Hungry For Knowledge

Like many of you I have quite an appetite for knowledge. I make time in my week for reading, listening, studying, and for writing (which includes drawing diagrams since I think mostly in pictures) to process the treasures I find.

Part of my knowledge diet consists of podcasts and audio-books. If I have an activity that doesn’t tie up those parts of my brain then I am listening to an mp3 (I would far prefer to read since I can read about 3x faster than someone can talk. If not, I prefer to listen rather than watch a video so I can do something physical while taking it in – for this I convert video to audio files.) I can fit in up to 10 hours of audio a week by listening while I am driving, raking leaves, cooking, and often while running (but never while swimming). 

In podcasts I prefer the long-format (1+ hour long) and listening to experts take their time to go deeper on their subjects. I do appreciate new recommendations to good podcasts but there are enough attractive podcasts being published each week that I must practice greater discrimination in what I give my limited time to.

The Rich Roll Podcast

One podcast that consistently gets my attention and appreciation is The Rich Roll Podcast – click the link to get a feel for his podcast and mission. My friend and 70.3 Canadian pro triathlete Sarah Bonner turned me on to him a couple years ago and I am very grateful for how this has enriched my life. The vast majority of guests on his show are those who have stories and insights that positively alter my perspective, and I resonate with Rich’s manner as a podcast host.

One way that I process exceptionally valuable podcasts is that I will go back and listen to them slowly and transcribe the text at certain spots (very few podcasts also provide transcripts). Some of these exceptional podcasts have me capturing great portions because there was that much inside I wanted to review and save for future thought and reference – such as right now.

Conversation With Shalane Flanagan

Rather than write my own thoughts I want to highlight some excerpts from this particular podcast from Rich Roll’s conversation with Shalane Flanagan, champion middle distance and Olympic marathon runner:

Over the course of her distinguished 16-year professional career, Shalane has made 4 consecutive Olympic teams, won an Olympic medal and set a variety of American records across a wide array of distances on both the track and the road. (excerpt from Rich Roll’s podcast introduction page)

Shalane also happens to live and train in my home town of Portland, Oregon, and lives next to one of the most awesome running spots in the world – Forest Park (go to Google Images and type in ‘Forest Park Portland Oregon’ and see how magical it is!). Rich had the opportunity to interview her and her co-author friend Eleyse Kopecky. You can get the scoop on all that on the introduction page.

I encourage you to check out the podcast to hear Shalane and Eleyse’s story, and more about the role of nutrition in superior athletic longevity – a topic I am increasingly passionate about. And you should definitely check out Rich’s podcast menu in general because it is loaded with inspiring people.

Now, I will let Shalane and Rich speak what I would like to say to you today, and I will underline or emphasize the points I want you to notice…

Don’t Waste Anything

[Podcast location 57:37]

SF: In Rio for example, we were fartleking really hard throughout the race. So it would look like I would get dropped, but I knew that they would slow down. So I would fall off the pack for like 10 meters, and then they would slow down and I would catch right back up to the pack because I didn’t want to burn extra fuel and energy.

I am competing, I am trying to beat people. I am not worried about my time in general, I am just worried about beating as many people as I can. So I am constantly listening to my competitors, how their breathing is, how their form looks like, how can I use this to my advantage, how can I make sure I am running the perfect line on the course so that I don’t waste anything. I am all about conserving energy as much as I can.

When To Be Aggressive, When To Hold Back


SF: I rode over the line many times and almost feel like I am walking it in at the end.

RR: Right, you are so conditioned that you can go into the red and then pull it back and then recover. And its a question of how many times you do that, and is it wise to do that, and when is it not wise, how are you reacting to what everyone else is doing and to the conditions, you know when do you tuck yourself behind some body and let them break the wind, when is the appropriate time to surge, how fast do you surge, when do you give up on a surge, like all of these things that are taking a mental toll on you as well. Like, the gamesmanship and strategy that is going on!

A Variety Of Events And Longevity


SF: Yeah, I think [the variety of events I train for] all contribute to just making a well-rounded athlete. And I think it has allowed me to enjoy my sport longer because I throw in different events… Personally,  I don’t know how some athletes can just straight marathon year after year after year. The training is so hard. At least my training is really hard. And I need the breaks, I need the mental and physical breaks and I need to switch it up to get excited about different avenues and areas and different goals. So for me its really important to have chunks of time where I am a marathoner and then I get back to the track, and I get my cross-country runner. I need the different disciplines because I believe it hones my skills, and at the end of the day, a better athlete each time.

RR: Do you think that has contributed to the longevity of your career?

SF: I think so… and that and eating well.

Restraint In Training


RR: It doesn’t seem like you had extended periods where you were out due to injury. Is that true? You’ve been pretty good about that right? What do you attribute that to?

This idea of how you approach your training, and when it is time to back off, and take these breaks that you were referencing, because I think the other thing that people don’t realize is that for runners at your level you could probably train a lot harder, right? A lot of the discipline is in the restraint that you have to exercise and hold back from, going out for a little bit longer, a little bit faster.

SF: It is so easy to think that ‘more is better’. It is so easy to fall into that.

Listen To Your Body

SF: I’ve had moments where I’d probably walked a fine line between doing too much and it ‘going south’ real quickly. I can think of a few instances where I probably have just over done it, just over-cooked myself then not been able to perform at the level I probably should have been capable of.

But, I think in general, for some weird reason I just have an innate ability to read my body really well. I look at some athletes and think, “How do they not know that? How do they not know to not do that?” I guess there are some things I just take for granted… like just listen to my body. I just listen to what its telling me and I think some people are just so out of touch with what their body is telling them that they just don’t listen. It takes listening to your body sometimes… I think we as runners can be really stubborn and think, “Well, that’s just part of being a runner, and I just need to push through this.” I know that happens a lot and I do that too sometimes. But I think there is a disconnect somehow, people just don’t listen to their bodies. It’s the same reason why people probably overeat, they don’t listen to like when they are full. It’s just listening to your body, and I think that is a gift, for some reason I was given.

Ignore Discomfort versus Listen To It


RR: It’s tricky to be able to discern what that dividing line is. Because you do have to have the discipline to push through discomfort. That’s a job requirement, right? You’re not going to excel and achieve these goals at the elite level that you want to achieve if you are not an expert, if you are not a professional at being comfortable being uncomfortable, right?

But, when is it the wrong time? You know? I imagine that would just come with a lot of experience. But what you’re saying is that there are a lot of experienced athletes out there that still make that mistake.

SF: They do. A surprising amount.

I wish I had a concrete answer about this is exactly what I do, and this is how people should approach it, but… I don’t. It’s just an innate thing that I just feel like I have been able to read my body really well and that’s been probably one of the best gifts I have been given, to have the continuous training over the last 12 years straight, with literally, basically no injuries.


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