BY: MARIA MICHTA-COFFEY, OISELLE HAUTE VOLÉE
This year has been the strangest year. For starters it was the season that wasn't supposed to be, because my husband and I planned to start a family. But if there's one thing that holds true: life is what happens while you're making plans.
The hardest struggle was physically training for a season that I believed I may not have. I positively reinforce and visualize myself obtaining goals. The problem: I couldn't visualize myself being pregnant mid workout and expect that to push myself. And on the flip side if I visualized myself racing in London was I mentally stopping myself from conceiving?
It wasn't until sometime mid January when I realized I needed to totally let go of all hopes, plans, and expectations. I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable, with no well defined long term goals. I focused more on the now, the moment, the daily trials and tribulations. I took life (training, teaching, and personal) day to day, no more than a week at a time. I call this period of my life: limbo.
I hesitantly waded through this limbo. Like running on a trail at dusk, you ultimately know what will happen but you are way more cautious and calculating because you can't clearly see the path in front of you. You don't appreciate the beauty around you because you are so focused on having that foot land on stable ground.
Since I'm off to represent Team USA at Worlds it's safe to say we are still a family of two. And now that I've had some practice at this whole limbo thing I've gotten better at handling the unknown.
April started off well. I qualified for Pan Am Cup off of a race that I felt underprepared for. And then boom, in a blink of an eye my head is coming up, my body thrown back into my seat and my car is in the back of the car in front of me. I had my first car accident. While in the scope of things it was very minor, it left me with possibly several broken ribs.
Then was the call from my doctor with my MRI results. Unfortunately, I had a tear in my meniscus that would require surgery. I don't know why hearing that made me want to break down in tears. I had already raced on the knee to qualify for Pan Ams and was having no pain at all just persistent swelling. But I guess actually knowing there is something wrong and thinking it's a possibility just sit differently. And so I hung up the phone and tears streamed down my face and I clenched my ribs because I still wasn't well enough to cry without pain. And that was the lowest point of my season.
Credit: AP/ MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journal
But when life is busy, it continues on whether you're ready or not. You find the strength to persevere and push on. My chiropractor left me with powerful words, "we don't treat the MRI we treat the patient." I was going to have to be smart with my knee, but the greatest challenge would be not to let it mentally get the best of me. It's funny my knee made me feel vulnerable despite not actually causing pain, while my chest that hurt so bad I couldn't laugh but made me feel determined. It took almost three months to be able to get through training with out feeling my ribs, to be able to sneeze, to be able to wear a heartrate monitor and more than half of my Oiselle bra collection (lived in the Lux Verra Bra for a few weeks!).
Since outdoor nationals where I officially qualified for Worlds I've had a solid string of training. The heat and humidity has been in really challenging here in NY. But just like every other adversity it only seems to make me stronger. How do you know you are heat adapting? Well when it's 68 degrees outside and you're cold enough to put on a hoodie!
I'm really psyched to be headed back to London. I have such fond memories from my 2012 Olympic experience. Just thinking about being back makes me giddy with excitement. I think one of my keys to success there the first time was I soaked it all in, appreciating and savoring every moment. I never worried about how I was going to do or what people wanted from me. I just enjoyed every opportunity that came my way and capitalized each to the max, including my race! I focused on what I could control and rolled with what I couldn't. You can accomplish a heck of a lot with the right attitude focusing on what you can control and being flexible with the rest!
Credit: AP/ Charlie Riedel
It's always interesting to talk about goals before a major championship. I have both tangible and intangible goals. The first is always is to make myself proud, to never give up or in, dig deep, push on forward and earn a smile when I cross the finish line. That's the only goal I can be 100% in control of, and I can achieve that goal anywhere any time. At World's I get a rare opportunity to battle it out with the best of the best. I always thrive in a competitive racing environment.
My next set of goals come in two flavors, time and place. Time is dependent upon external conditions such as weather which while London typically can provide a favorable climate (like in 2012 for my Olympic race) our race is brilliantly (insert sarcasm read with British accent) scheduled for 12:20pm, the heat of the day. I know I have a personal best performance in me and in the right conditions am capable of breaking 90min (~7:15mile pace). My season best is 92:46, PB 90:49, and world championship best 93:20. As far as placing goes I would love to be in the chase pack mix, hunting down people who went out too fast and finish top 15. In 2015 I had a conservative start due to weather conditions and closed strong to finish 20th, my highest finish. But you can only control you and I'm out there to race, to battle and to beat as many as possible being the fiercest version of myself.
I thrive off of positive energy. London 2012 was the best race of my life (PB at time of 92:27) because my entire family was there cheering. I fed off their excitement and beamed in a smile every time I passed them. In fact I drew energy from seemingly the whole crowd, those cheering for me directly, for USA, and even those screaming for the Irish girl racing next to me. Tapping into the energy of the crowd really made me enjoy the race in the moment, even if my body inside was suffering. It's amazing how a simple "go Maria go!" or a "U-S-A" can really strike a chord mid race! I hope to do the same again, spotting my husband and TEAMmate Miranda's parents in the crowd as well as the Lesko's. I look forward to being empowered by their cheering and the positive vibes of everyone back home. When I race it's not just for me, and I really mean it, the "U" in USA is for all of YOU back home!
I can't wait to take you all with me on my journey and draw strength from your encouragement and positive vibes. So cheers to seizing the moment, enjoying the ride and earning that post race smile!