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.
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!
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.
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.
Being 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.
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. We decided to check out the aquarium 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.
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.
Of 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!
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. 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!
That 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!