How to set good goals – Brendan Dunn’s one on one coaching call

How to set good goals – Brendan Dunn’s one on one coaching call

On today's podcast, Lindsey and Brad are joined by Brendan Dunn who wants to find out how to get past a bad Comrades experience and how to set good goals for himself.

We talk about the importance of consistency and finding a strategy that works for you as an individual. Lindsey also offers his advice on how to structure your training programme leading up to Comrades.

 

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Transcription

 

BRAD
Welcome back on to yet another edition of RUN with Coach Parry. My name is Brad Brown. It's great to have you with us. And thank you for joining us and downloading this podcast. We really do appreciate you. Another one of our fly on the wall coaching calls today and we are joined by someone who's been around what we do here at Coach Parry for a long, long time Brendan Dunn, from as long as I can remember back on the Comrades webinars that we've been doing, and we've been doing them for a number of years, I went back and looked and I think the first one that we did was in 2012 or 2013.

So we've been doing that for a long, long time. I think Brendan's been around pretty much from the start so great to have him on the call he's a flippin good runner. I nearly said something else but he's a great runner. And you're going to hear some of his times today. It's mind boggling. And he's got heaps and heaps of potential, and we're going to see if we can let him get even faster. So I think you're going to really enjoy today's call as well Lindsey's joining us for that one. Now let's catch up with Brendan. Brendan, welcome on to the podcast. Great to have you on.

BRENDAN
Brad, it's a pleasure to be here.

BRAD
Brendan, you've been around what we do here at Coach Parry for a long, long time, almost from the beginning I think, I mean, I remember our first sort of Comrades webinars your name always used to pop up but how long have you been running? I mean, I don't think I've ever asked you that. How did you get into the sport?

BRENDAN
Um, so actually it's a funny story. So my dad was always a runner and he sort of like at the point when he stopped running, he stopped running Comrades in about 2005, I went to University in 2007. I drank too much, ate too much and put on a lot of weight, stopped playing sport, put on a lot of weight. And then one day I put my shoes on, ran two k's nearly passed out, and thankfully the next day I went back and I did it again. And so yeah, casually since about 2008, but for a club from about 2011 and I've been privileged to run for a few clubs so yeah I've been around a while hey Brad.

BRAD
Brendan you've got some ability. Lindsey and I were just chatting about your sort of questionnaire before we got started on the call. You're a blimmen good runner.

BRENDAN
Shot man, thank you. You know, I still gotta you know, the shorter stuff I'm a lot more comfortable. I still gotta pull it together on the longer stuff. Marathons and ultras have been, I think it's because it's so long, and it's mentally difficult. You know, and I think wrapping my head around, you know, I always try to approach things from a [***04:13] point of humility. And, you know, I had a bad experience on last year's Comrades. I'm sure we'll talk about that. But I had a bad experience on last year's Comrades so I'm even more humbled than I have been. So one of the reasons I wanted to chat to you guys was sort of how to get past that, how to set goals and it's, you know, train appropriately for them?

BRAD
I'm gonna bring Lindsey in here too as well, because I think this is also one of the downsides of being a running in South Africa and Brendan I say you're a very good runner, you've got ton of potential. Lindsey will talk about some of your times and sort of the ability that's there. But and we always joke about this, that and I use air quotes 'you're not a real runner in South Africa unless you run Comrades' and for someone like you, I'm not saying Comrades shouldn't be the goal. But maybe Comrades isn't your thing. Maybe it is smashing 10k's smashing 15 K's and half marathons. Maybe that should be your thing and not not Comrades?

I'm not saying that shouldn't be the case. But just because someone doesn't run Comrades doesn't make them not a good runner. And I think, maybe the ultra endurance stuff's not for you. Who knows. But Lindsey, your thoughts on just Brendan's numbers. And I mean, you were saying he's got some real speed here.

LINDSEY
Yeah. So I mean, I think for the average listener, they'll be very jealous to hear that he's run a sub 18 five kilometre. And a sub 38 10k, a comfortable sub, well let me not say a comfortable because the run itself probably wasn't comfortable but comfortably under 40 minutes for a 10k. A sub 59 15k, which is I mean, that's, that's really, I almost think that's the best run in your, a toss up between that and your five K, which is the best run there and then 1:27 on a half marathon, and 3:27 on a marathon.

So look everything points to the ability to run under three hours for a marathon. And as you said, the longer distances have provided you a bit of agg, so there could be some pacing issues in there or arriving on race day a little bit tired, or energy on race day, race plan, there is a couple of reasons why it could be going wrong. You've got six days of the week to train, not lots of time in the middle of the week, that's in itself isn't a major issue. You've got enough time they're running at least 48k's, Monday to Thursday, and then you know, you've got time on the weekends, which you don't always have to eat up the entire weekend.

But I think in short, there's a good launching pad here, you've got really great basic speed, we could try and get you a little quick on the shorter distances too, which will help on the long distances. And there might be one or two structural issues, that probably more likely to be race day issues themselves that is maybe tripping you up on the longer stuff. But yeah, you've got a couple of questions in mind, I'm sure to ask. So that's what really the call is supposed to be about. So let's move on to that. And yeah, it's over to you.

BRENDAN
Just to say about the longer stuff, guys. So I think the biggest issue was poor race plan. I think with the marathon it was, I was going out there to the Winelands, this is a reasonably tough course. And I was going out there hoping for just, it was sort of my first go at any sort of fast marathon and I was thinking for like a sub 3:20, like a reasonably comfortable sub 3:20. And but I didn't take ownership of it. And I actually entrusted my pacing to others. And we got to a point where we were actually struggling for time and I had to chase it and I got on pace. And then I got to about 35 K's and you know the story, whack, there was the wall.

And also the feeling has been a big problem on Comrades and on marathons as well. I had a really good Two Oceans last year and a feeling strategy was very simple. I literally just drank Powerade throughout and I just ate whatever I could so had a few energy bars with me and I ate that and that was fine. I had a great run. But then for Comrades I don't know, I kind of forgot all the lessons I'd learned at Two Oceans and I tried to do something different. And also pacing issue. I went out there too fast.

So to give you an idea, my last Comrades, I did a 2200k's January to Comrades, average of about 100 a week, was feeling fine, wasn't sick, wasn't injured. A great Two Oceans, had been taking it considerable on the long stuff. On the day, didn't fuel up properly, I think went out too fast. I was over overly ambitious, went through halfway 3:45 and six hours and 20 minutes later arrived in Durban. So by the time I got to Inchanga on the down, about 40k's in I was already starting to hurt. I was already feeling sore and I knew I was in trouble big time. And you know, I rate that that section after halfway is the hardest part of the Comrades route. So yeah, that was my issues that I literally I haven't given myself a chance of running a good race at those distances yet.

LINDSEY
Looking at your training and your history, as I said the basic speed is there for a silver but the reality is that a silver, it takes like a full commitment. For sure. It's basically a three to four month, fairly selfish commitment to be honest, because you've got to merge the ability to run pretty fast for a long period of time.

And so based on all the metrics, the amount of training you've done, your basic speed, I think between eight and 8:20 is a very, very reasonable target for you. But that would require between 4:05 to 4:15, even 4:20 through halfway. Then you give yourself a chance in the second half of having a really, really good run. I mean, I think that's [***11:22] the pace, and obviously you've got the speed for it but you just don't have the kilometres for silver.

BRENDAN
No, no, I don't have anywhere close to the mileage, well certainly not this year. And, you know, the thing is, I appreciate like, I mean, the amount of running those guys do, you know, the guys who are running silver on Two Oceans and Comrades, it's unbelievable. And their tolerance for, I mean, it's, you know, 10 hours, 10 plus hours of running a week. I mean, that's a lot of time. I mean, you're getting up to what guys are training for Ironman, you know, like 10,10,12, 15 hours a week.

LINDSEY
Agreed. And the good news is that with the speed that you've got that it's probably not necessary to train that hard to get you sub 3, or at least very close to sub3 on the shorter stuff you don't need quite the same commitment as you do. And you know, in three or four years time, you might be like, okay, I want to get this silver and then you put aside six months of of selfishness and go for it. Until then some really solid build runs and some really nice fast 10s, 21s and marathons are definitely on the cards.

BRENDAN
And you know, I reckon the thing about Comrades, I think is experience. You know, I was running along with a group of, so last year's disaster, running along, feeling quite good after about 30k's and I'm running with a group of very experienced runners, you know, and I mean, they knew their story. They knew exactly where they were, what they were doing, what they were eating, what they were drinking, how they were pacing themselves.

I mean, there's a lady who literally paced herself, she and her partner, they were running along, she literally ran, she did a 7:29.58. And if you look at her splits, I mean, she was precise, like absolutely precise through every section. She knew her story and I think it was like a seventh or eighth Comrades.

LINDSEY
If you go through the list, people typically take between four and eight Comrades to run their best Comrades. There are some winners that were only winning on the 11, 12, 13th Comrades. Absolutely it's a race that really rewards experience. But part of that is also, and you allude to that in the email that you sent, part of that is also just consistency over the years. Obviously they have race experience, but also having painful Comrades 6, 7, 8, 9 times. I mean that's nine years of very consistent application and training, which is that next layer, I always tell people that your biggest improvement normally comes in structuring your programme, and then next biggest improvement comes from just layering on year after year.

BRENDAN
I'll tell you something, so all those best times were, so the times 8 through 21 all run into 2017. And that just came from a year of just, so I moved, so for some background I moved to Cape Town for Pretoria I got injured almost immediately after arriving in Cape Town.

So I couldn't run for a few months. But then once I started up again, I said okay, well let's actually you know, you'd said to me some years before Well, you need to get your mileage up a bit higher and see what's possible. So I said, Okay, let's do that. Let's run six, you know, even seven days a week, let's give it a try and just be consistent. And for about a year I just built up mileage and all of those times came, you know, just from easy running and maybe some strides and just consistency week after week, day after day, week after week, month after month. And easy. I mean honestly, you know, pushing, no workouts, not pushing anything, just stringing training together.

So is there anything I could say to somebody starting out as a runner would be like, the best thing you can do is to make sure that you don't get hurt. And you just keep doing everything you know, keep the same schedule week to week, month to month. And you know with Sean, I mean those guys by the time they won gold they would've done in 10s of thousands of kilometres.

BRAD
Yeah, Lindsey, let's jump in, I mean Brendan, it seemed through some questions and the one question I think ties in quite nicely there is and we can talk post Comrades, even though we're recording this before Comrades, let's talk about how you structure, that's what you asked him, how do you structure your year? 12 months although Comrades is a long way away and that's not going to be the main focus all the time but Lindsey how do you structure it with the shorter races to get faster in the build up to a race like Comrades over 12 months?

LINDSEY
With Comrades now being a little bit later in June there's a little bit of flexibility. So I've always held on to my year when I've been running Comrades and the people that I work with you running Comrades I've always held on to my yeas as after Comrades, a little bit of a holiday from running that isa and then we go into a period of working on a fast parkrun, or half marathon or a 10 or 15, it depends on what's available on the calendar that sort of process carries on through to around Septemberish and then from September till the end of the year, there's only really been one good option and that's PE although it's just so unpredictable with what the winds going to be like, then to build up to either another crack at a half marathon, or an overseas marathon.

So that would kind of be the take on that. And then immediately after that marathon again to take a bit of a running holiday into the early part of December. And then we start building up again. And then it's really about laying like a really awesome platform for people who haven't done a qualifier, doing a qualifyer in February or March but not necessarily pushing it too hard. And in March getting into Comrades training. With Comrades being just that little bit later. And, you know, it does open opportunities there to look at some really short stuff through September, October. And then looking at really fast half marathon or up to a 32 I guess, at the end of the year, then training for a really good marathon in January or February, taking a break, and then from that break doing your build up back to Comrades.

So those are kind of the two, the two ways that I'll look at it. And essentially, essentially, what we're looking to do is to have two points in the year, June and either December or January, February, where you really get your body up to that like one hit for an ultra, one hit for a marathon.

BRENDAN
Two peaks per year type of thing.

LINDSEY
Exactly. And of course the other, because you're chasing these other shorter times, you know you're still driving your body [***19:37] but you're not doing the damage that you would do when you run the marathon and the ultra and so it's just much kinder on your body.

BRENDAN
For sure.

BRAD
Lindsey, Brendan was asking about sort of getting the balance right. And he's got a very supportive wife. But he is mindful of being a selfish runner, what advice, would you say? Any obviously he wants to get better. How do you get that balance, right of not being a selfish runner, but running to the best of your ability?

LINDSEY
Yeah, so look, there's always more than one way of an outcome. And my preferred way is always to do slightly higher volumes on lower intensity, because there's a lower risk of injury. But you know, I'm working with a guy who owns a really big construction company, that does a lot of deals with with mining companies. So coupled with the fact that he's got a very stressful job trying to keep this business up, he also has to travel quite a lot to mines, both locally and internationally. So the short version is that he really doesn't have much time to do a whole lot more than 90-100k's of training a week. But now with with that amount of training, this year we've been able to help them run PBs across all distances 5k, 10k, 21k, not yet marathon, but that's partly because we haven't trained for marathon. You know, when I'm talking about PBs, we're talking 73 minutes on a 21.

So the point that I make is that and I made a little bit earlier on the call, sure if you want to run silver at Comrades, and you only got 100k's a week to train. Then we need to get you down to like 75 minutes to 80 minutes for 21s. But to get you fast, you know, to get you down to maybe a 27, 28 minutes, maybe more realistically 8K, get you down to a 35 to 36 minutes 10k run. To get you to an 80, you should be at least running somewhere round 80-82 minutes on the 21 to get you to 2:55, we can do that on your structure that you've got now. What it would entail is having 2 harder runs in the week and you'd have one, which we would call a pure high intensity session. And that would be your hills or your speed work on that kind of thing and you'd build that through phases, strength first with hills, some longer goals. And as you get closer to your goal race, shorter intervals.

And then we have a second run in the week, which initially what it serves is a second run where you are running at a higher intensity that it wouldn't necessarily be, well it won't be anywhere as hard as the first run, and that would take the form of tempo runs or tempo intervals. Like cruising, running, it may be progression runs, where you start very easy and then just slowly but surely increase your pace until the last 15 minutes of the run feel like you're okay, this is getting hard work. But as soon as you cool down that helps with running efficiency, and prepares your body to really provide energy. And it also really helps with muscular skeletal coordination and running form and those kind of things.

And as you get closer to your goal race, again, depending on whether it's a 5k or a marathon those runs would either become, if you train for a marathon, they shift more towards the tempo run side, if you training for something like a 5km they would turn into very short like stride. You mentioned doing stride before, when you were in Cape Town, do like 5x 100s, which is obviously extremely high intensity but very low volume. So next day you don't even know you did them. And so that's how I'd split those up. And I typically would split those by three days but two days is sometimes okay, so we look for 72 hours between them but 48 hours at least.

So those are the kind of things that you can do if you're time compromised, so that you still keep that volume around, that 90-hundred, maybe one or two weeks at the hundred and 10 around there strategically placed. And that's really how you can get the best out of the time available to you. And also bearing in mind that you actually coming off quite a good base of consistent training for quite a long period of time, you only will respond quite well to that kind of training. And then once you go back into more of a Comrades style of training, it'll bring that base up again, and then it'll allow you the following year to go back into this sort of training, which you will then respond well to and you just keep layering it year after year.

BRENDAN
That sounds fantastic. Sounds great.

BRAD
And then you're in for the win in 10 years time, Brendan, at Comrades.

BRENDAN
No listen, I'm over six foot tall and I weight about 80 kg, so I don't think that's on the cards, hey Brad.

BRAD
I mean, you give those sorts of weights ,to be running the shorter ones at the speed you're running at that size. That's phenomenal. Brendan, I mean, you've definitely got some amazing ability and I know Lindsey looks at those times and he gets quite excited when he chats to athletes with that sort of ability. And yeah, I mean, you can definitely do it and I look forward to seeing how you go over the next year after Comrades. And let's get you down to that, I think Lindsey said an 82 half marathon. I think that's a good goal for the next year. What do you reckon?

BRENDAN
Yeah, that would be amazing. I tell you something, you know, my dad was also a decent runner. He had a 30 minutes 8K at altitude, and, you know, he just never quite got there. You know, I think working with you guys and being on a structured plan and having a regimented structure, like I've tried too many things, and it has kind of been like throwing things against the wall and hoping that something's gonna stick you know.

Yeah, and just having a clear direction and knowing, that's what I've really enjoyed about following the programme on the platform is it's just 'Okay, today is Friday, I'm resting','tomorrow, Saturday, or, you know, I'm doing I know, I'm doing a 40 k, now having spoken to Lindsey, I know I'm doing like a 40 to 45 k either tomorrow or Sunday. And you know, there's no second guessing, that is as it is and I think that's one of the biggest benefits of working with a coach is that you've got a clear, like, you are here, you want to get there, these are the things we need to do along the way.

And you know, you've also got someone to ask questions to, you know, directly. And because that's one thing is when you're a self coached runner you like doubt yourself so much like, you're like, Oh, am I doing the right thing? Am I running too much? Am I running too little? Have I you know, do I have the right plan? So it just takes the doubt out of it. You know, and that's what I would say to anybody who's thinking about partnering with a coach like Lindsey and on platform that, like the one that Brad and Lindsey have designed is that, you know, it just takes the guesswork out of it.

So like I've just said to folks like there's so much information out there, like follow a coach, commit to it and hopefully about a few years time from now I can talk to you guys again, and we'll be talking about some good successes. But listen, thanks so very much.

BRAD
We love having you around. You ask such great questions in the forums. And you know, we can't wait to see how you go Comrades, I think you're in for a goodie. But yeah, the next 12 months i think we going to see some big improvements, I'm excited. I'm sure you are too.

BRENDAN
Yeah, very much Brad. Thanks so much, guys. Thank you for your time.

LINDSEY
Pleasure. See you soon.

 

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