Cruising to a Comrades back2back medal – We help Shaun on how to balance working on the yachts and a structured Bill Rowan program

Cruising to a Comrades back2back medal – We help Shaun on how to balance working on the yachts and a structured Bill Rowan program

On today's episode of RUN with CoachParry, we chat to Shaun Simpson who is one of our CoachParry Online Training Club members. Shaun lives and works on the super yachts and has his sights set on his back2back Comrades medal this year, after finishing in 8:28 in 2018! Lindsey and Shaun chat all things around how to use other modalities to assist with the lack of time he gets to run and Lindsey provides top advice on what to expect in the Up Run for any novice Comrades Up Runner.

They also touch briefly on altitude training and trail running and how these can both be beneficial to road runners.

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Cruising to Comrades Back2Back


Brad Brown: Welcome onto the next edition of Run with Coach Parry, we’ve got Lindsey with us. Lindsey, howzit, welcome back.

Lindsey Parry: Very good, thank you.

BB: Nice to touch base once again and we’ve got our next guest on the podcast, he’s one of the members of the Coach Parry online community and training platform, Shaun Simpson. Shaun, welcome onto the podcast.

Shaun Simpson: Thanks very much for having me Brad, hi Lindsey.

LP: Howzit, good-good.

BB: Sean, I’m going to dig into what you’re up to training-wise and what you need help with in a second, but man alive, you are living the life mate! I know it sounds probably a lot more glamorous than what it is, I’m sure there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, but as we speak now, you’re based in Italy and for the last number of years you’ve been working on super yachts and travelling the world.

SS: Yes, it’s been a long seven years of travelling around the world. Actually at the moment I’m back home for a couple of weeks for my annual leave, but I’m going to be heading back in the next week, back to Italy, Imperia, so I’ve kind of been based all around the world for the last seven years, it’s taken me to  Australia, I’ve been in the States, I’ve been in the Maldives, based in Turkey, so nothing really settled but all over the place, which has been a good way to run different races around the world.

BB: It comes with different challenges and that’s what we’ll talk about now. One of them being you’re all over the show and a lot of time you’re on the sea so it’s just not practical to run, but you’ve been able to have some amazing experiences. You’ve run some incredible races around the world.

SS: Yes, it’s been great. Once I started running marathons, I set a goal to try and run six majors, which every year gets harder and harder. You’ve got to plan your year way ahead in advance to actually get into these races.

I’m entering races, the other day I entered for New York and that’s already a year out. I’ve done Boston Marathon was a great experience, for the guys in the States the Boston Marathon is like the Comrades for us. Chicago was the last race I did. I’ve done a few in Germany, Munich, Frankfurt, Spain, Seville, so it’s been great, it’s been really good.

BB: As far as the challenge of being on a boat and having to train for these races, it’s not like you’re running 5km or 10km and you can wing it, you’ve obviously got a bit of ability and you need to put some work in, how do you juggle the being at sea for prolonged periods of time and having to train?

I know you mentioned in a bit of background, I think it was Boston that you spent 45 days at sea in the buildup and you did most of your training, it was just cross training?




SS: Yes, luckily I’ve had a few captains that have been quite lenient towards my training. It’s very different. A lot of the time I’m relying a lot on cross training, if I’m at sea, so a lot of that is muscle memory. It’s hard trying to get on a treadmill and actually run, but I’ve been lucky enough to be based on shore for a few times where I’ve been able to do a full five/six month period of training.

Of those, you can see the better results, but it is very different. The cross training side of things does get a little bit boring. It gets really hard but you’ve got to trust your ability. There are some times where it does hurt during the races but it’s a great experience, just doing this and being able to have a bit of a structure in running around the world.

BB: I’m going to bring Lindsey in here for a question that I want to ask. Lindsey, I think this is a prime example of someone who is maybe not running non-stop 12 months a year and is forced to almost take some breaks and I feel for most people, that’s probably the way to do it and we don’t do it because we are able to run 12 months. Is it better to do it slightly more this way than running non-stop 12 months a year?

LP: From a performance point of view, running all year round makes absolute sense and often when I’m working with people, those are some of the bigger improvements that I see, is when you get consistency year on year. You do want to have some breaks. We all need a holiday from work, we do need a holiday from running. Typically those are 14-21 days at most and I think in Shaun’s case, although it’s not ideal that he can’t get that year around consistency, I think the one place where he still does have a bit of an advantage is that he’s always active.

If you’re crewing on a yacht, you’ve got to work bloody hard all the time and he’s getting some opportunities to do some cross training, which actually one of my questions was, I was interested what is that cross training? Do you try and keep up by swimming next to the boat? Super yachts; is there a bike on there? I was more interested in what it is, but I think the most important thing here is that you probably don’t come off quite the same base as someone else who did nothing for 45 days and even if you weren’t able to cross train, I suspect there’s a lot of pulling, lifting, shifting, controlling sails. You’re pretty active a lot of the day, I’d imagine, when you’re out at sea?

SS: Yes, as I say, these boats are quite big so a lot of them that I worked on have all had gyms on board, with treadmills, ellipticals, bicycles and rowing machines at times and free weights.

That is a good way to do it. It’s a bit hard to run when you’re under way on a treadmill, but to use a rowing machine is very good for the heart rate and elliptical is also very good and the bicycle is probably the best way to go, just to get your legs ticking over. As you’ve got the platform, I felt, you can still keep it up, but it’s a bit tough.

You still need to put time on the road and I’m lucky that way, I’m not always at sea. I do spend a lot of time on the docks where I can just do a normal training programme, but it is a bit all over the place.

As you can see through my training over the years, it’s never been anything consistent, which is the main reason why I’ve joined up with you guys. I’ve never really had a proper programme to work towards and hit the numbers, which is something I really would love to do now.

I know there’s a massive advantage to that and hopefully just take it from there and avoid the injuries and that side of things.


Using a structured program


BB: Shaun, that leads us really nicely into your first question that you wanted to ask Lindsey. You were talking about, you come from that old school style of just slapping on the shoes and heading out and having no real plan and you’ve now got the structured plan and what’s the best way to approach it. Have I summed it up correctly or is there anything you want to add into that?

SS: that’s 100% true. I kind of come from a background where you just, you put the shoes on, you go for a run and you just tick the miles over and as long as you’re hitting your numbers before you get to your race, like Comrades, 1,000km from January, those numbers, as long as you’re hitting those numbers, you’re good.

It’s not true. I know. It has affected me injury-wise, I’ve had a fair few injuries over the years and I know it’s from not training to a proper structure. That is true, it’s just old school, slap the shoes on, go for a run, hit the numbers and then do your races and have a beer afterwards.

BB: Lindsey, is it a mindset thing that you just need to trust the process? How does someone like Shaun who is coming in from that sort of, he’s run that way his whole life and now all of a sudden he’s on a much more structured plan and programme?

LP: Look, absolutely. I think one of the biggest advantages that a structured programme gives you is it automatically forces some periods of work and some periods of recovery in a weekly cycle as well as on a monthly or a bi-monthly cycle whereas before, when you’re just running on feel and as hard as you can go almost feel like in that scenario, you always feel like every time you run you’ve got to get the most out of your run.

You want to sweat a lot, you want your heart rate to be up and that does tend to lead you down a path where injury and illness is just around the corner. The structure itself provides a much better way for your body to get the amount of work that it needs, but importantly, then the amount of recovery that it needs so that that work that you’re doing can be absorbed properly and you can just keep improving.

That’s why I always tell people, usually your first improvement when you move onto a structured programme, that’s normally your biggest improvement and then from there the margins do get a little tighter and the improvements get a bit slower, but you’ve got to get on that structure, trust that it’s the right thing for you.

Listen to your body a little bit, jump into the forum and ask questions when you need to but by and large, the consistency is also much better generally when you are following a programme because you’re just ticking the things off as you go along.

The combination of all of those things almost always lead to an improvement in performance.

BB: Cool, Shaun, does that answer your question?

SS: Yes, 100%, it’s something that I know, getting into your forums and all that stuff, but it’s just been a little bit tricky for me over the years, but I know that if I stick to the programmes and stuff, it’s a no-brainer, there’s no other way to do it really.

BB: Shaun, just to add onto that as well and Lindsey, I don’t know if you want to jump in here too but we see it quite often. Someone who has run for a prolonged period of time and like you say, hasn’t followed a really proper structured programme, but they know their numbers, you know you need to be doing these sorts of miles if you want to run a marathon or you need to be doing this if you want to run Comrades.

To then get onto a programme where sometimes it doesn’t really align with those numbers. Sometimes it might be slightly less and you almost then start questioning yourself. Lindsey, how important is it to just trust the process? You’re buying into this philosophy, you’re joining a platform like ours or you’re following someone else’s programme, how important is it to sell out and just trust the process and follow the steps?

LP: Look, we’ve actually had this discussion a few times over the years Brad and although the consequences may not be as important, it’s much like going to see a doctor. If you have lost faith in the doctor or don’t want to hear the advice of doctors, really it’s time to find a new doctor because you’re not going to get healthy if you don’t, A, do what the doctor is asking of you or secondly, just don’t believe it’s going to work.

The most common mistake is that people run too hard and so therefore that is the most common observation we always get is do I really need to slow down this much and the answer is yes! If you really want to improve then yes, you have to.

BB: Shaun, you had a couple of other questions for Lindsey as well. I’m going throw the ball into your court, we’ve got some time, let’s smash them out.


Best advice for novice Comrades Up Run


SS: Yes, sure, just one that I ask Lindsey, I ran Comrades last year, Comrades down, which was my first Comrades, any advice for myself and guys that are coming back to do back-to-back or just coming back to do the up run, in terms of the difference between the down and the up, what’s your biggest advice you could give for someone coming back to do the up who has got it fresh in the memory from the down run?

LP: Look, they are similar in certain small ways in that the first third of both the up and the down are the hardest in terms of profile. They are very different in terms of the type of damage that gets done in that second and third in particular. On the up run it’s pretty hard, there’s lots of climbing and from Fields Hill to Hillcrest is extremely hard on the body.

It’s more of a slow poison in that you’re just losing energy, losing strength, the legs and quads get more and more tired and so that’s the difficult part of doing the race.

Whereas on the down run, that same stretch of road is where your quads get hammered, hammered, hammered, so when you get to Pinetown, if you haven’t looked after your quads, then your legs are sore and jelly and they’re very hard to use.

You need to be extremely conservative in both of them. You will experience far less pain in the up run and if you can manage those hills and do quite a lot of run/walking on those hills and not be too panicky about the time that you go through 60km in, because after halfway you’ve still got a rather nasty climb. If you can get over Nchanga, get yourself to 60km, then for the next 20km plus on the up run is really the nicest running.

You’ve got these long, gradual downs that you want to take advantage of. You need the same mindset in terms of, I’m going to hold back for as long as possible but you’re not going to experience the same, like really sore, deep pain in the muscles that you do on the down run, unless you’ve completely traumatised them going up Fields Hill.

For me on the up run, that’s the most dangerous part right there because if you do that way too hard, then go up Botha’s Hill and you’ve now completely fatigued your legs, that long drop into half way, the troubles already start there on the up run. I think that’s the best advice I can give you is to hold back but understand it’s a different kind of holding back to the down run.

On the hills that really hurt, just do lots of walking. I’d almost run three minutes, walk a minute, run three minutes, walk a minute and really just protect your legs all the way up.

BB: Shaun, you were also asking about the last 30km, how do you get your head around and prepare yourself physically to run okay in those last 30km and I think that follows on from what Lindsey is saying is it’s the last 30km on the up run, once you get to the top of Nchanga, that if you’re still feeling good, you can make up a ton of time.

LP: That is exactly what I’m saying. Having said that, I still feel with Comrades in particular, you’ve got to almost shore yourself up mentally to know that it is going to be hard. I am going to be struggling a little bit but I’m going to reward myself in the following way…

Then I come up with strategies where I say, after 10km I’m going to reward myself with a one minute walk or I’m going to reward myself with a particular product, maybe somebody is waiting there for you on the side of the road with a crème soda.

You kind of tell yourself in those last 30km, right, I’m going to break this down into five or eight or 10km chunks and at the end of each of those chunks I’m going to get a walk and whatever the reward is that you’ve got for yourself.

BB: Cool, Shaun, next question?


All things Altitude Training


SS: This is just an altitude question, just for training. When I go back I’ve got the opportunity to go in the mountains, but it’s only for the weekends. Lindsey, with regards to training at altitude, I know it’s preferred to do it at long periods of time, to actually reap the rewards, but if you do have those short little times where you can go train in the mountains, altitude, what would you say is the best way to go about it, to actually get the most out of your slight bit of training you can do?

Is it high intensity or is it your long run?

LP: Your body will definitely respond to whatever stimulus it gets. Even if it’s only two or three days at a time, there will obviously be a response from your body and it’s going to produce more red blood cells and so on, so it will always be worth it. However, the intensity will be important and the lower the intensity that you run at, I think you’d get much more benefit out of doing the long, slow stuff.

It will be very difficult to do the short hard stuff, you won’t be able to breathe, you can’t get up to the intensity that you need to get to, but the lower heart rate, lower aerobic type of work, that is what we would do when you went up to altitude to adapt, because it is much better. So that’s exactly the way I would do it, with the short term stimulation.

BB: Cool, Shaun, from an altitude perspective, how high would that be if you were training in Italy?

SS: Probably 2,000 plus.

BB: Awesome.

LP: If you’re spending most your time down at sea level and then going up to 2,000, you’d find it actually almost impossible to do a high intensity session with any effectiveness. That would definitely be long and slow.

BB: Cool, next question?


Trail Running


SS: Regards to a bit of trail running. I think you touched on it on one of your podcasts before, but to throw it into the programme to mix it up, are you a big fan of that? If you’re going through your programme, chuck in a bit of trail running. I know you don’t really hit the same kind of numbers at times, but just to put it in there to mix it up, what are your thoughts on that?

LP: I’ve always enjoyed trail running and I think it’s a great variety of training. It does make you strong. Even though the going might be a little tougher and slower, those very hard climbs which are quite often associated with trail running, as well as the downs, they definitely bring a real positive influence to the mix. I find that the other thing that it does, it obviously has a risk of acute injury, falling, that sort of thing, but in terms of the chronic types of injuries, it reduces that risk because the surfaces are slightly uneven, the foot falls are slightly different.

It doesn’t have the same monotony that you get from landing in the same way over and over and again, that you do on the tar. It’s also quite good in terms of injury prevention, if you like. Obviously you’ve got to be a little bit careful and accept that there is risk in tearing down a mountain, that something could go wrong.

BB: Lindsey, your programme is obviously time based, so if you’re adding a trail session in, would you do it the same time-wise? I know you mentioned some of them are quite a bit harder, distance is difficult because it could take you a lot longer on trails, but if you’re doing it by time, if you want to do a trail run, it’s the same amount of time on that session?

LP: If you’re running on trail a lot. You’re going to get out there regularly running a trail once or twice a week, then I would probably adjust the time slightly and obviously adjust it up so that I’m still getting the km. I know the focus isn’t so much on km but we do want to make sure we don’t short ourselves. If it’s going to be once every two or three weeks, just run the time that’s on the programme and you’re really not going to miss out on much by doing that.

BB: Cool, Shaun, another question?

SS: I think I’m running out.

BB: You’re sorted, cool. Shaun, what’s the goal for Comrades 2019?

SS: I came off a 8:28 down, the goal, to be honest, is to try and have a injury-free training, if I can do that. I’d like to run another good solid Bill Rowan. The goal, I would love to run a silver one day, but just being able to set the time aside and actually stick to a programme and run it, that silver, I got so much respect for those guys that run that time. Working a fulltime job and still running a silver is a lot of commitment.

I would love to do it, but I just don’t think I’ve got the actual structure in my training yet to get to that. Yes, a good Bill Rowan, I’ll be very happy with that again and then injury-free training.

BB: This is number two right?

SS: Yes, number two, back-to-back.

BB: I was going to say, you know what they say, Comrades runners can’t county. Two is halfway to 10, so once you’ve done that second one, we’ve sucked you in good and proper!

SS My dad has done 14, so you can see where I get it from!

BB: I love it. Lindsey, what does it take for someone who has run 8:28 Comrades on debut, Shaun is obviously a great runner and there’s definitely potential there, but what would it take to take an hour off that time to run a silver?

LP: Probably consistency, that really is it. I suspect, depending on how the time works out now, on the boat, just being a little bit more consistent and being on a good structure, I suspect there’s a good chance that he will improve quite close to eight hours. From there, it boils down to being able to create enough time.

The one thing about a silver, and there’s some helluva good runners that never get down to it because it really does take a good 10-12 weeks of extreme commitment that being on a boat, even in the docks, I’m not sure that that would be possible.

The other side of the coin is that there’s plenty of time. You can run a silver in 8-9-10 years’ time. For now it would just be about getting some basic blocks in place, trying to get as consistent as you can around the work situation and then chipping away until you get under eight hours and once you’re under eight hours, then it becomes about really finding those 12 weeks where you can train and be super committed and then really refining race day strategy and nailing it on the day.

BB: There you go. Shaun, it’s been awesome catching up. We love having you in our forum, so thank you very much for that. Just a quick one, what do you enjoy about the platform we’ve built and just the access to the programmes and to the coaches?

SS: To be honest, it’s been great. Since I’ve joined, I’ve had a little bit of an injury and it came on the back of running a marathon, so I haven’t been as active as I should be, but just from my side, if I fire anything in the forum, I get a reply within a day. It’s bang on, everyone is very, very helpful. Even over the weekend when I’m sending things through, I’m getting replies. It’s just a great structure that you’ve got running.

All the podcasts. I was really involved in all your podcasts before Comrades last year and I found it was good motivation, it was very helpful information that you guys were putting across, especially for people that haven’t done Comrades before. To get an idea before you tow the line, that kind of stuff is really, really helpful and I’m looking forward to actually training to a structured platform and then just seeing the result.

BB: It sounds amazing. Shaun thank you very much, if you ever need somebody to fill in for you on the boat, I’m available! I’ll take a few trips but we look forward to following your progress to Comrades 2019 and another Bill Rowan, fingers crossed, if all goes according to plan and your progress beyond that.

SS: Brad, thanks very much, Lindsey, thanks very much for everything.

LP: Cool Shaun, good to chat and hopefully we’ll see you closer to Comrades. I’m assuming you won’t be doing too many local races being out at sea, but hopefully we’ll get to meet up closer to the big day.

SS: Perfect, thanks Lindsey.

LP: Cool.

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