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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Pan Am Cup Trials Race Recap and Reflection

Recap:

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

Walking 1st half of the race with TEAMmate Natos

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

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

Crossing the finishline

Crossing the finishline photocredit: racewalk.com

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

Reflection:

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

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

What’s next!

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

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

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

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

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

Couldn’t possibly forget to say:

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

Walk USA girls headed to Chile!

Walk USA girls headed to Chile!

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

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

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

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

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

TEAM

TEAM Family Photo Photocredit: Jeff Salvage

 

New Year, New Name, New Goals!

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

Proudly racing as Michta-Coffey!

Proudly racing as Michta-Coffey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Receiving championship bowl from Bruce

Receiving championship bowl from Bruce

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

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

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

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

Nick on way to first USATF Indoor Title

Nick on way to first USATF Indoor Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surviving Winter Training

Tough #Likeagirl

Tough #Likeagirl

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

Hiking Pinnacle Peak, AZ with Christina

Hiking Pinnacle Peak, AZ with Christina

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

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

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

Be flexible with your training schedule

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

Plan ahead

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

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

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

 Cross training, Cross training, Cross training!

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

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

Recharged post swim

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

Change it up

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

Changing it up with Walk USA Teammate Katharine

Changing it up with Walk USA Teammate Katharine

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

Sometimes going around and around in circles is the answer

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

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

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

When the roads are too dangerous to drive

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

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

When all else fails be a kid again

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

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

Staying mentally sane!

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

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

My motivation!

My motivation!

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

2014 Year in review

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

Major 2014 highlights:

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

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 1.25 km, 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 20 k and this was clearly evident after our first split of 5:55.8! Oops no wonder it felt so easy and my heart rate 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 23 min. 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 10 k split, I was feeling great, heart rate was in the low to mid 170’s and I was on pace for both a 10 k PR and the American 20 k record. Sometime before 10 k we caught up to and passed Jon. Also just before 10 k 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 10 k in 45:41, a new 10 k 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 WCT  The 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 1.25 km 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 77 seconds! It was also my very first negative split race and I was very proud of that. I also not only negative split 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 1.25 km 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!

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!

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.

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)

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!