2014 World Cup Trials Recap, Part Two: Race day morning

The night before I slept rather well and woke with my nose the least stuffed up it had been in past three weeks. This alone made me feel confident. The first thing I did was check my emails to see what needed to be done about not having my passport. And then my hear sank, Aretha suggested I have someone drive in my passport from Long Island. What do you do in situations of desperation well you call Mom of course. Only problem was she was down the hall in the hotel and couldn’t bail me out this time because we needed her to help Katie with her splits. To complicate it further my passport was locked up at Joe’s and his parents were also literally across the hotel hall. The only thing I could think of was to wake his sister up, have her get my Dad/or brother my passport and have them drive it in…oh yeah did I mention it is 6:30am! Fat chance, but Joey and my Mom quickly reassured me and I decided to forget about it til after the race. Joey was right I hadn’t even made the team yet so this was not something I should be worrying about.

I then proceed to get dressed in my uniform and affix my timing chip to my racers. Next it was time to prepare my bottles of aid. With my IBS and exercise induced ischemic colitis I have tried tens of different aid combos. The one that has worked for about 4 years now is called Maxim, it’s a powder that you dissolve in water, much like Gatorade powder. I went over to my bag to take out my bottles and to by utter dismay I realized I never grabbed my Maxim canister. What a complete idiot. There are certain things you never want to be without on race day and that is in order of descending importance: racers, jersey, personal aid (20k races), personal water bottles for aid, watch, and heartrate monitor. Well I had everything except number three on my list. There was no time for panic to set in; I was 15min out from leaving for the racecourse. There is nowhere to buy the Maxim, the US doesn’t retail it anymore and I have to get it shipped over from Europe. Seeing as it was only 53 degree out and lightly raining I knew I wouldn’t need that much fluid intake. I also knew that most of the winter in training I used only water or very dilute Gatorade. If I could manage in training then I had to hope I would manage in a race, after all it’s not like I had any other option. So I prepared diluted Gatorade aid bottles, hoped for the best and moved on.

The rest of my prerace routine went without a hitch. There was a porter potty on site to take care of business, the rain held off allowing us to stay as dry as possible and my legs and sinuses were feeling pretty good. During warmup I noticed my heartrate was rather on the high side, meaning I was probably still recovering from being sick, but this is not something that I could control. My racing heartrate average is usually around 180-182 for 20k. I was warming up at 158-162! I wear a heartrate monitor while racing to let me know that I am capable of pushing more as well as a warning to heed when its on the unusually high side that if the race isn’t over soon I will most likely crash. The only thing I could take from this was that I should pay careful attention to but not stress over it throughout the race.

Then before I knew it we were lined up at the start, listening to the National anthem, and getting our final instructions from the head official.

Shaking it out on the line before the gun. Photo courtesy of Mike Randall

Shaking it out on the line before the gun. Photo courtesy of Mike Randall

Bang the gun went off!

Tim had given us all race plans, mine was to walk around 1:32:00 with Steven Washburn (a TEAMmate with dual citizenship between USA and Australia but races for USA). Steven was in great shape and would be able to handle the pace but often would go out too hard in the beginning and crash. I was in great shape but always thrived best when I had someone to go with. The course was not a typical distance at 1.25km, our splits for 1:32:00 would be 5:45.00. Therefore to be safe we agreed on 5:43 which would allow us to hit 5:43.? and not worry about being over pace. It’s really hard to judge pace at the start of a 20k and this was clearly evident after our first split of 5:55.8! Ooops no wonder it felt so easy and my heartrate was only in the mid 160’s. We quickly picked it up and dropped a 5:40.8. I settled into a pack that consisted of Steven and I walking as a pair, Mike Mannozzi at our heels, and Alex Chavez and Jon Hallman two steps ahead. It was great having all of these guys to work with, and I really mean work with. Steven, Alex and I all seemed to take turns pushing and keeping the group on pace. We came through 5k just under 23min. This was great especially considering how slow our first lap was. Doing some quick math I was right on pace for the American record and the boys would all be under the World Cup qualifying mark of 1:32:00.

Racing with a great group of guys: Alex on left, Steven taller with white hat, Mike #14. Photo courtesy of Vince Peters

 

After our next lap I began looking forward to our 10k split, I was feeling great, heartrate was in the low to mid 170’s and I was on pace for both a 10k PR and the American 20k record. Sometime before 10k we caught up to and passed Jon. Also just before 10k we would lap my sister. Before the race Katie and I came up with a code, she would say “good “with a thumbs up if she was at or under pace, and would say “pushing” if she was behind pass. I didn’t hear anything she said nor see the thumbs up she swore she gave but I could tell by where in the race I was lapping her that she was on pace for her World Cup qualifying standard of sub 53:15. This was extremely encouraging and motivating!

We came through 10k in 45:41, a new 10k PB, which bettered my split of 46:03 from London and was even faster than the 45:51 that I walked from 1k-11k in London. I was ecstatic and told the guys out loud that I just got a new 10K PB. This is the 4th time that I have dropped my 10k PB mid race in a 20k. Guess I need to race the 10k open a little more often!

Unfortunately, around 10k we would also loose Steven due to loss of contact calls. Just after 10k we would also loose Alex, or more like he would drop us as he took off and paced himself to a huge negative spit of 43:something for his second 10k! I was extremely thankful to have Mike. He had gotten a few paddles early in the race and picked up another call later. I was afraid he wouldn’t survive the judging. He had worked so hard and was on pace for a great race, plus I needed his company to help push me. Just around 15k I stopped doing the pushing and let Mike pull me through the next few 1kms.

world cup trials with Manozzi

I knew the race was starting to take its toll on me or at least the conditions were as I was having trouble squeezing my water bottles and was loosing dexterity in my hands as cold numbness set in. I took a bottle every single lap except for lap 1 and 16 and each time I never wanted the bottle but knew I was still loosing fluids and needed to stay hydrated. We hit 15k in what would be a new American 15k record of 1:08:24. That meant my 5k-10k split was around 45:27/28. Yet again bettering my fastest 10k performance.hanging onto Mike 2014 WCTThe last 5k definitely became more challenging and with three laps to go I could feel my legs tiring and the slippery turns harder to steer my body around. But I hung tough and never let Mannozzi go. We powered through our last 1.25km in about 5:37 finishing the race in 1:31:10. Good enough to break the American record by about 40 seconds and my own previous personal best from London by 77seconds! It was also my very first negative split race and I was very proud of that. I also not only negative splitted but my slowest laps were numbers 1 and 3! All and all I was pretty evenly split!

While there were many factors that could have prevented me from racing my best there were also many that came together giving me just the opportunity I needed to put it all together and race my best yet ever! The weather was a huge positive factor; it wasn’t too cold and not hot at all (I always prefer cooler than warmer). This was huge in allowing me to get through the race with out having to pay the price of forgetting my Maxim…the same wasn’t necessarily true post race but my colitis attack was on the milder side. There was also very little wind out on the course which is extremely helpful. Next the course itself was very flat and the turns weren’t terrible. The 1.25km distance also went by faster than 1kms. Next I was lucky to have a group of guys to walk with the entire race. Thank you Mike, Alex, and Steven for being so great to race WITH! Another mid race bonus was knowing my sister qualified for the World Cup Team and PB’d. Lastly, and almost as importantly as the culmination of all other factors was the amazing support group I had getting me to that point before the race and those there that day during. Joey as always was amazing with my aid. Apparently I managed to throw my bottles into a huge puddle each lap that my fellow competitors smartly avoided. It was great to have my Mom, who has been my fan since day one there enthusiastically cheering me on each and every lap in both directions. I was also lucky that once Katie finished racing that she came out to cheer me on…although the big sister coach in me would have preferred she did so wearing pants since it was still raining out and cold if you weren’t moving! To top it off, Joey’s parents drove down the day before to come and cheer me on. It meant so much to me to have them there. I felt bad because it was quite cold and wet standing on the side but they toughed it out and cheered me on, powering me through each lap. And of course there were also another couple dozen or so people who either raced as juniors and stuck around to cheer me and the other 20k racers on, were family and friends of my TEAMmate and competitors, or the other racers themselves. Each and every cheer, all the words of encouragement really helped to make my race an incredible experience. To every person who has helped me, encouraged me, and supported me THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart!

Next stop Taicong, China!

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2014 World Cup Preparation

My season had been off to a great start, even back in the fall during base training I could tell I was a lot stronger than in the past. I decided to make a few key changes, which I think, all attributed to my huge PB.

1st change was I began taking an iron supplement. My iron levels have always been borderline-good which honestly doesn’t really cut it for an elite female distance athlete. Why had I always resisted taking a supplement, well that’s any easy 5-letter answer USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency). Quite frankly from the age of 16 for my first international trip as a youth athlete they scared me. You see as an elite athlete we demand a level playing field and therefore pledge to compete clean. However pledging isn’t good enough so we are also routinely tested both in and out of competition. And the rule goes you are responsible for everything you take; therefore since supplements aren’t FDA regulated it’s considered take at your own risk. So for me it was easier to take nothing at all rather than worry something might be tainted. You could say I was slightly paranoid. However this past year after having my blood tested several times and each time a USOC physician recommend iron supplementation I finally gave in and started taking iron pills once daily. As a scientist I definitely know the difference between correlation and causation. So while I cannot firmly say taking an iron supplement alone can be credited with this seasons success I firmly believe it has contributed.

My next major change was I decided it was time to lift weights again. The reason I hadn’t been doing this all along was because A) it was hard to find the time with my hectic schedule, and B) I have very bad proprio-perception and awareness of my body and I tend to compensate when lifting, essentially cheating without meaning to. Therefore to ensure I am lifting both safely and effectively I need a trainer. Luckily my college trainer has kept in touch with me over the years and is one of the kindest most helpful people who will really go out of his way to help others. I asked him if he would agree to train me once a week after working with his other NYC clients and he readily agreed. Now mind you he lives on Long Island and gets paid very well from his clients, way better than I can afford on a graduate student stipend. But luckily for me I get off with just buying him dinner. I don’t think I have the same routine any two days with Court. He literally makes some of the exercises up on the go. And trust me he can find a way to make any exercise equipment 10x harder than originally intended. But the best part is almost every exercise is total body. This has really made my core a lot stronger; because he always makes sure it is engaged. I definitely feel that lifting has made my body able to bounce back from hard workouts faster. I also think it has helped to keep me injury free (knock on wood please!) as I am more well balanced and am more symmetrical in my strength. I cannot thank Court enough for all the time he has put in which has translated into valuable seconds off my time!

My next major change, which is probably dependent on the previous two, is that my mileage has been much more consistently higher. There is a big difference in the consistency of my mileage day-to-day as well as week-to-week, which adds up to a lot more total mileage each month. It started in base season and has built steadily each month. I am already 299km more this year compared to last year at this time (Jan-Mar), which is almost an entire month extra of training from last year.

My last major change has been the intensity of my workouts. Now I’m not going to lie my workout times still do not equate to my race performances. I guess I am a gamer, or thrive off of a taper, or maybe my training conditions are really a lot less ideal than most of my competitors; or maybe its some combination of the three!

How have I been able to increase my workout intensity, well the easiest way has been having someone to train with me for key hard workouts. Joey has really stepped it up and juggled his schedule around as much as possible to help me when needed as much as possible. It’s as simple as when I have 5, 4, 3, 2, 1k we wake up early get to the school 45min before the girls start so I can warm up and get through the first 5k with him. Then it’s on my own for 4k and most of the 3k before I am lucky to have key Group B and Group C girls jump in on warmup/cooldowns or in between their own workout sets and stations and join me for a lap or two on the track.

It was this very workout when the group C girls helped me with 3 of 7.5 laps of the 3k. I was joking with them saying that I need to get the American Record soon otherwise the records won’t say Maria Michta they’ll be Maria Coffey. At that moment I said I should get my name changed to Maria Michta-Coffey-O’hehir-Hempf-Cheeks-Allen-Silv-DePinto-etc –etc (please don’t feel bad if I didn’t list your name and you were there or have helped on countless other laps in the past!). How cool of a record would it be if my name took up an entire page in a record book? But honestly that’s what it would take an entire page or two of names because that’s how much help I have been blessed to get over the years from my Sachem Family. And it really is my entire Sachem family from the girls back in 2011-2012, to those who already graduated like Keira and Kelly but agree to come out when I ask now to run entire key workouts alongside me! You girls have all really helped me step up my intensity and I am so grateful!

The other way I have stepped up my intensity is I have started demanding more from myself at practice. I know that Tim often must shake his head after I report back a workout that I am happy about, one in which I am training at 10-12sec/ km slower than I race. I have decided that this is unacceptable and have really tried to close the gap between the times I hit in training and those in racing. With that being said I had a kind of “gold medal workout” just a few weeks ago. Which despite the way the name sounds is actually a bad thing. It is the title Tim reserves for workouts that he thinks you went too hard in and depleted rather than built up your engine. Just over two weeks out before World Cup Trials I had once again gotten sick. I was so rundown and congested when I went to bed Thursday night I debated texting my friend Andy and canceling my workout the next morning. However, I don’t always get the luxury of Andy’s pacing in workouts and decided to just see how it would go. Of course I woke up that morning more stuffed up than ever but at least I was less achy feeling. I decided to suck it up and go out there in the 20-degree weather and train. I was also already preparing the excuse in my head to Tim about why my times would be so slow. And then it happened I said “and go” clicked my watch and away we went. 3x 4k (2k out and 2k back course in central park, rather challenging in terms of hills) with 2 min rest. I look at my watch every 500m or so and when we hit the first 500 I couldn’t believe thinking to myself I must have looked too early or something, then with the snow still on the sides my 1k mark was unknown, but by 1500m I had a clear mark to spot and my watch showed I was flying. By the time I finished the first 4k I was in utter shock. I was glad Andy was there if for nothing other than to tell me that I had in fact started and turned around at the correct marks. He asked what our split was and I told him 18:35 over a min faster than the week before when we did 3x4k/1k. He said, “ok now we’ll just have to do that two more times!” And of course we didn’t do that two more times, but to my surprise once again it was because we were faster in 18:16 and 18:25! I told him not only had I never gone that fast on my central park hilly course, I had never gone that fast period, it was so fast that my second one was solidly under American Record pace!

I guess it really wasn’t a gold medal workout after all. Because, yes while my intensity had definitely picked up, it would still be slower than the pace I would end up racing at. I would have needed to be 18:14, 18:14, 18:14 to hit my actually race pace!

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2014 World Cup Trials: Overview

Better late than never right? So here it is: The World Cup Trials were March 30th 2014 in Whiting NJ. Practically in my own backyard without being in NY. While everything certainly did not go perfect leading up to and through the race the end result was pretty much perfect. That day in a nutshell:

PR’d by 1:16, Broke the American Record by 40 sec, qualified for the World Cup Team, Finished first American…AND my sister Katie Michta also PR’d and qualified for the Jr World Cup Team!

Post race smiles

Post race smiles

Thanks to all those who helped along the way over the years and especially this year leading up to the race.  To read the details about how I was able to drop so much time off my PR once again, and a play by play up to and during the race read the following two posts.

 

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Из России с любовью! (From Russia with love!)

Yesterday, I landed in Russia after a 9 hr flight and 11 hrs of being confined to my seat on the airplane. It was a rather uneventful flight where as usual I had a tough time being able to sleep. The only time I managed to really fall asleep was ironically right before takeoff when we were delayed on the runway and I dosed for about 40 min. The rest of the flight no matter how tired I felt and how restless my legs became I could not seem to fall asleep. Seeing as I was up that morning at 4:55 am for Joey’s Triathlon (he did awesome, finishing in the top 10%) which was 12:55 pm Russian time and was arriving in Russia 9:55 am the following morning it was going to be quite a battle to stay awake the rest of the day. To adjust quickly to the new time zone it would be imperative to fight passing out as best as possible.

As it turned out I flew from JFK to Moscow with 10 other additional USA track and field people (some athletes some staff). Customs in Russia was a breeze and consisted of waiting in a line rather short line and waiting for a Russian border control agent to stare you in the eye, stare at your passport, glance up at you again, look at your Visa and then stamp your migration card allowing you to proceed through. After this it was time to wait for my luggage on the carousel. There’s always that sigh of relief after all of your luggage is safely in your possession. To prepare for the worst case scenario I always pack all of my essentials in my carry-on. For a 20k race in a foreign country that means not only my uniform and racers but as much dry food as possible.

To my unpleasant surprise I found out that I was only allowed to check one bag. I had packed one large rolling suitcase weighing in at 51 pounds (technically 1 pound overweight) and a smaller duffle bag, both of which I intended to check in addition to the backpack and med size duffle bag I was carrying on. The cost for an additional checked bag was $100! I know in the past I have checked two bags for free but apparently this is no longer the case. Reluctantly I handed over my credit card feeling like I was being robbed out of $100. Now for those of you who don’t know me it may seem like 4 pieces of luggage is a bit excessive for a 13 day trip. The problem is due to my IBS/and exercise induced ischemic colitis I must be very very careful with what I eat prior to racing, especially in a foreign country where I cannot drink the water not even to brush my teeth! Therefore, I pack a hot water pot to prepare my own meals and all the food to do so in case what is provide to the athletes in not agreeable with my system.

Thankfully mine and the rest of the USA crew’s luggage had all arrived safely. It was then off to find an LOC (local organizing committee) representative to find out how we were being shuttled to the hotel. We were provided with a coach bus that looked like it was around since the 70’s with retro styled orange/yellow/brown interior that was more than gently with an AC system that consisted of opening hatches to the roof, which mind you does noting to cut the humidity. Good thing our lovely hot and humid NY summers had me prepared. The ride was just under an hour.

The hotel looked great from the outside and exceeded my expectations inside. We are currently staying at the Crowne Plaza. We were able to quickly drop our bags off in our rooms and then head straight down stairs to get a tour of the hotel and go through athlete accreditation. Upon entering the room the TV was on and playing light music with a “personalized” welcome message scrolling across the screen. How nice!

Now when I say we got a tour of the hotel I am not kidding, the place is huge with multiple restaurants, convenience stores,  jewelry stores etc. All I really needed to remember is where our meals were being provided and where our USATF athlete lounge and medical staff would be located. Accreditation was also a breeze and in addition to my ID I also received a brand new backpack which as expected Joey claimed. I guess it’s only fair for putting up with me being gone and seeing how it is Sachem East colors and the Moscow 2013 logo has a pole-vaulter on it, it couldn’t be anymore appropriate for him.

By this point it was already 1:30 in the afternoon and I had agreed to go training for a shakeout run with my newly met teammate Ashley Higginson (3000mSC). She assured me that even as a race walker I would be able to handle jogging next to her. We decided to train at 4pm as she wanted to take a short nap. I was going to fight the urge to nap so I would sleep well at night but that was a fail as I ended up falling asleep for about 40min before my roommate arrived.

My roommate is marathon runner, Jeannette Faber. That’s Jeannette with two nn’s and Faber (not Farber)!!! She currently lives in Tennessee and was a photography major back in college. She too ran for a NCAA DII school. I love getting to meet new and exciting people. Turns out she knows one of my fave distance runners, marathon runner, Camille Herron! Jeannette decided to join Ashley and I for our post flight shake out run. We ran along side a river in front of our hotel which while that may sound picturesque it was anything but that. Turns out there was a lot of construction/renovation going on in the immediate area and this was both annoying to navigate through and not pleasant to look out. Nevertheless it was safe and convenient and got the job done. After training we washed up and killed a little time before dinner at 6 pm. Only Jeannette and I were at the restaurant right at 6 pm. The food was OK, pretty bland which while boring for the palette is easier on the stomach. My only real complaint is the pasta/veggies that while claiming to be boiled sure have a lot of oil/butter. Oh well its sitting ok so far.

After dinner the majority of TeamUSA had arrived from the USATF pre-training camp in Austria. It was great to see Coach Tim and TEAMmate Miranda as well as fellow race walkers John Nunn and Erin Gray. I also saw previous teammates such as Jenny Simpson and athletic staff such as Phil Vardimin. After chit chatting I returned to my room to find Jeannette already fast asleep at only 7 pm! I resisted sleeping for an additional 1.5 hrs before totally passing out. When I woke up I looked at my watch astonished to see my watch read 10:30, wow I slept for 14 hrs straight!!!! Oh no whups, it was actually only 10:30 pm and I had only managed to sleep for 2 hrs!!! I then went back to bed again this time until 2 am, at which point then I was up til at least 4 am, and dosed on and off again from 4 am to 8 am.

In the morning I headed down to see what was for breakfast and found out that we needed to catch the 10:00 am shuttle to the track to go training at the track/park with a bike path. Due to stomach issues I cannot eat before training and was only able to grab a bowl of granola for later.

The practice track was nice, and even better was the ability to go out and walk along the river (much nicer area this time). Miranda and I had 12k to do and Erin had 50 min. I enjoyed the extra company during training and despite not such great sleep in the past 48 hrs and having flown and lugged my bags around the day before I felt pretty good.

Due to the shuttle schedule we didn’t get back to the hotel after training til 1:20 pm and headed straight to lunch. Then there was some more down time, before I found Phil for a flush out of my legs and had to report to drug testing to give blood and finally dinner. Drug testing was not the most pleasant experience since I have a great aversion to needles. I will share more later about my fear of needles and the importance of blood testing in our sport.

As for now it’s time for bed, we plan on training at a more reasonable time of 8 am and I still want to get in a Skype call with Joey.

Goodnight Russia, of more like good afternoon USA!

(For a few early photos, check me out on Facebook)

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Farewell 2012…The best is yet to come: 2013!

2012 was a truly remarkable year as I finally became my childhood dream and BECAME an Olympian. As you all know it wasn’t just making the team that was so special but my entire Olympic experience, especially the race itself and the fact that my entire family was able to share it with me. August 11, 2012 will forever have a special place in my heart. With that being said I was kind of sad to say goodbye to 20-12. It was a defining year filled with so many fond memories; a magical year that I never wanted to end; it was in all honesty a dream come true! As I sadly said good bye to one year I tried to focus on welcoming in the next.

2013 came as those that did before it, surrounded by close friends, celebrating and toasting the future and what laid in store. This year there was far less pressure and less nervous anticipation. I had after all become my dream and a significant weight was lifted. What was waiting for me in 2013, what new goals and aspirations woud I set for myself? This year, without all the additional pressures associated with an Olympic year, I felt as though I was going through the motions a little. I wasn’t so focused and dare I say a little less motivated.

But time never stops, life moves on, the world keeps spinning, so inevitably I too was going to have to move on, cherish the past while training for the future and enjoying the present. I had clocked some great end of the year workouts in Decemember which showed me that despite feeling out of shape coming off my post Olympic hype (as an athlete you always want to compare your current fitness to your previous race best, which while unrealistic during preseason/base training is usually inevitable, and usually discouraging as no one begins one season as well as she/he ended the previous one) I was actually in fairly good shape. It was great to be able to log some early season miles and not be hindered by any major injuries. Even last year 2011 into 2012 holiday season I was nursing a hamstring issue that had begun in late October.

Mother nature was at her best again mixing it up with snow, and cold, and then the occassional mild beautiful day. One week we had a cold snap where there temperatures were in the single digits (F) and even colder with the wind chill. After toughing out my repeat 2k’s on Tuesday of that bitter cold week outdoors I decided it was wiser to train indoors on the elliptical. It wasn’t until Saturday of that week when I was able to race walk again, but since it was still as cold I was forced to change my hard workout for a shorter faster tempo training session. I was lucky to have access to an indoor track that was a full 200m by showing up before the first high school meet and banging out some fast laps during their warmup. Of course this meant I was weaving in and out of runners and dodging hurdles but still better than the alternative to training outdoors. That day I had a super fast speed workout that I have only done twice ever because it is so short and fast and we primarly train for the 20k year round.

While this workout was suppose to serve primarily as a confidence booster it was anything but that. The fastest 400 I was able to bang out was only a 1:43 which to put it into perspective would equate to 6:52 1600 way slower than my goal time of 6:40. The workout left me questioning how was I going to handle that pace for four straight laps when I couldn’t even hit it for one lap.

I was left feeling very uneasy after that workout and felt I was struggling to push away the doubt and keep the negative thoughts from creeping in. It went so far that I actually contemplated withdrawing from the Millrose Mile to allow myself two more solid weeks of 20k training. (This thought was shared with no one, not even my coach nor my fiance!) I cannot believe that this thought how ever fleeting actually crossed my mind. And then thankfully my logical positivity set in and I had a great one on one pep talk with myself. I asked myself would I want to race the mile if it were an international competition and the answer was an easy, “yes, of course!” Well then why was it I was so afraid to race at Millrose; in my own backyard for crying out loud! That was also an easy question to answer, well I was “afraid to fail” or should I say “afraid of getting beaten”. I was after all the 2012 Olympian and that title felt like it came with additional pressure, the bar was set higher and I had a higher standard to perform to. In actuality this was all self applied pressure. If I were so willing to compete internationally and see what I was capable 0f, then I should go out attacking with the same attitude a local national race. And oh wait, didn’t I always compete much better than my training times would ever suggest? After that mini pep talk a sense of confidence and nervous excitement came over me and I felt ready to go, ready to get out there and fight fight fight. I was after a new PR and the Armory was the perfect track to do it on.

Now needless to say my heart was pounding as I stepped on the track and did my last few strides before being called to the starting line. But I was ready to go, and all that nervous anticipation was ready to be turned into kinetic energy! As usual, the gun went off and instinctively my fierce competitor nature took over and it was game time. The first lap I missed hearing my 100m split and came through lap 1 (209 meters since the mile is 1609, so you start 9 meters behind the finish line) in a little over 51 seconds.

Wow that was really encouraging because it felt so effortless and I was afraid I had fallen into a comfort zone as being a 20k athlete it is often hard to force one’s self to go hard and experience pain immediately from the sound of the gun. After the first lap, the rest of the field had backed off of me, wow I thought I can’t believe how much I had stressed over this race. Just because no one was stepping on my heels didn’t mean someone wouldn’t come up on me and be a threat later. Regardless I was on my own mission, 6:40 for a PR! I clicked off pretty consistent splits and finished in just over 6:40 with a new meet record of 6:40.06!

What a solid start to my 2013 racing season! This was just the confidence booster I needed and the reassurance that not only was I in great early season shape but that yes as true to self I race way better than my training ever indicates! I hate saying this but there was a little more left in the tank but no worries, I’m saving that for next year because TEAMmate Rachel (currently out on maternity) asked for a rematch and we are both capable of a 6:30 blazing fast mile, next year will sure be a lot of fun!

Millrose was a great learning lesson about how important it is to believe, truly and fully believe in one’s self and to never skip out on something for perceived fear of failing. I can safely share this because: 1) I was able to mentally get back in the game after a great pep talk 2) because it just shows you that no one, no matter how mentally tough and positive you think she may be is immune from an occasional negative thought or self doubt and 3) it is always better to take a risk, because you never know just how great you can be until you try!

In addition to my great learning lesson Millrose has left me more pumped and excited than ever before! Nothing will be able to top the emotional high that my 2012 racing season gave me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be even better, even faster, tougher, and stronger! Cheers to my new 2013 year, the possibilities are endless, and yes THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

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Post Olympic life Part I-back to being a juggler!

“Life is constantly a juggling act, too many balls and you are too busy worrying and do not enjoy the act of juggling itself, too few balls and you are bored”-Maria Michta

Everyone talks about a “post Olympic depression”, I can honestly tell you life has changed after the Olympics, changed as in everything is back to normal; well crazy, busy, chaotic normal that is. No more full-time athlete luxuries like sleep and long showers.

While I do not feel depressed there is a relief and my mind feels much more open and free. Only now reflecting back on how I was leading up to the Trials and even the Games themselves do I realize how consumed mentally I was. I can also now appreciate how mentally taxing and exhausting it is to be so mentally consumed by something. Literally everything I did, every decision I made I would ask myself how it would influence my racing performance and then ask myself what my competition was doing. While this mindset is great and allowed me to be the best I could possibly be come race day it can become detrimental after awhile.

While I have always strive to make smart and wise decisions so as to not negatively impact my training there was a gradual build up to this intense mindset that occurred over a 4 yr time span. The key to being successful in a post Olympic year is to regain a new balance between athletics and regular life. I can honestly say this has been extremely challenging. It’s much easier to have the mental mindset that training is my number one priority so all other social and work obligations seem menial and it’s easier to say no. Now my challenge is when to say yes and when to say no to social engagements. While I have definitely enjoyed increased opportunities to go out with friends, stay up all night, eat junk food etc it has impacted my ability to train fully. I had conceded to allow myself to “indulge” socially during my off period immediately after the Olympic Games, but now that training has resumed I was left trying to find that happy balance between a normal social life and training as an elite athlete.

In addition to balancing having a social life and maintaining the ability to train I also had to juggle another aspect of my life into the equation: graduate school. Since my mind was no longer entirely consumed by training and seeing as the mind is a terrible thing to waste, I wasted no time in finding something else to be mentally preoccupied with: lab work.

My current priority in a post Olympic period is to focus on graduate school with the intention of graduating in the next 1-1.5 years. When I came back to lab I had to start everything back up again, this entailed thawing my cell stocks, growing up virus, making new solutions, etc. In a way this was great because it forced me to ease back into the routine of lab. It wasn’t until the end of September beginning of October that I really felt I was working full time (10+ hrs a day) and actually conducting experiments to collect data. At first it was frustrating not to be able to pick up exactly where I left off and instead forced to re-prep and start up again but actually it was a blessing in disguise. I would not have been mentally ready to jump back into lab and science for that matter full blast after having been away for 6 months.

Once I was working full swing again in the lab I found that I was quickly becoming caught up in lab work and not doing a good job a balancing lab work with training. I would routinely find myself prioritizing experiments over training. It wasn’t necessarily that I intended to choose science over training its just the way it kept working out night after night. I was quickly learning that if I didn’t start prioritizing my training and setting aside defined periods of the day to workout that when the day was done and over I was mentally exhausted and ready for bed, despite having not done my second workout or even worse not trained at all. This would happen when I would decide to go into lab early around 7:30 or 8 am to prep an experiment before training. Then I would get caught up in my work, or decide to do just one more thing before walking out the door to train. Then before I knew it I was starving and too weak to train, so I would have to eat and resign myself to train on the elliptical or bike in the evening after work. By the time work was done that day it would be after 9 or 10 pm and I would opt to eat dinner and go to bed early. Now I can understand why so many adults become out of shape when they are busy. You really are rarely too busy to train (especially for an average person who only requires 20-30 min of cardio). The problem is, if you don’t prioritize working out it is too easy to keep putting off.

I have always loved the fall season of training because during this period we focus on base training. Base training consists of higher mileage, with lower intensity. Coincidentally, during the fall is the National 30k Championship, which as of late, has been contested just north of the NYC in Rockland Lake State Park; thus an easy day trip for travel. Seeing as I was struggling to prioritize my training I decided to enter the National 30k. It’s much easier to train with a particular goal or race in mind. The 30k would be just perfect for this because it is too long of a race to muscle through and show up unprepared. I knew that the only way I would race was if I had done the proper amount of mileage so as not to take any risks with injury. I got ready in 4 weeks, in which each week Tim gradually increased my mileage. The longest walk I had done leading up to the race was 25k, with the second longest being 22k. While this was not ideal, it certainly would be sufficient enough to allow me to safely race. The 30k was more of a glorified workout than true all out race performance. In the end it served it’s ultimate purpose, providing me with a reason to prioritize my training. This was that little extra push that I needed to get up and out and train each morning.

My game plan going into the start was to walk with TEAMmates Molly, Alex, and Nirvana. Molly was doing 10k and the goal was for her to have people to walk with so she could mentally zone out and just let her body do what it was trained for, and that was PR’ing. I walked with Molly for about 6k before it was time to get back up with Nirvana and Alex so I wouldn’t have to race too much of the race alone. Molly did awesome and finished in_______, with a new 10k PR. It was great to be apart of her PR’ing performance. Nirvana was after a 20k PR (her first 20k race actually) and Alex was going for the 25k Jr National Record. Nirvana had to answer Mother Nature’s call before 10k, which left Alex and I racing together. Unfortunately around 4k I felt my own call from Mother Nature and by 16k I had to answer. I knew that this was a likely scenario as I had not been able to empty my system for over 24 hrs. But sometimes there is nothing more that can be done before you step on the starting line. Luckily they had a port-a-potty on the course and it was convenient to step right off and take care of business. I spent 1:45 in the bathroom and lost the ground I had made on my competitors. In fact Katie and Susan (2nd and 3rd respectively) had passed me. It’s always an interesting challenge transitioning from squatting to race walking, especially mid race. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have dealt with this before in training and knew not to panic because your first instinct is to sprint back up to the competition. Instead I eased back into race pace and then was on the prowl to regain the lead. While I would never choose to have to stop mid race to use the bathroom if it had to happen to me once this year this was the best race for it to happen during. It also provided me an opportunity to “race” rather than walking in no mans land, alone as I was previously doing after Alex dropped me. Alex went on to crush the American Junior 25k record, and did it with an impressive negative split. Nirvana finished well, with a solid first ever 20k performance. I went on to capture my third national title for 2012 and clinch 1st place in the race walk Grand Prix (which was very close this year!).

Additionally, fellow Walk USA teammates out on the course were fairing well as Brittany Collins finished her first ever 20k in an impressive____: and her former Connetquot High School teammate, also new Walk USA member, Monica walked an impressive 10k in____ and she is only a 10th grader!

After racing Joe and I were in search of some breakfast but thanks to the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Sandy a lot of shops were closing early, luckily we found some bagels. We decided that we should probably do some light food shopping just in case. Once we returned back to my apartment in the city it was time for a nice long shower. Then I hobbled into lab for an hour of work and was ready to eat again.

I had survived my first “race” back since London and was over my post-Olympic slump. I also survived super storm Sandy, a severe hurricane that hit the Monday after the 30k. Due to the storm I was forced to spend my recovery post-racing week inside cross training while central park was shut down. Where I live and work on the upper east side of Manhattan survived practically untouched. The same cannot be said of lower Manhattan where severe flooding caused a lot of damage. Long Island and NJ faired even worse and several areas were with out power for over 2 weeks straight, other places such as Long Beach and Breezy Point were completely destroyed. I am extremely thankful that my family was only minorly inconvenienced by loss of power. And if the hurricane was not enough a nor’easter the following week added to power losses, flooding, and missed days of school. I was forced inside on the elliptical again one extra day but nothing really to complain about. While I definitely enjoyed having Joey around extra because his school was closed I know it only means he will loose vacation time else where in the year.

Once Mother Nature had settled down and was done unleashing her wrath on the northeast I was back into full training mode. It feels good to be back into my normal training and lab work routine, and yes I even manage to see friends on the weekends.

When I’m not in lab, working out, or sleeping I’m probably chilling with these amazing people!

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Go G-men!

As I mentioned Joey and I got free Giants Tickets for the Sept 16th Giants vs Tampa Bay Game home at the Met Life stadium. This was because the Giants were honoring the summer 2012 Olympians and each Olympian could bring one invited guest.

Not only did we get tickets for great seats, but we also scored field passes to watch warmups and the 1/2time show. The warmups were awesome and I took over 200 photos then alone. We were literally sanding right there on the sideline. At one point Bradshaw ran alongside the crowd and gave everyone high fives. What a weekend shook the President’s hand in Friday with my right hand and high fived Bradshaw on Sunday with the other!

Despite each player having his own specialized warmup to focus on key areas and plays it was awesome to see them all lined up stretching as one huge Team. While those guys are beyond ridiculously big, both tall and wide, wow are they also flexible too!

After warmups were over and the players returned to the locker room there was a little confusion about where to go. It wound up being that all the Olympic Athletes could stay on the sidelines and our guests had to go back to our seats in the stands. This is because we were literally on the sideline were all the media and players and staff are. Therefore they wanted to keep the number of people to a minimum.

Can you find Joey?

I felt bad sending Joey up alone, but at least he saw warmup and I would be joining him shortly in the stands.

We spent the whole first quarter on the sideline which was deffinately and awesome experience but also made it difficult to really follow each play. Especially when it happened infront of us ironically because the media crews would come swarming in.

Our on the side line view

 

View from the sideline

Then after the 1st quarter ended we got called out onto the field and received a huge applause from the crowd. It was in this moment that it hit me again, omg it was me that they were cheering for, I Maria Michta had done it, I became the Olympian. Normally I would have been siting in the crowd (in seats that would have cost a fortune) and been loudly applauding the Olympians getting chills as a pang of nervous excitement would rush through me. Today I was the celebrated Olympian! After our moment it was time to head up into the stands to our still really awesome seats.

I was excited to join up with Joey again and watch the game from an overhead view. After a slow start for the Giants they pulled it together and ended in a win. Like true fans we stuck it out to the end and got to take a packed train back to NYC.

What an incredible day, so thankful I got to spend it with Joey! Then that night it was back to lab and back to reality. I did a quick hour of work and got to witness another beautiful sunset that can only be seen from lab!

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Meeting the President

How I got to meet the President of the United States:

It has been a long standing tradition for the Olympians to be honored by the President at the White House. I personally was aware of this from my Coach Tim as he was invited in both 2000 and 2004. Therefore, after the Olympic hype began to settle down and my life returned to “normal” well at least normal for me, I knew I had this amazing opportunity to look forward to. It was also the one thing I won’t be afraid to ask my boss Matt off for, after-all it’s not everyday you get invited to the White House to meet the President of The United States!

The first wind I had gotten was when one of our Track and Field Olympic Staff members shared her disappointment on Twitter that only the athletes were being invited this time and not the staff members, the same staff that worked tirelessly and selflessly for over a month to ensure that we had the best conditions to excel. This was a shame and I was sorry to hear. At the same time this tweet got me excited because I figured official invites would soon be on the way.

Now like I said life was back to normal, lab work was picking up again and I had resumed more structured training so this excitement was fleeting as I had many others distractions to focus on in the meanwhile. Then to my surprise and soon there after alarm I had happened to read another tweet from a fellow Olympian who shared that she was getting her hair done for the White House visit.

I felt completely crushed and kept wondering how this could be. Then after about 5 min of despairing self pity my brain woke up and I immediately began trying to gather information, was anything public online, what other teammates were attending, did our USATF staff have any info or did I have to contact the USOC directly? After 30 min of scrambling to obtain info I knew that the event was this Friday morning Sept 14th (now keep in mind “today” was Wed Sept 12th!!!)and began to look into the possibility of taking an Amtrak train down. This seemed a plausible option, now to see if I would be allowed/invited this late into the game. Luckily our head USATF staff member Sandy Snow got back to me that evening and to my delighted surprise said that since I was in NYC and could get transportation down to DC they would have a room for me Thursday night and she would email me all the details. I felt a rush of relief and joy and then it hit me, Friday the 14th was my best friend from Grad school, Veronika’s thesis defense! Ahhh what terrible timing, I missed her wedding because I was racing in London at the Olympics and now it seemed I would once again be missing a HUGE milestone of hers. Veronika was more than understanding and reassured me that this was worth it and it was okay to miss her defense. I ran ( well walked extremely fast) back to lab and booked my Amtrak tickets, leaving Thursday afternoon and returning Friday evening. In theory I would be able to work in lab before and after DC and even catch up with Veronika for her after party celebration. Now I needed to finish up my experiments and prepare everything for the next day to maximize my productivity of Thursday’s half day of lab work. Oh wait I also needed my Nike shoes that I received in London which happened to be home on LI. Luckily my Mom is beyond amazing and was willing to drive out at 10 pm Wednesday night to give them to me. Thanks Mom, you’re the best! That night I went to bed excited for tomorrow and didn’t even care that I would be waking up at 5 am.

Thursday morning I woke up, tired but motivated to get moving, after all I couldn’t miss my train, this wasn’t like the LIRR where another train comes every hour. I took a quick glance on twitter (which I guess I have fortunately become addicted to) and my emails. And then to my surprise, yet once more, I received an email from Sandy stating that she forgot that I needed to preregister to visit the White house and they may not have time to get me approved for clearance. I felt like the rug got pulled out from underneath me. She told me she wouldn’t have more info until she landed in DC around 7:30 am and would keep me posted. I had no choice but to begin my day as if I was still headed to DC, this became more difficult knowing that it might not workout. I kept trying to stay positive but at the same time knew it was out of my control. I cannot count how many times I refreshed my emails that morning, anxiously waiting to hear the verdict. In the end I found out about 1 hr before I had to leave for the train. Not a moment too late! Wow what a roller coaster of emotions I experienced in less than 24 hrs. Thank goodness it all worked out, and I am very grateful not just to Sandy Snow because without her it would never have been possible but also to the White house staff whoever you/they are that agreed to rush my security screening so that I could be granted admittance.

Why I got to meet the President:

What an opportunity I was blessed with, and even more blessed because this would be the second time I was visiting the White house, and under two different administrations, Bush in 2004 and now Obama in 2012. On the train ride down I put up a quick post on FB (look at me getting so savvy with all this social media lol):

Intel STS Finalist 2004 White house Visit…can you find me?

“8.5 years ago I had a choice to make: go to high school indoor nationals and defend my National Title or go to DC for the Intel Science Competition. I chose science and DC after all there would be many more races and how many times would I get the chance to meet the President of the United States? Just because I was in DC being recognized for my merits in science didn’t mean I stopped training. Every morning of everyday in DC I woke up before the others to get my workouts in. Today I’m on my way down to DC and again I’ll get to meet the President of the United States except this time I am being recognized as an Olympian! Today I had to wake up extra early to fit in all my science experiments. Once a student athlete always a student athlete!”

Presenting my Intel Science Project: Radio Detection of Meteors at the National Academy of Sciences 2004

The response I got to this post was overwhelming. Thanks everyone for the praise and I hope a few of my “fans” out there believe it is truly possible to be both a student and an athlete! Those who are true student athletes get to experience so much more in life. It may feel overwhelming, but it can also give your life balance. Yes plenty of times I feel as if I have burned the candle at both ends all the while holding my candle over yet a third flame in the center. However, there are also many times I am grateful for the peace of mind that a good old fashion sweat dripping workout brings, it can really clear my mind, allow me to refocus and provide a great outlet for stress, both the physical kind and mental too. Having to fit in my workouts keeps me disciplined and structured and definitely forces me to prioritize my daily activities. I get more done in lab when I have a workout that I have to squeeze in. Being busy forces me to be efficient and productive.

The Lab that keeps me sane!

While my lab productivity definitely benefits because of my race walking the reverse is true too. While being a full time athlete appears to be an enjoyable luxury, often it can also be a burden in itself. Too often elite athletes become consumed with their training and mentally become burnt out. Constantly thinking about something, even in a positive manner can be beyond taxing mentally. Science keeps my mind sharp, allows me to explore a passion and provides something else for my brain to be occupied with and distracted by in a good sense. It also provides a great social outlet, as I genuinely love the people I work with. The lab I work in, The Evans’ Lab, has been immensely instrumental in keeping me sane during my Olympic journey. They allow me to vent any training/race walking related frustrations especially when I was injured. Additionally I enjoy being around them whether it’s talking science, as we often find ourselves unintentionally doing, or just shooting the breeze about life, weddings, friends, or even lack of sleep. The people in lab are a joy to be around. Essentially being a student makes me a better athlete and being an athlete makes me a better student.

Hello Mr. President!

My White House athletic credential…guess it’s not that official can you find the typo!

I arrived in DC Thursday evening and headed straight to the welcoming banquet that was sponsored by BP. The first athlete I met was a sailor named Sarah, who was from Florida but currently living in NYC. It was great getting to meet with her and learning about sailing, an Olympic event I knew very little about. Sarah also was able to hook me up with a contact from the NY Giants that wound up getting Joey and I tickets to the Giants game that Sunday as well as on the field for warm-ups! Once I knew everything worked out for me getting down to DC I kept wondering why it happened the way it did, as I believe everything happens for a reason. Well I think I figured it out after meeting Sarah. Had I known in advance about the DC visit I most likely would have taken the day off from lab on Thursday to “maximize” my DC experience. Had I done that I would have already checked into the hotel and traveled over later to the reception and missed the earlier welcoming party by BP, in that case I would have missed meeting Sarah and getting the Giants hook up! I guess the roller coaster of emotions preceding my trip to DC was worth it!

The rest of the reception was nice, although I had expected a sit down dinner rather than

Patriotic Cupcakes!

the hors d’oeuvre that were provided. Regardless it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up again with fellow USA teammates and even meet some new teammates such as some fencers and track and field Paraolympians. I even got to talk science and wedding planning with a geologist from BP! I definitely enjoyed myself. It was once again a late night as I crashed in bed around 2:00 am that was after trying on yet another new outfit Nike gave us, and ironing my new khaki pants. Too bad my alarm went off at 5 am! Yikes, I was definitely exhausted as this was the second morning on very little sleep. All the athletes looked pretty rough from lack of sleep down at breakfast that morning. At breakfast I found my London roommate Lacy the pole-vaulter and it was so great to catch up with her!

Then it was off to the White house! After waiting in line forever to go through security and then waiting some more since my clearance was so last minute I finally made it through onto the lawn. The White House had a mini reception with some pastries and refreshments. Even the napkins had the White House emblem on them, so cool! We had an opportunity to take some pictures and then it was time to take our seats for the assembly. Somehow the seven track and field athletes that I was chit chatting with managed to miss hearing our event be called and therefore sat in the bleachers away from the rest of our track and field teammates. Ooops, turns out those seats were directly behind the podium where the President spoke. Oh well, it was still an awesome experience. Michelle Obama began, with a few quick opening remarks and a few digs at her husband. Then Barack Obama addressed the crowd and us, congratulating us on our achievements both the feat of becoming an Olympian and our inspiring performances in London. Obama has always had a gift for delivering speeches and today was no exception. After his speech our flag bearers presented him with the US American Flag that was carried at both the Olympic and Paraolympic Games.

Then he began his meet and greet with the athletes. Michelle had already mentioned that Obama would try to meet as many of us as possible even if that meant blowing his schedule for the whole day. Of course we all sat in our seats and patiently waited for our possible turn to shake the President’s hand…wait what…absolutely not, we all stood up and started to push towards the front at which point the White House staff kindly reminded us to be patient and wait our turn and that the President would have time for everyone but that there was to be no delayed greetings, no stopping for pictures, and we were to continue to proceed forward after meeting him. This calmed the masses and relieved us that we would all get our moment. Some people thought if they waited to the very end they might get a chance at a picture. Seeing as it was rather hot in our long pants and t-shirts (yeah we took our jackets off rather quickly) and that after the meet-in-greet you could walk in the White House, Lacy and I and a few of the other delinquent track and field athletes I was with decided not to wait to the end. At one point when the line thinned we got on. Luckily we did because apparently not long after us the President had to leave and many people never got a chance to meet him individually. I may not have gotten a cool picture like Tim did when he met President Clinton, but it was still a great experience. Oh and did I mention while I was waiting to meet Obama I took a picture with Michael Phelps who was also patiently waiting for his turn! Additionally, I got to meet VP Biden, he congratulated me, shook my hand, asked my name, and asked where I lived. I then got a hug, yes a hug, from Michelle Obama, which was beyond awesome!

Just chillin at the White House!

 

After the meet in greet segment it was time for a quick walk through of the White House and time for some more picture taking of course. I got a picture with the great Meb, who I officially met and talked with Thursday at the reception. Tim has always spoken so highly of him as he personally knows Meb well since they roomed together back in the day at the Olympic Training Center. I was psyched to finally talk with Meb and I am an even bigger fan now. I can’t wait to watch him run NYC this November!

Not only did I “meet” the President but I actually got to Meet the Great Meb!

I also got a picture with Katie Ledecky, the young 15 yr swimmer who got to bring some of her classmates with her to the White house. I even spoke with one of these classmates who runs cross-country on her high school team.

Then before I knew it I was back in the train station and ready to head back to NYC.

The best customer service ever! Thanks Pret!

 

But first I was spoiled at Pret a Manger with a free lunch after they found out I was an Olympian and felt horrible for charging me for my lemonade. Okay, not going to lie they definitely made me feel like a celebrity. Thanks for the free food guys! I had spent less than 24 hrs in DC and made it back in time to celebrate Dr Redmann’s PhD!

Cheers to Dr. Redmann!

 

What an incredible day in my life, the life of a professional “student-athlete”!

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Become into BecAme!

The gun went off, it felt kind of surreal this was the moment I had waited for and it was finally here. I had a half a second of delay and then my legs began moving instinctively. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking or if I was thinking at all. I went out controlled and feeling comfortable and loose. The game plan was to sit in the back, hitting constisent splits and pick people off one by one. Tim anticipated that the first 1k would be okay, one large pack and then the leaders would drop the hammer and set a blazing pace. Around 600m I passed Tim, he gave a nod, reassuring me that I was sitting in a good position.

When I had spoke to Tim before the race he told me that he saw my family, flags and everything down by the personal aid table. After passing Tim I began scanning the crowd for my family. Another 100m or so down there were some people that screamed out go USA, and then I think I heard Chris Vaccara another Sachem Grad who planned his own Europe trip to pass through London

to watch me race in the Olympics. Without even thinking I broke out into a huge smile, this was awesome, I loved the crowd! Then another few 100meters and I spotted them, my HUGE cheering section my entire family and Joey’s all festive with their flags, and hats and personalized Maria shirts. It was so incredibly moving that once again I broke out into another beaming smile, a smile that made me glow inside and out! Then it was time for my first 1km split, 4:40 is what I clicked off on my watch, perfect exactly A standard pace, my heartrate was low and I felt incredible. After the 1km mark it was only a little bit before we hit the second turn around and then before I knew it we were cruising down a slight down hill into the personal aid station.

The personal aid station is in ABC order so the USA table was at the far end, all it meant is I would have to be patient to grab my bottle. I didn’t actually feel I needed my bottle yet but it’s smart to take fluids early in small amounts rather then wait for the feeling of thirst to set in. My bottle hand off went smoothly and now I was rounding the turn by the Palace, the Palace which I never actually saw because all I was aware of was my compeitors and the huge crowd of people cheering. There was a misting station on the course but required you to not walk the tangent inorder to passs underneath it. Since it was about 70 deg at the start and would only get cooler because it was already after 5pm I decided that the wind blowing some of the stray mist onto the tangent was good enough.

After going around the turn there was once again another section of people cheering USA, and once again I got a giddy excited feeling as I heard them cheer. As I came down the long straight away towards the start finish line I looked forward and saw that my TEAMmate Rachel was a few seconds ahead of me with another group of competitiors. She was maybe 5 seconds ahead and the few girls I was racing with seemed to be dropping our pace and closing in, I hesitated for a moment in my head if I should walk my own race or stay with the girls I was with. We came through 2k in 9:15 which meant that I dropped a 4:35 second 1km, but took a glimpse at my heart rate and it was still low so I decided to stay with the girls I was around. After crossing the start finish line coach Rose screamed out my split and told me that I was on pace. I sat there comfortably with the girls and continued racing forward. I came pass Tim again, he screamed out my split that he had taken and told me I was doing well. I gave him a nod and continued feeling loose and moving forward. The crowd was so incredible and continued to keep me excited feeling. Before I knew it I came up to my family again, I was loving it, I gave them an “I Love You” in sign language and looked forward to my next split, 4:39, good another effortless A Standard split, and wow 13:53 for my 3k, sweet! Then it was time for another one of my bottles, this time it was a little trickier to get because I was in a tighter group of girls, but in the end I just remembered to stay calm and relaxed and after getting my bottle had to surge a little bit to regain contact with the girls I was racing with. Our next 1km was again right on A standard pace in 4:39. I passed Tim again, he read out my split and didn’t seem concerned about my pace so I continued to race with the girls. Our next 1km was fast, 4:30, honestly this freaked me out a little bit but my heart rate once again reassured me that while I felt pumped and excited mentally my body was infact on cruze control and I wasn’t pushing too hard too fast. I also realized that we hit 23:03 for 5k, wow if I kept up this type of pace I was not ony set for a 20k PR but also a 10k as well. I didn’t want to get too excited to0 soon because while I still felt strong and relaxed there was still 3/4th’s of the race left and crashing was still totally a possibility. At this point I had already passed my TEAMmate Rachel, which kind of made me nervous thinking that she should be ahead of me and maybe I was being foolish too early and that instead of racing forward with the Irish girl Laura I should hang with Rachel. It was a fleeting thought because my racing instinct took over and I continued to race with Laura.

We hit 4:34 and still I felt amazing, not to mention the crowd kept my spirits on cloud nine. Wow I was actually enjoying racing, I didn’t know that that could be possible. Just after the start/finish line there were water bottles and sponges, I decided to grab a sponge to wet my head, it felt refreshing but either the water they wet the sponges with was incredibly gross our I was sweating a lot becaue a salty warm stream trickled down my face into my mouth, this was not such a pleasant refreshing feeling. Again I passed by Tim, he again yelled out my split I was waiting for him to yell,”what are you doing or why are you going so fast,” but it never came. I’m not sure if he was in shock and didn’t know what to say or what. I kept moving on eagerly waiting to pass my family. Another excited giddy feeling passed over me when I would hear them, wow this was my 4th lap and it wasn’t getting old hearing everyone screaming me on, I loved it, it was such an incredible rush when I would race passed them! 7k split clicked on and things were still going well, way under A standard pace. At this point in my head I committed to this pace and this balls out racing strategy, hey at least I would get a 10k PR and most likely a 20k as well, even if I did wind up crashing I would just have to hope that I would be able to rely on the crowd to carry me through. After all, Michelle a previous US race walk Olympian told me to race the first 10k with my head the second 10k with my heart. I may have only raced 1km or so with my head, but was pretty confident in my heart to carry me through!

Before 8k just around the aid table I came up to TEAMmate Sabine, once again this freaked me out because I was not suppose to be near her, I managed to get out the words, I don’t know what I am doing but just come with me, although I cannot be sure this statement was actually audible or comprehensible mid race. I passed Sabine and felt great going around the turn by the Palace! One lap to go until I hit 10k, I was still pumped and still feeling controlled! I came through by Tim again and literally raised up my arms in a shrug, and said I don’t know what I am doing. Tim couldn’t actually hear me and thought I was telling him that I didn’t hear his split. Nope, I meant, OMG!!! How is it that I am racing this pace and feeling so amazing! Again I passed pro USA cheering sections in the crowd and just kept feeding off all the positive energy in the crowd. Even the crowd sections that were cheering for Laura from Ireland were pushing me on. I know they were saying her name but still it felt that they were rooting me on too. I absolutely loved it! Laura faltered for a little bit, and I exclaimed, “come on lets go, do it together”! I needed her to keep going to help keep me pushing. This past year for whatever reason I really struggled racing alone and pushing myself when I was solo. Good thing this was the Olympics and there were lots of people ahead of me to look forward towards. I wound up coming through 10k in a personal bet of 46:02, my watch split 46:00 but apparently my first 1k was 2 seconds slow, I guess from my delayed start at the back of the pack. I honestly held a steady pace and didn’t push in that 2k, although I did want to break 46min in the 10k, guess I needed another race to do that. I was still feeling strong and in crontrol. Laura fought back up and pushed me to drop a 4:31 1k! Wow we were booking! Technically if you take my splits from 1k through 11k I walked a 45:51 for 10k, pretty freaking cool! I’ll take that any day for sure, well at least for now that is!

Then we hit 4:40 for our next 1k. At this point my legs began to loose their fresh feeling. Laura seemed to drop the hammer after seeing that slow split and picked it up. I let her go, I was honestly afraid that with 8k left that if we walked 4:31’s it would be too much, and I wasn’t about to throw away a huge PR at A standard pace. To my pleasant surprise my next solo lap was a 4:37, still sub A standard pace. Then I hit 4:42, whops, a little slow. At this point I focused on reeling in the other girls, but it was mainly them slowing down then me picking it up. I even hit a lap as slow as 4:47 it was when I had re-caught the Guatemalan girl in front of me and hung with her, but I hadn’t realized that she had slowed, so then it was time to drop a 4:36 right after that. My 2k’s were overall pretty consistent but my individual 1ks were all over the place. Oh well that’s competitive racing, and aside from 3 slow laps everything else was faster than A standard pace. While my body was beginning to fatigue at the end, my adrenaline high from the crowds allowed me to feel as if I was racing on cloud nine. I definitely was not in the zone, but it was so much better to be able to experience the rush and roar of the crowd then zoned out racing. My family was incredible and to thank them I signed “I Love You” this time with both hands! With 4k to go I found out that I was in 29th place, there was a Mexican girl on my heals and an Australian girl way up ahead. I locked my eyes on the Aussie and began to reel her in. Then I saw a judge with a yellow paddle, and wasn’t sure if it was for me or the Mexican girl I was racing with. I backed off a little bit, but then before I knew it, I was on my last lap and my competitive nature kicked in. By the last lap I was still pumped and managed to shout out, “Happy Birthday!” to Joey. It was at that moment that I realized how hard of an effort my race really was because my Happy Birthday was more of a struggled croak then and exhuberent shout! I guess I was breathing heavy and working hard afterall. I was closing in on the Aussie but she had too much ground and I ran out of real-estate, another 2k and I think I would have caught her. I edged out the Mexican although I felt controlled at the finish because the last thing I wanted to do was be DQ’d at the end. The last 100mdeters you step onto a yellow mat to allow the head judge to know that you are finishing. I wound up holding off the Mexican girl and closed my last lap in 4;27.

Anyone who saw me on TV know’s I was beaming in a huge smile! I immediately exchanged thanks and congratulations with the Mexican girl and then looked up to the sky. The sun was still out and I knew that there was Dziadzi watching me the whole time. It was such an incredible race, and I can actually say I enjoyed every minute of the race. I attribute this to the crowds, especially my entire family, each and everyone of them screaming their heads off, rooting me on, fueling me with a rush of adrenaline and excitement like no other. I could not have asked for a better race senerio, it was all I hoped for and even more. That day I officaily became an Olympian, infact I became the fastest American Woman at the Olympics in the 20k race walk, and walked my first A standard, in a time of 1:32:27, a time that rank’s me number 2 on the all time American performance list. Along the way I also got a 10k and 15k PR and was only 9 seconds off my 5k PR. It was such an exhilarating experiencing and I am so thankful to each and every person who helped me over the years, to all the people who believed in me, the people who cheered me own both at the Palace lining the crowds as well as those back home sending good vibes across the Atlantic to me! Thank you everyone for allowing me dream to come true, on August 11th I became and Olympian and got to put the A in became as I achieved the A standard! I may have caught “five ring fever” but I just learned that this condition is chronic, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon! Rio2016!…?

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Race Day!

Breakfast fit for an Olympian!

My alarm goes off 5:30am, Good morning London, it’s race day! It’s amazing how much easier it is to wake up very early when it’s race day. Today it was the real deal, no more practice meal combos and times. I had committed to a prerace eating strategy and that’s all I could do, what ever happened happened, stressing over if it was right or not, too much or too little would be of no use today because the more I stress the more likely my stomach is to respond unfavorably. I went into the cafeteria got my half plate of eggs, four pices of bread, unfortunately the rolls I had been practicing with were no longer an option, got a spoon full imitation nutella, one banana and a bottle of orange juice. Then I sat down in front of the TV and watched a recap of the previous day’s Olympic moments. Twenty minutes later I was done, I made a cup of peppermint tea and headed back to my room to take a nap until 10:30am.

Needless to say I had a lot of trouble falling back to sleep with a lot of intermittent periods of sleeping and getting woken up, doors opening and shutting in the apartment, and my own fretful dreams. I didn’t have any race nightmares but did have a frantic dream where I kept trying to close and lock another door while the “bad guys” were trying to break in. I also had one extremely vivid dream, where one of the Team leaders wanted to introduce me to someone on the staff. As I walked up I noticed they were wearing our new shiny blue United States of America Nike Jacket, the one the Soccer Team wore on the podium. It was a small statured person sitting in a chair, wearing worn blue jean like pants. He had a navy blue hat on and reached out his arm to shake my hand. I shook his hand and instantly it felt familiar. Then it was all a rush as I began to realize this man in my dream was my Dziadzi wishing me good luck, in almost the same instant that I realized it was Dziadzi the annoying logical part of my brain began stepping in and telling me that this was not real and I instantly woke up from my dream. Thanks for the visit Dziadzi! By 10:30 am my alarm went off a second time. I woke up, scrolled through my twitter feed, checked my emails, face book and any other social media platform that could distract me from thinking about racing.

By 11:30am it was time for breakfast number two, which was only 4 pieces of Italian bread with some more imitation nutella and the smallest handful of Lucky charms, and a bottle of apple juice, the delicious apple cider like kind. I was done eating and grabbed 6 bottles of water to make my race drink mix with. Water bottles still in arms I walked down to our medical staff area in the apartment basement and grabbed a chocolate smoothie that our nutritionist Andrea had stocked for me. I had just made it back to the elevator when my water bottles began to slip and I wound up dropping my smoothie all over the fall. Ahhh, thankfully Andrea had made extras. This time I dropped my water bottles off first and then made a second trip to get my second smoothie. I sipped my smoothie in front of the TV while watching the men’s 50k. Watching the men compete was great, it gave me a sneak preview of the course while pumping me up and inspiring me for my own race. It was so inspiring and encouraging to see finisher after finisher racing a season best, personal best, or even national record that day. This meant that the course was good, if not great, and the competition would push me to my own best. I was eager and excited to see just how fast I would be on this course.

Confidence of last solid workout with Coach Tim was still fresh in my mind!

I had three time goals, race a personal best, race a personal best that would make me the fastest Female 20k American at the Olympic Games, race a personal best that would equal or surpass the Olympic A Standard of 1:33:30. My current best 1:34:52 was 4:44.4 km pace and an A Standard would require 4:40.4 pace. I knew I was in the best shape of my life, I could easily see it in my training, especially my last set of 10x 1k the week before where Coach Tim walked next to me. I knew that the A Standard was possible, maybe a little ambitious but hey this is the Olympics, what did I have to loose? I knew I was in peak condition, the course was proving to be fast, the competition would be strong, and the crowd would be encouraging.

Once I saw fellow USA Teammate John Nunn cross the line it was time to seriously get ready to head to my race, my Olympic Race! Normally I race so early in the morning that I roll out of bed and into my racing uniform. Some of my TEAMmates always shower before racing, they say it helps them wake up. For what ever reason, I felt I needed a pre-race shower. So off to the shower it was, then it was time to put on my racing uniform, my Team USA bra top and matching red buthuggers. I always get a rush when I put on my USA uniform on race day, today it was a rush for sure! It was time to braid my hair in my classic three braids tied back in a red, white, and blue rubber band. I made my race mix drink and labeled my bottles! The excitement was building to say the least! I packed up my race back pack, checked to make sure I had my stretching rope, massage stick and a change of clothes. A smile spread across my face as I zipped my bag shut with my customized Dream Believe Become keychain from my cousins, a little present that symbolized my dream while reminding me of the support and family I have back home. I slipped my bag on my back and headed down to meet our Team staff that would be accompanying me to my race.

I had agreed with the head women’s coach, Rose, the day before that we would take the 2:30pm shuttle over to my 5:00pm start race. It’s much earlier than I would normally prefer to go but we had a 40min bus ride to the race course and incase there was traffic I was advised to be on the 2:30 shuttle. I wanted to get on the bus 15min early because many of the other race walk girls I knew competing that day had the same game plan. We got to the bus, there were still plenty of seats but it was rather warm on the bus. Okay, I think warm was an understatement. I wound up drinking an entire Liter of water on the bus! There was no point in stressing over it being so hot and unpleasant on the bus, after all half of my competitors were sweating through the same conditions I was. I plugged in my earbuds, and listened to my pre-race playlist. The perfect balance of relaxing yet pumping up inspiration. By the time we arrived one of the Irish Coaches had sweated through his t-shirt! I told Coach Rose, well at least when we get to the race it will feel like the AC is on outside! And sure enough that’s exactly how it felt. I had to pee 4 times before getting to the starting line. I guess the bus ride ensured I was fully hydrated, good thing we arrived so early so I had enough time to visit the bathroom that often! Back in my USA tent my fellow TEAMmate Trevor met up with me and the staff. He told me that Tim was around and would show me where he was if I wanted. This was one of the first races I would get to have my own personal coach, Tim, coaching me in the stands live. I was able to speak with him before the race, he reassured me I was in the best shape of my life and couldn’t stop telling me how excited he was for me to race! Meeting with him was both reassuring and motivational!

My prerace warmup was mainly stretching with about 12min of race walking. We had access to a very limited maybe 200meters of the race course. The surface wasn’t great, it was very unlevel and congested so I decided to finish warming up in between the athlete changing tents just behind the race course. Then before I knew it, it was time to enter the last call tent 20min before race start. Here we were not allowed to have our race bags, ropes, or massage sticks. I already knew to expect this because I had warmed up with Trevor last week for his race and watched him go through the frantic call room experience. I was thankful that I knew to expect frantic call room officials and would not be surprised by this “no bag in the call room” rule. All I had with me was an extra water bottle and was now stripped down to and only wearing my racing uniform. I exchanged pre-race chit chat with TEAMmates Rachel (Canada) and Sabine (Germany). It was great to have these girls in there, because it offered a sense of familiarity. Then 7min before race time we were brought out to the starting line. We really weren’t permitted to do strides or anything which just meant that there was a lot of nervous bottled up excitement corralled into a tight space waiting to be unleashed for another 6min! The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) chose 10 women to stand on the front of the starting line (typically the top 10 ranked athletes), the rest of the 61deep field of competitors filed in behind them. Seeing as I was ranked 55th going into the competition I took a place in the back of the pack so as not to get caught going out too fast and trampled.

The commands were given and the gun went off…

Stay tuned for my own lap by lap commentary of what was going through my head lap after lap as the race unfolded!

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