Podcast: Episode 100 with Laura Schmitt

By Mario Fraioli |

“Coaching, I would argue, is the least about the workouts. In fact, if you’re a coach, you should have phenomenal workouts. You should have a progression that takes a child, an adult, anyone—in four years, of course they’re going to get better, you just have to write it out properly. It’s written in every book, you can pick up any book, anyone can be a ‘give workout’ person. What isn’t easy, unless it is, is knowing how to connect with a person, to get the most out of them, so they can feel good about themselves…You have to be very careful about how you connect with people. We as coaches have power, for sure, the people we are coaching can be vulnerable so you have to make sure you’re not taking advantage of that or crossing the line. That’s your job, it’s not the athlete’s job. As close as the athlete comes to you, you have to know where it needs to stop, where the line is, and a mature coach knows how to do that.”

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Laura Schmitt retired from coaching the cross country and track teams at Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, last summer after 35 years at the helm of both the boys and girls programs. In her three-and-a-half decades at the school, she guided numerous league champions, state champions, and even national champions, all while building a team environment centered around inclusivity and developing a love of running. Her love and enthusiasm for running is equal parts infectious and inspiring. Laura is a mom of three children, and coached all three of her kids while they were in high school. She’s also an entrepreneur: In 1990, she founded Marin Enrichment, a play-based preschool that’s still going strong today and led by her daughter Caitlin. In 2016, she and her son Jake—who was my guest back on Episode 48 of the podcast—opened the Thoroughbred Treadmill Studio, which was the first treadmill studio on the West Coast, and they’re set to open their second location next month in San Francisco.

In this conversation, we talked about running, community, coaching, family, parenting, and entrepreneurship—all things Laura knows a lot about and has had a lot of success in over the years—and a whole lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 99 with Lindsay Flanagan

By Mario Fraioli |

“I think I’ve just learned that whether you’re running a 5-hour marathon, a 4-hour marathon, a 2-hour marathon, we all go through the same struggles in training—whether it’s mental, whether it’s physical—and [my athletes] are always telling me, ‘Oh my gosh, we look up to you because you’re running 2 whatever hours,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’m looking up to you because your training runs for your long runs, you’re out there for 3, 4 hours. That is amazing. You’re balancing your family, your job, your running—that’s what’s truly amazing. My running, that’s all I do all day is I go run. But you have all these other things you balance.’ So I think they just show me that with determination, it’s cheesy, but you can do anything because they’re balancing real lives and still running great, which has been really fun.”

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Lindsay Flanagan is a professional distance runner sponsored by ASICS and she’s gearing up for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on February 29. Last fall, she finished seventh at the Chicago Marathon in a personal best of 2:28:08 and most recently, at the Houston Half Marathon, she ran 1:09:37—a 2-1/2 minute improvement on her previous personal best—and is heading into Atlanta with some awesome momentum.

We recently had a great conversation about how Lindsay is feeling heading into the Trials, why she’s over the shoe discussion, and how she’s learned to keep her composure in high-pressure situations. We talked about what she’s learned from racing nine marathons over the past five years, dealing with injuries and the dangers of keeping too fit while she couldn’t run, and the changes she’s made in recent years to keep herself healthy and strong. We also talked about what she’s learned working with age-group athletes as a coach with Run Doyen, who her heroes in the sport are, the popularity of her last name, and a whole lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 98 with Mike Fanelli

By Mario Fraioli |

“As long as I can come across the finish line—whatever chosen distance, and I’ve raced them all—knowing that I couldn’t possibly have run one iota faster, that to me, that’s satisfying. I like being in that position, I like being under the pressure, I like finding myself in a state of uncomfortability. I like being in that space and I like really engaging in the self-talk, so for me, that’s my drug…Your potential is not comfortable. I dig exploring that. I’m my own little guinea pig.”

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Mike Fanelli has worn a lot of different hats in the sport of track and field over the past 50 years: he’s a solid athlete with a 2:25 marathon personal best and over 110,000 lifetime miles on his legs, he’s a great coach, having guided 14 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers, one national champion, and three times he’s served as head coach of a U.S. national team. He’s worked in marketing at major shoe companies, he’s represented athletes as an agent, he’s served as an elite athlete coordinator for different races, and he’s even been a color commentator for a number of events. But most impressive—to me, at least—is that Mike is one of the biggest track nerds and historians the sport has ever known. He calls himself a “cultural storyteller of the sport” and every day on his Facebook page he posts a snippet of track and field related history or trivia that he dug up—analog style from the massive archive in his garage—that will blow your mind.

This was conversation about the sport the two of us both love so much, how “juvenile delinquency” got Mike to start running as a young kid, competition as a means of exploring your potential, the importance of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, and a lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 97 with CJ Albertson

By Mario Fraioli |

“Obviously I’d love to be a world-class runner—like I’d love it, that’d be awesome—but I know there’s so much more in my life and so many more things I can do and my life isn’t just running. Obviously I knew I missed running, I will try to admit that, but I really did feel content. But I still had this feeling and I’m like, ‘Well, it’s over now. It’s officially over. I’m done.’ I’m running like 40 miles a week, just kind of having fun, I’m not competing. But it never really went away and then I don’t really know, I really just fell into the marathon.”

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CJ Albertson is one of the most intriguing athletes heading into the Olympic Trials Marathon at the end of February. The 26-year-old ran a personal best of 2:13:40 at CIM last December to finish a close second behind Kenyan Elisha Barno. Last April, he  ran 2:17:59 to break the indoor marathon world record and he’s broken 2:20 in each of the five marathons he’s competed in, most of them lower key efforts near where he lives in Clovis, California.

I first learned about CJ from a reader of the morning shakeout newsletter, who told me to check out some of the runs he was putting up on Strava, like multiple solo 30-ish mile training runs averaging 5:15 to 5:20 per mile. I started following CJ in his buildup to CIM last December and was impressed by his penchant for hard work and ability to seemingly recover very quickly between big efforts.

In this conversation, we talked about his unorthodox training methods and how, as a collegiate coach at Clovis Community College, he’s careful not to let his own training influence that of his athletes; he told me about his independent streak and tendency to push things to the extreme; we got into the race that sparked his return to competitive running after an up-and-down collegiate career at Arizona State; we discussed self-experimentation and some of his crazy things he’s tried to help him recover faster; he also told me about his wife, Chelsey, a fellow Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier and how she’s his secret weapon on race day, and a lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 96 with Greg McMillan

By Mario Fraioli |

“It’s difficult for runners to communicate, ‘Why do you do this?’…’Do you want to be skinny?’ ‘Do you want to be healthy?’ It’s like, well, that’s nice but ultimately it was challenging myself, working hard toward a goal, being able to do something I couldn’t do before. I really liked that. I was telling somebody the other day [that] I’m still chasing that high school [runner]. I still chase high school cross country. I still love that moment where running, it comes down to a tunnel and it’s just me versus me and that dialogue in my head to try to get the most out of myself. I still love that—that’s why I keep running today.”

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Greg McMillan is one of the most recognizable running coaches in the game today. He’s the founder and head coach of McMillan Running, one of the world’s first and most respected online coaching companies. Greg started sending workouts to his athletes by way of fax machine way back when, which tells you how long he’s been in the business. He has a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology and has worked with thousands of runners from beginners to Olympians and every ability level in between. Greg has coached 12 National Champions, thousands of Boston Qualifiers, and has had a number of athletes compete at global championships over the years. The creator of the popular McMillan Running Calculator, He has written numerous articles for different publications, he was the managing editor of Peak Running Performance for three years, and is also the author of “You, Only Faster” — with a new book due out this spring.

Aside from his coaching accolades, Greg is also an accomplished runner in his own right: He was a state champion in high school and in 2009 he won the USATF Masters Trail Marathon National Championship.

This was a conversation about coaching, Greg’s influences over the years, the path he took to get where he is today, creating the McMillan Calculator, the importance of exposing yourself to different training philosophies, what it’s like working with a wide range of athletes, including his own professional group that was based in Flagstaff from 2007-2013, and much more.

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Podcast: Episode 95 with Fernando Cabada

By Mario Fraioli |

“Running is something that I was always good at, something that I would do no matter what, it was always my little escape in some way. Whatever was happening at home, running would just make me feel a little better when I got to go out. It was just my escape and I needed it—I need it to this day. It’s the only time that I feel that nothing negative could touch me.”

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Fernando Cabada is a former professional distance runner who is still competing at an elite level. In 2006, he ran the seventh fastest American debut marathon of all-time, clocking 2:12:27 at Fukuoka in Japan. In the buildup to that race, before he even signed his first professional contract, Fernando broke the American record in the 25K, running 1:14:21, an average of 4:47 per mile, capturing his first national championship. He won two more national titles in his career at the 2008 U.S. Marathon Championship and 2011 U.S. 25K championship. He has personal bests of 1:02 for the half marathon and 2:11:36 for the marathon, which is pretty damn impressive no matter how you slice it.

The results don’t even begin to tell half of Fernando’s story, however, and we get into the rest of it in this conversation: from his his rough upbringing in Fresno, California, where he suffered abuse at the hands of his father, to the close relationship he has with his mother and how that’s even strengthened in recent years. We talked about being embarrassed by who he was as a kid and how he’s worked to put that behind him later in life. He told me why finishing second in a school yard race as a 9-year-old was the best day of his life to that point. Fernando explains why he was feeling more depressed than ever in 2014 despite it being his best year of racing ever, and how he picked himself up afterward and found a way forward. We also his relationship with running now and the place it occupies in his life, and a heck of a lot more.

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