On the highway to hell⏱

Sponsored by New Balance

Lap 126: Sponsored by New Balance

Sharing a nice clean picture of an unworn pair of New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3’s because mine are much more beat up and dirty. And that’s because I wear them every single day. I haven’t had this healthy of a relationship with a daily trainer in a while! Normally it’s me staring into the abyss of my shoe closet wondering what would be the best way to complete my running outfit. But with these New Balance workhorses in my rotation, it feels like I am a tech mogul who always wears the same shirt. It’s nice to have one less decision so I can focus on my runs.

Steep Downhills At The Guardian Mile 🛡

There are eight “guardians of traffic” sculpted into the pylons spanning the Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland. After winning back-to-back-to-back titles, rumors are circulating that there will soon be a ninth statue along the race course of the Guardian Mile: an art deco Johnny Gregorek. Although he could not quite match his record of 3:46.67 from last year’s edition, Gregorek timed the downhill like the race veteran he is, shifting gears at just the right moment to win in 3:53.

Much like cross country courses, every road mile venue is different. It’s rarely enough to be the fittest in the field – you’ve also got to match your tactics to the undulation of the asphalt. In the case of the Guardian Mile, after a steady climb to the halfway bonus, there is a precipitous drop of about 30 meters in the second 800 with the majority coming suddenly at the end. In my experience, if you lack strong quads, a quick cadence, or any semblance of courage, then it is uncomfortably hard to turn over fast enough when you reach that point.

(By the way, I’m so pleased with the way the race videos turned out. Shout out to the city of Cleveland for relaxing its drone ordinances to allow Xavier to cook. Check out the women’s race here and the men’s highlighted above.)

Of course, a miler of Johnny’s caliber wishes they’d be preparing to run in Budapest right now. However, these smaller community races really do bring an energy that can alleviate some of that disappointment. It’s sort of like making an appearance at a cross country camp as a pro or collegiate athlete – by speaking to a group of kids and trying to inspire them, you often end up sparking your own motivation, too. Show up to a Diamond League race and run 3:53 in the mile, and that’s expected by the fans. Now go to a local road race and do it in front of a family that is there just for the free snow cones and you’ll really blow some minds.

Also, there’s something to be said for just havin’ fun. The pre-US Champs meets are strictly business trips, and all about hitting marks. Naturally, the events after USAs lack some of that intensity. But they make up for it by putting you in a hostel with everyone else, right next to the start of the race and near the after-party location, which is always a recipe for a good time.

Now there is no word yet of whether or not Tigist Ketema will be receiving a statue in her honor for winning the women’s race in 4:28. It was the Ethiopian’s first win in the 216 following a quiet outdoor season, but after the race she said, “Cleveland rocks!” so it is safe to assume she’ll be returning for a couple more.

Welcome back to the big show Kellyn! 🇺🇸

Photo: Morgan McEnroe | @morganmcenroephoto

As a dedicated reader of this newsletter, upon hearing about this race you have thought to yourself “the USATF 7 Mile Championships seems like something out of Kyle’s nightmares.”

You’re not wrong. But just because there are way too many national champions on the roads doesn’t mean I can’t also appreciate the incredible performances laid down at them. And that’s what Kellyn Taylor did in the Bix7 in Iowa this past weekend, as she went on to win in 36:32 (5:13/mi) – six seconds over HOKA NAZ Elite teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk.

Firstly, this is impressive because despite the Flagstaff-based group going through significant changes – headlined by the departure of short-tenured coach Alan Culpepper earlier this month – they continue to run well. A lot of that credit goes to Jenna Wrieden and Ben Rosario for creating and maintaining a strong team culture and helping athletes stay calm and engaged during what are likely tumultuous times.

This isn’t college. It’s rare for a professional coach to be the one leaving. Normally those roles are reversed. It’d be like if Joe Bosshard left the Boss group then established a new “Boss” group with a different set of athletes. Or if Jerry Schumacher left Portland then everyone had to move to Eugene.

The Kellyn Taylor victory here is big in its own right, as it was against some big names: Aliphine, of course, but also Ednah Kurgat, who finished third – she’s got two national titles to her credit this year. If you’re like me and think Aliphine is a potential threat to score top three – or win, again – in Orlando at the Olympic Trials, then we should also add Kellyn to the list of contenders. Sure, this is just one summer road race at a distance 19 miles shorter than the big one, but she is far from an unproven commodity. Kellyn was 6th in 2016 and 8th in 2020.

Now the most remarkable part of this performance is that Taylor gave birth to her daughter, Keagan, just seven months ago. My body is just beginning to recover from Christmas dinner! And yet at the beginning of June Taylor was already back in fine form, running 15:37 for 5000m and then finishing 8th at the Mini 10K.

Sometimes in sports, you just have to accept that certain people are built differently (or is it BUILT DIFFERENT?) and do your best not to compare yourself to them. Kellyn is 37, has four kids, is a certified firefighter, and has unbelievable range – this is so fast it makes me think it’s an error but according to her World Athletics profile, she ran 12.33 for 100m in 2007. Give this mother another seven months and some starting blocks and we might be in for something special come the Trials.

To the best of my knowledge, Biya Simbassa did not give birth recently, so although he ran a great race to win his fourth national championship in 32:35 (4:39/mi), hopefully he understands why the majority of words were dedicated to Kellyn for this section.

The Pre Classic CITIUS MAG Superfan Section

We’re looking for the loudest, rowdiest, and most passionate fans of track & field to fill Section 119 (just past the finish line!) at this year’s Prefontaine Classic.
In partnership with Citius Mag, we will be identifying and inviting track & field’s Superfans to bring their energy to the Pre Classic on September 16 and 17, 2023. Want a chance to be selected? Click here for more details.

Understanding Olli Hoare’s Injury 🤕

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

Olli Hoare’s season came to an unfortunate end this past week. As great of a redemption story as his win at the Commonwealth Games was in 2022, the only way to truly gain closure on his early exit from last year’s World Championships would have been to return and earn that medal he is so clearly capable of.

There are a lot of injuries that occur in this sport and all are devastating. But as a regular Coffee Club listener who digests the ins and outs of the trio’s weekly banter, I have been sucked into actually caring about their performances, as well. (Except for Morgan, who once said he doesn’t care about mine.) In addition to being a great case study of supportive male friendship, their storytelling always leaves me invested in the outcome.

And when Olli shared that his season would come to an abrupt end just a few weeks before Budapest as a result of a sports hernia, it hit home for me personally. A sports hernia, which is also known as an athletic pubalgia, is different from a regular hernia where – not to get too technical here – your guts sort of pop out of you through a little hole in your muscles.

The way my doctor described a sports hernia is that where your adductors attach to the pubic bone is like the threading of a baseball, except the thread is no longer taut and is gradually coming undone.

I first started having adductor issues sometime in 2013. For some reason they just wouldn’t “fire” and it took me a year or so to identify the issues and come up with the activation prehab necessary to manage it. I carried a five-pound ankle weight with me on every trip and to each run. In 2016 things started to get worse occasionally after big speed sessions. But with a couple of days recovery before having to go again, I’d be able to muscle out another one.

In 2017, things admittedly got pretty bad, and I was taking a regular dosage of way too much Advil which certainly was not good for my liver. It did nothing to actually help the issue but still, in 2018, I was running some of the best workouts of my life. Then it came to an abrupt end. One day, I legitimately could no longer jog without being an insurmountable pain. After rehabbing for four months and seeing no improvement it was time to accept that the injury was too far gone to heal without going under the knife.

For the out-of-pocket cost of $15,000, I let this well-regarded surgeon go in and sew me up because there was a signed Marshawn Lynch jersey on his office wall. Since there was an economy of scale to do both sides at once, I took the up-sell. Now while I technically retired in 2020, we at the Lap Count consider the spring of 2018 the real end of my career. I got back under four minutes the following season and although I never really popped a big one again, I did eventually return to injury-free running.

This is not to scare Olli or his fans. This is a “Goofus and Gallant” moment where I want to highlight what I did wrong and point out what he did right. The decision to not run Worlds is 100% the right one, although I am certain it was a tough one to make. He likely could have run through the pain for three weeks, but at what cost? Selfishly, I don’t want another young miler cut down in his prime, crowding the newsletter market – I’ve seen what he can do as a media personality and I’m already hearing footsteps!

Without revealing the personal medical history of a dozen other runners, this injury is incredibly common in milers. One of the reasons middle-distance athletes get hurt so much is because we’re constantly lengthening and shortening our muscles and tendons. Balancing spiked up 200s in 23 with 90-mile weeks sends a confusing message to the old body, which is essentially: “hey, just be good at everything.”

It looks like Olli can avoid some of that misery long-term by not being a stubborn bastard like I was. The fact that he ran a personal best of 3:29.41 in Oslo during mid-June gives me optimism that this thing can get fixed. Remember when his OAC teammate Yared Nuguse didn’t line up for the Tokyo Olympics? The long play is often the best one.

This isn’t high school anymore! 🇸🇷

When Issam Asinga ran 20.48 at New Balance Nationals, it was only because the track was fast. When he ran under 9.90 seconds three times, it was only because the wind was blowing. And now that he ran a wind-legal 9.89 (+0.8) to set a new South American record for Suriname, it was only because it was at altitude.

I can not wait for this kid to get to Worlds so he can match up against the professionals. Remember, he beat Noah Lyles this spring. The difference of hundredths of a second means nothing when they are run in different time zones or under different conditions, and it’ll be great to see what he does when he’s being pushed. I am rooting for him hard because I root for characters! Plus, I want to know what the excuse will be next time he runs fast. My money’s on “he only ran XX.XX because the competition was literally world class!”

Drive Phase to Survive — Netflix here we come! 📺

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

Some information regarding one of the worst-kept secrets in the sport is finally being leaked to the public – track and field is heading to Netflix! (More paywalls, am I right?) There were camera crews following certain star athletes around at the US Championships and the same has been the case at other major meets throughout the season.

This is our Drive to Survive moment, or so we hope. The landmark series that follows the F1 series through the lens of its most prominent teams is largely responsible for its recent boom in popularity in the United States. There are a few major differences, however, like a five-year head start. Since Drive to Survive first debuted, there have been similar series released for golf, tennis, and cycling.

I have enjoyed them all. They each raised my appreciation for the personalities of the sports’ main characters. But it’s not like I am suddenly following those sports any more than I already was. And that’s probably because the fundamental structure of the F1 season is infinitely more inviting for a documentary crew than just about any other sport, including track and field.

There are 10 teams total with two drivers each. There are 23 races in a season. Is track and field willing to make some cuts to align here as well, or will a single docuseries be enough?

If you have never seen the F1 website then please go to formulaone.com and click around. Aside from the very digestible schedule, results, and roster, there is an integration of video, but most importantly, news. Some of the articles almost read like they’re from TMZ, purposely leaning into the drama, controversy, rumors, and speculation. Track and field could never. The governing body of F1 owns the IP of what’s happening on its circuit and isn’t afraid to leverage its access to share it. And it recognizes that a little interpersonal messiness is key to good narrative-building.

You’ll also notice the fact that the official F1 website posts articles on its homepage discussing the betting odds before each race. This is entertainment – F1 leans into that fact.

The other thing Liberty Media did after acquiring Formula One was that they chilled out on rights restrictions. Teams and drivers were provided official race footage to share on social media and they became the fastest growing digital property in sports. They even gave ESPN broadcasting rights for free.

Is track willing to do that? There are other examples of this strategy’s success.

In 1987, the then commissioner of the NBA David Stern saw a huge opportunity in China to grow the game. He sent weekly videotapes of game footage for free to be shown on CCTV. Today the NBA is worth $5B in China and more than 500 million people there tuned in last season.

Being on Netflix will be great for the sport and will surely help new fans gain a better understanding of just how impressive track & field athletes are. But similar to after the hype of an Olympics game dies down, no one with even the slightest newfound interest will have an idea of where to turn next if they wanted to watch the 2024 season live. They’ll have to wait to find out what happened in season two.

Olympic Trials Marathon — The Highway to Hell 🔥

Tell me you have never run a marathon without telling me you have never run a marathon. That’s what the Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers are thinking right about now given the 12:10pm and 12:20pm start times that were made public during the course unveiling on Tuesday.

Orlando is a warm place, even in February. Looking at the temperatures at 2 pm from the past seven years, the average is 72º. That’s not great! New York this year was 75º and I only fell apart at mile 12.

There is very real chance it could sneak into the low 80ºs, which of course would be dangerous. It’s also not unprecedented. Think back to 2012 in Boston, 2007 in Chicago, the 2019 World Championships in Doha, or the Beijing Olympics. At the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon, the temperatures topped out at 73 degrees and there was some serious carnage on the roads with 75% of women finishing the race and only 64% of men.

I have mixed emotions. This being a qualifying race for the Olympics, the course and conditions should ideally mirror what might be expected in Paris. That’s a hillier course than basically anything possible in Orlando and with likely cooler temperatures. I’m not morally opposed to professional races being run in the heat if we’re trying to specifically determine who’s the best at racing in an inferno.

But it’s quite obvious that this is a TV decision so that the race can be broadcast live on NBC. The compromise of hosting it live on Peacock for the diehards, with a replay at noon on real NBC is not the worst. Though admittedly, this isn’t an NBA finals game in the 1980s – I ain’t watching that after it happens.

After complaining about the lack of live television coverage on basic cable during the US Outdoor Championships, I can acknowledge the irony here. Now athletes and fans are complaining that moves were made to accommodate TV.

My main issue is a lack of communication and transparency, not the decision itself. Anyone in Indiana should have been able to foresee that there would be immediate push-back from this announcement. That’s when we need leadership to get on stage for a press conference and answer some questions about why things are being done the way they are.

I have a very well-educated guess that there are contributing factors to this decision beyond the obvious “this will be on live television” element. Rather than letting a mob form that already has a longstanding distrust of bureaucracy, get out ahead of it and explain it to the organization’s membership so they don’t shout about incompetency.

And then follow it up with this statement: If in the days leading up to the race the weather forecast is predicting dangerously warm temperatures that may put the health of our athletes at risk, then the race will go off at an earlier time.

The challenge then is how do we convert this large television audience tuning in for one day of racing into more regular fans… maybe we’ll crack the code next newsletter.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • If you haven’t seen the Spanish National Championship Men’s 1500 then I highly recommend you watch it. How does 3:34 not make the team?

  • Former Texas Longhorn Valery Tobias has joined the Brooks Beasts. She holds an 800m personal best of 2:00.31 and is a four-time All-American.

  • NCAA Mile champion Olivia Howell is transferring from Illinois to the University of Texas.

  • The 2016 Olympic champion and 2020 bronze medalist in the pole vault Thiago Braz of Brazil has been provisionally suspended for the use of Ostarine Glucuronide.

  • Peter Bol has been exonerated after Sport Integrity Australia confirms he received a false positive in a positive test for synthetic EPO. I don’t know how they do it down under, but up over here, I’d be suing somebody!

  • Former Newbury Park HS coach Sean Brosnan is no longer at UCLA after one year with the program. (Story)

  • Edose Ibadin broke a three year old personal best in the 800m, running 1:44.65 to set a new Nigerian national record and get a buzzer beater of a qualifier for the World Championships. It is also the Olympic standard.

  • Madie Boreman set the American record in the 2000m at the BMC winning in 6:09.81. Not a regularly run event, but still the fastest to ever officially do it!

  • I pretty regularly forget that Noah Lyles didn’t win the Olympic 200m and that was actually Mr. Clutch Andre De Grasse. Well, after what’s been a quiet year and failing to even qualify for the Canadian 100m final, he returned to form to win the 200m in 20.01. Are you counting him out yet? The man knows how to peak!

Thanks so much to New Balance for supporting this week’s newsletter! This 126th straight edition is brought to you from County Tipperary, Ireland where the only trainers I brought with me are my FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3’s.