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Toughness Training: Fraioli Stepping Out Of His Comfort Zone

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Dec. 27, 2010
Mario Fraioli has been slogging through the snow drifts in preparation for his for his upcoming race against Kara Goucher.

Mario Fraioli has been slogging through the snow drifts to toughen himself up in preparation for his for his upcoming race against Kara Goucher.

While Kara Goucher trains in the comfy confines of Portland, Oregon, Mario Fraioli retreats to…Worcester, Massachusetts?!?

Written by: Mario Fraioli

This week I retreated to the winter wonderland of Worcester, Massachusetts for some uninterrupted training in anticipation of my much ballyhooed battle with Kara Goucher on January 16 at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.

So what brings me to Worcester, you might be wondering? No, I’m not here because it’s the holiday season and I’m visiting family (that’s merely a coincidence), but rather because I wanted to toss the excuses aside and put myself in the most adverse training environment possible.

So while Kara is at home in the cozy confines of Portland, Oregon, working out at the plush Nike campus and doing recovery runs on her own Alter-G treadmill, I’m living Spartan-style for 10 days and slugging it out like Rocky through six-foot snow drifts in The City of Seven Hills. Worcester is a workingman’s town, and I’m here to outwork my competition by training over the toughest terrain and in the most challenging of conditions. Woodchip trails and windless tracks be damned.

In a recent interview with my colleague Matt Fitzgerald, Kara claimed that she wants to “kick (my) ass so bad”, but to actually do that she’ll need to stop bombing out of workouts or letting the trash talk get to her head. Sorry Kara, but a 33-second 200 doesn’t make up for missing mental toughness.

What does make up for it, however, is overcoming adversity, which is what I’m trying to do here in the heart of the Commonwealth. After this short stint hammering the hills and slogging through the snow in my hometown, I’ll be ready for anything on race day. I’m sure of it. Here I am, a hack without a shoe contract, making the best use possible of limited training time and resources looking to try and knock off one of the best marathoners in the United States in her first race back post-pregnancy. It’s a noble pursuit if there ever was one.

In preparation for that pursuit, however, I needed a wakeup call. Kara’s calling me out in Arizona has forced me to up the ante with my training, which isn’t a bad thing. As a thank you for that necessary boot in the butt, I’ll make sure I hand it to her on race day. She woke up a 135-pound sleeping giant and she doesn’t even know it.

After a low week of 38 miles, I ratcheted things back up into the 60’s last week and completed my first workout in about two months—a short fartlek session—without any issues. This week has been right on track, with a solid long run and snowy strength-building session already in the books. I’ll get in at least one longer rhythm run before I head back to my current home base of San Diego, and will aim to finish the week at 65 miles–my highest total of the year. With less than three weeks to go until race day, momentum is definitely in my favor, or at least I’m telling myself that, anyway.

Much has been made about how much more speed I possess than Kara, but let me be the first to tell you (well, second—Kara has already said my wheels don’t worry her) that it won’t even be a factor on race day. The race will be over well before the final 0.1 miles. Believe me. I plan on putting enough crap in her legs by 10 miles that the last 5K will be the longest of her life. Pregnancy will have seemed like a walk in the park when I finally decide to drop the hammer.

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Mario Fraioli is the web producer at Competitor.com. He is a former cross country All-American at Stonehill College and has run 2:28 in the marathon. He has all the respect in the world for Kara Goucher and is looking forward to the opportunity to race with her at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon on January 16. He can be reached at mfraioli@competitorgroup.com

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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