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July 5, 2016 | Issue 34
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
the morning shakeout
These old wheels don't spin like they used to but it's sure been a lot of fun going through the gears again in preparation for a road mile at the end of the month. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! I’m not in Eugene for the 10-day carnival that is the U.S. Olympic Trials in track and field, but I’ve been watching closely from home, where my perspective is admittedly jaded given the seemingly never-ending controversies that hover over the sport like a storm cloud that is just waiting to rain down on the whole parade.

Here are my unfiltered thoughts on some of what’s transpired thus far, along with a few non-track Trials related topics I think you might find interesting. Enjoy!

Respect the boss. 

Molly Huddle is a boss. She called all the shots in the women’s 10,000m final, leading from the gun, setting a tempo she was happy with and putting the race away when she was ready to do so. The woman just flat out knows how to race. It would have been fun to see her slug it out with Shalane Flanagan, who set an American road record at the B.A.A. 10K less than a week prior and ripped a 1:07 and change half marathon just a few weeks before that (second fastest time of the year to Huddle by 10 seconds), but each have different fish to fry come August. Huddle last lost a U.S. championship race over three years ago, according to New York Road Runners elite athlete manager Sam Grotewold, who wisely convinced the 31-year-old to make her marathon debut at his event in November. I’m a fan of Huddle and her coach Ray Treacy, whose no-nonsense approach to training and racing has clearly paid off since the two started working together 10 years ago. “My philosophy is that you get better every day, as long as you are doing what you are supposed to be doing,” Treacy told Competitor in 2010. “If you take a rest on the day you are supposed to take a rest, then on that day, you are getting better. If you are supposed to do a long run, and you get it done, you’re getting better—as long as you are doing what you are supposed to do, you are getting better every day. So if she stays consistently healthy, then she will get better and stronger.” Huddle has consistently gotten better across the board since graduating from Notre Dame in 2006 and is arguably the U.S.’s best female distance runner from 5,000m through the half marathon right now. I’m stoked to see if she can find her way to the medal stand come August, and what she can rip over 26.2 miles a few months later in the Big Apple. 

  • Huddle is not the female Galen Rupp of American distance running, regardless of what NBC’s commentators said during the broadcast. She’s Molly F*cking Huddle. Her track (and road) record speaks for itself. She’s in a class of her own.
  • That said, I’ll give Galen Rupp credit where its due. The former Oregon Duck and Nike’s favorite son, despite his questionable associations, is virtually unbeatable in 25-lap races at Hayward Field. The men’s 10,000m final on Friday night was a weird one, run in warm conditions and resembling a fartlek workout with guys dropping off like flies at various points throughout the race. It doesn’t bode well for other top contenders when Rupp is the guy controlling the yo-yo. He’ll line up for the 5,000m this week and could possibly qualify for the Olympics in three events. And while everyone is wondering if Rupp would choose a 10,000m/marathon double or 5,000m/10,000m in Rio, the most recent rumor out of Eugene is there’s serious consideration of a 10K-5K-marathon triple (despite Salazar’s claim that “he can’t run all three”) and comparisons to the great Emil Zatopek and Lasse Viren. If that ends up being the case, I wonder if Lasse has any leftover reindeer milk he can spare? 
  • Emily Infeld continues to impress and I think it’s only a matter of time before she’s dominating distance races with the consistency of Huddle and Flanagan. The 26-year-old, who edged out Huddle at the line of last summer’s world championships 10,000m to grab bronze, took second on Saturday morning, her season debut after being riddled with injuries (yet again) in the two months leading up to the Trials. I like Infeld’s attitude and I respect her desire to continue picking herself back up after being knocked down by injury so many times in her young career. “I tried to just focus on small victories and day by day,” Infeld told Flotrack after the race. “[I told myself] I’m gonna to see how fit I can get, just focus on each workout and try to improve each workout and if I can do that I’m going to be my best self that I can be based on the situation on the day and wherever that will put me it will put me."

Embracing chaos. 

Has there been an event at any of the previous three Olympic Trials filled with more drama and chaos than the 800 meters? Neither of this year's finals matched anyone's pre-Trials forecasts but that’s what makes championship racing so interesting. Hat tip to Clayton Murphy and Kate Grace for weathering some wild rounds of racing to come out on top in a couple thrilling two-lap finals. Grace was in the right place at the right time when a couple top contenders got tripped up just in front of her and she made the most of the opportunity. Murphy also closed when it counted, patiently powering past Boris Berian in the final strides to kick his way to a personal best of 1:44.76 and his first Olympic berth. In fact, all six U.S. 800m runners heading to Rio are first-timers, which I doubt anyone would have predicted a week ago.

Cel-e-brate drug cheats, c'mon!

This Tweet, which I sent in disgust on Sunday night while catching up on the events of the day, has been getting quite a bit of attention. How can anyone take the U.S. Olympic Committee or USA Track & Field seriously when they celebrate a convicted drug cheat making the Olympic team instead of highlighting the many deserving athletes who earned their spots the right way? Justin Gatlin, who has tested positive for banned substances twice over the course of his career, should not be competing at the Trials, period, much less be serving as the face of American sprinting. Nor should Tyson Gay, who finished fifth in the 100-meter final on Sunday despite getting popped for anabolic steroids in 2013 and serving a weak one-year ban because he threw his coach under the bus for pumping him full of unknown substances. I’ll give the 34-year-old Gatlin the benefit of the doubt for his first failed test in 2001 for adderall, which he had been taking for years to treat ADD. Fine. But the 2006 failed test for “testosterone or its precursor” is anything but fine, under any circumstances, especially when his coach at the time—Trevor Graham—had a track record of athletes being banned for failing drug tests yet Gatlin elected to continue training under him anyway. Look: If you are a professional athlete, it is your responsibility to know what is being put into your body. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. And when your current coach, Dennis Mitchell, who was also coached by Graham and tested positive for testosterone in 1998 (which he attributed to the entirely plausible excuse of “too much beer and too much sex with his fiance,”), you should, at minimum, probably find a less controversial coach to work with given everyone’s questionable histories. Yet, despite the obvious issues and overlaps here, USA Track & Field has no problem letting Mitchell serve as a relay coach for national teams, nor do they have any issue letting Gatlin wear USA across his chest on an international stage. Look, second chances in life can be a good thing, but in the case of track and field, second chances for convicted drug cheats have only served to sully the sport's already stained reputation and prevent it from moving forward.  

Off-track anecdotes.

OK, I’m going to get off track for a little bit before wrapping up this week’s edition of the morning shakeout. Here are a few non-Trials-related things I want to share with you:

— I’m not proud to admit that I suffer from all five of these phone-related bad habits. It’s embarrassing when I think about it, not to mention my “always on” phone behavior drives my wife bananas. While I do rely on my little pocket computer to perform a number of different tasks throughout the day, I’m going to work on breaking a few of the aforementioned bad habits in an effort to be more present and focused. 

— Jesse Thomas is an incredible triathlete and a brilliant writer who has a knack for speaking the truth in a humorous way. Case in point: this most recent column for Triathlete magazine, “The Difference Between Age Groupers and Pros.” Everything he writes in this column also applies to runners, especially #’s 1,2 and 3, i.e., “Please, for the love of God, go way easier on your easy days.” As a former knucklehead wannabe elite athlete, I cannot stress this enough to the age-group athletes I coach today. In 2005, at the ripe old age of 23, I spent a week in Monterey Bay, Calif., training with my friend Ryan Bak and his teammates at the time, James Carney and Fasil Bizuneh. They were all part of Team-USA Monterey Bay, they had all qualified for the Olympic Trials the year before, and all had 5000m PBs about a minute faster than my own. When we went out for an easy run upon my arrival, I thought they were playing some cruel joke on me as we loped along at some ungodly slow pace. Then we did it again the next day. “What the hell did I come out here for?” I thought to myself. Finally, we went to the track and I learned the difference between hard and easy firsthand. Expectedly, they crushed me. The next day we shuffled along again. Then day after that, hard steady state run. Then really easy the next day, followed by the hardest 1K repeat session of my life. The lesson? Get out of the gray zone. Make your hard days hard, easy days easy. Remind yourself that every workout has a specific purpose.

— I’m continually fascinated by what type of content does well on different websites and social media platforms across a variety of domains. Take a look at these reports from various sports publishers. The takeaway? In a world of full of clickbait headlines and gimmicks galore, there is no substitute for producing consistent quality content—regardless of where it lives—when it comes to keeping your audience interested and engaged. This goes for consumer-facing brands as much as it does for traditional media titles and publishing outlets. “Tailoring your content for your target audience on each platform is vital, but producing consistently good content is key.”

That’ll do it for Issue 34 of the morning shakeout. Send your thoughts my way by replying to this email or shouting at me on Twitter. If you liked what you read here, please forward this to a friend of share the web link on your preferred social media platform. 

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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