the morning shakeout | issue 430


Good morning! I spent this past weekend in Orlando at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon supporting my athlete Zach Hine, catching up with friends, and spectating some awesome races. The event itself and its execution were excellent. The energy around downtown Thursday through Saturday was really special. Anywhere you went in the city you could feel the excitement. Kudos to the local organizing committee for putting on a great show. The only thing I might have changed was the start time. Conditions were pretty damn good at 8 AM. Even at 10 they weren’t bad. But by 11:30 it was quite hot and you could see the toll it was taking on the athletes in the second half of the race. Twenty-five percent of the men’s field did not finish (50 out of 200 starters) and 22% of the women’s field (33 of 149 starters) dropped early. It was brutal out there. Then again, it’s not as if the conditions caught anyone off-guard, and the Olympic Marathon is going to be a warm one, so maybe it worked out as it was meant to. Marathons are hard. Life isn’t always fair. But hey, at least it didn’t start at noon.

As for the racing itself, it was everything you’d ever want and then some: High-level chess at its finest topped off by some good old-fashioned survival. A few of the favorites came through as expected and some new stars were born. This is what makes the Trials so special. You have to show up as prepared as possible and have everything go your way on the day—and even then there might still be three people better than you. It’s a made-for-TV drama playing out in real-time. If anyone ever tells you that marathons are boring, have them watch the Trials from start to finish (or at least the official video recaps of the men’s and women’s races).

Similar to what I did in last week’s issue, here are a few quick thoughts and reflections on Saturday’s race:

— The future is here and her name is Fiona O’Keeffe. In her first marathon, O’Keeffe put on a clinic, winning the race in an Olympic Trials record 2:22:10. It was also the fastest debut marathon ever by an American woman. Not to mention she took down the American record-holder in the process. Was this a total surprise? Yes and no. You couldn’t have predicted she’d go so fast, especially in those conditions, but O’Keeffe’s marathon potential shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s been paying attention. The longer the race, the better she is.

— Emily Sisson, the reigning American record-holder, finished second, 32 seconds back of O’Keeffe. Sisson dropped out of the 2020 Trials in Atlanta but she ran a fantastic race in Orlando even though she was upset by a rookie. If not for O’Keeffe, she comes out on top by over 2 minutes. It will be interesting to see how she prepares for, and fares on, Paris’ hilly layout.

— A few days before I left for Orlando I purchased a team gear package from Minnesota Distance Elite. I’ve long been a fan of the group’s athletes and their coach, Chris Lundstrom, and this fundraiser was one of the ways in which fans could support them. (MDE is a 501(c)3 nonprofit without a title sponsor so every little bit helps the team.) Well, I’m feeling extra stoked in my MDE half-zip as I type this because Dakotah Lindwurm ran her way on to the Olympic team on Saturday, finishing third in 2:25:31. I’ve been a fan of Dakotah’s since her breakthrough win at Grandma’s in 2021. The woman is a workhorse: She was an OK Division II collegiate runner who put her head down, put in the miles, and eventually made her mark in the marathon. She’s run pretty well at a few Majors, but was always just outside the top-10 and behind a few other Americans. Now she’s an Olympian and a hero for unheralded runners everywhere. Story of the Trials if you ask me. (And let’s not forget her MDE teammate Annie Frisbie was tenth. Solid day for the squad!)

— I was standing on the side of the course with half a mile to go watching everyone run by and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake the image of Sara Hall’s face as she went past me. She was on the limit, emptying whatever was left in her tank, but knew at that point that she wasn’t making the team. Everyone was in obvious physical pain at that moment but the 40-year-old Hall wore the emotional heartache on her face in a way that I don’t have the words for right now. It was Hall’s eighth attempt at trying to make an Olympic team and by most accounts she had a great race—5th place, 2:26:06, American women’s Masters record—but she came up 36 seconds short of a lifelong goal. (And as if that didn’t sting enough, Hall was also only the third Stanford alum on the day behind O’Keeffe and fourth-placer Jessica [Tonn] McClain.)

— On that note, someone sign Jessica McClain! Fourth-place is probably the least desirable spot to finish in a race where the top three make the team but you can’t help but appreciate McClain’s attitude in her post-race interview: she executed her plan, made a massive breakthrough, and did it all with joy and gratitude. “It was a lot of mixed emotions,” she said. “But I’m as happy as I can be.”

— Conner Mantz and Clayton Young ran away with the men’s race. Sure, they were the favorites, but to execute when the pressure’s on like that is what champions are made of. Mantz has really established himself as a great marathoner (hell, he’s just a great racer regardless of distance), while Young looks like he’s just starting to realize what he’s capable of in this event. They worked together on Saturday, just as they have in training for years now, and that was bad news for everyone else involved.

— I wrote it last week, but it’s worth reiterating here: Ed Eyestone knows a few things about getting on the Olympic Marathon team. I loved this interview with him post-race. “My last words to them this morning in a good luck text, was ‘Patience followed by destruction,’” he said. “Chill, cover, close. Those were the three C words I came up with.”

— Zach Panning made the men’s race. In the end he unraveled and finished sixth but he was driving the bus for most of it, knowing that he needed a top-3 finish and a fast time to make the team. Dude took the wheel and drove like a madman without any regard for who was getting tossed out the windows or flying off the back. Gutsy effort.

— Hats off to Galen Rupp, who wasn’t having a great day for himself, but stuck it out to the end. Say what you want about the guy but you have to respect him for seeing it through when he knew his Olympic marathon dream was dead.

— CJ Albertson’s finish still puzzles me. He had the fastest last mile by a good bit, running himself into fifth place, but he missed the podium by 10 seconds. I can’t help but wonder if he’d been able to commit to an earlier break if he might have been trying to hold a few guys off at the end rather than attempting to run them down.

— I thought for sure Elkanah Kibet had the third spot sewn up when he went past me with 800m to go but Leonard Korir wasn’t going to settle for fourth for the second Trials in a row. His flurry of a finish made me think of one of my favorite quotes from the great Paul Tergat: “Ask yourself: 'Can I give more?' The answer is usually: 'Yes!’”

OK, there’s certainly a lot more to talk about in regard to the Trials, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Before we go any further, I’d like to thank my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2024). As I wrote a few weeks back, I’m going to spend the first half of this year seeing how fast I can go for a mile/1500. One of the fun parts about Masters racing is you get to reset your age-group personal bests. (That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.) Last year I ran 4:30 flat for the full mile at the age of 40. I want to better that in 2024 and continue exploring what I can do in the middle distances at this point in my life. However old you are, I’d like to encourage you to try and do the same. (And Tracksmith would like to reward you for your efforts!) Here’s the deal: Pro runners are often offered bonuses for their breakthrough performances—amateur runners, however, don’t get such recognition. Tracksmith wants to change that. If you run, jump, throw, put or vault your way to a new personal best before the end of April 2024 (in a standard running distance or track-and-field event), you’ll be eligible to receive a one-time $100 credit toward your next Tracksmith purchase. If you’re like me and over 40, they’re respecting Masters’ PBs in 5-year age bands (40-44, 45-59, 50-54, etc.). Learn more here and start getting to work on bettering your best!

Quick Splits

— Molly Seidel was a late scratch from the Trials due to an injury, but this feature that came out about her a few days before the race is worthwhile reading. It has nothing to do with how ready she was for the Trials, and everything to do with the strange and unpredictable interplay between success, satisfaction, and suffering—and her experiences dancing with all three. “Doing sport ignites a euphoric fire. Endorphins being the anesthesia to the physical pain of effort. An antidote for the poison of discomfort. Molly will always have running in her back pocket — the sanctuary of that place where being in motion enables her mind and body to align. The purity and simplicity of running for the love of running. Not because it’s tied to an association of success or competition, or of even being good at running.”

— Before I left for Orlando I had the opportunity to sit down with my good friend Dylan Bowman of the Freetrail podcast for our annual life/running/career check-in. Look for it on your favorite podcast player by searching for “Freetrail podcast” or just stream it at this handy link. In this conversation Dylan and I talk about where we are athletically and professionally, what we're inspired by (and about), what we're struggling with, and more. This was a lot of fun and my only regret is we didn’t have another hour and a half to go deeper and answer more listener questions.

This article by Zoë Rom about the rise of inside running brands for Outside Run looks at the reasons why small, independent brands such as Tracksmith, Rabbit, Satisfy, Saysky, Bandit, Soar, Oiselle, Ciele, Janji, and many others are having a moment—and what it means for the industry at large. (Pairs well with some of what Dylan and I talked about on the podcast about a brand not needing to be everything to everyone.) “[Marketing expert Peter] Abraham feels that the running industry, and sports in general, are on the precipice of change,” writes Rom. ‘I feel like sports, and honestly, everything—cooking, photography, art, music—it is kind of like splintering or exploding into thousands of niches.’”

— From the archives (Issue 65, 7 years ago this week): Resilience is a topic I’ve touched on once or twice here before and it’s one I’ll likely keep coming back to from time to time. What is resilience exactly? It depends on the situation but for our purposes, resilience is the ability to keep your shit together when it starts to hit the fan and overwhelm you in different ways. It’s a skill I’m constantly trying to improve through a combination of experience and deliberate practice with suggestions such as these. “When times get tough and you don’t know how you’re going to stay resilient, remember not to trust the doom and gloom coming from that voice in your head,” writes Eric Barker. “The voice is an overconfident storyteller who exaggerates, not the ‘truth.’” (Ed. note: This pairs well with this week’s bottom line—see below.)

— I’ve been waiting months for Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs to sing “Fast Car” together and my dream finally came true at the Grammys on Sunday night. (I had a link to the full performance, but it got taken down for a copyright violation, and somehow all you can find right now are 90-second clips like this on YouTube.) Anyway, the chills went down my spine when Chapman started picking at the strings on her guitar and the crowd erupted when they realized what was about to go down. The respect and reverence Combs has for Chapman is apparent throughout the performance. While Chapman was singing her verses, he was mouthing the words from across the stage, taking it all in. The way they acknowledged one another at the end put a huge smile on my face. Just a beautiful all-around performance and a special moment in music history. (Until the Chapman/Combs version gets released in its entirety, please enjoy Chapman singing her song at the Grammys 35 years ago.)

Workout of the Week: The Mona Fartlek

As an athlete, the Mona Fartlek is one of my favorite workouts to do; as a coach, it’s one that I’ll often assign a few times throughout a training cycle. What I love about this session is that it’s efficient and versatile: it can be done anywhere and you can make it as hard or as easy as you need/want it to be (to be fair, the same can be said of most workouts, but I digress). It’s named after Steve Moneghetti, a four-time Olympian in the marathon for Australia, who ran this workout weekly for years (and still does, apparently). The pickups are short and swift and the recoveries in between are more of a steady float than a slow jog (though you manipulate either of those variables to suit your needs depending on your experience level or where you’re at in training). Start to finish, the Mona Fartlek takes 20 minutes to complete. I like to use this workout with athletes who are just getting back into speedwork after some time away from it—the reps are short enough to wrap their heads around—or as a good “get after it” session for my marathoners to break up the monotony of higher mileage and longer workouts. The Mona Fartlek can also serve as a good 20-minute benchmark session every 4-6 weeks by simply comparing your total distance and overall average pace (and heart rate and power, if you’re into those sorts of things) from one attempt to the next. Here are the details.



The bottom line.

“I don’t know if I can say this, but I really think the marathon, when it comes down [to it], if you look at Trials from the past, it’s really who can just keep their shit together. And it’s not just for the race, it’s usually the 12 weeks leading into the race, and then those last 26 miles.”

— Amy Cragg, 2016 Olympic Trials champion, and co-coach of this year’s winner Fiona O'Keeffe, speaking the truth about marathoning in this video showcasing O’Keeffe and her teammate Natosha Rogers before the race


That's it for Issue 430. If you’re enjoying the newsletter, please forward this email to a few friends and encourage them to subscribe at this link.

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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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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