Athlete Profile: Irena Michalcik
It’s a new year, and the Dirt in Your Skirt Athlete Profile Series is starting again for the new year. This year we continue to bring you interviews from women of all backgrounds in and outside of obstacle racing.
This week we highlight Irena Michalcik. She is a music teacher in Montana but find herself traveling from race to race when school is out. Michalcik is originally from Strani, Czech Republic and while Montana is her home now, she proudly waves the Czech flag at events like OCR World Championships and Spartan World Championships. Learn more about this Complete Nutrition Bozeman, Hylete, Icebug, Subsports and Swiftwick athlete.
How did you get involved in your sport?
I was going through some rough time in personal life few years ago I decided that life is too short not to try new things and make dreams come true. I came across Spartan Race website and looked into it. It looked hard and intimidating (knowing what Sparta was from history classes ha), and I thought for sure there was no way I could finish it. I just wanted to try it and do my best. I asked one of my friends to help me with training and worked my butt off for almost three months, getting ready for Montana Spartan Sprint 2014. I’ve never run a race before, besides few 1500 m races in middle school.
Were you always an athlete?
No, I’ve never been an athlete. I was born with Developmental Dysplasia of the hip joints and doctors recommended not participating in any sports. Despite that, I did play volleyball and soccer, and skied as a kid, recreationally. Growing up in a small town in the Czech Republic, I didn’t have the option to participate in sports on a competitive level, as they’re not part of public schools, and there were no clubs with girl’s teams where I lived. But, ever since I can remember, I wanted to be an athlete and compete.
What are some of your athletic achievements?
My very first Spartan Race in May 2014 led to qualification for OCR World Championships 2014, which was my only 3rd OCR race.
I started running elite groups this year (2015) and placed 5th at two Spartan Sprints.
OCR World Championships 2015 and Spartan World Championship qualifier.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
I want to continue improving in all areas, running, strength, technical obstacles proficiency. I need to work on jumping and overcoming my fear of getting hurt on obstacles that involve jumping. Let’s just say the Sternum Checker will be a piece of cake next time I’m in Ohio.
My OCR goals are to qualify for OCRWC 2016 and Spartan World Championship. And it would be fun to have a podium finish.
Who is/are your inspiration?
My mom inspires me every day with her strength. She’s currently recovering from bone marrow transplant and knowing how hard she has been fighting cancer has helped me push myself past my comfort zone in life and races.
My close friends that are not afraid to follow their dreams, and support all my crazy ideas and all the things I do, they have been very accommodating and understanding of my crazy schedule (I tend to pack far too much in my day, and it can be hard to get together with me…)
What is your most proud moment in sport?
There are few proud moments…. Qualifying for OCRWC 2015 and Spartan World Championship were my goals for 2015 season and to have achieved both during my first year of running elite heats felt awesome.
Also coming back during the team race at OCRWC15 and facing the Sternum Checker again, after busting my lips on it the day before, turned into a proud moment, from what first felt like a big failure.
What is your most proud moment in life?
Realizing the impact I have on my students lives. Couple years ago I had a student that struggled with school and for several weeks ended up coming to school only so he could be in my class. Sometimes us teacher can get so caught up in everything that surrounds teaching, that we almost forget the impact we have on our students.
How do you overcome a bad race or training day?
It depends on what caused the bad race/training day. With race, there are so many variables that sometimes it just doesn’t align the right way, and it might be hard to get over the disappointment, knowing you can’t redo the race. What I always try to do is look at the positives even in my failures, and learn from them. One of my MIT teammates, Matt Mullens, told me to look at failures as a mental fuel during training. Nobody got to the top on their first or second attempt; it’s the people that keep working hard after they failed that will make it to the top.
I don’t look at any training day as a bad day, I try to do my best in given situation, and if my body tells me I need to take it easy, and then I do, even if I had a hard workout planned.
What is your training routine like?
I usually train/workout three days on and one day off, but adjust it if my schedule changes or my body needs rest. I do strength training 3-4 times a week, with technical training 1-2 times a week. I go for a trail run 1-2 times a week (but can’t alway fit it in my schedule) and run sprint intervals as a part of my workouts. I think my training is a diverse as can be, lot’s of cross-training, heavy lifting (I love Olympic style lifting ) mixed with high-intensity training.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
Keep your training diverse and no matter what you do, always have fun doing it, doesn’t matter if you’re training or competing.
When not training and competing what do you do with your downtime?
Training is something I do enjoy doing in my downtime. But when not training, I love to hang out with my friends, go to sporting events, hike, ski, go to concerts, and occasionally I make jewelry.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. This quote has taught me to focus on the positives in all situations, learn from mistakes and failures, and move on.
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
My trainer gave me some great advice. One of them is to picture myself going through certain obstacles, get the “feel” of the movement. Also to trust myself and commit to everything I do.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
It’s never too late to follow your dreams, whatever they might be.
Always listen to your body when training, there is a difference between pushing your limits and pushing your body past pain caused by an injury.
And when you race, run your race, make sure you’re having fun, do your thing, and make the most out of your situation.
What is/are the races you are most looking forward to this year?
My 2015 season is now over. I’m currently letting my body recover from few small injuries and two World Championship races.
So, next season I’m hoping to run a winter Spartan Race in the Czech Republic, if everything works out and I’ll be there in January. I’m looking forward to Montana Spartan Race in May 2016, as that was my very first OCR race. And the highlight of my season would be OCR World Championships in Toronto, Canada, but I have to qualify first.
Any additional information you would like to share:
The one thing I love the most about OCR is the community. A year ago I decided to follow my childhood dream, and after qualifying for OCRWC 2014, I went to Ohio, all by myself, not knowing anybody, as the Worlds was my third race ever. Everybody I met that weekend was so friendly and excepted me with an open heart. Fast forward to this year and I’m a proud member of MIT Tough Team, and I keep following my dream. And that would have been hard without my OCR friends.