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May 31, 2016 | Issue 29
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
the morning shakeout
The view from my desk yesterday didn't suck. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Issue 29 is coming to you from various points along I-5 en route to Bend, Oregon, where I’ll be spending the next few days catching up with friends, running trails and sampling the local libations. 

This edition is heavy on track-related happenings, light on media and other topics. I’m not sure if that’s Oregon’s way of casting its influence on me, or merely pure coincidence, but that’s just how things shook out this week. Let’s have at it:

Kicking down the coverage

It seems to me that track and field has always accepted a “we’ll take what we can get” mentality in regard to how the sport gets covered, especially when it comes to live TV broadcasts. Or maybe it’s a “we’ll serve our own best interests first” line of thinking. Either way, the coverage of this past weekend’s Pre Classic was disappointing at best, inexcusable at worst. To quote the almost always on-point Phoebe Wright, “I have zero clue how the American women did at #prefontaine. And I just watched the whole TV coverage.” On the plus side, track was televised to a national audience on NBC. On the other hand, it was packaged and presented poorly, per usual, amongst peddling a load of other bullshit, including but not limited to…

….Emma Coburn, who I’d argue is the most exciting American woman to watch racing on the track today, finishing a strong third in a loaded steeplechase field en route to setting breaking her own American record, and barely getting a lick of attention for it. That’s the type of performance that generates interest in the sport and inspires the next generation of young stars, yet we only saw the start and finish and none of the exciting drama in the middle that made the race worth watching. Really?

….running an interview with USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel about growing the sport while neglecting a mile race going on in the background, where a U.S. high schooler went sub-4 for the second time in the same season (first time that’s happened since 1965). Give me a break. 

….a failure to mention that the top-4 finishers in the men’s 100-meter race—Justin Gatlin, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and Michael Rodgers—have all served suspensions for doping infractions at various points of their professional careers. That is not an insignificant omission and borders on irresponsible reporting in my book. 

What should be the story?

Sebastian Coe continues to be have his head buried in the sand, despite his claim that “it would be delusional to say the London Games was ’n the words of many yesterday’ dirtier than Games before.” Whether or not the Olympics of yesteryear were more or less dirty than the London Games hardly matters—what does matter is the acknowledgement that track and field has (and has had for decades) a massive doping problem and the man who is currently in charge of the sport (and competed at the ’84 Games himself) seems fixed on controlling what the narrative should be heading into Rio. “We will not stop collecting data, sharing information, building profiles, developing testing techniques and technology or calling out and prosecuting cheats in our efforts to protect and promote clean sport,” Coe wrote in a column for The Telegraph Sport. “The Rio 2016 Games will be cleaner for it. That should be the story.”

Sorry, Lord Coe, but that’s the story you need told so that your organization doesn’t look like the incompetent governing body that it’s always been (and will continue to be if real change isn’t instituted). The fact that out-of-competition testing has long been inadequate, transparency went out the window years ago, governing bodies at all levels have been mired in corruption and cheats have been protected for way too long—NEEDS to be the story.

The emotion of appreciation. 

It’s not uncommon to witness emotion after a race, whether it’s Usain Bolt celebrating his umpteenth Olympic medal or Jane Jogger crying after completing her first half marathon. Races are arenas of elation, disappointment and all manner of emotion in between. But how often do you see an athlete expressing sheer appreciation for being able to compete after crossing the finish line? The emotion LSU sprinter Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake shows after running 19.95 to claim his third victory at the recent SEC Track & Field Championships is not a post-race reaction you’re used to seeing but it's a good reminder to take a moment, whenever it’s most appropriate for you, to appreciate being able to do the things you love to do. Also, remember to acknowledge the support of those who helped make your journey possible—especially when the road to get there was bumpy and full of obstacles. “It’s been rough man, it’s been rough,” Mitchell-Blake spit out amid his post-race hysterics. “I’m just happy to do what I love. I’m just blessed. I couldn’t have done this without my coach and family, my girlfriend, I’m just blessed.”

Pushing the limits

Olympic years are a hotbed for all manner of controversy, but doping, other forms of cheating, sponsorship squabbles, Olympic village hookups and the other usual suspects will pale in comparison to this year’s lightning rod topic: testosterone limits for female athletes. At the center of it all is South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who has been toying with competitors this season in the 800 meters and will likely run away with gold in Rio. Should she, and other female track and field athletes, be subject to upper limits on their testosterone levels? It’s a touchy, tricky subject to navigate, but I agree with Ross Tucker of the Science of Sport’s stance, mainly in that there needs to be some form of regulation to ensure that the playing field is as level as possible. “I do not believe that women with hyperandrogenism should be competing unregulated,” Tucker writes. “I believe that the divide between men and women exists precisely to ensure fairness in competition (as far as this is ever possible), and I think that if you respect that division, then a policy that addresses hyperandrogenism must exist.” Tucker goes on to interview Joanna Harper, who is a “scientist first, an athlete second, and a transgender person third,” on the subject, which I think helps provide one of the most complete views of the picture that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. Toni Reavis also shared some strong thoughts on the matter, which I also think are worth checking out.

Take a load off. 

In training for running, triathlon and many other sports, it’s not uncommon for coaches to have their athletes operate in 3 to 4 week microcycles, e.g., 2-3 weeks of higher volume and intensity followed by a “down” week to absorb the previous weeks’ workouts and be better prepared to handle an increased workload in the next microcycle. Or, after a long, intense training cycle (macrocycle), scheduling a prolonged break of rest and unfocused running/exercise before building up for another big race or season. I’ve done this myself as an athlete (often begrudgingly) as well as with many of the runners I've coached over the years and for the most part it works quite well. More than anything, a “deloading phase” (as Tim Ferriss calls it in this blog post from a couple months ago) allows you to reset before ramping back up again for the next thing. For Type-A endurance athletes, this is an important consideration—especially after a massive training block. The benefits are as much emotional as they are physical. Just ask Olympians like Desi Linden, Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan. They take their down time seriously after big races. “Deloading,” as Ferriss writes, is also an important principle to keep in mind outside of the athletic arena, as I’m trying to remind myself this week while transitioning between jobs. Predictably, it's been a good thing. After just a few days of lessened obligations and little-to-no self-induced pressure to get shit done, I can already tell my thinking is clearer, stress levels lower and energy greater—which tells me I wasn’t doing a great job of scheduling down time when I was stuck in my regular routine. This is something I’m keen on being better about when I return home from vacation and start charging hard again. So, whether you’re training or working hard (or both), remember to do yourself a favor and take a load off every once in a while.

That’s it for this week. Share your thoughts with me by responding to this email or sending a Tweet my way.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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