mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 413

Published 6 months ago • 8 min read

Good morning! The conversations I've had for the Coach to Coach series of the podcast have been incredible, this week’s being no exception. The most recent episode is with Stuart McMillan, widely regarded as one of the best sprint coaches in the world. Stu has worked with both professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports with a focus on power and speed development. He’s personally coached over 70 Olympians at nine Olympic Games, over 30 of whom have won Olympic medals. In addition to his hands-on work with athletes, Stu runs ALTIS, an organization that trains athletes and educates coaches to perform at the highest level.

I first became aware of Stu several years ago as an avid reader of his now defunct blog, McMillan Speed, and have followed his work ever since. It quickly became obvious to me that Stu not only knew his shit when it came to all topics sprint, strength, and power, but he was also a deep thinker with a knack for connecting seemingly disparate dots in a way that was interesting, educational, and accessible. I’ve been a longtime subscriber to ALTIS Connect, arguably the most robust library of educational video content for coaches that you’ll find anywhere on the internet, and also regularly read the newsletters Stu and his team put out every week. In short: Stu has taught me a lot, often without him even knowing it, and he’s had a profound impact on how I approach the craft of coaching and working with athletes.

In this conversation, which easily would have gone another couple hours if we hadn’t run out of time, Stu and I cover a wide range of topics, from coffee and music to Stu’s former life as a DJ. We get into all things coaching, including how Stu got his start and how his approach has evolved over the past 30 years, creativity and how it influences his work, the role of the “philosopher-coach” and putting an emphasis on critical thinking and question asking, taking a systems approach to working with athletes and life in general, and so, so much more. You can find this one in all the usual places (just subscribe to “the morning shakeout podcast” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or whatever app you usually listen on), or at this handy link.

Quick Splits

If you’re looking for recaps from Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, go here (men’s race), here (women’s race), and here (American men); if you want a peek at what caught my eye, keep scrolling for a little bit.

Watching the last few minutes of Kelvin Kiptum's world-record breaking run on Sunday reminded me of this old clip of Steve Jones doing the same in Chicago 39 years prior. Both champions had no one but the clock to race over the final kilometers, and both Kiptum and Jones broke the tape full of elation with their arms outstretched over their heads. Amazingly, Jones’ time back in 1984, achieved without the aid of super shoes, pacers, or modern sports nutrition, would have been good enough for eighth-place on Sunday. Jones won Chicago again a year later in 2:07:13—splitting an incredible 61:42 at halfway, unheard of at the time—just missing Carlos Lopes’ world-record by one second. (You can hear him talk about both those races on Episode 81 of the podcast.)

— Unlike Kiptum, who looked like he probably could have gone another five miles after crossing the finish line, Sifan Hassan appeared ready to be done far before she made her way onto Columbus Drive. Here she is in the final kilometer of the race, head bobbing and arms flailing a bit, but still on pace to clock the second-fastest marathon in history (which would have been a world-record had it not been shattered in Berlin two weeks earlier). After the race, Hassan says she told herself “never again” with 5K to go. (Kiptum, on the other hand, told that he’s never felt pain in any of his three marathons, which, to be fair, I think he probably meant quite literally, i.e. injury pain, and not the overwhelming feelings of fatigue and physical distress “pain” every marathoner experiences, but I could very well be wrong about that.)

This was a great interview with Ed Eyestone, coach of Americans Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, after his charges ran 2:07:47 and 2:08:00, respectively, to hit the Olympic standard in Chicago on Sunday. His message to Young before the race was “patience, followed by destruction,” wise words that he says were his mantra back in the day, shaped from the impatience that led to destruction in the early stages of his own marathon career. (Eyestone himself was a two-time Olympian.)

— It was great to see Molly Seidel run a personal best of 2:23:07 in Chicago on Sunday. I don’t know Molly personally, but I do know she’s had more than her fair share of struggles since making the Olympic team in 2020 and capturing the bronze medal 18 months later, and one couldn’t help but wonder for a while if she’d ever get back to competing at a world-class level. The 29-year-old opened up about the depth of those struggles, which include anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, obsessive-​compulsive disorder, and depression, in this recent Runner’s World profile written by Rachel Levin. It’s a long, raw, powerful read that chronicles the roller coaster of a road Seidel has been traveling for most of her life, while also capturing the fullness of her perfectly imperfect personality. “Pre raced in such a genuine way. He made people feel something,” she says in the piece. “The sports performances you truly remember,” she adds, “are the ones where you see the struggle, the work, the realness.”

— You’ll often hear experienced coaches say that they’re trying to coach themselves out of a job, i.e. getting the athlete to the point where they’re not dependent on the coach to perform, but still find value in the relationship. Dan Pfaff, legendary coach and mentor to this week’s podcast guest Stuart McMillan, sent out this email a few weeks ago about coaching toward independence and it’s the most succinct explanation I’ve ever read on the subject.

— From the Archives (Issue 152, 5 years ago this week): How to write the perfect sentence. “A sentence is much more than its literal meaning,” Joe Moran writes for The Guardian. "It is a living line of words where logic and lyric meet – a piece of both sense and sound, albeit the sound is only heard in the reader’s head.” I often struggle to make sense of the sounds in my own head when I write. Not sure what that means but it’s a sentence I think most writers reading this can understand.

— I’ll be honest: Callum Elson wasn’t a name I was familiar with until I combed through the results of the men’s mile at the recent World Road Running Champs in Latvia, where he finished second to American Hobbs Kessler in 3:56.41. Then, a few days ago, I was sent this film chronicling Callum’s season through the recent world championships, and I couldn’t stop watching it. Entitled “Closing the Gap,” the 30-ish minute film spins the compelling story of a young British elite athlete who isn’t quite an amateur, but also not exactly pro, as he tries like hell to close the gap and establish himself on the global stage. The 24-year-old Elson, works full-time in digital marketing and competes as a member of the SOAR Race Team (but otherwise remains unsponsored), only started training seriously during the COVID lockdowns of 2020. “I’ve never been to altitude,” he told Athletics Weekly after worlds. “I just rock up on a Tuesday night with the (Cambridge & Coleridge) boys with whatever kit I can scramble for free, smash out some reps, go home and have my tea.”

— When Eminem comes out onto the stage with 50 Cent two minutes into this recent performance in Detroit the crowd loses its collective mind and it’s a lot of fun to watch. These two are clearly still super tight and that comes across throughout this one. “Oh Detroit,” Eminem shouts out toward the end of the performance. “Don’t f*cking act like you didn’t know I was gonna be here!”

— A big thank you to Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2023). We’re coming into shoulder season and fall will be in full swing before we know it, which means I get to break out the Brighton Base Layer most days of the week. I’ve got this shirt in both short and long sleeve options and they work 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! I’ll wear it on its own but also under a light jacket if it’s cool enough. If you buy the Brighton Base Layer, or anything on 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).

Training Tip: Do the drill(s)!

Whether you’re training for the mile, an ultramarathon, or anything in between, including some basic running-specific drills as part of your weekly routine can serve you well. There are a few ways to incorporate drills into your training schedule, depending on what you want to get out of them. First, they can be included as part of a dynamic warmup (at slower speeds) to help you get ready to run. In this instance, slow them down and literally just go through the motions. Next, as a standalone set after an easy run, drills will help to promote good running mechanics by improving neuromuscular coordination, promoting an efficient footstrike, encouraging a quicker cadence, and reducing contact time with the ground. Finally, when used as part of your warmup for a speed workout or race, they’ll get the right muscles firing for the faster running to follow. Here are 7 simple ones to start working into your schedule a couple times a week. If you’re doing them for the first time, it may be necessary to walk through the drills initially before progressing to faster speeds over the course of a couple weeks.

Workout of the Week: The Hudson Fartlek

I first learned about this fartlek session in coach Brad Hudson’s Little Black Book (Redux). He calls it an “introduction to power endurance” workout and recommends using it early in a training cycle when an athlete is still building fitness but ready to handle more work. The pickups are relatively short—1-3 minutes in duration—and the intensity—10K effort—should manageable for that chunk of time. The “recovery” intervals, which are run at more of a moderate training pace than a slow jog, are equal in duration to the work interval that preceded it. I like to use a version of this workout every few weeks during a half-marathon or marathon buildup because it forces the athlete to stay engaged the entire time and serves as a nice substitute for a standard threshold session. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.”

—Michel de Montaigne, French writer and philosopher, talking about the final 10K of a marathon, probably

That's it for Issue 413. If you’re enjoying the morning shakeout, please do me a solid and forward this email or pass on the web link to someone who might also appreciate it. (And if you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time and want to receive it for yourself first thing every Tuesday morning, you can subscribe right here.)

Thanks for reading,


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mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

Discover what’s possible through the lens of running with training tips, workouts, and other bits of goodness from coach Mario Fraioli. Every Tuesday morning, Mario shares his unapologetically subjective take on things that interest, inform, inspire, or entertain him in some way.

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