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March 21, 2017 | Issue 71
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UCAN
Run Wild
I spent this past weekend at altitude camp with the Brooks Beasts Track Club. Stay tuned to the shakeout in the coming weeks for insight and interviews from coach Danny Mackey and his squad. 
Albuquerque, N.M. | instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Lots to share with you this week, so let’s get right to it.

Grinding out miles and dropping pounds. 

A couple issues ago I wrote about Colin McCourt and his quest to break 16 minutes in the 5K by the end of the year or risk having to tattoo the names of 17 of his friends to his body. The catch? He has more than a few pounds to lose first. Well, I caught up with McCourt last week to talk about the bet he has going with his buddies, the biggest keys to his weight-loss success thus far, the similarities between his journey as a professional athlete and a self-described “normal geezer who is out there grinding, trying to just lose weight so he can run around with his kid and not get 17 tattoos on him,” the importance of connecting with his followers on social media, and much more. I’m excited to share the interview here first with you, my loyal readers, so please check it out. “I’ll tell you, some elite athletes don’t want to talk to anybody. They want to hide behind what they do,” McCourt told me. “They want to hide behind what their process is because they don’t want anybody else to think that they’re doing something better than the rest, and I was guilty of that as well. I would take one picture on Instagram of, I don’t know, my trainers or coffee. I did no work for the company that gave me money, really. I just expected a kit and stuff off them and did no real work for them. It’s the same with training. They don’t want to tell you anything. They don’t really want you in their lives, they just want to run. Now I feel like I’m happy to share everything with everybody. [My followers and fans] are now such a big part of me getting up every morning and getting out.”

— I found a lengthy “Ask Me Anything” thread McCourt took part in last month on Reddit (10 days into his weight-loss journey) that generated a productive discussion. Solid explanations of McCourt’s motivations and his methods (he picked up Steve Magness’ book for training advice), good insights into what the average runner is interested in and inspired by, and some ideas for making the sport of running interesting again. It’s a rabbit hole worth going down. “People want to watch actual racing,” McCourt writes. “That's the issue, not 15 Kenyans racing for every country dominating. The general public just are not interested in that.” 

— McCourt recently joined my friends over at Marathon Talk for a chat and it's a good listen beginning 1:13:20 into the show. (Part Two will be coming soon, I imagine.)

Is it the shoes?

Great interview with Kara Goucher for Runner’s World by one of the best in the biz, my former boss Brian Metzler, who recently left Competitor magazine to pursue new opportunities. They cover a lot of bases, including her two knee surgeries last year, the depression that followed them, her current desire to compete, doping and much more. The most interesting part of the interview, however, involved an exchange over an early version of the shoes being developed for Nike’s Breaking2 project that Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan wore at the Olympic Marathon Trials. Kara was “pretty upset” when she heard they raced in the shoes and feels that “if technology determined our Olympic team, then that's a problem.” And while I agree with her last point, I wonder where the line gets drawn in terms of how technology can and can't be used to influence performance? That’s an honest question and I’m not sure anyone has the answer to it right now. The rules as they’re written in regard to the use of shoe and apparel technology in athletics are vague and need to be re-examined. Every product company in the running space is constantly trying to improve technology in the name of enhanced performance, whether it’s shoes that are lighter and more responsive, apparel that keeps you cooler or accessories that are more aerodynamic when you carry them. So what does the governing body of athletics do? Ban specific types of technologies? Set hard boundaries for certain properties like weight and stiffness? How do you regulate those things? This is going to be a hot topic in the coming months and years. I’m going to continue developing my thoughts on this one, but while I do, here’s some further reading on the issue from The New York Times, Runner’s World, Wired and a new one from Ross Tucker of The Science of Sport. What do you think? Reply to this email or send a Tweet my way.

Longer, better, faster, stronger. 

The past two summers I’ve been fortunate to pace my brother-from-another-mother, Chris Denucci, at the Western States Endurance Run, the world’s oldest and prestigious 100-mile foot race. To those of you reading this unfamiliar with or uninterested in the world of ultrarunning, Western States is the Boston Marathon of the sport. And much like Boston, Western isn’t something that can be described—it has to be experienced. Billy Yang does as good a job of bringing that experience to your living room as anyone in his latest film, Life In A Day, which follows four of the top women vying for the win in last year’s race. Even if you have zero desire to run 100 miles in a single shot (for those scoring at home: I’m not sure that I do), this story is worth taking an hour to be moved by some night this week or weekend.  

— On the topic of ultrarunning, the muddy-as-hell Chuckanut 50K this past Saturday was a fireworks show on both sides. The men set it off from the start as both Max King (1st, 3:33) and Hayden Hawks (3:33:31) ran under the old course record, and the next five finishers—which included three Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers—all crossed the line within 20 minutes. On the women’s side, Ladia Albertson-Junkans, a former two-time All-American cross country runner at Minnesota, slayed her first 50K, holding off national champion YiOu Wang (full disclosure: I coach YiOu), Rachel Jaten and Camille Herron, all Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers in their own right. Why does any of this matter? It’s representative of what we’re going to see more of in the years to come: more runners “moving over” to the trails and “moving up” in distance, more deep fields at many races, and more course records being rewritten because of it. King, a 2:14 marathoner and Olympic Trials qualifier in the steeplechase, has been at this trail and ultra thing for a while, but Hawks, a cross-country All-American at Southern Utah, is less than a year in and has already established himself as a stud. With the exception of King and Sage Canaday, who was third in the men’s race at Chuckanut and has been competing in ultras since 2012, most of the aforementioned runners have been in the sport for four years or less, which says a lot about where things are heading.

Quick Splits

— A few weeks back I shared a quick story about the struggle of writing my first book. It really was about as bad as George Orwell made book writing out to be. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness,” Orwell admitted in his essay, Why I Write. “One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” (And in case you’re wondering, of course I’ll write another one.)

— Since it’s NCAA Tournament time, it seems fitting to share this piece on the media empire that is Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari. Yes, I fully realize how weird of a sentence that is to read but the article is a fascinating dive into how Calipari—love him or hate him—uses the internet and social media to shape his image and control his message (much like another “technologically challenged one-man media machine”). “His major was marketing,” said David R. Scott, the co-author of Calipari’s 2009 book, “Bounce Back,” the founding editor of Calipari’s website, CoachCal.com, and now a senior director in communications at ESPN, “and he’s used it every day of his life.”

— The New York Road Runners should just rename the event “The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon powered by Molly Huddle.” She’s been that dominant the last three years, even though she got a run for her money on Sunday from training partner Emily Sisson, who debuted in 1:08:21 (only two seconds behind Huddle). Hat tip to those two, along with coach Ray Treacy, who is easily one of the most under-appreciated coaches still holding a stopwatch today. 

— The men’s race in the Big Apple was another burner as Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lelisa out-sprinted Callum Hawkins to the tape, 1:00:04 to 1:00:08. Lelisa’s story has been well-publicized since his protest at the Rio Games, and he’s now living and training in Flagstaff as a permanent resident. Hawkins, a 24-year-old from Great Britain, has been on a tour de force since finishing ninth at the Rio Games, and if you follow his training on Strava, you’ll see why: lots of miles between 5:30 and 5:45 pace, or about a minute per mile slower than his half marathon race pace, with a few faster ones (and occasional slower ones) mixed in there to keep things interesting. You know a guy means business when his pre-race shakeout is 5 miles at 5:25-per-mile pace

— Also, hat tip to American men Chris Derrick and morning shakeout subscriber Noah Droddy, 6th and 7th overall at the NYC Half in 61:12 and 61:48, respectively. Derrick moved himself onto the top-10 all-time U.S. list, while Droddy took a massive 94 seconds off his PB to finish ahead of Olympians Jared Ward, Meb Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman, amongst other notable names. Stay tuned for an overdue interview with Noah here on the morning shakeout in the coming weeks!

— Last Thursday I joined three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein for an hour-long discussion on how to run your best Boston Marathon. We covered training and nutrition, how to navigate race weekend, offered tips on managing the course, and a lot more. Check out the webinar in its entirety on UCAN's YouTube channel

That’s it for Issue 71. Share it. Reply. Tweet at me

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

P.S. Generation UCAN, this month’s sponsor of the morning shakeout, is offering readers a generous 15% discount on its products. Simply go the UCAN web store, load up on your favorite drink mixes or bars, enter the code SHAKEOUT at checkout and receive 15% off your purchase. It’s that easy!

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