mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 422

Published 6 months ago • 9 min read

Good morning! This past Saturday I had the privilege to compete in the U.S. Club Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee alongside my brothers from the West Valley Track Club. I’m not going to bury the lede—it was a great day for us. Both our men’s Masters (40+) and Seniors (50+) squads took home team titles (the first time the same club has won both in the same year, so far as we can tell), our teammate Malcolm Richards won the individual crown by quite a wide margin, and we generally had strong showings across the board. After a tight second-place finish to Indiana Elite in Tallahassee two years ago, and another runner-up to them last year in San Francisco, it was a thrill to come out on top this time around. Losing on our home course 12 months ago left a hint of bitterness in our mouths and it felt great to rinse that out and taste victory. Not a week went by since then that we didn’t talk about Tallahassee. But this past weekend was so much more than just trying to win a race. It was about a group of guys coming together and supporting one another on and off the race course—just as we do week in and week out, just as many of these guys have been doing year after year for the past decade or so. You could feel it at breakfast prior to leaving the hotel. You could feel it in the team huddle moments before the start. You felt it in the chute afterward. Everyone was there to give it their best and contribute to the cause. The fact that we took 30 guys to the meet and had a dozen more at home following the race online/providing live commentary on our team text thread are not inconsequential details. Those are pretty special things, especially at this point in life. We’re in it together, we care about one another, and we’re there for each other no matter what. This is why I say getting to line up next to these men is a privilege. The entire weekend was an experience I’ll never forget.

As for my race, on paper it was my worst outcome of the season. I finished as our seventh runner and placed 26th overall, well behind a bunch of guys I’d been going back and forth with all fall. (Results here.) The heat and humidity melted me the second half of the race. This may be recency bias talking but it was the most miserable 10K of my life. I went out conservatively with the plan to play Pac-Man in the second half but I faded hard. In reality, even though my pace slowed quite a bit, I didn’t lose that many spots (I was as high as 23rd at halfway) but there was no cleaning up any carnage—it was just straight-up survival the last two loops and trying not to get passed by too many people. Upon crossing the finish line I was pretty upset at myself. I had sh*t the bed at the most important race of the year and I just hoped that I hadn’t let my everyone else down. Luckily we have great depth and it didn’t end up being an issue in the aggregate but I was still unhappy with my own outcome. Ego and emotions were getting the best of me. Fortunately, my teammates helped pull my head out of my ass and reminded me of many of the same things I tell my own athletes after a rough race. Now that I’ve had a couple days to reflect upon it, I can honestly say that I gave it what I had, but what I had just wasn’t enough to do what I wanted to do on this particular day. (And I can live with that.)

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Quick Splits

— Yassine Diboun is one of the best people in running, regardless of distance or discipline. I was fortunate to have him as a guest on the podcast a few years back and I was excited to see him profiled recently by Outside. A recovering addict himself, Yassine regularly uses running as a vehicle to help others find sobriety, in particular where he lives in Portland, Oregon. One of the main ways he’s done this in recent years is through an event he puts on called Move Through Darkness, which takes place on the winter solstice, and involves Yassine and others running across the city throughout the night, connecting various trail systems and raising visibility (and funds) for those struggling with mental health, isolation, and addiction. This year he pulled in over $11,000 for the cause. “I’m coming up on 20 years sober, but I’m not cured of this,” he says. “This is something I need to keep doing and stay on the frontlines. You keep passing it on. You keep giving it away, in order to keep it. Gratitude is a verb.”

— One of my favorite things about publishing this newsletter is that it has more of a “family feel” to it than any other medium, especially social media platforms. And while I’m making more of an effort to meet people where they are these days (on Instagram, in particular), this newsletter will always be where I share my best stuff because of the tight community that’s formed around it. Many of you have been reading and replying for years, and I feel like I’ve gotten to “know” many of you through our online interactions, even if we’ve never actually met. This is the sort of connection that Instagram (or any other social platform, for that matter) just can’t really replicate. Of course, a newsletter isn’t as easy to scale, but as Cal Newport writes in this blog post, “I’m not sure, however, that I care.”

— I’ve shared a lot of The Lumineers’ music in this newsletter over the last few years and I’m going to add to the pile again today with two songs I’ve been listening to a lot over the past week: 1. This recently released interpretation of “Deck the Halls” that’s super slow and just perfect for the season. 2. This incredible acoustic cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” that might not put you in the holiday mood but sure as sh*t will put you in a good one. (I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best covers of all-time.)

This is maybe the shortest episode of the Rich Roll Podcast in history at just over an hour but it’s a damn good conversation. The guest is Mark Cavendish, one of the fastest and most accomplished professional cyclists of all-time. Rich talks a little too much for my liking in this one but it may have been necessary to help get Cavendish to open up so candidly. Cavendish is incredibly honest about the mental health struggles he faced in recent years, reflecting on how he’s had to learn how not to harbor negativity and find a new competitive “fuel source” as he’s gotten deeper into his career, while also reminding himself to appreciate the joy in every pedal stroke. He also talks about the difference between riders, good riders, and great riders, developing great racing instincts, and how the commitment of his teammates is the main driving factor in his desire to work hard and ability to perform at a high level. As I understand it Cavendish doesn’t do many podcasts, which I think is what made this one so interesting to listen to: he’s not guarded, he hasn’t rehearsed the same answers over and over again, and there’s no bullsh*t in his approach to both sport and life. “If you put it into the context of what a race is, you learn from positives and negatives, don’t ya?” he says. “I’ve had good luck before, but bad luck now, that’s life. That’s bike racing, ya know.”

— From the archives (Issue 109, 6 years ago today): I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Joe Newton, one of the greatest cross-country and track coaches of all-time, who passed away Saturday at the age of 88. As noteworthy as his team's results were at York High School in Illinois, the lasting effect he had on his athletes' lives is even more impressive (and not surprisingly, the accomplishment he was most proud of). Newton didn’t just train his athletes to run fast and win races on the cross-country course—he helped them develop the skills and the confidence to be successful off it. That sort of lifelong impact—not the rewriting the record books—is what defines great coaching. And that’s the part of Newton’s legacy I’ve been reflecting on these past few days. “Things like truth, honor, character—those things are always there,” Newton said in the documentary, The Long Green Line (which you should rent, and watch, if you haven’t already). “I’m always talking about these things. I say to my guys, ‘Your reputation is what people think you are but your character is what you truly are when mom, dad, and your coach, and your preacher aren’t there. So I’m always talking about these values in life that transcend all we’re doing out on the course. It’s more important in life to be a good person. Good things happen to good people.”

— A big thank you to Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2023). I’ve been breaking out the Brighton Base Layer more days than not this fall and I don’t see that stopping as we head into the winter months. 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! It’s snug but not tight and I’ll wear it on its own or under a jacket when it’s really cold and/or precipitating. 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: Cool down without the running!

It’s common practice for many runners to run a few easy miles after a race or hard workout, otherwise known as the cooldown. These types of cooldowns increase blood flow, generally help to kickstart the recovery process after a period of more intense exertion, and allow both the body and mind to “come down” after a big effort. Sometimes, however, more running isn’t always the best next course of action, especially for lower-volume and/or more injury-prone athletes. In these cases, I’ll have them hop on the stationary bike or jump in the pool for 15-20 minutes of easy non-impact aerobic exercise instead of running more miles. This takes some of the load off the legs while achieving the main ends we’re after following a race or tough session.

Workout of the Week: 10K Overdistance Intervals

The challenge of finishing a marathon or ultra-distance race is a feat in itself, but racing a 5K or a 10K is an endurance endeavor of another sort that even a lot of competitive runners quietly choose to avoid. While completing the distance doesn’t pose much of a problem, pushing close to your limit for 3.1 or 6.2 miles is a different kind of difficult.

Preparing to race shorter, more intense distances also requires a gradual shift in the focus of your key workouts. While long runs, hill workouts and tempo runs still have a place in your training program—especially in the base phase when you’re still building strength—more regular race-specific interval sessions will help fine-tune your fitness and boost that all-important element of confidence in the final 4-6 weeks leading up to your goal event.

The 10K Overdistance Interval Session, which I learned from my old training partner and former coach of the Battle Road Track Club, Ryan Carrara, is a 10K-specific workout that totals about 6-7.5 miles worth of quality work when all is said and done.

“It is not an early season workout,” emphasizes Carrara. “Everything about this workout is control—too hard at the start and it can not be completed; too easy the first half and you will not gain all the benefit. There are plenty of spots to adjust so most athletes dial it in and nail it.” Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“I just tried to be the best I could be in the situation I was in—and as that expanded and grew, and as the competition expanded and grew, so did my goals.”

— Tim Ritchie, 2017 U.S. marathon champion, six years ago today on Episode 2 of the morning shakeout podcast

That's it for Issue 422. If you’d like to support the shakeout, please forward this email to someone who might enjoy it or post the web link in a high traffic area of the internet where others can check it out.

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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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