Good morning! I was in Oregon over the weekend supporting my wife, Christine, at her triathlon and we spent yesterday taking the scenic (i.e. coastal) route home, which was a nice treat. Her race went fine (her words) and we had a fun few days in the state’s capital city along with our four-legged fur child, Tahoe. During the drive up last Friday, Christine and I spent quite a bit of time talking about our respective relationships with endurance sports, hers being one that has spanned nearly four decades (she started swimming as a young kid, swam competitively through high school and college, and has been racing triathlon going on 20 years now), mine two-and-a-half decades old at this point, beginning with cross country and track in high school and carrying on through today. The question we’re each wrestling with is: How much longer do I keep doing this? (“This” being training and racing hard.) I won’t speak for Christine but I really can’t see an end to my pursuit of competitive running—not anytime soon, anyway. Twenty-five years into being a runner, I’m having more fun training and racing than I ever have, despite the fact that I’m not as fast as I once was or dedicating nearly as much time to it as I once did. I have, however, allowed my relationship to it to evolve over the years, which has kept it fresh and fun. Not racing in 2020 helped a lot with this, as did turning 40 a little over a year ago. The pandemic helped me to realize that I didn’t need a race on the calendar to get me out the door every morning or want to push myself on a regular basis, while joining the Masters ranks, paradoxically enough, got me excited to race again. So what’s different nowadays? The approach. Instead of training with a chip on my shoulder or feeling like I need to feed some sort of insecurity, I lace up my shoes every morning with gratitude for just being able to do it. I’m honest with myself about how much time I want to invest in it and where I want it to fit in with the rest of my life. I enjoy being outside and pushing my body. I like to spend time alone, but I also cherish miles shared with my wife, dog, and friends. I still run races, yes, but I train for life. So why bother racing at all then? In the past it was to prove something, either to myself or someone else, or because I felt like I had to for whatever reason. (Team obligations, peer pressure, self-imposed expectations, etc.) Now it’s just pure curiosity: What’s possible in my early 40s? Late 40s? 50s? Can I break 4 for 1500m next year? Can I contend for a national title? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m more excited than ever to find out.
My point in sharing all of this is simply to acknowledge that like any relationship, the one we each have with running—or any endurance sport, any pursuit that’s worthwhile, really—needs to evolve over time, otherwise it’s likely to turn stale, go sour, or end on a bad note. Running has been largely responsible for many of my life’s greatest gifts and lessons, but it’s also broken my heart, my body, and my spirit on multiple occasions. It hasn’t always been the healthiest or smoothest relationship, and there have been a few times when I’ve come close to calling it quits, but I’m glad I’ve stuck it out. As long as I can keep reframing my perspective and finding new forms of joy in this decades-old love, I think we can keep this thing going for a long while still.
— If you haven’t already, carve a little over 4 minutes out of your day to watch the greatest women’s mile race in history. It took place on Friday at the Diamond League meet in Monaco and it was a burner across the board: Faith Kipyegon shattered the world record, Nikki Hiltz and Elise Cranny both dipped under the American record, seven national records fell in total, and everyone in the race ran a personal best. Eight athletes broke 4:20, three were under 4:15, and one, Kipyegon, became the first female to go-sub 4:10 (and 4:12, and 4:11, and 4:09, and 4:08, for that matter). Now, it should be noted that the mile isn’t run at the professional level nearly as much as the 1500m but this was an all-timer of a race for two reasons: 1. Its depth, for the reasons I just mentioned above, and 2. Kipyegon’s dominance, no disrespect at all to anyone else in the race. Everyone ran lights out and she still won by nearly seven seconds—almost, and in some cases more than, two seconds per lap faster than her closest competitors, all of whom are world-class in their own right. (If you see my head spinning down the street, please put it in the mail for me.)
— Amby Burfoot recently wrote about super shoes for The New York Times, taking a closer look at the payoff from accumulating years of training in high stack, super responsive, carbon-plated shoes. And while there are no studies to reference (yet), athletes, coaches, and sports scientists alike have noticed that they allow athletes to get in more quality work, sustain a higher overall workload, and recover quicker from races and intense sessions. The flipside? They can be too much of a good thing if not used carefully, weakening the feet and lower legs and leading to a number of injuries ranging from strains and tears to stress fractures. As I’ve shared here before, and tell my own athletes all the time, treat your super shoes like a golfer does their big bertha driver: practice with them every once in a while and save them for the days when you really want to send it. Why? Running most of your miles in more “normal” running shoes will do a better job engaging and strengthening your feet and lower legs and, in my opinion and observations, allow you to get a greater response out of the super shoes when you do use them.
— Ever since watching Unchained on Netflix in late-June I’ve been super invested in this year’s Tour de France, watching as much of each day’s stage as I can and catching the NBC Sports recap every night. Stage 19 in particular was a great one, as Matej Mohoric captured the win, outsprinting Kasper Asgreen by the thickness of the tread on his tire at the line. It was his post-race interview, however, that made me a fan of his for life. Exhausted from his effort, Mohoric’s honesty, humility, and emotion are raw and genuine, and really put in perspective how hard it is to be a professional cyclist and what the victory meant to him and Team Bahrain Victorious a month after their teammate, Gino Mäder, died in a crash at the Tour de Suisse. The entire interview is gold but my favorite part is halfway through when Mohoric is asked where he found the determination. “I don’t know,” he explains. “I just said ‘I don’t want to have any regrets when I come back to the team bus, always.’ I know I don’t often win because I’m not as strong as the others but I can keep the cool and the focus in the crucial moments.” If you click on only one thing I link to this week, make it this interview.
— There are t-shirts I’ve seen that say, “Flagstaff vs. Everybody,” and when it comes to distance running in the U.S., it’s hard to argue that fact: FLG is home to the top men’s collegiate distance program in the country at Northern Arizona University (and the women’s program is on the rise, too), Northern Arizona Elite is based there, and many other top-tier groups and individuals are based there (or head there for high-altitude training) throughout the year. Logan Stanley recently profiled the place for Cronkite News (n.b. pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever linked to this publication) and took a deep dive into trying to understand why and how it’s become a modern-day running mecca. “It’s awesome. That was actually a big draw to move here,” Lauren Hagans of NAZ Elite said of the small city’s culture. “I think it’s really fun. You have all these athletes. There’s this joke, ‘Everyone ends up here at some point.’…It gives me more energy just to have so many people around training for different events and have different workouts that you know everyone’s working really hard. That’s fun for me.”
— NPR has been killing it with the Tiny Desk concerts this summer and their latest with Cypress Hill is no exception. If you’re in your early 40s to mid-50s, this will make you nostalgic for the 90s, and if not, just listen and watch one of the most iconic hip-hop groups of all-time do their thing in a way they’ve never done it before (spoiler: with an orchestra!).
+ The aforementioned Cypress Hill Tiny Desk pairs well with 50 Rappers, 50 Stories, a piece that celebrates 50 years of hip hop. I spent an hour last week going down the rabbit hole of reading rappers’ stories, learning about their influences, understanding their approaches, and, in some cases, talking shit about other artists. “I would love the opportunity to get out on one of these hip-hop tours and perform for an audience that ain’t ours so people might say, man, they’re actually pretty good,” said Violent J of the Insane Clown Posse. “One time we offered Ice Cube $100,000 to spit a verse and he passed, and then years later he did it for free, out of respect. Ain’t that crazy?” Game recognize game.
— A big thank you to my partners at New Balance for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). The new FuelCell SuperComp Trainer v2 finally arrived last week and it was the only running shoe I took with me on our trip this past weekend. (I knocked out a faster long run in it on Saturday and it felt great.) Here are my initial impressions: The overall fit is much more accommodating than its predecessor with a detached tongue and more versatile (and breathable) upper. The new version feels lighter than the v1 without sacrificing cushioning and responsiveness underfoot. It rides really nice and this is going to be a great go-to option for long runs and easy runs alike. It’s available in men’s and women’s sizes at your favorite run specialty retail store or on newbalance.com.
Training Tip: Warm up before you head out!
Raise your hand if you’re one to head out and go for a run without doing much more than tying your shoes. (Guilty as charged!) Taking five minutes to warm up your body before you start running can go a long way in greasing your grooves, so to speak, and lessening the likelihood of injury. There are a number of ways to do this but it need not be fancy: I recommend physical therapists James Dunne’s 5-minute warmup routine or coach Jay Johnson’s lunge matrix and leg swings to my athletes. Both routines are sound, they’re easy to execute, and won’t take you more than 5 minutes to complete.
Workout of the Week: Pardon the Uphill Interruption
Long intervals or short hill sprints for your next workout? Trick question. The answer is both! I like to combine different training elements from time to time to keep workouts interesting and help us get a little something extra out of them. In this workout, we’ll “interrupt” a session of 2-mile repeats with two 10-20 second hill sprints at near max effort. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“You know, there’s part of me that thinks I should be a writer or an entrepreneur or I could blah, blah, blah. But then I think about it and go, I’ve made my peace with what I am at my core: There’s really only one thing I’ve ever been any goddamn good at. So to keep imagining that I’m going to suddenly transform into this formidable multihyphenate? I’m just starting to not buy my own hype. It’s about: Can I feel good about what I’m doing? OK, yes, then I’ll feel good about it.”
—Robert Downey Jr., in this recent New York Times profile, talking about having self-awareness at this stage of his life.
That’s it for Issue 402. If you dug it, please forward this email to a few friends and encourage them to subscribe at this link so they can receive it for themselves next week.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. As I’ve been ramping up my summer training ahead of the fall cross-country season, I’ve been fueling before and during workouts with products from my partners at Precision Fuel & Hydration. In the hour or so before I start running, I sip on PF60 drink mix, which 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. 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.)
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