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March 7, 2017 | Issue 69
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UCAN
Rancho La Puerta
I spent a few days last week at Rancho La Puerta in the mountains of Northern Mexico relaxing, reading, writing and of course, running. It was incredible! If I were to go back this fall and host a trail running retreat, who would be interested in joining me? Let me know by replying to this email or Tweeting in my direction

Good morning! Lots of good stuff to cover this week but first, a few quick announcements:

— the morning shakeout is now over 3,000 subscribers strong! I continue to be blown away by the interest and I’m extremely grateful for your loyalty, support and feedback. It’s been my goal since the beginning to clue you in to interesting reading and listening material while inspiring productive dialogue and healthy debate around the topics and issues being discussed. Writing and sharing the morning shakeout has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my week for well over a year now. Many thanks to all of you for helping make it that way.   

— Another thank you goes out to this month’s sponsor, Generation UCAN. This company has a super cool story and makes products that I trust and use in my own training. In fact, UCAN’s SuperStarch drink mix (I’m partial to Tropical Orange) has been my go-to fuel choice before my longest runs and toughest workouts as I prepare for the Boston Marathon in April 17. I also use the Vanilla Cream protein mix to kickstart the recovery process afterward. As part of the sponsorship, UCAN is offering a 15% discount to readers of the morning shakeout. Simply go the UCAN web store, load up on products, enter the code SHAKEOUT at checkout and receive 15% off your purchase. Easy as that!

— Mark your calendars for Thursday, March 16 from 4-5 PM PST/7-8 PM EST. I’ll be taking part in a webinar with UCAN athlete and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein. We’re going to talk marathon training and racing, fueling, and recovery. That’s it. And before anyone asks, any other topics you’d like me to cover with Dathan will have to wait for another time. I’ll share signup details for the webinar here next week, so stay tuned. 

And without further ado, onto the main course. Enjoy!

Man boobs and exploding calves! 

Now that I have your attention: Have you ever put on a few pounds in the off-season (or simply because life got in the way) and felt like you were fighting a perpetually uphill battle once you started training again? Former 3:37 1500m runner Colin McCourt can relate. The 32-year-old Brit put on 50 pounds since retiring from competitive running in 2012, tipping the scales at a peak of 207 not all that long ago. But he’s committed to losing the weight—and breaking 16 minutes for 5K—by the end of the year, or he’ll tattoo the names of 17 of his friends to his body. If he does run 15:xx, he’ll stand to make a decent chunk of change from those same friends. He’s blogging about the experience for Athletics Weekly and posting daily video updates from his weight loss journey to Instagram. Check it all out. I’ve been fascinated by this story since morning shakeout reader Matt Thomas brought it to my attention last Tuesday, and I hope to interview McCourt in the coming weeks. So do I think he can do it? No question, so long as he sticks to training consistently and eating well. The incredibly motivated McCourt still has the engine of a race car even though his body currently resembles an oversized truck. But he’s already lost quite a bit of weight and the pace of his training runs has improved significantly as a result. And Christ, just watch the guy run. Despite the extra pounds, he still has the beautiful, bouncy stride of a world-class middle distance runner—and he hasn’t even started doing any speed work yet! I think he’ll smash 16 minutes but more importantly, the real win will be the number of people he inspires along the way. Just check out some of the comments on his Instagram posts. It’s a great story. “I’m trying to trick my legs into getting that old stride back and save my calves from exploding. However, there is nothing I can do about the chafing and the man boobs I’ve acquired—I actually thought about getting a sports bra at one point,” he wrote in his first blog for AW. “But it’s going well—my body is holding up and I am loving this journey I’m on. It’s only the beginning—next week I’ll talk about my weekly routine and my thought process on how I am going to achieve this goal and avoid getting 17 new tattoos.”

The truth won’t set you free. 

I really don’t want to spend any more time on the Alberto Salazar mess this week, so I’m going to cut right to the chase: There’s no way the preliminary USADA report I wrote about last Tuesday just gets swept under the rug now, right?! The details that have been leaked since last Tuesday—among them, suspicious samples from Galen Rupp and Matthew Centrowitz, weird emails from Salazar to Rupp, and Nike attempting to block USADA’s investigation—are too questionable to ignore and demand an explanation when the investigation is complete. (Seriously, in what world does a coach tell an athlete—who should know which meds he needs to take if he’s been suffering from a chronically under-active thyroid—to “Take a full extra Levoxyl tonight and start on Cytomel right away. P.S. I've got Cytomel. If you don't have it, call me and I'll drive it over.”?) Bottom line: The truth—however one chooses to interpret it—deserves to be known.

— “There is an old Carl Sandburg quote: ‘If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.’” Good take from the consistency excellent Toni Reavis on the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law in regard to the Salazar situation. Looks like we should get ready for a lot more yelling while this mess gets sorted out.

Quick Splits

To stretch or not to stretch if you’re a runner? “Instead of seeking extreme flexibility, says Gene Shirokobrod, a physical therapist in Maryland, runners should focus on exercises that target abilities that need improvement, such as strength and range of motion,” Amanda Loudin writes for The Washington Post. “Those attributes are different from flexibility, and they’re more important for runners.” Or, as I’ve always said, “What good is an over-stretched elastic?”

 A few weeks back I wrote about the debut of the Nitro Athletics meet in Australia and commented that there was “a nice balance of traditional and innovative events…I like that there’s a classic mile race for both men and women, but I also love the idea of a 3-minute race for distance, hurdle relays and elimination miles.” Well, hat tip to USA Track & Field for making this past weekend’s U.S. indoor championships in Albuquerque a bit more interesting with the inclusion of off-distance events such as the 300, 600 and 1000-meter runs. As I Tweeted on Saturday, “The element of the unknown presents an interesting dynamic for athletes and fans alike.” It makes for interesting racing, as Kevin Liao pointed out for the newly formed Citius Mag. “But it wasn’t even the result that mattered as much as the fact we collectively had no clue how the race was going to unfold,” Liao wrote. “This level of intrigue is often missing from elite-level track and field.” In a word: Bingo.

Ryan Hall says we’re not really all that close to the sub-2 hour marathon right now. The best bet? Put a 2:03 guy on a treadmill and crank it up to 13.2 mph. “If you put someone who’s in shape to run 2:03 flat on a treadmill—and you put it at zero per cent gradient and you have the temperature controlled—I bet you could get someone under two hours,” Hall said. Sounds exciting. 

 When I wrote my book a few years ago, I spent many a night staring blankly at the computer screen, unable to get many—if any—words down on the page. It was a mighty struggle. I asked my then colleague Matt Fitzgerald, who seemed to possess an uncanny ability to churn out books on his lunch hour (this is only a slight exaggeration, by the way), how to break through this mental roadblock. “How many emails do you get a week from people asking you for advice?” he asked me. “A ton,” I replied. “Don't worry about the word count and just pretend you’re answering a bunch of emails from runners who have questions about training,” he suggested. It was brilliant advice. The book came together pretty quickly after that conversation. I’ve since used this same strategy of pretending that I’m giving advice to a friend, athlete or colleague to overcome a number of different challenges in my life. Turns out, Matt’s common-sense suggestion to take the pressure off myself to produce X number of words every time I sat down in the chair is called “self-distancing,” and it’s grounded in some good research. “‘Pretend you’re talking to a friend’ allow(s) us to remove our emotional selves from intense situations," Brad Stulberg writes for New York Magazine, "paving the way for more thoughtful insight and subsequent decision-making.” That pretty much sums up my own experience in a nutshell. (And if you’re wondering how I managed to max out my Gmail storage limit, well, there you go.) On a serious note, and speaking of book writing, Brad and his co-author Steve Magness just put their new book, Peak Performance, up for pre-order ahead of its June 6 release. Spoiler: You'll want to read it.

That’s it for Issue 69. If you enjoyed this week’s digital dispatch, I’d be stoked if you forwarded it along to a friend or shared the web link on your favorite social media platform(s). And of course, you can always send your comments, criticisms or suggestions my way by replying to this email or chucking them at me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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