EIGHT TIPS FOR YOUR COMRADES PREPARATION
EIGHT STEPS TO COMRADES DURING THE TAPER
At this stage there are three weeks to Comrades 2010 which has attracted 19300 qualifiers from 23500 entries. By race day this will be over 20,000 which makes it the second biggest race entry of the 89 year history.
There is no more training to be done. Now its about recovery and getting stronger for the day. Not just physically stronger, but mentally stronger and one of the best ways to get the confidence to complete comrades is to make sure you cover all bases in your preparation. The following eight steps will guide you through to the 2010 Comrades and you special 50mm 85th Comrades medal.
STEP 1 – DETERMINE YOUR TAPER:
Training is a process of overload and adaptation. Each time we train small micro-tears are generated in our muscles, but rest and recovery allows the muscles to rebuild. When given adequate rest the muscles rebuild stronger than before. Scientists have shown that muscle damage is more severe when running further than 25km. Based on this:-
Your last long run, (greater than 25-28km) should be no closer to the race than 3 weeks, (9 May). Your last 18-25km should be no closer than about 9 days before the race.
The overall training load should be dramatically reduced over the final three weeks before the race, allowing your muscles to fully recover.
In the first week cut the overall training distance to about 60-65% of the peak week training and drop this to 4-45% for the second week. The final week needs to be fairly specific and will only be about 25kms in total. But don’t forget the following day you will be covering 89kms!!
Weekly training distance during 1st two weeks of 3 week taper to Marathon or Ultra race.
3:00 marathon 3:30 Marathon 4:00 Marathon 4:30 Marathon
Max Dist. Peak week 130km 115km 100km 90km
1st week of taper 70 km 60 km 50 km 40 km
2nd week of taper 40 km 35 km 30 km 25 km
Important: It is the distance that is dropped – not the ‘Quality’ work.
There are good reasons to drop the distance sessions and focus on shorter faster work during the taper:
• Slow work initiates nagging doubts that you can complete the longer comrades distance, whereas faster work makes you feel light and positive about your fitness,
• In the first three 3 days of the final week, faster work assists with carbohydrate depletion as part of your carbo-loading process,
• Faster work also maintains blood volume and hence your fitness levels despite reduced training load.
STEP 2 – PREDICTING YOUR FINISH TIME:
Only by setting a realistic target time will you achieve your optimum finish time. The facts are that a 2:45 marathoner is not going to get a Gold medal, and a 3:30 marathoner will not get silver, a 3:55 marathoner will not get a Bill Rowan and there is no point in going off at a pace that is aiming for such times unless you have the basic credentials.
A rough estimate for a realistic finish time can be found from multiplying your best 10km time by 11.36 or a 5km flat out by 23.1.
Considerably more accurate is my computer prediction programme. Developed in the 1980’s, this takes into account performances over 3 distances, your like for hills, your racing apprehension and other such aspects, to model your racing style, resulting in an extremely accurate assessment of your ability over the full Comrades distance. The results have often been accurate to less than 5 minutes. Keep and eye on www.coahnorrie.co.za to find out where your realistic finishing time calculation can be found
It is best to set yourself three finish goal times: Firstly get your predicted best ‘realistic target’ and then from this consider what could be reasonable if everything goes really well on the day. This is normally not more than a 2% to 4% improvement on your realistic time. The main reason to consider this is to see if it affects the colour of your medal. For instance if someone has a ‘realistic’ target of 7:35, then a 2% improvement would result in a 8 minute reduction in time and take them from a Bill Rowan medal to a Silver medal. Similarly a 2% improvement on a predicted 9 hour 10 minute finish would result in an 8:59 finish and a Bill Rowan medal.
The third time goal to set is the back-stop. This is the time you would ‘accept’ if you had a bad day (e.g. a 3:45 marathoner, might have a realistic target of 9:10, have his optimum target at 8:55 and a happy if he gets 9:30). With the goal times established we can move on to how we are going to run to achieve them.
STEP 3 MENTAL PREPARATIONS:
The reduced training and increased time from tapering provides time for mental preparation, and building confidence.
Two key benefits of the mental preparation are a) to build your confidence in your ability to achieve your goal and b) to prepare yourself for the things that go right and wrong in the race.
Visualizing your run in the race helps you develop a race day strategy allowing you to see yourself achieving your goal: the running on race day becomes ‘de ja vu’.
A prime precursor to being in the right mental state for visualisation is to relax.
Once relaxed in a quiet darkened room you can begin to visualise yourself in the race. Initially view the start and the line up as if you were filming the race. Follow the race through right to the finish. See the hills – how do you tackle them – the downhill- see how you are running, what are you taking at the tables, visualise your walks. See how you deal with the muscle soreness, or what you do when your lace comes undone. Whenever you get a negative action stop and try to replace it with a positive action.
Once you can handle this, try using another session to view the race from ‘inside’ your body – How do you feel at the start — are you too tense, if so what do you do to reduce that tension? See what you would see as you run down Commercial Road, cross Duzi Bridge, up Alexander Road into Ritchie Road and up to the top of Polly Shortts – how do you feel, what speed are you running? Carry on like this right through until you see the arch of Tollgate Bridge, the downhill of the freeway into Pine St and the final turn into Walnut Rd and finally the see and feel the atmosphere as you see the Finish banner and cross the line. See yourself getting the medal, feel what it is like to hold it, feel its weight, see how good it feels to show it off to your family at the finish – enjoy the feeling of success.
As you visualize you will become aware of the aspects likely to bother you, or go wrong, during the race and most importantly you have the opportunity to develop strategies to cope with them.
Try to do this visualisation on alternate days. Once you get into the rhythm you will be able to click into this mode quickly, even during any short break during a day.
Every runner has the potential to be a winner – a winner or an achiever within the family and work restrictions that curtails training time. Mental training can take you even closer to achieving that potential.
STEP – 4 PACING:
Pacing is about creating the most efficient and effective way of achieving our optimum time, Pacing is about the conservation of energy:- It is the maximizing of performance from the limited energy resources so that we achieve our goal without either leaving excess fuel in the tank nor running out of energy before we arrive!
Over the training months we have developed a rhythm of stopping for water every 4- 8kms and in some group runs stopping for longer times to buy a drink from Café or corner shops. Why then do we expect to run non-stop from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on 30 May?
There is no logic to support anyone finishing over 7 hours adopting a non-stop run approach to Comrades and so we need to adapt our typical run and walk rhythm to suit our goals for Comrades race day.
During these walks: your muscles get a change of movement, your heart rate reduces, your respiration rate drops, your muscles are stretched, AND you have an opportunity to make sure you are getting enough fluid and energy. It is important however to start the walks right from the start and continue for the full 89 km. It is a strategy that many Gold medalists have utilized to their success: Runners who wait until they are forced into walking find that they spend much of the last kilometres walking and losing much more time than if they spaced the walks out more evenly during the race.
Choose a run and walk schedule:
By example; if you walk every 9kms then there will be 9 walks in the total length of Comrades. Allowing for walks are each 3 minutes long, then the total length of walks is 27 minutes. In this time you will easily cover 2km, which you then don’t need to run!
This means that you now have only 87kms to run. The ability to have 27 minutes of walking has only costs an increase of 12 seconds per km on your running speed. Before you panic remember that your average running pace is around 20% slower than your normal marathon race pace. The 12 seconds increase actually makes it easier to run, as it becomes closer to your normal training pace.
For example: a 3:42 marathoner has a marathon pace of 5:17 per km. He has a realistic Comrades finish of 9 hours which is an average of 6 minutes per km and if using a run and walk schedule would run Comrades at 5 minutes 50 seconds per km! (Still 33 seconds per km slower than his marathon pace!)
A walk and run process has been adopted into the pacing bands available from the Comrades stand at the expo.
GPS and Heart rate – The easiest way to an even effort run:
Although we all talk about pacing, the best way of running is actually to use even effort throughout the distance. Training with the latest Garmin Forerunner systems display your actual running pace (mins per km), the distance, and your heart rate on the single watch face every step of the way. This allows you to keep a constant eye on your speed, preventing you from going off too fast, or from surging. In addition the watch will automatically alert you every km along the route and this total combination enables the runner to equate a feeling of EFFORT. When running uphill your heart rate increases and this needs to be balanced by a reduction on pace, whereas on downhill running the heart rate decreases and the pace can increase to keep the same overall effort.
However bear in mind that the use of technology for pacing is not allowed under IAAF rules and so these watches (or any heart rate / distance devices – and music) may be banned in Comrades particularly if you are in contention for any age group or open award / prize. Refer to Comrades final instructions.
STEP 5 CARBO-LOADING:
Carbo-loading has developed over the years. Initially the protocol required us to go for a long run 7 days before the race, and then virtually omit all carbohydrates from our diets for 3-4 days; finally we switched to the opposite extreme by eating only carbohydrates.
Such dramatic changes in eating over a week wreck havoc on our digestive system. No wonder it caused gastric upsets.
Another problem surrounds what to eat in the loading days. Most high carbohydrate foods tend to be bulky and fairly bland in taste:- Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and vegetables, – with fruit and sugar providing some taste relief. The fact is that chocolate; pizzas, cakes, and even beer are NOT good for carbo-loading. Alcohol is not only stored as fat, but also increases urine production and so the chances of starting the race in a partially dehydrated state.
It is vital to drink more fluid during the carbohydrate loading phase, as each gram of carbohydrate needs 3ml of water to ‘hold’ the carbohydrate in the muscles. On loading days you require roughly an additional 2 litres of fluid! Since this should increase your weight by around 1.5 to 1.8kg over the final 3 pre-race days, it is a great way to check that you have carbo-loaded correctly.
The amount of carbohydrate required varies from person to person. As a very rough guide, most ‘club’ runners will require between 600 and 700 grams (men) and 550 to 600grams (women) each day that they load.
These figures are all very well, but they mean little to the average runner. For this reason I have always turned them into some practical examples, such as 30 bananas, or 30 potatoes, or 5 packets of pasta. Remember this needs to be taken without any sauces, or toppings! Not exactly practical meals! In addition if you were to try this you would not be getting your requirements in fat and protein.
The only solution is to take high quality carbohydrate drinks, as fluids are easier to consume. The quality is important. Most mass-produced commercial ready to drink ‘energy’ drinks available in supermarkets and corner shops are designed for the mass market not for the serious athlete. In addition many of the ‘energy drinks’ used in night clubs have high contents of stimulants and are dangerous to use both before and during exercise.
Opt for professional sports supplement products, with long chain glucose polymers.
By taking 2 double strength (i.e. 200gram powder per litre) –drinks of quality carbohydrate drinks, such as Carbo Train, or Revenge, and one of the above meal replacement drinks each day you will get 50% of your carbohydrate requirements. You will also be consuming an additional 1.5 litres of the fluid required to store the carbohydrate. Quality meal replacements have a balance of carbohydrate, fat and protein, which will ensure that you have a good foundation for your meal plan. Then simply keep to your normal meals so you get your ‘normal’ intake of protein and fat.
Remember one of your quality carbohydrate drinks should be taken immediately (within 15 minutes) after your training sessions, when your muscles crave carbohydrate.
Since the carbohydrate stores in your liver deplete every minute, even when sleeping, it is vital to have breakfast on Comrades day, otherwise you can be starting with only 30% of the liver capacity.
A good breakfast also provides a foundation of protein and fat for the rest of the day, when you will tend to only have carbohydrate drinks to select from during the run. A meal replacement drink with an egg and bread is great starter to the day.
Past advice used to be to use unrefined rather than refined carbohydrates, but equally important is to ensure that your carbohydrates fall in the medium or low glycemic index foods. More information on suitable foods and glycemic loads can be found on www.energifoods.co.za
The higher the index the higher the blood sugar level climbs, which initiates major swings between blood sugar and insulin levels. These sugar swings is another reason not to use many of the mass produced energy drinks, which generally have a high glycemic index.
STEP 6 EATING AND DRINKING DURING THE RACE:
Remember Sunday 30 May is no different from any other day. We are used to eating and drinking at regular intervals throughout each day: The same applies on race day, especially when we are out there for more than 5 or 6 hours. Although the top runners manage to ‘survive’ on carbohydrates, the majority of runners need to plan for well over 9 hours of continuous exercise and need something more substantial to eat along the way.
Every runner needs a regular intake of fluid, about 250ml per half hour, and around 20-25 grams of carbohydrate in the same 30-minute period. That is why the top runners have special drink tables and seconds along the route – they tend not to rely on the drinks from the seconding tables! Every runner can achieve this by having friends and family hold high quality carbohydrate racing drinks at spectator spots along the route. Where you have insufficient seconds, or they are unable to get to you, use GU energy sachets. Mix each GU with about 200ml of water from the tables.
Those runners who are out for over 6 hours and under 8 will benefit from arund 250ml of quality meal replacement drink after about 4 hours (around Inchanga or Drummond before tackling Alverstone
Finishers over 8 hours need something even more substantial. Have a meal replacement drink about 4 hours into the race and then some ‘real food’ – perhaps a small cup of tuna or chicken mayonnaise, about 5 ½ hours into the event, and then another meal replacement drink every 90 minutes thereafter until the finish time
Again the walk breaks are ideal opportunity for the food and drink breaks with your seconds or friends.
People often overlook the acidity of most drinks. When we have been out on the road for a few hours this starts to become unpalatable as we build up a total acidity. The use of alkaline or low acidity drinks is far superior, and you may even find milk or yogurt will calm and settle your stomach. (Unless you are lactate intolerant). Similarly the quality meal replacement drinks are more alkaline and therefore doubly beneficial.
STEP 7 PAIN MANAGEMENT
Comrades will be painful – There is nothing you can do to take away the pain from constant use and fatigue that comes from running 89 kms. In truth however, it never gets sorer than sore, – assuming you don’t pick up and injury. Some runners use over the counter, or prescription painkillers; frequently exceeding the basic dosage recommendations. This is irresponsible – Remember your body is under immense stress during Comrades, and is probably partly dehydrated. Taking such medications in this condition can be extremely dangerous and lead to liver, kidneys or other vital organ damage.
A good prophylactic to reduce the muscle damage is to use a homeopathic remedy of Arnica, which can be taken one week before (May 23) and again on May 29. This will assist during the run and in the days after. Then as an “emergency” pack carry two Dispirin (assuming you are not allergic to aspirin), but these are really the safety net for times when something goes wrong. If you do have to use them, mix them well with water and also try to get something to eat from the crowd before swallowing them.
IF YOU FEEL YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN THIS BEFORE YOU START RUNNING, YOU SHOULD SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHETHER YOU SHOULD EVEN LINE UP! NOT even a Comrades medal is worth damaging your future health for!
STEP 8: KIT CHECK;
Having the right kit is vitally important and hopefully over the past months you have tried and tested everything in long runs. If not use these last few days to test and re-test anything you will wear or use in the race.
If you have been using the same pair of shoes for a long time, try replacing the removable sock-liner with the innovative full length Hi-Tech gel inners so as to replace some of the cushioning that has been ‘hammered’ out of your favourite shoes in your months of training.
Moving up, look at your socks and check that you have a new set you can start with around now, which is sufficient time to ensure they don’t cause problems, but not long enough to wear out. Modern socks and fabrics have resulted in ergonomically shaped socks that wick away the moisture, provide support and cushioning, as well as reducing the risk of blisters.
Your shorts and club vest will be well tested by now. You also need to consider a good set of sunglasses, and for those who need prescription eyewear such as Rudy Project or Nike who have ranges that cater for prescription and interchangeable lens colours to for early morning and bright sunlight.
The benefits of compression are only just being appreciated by club runners, but have been known for years by those who have run, flown and slept in tights before. Linebreak compression clothing has become standard kit for many of the super 14 rugby teams, and there is a reason that the Liquorice Man ran his best comrades ever when he was dressed in the tights and top! As with injuries, compression clothing provide recovery and runners should look at wearing them for any flights, and even sleeping in them in the taper period to maximize the muscle repair and building. You will feel the difference.
During the last week put everything you need to one side so that you know it is all ready for the night before the race.
Remember to have an old top or black bag to cater for all weather at the start, which is at 5:30 am. Traditionally it is quite cold in Pietermaritzburg for the start and will get quite chilly towards the 12 hour cut-off – so pack a warm change of kit.
Here is a short check-list of items you can use to make sure you’ve thought of everything:
• Champion Chip
• Race Registration Card
• Race numbers
• Numerical Age Category Tags
• 10 safety pins
• Falke Socks
• shoes (check laces, soles and replace charge / inners)
• GPS &Heart Rate Monitor (Renew / charge battery)
• Sun Glasses
• Cellphone for keeping in touch along route and finding family at finish
• Gloves for a cold start
• T shirt (Use gloves and shirt that you are willing to throw away as the day heats up)
• Hat (only those special thermal running hats that allow head cooling)
• Energy, GU or similar (1 per 45 mins estimated finish time)
• Plastic Bottles (For seconds and 1 for at start)
• Antichaffe cream
• 2 dispirin (in Nedbank bank bag to keep dry)
• Black bag cut with head and arm holes for start
• Elastoplast (for nipples)
• Sponge to carry
• Towel, soap, toilet bag, track suit / change of clothes for finish
• Kitbag for change of clothes
• Blister kit for finish
• Bags for food to be given to seconds
• Your own Pillow (if sleeping in strange bed the night before race)
• Instructions for seconds as to where to meet you on route and at finish
• LineBreak compression tights for sleeping in during last week for full recovery