Pan Am Games: Part 1

IMG_4891The experience:

They call the Pan Am Games the Olympics of the Western Hemisphere, as 41 countries from North, South, Central America and the Caribbean come together and compete in all the events contested at the Olympic Games. The Pan Am Games are held like the Olympics once every four years, always the year preceding the Olympic Games. The first time I qualified was in 2011 when it was held in Guadalajara, Mexico at an elevation of      .  Due to the altitude distance athletes were given the opportunity to attend a preamp at the US Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, CO. I took advantage of this opportunity and had an amazing 10 day experience adapting to altitude, meeting new people and learning some great sports science from USOC top sport science medicine specialist Randy Wilbur. After Colorado Springs we flew to Houston for Team processing (aka get a ton of free Team USA gear) and then to Mexico. I opted to only be in Mexico for just over two days because of my dietary needs which would be more easily met stateside. As a result the whole Pan Am Games experience, the athlete village, watching other events, cheering on Team USA athletes, swapping pins etc etc seemed to elude me.

This time around I was psyched to take full advantage of the entire experience, especially because it was in Toronto, Canada…culturally and dietarily synonymous with being in the US. But to my surprise we were only allowed to arrive 3 days prior to competition and had to be out by 10am the following morning. Wow what a bummer, guess I wouldn’t get to hang around the village meeting new people and spectating other events. Regardless I was super pumped for an amazing race and wonderful experience.  I was feeling so much positive energy leading into the Games and was bursting with excitement, ready to race.

My travel to Toronto was smooth and easy. I met my pilot in the airport prior to take off and got to talking about his daughter’s running and his triathlon races. Then my seat mate was actually flying home to Canada to catch the Volleyball game that night and his daughter’s (who must be very talented) were actually coached by some of those players. He was psyched about the Games and made me more excited just talking about it all. It took us longer to get down the runway than actual time spent in the air. I arrived in Toronto airport (totally decked out in Team USA gear as instructed) and was instantly greeted by Team USOC staff to help guide me through checkin. I got to speed through customs and immigration and got my Pan Am Games credential. Then it was off to Team processing at a local Hilton Hotel. Upon arriving at the Hilton Miranda was waiting for me, she had already gotten all her free swag. After trying on and sizing all my new gear I was ready  to head over to the Athlete Village with Miranda.

IMG_4930IMG_4882In the village we checked in and got our room keys. The room was modest but great. The beds were decently firm so I was happy and we had a bag full of goodies waiting for us. After settling in our Team Manager Marsha gave us a tour of the entire Village. Since we would be there for such a short period of time most extras like the weight room wouldn’t be needed. After our tour we headed to the cafeteria and met up with Canadian TEAMmate Rachel. The cafeteria was spacious and the food was pretty good. Some days the beef was tender and tasty, other days the chicken was a better option. I guess the benefit of staying for only three days was we wouldn’t get sick of the food as it was pretty much the same 10 options every day. That night we watched some of the Pan Am Games competition on Miranda’s laptop and went to bed.


Day 2:


Post massage Normatex pants flush while watching the record breaking 1500m Diamond League Race

We woke up, worked out and had breakfast with Rachel again. Breakfast is always my fav meal and usually pretty easy to find good eats abroad. I enjoyed some toast, hard boiled eggs, juice, and ham. The rest of the day we hung low, showered, got massages, and watched some Diamond League races,  Pan Am Games TV, and talked A LOT! I felt amazing on the massage table and was happy to hear Ena tell me my body felt really well cared for, thanks Dr Duggan and Amico at Duke Chiropractic, muscles definitely wouldn’t have felt so fresh and lithe without continual work from you guys! Before you knew it another day had come and gone and it was bedtime again.

Day 3:

We woke up and trained again. Today was only 6k. It’s crazy to think about that in taper week our last three days of training will equal our race day mileage. I was feeling good and ready to go. The sun came out and the humidity had rolled in. Too bad we didn’t race two days prior, looked like tomorrow would be somewhat of a suffer fest. We got a good indication of how the weather would impact us watching the women’s marathon race. USA teammate Lindsey took the bronze medal, and Sarah fought hard through 18mile. As we would later learn Sarah was battling an injury and hadn’t run anywhere close to 18miles in the past 5 weeks, let alone in one race. I wish we got to hang out with Sarah more, she was super sweet and if she hadn’t come and introduced herself the day we arrived we may have totally missed her. I’m excited to meet up with her in the future as she trains in Central Park and runs with fellow Sachem Alum Jeanna Composti, talk about a small world. I love the track & field community!

Later that day Miranda and I took a stroll around the Village and took lots of touristy pictures. IMG_4857IMG_4866IMG_4873IMG_4898IMG_4877We had to be smart not to stay out to long as midday it was sunny, humid and well into the 80’s. Afterwards we went our separate ways and met up with family that came into town to cheer us on. I love racing internationally and every race is special in it’s own way but when my family can be there to watch me live…it’s a feeling like no other. This time I was lucky to have Mom, Kristie, Katie, Joey, AND Aunt Chris and Uncle Brian. It was so great knowing I’d have them out there the next day. I would also have Coach Tim and Miranda’s parents and Rachel’s Family.

Meeting up with my family Saturday afternoon was the first time I left the Village upon entering on Thursday evening. It’s always a challenge to coordinate meeting up when you no longer have cell service. We survived cell-phone free meet up, and walked to the local distillery area. There we found a nice little cafe and all ordered a drink and relaxed catching up on everyone’s trip.

P1010643 P1010642After an hour or so they were ready for dinner and it was time for me to head back to the Village and eat my boring prerace food. Back in the Village I got to What’s App Tim to go over race plans and boosted my excitement and confidence even more.IMG_4906 I happen to meet up in the cafeteria with Miranda who also had met up with her parents in the Distillery area. By the end of dinner I felt I was force feeding myself but knew it was important to eat a really full meal because I would not be eating anymore until after my race.

After dinner it was time to do some pre-race prepping of aid bottles, uniform, racers etc etc. Then it was time to go to bed. The sun was just starting to set as we were getting into bed, we knew we’d beat the sun up the next day as our alarms were set for 4:10am to be ready to catch the 5:10 bus shuttle! All that was left now was to sleep as best as possible, because come tomorrow I would be on pre-race autopilot!


Goodnight Toronto!

Goodnight Toronto!


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2 Responses to Pan Am Games: Part 1

  1. Stella Cashman says:

    Terrific race Maria and wonderful write up. I was happy that I was able to be there to cheer you on. It always makes a race more enjoyable and personal when you know someone in the event. It was a little annoying that the course was only open on one end for spectators but we were lucky for your race and the men’s 20K because we were able to get close on both ends. The following day for the 50K they wouldn’t let us cheer on the far end except outside that high fence. Good luck in Beijing. I hope the weather is better than predicted, especially the poor air quality experienced there some years ago.

    • mushie0408 mushie0408 says:

      Thanks again Stella! Really excited for Beijing, hoping for the best preparing for the worst! Regardless of the race conditions I’m training to be tough out there. Looking forward to another great experience and international trip.

      I’ll keep you and everyone at posted here, and through FB.


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