was a warm high 60’s in the am very humid before the cloud burn off and mid 70’s by mid day with humidity decreasing. I was scheduled to race at 4pm originally which would require a very structured eating schedule 24hrs prior to the gun. As it turned out all the races were delayed by an hour to accommodate the early morning men’s 20k since sun rise was only 7:57am. This would hopefully make it slightly cooler for my race.

IMG_5191Leading up to the race all was going well. Travel was smooth despite several rushed frantic connections and my legs felt really great all things considered.I also wasn’t feeling exhausted from lack of plane sleep and did well on my first afternoon shake out upon landing on only 90min of sleep in past 24hrs! The time zone was negligible since they were only 1hr ahead of NY.IMG_3697

The food seemed good the first day for lunch with veggie rice and hard boiled eggs, but was unfortunately oily pasta for dinner. I have done this plenty of times by now and came prepared with my own packets of microwave rice and tuna. Not the tastiest of meals but nutritionally it got the job done. I picked up some variety with oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts, granola bars, peanut butter, ensure nutrition drinks and soup for race night dinner. Friday my stomach was shaky all morning and I decided to no longer eat any of the provided food. It settled down that night thankfully and all else went smoothly.


Race day:

I woke up at 5:30am and force fed myself 7 slices of cinnamon bread, 3tbsp of peanut butter, one large banana, and 4 egg-hard boiled eggs whites and two yoke plus 500ml of water. Then it was back to bed to try to sleep as much as possible and wake up at 12:30pm to drink one ensure bottle. From then through the race it was Maxim Sports Drink (calories and electrolytes) and water only.

We agreed the night before to meet at 3:30pm down in the lobby to walk to the course. It was extremely convenient having our hotel on the race course. The call room was extremely lax and we were able to come and go getting ready as we pleased up until about 10mim til race start time. I followed my usual prerace routine and did my best to stay cool. We were unable to use ice vests since they need to be frozen the night before and the hotel would not give us access to the freezer. Our wonderful team staff helped improvise and chilled down small towels in coolers of ice water. By the time I got to the starting line I was soaking wet from head to toe and had a cup full of ice cubes in my racing top.

The gun went off and my body went into autopilot. Rachel (Canada) took the race out. I knew we must be going on the more conservative side as my heart rate was low and this was definitely not the case warming up.

DSC05368 DSC05371


Catching girls as they fell of the lead pack. Up ahead in blue is the Guatemalan girl I would have on me most of the 2nd half of the race.

It wasn’t until our first kilometer that we knew how fast we were going when we clicked off 4:45. To give perspective my goal pace for ideal race conditions is 4:30, and a handful of competitors in the lead pack had gone that pace or faster previously. We picked it up hitting 4:37 for the next km. At this point I was racing at the correct HR zone but unfortunately had a choice to make. I could back it off and stay with people slowing down or I could pick it up and see just how fast the leaders wanted to go. I decided to go with the leaders and hit 4:28 for the next km, this was way too fast and too much of a taxing effort with my HR several beats above where it should be. I decided to ease off and knew I would have to race solo and try to pick people off as they dropped. 11095666_10152769558030997_5059631989416780223_o 11128095_10152769557975997_9160866007105418958_oThis is pretty much how the next 16k proceeded. I moved from about 10th place into 5th place by 10k or so and then pressed on to make sure number 6 and 7 didn’t come back up on me.

I finished in 1:34:06. Slower than PAC trials, and well off my PR but felt very satisfied with the way I raced. I was fortunate not to have to walk solo for the majority of the race although I was the one setting and pressing the pace. The one time I decided to ease up and let someone else take the km into the wind we slowed by 8seconds! With about 7km to go both glutes began to fatigue but unlike PAC Trials where just the left one locked up both of them became pretty evenly spent. I hung tough and powered on, despite slowly slowing splits. I was never close to the leaders after that first 3k and they would go on to finish between 1:29:30 and 1:31:30. I knew I had to fight to hold onto 5th place in case one of the leaders dropped or was DQ’d (a Peruvian girl and Guatemalan girl both had two red cards so it was entirely possible).

I know there is more work to get me strong enough especially in this weather to be able to race against that top pack. That will be the focus of the next two months of training between now and Pan Am Games. I am unsure of what my average HR was for the entire race as my strap was slipping from the first 1km on (most likely due to the amount of ice I put in my racing top). Just after 15km it was no longer accurately reading my HR and I pulled it off and chucked it. Overall it was a very solid race, and still under both the 2015 IAAF World Standard and 2016 Olympic Standard. To top it off, Miranda had a very strong race and together with her and Katie Burnett who hung on and dug deep we scored 35 team points earning third place Pan Am Team Title! This was rewarded with a large team trophy that we will be sending back home to USATF!


Post race MM squared smiles!


Congrats Team!


Wole USA Team night before the races began!








While our number one goal is to race well on these trips, after the race we try to fit in as much fun as possible! (Although it isn’t as though we aren’t enjoying ourselves before it too)


Finally getting to eat some real local food!

Long Island High School Girls  Representing

Long Island High School Girls Representing




Our Hard Core Abs!



ta da!


Post banquet Zen

Feel the burn

Feel the burn


Say Cheese!


Sending love for Arica back home


When your Coach thinks he’s killin it at the aid station



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Pan Am Cup Trials Race Recap and Reflection


Quite simply today did not go as hoped but it wasn’t even that it wasn’t my day. I went out with TEAMmate Natos as planned and the goal was to go out in 1:31:00 pace.

Walking 1st half of the race with TEAMmate Natos

Walking 1st half of the race with TEAMmate Natos photocredit:

We pushed a little early and came through 5k in 22:30…the problem is I knew I was working and by 7.5k I was working way harder than I should have because my left glute was starting to get snagged. Mid race there is not really much that can be done when a muscles starts locking up and so I pressed on. We were slowing and it was time for Natos to take off around 10k and hunt down 5th place for a shot at the Pan Am Cup (PAC) team. I knew very well what happens when I train and race solo, I am slowww.  After about a lap of holding the pace I fell off 20sec for a single 1.25k loop. I was shocked how much I slowed and looking at my Heartrate (HR) monitor confirmed this slow pace as my HR dropped 5beats which was a lot. Now it was a battle of survival and I just kept telling myself to push on. I was really struggling to get my glute firing well and this resulted in a major loss of hip propulsion forward. I was literally muscling through it and overcompensating with my hammy, hip flexor, QL and even arms. Needless to say it felt ugly and looked ugly especially my last 5k. I crossed the line in a sobering 1:33:27 (unofficial lap recording hand time).

Crossing the finishline

Crossing the finishline photocredit:

This was at least 3min off the ideal pace I had hoped for. I was disappointed but not upset. I gave what I could and today it just wasn’t happening. Had I had someone to race with the whole race sure I would have easily been 30-60sec faster but still not what I wanted. Sometimes we knock it out of the park and exceed our wildest expectations and other times we don’t.


I haven’t had to reflect on a “negative” race outcome in a while and so that in itself sucked. I began to come to terms with it half way on our drive home. Today I was just a good American race walker not a real international competitor. My time was good enough for first place by well over a minute and still a top 20 ever performance from an American, internationally I’m probably somewhere between 50-75 in the world right now. But you know what that’s ok because the real important races are later this summer and by then I’ll be even stronger and faster…whether racing in a pack or pushing solo. I will continue to stick to the plan and have nothing but utmost faith in the training that my Coach, Tim Seaman, designs. It has worked well before and I will continue to develop and excel under his guidance. Workouts have been consistent and faster than the past now with Joey there to help pace me. The training is there and I will continue to keep putting money in the bank! 4 years ago I was ecstatic to achieve an Olympic B standard for the first time ever in 1:36:30 at this same race, now I’m bummed I was only 3min under that which would have clenched a then Olympic A standard (current standards are 1:36). That’s progress for sure, and even when race results don’t entirely show it that progress comes in slow and steady from the consistent day in and day out training. I couldn’t have said it better myself as post race I read what SEGVT Coach Schaub tweeted:

Screen shot 2015-04-13 at 3.12.54 PM

Those words definitely resonated within me, today more than ever.

What’s next!

Ok so looking forward and moving on I qualified for the PAC in Arica, Chile this May 9-10th. Which is really great because it’s another race opportunity and hopefully one with competitors to help push me to a fast time (conditions permitting). It also serves the purpose as a dress rehearsal to Pan Am Games which will be held later this summer in Toronto, Canada (Team to be decided at USA outdoors based on top two athletes that finish sub 1:42).  What’s even better about this meet is that my sister Katie also qualified as a junior again in the 10k! Last year traveling and competing together in China for the World Cup was beyond amazing! There is only one small down side…my Ph.D. graduation ceremony is that Friday May 8th.

Once again for the third time I must decide if I walk at graduation or walk competing for Team USA at an international competition. I had sworn over and over that I would actually go to this graduation, after all I did spend the better part of 6yrs earning it and it wasn’t just getting my diploma, I got to be hooded too. But as history as shown I am a competitor that thrives on challenges and walking across a stage to signify the completion of journey just couldn’t contend against the journey of traveling and competing for Team USA.

Defense day complete with family, friends and a cake! Sept 26th will forever be my true graduation!

Defense day complete with family, friends and a cake! Sept 26th will forever be my true graduation!


I had started to turn on the idea of walking at graduation in Jan when Tim and I discussed my up coming competition season and PAC was the ideal race for this point in my season, regardless of financial costs and logistics. Not to mention USATF funds our travel when we represent Team USA and navigates the logistics of all of it too. And so once again I am happy to announce I will be representing the USA internationally, and along side my sister!

Couldn’t possibly forget to say:

While PAC trials was not my ideal race it was for so many others on my TEAM and my club. We have 6 TEAMmates that qualified for PAC: Nick Christie, Alex Chavez, myself, Miranda Melvile, Katie Burnett, and Molly Josephs (Molly made her first 20k team!) and representing Team Canada is Rachel Seaman…way to go Tim 7 athletes! Of TEAM athletes, 5 had PR’s: Nick, Alex, Nirvana (represents Mexico internationally), and Molly in the 20k and Rachel in the 10k setting a new Canadian record!

Walk USA girls headed to Chile!

Walk USA girls headed to Chile!

From Walk USA 4 of us qualified for PAC: Katie Michta, Katharine Newhoff, and Cameron Haught in the junior 10k and myself in 20k. Walk USA also had 5 junior athletes PR: Katie, Katharine, Lauren, Jainee and Cameron. Special shoutout to Lauren and Jainee as this was their debut at the 10k distance, lots more great things to come in the future from this group of juniors! Congrats to all other athletes who PR’d and/or made the PAC team!

Last but not least: Thank You!
As Tim said, it’s takes a village and so many have been involved in helping me prepare for this race and my continuing journey to make the 2016 Olympic Team. Thank you to my beyond amazing husband Joey Coffey for training along side me for hard workouts and long walks even on the holidays. Thank you to my family, this includes ALL the Michta’s and Coffey’s. You guys have been so incredible in your support. Thanks Mom and Coffey Mom and Dad for driving down to Jersey to be there live cheering, it means so much!  Thank you Dad for all your behind the scenes work to resurrect this website and helping keep it running smooth! Thank you Katie Rose for being such an inspiration as you overcome training adversity and hiccups.

Change of scenery for post race morning workout in the pool with my Mom

Change of scenery for post race morning workout in the pool with my Mom

Thanks Mom for making our workouts at your gym a priority so that we could get the max out of our cross training!Thank you Gram and Pop for always feeding me well (perhaps a little too well) when I come to visit, and Pop for volunteering to get me to a local track to train before learning just what workout I had… 55laps worth to be exact, next time we’ll bring you a seat cushion! Thank you Coach Tim for my well crafted workouts. Thank you to my SEGVT family for helping push me in workouts, cheering along as I go by and always sending me good vibes and luck. Inspiration is a two way street and whether you know it or not so many of you have inspired me and fueled me in my races. Thank you to my trainer Court Felton for making me strong beyond my previous comprehension in the weight room. It has definitely translated into success. Can’t wait until this glute is firing on all cylinders! Thank you to Dr Duggan and Amico at Duke Chiropractic, you guys keep my legs fresh and recharged ready to take on the demands of training week after week. A huge thank you to TEAMmate Natos for helping me in the race. 6th place is rough, but you finished the race clean without DQ or a barrage of paddles from the judges…your time will come, hopefully sooner than later you’ll kill it in a big PR, I promise! Thank you to all those who have helped my TEAMmates specifically Tish Hannah! For sure “together everyone achieves more!”


TEAM Family Photo Photocredit: Jeff Salvage


New Year, New Name, New Goals!

2015 started off better than 2014 ended and I was excited to ring in the new year as the new Mrs Coffey, Dr. Michta, and racer Michta-Coffey. Ok, let me simplify my name…as I married my high school sweetheart Joe Coffey this past July I have taken on his last name, thus socially I am Maria Coffey, or Mrs. Coffey. This past year I also successfully defended my PhD thesis and therefore, professionally I am Dr. Maria Michta. The reason I am keeping my maiden name for scientific purposes is because I have already published under the name Maria Michta. And for the entire 2015 racing year I will compete under Michta-Coffey. Joe and the Coffey’s were very excited to see Coffey appear on my racing bibs and in race results.

Proudly racing as Michta-Coffey!

Proudly racing as Michta-Coffey!

My season opener began on Valentines Day at the Millrose Games. Last year I was less than 1 sec off the National record…and I didn’t even know it til after the race. This year I knew what the record would take and went for it, but it wasn’t in the cards that day. I walked away from that race with another Millrose Games Title, my 23rd National Title and my second fastest mile time ever. But even more important were the intangibles I walked away with that day. Some call it a rust buster, a race to test the legs, stimulating the neuromuscular connections that allow our legs to fire fast. For me the season opener is always a rust buster that allows me to believe again in my training. I walked away from my Millrose mile gaining confidence in my current state of fitness. This was especially important this year coming off of a less than ideal base training phase further retarded by extreme relentless winter weather conditions.

I always love racing at the Armory, in a way the championship racer in me grew up here throughout high school. I also love how it’s in my own backyard and doesn’t require much travel. This year I didn’t have the luxury of waking up in an upper eastside apartment but the afternoon race start made driving in from Long Island mid-morning a breeze. Seeing as it was only 1 mile with a race start time of 2:04 I needed to eat something for breakfast, something that I do not do for longer racers or training. It was the first time I was nervous waiting to get an egg sandwich… the last time I was nervous eating an egg sandwich I was hours away from defending my thesis!

Thanks for the awesome stick girls, love how she even has three braids like me!

Thanks for the awesome stick girls, love how she even has three braids like me!

My legs and body felt great warming up. As one of the earlier races that day I was able to take advantage of warmup time on the track before the meet started. Training in just one long sleeve and spandex was amazing. Everything felt so unrestricted and was moving fluidly. After completing my warmup I chatted with the Maine High School phenoms: Kayla Allen and Sydney Sirois.

Then it was time to stretch and before I knew it we were being clerked and ushered onto the track to race. The gun went off and the rest is pretty much a blur, not only do I not remember hearing the bell lap, I don’t remember lapping people until the last straight away where I finished in lane 3.

Receiving championship bowl from Bruce

Receiving championship bowl from Bruce

My championship bowl was awarded by 3x Olympian Bruce MacDonald. This was really special as he recently lost everyTHING in a house fire this January. If it wasn’t obvious from his 3 Olympic Births, Bruce is a fighter and the fire did not kill his spirit. He has overcome this tragic loss thanks largely to the Track and Field community specifically the race walkers and the local Port Washington community both past and present. I was honored to receive my award from someone who has not only competed and coached at such a high level but someone who has literally dedicated his life to developing and serving our sport. The outpouring of support for Bruce is a testament to what an amazing person he is and the numerous lives he has impacted. Thank you Bruce, and thank you everyone who has joined together to help Bruce. I am happy to report that the week of Millrose Games, he moved into an assisted living community and is back to helping with Port Washington track and field athletes. For more info about Bruce and ways to help click this link.

pizzaBeing as it was February 14th, Joe and I left half way through the meet to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day. We met up with our best friends in Queens and cooked homemade pizzas. Oh yeah and of course we had the rest of the meet live on TV playing in the background!

Next up would be my last stop of the indoor season, USATF Indoor Championships, which after being contested in Albuquerque, NM for 5 straight years, were back to Boston. Go figure I am finally finished with graduate school and have time to travel and the race is actually within driving distance! I was looking forward to racing at sealevel again. This year USATF decided to hold “off distance” races. That meant instead of the classic 3,000m race I normally race with year would be a full 2 miles (1618meters). This would prevent me from chasing the National 3,000m record and meet records. There is no recorded 2 mile National record, therefore whoever won the race would set a new American Record for the 2 mile RW.

I traveled up to Boston Friday night after Joe and my friends Jon and Liz got out of work. Unfortunately we hit quite a bit of traffic and it took us just over 6hrs to get there. Our hotel was great and I slept very well the first night. The next day I went outside with Joe and did an easy 6k shakeout. Then it was time to wash up and get ready to watch the guys race. To my dismay, credentialing was only at the meet hotel, not at the meet. Therefore when we showed up at the meet without credentials we were forced to turn around and frantically try to get them before the guys race was over.

Nick on way to first USATF Indoor Title

Nick on way to first USATF Indoor Title

I only caught the last 4 laps of the guys race but it was better than nothing (thankfully the meet was a full 2 miles otherwise I would have only seen 3 lpas!). TEAMmate Lauren had been texting me updates and by the time I was watching live TEAMmate Nick was already commanding the lead. He looked real smooth and relaxed. It was so incredible to be there cheering him on as he won his first senior National Title!!! Congrats Nick, the is just the beginning of what’s to come! Oh and let’s not forget the top two finishers in the men’s 2mile RW were also the top two finishers at the 50k Nationals this past December. Talk about dominating race walking, well done Nick and Jon.

After the guys race it was time to have some fun in Boston. I was definitely cognizant of not doing too much the day before my race but also tried to keep a perspective on it. It was after all a midday 2mile race. penguin EA JoeyWe decided to check out the sea turtleaquarium which would allow me to see something, not get restless from sitting around all day (as I would typically do the day before indoors) yet not be too strenuous like trekking around the city all day. The aquarium was absolutely incredible and I really enjoyed it! Afterwards we stopped at a local tavern for a late lunch and more relaxation. Then it was a late Italian dinner in little Italy that would have the boys spending over 30min searching for parking.

That night I spoke to coach Tim who for the first time while coaching me would not be present at USA indoors. My personal goal was to race 13:30 or faster, and keep the fact that the world record was only 13:11, a time not totally out of my realm. He told me he didn’t care about the time to focus on another Title. Ultimately you want the win, but how you achieve the win is also important. I wanted to earn it, and set a respectable 2 mile record.

Pre-race was not as smooth and ideal like Millrose, my dinner and breakfast meals were not as I expected but workable. Warming up I felt terrible and had a mini IBS attack about 30min before racing. Thankfully the warm up triggered it and I was able to resolve it before the race. At least my legs felt really nice and loose and I actually felt like I had tapered this time and was hungry from more mileage Thursday and Friday before the race.

The gun went off, and Miranda took charge with her first few steps. I decided to sit back and enjoy someone else doing the work. It is always less mentally taxing to sit behind someone and be pulled along.

Crossing finish line 2015 USATF Indoors Photo credit: Image of Sport

Crossing finish line 2015 USATF Indoors
Photo credit: Image of Sport

Coming around the home straight I could see that this pace was slightly too slow and decided if I wanted the win and a good time I would have to take charge and put in the work from the beginning. The next 3,000m I clocked off lap after lap pushing from the front. After about 6 laps I fell off the pace I wanted. I never stopped pushing and one of these days will be able to race solo well like TEAMmate Rachel. My official time is 13:37.02. Not exactly my goal but still a solid performance, which converts to 12:36.72 for 3,000m, which would be a 3k PR. Miranda never gave up fighting and slowly fell off behind me finishing just 8 seconds behind me in 2nd. This race is definitely a sprint for us compared to the 20k, not to mention relative to the 50k. Our other TEAMmate Katie finished 4th, which is incredible when you consider that she just raced 50k in December taking 2nd at the National Championship.

joey ea post raceOf course it was only fitting that the Northeast was getting another snowstorm. Back home on LI it was already snowing before noon and we had been receiving updates from friends in CT and elsewhere that the snow was already sticking and the driving conditions were getting very dangerous. After much debate we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to try and drive back that night and we would stay put another night in Boston. After drug testing which only took about 1hr (rather fast for me) and awards and what not it wasn’t until 5:30 when we got back to the hotel. And yes I had already pee’d three more times since finishing drug testing. It was getting dark outside and with the snow already falling here too the safest cooldown option was the bike in the hotel gym. I went for an easy 30min to flush out my legs and sweat out the extra liquid from drug testing!

post race cooldown

Cooldown on the bike! The motto of our SEGVT winter track season “Find a reason, not an excuse”

A day’s work was done and I was really looking forward to celebrating with Joe and our friends! It was so awesome to have them drive up with us and be there live watching and cheering. I am so thankful for the amazing network of support I have been blessed with.2015 USATFind Joe EA Jon Liz Everyone cheering back at home watching the webcast live on thank you too, trust me all that positive energy and excitement reaches me! And special thanks to @TimHutchings1 and @ArethaThrows for superb commentary during the live broadcast of my race! Missed the action live, watch it here!

French FoodThat night we had 8 pm dinner reservations with Gary Westerfield and a lot of the officials at a delicious French restaurant Jo Brassiere. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to relax and celebrate with. Thanks for dinner Gary, or should I say Merci!

I enjoyed my short and sweet indoor season but now I am more than psyched to resume my 20k training. Monday began a new week and a new season; the winter track season is over; let’s just hope Mother Nature got the memo and is ready for spring too!

Surviving Winter Training

Tough #Likeagirl

Tough #Likeagirl

2015 was off to a great start; my mileage was steadily increasing, workouts improving, and I was stronger than ever in the weight room. I was also in Arizona and in AZ even during their “worst week of winter” it was still very conducive for outdoor training.

Hiking Pinnacle Peak, AZ with Christina

Hiking Pinnacle Peak, AZ with Christina

By the end of my stay I was training in shorts and a t-shirt outdoors and hiking later in the day in a tank top. The morning of my departure back to NY it was only 5 am and already 65 deg. I was greeted with the harsh reality of NY winter when I returned to 17˚F  and that was midday! It got even better the next morning. I decided to sleep in until 8am and by the time I got out training at 8:30 there was already about 1.5 inches of snow on the ground.

And so my yearly struggle with Mother Nature to safely and effectively train had begun.

The challenges I was about to face that day and will continue to face for the next few months are not unique to me. Most of the Northeast and Midwest battle everyday with the elements to fit in adequate training. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past month and the way’s I’ve been able to overcome this seasonal annoyance!

Be flexible with your training schedule

Normally I have two hard workouts a week that are typically on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This winter I have done hard workouts on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The number one reason for these changes has been snow.

Plan ahead

While temperature was anything other than ideal a snow storm was around the corner necessitating an easy distance day outside...two hats, three shirts, three pants, double gloves

While feel like -9˚F is anything other than ideal a snow storm was around the corner necessitating an easy distance day outside…two hats, three shirts,one jacket, three pants, a scarf and double gloves

While weather forecasts are often wrong, when a blizzard is predicted to be headed your way and is calling for 2 feet of snow, chances are your training routine is going to be disrupted for at least one day maybe even several. My coach and I are constantly monitoring the weather predictions and making changes in advance to fit in a key hard workout or long walks prior to a storm. That way the quality stuff has already been logged when the storm hits and an extra day of cross training is a welcomed day of recovery.

 Cross training, Cross training, Cross training!


Was only able to squeak 12k in this morning…hopped on the bike for 60min XT at night. SEGVT knows all about the success of XT!

This is an absolutely crucial component to surviving winter training. I have seen time and time again just how beneficial cross training is when rehabbing/recovering from prior injuries. If it’s worked before it’ll work again. Cross training has numerous benefits, it allows one to get in a great cardio burn while resting and testing different muscle groups. As a race walker I cross train running 2-3x a week as an easy second workout. These runs allow me to pick up some extra mileage, flush out lactic acid, and get my muscle groups firing in a different pattern. I am a huge fan of the elliptical and often substitute my runs for time on the elliptical. One of the great benefits of the elliptical is the reduction in pounding and the stresses this puts on the body, especially the joints.

Recharged post swim

Inline with reducing impact, swimming is an amazing total body workout that has no weight bearing stress for the body. I have really come to enjoy a nice long swim after a hard workout earlier in the day.

Change it up

I can admitted it, living in NYC I was spoiled. I had a long bike loop in Central Park, which was almost always conducive for training 24 hrs post snowfall, and on the off chance that it wasn’t I had a gym in the bottom of my apartment with my favorite elliptical. Back home on Long Island the local streets post storm leave much to be desired and are far from a safe surface to train on, often several days post storm. This has forced me to look elsewhere.

Changing it up with Walk USA Teammate Katharine

Changing it up with Walk USA Teammate Katharine

I have found certain parking lots are plowed better and sooner than the local roads. I am willing (and have the time luxury at this stage in my life) to drive 30 min plus to go to other parks that have paths that are better plowed than the roadways to reach them.

Sometimes going around and around in circles is the answer

We have several indoor tracks within 30 miles of my home. However, access becomes the issue. I have found ways to navigate this. Look for local indoor races at an indoor facility that are open to the community. Long Island track and field (my local USATF association) holds 3-4 indoor meets a winter. These are a great chance to have to fun and get in a quality speed session. There’s nothing that says you can’t enter the 1000, 1500, and 3000. Be sure to show up early, often the meet begins setting up at least 30-60 min before the first race goes off. This is the perfect opportunity to bust out a workout. Just be mindful of other athletes warming up!

Ahh back to shorts and a T-shirt! Quality indoor speed session before meet

Ahh back to shorts and a T-shirt! Quality indoor speed session before meet

When the roads are too dangerous to drive

Safety should always be one’s number one priority. No amount of mileage, or “golden” workout is worth the risk of injury that will keep you out of training longer than any storm. And trust me in the moment it can be hard to resist…you know when you’ve had a great training week thus far and are on track for your highest mileage week of the month, or you missed your hard workout last week and feel you can’t afford to forgo it yet again. You are stir crazy and getting out there and training no matter how terrible the conditions can be beyond tempting (for all us nuts out there, we know this feeling all to well). But please trust me you can and need to wait!

So what do you do when you are truly trapped inside? If you are lucky to have your own cardio equipment then get at it and log that cross training time. If not do you own any light weights? There are great ways to feel the burn using minimal pieces of equipment. Don’t have any weights, you can bust out a quality calisthenics workout. All you need is your body for push-ups, planks, air squats, jumping jacks, burpees etc.

When all else fails be a kid again

The very stuff that is keeping you locked up indoors can be used to your advantage for training. Yes I am talking about the mounds of all that white stuff…snow. Obviously there is the time old task of shoveling which is definitely a great upper body workout (and remember to use correct lifting form so as not to wreck your back). However, if you are a little creative you can also work the lower half. Yes your neighbors may think you are crazy (and most likely rightfully so) but when you lift a shovel full of snow on one side of the driveway walk all the way to the other side to dump it. Trust me walking back and forth with shovels full of snow is exhausting for the whole body.

Remember what it was like to be a kid when it snowed? All you wanted to do on a snow day was go out and play in it, snowball fights, snowmen, and of course sledding. Get out there and be active, have fun and unlock your inner child. What goes down must come up, and running up a sledding hill will make your hardest hill repeat day seem like child’s play. No good hills to sled on, don’t worry. Have fun and be creative. Have you ever tried running high knees in a foot of snow? Go ahead and try; it’s exhausting.

Staying mentally sane!

Perhaps the hardest part of winter training loss is the mental toll that it takes. If you are a competitor like me you have to battle the fear that you are falling behind your competitors who live in more ideal climates for year round training. I am not going to lie this is probably the hardest part of winter training. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or had to miss, focus on what you are doing and have accomplished. Cross training prevents you from falling behind and believe it or not is also capable of making you improve. Yes I have PR’d 4 weeks after coming back from and injury that forced me to cross train for 6-8 weeks. I’ve watched my sister PR off of cross training, and cross training only. It’s amazing how the body is strengthened and how so many different types of training translate over to success in other events.

Lastly at the end of the day mental training is just as important as physical training and can even be more important. Keep your thoughts positive, keep your belief strong and your goals will be attained. Because when race day comes, and that gun goes off you’ve got to believe that you have given it your all to get on the line, and you are ready to fight to cross that line. As local high school Coach Schaub likes to say, “find a reason; not an excuse.”

My motivation!

My motivation!

Winter training reinforces what those reasons are, what is it that makes us get up and battle the frigid cold and bitter winds. What reason is driving you closer to your dreams? What reason is allowing you to fuel the fighter? What do you want, because it’s yours for the taking. And after surviving a season full of winter’s blows we inevitably come out stronger and tougher. That day-to-day perseverance and determination makes us who we are, defining us. In the end I am thankful for the winter training season and the competitive fighter that emerges out of the storm!

2014 Year in review

Wow, what a year, what a year! Nothing could ever compete with 2012 and the magic of becoming one’s childhood dream topped with becoming engaged to my high school sweetheart, but in it’s own very special defining way 2014 was literally one for the record books.

Major 2014 highlights:

  • Feb 15th -US National 1 mile RW Champion, less than 1 second off national record
  • Feb 23rd -Earned 5th Consecutive US Indoor National Title
  • March 23rd- SURPRISE! Bridal Shower
  • March  30th broke US National 20k RW Record 1:31:11
    • Qualified for IAAF RW World Cup
    • Sister Katie PR’d and qualified for IAAF RW Jr World Cup
  • April  22nd– Given green light by thesis committee to graduate!
  • April 26th- Penn Relays Champion
  • May 1st-5th IAAF Race Walk World Cup, Team USA with my sister Katie!
    • May 3rd highest world cup finish by American ever, broke own US National 20k Record and set 15k American record en route, 1:30:49, and 1:07:51 respectively.
  • May  31st– Broke US National 5k RW Record 21:57, national champion
  • June  28th Earned 5th Consecutive US Outdoor National Title
  • July  3rd– WEDDING! Married High School Sweetheart Joe Coffey
  • July 7th-17th HONEYMOON! First vacation not for track or science!
  • July 23rd– Thesis defense scheduled…this just got real
  • Aug 10th– National 1HR RW Champion
  • Sept 12th– Thesis printed, bound, and submitted to committee members!
  • Sept 14th– National 30k RW Champion, set 25k AR en route
  • Sept 26th– Dr. Maria Michta ~Successfully defended my thesis!
  • Nov 25th– Bye-Bye Evans Lab, taking gloves off for a sabbatical to focus training as elite athlete
  • Dec 2-5th  USATF Annual Convention, finally attending because I’ve finished graduate school
  • Dec 10th– Thesis successfully deposited electronically
  • Dec 29th– Hello Arizona, good friends, good weather, good training, great time!