Good morning! I recently sat down with my good friend and three-time podcast guest Simon Freeman, the co-founder, editor, and publisher of my favorite running magazine, Like The Wind, for the third installment of our unnamed quarterly conversation, which you can listen to wherever you get the morning shakeout podcast or at this handy link. An excerpt of this exchange can be found in Issue #37 of LtW, which comes out later this week. (You can buy a copy or subscribe here.) In this one, Simon and I talk all about defining yourself a runner, why many runners tend to identify themselves in a particular way, how identity influences the products you buy and the content you consume, the importance of diversifying your interests and pursuits in the sport, and a lot more. I’ve long found it interesting that many people identify specifically as a “marathoner” or “ultrarunner” or “middle-distance runner” or “trail runner” while others who run regularly don’t even think of themselves as a “runner” in the “traditional” sense, whatever the hell that means. As always, this one was super fun and my only regret was that it wasn’t twice as long. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share them with me by replying to this email or tagging @theAMshakeout and @simonbfreeman on Instagram.
Before we dive into the rest of this week’s email, I’d like to thank my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). I, for one, am stoked for the upcoming cross-country season, and I love that Tracksmith is celebrating its arrival with the release of its new Cross Country Collection, available now. The Van Cortlandt pieces share their name with cross-country course royalty (n.b. Let’s not talk about the fact that one of the worst XC races of my life was at Vanny!) and the Brighton Base Layer makes for a great layering piece on race day but also looks (and works!) great on its own. I’ve got the Brighton in both short and long sleeve options and wear one or the other year-round in a variety of situations. The short sleeve, in particular, is the perfect transition piece from summer to fall. It’s made from a merino wool blend, it wicks moisture and regulates temperature well, but best of all: it doesn’t smell when I sweat in it! If you buy the Brighton Base Layer, or anything on Tracksmith.com for that matter, 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.
— I wasn’t feeling that well last week and didn’t race at the Tracksmith Twilight 5000 on Thursday night in Oakland but my friend Sam Robinson did and I’d encourage you to read this essay he wrote recapping the event. What’s awesome about the Twilight meets is that there’s a race for everyone, whether you’re stepping on the track for the first time or trying to break some big scary barrier that’s eluded you for years. It’s an event that brings people of all sizes, shapes, speeds, and socioeconomic backgrounds together around a shared experience, a real experience, the type of experience that we need more of in our society today. “Perhaps events like the Twilight Meets could help, in small ways, to reknit our sheared social fabric,” he writes. “In an age where sociability has been eroded by workaholism, neoliberalism, social media, and streaming television, creating venues for low-stakes competition could draw in a broader range of athletes. Much like the bowling leagues of yesteryear that brought people together across class lines, an inclusive track meet might play a similar role.” [n.b. Please read the entire piece through to the end.]
— This essay from Paul Graham about maker’s schedules and manager’s schedules is a piece I may have linked to in this newsletter before but it’s worth sharing again if I did. I re-read it every few months as a reminder to myself to be intentional about how I spend my working time. As a self-employed coach (and writer/podcast host), my days are often a mix of managing my business and the relationships that keep it going (administrative work, responding to athletes, taking phone calls, meeting with partners, etc.) and making the shit that also keeps it going (this newsletter, the podcast, and training schedules, primarily). I’d venture to guess that many peoples’ working lives, whether you’re self-employed or work for someone else, require a mix of managing and making. All too often, however—and I am as guilty of this as anyone—the default is to operate strictly on a manager’s schedule, which can make it hard to get any tangible work done because we’re always reacting to other peoples’ demands on our time. I know that if I’m not intentional, clear, and specific about when I’m managing and when I’m making (with myself as well as those I work with) it all goes to hell pretty quickly and I have a hard time giving anyone or anything my full attention and energy. “Each type of schedule works fine by itself,” Graham writes. “Problems arise when they meet.”
— My friend Brendan Leonard, aka @semi-rad, recently wrote about how running is like the creative process and it checks out. (And he’s got graphs and flow charts to prove it!) “Inspiration is great, but it won’t do the work for you,” he writes. “In creative work and running, inspiration is a spark, not a fire. Fear, of an upcoming race date or a deadline, might work as a motivator, though.”
— There are a lot of races from the recent World Championships that I could link to and comment on but I’m going to stick to the women’s 800m final, which you can watch in its entirety here. There’s a lot to say about this race, which I’ll try to sum up in a few points: 1. Kenya’s Mary Moraa won the race in a personal best 1:56.03. Moraa, who took bronze at last summer’s world championships in Eugene and hasn’t lost since, didn’t get any meaningful mention on the NBC broadcast until the final turn despite the race she ran no further back than third after 200 meters. Mu and “the Brits” got all the attention and Moraa came away with the win. (I refuse to call it an upset given the season she’s had!) 1A. Moraa did run almost the entire race in Lane 2 and absolutely ran further than everyone else in the field. On the flipside, she was never boxed in and avoided trouble but there’s no doubt that she can go sub-1:56 on the right day. 1B. The excitement with which Moraa jumped across the finish line and celebrated afterward was genuine and fun to watch. 2. The commentators were right to observe that Athing Mu’s trademark smile was noticeably absent throughout these championships. Mu carries a tremendous weight of expectation on her shoulders as the reigning Olympic and world champion and for reasons we may never know or understand, she just didn’t seem that excited to be in Budapest last week. 3. Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain will win gold at a global championship in the next two years. I also think Americans Raevyn Rogers (4th, 1:57.45) and Nia Akins (6th, 1:57.73) will both be global medalists in the next two years as well. The talent and depth in this event is incredible right now.
— I don’t have much to say about the men’s 1500m final other than that I wasn’t super surprised by the outcome. It was exactly the type of race I thought Jakob Ingebrigtsen was most vulnerable in and Josh Kerr made his winning move at exactly the right moment. What I will say is I was impressed by Narve Gilje Nordås’ final 100 meters—it was the fastest in the field by quite a bit—as he went from 6th to 3rd to capture his first global medal. I was equally befuddled, however, by his post-race interview. When asked how he was feeling, Nordås, with no hint of sarcasm, replied that, “I’m feeling good, feeling recovered, ready to run some thresholds…hopefully I can run a lot [of them] to keep on building to next season.” He was then asked if he was surprised to kick past nearly everyone in the field with 100 meters to go and replied, “No, because I had no lactic acid when the bell was ringing.” Now, this is not someone who has a closet full of hardware—this was by far the biggest splash the 24-year-old Norwegian had ever made on a global stage and it was almost as if that was lost on him. I’m all for the ongoing process of discovery (see next item in the Quick Splits lineup) but I also think you have to recognize your wins when they happen. The entire exchange and the way he was talking about threshold workouts and lactic acid came off as strange. The whole threshold thing is starting to get this weird, cultish vibe to it, which I don’t understand or support. At this level of sport you do the work to give yourself a chance to contend for the medal. If you get the medal, you should celebrate the achievement and the work that went into it. Somehow I felt like that got lost in there somewhere and for Nordås it’s become, “I do threshold so I can serve the lactic acid gods.” I hope he finds a way to recognize the enormity of his accomplishment and that he can remain an exciting competitor on the global stage for many years to come.
— “We talkin’ about practice, man.” That’s exactly right, AI, and for good reason: It’s the infinite game, as Brad Stulberg writes in a recent blog post. “Eastern wisdom traditions conceptualize practice as a path—tao in Chinese and do in Japanese,” he writes. “This represents the never-ending, infinite nature of practice. There is no destination, just continuous learning and refining. Conceiving of practice as a path also represents the inevitability that sometimes you will veer off. That’s fine. Your work is to get back on.” This lesson can be applied to so many areas of life that provide meaning to us: running, teaching, meditation, coaching, and more. Of course, I think a lot about this in the context of a healthy running practice: many athletes will oftentimes fixate on a bad race or a missed workout as if it’s the end of the world. They miss the forest for the trees. The truth is that bad races and missed workouts are going to happen—they don’t say anything about you, your preparation, your season, etc. They’re just a part of the ongoing process (and practice) of becoming the runner you want to be.
— YouTube recommended this video of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson playing their acoustic guitars and singing the first single (“Yard Sale”) from Harper’s new album and it’s really great. They’re sitting at someone’s kitchen counter just strumming and singing away and there’s something about it that just feels…right.
— Ramping up for a marathon in the next few months? Here are 4 things you need to nail if you want to run fast this fall. And here’s some further discussion from yours truly on how to use training to dial in your marathon pacing and fueling. I did both of these pieces in conjunction with my partners at Precision Fuel and Hydration, whose team provides a wealth of valuable (and free!) hydration, fueling, and performance advice in their Knowledge Hub. I’ve personally used PF&H products in my own training and racing for over five years now and it’s made a massive difference for me in how well I’m able to perform and recover when it matters most. Check out their free fuel & hydration planner to help dial in your carb, sodium, and fluid needs. It’s a GREAT tool that will put you on the right path to solving any intake issues you might have. (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: Live like a clock.
This line is from the great Jumbo Elliott, who coached at Villanova University from 1949 to 1981, and led a number of his athletes to national titles, Olympic medals, world records, and other impressive accomplishments. He was famous for telling his athletes to “live like a clock,” meaning to create a routine that works for you and try to follow it as closely as possible day after day, week after week, and month after month. What does this look like in practice? Going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day. Trying to train at around the same time every day. Eating at around the same time every day. Establishing a routine that works for you and your lifestyle will lead to improved consistency across the board, healthier boundaries, better predictability, more effective workouts, enhanced recovery, and other benefits. Naturally, things will come up and throw you off your routine, but if you’ve got a solid foundation in place, you’ll be better equipped to navigate those interruptions and get yourself back on track. Lacking consistency in your training and racing (or maybe just life in general)? Try living like a clock.
Workout of the Week: Yasso 800s
Named after the legendary Bart Yasso, this is perhaps the most well-known speed workout amongst dedicated marathoners of all levels. The premise is pretty straightforward: If your goal is to run a marathon in, say, 3 hours flat, you should be able to do ten 800m repeats in 3:00 with a 400m jog for recovery between reps. A 2:45 marathoner would run their reps in 2:45, and so on and so forth. No doubt, running 10 x 800m in a split that corresponds with your goal marathon time—which actually works out to around your 5K pace, according to the Jack Daniels VDOT calculator—is a challenging workout, but it doesn’t actually tell you anything about your ability to run goal pace for a marathon. It’s simply a good workout. “For me, it was just this coincidence, correlation that I would see,” Yasso told me in a conversation we had a few years ago on Episode 36 of the podcast. “I loved that workout: 10 x 800m, 400m recovery…It was short enough that you get leg speed and long enough that you get the endurance.” Whether you call them Yassos or not—Bart does not, for the record—there’s a place in your program for 800m repetitions at a hard effort whether you’re a marathoner, 5K specialist, or something in between. I like to call 800s “the honest interval,” meaning they’re short enough to keep your attention, but long enough that you can’t fake your way through a set of them. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”
—Kurt Vonnegut in Hocus Pocus (and while he wasn’t talking about runners, he was definitely talking about runners!)
That's it for Issue 407. Please feel free to forward this email, share the web link, or reply to me directly at your own risk.
Thanks for reading,
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