Marathon Majors to Comrades – Linda Selman’s one on one coaching call

Marathon Majors to Comrades – Linda Selman’s one on one coaching call

Today on RUN with Coach Parry we are joined by Linda Selman who has recently completed the Marathon Majors and has entered Comrades this year.

Lindsey and Linda talk about running at the correct pace and intensity as well as strategies for controlling pace throughout the race.

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BRAD:  Welcome to another edition of RUN with Coach Parry. I'm Brad Brown. It's awesome to have you with us. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. We love recording these podcasts. And often we put things out into the world, we're not quite sure how far and wide they go. But we get tons of great feedback from around the world. And yeah, we do believe they're making an impact. That's why we keep doing them and we hope that you love listening to them. 

Coming up on today's show, we're joined by head coach Lindsey Parry, and we head to Scotland to catch up with Linda Selman, who is training for Comrades. So yeah, we're going to be chatting to Linda a little bit about what to expect and some of the things that she's struggling with right now. So you're definitely not going to want to miss this if you're running Comrades. But enough about me yakking, let's hop straight into our chat with Lindsey and Linda. Lindsey, how's it?

LINDSEY : How's it, Brad.

BRAD:  Nice to touch base and we head to Edinburgh in Scotland, Linda Selman joining us as well. Linda, welcome to the podcast. 

LINDA : Thank you. 


Linda’s Background


BRAD  : Linda, you're based in Edinburgh, Lindsey's in Johannesburg, I'm in Cape Town, so it's a bit of a global podcast today. Before we get into sort of helping you with what you're struggling with. Tell me a bit about your running. How did you get started?

LINDA  : I first started running just over six years ago, at which point I couldn't run to the end of the road. But just about a year later, I entered my first half marathon and then got sucked into marathons. So I ran my first marathon in 2015. And I completed the Marathon Majors with Tokyo this year in March. So it's been a gradual sort of build up to running marathons. Having said I would never ever do it. And then madly, madly entering Comrades this year.

BRAD  : Famous, famous last words ''I'll never do it''. Marathon majors, I saw a stat the other day and funnily enough, it's one of the members of our community, Danny Susskin who posted it and I couldn't believe this but he said to me, there's only about 5000 people globally that have completed the Marathon Majors. That's incredible.

LINDA  : Yes, just short of 5000 at the moment. So more people have climbed Everest than have completed the Marathon Majors. 

BRAD  :That is phenomenal. Congratulations. You're in a very exclusive little club there.

LINDA  :It's a rapidly expanding club now though, it has become a very popular thing to do. 

BRAD  :Out of the six which one is your favourite?

LINDA  : London. Absolutely the best. It's a fabulous course. And a fabulous crowd they are, they lift you up in a way that no other crowd does.

BRAD  : And that finish is spectacular as well, running past Buckingham Palace. I mean, that backdrop is just amazing. 

LINDA  : It is. The toughest for me was Boston. I ran Boston last year in the dreadful weather. So that was, again, fabulous crowd, people standing out in the rain and snow, it's quite something.

BRAD : Absolutely. Well, I'm going to hand you over to Lindsey now. Lindsey, you've got Linda's sort of coaching questionnaire that we normally send out for these calls. So you've got a bit of a background, your initial thoughts? And then I know Linda's got a whole bunch of questions for you in the build up to Comrades as well, your initial thoughts? And then let's get into that Q&A.


Initial thoughts


LINDSEY  : Yeah, I mean, I think the sort of pedigree of having done six marathons over a good couple of years, it's put you in a position where finishing Comrades should be quite doable. I couldn't quite make out, what time did you end up running at Tokyo marathon? 

LINDA  : 3:56. 

LINDSEY  : Wow, that's actually really good. So that's a really good run. And, yeah, I think then in terms of the structure of your training, and how long you've been running for, you have put yourself in a really strong position to complete Comrades. 

And, so I think the real benefit that you'll get out of this call is for us to chat, go through your questions, allay some of your fears, and give you that kind of confidence for your race. And there's a couple of questions in here, which are great, because I know they are questions that I get quite often. And so I think it will be really beneficial to anyone listening in on this one. 


Have you done enough training?


LINDSEY: So let's start off with your first question, which is to ask if you've done enough training, that's obviously something that I get a hell of a lot from people. So look, if we look at your 3:56, with a much easier route profile, more temperate conditions, so if we took your 3:56, just at face value on time, then you’re probably in for a sub 10 hour marathon. Let me just check that quickly but I'm pretty sure, so that's about a 9:50 Comrades is your potential. 

LINDA  : That'd be amazing. 

LINDSEY  : Yeah, so look from past experience of athletes coming from the Northern Hemisphere, and also when these marathons are run in much more favourable conditions and routes is that we can add about 30 to 45 minutes on to that. So I think for you, the plan that you want to set yourself out on is closer to 10 and a half hours, so somewhere between 10:15 to 10:30 will be what you aim for. 

And in terms of your marathon versus what I'm fairly comfortable you're capable of, your 500k's which you ran up to, including Tokyo, and then the 600 K's you've done in training since then, with two long runs of 50 and 52 K's, you are easily prepared in terms of the total volume of your training. 

And having done some ultras to, you know, figure out the nutrition as you stay and train longer. So I think for a bronze medal, you're going to be sitting probably closer to 1300 by the time race day comes. From a volume perspective, you don't need to worry about that. I think we can put that one to bed and say you have done enough training.


How does your age affect your target for finishing?


LINDA  : In terms of what you're suggesting for my target for finishing, how does my age affect that because I'm 63 now? And also there's this issue of I don't know what happens to me after 52 k's, in that how much longer can I continue?


LINDSEY  : So the question will be answered in more detail once we get to how to, you've asked the question about managing your pace, and how to do that effectively. So if you pace yourself well and correctly, then you're going to have far less problems when you get into the 60s and 70 kilometres. 

Obviously your age has some impact. But the fact that you've done enough training and the fact that you're a damn good runner, I still think that 10 and a half hours is a reasonable time goal to set yourself. I do think trying to go under 10 hours would be too ambitious. But it's going to be really important that you do pace yourself properly. 


The importance of pacing and slowing down


LINDSEY: So yeah, maybe we should jump to that question and come back to some of the others just because that is where we are. But I have a client that I had a really great discussion with yesterday, I've been working with this client for three or four years now. And he's done three Comrades and a couple of Two Oceans, he's an international runner so he always flies in. And we have this discussion, often around how slowly I'm asking him to go. And he always agrees that that is the best way to run. But then race day comes and he never runs that way. 

Now he ran the London Marathon with a friend two weekends ago, whenever London Marathon was, and he absolutely ran the slowest he's ever run. And it was very close to the Comrades pace, which I would like him to be running. And the comment from him was that by the time he finished the marathon, it really didn't feel like he'd started running. He just felt amazing. And in the subsequent days after the marathon, he could not believe how good he was feeling. 

So the trick is to find a way to force yourself to slow down. For him the penny's dropped, because now he knows what it feels like when you run at the correct intensity. So I'm pretty damn confident that this time out he's going to do it and he's going to have his most comfortable Comrades. 

So once you've  got your pacing chart, how you're going to do it, then it's all about being extremely disciplined. 


How to control your pace


LINDSEY : And you know, your idea of breaking it down, so maybe let me just read the question so that anyone listening can get a proper handle on what you asking: 'I remain concerned about my ability to pace myself properly. What ideas do you have for controlling pacing, my idea was to have a time range for each 10k's. So that it doesn't become too difficult to track especially when my brain turns to mush, which it's bound to do and it has done to the end of most marathons. And remember, the walk breaks I'm getting better at those'

So the walk breaks themselves are a very good way of controlling pace, obviously. And the faster you're running, this is what you're supposed to be running, the longer or preferably more often I'd make those walk breaks. Okay, so that's one way. 

The other way is to, to keep checking yourself. So you shouldn't have to check yourself every kilometre for 87k's, you'd lose your mind if you did that. But it will probably take three or four checks to go slow down some more because once you actually in the right pace and feeling the right pace, then checking every 10k's or so should be absolutely fine. But in the initial stages for the first 5-8k's of the race, you really just have to keep checking. At the end of each kilometre. No, that was too fast. Okay, I'm gonna walk now, when I start running again, I'm going to run slower than I was running, check the next km and no I'm still too fast. Okay, walking now. 

Keep doing that until you find that balance between the walking and running and getting your time splits. And if you do that, you're going to give yourself an excellent chance of being able to maintain that pace just about all the way through.

LINDA  : I guess I need to practice that as much as possible on the remaining few long runs that there are. So just be very disciplined about trying to keep that overall pace staying. 

LINDSEY  : Exactly. And that's actually perfect summation because that is what we doing with this other client is that he's running twice a week, at that pace so that when Comrades starts, he knows what that feels like. 


How do hills affect your pace?


LINDA  : Yes, yeah, I guess it can be quite difficult to judge that pace with the hills in Comrades as well, because the hills are going to slow me down anyway, aren't they.

LINDSEY  : So the hills are going to slow you down and although the first 36k's of the race are extremely tough, there are enough down hills that you sort of limit that damage if you like, and then, once you get to that 36 k mark, you've essentially got six kilometres of downhill, to take you into halfway. 

So by the time you get to halfway, you might be three to five minutes behind schedule. But don't panic about that, because out of halfway you've got another really tough bit to deal with but once you're through that at about the 50 k mark the route becomes much, much, much kinder from a profile point of view. And so if you run at the right intensity, then as you go through those sections, you will slowly start to claw back those five minutes, let's call it that you lost through the first half. 

LINDA  : Okay. Right. So and I shall try and log all that and start practicing it.

LINDSEY  : Yeah, that's the important thing. Okay, and then you also are following one of our training programmes, and we are changing from hill training now into these last four weeks, we move into some speed work. And you just want to be comfortable with why, why are we doing it? 

And so part of that is because as we are cutting down the mileage to freshen up a little bit, we also just want to get some speed work in there. So we just push the intensity up a little bit on that end to compensate for the drop in total training load. And then as we go into the last two weeks, we're going to drop the volume of those speed work sessions too so then we go into a full taper. But in these next two to three weeks, those are there almost to sharpen you up a little bit and start driving you up to a bit of a peak for race day.

LINDA  : So hills can be reduced significantly. What I've been trying to do on long runs as well is make sure I'm including a lot of elevation in the long runs just to get my legs used to it. Yeah. Which obviously makes the long runs quite hard.

LINDSEY  : Yeah. So for the next two long runs, do that, I'd carry on doing that because it's going to help you set a realistic sort of pace for going up versus coming down so that your overall average is close to what you're aiming for. And then for those last two weeks, when you go into the full taper we'd get rid of essentially, almost anything that's going to make you tired and just let you get as fresh as you can for race day.

LINDA  : Okay, good. So keep the hills going just for now, right Okay, thank you, that's all helpful.


How long should you keep up with your strength training before race day?


LINDSEY  : And then the last two questions are fairly closely linked, but the first one you asked, is it good to keep up with your weekly strength training session? And the answer to that is yes, I would keep that up until the second last week. 

So somewhere between 7 and 10 days. So between Wednesday and Friday of the week before Comrades, so leading into the first of June, so that's the 29th to the 31st of May, that will be your last strength training session. Right before you go into Comrades. 

LINDA  : I do find those, they do leave me feeling quite tired and achy sometimes, because I've been working with a trainer and he's been focusing on upper body strength, threatening that I'm doing most of the work on my legs with the running. But it does mean for two days afterwards. I'm feeling sore and tired.

LINDSEY  : Yeah, so I would then say Wednesday, would be the last day. So in fact, based on that, either the Monday I think the 27th, or Wednesday, between 27th and 29th of May and then that's it, no more strength training until race day.

LINDA  : Thank you, it's good to be told things like that.

LINDSEY  : Yeah, it helps. And then you also say you go for a physio session every two to three weeks, depending on how achy you are. So what is the best timing in the run up to the race. So because in the last week, you're going to do very little training. I think, again, if you have that done just before the weekend, so sometime between the Wednesday and Thursday before the last weekend, then by Monday, that physio session should be out of your system. 

Certainly by Wednesday, you won't even know that you had it. And importantly, you won't be doing much to make yourself achy and there will be a flight, but there won't be any of the training aches and pains. So you know, out of interest when you have your normal session, how many days after that do you feel like you're a bit sore and bruised?

LINDA  : No more than one day, I've gotten used to it because I've been having it so regularly. 

LINDSEY  : Yeah. So then for me, then you're probably fine if you had it on the Tuesday or Wednesday before race day. But of course you're going to be travelling and whatever. And that last week, as I said, you're not going to be doing much. So I would peg that then on the Thursday or Friday. Just before the weekend. Yeah.

LINDA  : Good. Thank you.


Are you ready for Comrades?


BRAD  : Linda, overall, how’re you feeling about Comrades? I mean, it oscillates probably between fear and excitement, what's going on in your mind and your heart at the moment?

LINDA  : At the moment I'm at the fear stage I think, because it's the same everyone talks about maranoia that you get in the last few weeks before a marathon where everything feels like it's breaking down. And you're very scared. I remember what it was like doing the first marathon knowing you hadn't run the distance, you'd run 32 K's but you had another 10 k's to go and you had no idea how your body was going to react. 

And I've got this much, much more seriously now, because I've run 52 k's but I've got another 35 to run. And it's just not knowing how your body's going to react to that. So it's the unknown, so it's bound to cause some fear. But on the day I guess the idea is to turn that into excitement and adrenaline to push yourself on. Really looking forward to being in that tall mass of people all there to do the same thing. And I know that that will be the uplifting part that gets me going and the crowds down the route as well. So looking forward to it.


How to deal with the fear of not knowing how your body will react on a longer distance


BRAD  : Lindsey, how do you deal with that fear of the unknown? Especially as a novice, not knowing how your body's gonna react, post, as Linda says, post 52 k's?

LINDSEY  : You've got to take some confidence out of your previous experiences, which is to say that when training for a marathon, for example, you very seldom train having run the distance before you run the race, and obviously over time, you became more and more comfortable with that concept. Because you know, by the time you've got your 6th Marathon Major, you running up marathons that you had full confidence in your training programmes. 

Although you don't have that same experience to fall back on specific to Comrades, you do have that experience to know that you've never needed to complete the entire distance before to be successful on race day. And also, when you were doing those 50 k runs, particularly if they had been done at planned Comrades race pace, when you get to the end of those you actually know for sure that you could have gone on for another 5-10k's. So in reality, you actually can be quite comfortable and confident that you're going to make it 60. 

And then something quite strange happens to you on race day. Because once you've run 60k's, and you see 17k's to go on the board, or 16 as it is because it's not quite 87km. 16 k's doesn't feel like a whole lot. And when you then get through the next seven, and it flicks over 9, 9K's actually feels like you're basically finished, you know. So those are some of the little tricks along the way. 

But take some comfort from the fact that your programme is a sum of all its parts. It's not only about this, the 52, it's not only about the marathon qualifier. It's about the sum total of everything you've done, and you've run over 1000 kilometres. And we're not even halfway through the year. So that's a good haul and you are fit.


Fueling for Comrades


LINDA  : I guess one of the other unknowns about the distance is getting the feeling right as well to be sure that I'm keeping it. And that feels very different from what you do for a marathon because as long as you get it right for the first 15 to 20 miles on the marathon, you're going to make it through to the end, reasonably comfortably if you've been getting the fuel in at that point, but it's just, I think remembering to keep taking fuel on board early enough in Comrades, is what I think I need to do, and the right type of food, I don't think gels are going to do the job for the whole way. So I've been experimenting with more solid food.

LINDSEY  : Yes. And that's a good thing to do, I think, look, again, personal experience says that you probably fine on gels and that type of thing for the first five or six hours, and then there after you need some variety. And if you get enough variety, and you can find things that are palatable enough, and that you can get access to along the route. 

Then for the last kind of 10/15 k's, they have creme soda and coke and you know, those type of things become more palatable again after having given yourself a decent long break.

LINDA  : Okay. 

BRAD  : Well, Linda, unfortunately, we are out of time but I'm excited for you. I think, as Lindsey said, you've done the work. You almost need to now trust the process finish things off, and come out and have a great day. I think you're in for a treat. It is very different to probably any other race that you've run. But yeah, there's something special about Comrades. And you're going to get to experience that on the 9th June.

LINDA  : Right, great. Thanks very much. And thanks for all the support through the platform as well. It's all been great.

BRAD  : No worries, Linda, we love having you on there. I mean, you've obviously been part of our community for a little while now. What is it that you you enjoy about what we're doing over at Coach Parry.

LINDA  : It's just sharing the knowledge and also the concerns other people have, it puts it all in context and helps to reduce my own level of anxiety. There's always some place to go to ask a question and see what other people are doing so it's great.

BRAD  :  It's interesting, because it's also great from an international perspective. I mean, we always say it on the podcasts that as South Africans, we are so spoiled, we don't realize how good we've got it around Comrades here that everyone knows what it is, people don't look at you weird when you tell them you're running Comrades. Whereas an international runner like yourself, you almost feel isolated. And it's a way for you to connect and plug yourself into the experience and feel a part of it in the build up. So yeah, we love having you around. And thanks for being part of what we do at Coach Parry.

LINDA  : Great, thanks very much.

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