Do I change my goal after a small setback in training? We help Schalk with his Bill Rowan Comrades plan

Do I change my goal after a small setback in training? We help Schalk with his Bill Rowan Comrades plan

Do you need to change your goal after a small setback in training? Markus chats to one of our CoachParry Online Training Club members - Schalk Visagie - about whether he needs to change his goal of 3:30 marathon after missing 2 weeks of training, especially given that his Comrades goals for 2019 is a Bill Rowan medal. Markus and Schalk also go into depth around the theory of running slow to run fast, keeping your easy runs easy and your hard runs hard.

If you haven't heard already we are currently running a competition with Biogen. Share your story or pb with us using #BiogenJourney on any of the socials and you could win 3 months access to the CoachParry Online Training Club, the club that Schalk said is "the best thing he has done for his running". This week's winner is Mpho (Instagram handle: @baqulutsibusinessservices) - Well done Mpho and welcome to the team!

If you want to join the CoachParry Online Club then CLICK HERE.

Brad spoke about the previous podcast with another one of our member's Geoffrey about how to structure your pacing in training, you can find that link HERE


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Do I need to adjust my goal?

Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Run, I’m Brad Brown and we’ve got our running coach, Markus van Niekerk with us once again. Markus, welcome back, nice to touch base.

Markus van Niekerk: Hey Brad, thank you so much, it’s always good to be back.

BB: We’ve got one of the members of the Coach Parry online training community, Schalk Visagie joining us, Schalk, nice to catch up with you. We chat often in the forums and it’s quite nice for us to put a face to the name and hear your voice, howzit?

Schalk Visagie: Howzit Brad, howzit Markus, thanks for the invitation.

MVN: Howzit Schalk.  

BB: Schalk, we’re going to be chatting, I know you’ve got some big questions and they’re pertinent to you right now, but I’m going to preface, you at the moment are running, as we’re recording this, you’re running Johnson Crane this coming weekend, but we’re not going to be publishing it this week, so it’s almost like a bit of back to the future. I’ve got my time travel shoes on and that’s how we’re doing it.

I know you might be asking a couple of questions that might be related to this weekend, but we’ll chat to that as it is, but again, all of the stuff we talk about relates to wherever you are right now. Before we get into your questions for Markus, how long have you been running? How did you get into the sport?

SV: Basically running almost my entire life except a bit of a break in high school and primary school, rugby and cricket took preference. I started running actively again about four years ago, about five years ago, after December holiday, typical New Year’s resolution, I was 10-15kg overweight and started training again. Entered for the Two Oceans and it was all downhill from there.

BB: Are you one of those guys that our international listeners think are crazy, that you decided to start running because you wanted to run Comrades?

SV: Yes, basically! My dad was a Comrades runner for a couple of years; he did seven, so it was always a dream. I didn’t think of Comrades immediately that year, but Two Oceans was a very good start.

BB: Schalk, you’ve got some pressure on you. For us who have had parents that ran, at least my dad was okay, he wasn’t as gifted as yours apparently, you’ve got some serious pressure on your shoulders.

SV: I think my dad’s best Comrades is a very big dream and a very big hurdle. He managed to run 7:48 one year, which is crazy! Got some big shoes to fill.

BB: It could be worse, let’s look on the bright side, you could be Lindsey Parry whose dad has got a 5:48 Comrades PB! No pressure there!

SV: It’s still a lot of pressure.

BB: Absolutely, when I hear stories like this of people in the same family doing it, it makes me think of the wars, Steven and Mark Waugh, the cricketers where somebody, I can’t remember who it was, but he came into bat and they said to Mark Waugh, the Aussies were chirping whoever was coming in to bat, it was one of the Pakistanis, I think, he said: I can’t believe they think you’re one of the best batsmen in your country and he turned around and he said: At least I’m the best batsman in my family! That pretty much sums it up. Obviously that decision was made and you started and built up slowly and as they say, the rest is history. How did that first Two Oceans go?


Tackling Two Oceans


SV: It was a mission. I ran my first marathon and I barely qualified and then my first Two Oceans was, I think I finished with eight minutes to spare, so 6:52. It was tough, it was the year that the veld fires raged over the mountains in Cape Town and we ran Ou Kaapse Weg, it was me and two mates and we were cruising up on the back side of Ou Kaapse Weg and that’s where the wheels came off, after we got down that hill it was basically walk/run, walk/run, walk/run all the way to the finish for the rest of the day.

BB: It has got better. You’ve improved a hell of a lot since that?

SV: Yes, the year after that I did my first Comrades which turned out, it was amazing to me, I did 11:30 with two of my friends. The year after that I increased a little bit more, with one of the same friends again and last year I ran my best one so far, all on my own and that was 9:46.

BB: Some big improvements, what do you attribute those improvements to Schalk? Is it just a case of experience and consistent training?

SV: I think it’s experience and a little bit more training. I wouldn’t say better training, but more training and being a little more committed, getting a bit lighter, eating better. I felt what you put in your mouth has got a very big influence to what your body does at the end of the day. Everything, I think, points to experience, basically experience.

BB: I see Markus nodding when you said that, what you put in your mouth, Markus, that resonates with you, you can’t out-train a bad diet?

MVN: Nope! As the years tick over, it certainly is the case. In the late 20s, early 30s you could definitely manipulate that philosophy but the older I get, the more evident it is, Schalk you’re right on the money there.

BB: Schalk, you’ve got some big goals too. I don’t know what’s driving it, but you want to improve and you want to get better and I hear you’re making noises about Bill Rowan and sub nine Comrades, but obviously there are certain things that have to happen before that happens and it’s not written down that you have to do it, but your chances are better if you’re running a sub 3:30 marathon. You’ve got a question around that for Markus?


Sub 3:30 Marathon goals


SV: Yes, last year the dream was already to run a Bill Rowan and I tried to put in as much training as I could to get close to it and I managed to do the 3:46 marathon which I felt certainly put me in with a chance, but then I got to the expo at Comrades and was looking for a pacing band and every single pacing band that I picked up, all of them said basically to put you on the money for this, you need to do a 3:30 marathon.

That kind of sunk in there and I tried my best, but I came a little bit short. I kind of started believing in this 3:30 benchmark and that’s why I’ve started with a 3:30 training plan. I’ve fallen a little bit behind and I think I’ve missed some serious training weeks in the last couple of weeks leading up to the Johnson Crane, which was the goal.

The question essentially is, how critical is that 3:30 marathon and if I don’t, if I miss it by 15 minutes, is it cut and dry? I know there’s a long year ahead that I can try it again, but should I focus on that, a 3:30 marathon or should I turn my focus to Comrades training and train for a Bill Rowan?

MVN: Schalk, it definitely does play a major role. From a confidence point of view, yes, it does play a role because if Lindsey says you times it by two and a half, then it’s the truth. No, I’m just kidding! Just to give you some background on myself. Last year, okay, before I give you background on myself, what was your mileage between let’s say January and Comrades last year?

SV: From January to Comrades last year was about 900km.

MVN: Okay, so it’s pretty similar, I did 950km and my qualifier was 3:32. I had to do a mountain bike race in March and my partner was paranoid that I wouldn’t be able to do that, so I had to focus on cycling up to the 1st of April and that’s when my Comrades training started. I did 950km up until the day of Comrades and my qualifier was the last race. It was the Wally Hayward up in Centurion and I did 3:33. I happened to run 8:46 Comrades.

I really do support Lindsey’s philosophy of you times it by 2.5 and you get to that figure. What I would like to find out from you is, the two weeks that you missed, what were the quality sessions in those weeks and was it just flu or was it something that really, it took more than just two weeks off training out of you?

SV: The two weeks was a little bit of holiday where I did the two runs in Central Park and it was basically two quick 8-10km runs. I just went out and went running and then the week after that was where I felt it was critical. There was one three and a half hour long run that I missed and a couple of interval sessions. If I look back, that’s the ones I missed.

MVN: This might not be the answer that you’re thinking, but my suggestion for you would be to go do Sunday’s run, firstly are you back on track now, you’ve been doing the sessions since you’ve come back from that break?

SV: Yes, the sessions I’ve started back on again was one 1.5 hour run, let me just check on the programme quickly. It was one 1.5 hour run and then a recovery run and I’m supposed to do an interval session this afternoon and then a taper run. I’ve basically caught the back end of the programme.

BB: Like me, I’m built to taper Schalk, so it’s all good!

MVN: My suggestion for you would be, is to go out this weekend and to definitely start conservatively, not that I’d ever suggest otherwise, is to start conservatively and to not have too much of an expectation for the result. Do the first 21km and see how you feel after that. If you feel good, then try, if you are on the right pacing, I’ll calculate for you what you need to be running at now, but if you are pace-wise, if you’re hitting the numbers, let me just calculate this for you.

We’re going for 3:30; let’s just do 3:29 to be safe. Okay, you need to average just-just below five minutes a km for that. I’d suggest, if you want to start out at just over five minutes a km and then gradually build it close to five minutes per km or just under five minutes per km to the first 21km, then reassessing.

Obviously nutrition is vital. If you don’t get that right, your chances are even more slim not to achieve your goal. Then it’s to make a call. If you’re totally off target, I would say back off entirely, so that you can train properly from Monday or Tuesday, whatever the rest period is in for, suggested after the Johnson Crane.

If you do stand a chance, I’d suggest really knuckle down, focus on what you need to do in that moment. Set yourself little goals within the run. From 21 to 28km, what are you going to do there? From 28-35km, how are you going to do that? Like I said, your suggested pacing should be around 4:57 to come in at 3:29 and for me it’s all about being in the moment.

I always suggest that to my athletes because if you focus on small, if you set yourself small achievable goals within a race, then before you know it, you’ll have 5-6km left. It’s very important for me, but when you do get to 21km and you feel listen, this is not going to happen, then rather run the race as a long run and you can try again later on.

It’s important not to try and achieve something if it’s totally without will, not in your grasp on the day.

BB: Schalk -

SV: It’s daunting but I’m going to give it a go.

BB: Let me ask this question Markus, and I think it’s what Schalk is asking but in a more general term. If you have missed, let’s talk a 12 week block because I’m just doing the math in my head, Schalk, I’m guessing you missed around week nine to week 11, around that sort of thing where that’s the really important bit of the training programme.

Markus, as a rule of thumb, how do you make that decision that you’re still going to go for that goal or is it, do you have to back yourself or do you at some point go, maybe this isn’t right now and you’re going to save yourself and maybe start building up for the next one?

MVN: Brad, for me it does come down to the race again, but even more importantly, what I like, there’s two components to training and racing. When you get to a race, there’s a big difference between being fit and tired and being fit and fresh. The fact that you weren’t sick for two weeks Schalk and you were touring and look, when I go overseas, it’s a matter of I walk quite a bit.

It’s not like you sat on the couch busy drowning yourself in Corenza C and drinking medicine because you were sick. For me, obviously it wasn’t great not getting to those long runs, but it will definitely also have some benefit, there’ll be some benefit to the fact that you freshened up, let’s call it that for now.

Once again, it all comes down to the actual race. The fact that you’ve done a 90 minute run afterwards and a recovery run, all of those things, how did you feel during that 90 minute run?

SV: Before the 90 minute run I did a slow five and then about a 10km before, just after I was sick and I could feel, it almost felt as though I’m starting from scratch again. The 90 minute run went a lot better and the recovery run was also a lot better. I’m starting to feel fit and healthy again, so from the 90 minute run I felt better.

MVN: Okay 100%. Once again Brad and Schalk, for me it comes down to how you are going to feel on the day. I don’t think you lose anything more than 5-7% of your fitness if you’ve been totally inactive for 10-14 days. What was your longest run you did before you missed the two weeks?

SV: I think I did a 33 and a 30, I did two or three 30km runs.

MVN: For me that’s more than sufficient. Going into the race it would have been perfect if you had done that three and a half hour run, you would have been slightly more confident but I can guarantee you, if you’ve been following that programme right up until week nine, you might be in better shape than what you think you are.

SV: I missed out on a session here or there, but I think I covered 90% of it and I’m also bargaining on the race factor and the people around you, to pull you around and take your thoughts away from the pain and the tiredness.

MVN: Definitely, I’m a big fan of feeding off the crowds and I’m not a big fan of running in buses, but they are there and they do help with pacing and sometimes they just know how to pace much better than what we do. Just make sure your nutrition is dialled in and also don’t start too fast. If you start too fast, I can guarantee you; you’re going to eliminate the chances of getting to your goal.

SV: The other option is to postpone it by four weeks and to run Deloitte because I’m entered for Deloitte as well towards the end of February.

MVN: It’s an option, the route profile is way more hectic on Deloitte, obviously you go over Klapperkop twice. I’m still going to stick with my initial suggestion. Do the first 21km at your desired race pace and if you do get to 21km and you feel good, then I’d say give it a go. Don’t overcook it when you get to 21km and are feeling confident, when it’s possible of getting close to that 3:30 but if it’s not, then one, you had a good long run with a 21km or slightly faster than 42km race pace, which I also think is necessary to do during long runs.

You’re still going to get something out of the run, without a doubt, but if you do start the race and you know it’s not going to be your day, then you can back off before 21km even, then just do that run and then come the 24th of February, I’ve just given you that split, then obviously you know what needs to be done on the day, you know what your split needs to be and then you have your second go. I’d definitely give it a go if I were you.

Especially the fact, if you can convince yourself mentally that not all the pressure is on Sunday’s run because you do have a Plan B or do you have another alternative, I always find I do much better in the races where I don’t expect a result as opposed to the races where I go in and come hell or high water I’m going to run a specific time or I need to beat a specific person. It’s really not the case. Nine times out of 10, when I don’t expect a result, I get a brilliant one.


Running slow to run fast?


BB: It’s amazing how that works, when all bets are off. Schalk, you had another question which it’s one of my favourite questions because you’ve been around what we do at Coach Parry for a while now and you’ve seen the training programmes and you’ve asked some great questions in the forums. One of the things that pops up time and time and time again is the training paces and how can you be running a certain pace in training and expect to race faster? Surely you should be running race pace in training to get yourself used to running at that sort of pace. I’m guessing that’s the gist of your question, have I summed it up correctly?

SV: Perfectly.

BB: Markus, this is the million dollar question and it’s a bit counterintuitive and I know you love this too because it’s weird how it works, but it works.

MVN: For sure! It’s super strange. I always use the example of my Comrades prep for 2017. I started, I was proper overweight, I had one of those Decembers that you mentioned earlier, but I started running and I based on all my runs on heart rate. I worked off the math method which is 180 minus your age. My average heart rate during and after a run needed to be approximately 149 beats a minute.

My first runs were about 5:25 per km at about 150 beats per minute but it was really boring running that slow and luckily I’ve run for quite a few years and I know my body, I don’t necessarily need to go slower than that.

I just kept on doing it and I kept consistently focusing on the intensity that I was running at and by the time, Lindsey and myself, I’ll never forget it, we did a run here in Lynwood and we comfortably ran at about 4:40 to 4:44 per km and my heart rate was then at about 144 beats per minute. My heart rate had dropped by six beats a minute and the pace was down by 40 seconds.

For me that’s vital but just to go back to your question Schalk, that’s why we do things like hill training. That’s why we do things like intervals. Make sure that your easy runs are supposed to be easy and that’s why when we do speed work, it’s way faster than we would be running on race day, especially over long distances but it’s what we call over-reaching.

Let’s say for arguments sake you run a 5km time trial and your 1km split is 4:00 a km, we’ll probably make you do 1km repeats at about 4:45, more or less, sorry, 3:45, so that you run faster than what you did on an average per km pace than you did in the time trial, but you do get rest intervals in between. That’s how you’re building speed.

Trust me, by doing consistent easy runs, you’re going to do yourself the world of favour by just developing and increasing the size of your engine.

SV: I think now that you’ve mentioned it and to think back on what Lindsey and Brad discussed on the online seminar on Monday night but I can definitely see that what you’ve explained now was also happening to me where I’m running a faster pace with a slower heart rate. Following the plan in that sense is definitely working.

Also, I think I’m making the mistake of running my easy runs, not so much the easy runs, but the recovery runs, way too fast, just out of habit where running slower is really, it gets hard because running faster is so easy.

MVN: That’s it and so many people make that mistake. That’s just on easy runs, never mind recovery runs. I wish you could see people like, whether it’s his recovery run for certain I wouldn’t know, but someone like Stephen Mokoka, he comfortably runs 1:02 for 21km. He trains at Tucs and when those guys do an easy job, it looks like they’re taking a walk.

I’m not over-exaggerating, their easy running pace or their recovery running pace is so slow and I know of a world class triathlete as well, his easy runs are really slow, but when he runs a 10km, he gets pretty close to sub 30 minutes. There is method to the madness.

BB: Schalk, if I can just add 2c and I said this in the Comrades seminar as well, it’s counterintuitive and especially growing up like you and I did, with a parent that ran Comrades because back in the day that’s how you did it. If you wanted to run fast, in training you needed to run fast and you went and smashed every single training session and it’s very much, I don’t want to say an ‘old school’ way of doing things, but it’s been ingrained in us that if you want to run fast, it makes sense, run fast.

That’s not actually the case, particularly if you’ve heard Lindsey explain it with regards to the aerobic versus anaerobic and how long can you go for when you’re in that anaerobic state as opposed to wanting to… We’ve got to go for long if we’re running marathons and Comrades, so we’ve got to build that base, that big engine as Markus says and the only way to do that is to run slowly and build that engine and bring that heart rate down so that when you do run long, you can run at that pace for longer. Markus, is that pretty much correct? I’m not a sport scientists and you’re the expert, but that’s my lay experience of what you guys preach about?

MVN: You’re on the money there Brad, I couldn’t agree with you more.

BB: I spent enough time with Lindsey, I’m learning through osmosis, which is amazing. Schalk, have you got any other questions or are you pretty much sorted and rearing to go now on Sunday?

SV: I think the last one is after Sunday, is it personal preference then if I switch over then to the Bill Rowan programme on the online platform or should I check in with you guys just to discuss the results and then either go for Deloitte or what would you suggest?

MVN: Firstly, I think you’re on the platform already Schalk, to me that’s the wonderful part of it. After Sunday pop onto the forum, give us some feedback. If you did achieve your goal, wonderful, then I would suggest getting onto the Bill Rowan programme and one can always play around with the paces on the programme. We just did a call earlier with someone, just because the projected, according to the calculations means you need to run within a specific pace zone, doesn’t mean you need to be 100% in the first to the middle part of that zone.

It can always be to the lower end of the zone as well. Once again, coming back to it, you need to train in the right zones.  You’re more than welcome to pop onto the forum, just give us some feedback, hopefully it’s some good news and if it’s not good news, it’s not the end of the world either.

SV: No, it’s not, thanks a lot. With the pacing on the plans, I think I do the proper male manly ego thing and you see the spread and you look at the first number and that’s what you aim for.

BB: It’s not a target, it’s a guide, just so you know! [Laughter]

SV: I’m doing the proper manly thing and I take it as a target which it shouldn’t be.

BB: Yes Schalk, it’s easy to fall into that trap. Those things are there as a guide, you don’t have to be hitting those numbers, the top end of those numbers every session to get the most benefit. If you go back and listen, it was a call that we did with Geoffrey where Markus actually dug into a lot more detail and if you’re interested in listening to it, go back and listen to that as well; I’ll pop a link to it.

Definitely worth a listen. We go into a bit more detail with how to target within those bands, so that will definitely help you as well. Schalk, we love having you in the community, you ask such great questions and like I said, you challenge the coaches and make them put their thinking hats on, which is cool.

Your experience, you and I have been back and forth via email with regards, you’ve pretty much been around from the start since we re-launched, your experience on that platform?

SV: I really enjoy it. This year is the first that I’m running with a programme, the last five years of running was me running when I get a chance and seeing how far I go or how far I wanted to go on that day. For me, it’s a first running on a programme and the way that the platform works, where I can adjust the runs to fit into my schedule works perfectly for me and it’s probably the best thing I could have done for my running.

BB: I love that. That’s awesome, we appreciate you, we love catching up in the forum, best of luck on Sunday.

SV: Thank you.

BB: Fingers crossed and I think you might surprise yourself. Make sure you check in on Monday, we’re keen to hear and hopefully it’s in the success forum where you tell us you’ve smashed that 3:30.

SV: Definitely, I’ll let you guys know what happens.

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