Good morning! Two things off the top this week: 1. I raced a 5K on Saturday! In short: It was ugly. I went out way too hard for where I’m at right now and paid mightily for it the second half of the race. Lungs were on fire, legs were unresponsive, and I was getting passed left and right the last mile. No excuses, just some false bravado and piss-poor execution on my part. Whatever residual fitness I had left over from Boston has clearly passed its expiration date. That said, I ain’t mad about it! It was a really fun morning in Golden Gate Park with some of the best people. Just the kick in the ass I needed heading into the summer months! (Stats and some photos are on Strava if you’re interested in checking it all out.) 2. Thank you once again to my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). The brand’s Spring Collection features a colorful refresh of some of my favorite training staples, including the Twilight Tank, which is my go-to for racing and when I want to run fast. It’s incredibly lightweight, subtly designed, and super breathable. I’ve worn a version of it for years and will be rocking it this summer at aptly named Tracksmith's Twilight 5000 in San Francisco and/or Oakland. (Not sure if I’m racing or pacing yet but I’ll definitely be at both events!) Whether you're stepping down in distance from a spring marathon, focusing on lowering your 5K personal best this summer, or trying to improve your speed before a fall marathon cycle, these races bring out the best of the running community: competition, camaraderie, and fast times under the lights, no matter how fast you’re trying to go. I paced a couple heats at last summer’s edition and had a great time! You can find the full 18-city schedule here. Also, 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).
OK, let’s get right to it.
— Take a little less than 4 minutes out of your day and watch Faith Kipyegon of Kenya become the first woman in history to run under 3:50 for 1500m with this scintillating performance at the Diamond League meet in Florence on Friday night. Kipyegon, who crossed the line in 3:49.11, had great pacing for about 900m (not to mention a little pressure from a gritty Laura Muir of Great Britain, who tried to hang on for as long as possible). Kipyegon began to pull away from Muir over the final 600m and put 8 seconds on her in a lap-and-a-half. Muir, to her credit, ran 3:57.09 the hard way for second, while Australian Jessica Hull took third in a national record of 3:57.29. Kipyegon’s excitement after the finish line was something to see, as the world-record was the one thing missing from a resume that already included two Olympic and two world titles. A few other observations I took away from watching the aforelinked video: 1. Brooke Feldmeier and Sage Hurta-Klecker, two world-class athletes themselves, did a great job pacing Kipyegon. That said, it’s wild how relaxed Kipyegon looks clicking off 62 second laps while Feldmeier and Hurta-Klecker were clearly closer to their respective limits. The difference in the body tension and turnover of the three women really is remarkable. 2. Kipyegon closed like a boss! She was sub-59 for her last lap to take nearly a second off Genzebe Dibaba’s old mark. 3. If you watch all the way to the end of the 10-minute video, Kipyegon completes her victory lap and is greeted by her competitors near the finish line. There’s smiles, and hugs, and a genuine show of respect and admiration for Kipyegon, who has won an Olympic gold, captured a world title, and broken a world record since giving birth to her daughter in 2018. It was a great reminder of what makes sports so special.
— During the first 11-½ laps of the men’s 5000m at the Diamond League meet in Florence on Friday night, nothing too notable happened. Every lap or two someone new would take a pull at the front as the pack stretched out and collapsed like an accordian. The pace was inconsistent, but honest. It felt like a championship-style chess match and no one was willing to make any drastic moves. At the bell, 13 men were still in contention, with half the pack out in Lanes 2 and 3 fighting for position. Game on! Watch the madness unfold here and note everyone’s position: Mo Katir and Yomif Kejelcha, who went 1-2 in 12:52.09 and 12:52.12, are both on the edge of Lane 1, unencumbered to the outside, in position to strike and/or respond without running too much extra distance. Luis Grijalva of Guatemala, fourth in the world last year, is holding his own on the rail in 5th-6th on the backstretch. He’s not boxed in and well-positioned to slide out into the lane of high hopes on the homestretch and mow people down, which is exactly what he did. Grijalva finished third in 12:52.97, a 10-second personal best, in what for me was the most impressive performance of the night. It seems like only a matter of time before he’s at the front heading into the home stretch, kicking to a big win. In all, 13 guys broke 13 minutes, the deepest 5000m race in history. (On this note, after reading this recent Alex Hutchinson article on the effects of spike technology on economy and performance, which I’ll comment on in a few minutes, I can’t help but wonder if this race would be getting the attention it has had all the guys run between 13-flat to 13:10. I don’t know the answer but it’s interesting to think about.) Three of those men were Americans, which, if you’re old like me, is still hard to wrap your head around when you think back to when Bob Kennedy was the only sub-13 guy we had for a long time. Of those three, Joe Klecker (7th, 12:55.16) and Grant Fisher (11th, 12:56.99) were in it at the bell. The top American finisher, Woody Kincaid (who trains with Grijalva in Flagstaff, AZ), was a few meters back of the pack with a lap to go, but he closed like only Woody Kincaid can, finishing with a 54-second final circuit to place 6th in 12:54.40. I can’t understand Kincaid’s come-from-way-behind strategy for the life of me—it’s not the first-time he’s done something like this—but at this level he needs to be closer to the front with a lap to go if he wants to put himself on the podium. Then again, it’s early June, so he’s got a few months to make some adjustments.
— Here’s the Alex Hutchinson article from Outside that I just mentioned in the last item. Hutchinson shares some highlights from the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual mega-conference, and he starts with new findings on footwear. The two most interesting things that stood out to me were: 1. “Super spikes” improve running economy by about two percent compared to traditional track spikes. So, for a 4-minute miler in old-school track spikes (i.e. sans responsive cushioning and/or a stiff plate), that’s worth a little over 3 seconds. 2. In a small study (8 runners), four runners did their interval workouts and tempo runs in a traditional lightweight racing flat. The other four did theirs in a super shoe. What did the researchers find? “The supershoe group improved their running economy by 1.0 percent on average,” writes Hutchinson. “The flats group improved by 5.6 percent.” Obviously, more work needs to be done here, but I didn’t find this result to be all that surprising based on my own experiences and observations. I think non-super shoes allow for more improvement (and overall body engagement) because there's just more happening underfoot and all the way up the chain. With my own athletes I've been trying to beat the drum of only using super shoes sparingly—i.e., race day and a few key workouts here and there—mostly because I’ve seen sloppier mechanics, higher rates of injury (n.b. I think there’s a connection here), and a false sense of fitness when they’re used too much. I’d love to see a bigger study take a closer look not only at economy improvements between various types of footwear, but also injury rates, the effect of a shoe on overall training load and the amount of time that can be spent at higher intensities, and how different shoes may affect recovery from harder efforts.
— My favorite living writer is Wright Thompson and no one else is even close. Thompson is a craftsman and his ability to humanize his subjects and connect their personal experiences to the greater human condition is unparalleled. He’s an incredible storyteller whose longform pieces are so captivating I often knock them out in one sitting. He was recently a guest on Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic podcast to talk about his work, how he approaches it, the dots he tries to connect, and a lot more. It’s well worth 90 minutes of your time. After listening to that episode, go read (or re-read) this ESPN profile on former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, which they mention briefly in the podcast conversation, leading up to his retirement in 2022. Thompson paints a picture of a man who contains more multitudes than most people knew: respected but conflicted coach, a man who has deep but also complicated relationships, someone who was very clear on his career path but who also has no idea what he’ll do with himself once he’s done. It’s brilliant and was a wonderful way to spend an hour this past Saturday afternoon.
— I was first turned on to Daniel Rodriguez’ music by my friend Dinée Dorame a year or so ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. Here’s an awesome acoustic version of his song, “Colorado,” paying homage to his home state. I love the stripped-down nature of this one—it’s clearly a personal and meaningful song to him, and watching him sing it while playing his guitar alongside a sole percussionist makes for a beautiful experience.
— One of the biggest shifts I’ve made in my training over the past year is being a lot better about fueling before (and even during) key workouts. Personally, I’ve found “quick carbs” to be an easy and effective way to top off my tank before I push myself in a hard workout. Here’s what I do: In the hour or so before I start running, I sip on PF60 drink mix from my partners at Precision Fuel and Hydration. That gets me 120 calories and 30g of carbohydrate and it’s easy on the stomach. During intervals or a tempo run, I’ll sometimes pop a PF30 gel mid-workout and/or sip on more of the drink mix if I’m at the track and can have my bottle close by. I’ve found this to not only help sustain my energy levels, allowing me to get more out of the session, but I also feel a hell of a lot better afterward because I’ve been fueling my working muscles. Here’s an article from Andy Blow at PF&H on why, how, and what to eat before exercise. Olympic Trials marathoner and registered dietician Starla Garcia also talked about the importance of pre-workout fueling on the podcast back in April and offered some great advice for how to do this efficiently and effectively if you don’t have a lot of time before workouts and/or have a sensitive stomach. (And if you’re interested in trying Precision Fuel & Hydration products for yourself, check out this link and save 15% off your first order.)
Training Tip: Hold on for one more day.
As runners, it’s inevitable that at some point of our journeys we’ll end up injured or sick. And while it’s never fun to be stuck on the sidelines, it’s part of the process of pushing your body to places it’s never been before. When you’re recovered from that which ailed you—stress fracture, ankle sprain, bad cold, stomach bug, you name it—and are feeling ready to run again, a good rule of thumb is to hold on for one more day before you resume logging some miles. Running is a sport that rewards taking a patient approach and coming back from injury and/or illness is no exception. Choosing to take one more day of recovery than you think you need now may save you a week (or more) of forced downtime down the road. Annoying? Sure. But I promise you, you’ll make it one more day.
Workout of the Week: The Sev Special
Summer is around the corner and for some runners that means an opportunity to improve their speed before shifting focus toward training for longer distances in the fall. If you’re planning to hit the track this summer for regular speedwork, one of my favorite introductory sessions for getting back on the oval is one that I learned from the legendary Bob “Sev” Sevene back in 2005. It consists of sets of 400 and 800m repeats at a hard-but-not–too-hard effort. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“Talent can allow me to become good, but to excel in a crisis will require pigheadedness, blind obstinacy, any maybe even an inflated opinion of my ability. But I’m doing it for myself, not because anyone wants me to. Indeed, these may be the most crucial elements.”
—Bernd Heinrich, Racing The Clock
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