A picture is worth a thousand words

IMG_9185Perhaps this cherry blossom photo sums it up more perfectly than I can articulate in words. Yes it’s extremely frustrating to have traveled so far and come so close to fall short of a PR…after 12.4 hard fought miles I hit exactly down to the second my life time 20k PR tying my previously set American Record from 2014. I am also about two weeks shy of cherry blossom peak season here in Japan and while the occasional bloomed tree is a delight to behold I can’t help but focus on what’s not in bloom passionately longing to witness the full bloom spectacle in all its glory. Yes a small PR in the 10k is nice and tying my PR is in no way a bad way to start the season it’s just I hoped and fought for so much more. Japan racingBut instead of looking at the glass half empty it’s time to see it half filled…actually it’s only a fraction full…I hopefully have, if all goes well, another four 20k races this season. Two of them will be major international races ripe with competition. While the remaining races aren’t expected to be raced under ideal weather conditions they are another opportunity to duke it out with the World’s best. So what were the positive takeaways from today’s race:
1) 10k PR
2) tied my 20k American Record
3) led and pushed the pace of the race for 15k or so
4) successfully took in fluids and had only a minor colitis attack over in two waves of about 3hrs

Point 3 is the biggest accomplishment that deserves a gold star. I am a competitor who rises to the challenge in a race and unfortunately the flip side is I often do poor solo. Today after a couple of changes for the first 5k between people falling back and people moving up I was the pack pace pusher for the next 13k+. This is more or less new to me as last time when I walked this pace I probably only pushed the pace for 6k or so of the entire race and was able to draft off the work of other athletes or hunt down ones who started off too ambitiously. Today I was very grateful to have a pack of people on my heals…while I could have done without the constant clipping of my heals and kicking of my midsole it definitely helped keep me on pace. The odd thing about this group was the 2-4other Japanese girls were content to walk a slower pace if they took the lead and I drafted but we’re literally up my butt and hitting my arm swing when I went up front. This was definitely irritating but I guess they were all racing for place and not so much time like I was. Perhaps this is why missing breaking my PB is so frustrating because I fought so hard mentally not to settle on the pace when it would have been very easy to have fallen prey to that temptation. But nonetheless I’m proud of the way I fought to keep pushing and even when slowing down I refused to settle into a comfort zone rhythm.  This experience was very valuable and will only aid me later this season when competing internationally. After all I flew out to Japan to race in this competition to A) have a great shot at favorable racing conditions conducive for a PB and B) gain invaluable international racing experience.

Last take away was I also successfully fueled my body for a non-ideal race start time. Due to my GI issues an 11:35am race start time meant eating dinner at 7:00pm then another slightly smaller meal again at 11:35pm. I’ve found over the past year or so that I cannot go more than 12hrs without a large meal before training hard or racing the 10-20k. I topped off my fuel supply with a half drink of my nutritional shake at 4:30am followed by the last half at 6:30am and a pack of Cliff Chews at 8am. This prevented me from feeling drained and hungry at the start and during the race. I still need to empty the tank slightly better but all in all another successfully executed prerace fueling strategy!

There are plenty of more trees left to blossom for me this season, stay tuned I know there is more beauty to come!

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2016 Indoors Wrap Up

SistersActionShot_AlexPriceAnd in the blink of an eye my 2016 indoor season has come and gone. On Saturday February 20th I raced at Millrose Games in the National 1 mile race walk championships. Two years ago I had a huge PR and finished less than 1 second off the National Record…a record I have wanted to break ever since. But alas it eluded me again this year. My PR is 6:19.00 and I finished in a relatively slow 6:30.16 this year, which while slow compared to 2014 was still faster than last year when I finished in 6:34.47. While I continue to struggle pushing myself solo in a race I had at least improved from last year’s solo performance.Michta_armorytrack_com_RossDettman

It’s always such a joy to race at the Millrose Games. The Armory has always been one of my favorite places to compete; there is such a great energy there. This year was no different and was even more exciting because our Sachem East High School 4×800 was invited to compete in thel 4×800 meter relay Eastern High School. To top off this year’s experience was the fact that it was unusually mild that day and cool down was really pleasant outside.

After Millrose it was back to 20k training, where I had another key two weeks left to put in quality sessions before USA Indoors and my 20k season opener. Luckily I would not have to be solo for several key training sessions. The Sachem East girls: Kaitlin Veigl, Rachel Semetsis, and Caitlin O’hehir stepped up and ran alternating laps of 800’s next to me to help carry me through one of my fav workouts 5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1k. This workout is a key staple in my training over the season and over the years so it serves as a great bench mark indicating my current level of fitness. When the workout was over I had a huge mental confidence boost. My fitness was really progressing nicely and every thing was coming together well for my 20k season opener. I was very fortunate to only be sidelined indoors once in that period of time due to snow. The period of training was completed with a 12x 1k that started my first taper workout for a jam packed 13 days of racing and traveling.

IMG_9260On Wednesday Mar 8th after a full day of classes I flew out to Portland, Oregon. Portland held the USATF Indoor Championships where I would race the 3,000m RW. The morning started off great with a text from Sachem East athlete Lauren Harris stating she walked 6:57 winning Nationals and breaking the American Record…she didn’t just break it she crushed it!!!!! She thanked me for believing in her. And it made me think, if I could believe in her, I needed to believe in myself the same way. I needed to be the one telling myself it was possible, yes you have what it takes, you’ve got this and I BELIEVE you can do it. After all training had gone very well thus far and while I only had two real speed sessions 3x (1k, 800, 600, 400, 200) and the MIllrose Mile I knew I had the speed in my legs for a fast time and wanted to give the American Record a crack.The game plan I came up with was to walk 49 seconds per 200m lap. This would give me a little cushion to break under the record of 12:20. But I guess what they say is true, the best laid plaScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 10.15.51 PMns of mice and men often go astray. The gun went off, Miranda shot out and the competitor in me wouldn’t let her have it. We duked it out the first 400m or so in a blazingly fast opening time of 1:33. The best way to describe that start was STUPID! While I was well under my goal pace I knew I was bound to pay the price of that foolishness later in the race, and that’s exactly what happened. I hit a rough patch of 51-52second laps in the middle end of the race that added too much time on the clock. In the end I still finished in a PR. 12814222_10206919204151956_4990528584204524973_nMy time of 12:33.75 (previous best of 12:42.97 from 2013) was fast enough for a decisive victory, earning me my 7th straight indoor title! And as it turns out is the 3rd fastest performance in the year, which makes me the third fastest ranked female in the WORLD!!!!

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The race was very special, as I know it could very well be my last race at this level as next year Joe and I would like to start a family, and after that we’ll just have to see what the future holds in store for me athletically. It would have been sweet to cap it off with a record, but top 3 world performance will have to do for now. 10336637_10153884009811855_3034708419706174667_nThe race was also special because it was my sister Katie’s very first USATF Senior Indoor Championship. Her time was not what she wanted but like myself, she also went too fast at the start and would have to fight through the middle end of the race. But nonetheless I was very proud of her performance, especially because she has only been able to race walk since the end of December because she was recovering from a XC injury.

Traveling with her is always a blast and while we never got a chance to take a sister picture track side we had a fun post race shakeout Sunday morning together. Downtown Portland is great to train…minus the rain that is.

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And that was it! In those three short weeks my indoor season opened and closed. I guess the competitor slight perfectionist in me always wants more and post race reflection you always seem to think another second here or there was possible. In the end I am happy with my performances especially because our training has been focused on preparing me for this weekend’s 20k. I am currently typing this while flying to Japan. I departed straight from Portland on Sunday March 13th and will land Monday Mar 14th in Tokyo. There I will spend the next 4 days before flying to Kamotsu, Japan on Friday Mar 18th and race in Nomi, Japan Mar 20th in the Asian Championships. Last year there were several fast performances around my goal race pace. Hopefully I will have someone to race with this year. I’m feeling really hopeful about this race with lots of great vibes, positivity and training confidence.

Stay tuned for all my Japan adventures!

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When Sport Meets Science

This past Monday and Tuesday my two passions collided as we took a more scientific approach to my training. Monday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel of to California University Long Beach campus IMG_8491and visit with Dr. Jim Becker and Hilary Senesac at their brand new kinesiology motion analysis lab. There I got decorated all over with small reflective golf balls taped to strategic locations.

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My limbs where sprayed with a fine sticky glue then the little reflect spheres are attached at key points , and then taped over to assure they stay attached.

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Standing on the treadmill during initial sensor calibration

These little spheres would reflect the light that would be received by special cameras placed around the room. After I was all marked up it was time to jump on a special treadmill that could measure force applied and calibrate the equipment, making sure everything was properly placed and ready for recording.

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Look Ma no hands!

Then I got to start warming up somewhere around 6min/km pace that we lowered down to my zone 1 target training pace of 5:30. Once I felt loose and warmed up I gave the ok to drop the pace to 4:30/km pace, my targeted goal racing pace.

For those of you who know me you are probably shocked that I was walking on a treadmill, not because it’s a boring training setting affectionately named the dreadmill but because I struggle to actually workout on such a piece of equipment constantly feeling the need to hold on with my hands. I felt the urge to grab the bar and tried to focus may gaze out in front fixating on a spot on the back wall. If I kept looking down at my legs and feet I knew this would affect my stride and not provide a fair representation of how I normally train.

It’s crazy how much harder it is to train on a treadmill and your perception of pace is totally skewed. My 4:30/km target 20km pace felt more like a mile pace effort! In general an athlete has a slightly different stride on a treadmill. For starters the stride tends to be shorter in the front. Another major difference is the treadmill is a belt that is constantly moving backwards; upon heel strike the foot moves backwards in the direction of the belt whereas on the road the ground remains stationary and doesn’t move the foot, the foot moves only by pushing off the road during toe-off propelling the leg forward by swinging at the hip. The backward movement of the belt on a treadmill is going to impact the ratio of anterior vs posterior muscle group use. But all things considered we can still compare our left side to our right side in both the forces applied and the movements generated. After all for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction and it will be exciting to breakdown my stride, dissecting out all these individual movements.Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 5.31.19 PM

After less than 5 min at goal race pace (seemed much longer as I fought the urge not to look down) we were done with the motion analysis data collection and it was time to take some measurements. We measured lengths and angles of my lower extremities as well as resistance strength using a dynamometry, which can measure strength as a result of applied force.

In about a week we will have a report generated from all the analyses. I am very interested to see the differences. I have already known for years that I am not perfectly symmetrical whether it’s slightly different wear patterns on my trainers or awareness of how my right shoulder rolls forward and downward but not on the left side. It will also be interesting to see how my strength compares on each side and if any imbalances can be further corrected, whether in the weight room, through drills, or even just re-patterning and proprioception training.

The next morning we drove to Cuyamaca Community College Track for a lactate test. I hadn’t done one since the very beginning when Tim began coaching me. But this time around I had a much better understanding of my heartrate zones and paces. The way we do the test is broken down into 7x 2k with 2min in between each 2k where we immediately do a finger prick blood sample and take a quick swig of sports drink. I also glance at my HR several times down the last home straight and this number as well as perceived effort gets recorded. The intended paces were: 5:42, 5:25, 5:12, 5:00, 4:48, 4:36, and 4:27. Aside from my first one (it’s almost harder to go a controlled slower pace) I was within 5 seconds for all the other ones until my 6th one. TEAMmate Molly started the workout with me and was to hold on as long as possible. She was still fighting strong when we started the 6th one and I got excited how well she was doing and accidentally dropped the pace a little too fast…Molly hit a 1k PB and by then Tim told me just to roll through it and maintain the pace. I held the same pace finishing up my 6th 2k. Unfortunately, this caused a bit too drastic of a lactate spike. I still had a 7th interval to complete and Tim said I had to go faster; he wanted a 4:25. Yikes! The other option was to maintain 4:29 pace and see the lactate increase while the pace was steady. Neither option sounded great to me but 2min was up and I went out for the 4:25 pace. I didn’t even do the math I just told myself it would hurt and I’d have to push. I was pleasantly surprised to roll through to a 50.1 200m. Since I still had 1.8k left I told myself to ease off the gas a little. I finished with a 4:21/km pace, wow I guess without any speed training I still could find another gear. That was very encouraging considering the fastest 1km split in training thus far has been 4:32 and that was only this past Saturday as we began transitioning from zone 2 to zone 3 training!

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I felt really great after the test and only wished we had the 4:36 pace lactate sample because it probably was the most informative. The good thing is I know that my zone 1 target of 5:30 is well within my reach and while a considerable increase in pace from previous years training I am capable of handling this pace for recovery days. Over the holidays with Tim and Rachel out on LI and now here in San Diego I have gotten a taste of pace 5:30-5:35 on a more consistent basis. All bets are off when I return home to winter on LI but I know when the spring thaw comes where I should be at. I am very excited to see how I adapt and improve as we enter our next phase of training. My right glute has begun firing again and soon we will get back to increasing my weights. I know I’m in a great place right now in my training and it’s exciting when you have some science to help back it up. This is going to be a very big year and I’m exicted to see how far I can take it, how low I can drop it and how many memories I can make along the way! Lot’s of confidence and positivity mixed with solid mileage and great company during this mini training camp!

A very special thank you to Dr. Becker and Hilary for taking the time to perform the motion analysis. Thank you to Dave Kerin for getting us hooked up with Dr. Becker. A huge thank you shout out to The Women’s Sports Foundation for their Training and Travel Grant which has been used to help fund this training camp. And of course thank you to my amazing Coach Tim Seaman and all my wonderful TEAMmates, Rachel, Molly, Nick, Katie, Natos, Steven, and especially Miranda and boyfriend Mike for letting me stay at their place and driving me everywhere.

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Happy New Year, Happy New Training Location!

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And here we are again, it seems like just yesterday I was trading in champagne for my glacial freeze Gatorade as I welcomed in the new year. The only difference is it’s 2016 not 2012…oh yeah and I’m also married, obtained my Ph.D. and a whole heck of a lot stronger inside and out! 2015 ended with a great string of training. As shaky as September and early October felt as I got back into the swing of training and balancing my first semester teaching and I am happy to report that I closed out 2015 with really solid training that has me energized and highly motivated for the demanding yet rewarding season that lies ahead.

I was very fortunate that we were experiencing El Nino weather patterns which resulted in a very very mild Nov-Dec. I mean it doesn’t get much better than shorts and t-shirt for my Christmas morning run! But I wasn’t going to take any chances and had scheduled a short training camp in San Diego for early Jan just after the holidays and right before my training schedule began. I had my fair share of brutal for training with lots of windy cold sub-zero days, where it felt like more days than not white stuff came down last year. The polar air finally swooped down and just before I left the temperatures plummeted. I had my last hard session before flying out battling 21mph winds in feels like 15˚C temperature. The upside was there was still no snow and I knew a day later I was headed to San Diego. Unfortunately, as the case has been the last few times I’ve traveled to SoCal I bring the rains. You’re welcome San Diego I have landed and your drought will too!

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You would never know there was so much flash flooding on and off today looking at that sky!

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The only evidence of a rain soaked start to our training is the puddle that remains!

I still would choose a rain soaked San Diego morning of training over a frigid cold New York one any day of the winter. We even lucked out my first morning of training where the sky cleared and the sun pushed through for an hour during the tail end of our training.  The same was not the case the next morning when we showed up to train as it was a torrential down pour. But once again we mainly lucked out as that storm cell blew through rather quickly and only once did we get a cloud burst of rain. A windy winter day in San Diego is better than a windy winter day in NY! The rain and flash flooding continued on and off the remainder of the day once again only getting us sprinkled on during our shake out run that afternoon. Friday was the first mainly sunny morning of training and the sun hung around for most of the day too. Now this was the weather I was hoping for!

From here on out the weather should be very favorable for training for, and it came just in time. Tomorrow morning we will tackle our longest and most difficult training session of the season. Excited to keep putting money in the bank and to have plenty of TEAMmates around to make it more enjoyable. Tomorrow will also be another day with a double and after our shake out run our TEAM will gather for a meeting to discuss our up coming racing season now that we know both the location and date of World Team Challenge (formerly World Cup) event. As my TEAMmate Katie said upon hearing that Rome, Italy was selected to host the competition, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, everyday between now and then will be important to our success.” I couldn’t agree more!

 

 

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USATF Pre-camp, Chiba, Japan

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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.

 

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“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

 

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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:

NYTimes; ESPN

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.

Disclaimer!!!

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.

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Pan Am Games: Part 2 The Race

Rise and shine, it’s race day!

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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.

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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.

Reflection:

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!

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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!

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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:

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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!

 

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June 23rd…the perfect trifecta!

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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:

http://www.titleix.info/History/History-Overview.aspx

http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Post race MM squared smiles!

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Congrats Team!

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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)

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Finally getting to eat some real local food!

Long Island High School Girls  Representing

Long Island High School Girls Representing

 

 

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Our Hard Core Abs!

 

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ta da!

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Post banquet Zen

Feel the burn

Feel the burn

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Say Cheese!

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Sending love for Arica back home

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

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