the morning shakeout | issue 451

Good morning! A few months from now the morning shakeout will turn nine years old. Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different things in terms of mediums, formats, content, branding, sponsorship and support models, merchandise, etc., but the core of what I do here, i.e. sharing things that have intrigued, inspired, informed, or entertained me in some way, has remained consistent since Issue 1. Sometimes I sprinkle in tidbits about coaching, my own running, and/or things I’m struggling with if I think others might relate to or learn something from it. I don’t have as much to say these days about the “state of the sport” or related issues as I did a few years ago and honestly, I’m better off for it. The podcast feed is still live, and although it’s been quiet for a while, I’d stay subscribed in the event that it picks up steam again at some point. So, as not to rehash everything I wrote 51 weeks ago, this latest “State of the Shakeout” can be boiled down to one line: Everything remains pretty stable. (And I don’t foresee much changing in the year to come.) A few hundred more people (11,729) are subscribed to this newsletter than a year ago, which is awesome, and those of you who read it are as engaged as ever according to the open rate (67%), click rate (13%) and number of direct replies (a dozen +/- a few) that I get each week. I am so appreciative of the continued interest and support. Even though I can look at the aforementioned numbers and know that the newsletter is resonating on some level, hearing that you’re enjoying it and/or that it’s making a positive impact on your life makes what I do here that much more meaningful. So, thank you.

Quick Splits

— Too many high-level races happened over the weekend to comment on them all here but there was one major takeaway from the worlds of both track and trail: Take whatever you thought it would take to get on the podium at [insert distance event here] and make it faster by a few orders of magnitude. From the Olympic Trials to Western States and back, people ran lights out. It took sub-14:30 to make the men’s podium at States. Getting under 16 hours wasn’t good enough to land you in the top-10 overall this year. In the women’s race, the top six places were all under 17 hours. A sub-18 hour performance finished outside the top-10. At the Trials, it took a 9:07 to make the team in the women’s steeplechase—9:07! The first 9 finishers in that event all ran personal bests. The men’s 1500 final was almost as ridiculous with a 3:30 winning time and a 3:31 and change not making the team. In the men’s 800, 1:42 won the race and it took a sub 1:44 to get on the podium. And don’t even get me started on the women’s 1500! Before the race I texted a couple of my buddies that “It’s going to take a sub-3:58 to make this team.” Technically I wasn’t wrong but I don’t think anyone had three sub-3:56s on their bingo card. (Prior to Sunday’s race, only one American woman in history had broken 3:56.) I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that 3:56 was only good enough for 4th, that 3:57 and and some change landed you in 5th and 6th, while the top eight finishers all ran personal bests. Whether the race lasted a couple minutes or several hours, this past weekend was high-speed chess on two feet. (And, spoiler alert, it won’t be slowing down anytime soon.) So what’s behind this leveling up spanning the entirety of the distance spectrum? That’s a question that deserves its own article but the short answer has to do with depth. Whether it’s middle-distance racing on the track or a long ultra on the trails, the competition is only getting deeper across all of running’s different disciplines. There are a number of athletes with nothing to lose and everything to gain racing aggressively to give themselves a shot at doing something special, while savvy veterans who understand this aren’t willing to leave anything to chance and thus keeping things honest from the start. There’s more to it, of course, but this is the main driver of en masse performance improvement across the board. Whatever you thought was fast (or fast enough, anyway), think again.

— Take five minutes sometime this week and watch, or rewatch, the women’s 1500m final from Eugene. What. A. Race. Nikki Hiltz (3:55.33), Emily Mackay (3:55.90), and Elle St. Pierre (3:55.99) went 1-2-3, and even though there can only be one winner, all three athletes did what they needed to do to give themselves the best chance to take it all, which is what made this one so exciting to watch. (Hiltz said after the race, “My instructions before the race were, ‘Don’t try to make an Olympic team, try to win a race.’”) St. Pierre was not playing around from the start, bolting to the front and covering the first lap in a touch-too-quick 61 seconds. She was clearly trying to get rid of the pretenders but no one was backing off because, hey, this is the Olympic Trials final. It takes what it takes! St. Pierre did not let off gas—not that anyone expected her to—leading until 200 meters to go when Mackey made a big move to the front. As she went past everyone on the outside, Hiltz tucked in behind Mackey as if it were a leadout at the end of a Tour de France stage. That wasn’t Mackey’s intention of course, but it set Hiltz up perfectly for the final sprint, and they found daylight on the home straightaway en route to victory. It was interesting to watch the form of the top-three finishers down the last stretch because it provided a pretty good snapshot of how the race played out. Hiltz, whose last 100 was 15.48 seconds, looked so smooth. According to the results, which you can crunch down to the individual 100m splits, Hiltz didn’t speed up—they just didn’t slow down, holding smooth form and maintaining an even pace all the way through the line. Mackey, who ran 14.82 from 1200 to 1300 meters to take the lead, and 15.6 from 1300 to 1400 meters coming into the stretch, paid for her big move in the final 100, clocking 16.17 while visibly tying up in the final strides. St. Pierre, who stayed on the inside through it all, didn’t look bad from a form standpoint, but she just didn’t have any more gears left after two 5000m races and three heats of the 1500 in less than two weeks. Fun one to watch!

— Marisa Howard ran a massive 15-second personal best last Thursday night to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the steeplechase. Friend of the shakeout Peter Bromka profiled Howard before the race for Tracksmith’s Journal, but I think it’s a more impactful read after the fact. “All that effort, over days, weeks, and years, to arrive at 5:59 pm on June 24th, when the evening sunlight will slant onto the Hayward Field backstretch, and she’ll stand at the starting line without a doubt,” he writes. “With full faith that she’s again prepared to be among America’s best. Nearing a decade at the national level, these moments still shine brightly.”

— It was 20 years ago last week that I began my coaching journey, a month after graduating college. Little did I know what I was getting myself into—much less doing—at the time, but if there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of over and over again it’s that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Here are some reflections on “good coaching” that I first posted on Instagram a few days ago.

— As if I don’t date myself enough, Weezer’s debut record turned 30 years old this week. I was 12 when “the Blue Album” came out, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I became a fan of the band. To me, few other albums define the 90s as much as this one, and it still puts as big a smile on my face when it pops up on one of my playlists now as it did when I listened to it in the garage back then. The band recently stopped by Spotify Studios to commemorate the album’s anniversary with a live 4-song set (along with some commentary) and it’s really f*cking great.

— A big thank you to the partner brands that help make this newsletter possible: Tracksmith, New Balance, Precision Fuel & Hydration, and Final Surge. All of these companies have missions I believe in and products that I trust and use myself on a regular basis. One of the best ways to support the newsletter and podcast is by patronizing the partners that help keep them going week in and week out. Check out some of the discount codes and special offers available exclusively to readers and listeners of the morning shakeout at this link.

— From the archives (Issue 86, 7 years ago this week): How many times have you been distracted since you started reading this email? My writer’s ego wants to believe the answer to that question is zero but the distracted multitasker in me knows that’s probably a pipe dream. (It’s alright, I still like you.) "One interesting aspect of this penchant for combining tasks is that we seem to have lost the ability to single task," Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen write in The Distracted Mind. "Glance around a restaurant, look at people walking on a city street, pay attention to people waiting in line for a movie or the theater, and you will see busily tapping fingers. We act as though we are no longer interested in or able to stay idle and simply do nothing. We appear to care more about the people who are available through our devices than those who are right in front of our faces. And perhaps more critically, we appear to have lost the ability to simply be alone with our thoughts."

Workout of the Week: The 4 x 4

Seeing a handful of mid-range repeats at a hard effort on the training schedule is the type of workout that will keep some runners up at night—and for good reason! The hard truth is these types of sessions really sting and you can’t fake your way through ’em. (n.b. This was me in college when we had repeat Ks or 1200s on tap!) If you’re doing them right, they’ll set your legs and lungs on fire, make you breathe rather erratically, and leave you bent over with your hands on your knees when you’re finished. (If this sounds terrible, the good news is you don’t have to do this type of workout more than once a week, or even every other week, to reap the benefits.) The 4 x 4 is a simple and straightforward workout that will launch your fitness to a new level, but you will have to earn it. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“Excellence is mundane. Excellence is accomplished through the doing of actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, habitualized, compounded together, added up over time. While these actions are ‘qualitatively different’ from those of performers at other levels, these differences are neither unmanageable nor, taken one step at a time, terribly difficult…Every time a decision comes up, the qualitatively ‘correct’ choice will be made. The action, in itself, is nothing special; the care and consistency with which it is made is.”

—Daniel F. Chambliss, sociology professor at Hamilton College, on The Mundanity of Excellence

That's it for Issue 451. 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. (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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