Listening notes: Kate Grace on The Morning Shakeout

I listen to maybe two episodes of The Morning Shakeout per year, but they're always great. Distance runners are, unsurprisingly, good at maintaining conversational pace and energy for an hour. Mario Fraioli does his homework but knows when to shut up; he's a sneaky-great interviewer.

I wasn't familiar with Kate Grace, but turns out she's good at running and extremely insightful. Here's the link. Some of many striking elements:

  1. She advocates practicing dealing with doubts and other psychological aspects of running. For her, this is better achieved by explicitly working through (e.g.) frustration and self-criticism while practicing running than by treating mental preparation as a separate activity.
  2. Her worst doubts come roughly 1/3 of the way through a set or workout. In my own (very, very different!) workout regimen I've noticed the same thing, and a lot of what I practice is simply not indulging the part of my brain that calculates how many more repetitions I have, compares my fatigue to the fatigue I remember from analogous portions of other workouts, etc. One big mental breakthrough I had when I was training as a runner was simply to realize that I persistently confused the "things are harder because I'm running uphill" feeling with the "my body is not performing well right now and I might not be able to finish this run" feeling.
  3. For mental preparation, she aims for a kind of level confidence, not "hype" (which she thinks of as overrated).
  4. She recommends that an elite athlete choose where to live in part by how convenient the location is to a major airport.
  5. How much of what we know about the career trajectory of an athlete is mere convention or a relic from when we didn't know as much about training and longevity? Maybe a lot. Grace is (i) specializing in the 800m and (ii) running really, really fast well past the age when it's traditional to do either; she speculates that we don't know as much as we thought we did about what athletes can do at various life stages.
  6. She advocates for combining a willingness to make big decisions with (i) an ability to adjust later and (ii) less fear about whether the decision is optimal. This reminds me of Patrick Collison's belief that decisionmaking is overrated:
I actually think that decision-making is probably a little bit overrated as a question or an area of study in that – investors, obviously, this is their job, right? And that’s all they can do in some sense, invest or not. [...]
But it’s not usually that. And I think that the question I would encourage people to think more about is, “How do I get to make better decisions?” as in, “How do I make sure the decisions I’m confronted with end up being better?” It’s not like, “How should I choose between option A and B,” but, “How do I make sure that both options A and B are as good as possible, and there’s also a C, D, and E, and that those options are great too?”

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