Dear Younger Me: Lauren Fleshman

Lauren Fleshman wrote a letter to her younger self that I thought was worth sharing.


For those who don’t know, Lauren Fleshman was a very successful runner for the US from the early 2000s until about 2012. Here’s a good race of her’s.

The letter touches on the issue of young runners, specifically girls, going through puberty, and how it affects their running and personal health.

Puberty affect boys and girls unfairly when it comes to running. For boys, it’s an automatic performance enhancer. For girls, it’s a total guessing game, and often leads to a decrease in performance.

However, girls, and more specifically, coaches, don’t handle this well. Pressure exists to perform well in the short-term and this often results in sacrificing health, most notably in the form of an eating disorder.

The athletes are too young to recognize how serious it is and the coaches (not all, but too many) are too selfish to stop it. This can be a plague on college teams and the culture is such that girls on the team often don’t speak about it at all despite everyone knowing what’s going on.

This issue isn’t talked about enough based on the amount of impact it has on young women in the sport, so Fleshman’s letter, and any other effort to bring this issue more to the forefront of high school / collegiate running is a positive.

Last Chance Training – Update 4

The heat sheets were sent out yesterday for the Swat Last Chance meet. Out of about 100 athletes entered in the 5k, my 15:45 seed time puts me around 80-85. The problem is, I don’t think I can run my seed time.

The Last Few Weeks

Two weeks ago I did 2 x 3200 w/ 2:00 rest in 11:05 and 10:53 with a 5:23 last mile which was the first workout where I actually felt “good” since returning.

Two days later I did 6 x 1000 with 400m rest closing in 3:08 and 3:06 which has been my best workout since returning.

The last 10 days or so has been pretty easy, just making sure I’m ready to race.

The Race

Breaking 16:00 is the default goal. It’s a downer, but I have to be realistic and accept I’m probably not in shape to run 15:3x or even 15:4x.

There are 40 people in the heat. I expect it to be fast. If they want to elbow and surge for a good spot a few seconds ahead, go for it. I’m going to be in the back and on the rail.

The other curve ball is my race likely won’t start until about 10:45 PM.

From here to…?

This meet is both motivating and discouraging at the same time. Motivating because there’s so many fast runners, but discouraging because even at my best, I’d still be mid-pack in the slow heat.

Regardless, I’m not taking a break. I’m counting the ~20 days of the flu as my season break and continuing from there. There are a few races I have eyed up in June / July and no doubt the goal remains the same, <15:27.

I’ll post an update after the race. Here’s to 15:xx!

Nike, Breaking2, & Eliud Kipchoge

Early this past Saturday morning, Nike and their crew made their much publicized attempt at breaking two hours in the marathon.

I wrote this post months ago when it was announced which was largely critical of the attempt.

The Attempt

It took place on a 2.4k race track in Milan, Italy. There was a phalanx-type drafting strategy with pacers switching out every few miles, along with a Tesla pace car going exactly 4:34 mile pace to keep them on track. Kipchoge, Desisa, and Tadese hung in the back getting their fluids constantly.

Desisa dropped off the pace first, then Tadese, both before they reached the halfway point. However, everyone knew the only man with a real chance was Eliud Kipchoge. Through 35k (marathon is 42k) Kipchoge was actually on pace.

He faded in the last few kilometers and ran an astounding 2:00:25

My Thoughts

Eliud Kipchoge is a god damn legend.

The general consensus leading in was 90% no chance, 9% small chance, and 1% they’ll break two. This wasn’t about Nike and all the gadgets / science they could put behind breaking 2:00:00. This was about Eliud Kipchoge putting on a performance that no one expected. Desisa and Tadese fading horrible is even more evidence of that.

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% Shoes were not the answer.

Nike claims the “Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4% makes runners 4% more efficient compared to Nike’s previous fastest marathon shoe, whatever that means. It certainly doesn’t mean “wear these shoes and run 4% faster”, because if that were the case, Kipchoge’s time in “real” shoes would’ve been over 2:05, which, given the conditions, frankly would’ve been a pretty horrible run.

Running was cool for two hours.

Nike went HAM promoting this and it worked. It was live on Twitter (great idea), much hyped, and non-runners actually followed this to some extent. For a sport that lacks any mainstream marketability, this was a pretty big attraction and opens the doors to future “stunts” like this.

But, ‘real’ running may have taken a shot.

My fear prior to this was that this would diminish future marathons. Two hours is easy to remember. Everyone will have that as the anchor in their head. When someone runs 2:10, or 2:05 and even 2:03, the casual fan will view it as “meh”.

Overall

Although I still won’t buy Nike products, all things considered, this event was generally a success and I’d say it was good for the sport.

Last Chance Training – Update 3

I haven’t posted an update about my training for a while because of how bad it’s gone.

“I think I’m in 15:40 shape”

I started to hit a groove and was feeling really fit about 7 weeks into it. My first race was planned for March 25 and I thought 15:40 was a realistic goal. On March 23 I got the flu.

The Flu

I didn’t run for 10 straight days, and then for the following 10-15 days or so I couldn’t muster up much more than ~4-5 mile runs at a slow pace which left me exhausted.

By the time I’d gotten over the flu I had lost fitness. I’m a couple weeks back into “real” training but it’s been rough.

Last week I had three notable runs:

  • 3 mile tempo @ 5:34
    5:37, 5:35, 5:32. I probably tried a little too hard to hit the 5:34 average.
  • 4 x 1200 @ 3:50 w/ 2:30 jogging rest
    A total disaster. I went 3:53, 3:56, then threw in the towel 200m into the third interval when I was on over 4:00 pace and dying. Not sure what happened
  • 12 mile long run
    This was yesterday. I did the first 6 in ~6:55s and the last 6 in ~6:40s feeling relaxed the whole time. I was happy with this.

Where does this leave me?

I signed up for Swat Last Chance which is Monday, May 15. I was actually starting to believe I would PR with the way things were going. At this point, sub 16:00 is even a stretch, but I’m going to run it no matter what.

I don’t look at this as a failure. If anything I’m encouraged. Things were going really well and a stroke of bad luck dashed this training cycle. I’m not giving up on PRing. It’s going to happen.

Beer Half Marathon

Last week a guy ran a half marathon and drank 13 beers. It’s similar to a beer mile. Run a mile, drink a beer, and repeat. After seeing that I decided this will be my next challenge.

I think you’ll easily accomplish this feat, Sam.

I said that if I don’t break two hours, I’d consider it a failure. Wacker immediately said that he doesn’t think I can drink 13 beers in two hours at all, let alone run 13 miles while doing it.

So as a precursor, I’m going to see how long it takes me to drink 13 beers, but I don’t think running 8 minute miles in between beers will kill me.

As it stands now, I still think sub 2:00 is a good goal. If the 13 beer time trial goes horribly then I’ll reconsider, but I really think I’ll be able to do it.

Another Running Fraud – Dave Reading

Dave Reading of the UK planned on running 836 miles in 9 days to raise money for charity, which would be a world record for the distance. He has a dozen sponsors and thousands of supporters.

At 49, Dave’s story is fascinating. He used to smoke two packs a day until 2014 when he decided to stop smoking and start running. Since then he’s “run” a 3:12 marathon (no official time / splits), and decided to attempt this record, as he’s regularly logging 100 – 120 miles a week.

Letsrun called him out (shortly after the KP Kelly incident) and after hundreds of posts of (some) logic and evidence, it was concluded that this was surely a scam. Dave agreed to wearing a GPS watch for the attempt, but refused to use one that showed heart rate and cadence. Since this is a record attempt that would have RV support, by using just a GPS watch, there would be no way of telling whether Dave was running next to the RV, or sitting on his ass in the RV.  

Since the backlash, Dave and his team wrote a post on their Facebook page announcing their withdrawal from the record attempt due to the negativity and skepticism surrounding it.

My favorite comment was a supporter saying “if the world record is what he really wants then go for it!” (genuinely supporting Dave) and a member of his team responding that he “to be honest, he doesn’t want [the record] anymore”.

Yup, the guy who’s been logging 120 mile weeks for months is canceling his world record attempt because a group of people on the internet want him to provide proof that he’s actually going to do what he says he’s going to do.

Dave is now just trying to finish the 836 mile trek at this point regardless of time.

Why do so many people lie?

It comes down to two main reasons I think:

  • The Money – Between all of the gear, donations, and future speaking opportunities, Dave would’ve set himself up pretty nicely to profit from something he didn’t actually do. Robert Young and Alex Viada were in similar boats of literally making a profit off of something they didn’t do.
  • The Fame – I think this is more common. Normal people don’t think up elaborate public scams to make money, they do it much more discretely. It takes a real narcissist to lie to thousands of people and convince them that you’re doing something amazing for such a selfless reason. This is the Mike Rossi, Jane Seo, KP Kelly, Robert Young type.

I have no sympathy for people like this being outed or their gullible sheeple defenders. In Dave’s case, they’ll never admit to lying which is the worst part.

Another fraud outed, fine by me!

Running Frauds

The running community has become littered with frauds and cheaters. While there are plenty more than the four I’ve listed here, these are some great examples. I don’t understand what possesses people to do things like this.

Mike Rossi

The Mike Rossi thread on Letsrun has more than 26,000 posts.

Mike Rossi went viral for writing this letter to his son’s principal when she didn’t grant his son an excused absence from school to watch him run the Boston Marathon.

Funny thing is, Mike cheated to qualify for Boston. He claims to have run 3:11:45 at the Lehigh Valley Marathon in 2014.

After piling up evidence that he cheated, Letsrun’s founders offered him $100,000 to duplicate the time within a year. A year has passed, Rossi never attempted to claim his prize but to this day denies any wrongdoing.

Boston has a finite number of entries, meaning Rossi stole a spot from someone who ran slower, but actually ran. A travesty. This happens more often than you think.

Alex Viada

Alex Viada is a trainer for “hybrid” athletes.

Viada’s claim to fame is being able to squat 700 pounds while also running a 4:15 mile, which is still quoted on a number of articles. He regularly posted GPS results of his workouts on his Facebook, including many 400m repeats in 60 seconds.

At well over 200 pounds, the Letsrun crowd wasn’t buying it. After long threads on the topic, Letsrun admins began mysteriously deleting anything that mentioned Viada. Conversely, Viada removed all mentions of running times on his personal website and Facebook profile. So it appears some mutual agreement was reached.

I give him credit that he stopped making the claims, but he had to be caught for that to happen, and never actually owned up to his lies.

The multiple false claims of running ability surely built his reputation with prospective clients though.

Robert Young

Robert Young recently attempted to “run across the USA“. Similar to Rossi, the Letsrun crowd exposed the cheater with a 10,000+ post thread on the topic.

Robert was knocking out 60-70 mile days left and right and publicizing the attempt as much as possible.

Letsrun recaps how he was caught here, but once all eyes were on him, he got “injured” and had to end his attempt.

He vehemently denied any cheating and said he was going to release the GPS data, including cadence and heart rate, to prove his innocence, but never did. When investigators went to get the data from his GPS watches, he had wiped them clean. Even his own sponsor said he cheated.

The run was to benefit charity, but there’s no telling how much was going to Young’s pocket. He’s since deleted his personal website.

This all brings us to our newest fraud – Kevin “KP” Kelly

The other stories have played out, but KP’s is at its infancy, which is why this is interesting.

On Friday, the Letsrun crowd questioned KP’s claim to have run 100 marathons in 100 days (but on the 100th day, he decided to run 100 miles just because). He also says he’s run a 3:00 marathon and a 4:20 mile.

KP is 6’7, 250 lbs, and like the other runners on our list, he has little natural talent but a lot of drive!

He runs for charity, but says that the money donated should go directly to his gofundme, which he’ll then donate to charity himself.

Unlike Robert Young, he didn’t wear a GPS watch for his feat, and has no real proof of anything, though he claims many of the marathons are being done in he low-mid 4 hour range. He hasn’t lost much weight in the 100 days that’s for sure.

To raise more eyebrows, his marathon PR comes from a race where he missed every timing mat. That, coupled with the fact that a 4:20 mile PR would likely be the world record for someone weighing 250 lbs, provides more than enough evidence to justify calling this guy a fraud.

He hasn’t come under fire yet, but he’s indulging in the publicity while it’s still focused on his amazing feat instead of the amazing fraud.

It may seem premature to call KP a fraud. Like the die-hard fans of Rossi, Viada, Young, and other frauds, people will say that guys like me are cynical and trying to tear down a good thing.

My response is they’re naive and uneducated on the subject matter – 6’7, 250 pound guy who has no proof of running ONE marathon faster than 4 hours cannot run 100 marathons in a row in the manner which he’s suggesting.

I’m excited to see how this one plays out! Follow the Letsrun thread if you’re interested!

Running Workouts at the Gym

Yesterday I did 6 x 800 @ 2:30 (12 MPH on the treadmill) with 2 minutes @ 7 MPH between reps at LA Fitness when it was packed after work.

There is absolutely no cool way to run 12 MPH on a treadmill. I have two girls next to me who are running like normal people and I’m clomping away, breathing heavy, pouring sweat, and wearing shorts that are shorter than theirs.

What are people thinking when they see me?

Is he trying to impress those girls? It’s not working.

I bet that guy lives in his parents basement.

He is definitely a virgin.


Me getting ready to run.

Is there any way to look cooler in this situation?

Maybe I need to own it more – after each interval just tap the person next to me on the shoulder and ask “Did you see how fast I was running?”

Thoughts? Ideas?

Making Sacrifices

When I began this training plan, I told myself I was only going to drink one night a weekend. Then, one weekend I drank two nights in a row and almost died on my Sunday long run.

Me on Saturday nights

Yesterday, while half of all Philadelphians aged 21-30 were out at Erin Express, I stayed in. I wanted to go. I had friends going. But I have a 10 mile tempo today, and if I went out, I’d be in trouble.

I didn’t think staying in each weekend would be a big deal, and sitting here 0% hungover on Sunday morning is pretty nice, but I must say yesterday was the first time I really felt like I was missing out.

I guess what I’m saying is, I better freakin’ PR or I’m gonna be PISSED.

Last Chance Training – Update 2

I’m four weeks into the training and this week was my best yet.

The Workouts

Workout One
5 x (200, 200, 400) with equal rest. Goal was 34-high and 69-mid.

I averaged 34-low and 69-flat while speeding up towards the end. Not mind-blowing but I felt great. First time sub 70 pace felt good.

Workout Two
4 x 1600 with 1:00 rest, then 4 x 200 with equal rest. Goal was 5:30 and 35.

Ran 5:30 for all four, then about 35s for the 200s. Not a killer workout.

Workout Three
12 miles with a 9 mile tempo. Goal was 5:59.

Splits were a little uneven but I ran 53:48 (5:59 pace). The last time I did this I averaged 6:03s and pushed harder than I did today. I closed in a 5:46, kind’ve an accident, but I felt good so I opened up a little.

The Injury

The most important update of all! My leg is actually getting BETTER.

I bought different shoes with more arch support and a cushion insert. It’s still not 100% pain-free, but it’s improved significantly. So much so that I’m confident I’m actually going to finish this training program.

My Thoughts So Far

Two thumbs up. The structure helps and I’m pumped to be back on the track consistently, though having some company could help! The weather has also cooperated big time.

I don’t know if everything will go exactly to plan, but I’m happy to be making a serious run at my PRs, and am starting to believe I’ll get there.

Happy running.