Eyes on the prize, full steam ahead!

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Unless you have been living under a rock you have heard quite a bit about Brazil recently, 1-Rio is hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games this August, and 2- there is a Zika virus outbreak in Brazil and much of South and Central America. Therefore A LOT of people have been asking me questions about my opinion on both matters, especially how #2 impacts #1 and vice a versa.

Curious about what my feelings were earlier checkout these two articles:

“The Olympic hopeful for whom Zika hits really close to home”

“Zike causes American Olympians to scramble” (Joe was also interviewed for this one!)

As for now I know everything comes down to numbers and probabilities so here’s to hoping for the best 🍻

“Rio Olympics 2016: why athletes and fans aren’t likely to catch Zika”

Currently, I’m focused on being an Olympic hopeful. I am drawing on all the positive energy and excitement to propel me forward in my dreams of making a second Olympic Team. After I cross the line and punch my ticket to Rio I’ll let the scientist reemerge and re-analyze the current Zika status and all available info. Then and only then will I be able to make any further decisions regarding mine and my family’s travel plans. So please refrain from sharing any negativity, bad press or asking my opinion on the matter. Nothing in Rio right now will impact my race in Salem on June 30th. Until I’ve earned my Olympic Berth my number one focus is making the team! Thank you for your continued support along my Olympic Journey!

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Head up, wings out!

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More soon on becoming Haute Volée!

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Rome wasn’t built in a day…and neither is my post Rome recovery!

image4Rome wasn’t built in one day but it sure felt like it crumbled in one day. The race for me went anything like I’d hoped or trained for at the World Cup. I had my first career DNF (unless you count a local summer series meet when I was back in high school). I felt so many emotions, which in some ways felt worse than the physical toll my body hadsuffered through, or so I thought. While besides myself/distraught/ befret for a reason as to why that night of the race I was emotionally comforted by the fact that my body was so wrecked I didn’t have enough energy to beat myself up mentally. That all changed the next day and the loss of an international opportunity which offered such promise only to end so

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2hrs post race mid colitis attack…it isn’t pretty

miserably in defeat left me feeling inconsolable. To make matters worse upon returning home some 4 days later while my legs felt ready to get after it in training my body was not there not even close. I had terrible almost nonstop headaches from the day after my race for about 10 day s straight. Initially in Rome I chalked it up to being extremely dehydrated after having a severe colitis attack after my race and all the cigarette smoke. However, after returning home and having eliminated the disgusting second hand smoke it was unclear why the headaches were persisting. On top of this I had a light headed feeling that would come and go that was not influenced at all by my eating or drinking routine.

 

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Making sure I was getting essential nutrients, and helpful probiotics

At the suggestion of my club coach Gary Westerfield’s wife to get blood work done to see if my electrolyte levels and what not were off I sought out a doctor to get this rolling. I was fortunate to be a new patient and see someone in two days and blood work only a day later. At this point an entire week had come and gone since the race and I thought surely I’d start to feel like myself again. The blood work results took almost another week and while the headaches finally left my first “workout” back I couldn’t shake that feeling like your about to faint and I was only going an easy zone 2. What is zone 2, it’s our transition pace that we hit mid fall, Oct/Nov, and I was struggling to hit times that were slower then what I breezed through in early fall. This was not encouraging at all in fact I was alarmed if anything because my heartrate numbers kept indicating that indeed my body was working and rather hard too. I felt like I was grasping for answers, was it my diet, was it my sleep, was I missing some key nutrient, how could I still be sick from a headcold ….it had been over a month and for over a week I had been in bed for 9+ hrs a night sleeping 8+ hours! I decided to take the prescribed antibiotic and while the scientist in me says the results for cause and effect are inconclusive the bottom line is I started to see some improvement on the 5th and final day of antibiotic usage.

 

But the word improvement must be used very lightly as it was hard to imagine my fitness suffering any worse and so since I had essentially hit bottom there was only one way to go and that was up. Albeit there were a heck of a lot of steps left to climb to get back to the top but at least both feet were no longer standing still on rock bottom.

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I never gave up and kept believing but boy was it intimidating to suffer through training session after training session to see only marginal gains. To top it off on easy days my heartrate was also still extremely elevated which did not lend itself to boosting confidence. Now while I never stopped believing that doesn’t mean I wasn’t questioning why this was happening. Just this past Saturday I texted my Coach Tim saying if I can keep improving 3 seconds/ week I’d be in an ok place to fight at Olympic Trials. Looking at it from that perspective just 3 measly seconds a week made the strides I was hoping to make less daunting and more manageable. Now the trick was not to freak out if one workout went well only to turn around three days later and be slightly slower.

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photcredit: Jeff Salvage racewalk.com

I also knew that the weather was probably impacting the effect of my progress it was just so hard to know how much. On May 22nd it was a whopping 50-52 degrees out during my 20k long walk and a steady light cool rain. Fastforward three days to Wednesday’s track session and it was 76deg and veIMG_1694ry humid. This past weekend was brutal and I finished up my fartlek with 82 feels like 84 in full sunshine. So that question that remained unanswered was, was I struggling to hit paces that normally came so easily because of the weather or because of my own fitness.

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pre race smiling selfie

Then I entered a ½ marathon race the next day to get in my long distance mileage while out of town for a friend’s wedding (shout out to bride and groom Elana and Ben for running a race the morning of their wedding!). It was humid as anything with 72 deg F at the start and 82 deg F by the finish with a feels like 86 deg F!!! The course that started and ended at a ski resort was also very hilly for a race walker, think central park on steroids! But I was encouraged by how my legs felt and my heartrate while a good 10 beats/ min higher than the same pace normally wasn’t too bad considering the weather and hills. But it was still hard to evaluate how much I had recovered or not because the conditions were so extreme. But a major take a

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Photo credit: Pat Hendrick Photography   “Coming down the dusty dirt path finish”

 

way was I not only had a very solid distance-training walk I did not feel lightheaded or over heated in the conditions. I must say the Oiselle racing shorts and tank top were awesome and felt so smooth to race in although I literally thought mid race after dumping a water cup on my head, how could anyone have raced in LA with a singlet and not a crop top because as soon a it became water logged I wanted it off! I also was very thankful for local runners that helped pass the miles as we chatted over the course, it definitely made for a much more enjoyable day of training even if it cost a few beats/min in heartrate! That evening Joe and I had a wonderful time at Ben and Elana’s wedding. The amount of dancing we did that night could have constituted a second shake out workout for sure! Best of all my legs felt really solid, not exhausted or heavy. Thank you Ben and Elana for letting us share in your day and making all your guest feel part of such a special moment in your relationship! Mazel tov!!!

Then it was time for another two days of easy distance mileage. I can’t tell you what it feels like to wake up each morning, refreshed with a good night’s sleep, nasal passage clear and legs itching to go, hopeful that today will be the day that my heartrate finally drops and what seems easy, is in fact easy for my body to then go out and no more than 2k in and know that no not today, today is not the day for such things. And so that brings me to today, June 1st, the month of Olympic Trials. Today on tap I had a rather easy set of intervals consisting of only 9k total mileage of race pace work to bounce back from the harder than normal effort of Sunday’s long walk and to be ready for a little vroom vroom this weekend at the National 5k. Half way through my 2 mile warm up I was not just feeling optomsitic I was seeing encouragement with each glance at my heartrate monitor, I was not only warming up at a great pace (5:30/km) but my heart rates were in control!!!! I was very fortunate to have 2014 Sachem East Alum Shannon O’hehir as a training partner this morning. I explained to her my ideal goal paces and realistic goal paces and we toed the line. The first 200 went out real smooth and ,relatively for the past month, rather fast, and you know what I felt CONTROLLED! I can’t tell you how amazing it was that I was hitting respectable splits and actually feeling controlled! While my 2k times were still a hair off of true goal race pace they were a HUGE HUGE step in the right direction. My 1ks and 500s were at or faster than race pace which while being very short and sweet distances I once again felt like I was working within myself and not reaching beyond myself struggling to find a gear that was not there. I also got faster each interval which was encouraging in itself. I really wish today I had a “big girl workout”, as Tim likes to call them, and be able to capitalize on how great I felt and take full advantage of the awesome conditions. It was a beautiful 72-74deg F with 10mph winds, and very low humididty in the upper-mid 50%. For the first time in about a week the dewpoint was below 60!image1

Today’s workout was just what I needed to remind myself that, yes Maria you are in fanstastic shape, yes Maria you have finally recovered, and yes Maria the weather does greatly impact training (and racing) performance. This was what I needed to be able to move forward in training, not doubt if I am working too hard, recoverying poorly or any other question that has swirled in and out of my head the past month. This is the workout that I NEEDED to allow me to train in whatever miserable conditions Mother Nature throws at me and know that it is only making me stronger.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to believe in me and has helped me mentally and physically recover from the disappointment in Rome. A huge shout out to Katie Hempfling, Mr Mc, A. Martin, Judy Lee, and Shannon O’hehir!!! Like Tim says, “we have bigger fish to fry,” and I’ll be ready to sizzle ‘em in this heat!

 

 

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2 countries, 2 weeks, 2x 20k, and 2 American Records!

The past month has been a very busy and very productive one! I am a little behind on my blog so here’s an update:

944941_849082575203883_7415094630970280290_nThis past weekend fresh off tying my 20k American Record in Japan just two weeks ago it was time to earn my ticket to Rome for the World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome, Italy. Two 20ks two weeks apart is in no way ideal. But luckily I have a very smart Coach Tim Seaman who wrote out several (ok upwards of 6!) racing plans for the second 20k. Not knowing how my legs would have recovered, not to mention my body still feeling jet lagged and exhausted from academic obligations we had the let’s try and see and re-evaluate approach. I knew after talking to Cameron Haught that I would have someone to go out with and give the 10k American Record a shot. I also knew I had to actually complete the entire 20k for not only the record to count but for me to earn my ticket to Rome. The race went out into a brutal head wind that would only get stronger. I was fortunate to be able to walk with and then be shielded behind a fantastic pack of men comprised of Cameron Haught Emmanuel Corvera and John Cody Risch Literally at one point in the race I apologized for not doing any work and drafting and they told be to enjoy the ride. I am very thankful to have had their help out there, you guys were amazing!

unnamed8k in I felt my stomach and had to fight one more 2k splitting 44:09 for the 10k and breaking the previous record by 8 seconds. As happy as I was I knew I still had to finish another 10k. Had my stomach felt good I might have tried to hang on as long as possible to the guys but it wasn’t in the cards that day. I strolled my last 10k in 50:37 good enough for a first female finish and a ticket to Rome for the Team Championships!!!!

A LOT of people were out there cheering that day as well as many more back home who got me to this point. A huge thank you to everyone of you and sorry if I miss tagging you in this post! 12993591_849082615203879_8095065017422289581_nThank you to my best grad student buddy Veronika and her husband Lainey for clearing their schedules that weekend to hang out with us and cheer me on at the race. Glad that we got to see your new place and looking forward to being guests in your guest room one day! Huge thank you to Tish Johnson Hanna for putting on an amazing race from the moment I landed at the airport everything was smooth because of all her hard work behind the scenes to have prepared and planned out all logistical issues. The only thing that could have made it better was no wind and that is not in the power of any race director, thanks again Tish! Thank you Dr Duggan at Duke Chiropractic who treated me right before my flight. And thank you to Logan University Chiropractic for getting the flight out of my legs. Thank you Tish again for arranging that treatment! Thank you to Christina DeRosa for helping me with my taper/recovery last workout before the race! Thank you SEGVT for you help in crucial workouts and all the positivity! Thank you to my coach Tim who despite having a canceled flight flew to a different city and drove in. That’s dedication! Thank you to my amazing husband and water boy Joey for taking care of everything and being there to enjoy the moment and some fun with our friends. Thank you to all the officials without you we have no races and no records!

Thank you Walk USA and Long Island Track and Field it’s always an honor to represent you and all the athletes back home!

Thank you to Woman’s Sports Foundation, USATF Foundation and Picky Bars for funding and fueling that made the training to prepare for and the travel to this competition possible.
‪#‎FeedtheDream‬

Congrats to my sister Katie who totally rocked her first 20k ever. Excited to see what the future holds for you especially with proper training!12968166_1244701975559540_2235965888063627449_o12901030_961829303914762_7103324888885709424_o

Congrats to all the other athletes that also qualified to represent Team USA we have a very strong and young squad headed over to Rome. Congrats to the athletes who had huge break through performances and despite the conditions PB’d!

Lastly, I am extremely honored that USATF named me as Athlete of the Week!

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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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