I spent this past weekend a few hours north of where I live, spectating and Tweeting at the U.S. Track & Field Championships in Sacramento on Thursday night, and coaching, crewing, pacing and supporting athletes at the Western States 100 Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn on Saturday. I’ll refrain from recapping either event as those blow-by-blow accounts are readily available elsewhere (letsrun has the fast stuff, iRunFar has the long stuff), but here are a few things that stood out to me, in no particular order:
I’ve been following Shalane Flanagan’s running career since I took up the sport myself in high school. We’re the same age and both grew up in Massachusetts, competing in many of the same scholastic meets in the late 1990s. She was a boss back then, she was a boss in college at the University of North Carolina and she’s been a boss on the professional circuit for the past 13-plus years. A lot has changed in American distance running since 2004, but Flanagan factoring in races isn’t one of them. The four-time Olympian, who lives and trains in Portland, Ore., as a member of Jerry Schumacher’s Bowerman Track Club, is a threat to win, set a record, earn a medal or make a U.S. team whenever she steps to the starting line.
Few American women, save maybe Deena Kastor and Molly Huddle, have been able to match Flanagan’s level of sustained success on the track, over hill and dale, and on the roads since she made her first Olympic team 13 years ago.
The 35-year-old, who missed April’s Boston Marathon due to a stress fracture in her iliac crest, is on the mend and recently got back on the track for the first time in two years at the Portland Track Festival, where she won the 10,000 meters in 31:38. Despite an abbreviated buildup, she finished fourth in the 10,000 at the U.S. Track and Field Championships on June 22 in Sacramento.
I caught up with Flanagan recently to discuss her recent 10,000m win at the Portland Track Festival, how she dealt with the injury that kept her out of April’s Boston Marathon, what can be done to help solve the doping problem in athletics, and much more. Check out our conversation in the latest installment of the morning shakeout‘s “Going Long” interview series on Medium.
A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.
Full transparency: Oiselle sponsored this newsletter in February. Just being open about that from the get-go—and to be clear that past (or present) sponsorship has no bearing on what I decide to write about in any edition of the morning shakeout.
This Tweet on Monday from Oiselle founder and CEO Sally Bergesen caught my eye and made me do a double-take. “Proud to sponsor pro athlete @KellyKKRoberts!” Bergesen wrote. “#sportsbrasquad helping a lot of women find their confidence.” Wait, what? Who?
If you’ve been reading the morning shakeout long enough then you’ve likely come across at least a few links I’ve shared to articles written by Brad Stulberg or Steve Magness—and with good reason. These two guys are at the forefront of writing about the science of performance: Brad for Outside, New York and Runner’s World magazines, amongst other publications; and Steve mostly for his own wildly popular blog, The Science of Running (as well as appearing as a featured source on the topic for places like the New Yorker, ESPN the Magazine, the New York Times, and others). Well, Brad and Steve teamed up to write a book called Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy of it a few weeks ago. Heck, to be totally transparent, I was asked to read a very early draft of the book’s detailed table of contents back in August of 2015 and knew then that it would be a home run. The finished product definitely knocks it out of the park.
“For me, I had such interesting jobs that were with great companies, and I was so bored. The one thing that was the key thing—that I like about coaching—is that it’s so hard and there’s so much on the line. It kind of scratches an itch that keeps me a little bit settled. Coaching helps me because there’s so much going on all the time. It’s intense, and humans are really unpredictable. We could do the same workout, the same time of year, three years in a row and then the fourth year it doesn’t get a response. Then you’ve got to figure out why. What caused it to be different? I love that. I love that there’s stuff on the line. That’s why I wanted to coach, so I was able to do a corporate job and carve out some time in the day to do that, and it would keep me going.”
There are better things to talk about in running than the doping problems that infect the sport—and I’m going to try and bring you more of those stories here in the morning shakeout—but it’s a hard topic to avoid and shouldn’t be left completely unaddressed. That said, by now most of you reading this have seen the latest New York Times piece on Nike’s Oregon Project. If you haven’t, give it a looksie right here. “Is this legal?” three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein asked his then-coach Alberto Salazar, according to a confidential U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report obtained by The Times. “This doesn’t sound legal.” Ritzenhein, whose contract with Nike recently expired, was referring to L-carnitine infusions, which appeared to enhance performance. L-carnitine is not a banned substance, but infusing it in extremely high doses of a short period of time is, which raised more than a few eyebrows amongst members of the group, including Steve Magness, who was Salazar’s assistant at the time and acted as a guinea pig for the infusion. This wasn’t the only questionable practice, as “prescription-dose vitamin D; calcitonin; ferrous sulfate; Advair; testosterone; and various thyroid medications” were amongst the other substances mentioned in the USADA report. Salazar, of course, continues to deny any wrongdoing, and even wrote an email to Ritzenhein stating that, “Everything is above board and cleared thru Usada. They know me very well because I always get an okay before doing anything!”