Good morning! I’ve moved the newsletter to a new email service provider and I’m hoping that you haven’t noticed any difference. If this issue didn’t end up in your inbox as it usually does, please let me know.
There’s a new episode of the podcast this week and everyone should check it out. It’s the second installment of the Pillars of Performance series with Anh Bui, Doctor of Physical Therapy, 2:53 marathoner, running coach, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. In this conversation, we discuss what it means to run resiliently, how to understand the difference between injury pain and normal aches, why strength training is important for runners (and how to best fit it into the week), the importance of pre-run activation exercises, considerations for Masters athletes, and much more. I can’t think of anyone better to have had this conversation with and I’m excited for everyone to listen to it. Anh shares a lot of great injury prevention tips and strength training exercises on her Instagram feed, so be sure to give her a follow there if you’re not already.
In other news, we’re a little less than three weeks out from the Boston Marathon and I just wrapped up my biggest week of training in a few years. I spent most of Sunday afternoon on the couch partaking in what my good friend and former teammate Bergie calls “stare time.” It’s when you’re so pleasantly exhausted from an effort that you can’t possibly engage in anything productive so you just sit there staring off into space. A big workout on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday did the trick. Expected fatigue aside, I feel great. Workouts have been clicking more often than not and I’m enjoying the process of preparing myself as best as possible for the task at hand. The last few weeks I’ve been working a lot on spending a lot of time at/around marathon effort, logging nearly 30 miles between 5:20 and 5:40 per-mile pace during a recent 7-day stretch. It’s quite a shift from the more middle-distance focused work I was less than two months ago but I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well I’ve adapted to it on both a physiological and psychological level. The long grind of marathon training doesn’t come naturally to me but I’ve embraced the challenge and been able to make some breakthroughs these last few weeks. The other thing I’ve been getting dialed (with help from my partners at Precision Fuel and Hydration) is my fueling and hydration plan and I feel really good about the approach I’ll take on race day. I’ve treated every long run and marathon-specific workout as a dress rehearsal and here’s where I’ve landed: After breakfast, in the hours before the race, I’ll sip on a 500ml bottle of PF60 drink mix, which will deliver me 120 calories, 30g of carbohydrate, and 500mg of sodium. I’ll start the race with a fresh 500ml bottle of PF60 in hand and drink that down over the first 30 minutes of the race. (This is my #1 non-elite marathoner race-day hack. Game-changer, I’m telling you.) At the 30-minute mark I’ll reach into my back pocket and pop a PF30 gel (120 calories, 30g of carbohydrate) and take one of those every 30 minutes thereafter (4 in total, ideally, but I’ll have 5 on me just in case). I’ll also grab water from the aid stations as necessary throughout the race and aim to get a few ounces down each time. If I hit it right that will net me 600 calories, 150g of carbs, 500mg of sodium, and maybe 600ml of fluid in just under 2-1/2 hours, God willing. As I wrote a couple months ago, training my gut to take in more fluids, calories, and carbohydrate the past five years has paid huge dividends, not only leading to improved performance and a personal best (2:27:33 in 2018), but less stomach trouble, more sustained energy during long runs and races, and better recovery afterward. Not sure where to start to get your own needs figured out? Check out PF&H’s free Fuel & Hydration Planner and get yourself sorted for your next event. It’s a great tool and there’s nothing quite like it out there. (And if you’re interested in trying their products for yourself, check out this link and save 15% off your first order.)
One quick programming note before we dive into the rest of this issue: Next week I’ll be on vacation with my family celebrating my father-in-law’s 75th birthday. The newsletter will arrive in your inbox per usual but the format will be a little different: I’ll be sharing an interview I recently did with Sarah Gearhart, whose book We Share The Sun—which is part biography of legendary Kenyan coach Patrick Sang, and part behind-the-scenes peek at his incredible training group—will be released that day. It was an insightful conversation and super fun to hear about her experience reporting on the book in Kenya.
OK, that’s enough of an introduction for this week. Let’s get right to it.
— As a coach, I’m fortunate to work with a wide array of athletes across a range of different distances and disciplines. One of those athletes is Devon Yanko, who I’ve coached for a little over two years now. She had an objectively great year in 2022, a competitive campaign that was highlighted by a win at the Javelina Jundred in October, which secured her a spot at this year’s Western States Endurance Run. Three weeks before Javelina, Devon was diagnosed with Lupus, a a chronic autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure. From the outside looking in, it appeared that she had this thing under control, but the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. Jennifer Acker recently profiled Devon for Runner’s World, and in the piece Devon opens up about some of the challenges and uncertainty she’s navigated over the past couple of years. “I almost never feel 100 percent,” she admits, “and definitely have not felt 100 percent with treatment, especially since many medications made me feel worse.” I’ve always been impressed with Devon as an athlete. She busts her ass in training and is tough as nails on the race course. I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for her in the time we’ve been working together because she’s been dealt more bad hands than I can count and she’s still sitting at the table. She’s had to learn new levels of acceptance, patience, and persistence, while also wrestling with endless levels of uncertainty and a myriad of uncomfortable emotions. There’s a photo in the article of Devon crossing the finish line at Javelina with her hands in the air and eyes gazing toward the sky. It’s one of my favorite images because I know what that moment meant: it wasn’t so much a celebration of winning the race, but more a gesture of gratitude for a good day.
— The most clicked-on link (by a landslide, no less) in last week’s issue was Brady Holmer’s rant against trying to optimize everything in our lives. It pairs well with this tongue-in-cheek confession from humorist Tom Ellison at McSweeney’s. “I have not eaten cake since my sixth birthday,” he writes. “My lifestyle factors predict I will live at least 120 optimal, cake-free years. When my daughter’s class made a gingerbread house for the holidays, I licked the frosting and told her how good it was because emotional connection optimizes mental health. But I secretly spit it out since frosting’s nutrient profile is suboptimal. Samantha lives with her mom now.”
— The Boston Marathon is a little less than three weeks away and Eliud Kipchoge would like you to know that at the moment his training is going really well (in case you were wondering or had any doubts). If we’re being honest, there wasn’t anything surprising or especially insightful in this 2-1/2 minute update released by NN Running Team a couple days ago, but there is something heartwarming about listening to the greatest marathoner of all-time acknowledge the unpredictability of the conditions in Boston while also appreciating the patience that the course demands. He’s even got his own “Boston route” that he’s been doing his long runs on. Kipchoge, he’s just like the rest of us.
— Where am I going to stash all those gels I mentioned at the top of this newsletter on race day? In the Allston Half Tights from this month’s featured partner, Tracksmith, of course. The Allstons are my go-to for go-fast days. These compressive yet comfortable half tights feature silicon stays on the leg openings to keep them in place. They also have three rear pockets (one with a zipper) for whatever you need to carry with you. (I can easily fit four gels in the two non-zip pockets.) And did I mention they come in both lined and unlined versions?! It's everything you could ever want in a half tight and then some! If you buy anything on Tracksmith.com, and you’re doing so for the first time, use the code MarioNEW to save $15 on your order of $75 or more. If you’re already a Tracksmith customer, use the code MarioGIVE and you can get free shipping on your next order and 5% of your purchase will go to support the Friendly House in Worcester, Massachusetts, an organization that is near and dear to me.
— I felt seen on multiple levels while reading this post from the writer Oliver Burkeman. As a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser, I have a tendency to get caught up in a cycle of craziness when I tell myself that things will calm down afterI get through the pile of whatever it is that I let stack up over time. It never works and Burkeman’s reminder hit me at the right time. “It was my growing disillusionment with this outlook that led me, eventually, to what now feels like a baseline principle for living a calm, meaningfully productive and enjoyable life,” he writes, “which is that in the end, striving toward sanity never works. You have to operate from sanity instead.”
— One of my favorite songs is Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which I’ve shared many a version of here, from an original acoustic performance by the man himself to a number of cool covers by various musicians over the years. I’ve got one more to add to the pile this week: this cover by Canen (who goes by Meira now, it seems), an artist I’d never heard of until the aforelinked video was served up to me on YouTube. The performance is seven years old, and she was apparently 12 when it was recorded, and everything about it is beautiful: the vocals, the cello, band, all of it. Worth three-and-a-half minutes of your day.
Training Tip: Stop trying to program yourself!
The last thing most runners need is another data-gathering gadget. Whether it’s training intensity, sleep, recovery, nutrition, or something else that’s quantifiable, identify a few key metrics to use as points of reference and disregard the rest. Practice feeling things out, internalizing effort, identifying readiness, and understanding what’s happening within (and around) you at any given time. There are no perfect recipes to put together or exact equations to try and solve. Take some risks and be OK with making mistakes so you can learn and adjust your approach the next time out. This is part of the ongoing process of becoming a better athlete. Remember: You are not a programmable robot!
Workout of the Week
The In-n-Out Tempo Run. Let’s face it: Training for a marathon or half-marathon can get monotonous. Both programs involve lots of sustained running at or around goal race pace. This is part of the deal, of course, and an important component for developing fitness, dialing in pacing, practicing fueling, and more. That said, it gets repetitive, if not boring, and a lot of people tend to lock in to a set pace and then zone out until it’s time to stop. Racing, however, requires you to pay attention, listen to your body, and make adjustments on the fly, which is why I love to assign the In-n-Out Tempo Run from time to time. Not to mention, it’s much more interesting than its classically constructed cousin! Here are the details.
The Bottom Line.
“I'd like to go out and have a good practice today. That would be at the top of the list right now.”
—Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach with a record six Super Bowl titles to his credit, when asked by a reporter a few years back what he still wants to accomplish in his career
That’s it for Issue 385. If you dug it, please forward this email to a friend (or five!) and encourage them to subscribe at this link so they can receive it next week.
Thanks for reading,
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