From race-walking to Comrades – One on one coaching call with Mark Fontbin

From race-walking to Comrades – One on one coaching call with Mark Fontbin

Today's episode of RUN with CoachParry is with one of our Online Training Platform Community members Mark Fontbin. Mark used to be a race walker but has since made the switch to running and wants to do Comrades. Mark brings some fantastic questions to this episode such as whats the difference between a tempo run and a time trial run? Lindsey and Mark chat about drinking to thirst and what is the best strategy, and how to tackle the weekend long runs.

We also share another one of our Online Training Platform member's Success Stories

If you're also on a journey to a new goal or have a success story to share, then share it with us by using #BiogenJourney with us and you could win 3 months subscription to the CoachParry Online Training Platform. Here you have access to over 60 programs (from 5k all the way to Two Oceans & Comrades) and can chat to all the coaches in our online forums.

Be on the lookout for the Comrades Online Webinars starting again in January! For all the info head over to www.coachparry.com/comradesseminar

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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 brilliant to have you with us. Coming up on today's show, we're going to be touching base with a former race-walker turned runner, normally goes the other way around. But Mark Fontbin has done it that way around, and we'll chat to him a little bit about what he's training for, what he's working towards. Got some great questions as well. So make sure you stick around for that. Lindsey joins us once again on today's podcast.  Well we head to Joburg today to catch up with another one of our members of our online community, Mark. Mark, welcome on to RUN with Coach Parry.

MARK
Great to be here.

 

Mark's running background and goals

 

BRAD
Mark, it's good to have you on, you are very active in our forums. You've got tons of questions, you keep the coaches on their toes. And that's what we love. Before we get into your questions and Lindsey's feedback on your training questionnaire, tell me a bit about your running background. How long have you been running? How did you how did you get into it?

MARK
Okay, I've actually only been running as such since about April 2016. Prior to that, I was race walking about five years. Not when usual progression but I had some knee injuries at school and so I thought would be best to do walking to restrict the damage on my knees. As I've gotten stronger quads, it's meant that I've been able to switch up to running.

BRAD
Brilliant, and some of the goals? I mean, obviously, you talk about the race walking, but the switching to running, what are some of the goals? What have you been able to achieve? What are you working towards?

MARK
Okay, so my goal this coming year is the Comrades. It's just over a year that I did my first marathon, which was Soweto. And so I finished that in 4:49. This year I improved that by about 40 minutes. I grew up in Natal, in [***4:35] so the whole town would come up to a stop and watch Comrades. So it's always been part of my life. And yeah, now I realize that I've actually got a chance to do it.

 

Lindsey's initial thoughts

 

BRAD
I love it, guys in KZN, I mean by birth, you get sucked into doing the race. It's amazing. I'm going to hand you over to Lindsey now. Lindsey's got your training questionnaire with a bit of your sort of times and running background. Lindsey, your initial thoughts on Mark's pedigree, is probably the best way to do it, looking at his times, what do you see?

LINDSEY
Yeah, so look, the first thing that does pop out to me is that it's really been a sensible approach. So whatever the reason, the rugby injury, sore knees, or the concern about damaging your knees, really what you've done is go about it in a really systematic, progressive way. And that really shows in your times. So if we look at your 5, 10, 21 and marathon times, and the five K is slightly the outlier, because it's at sea level. But when I do a sea level altitude estimation, then actually your 5, your 10, your half and your marathon time, they line up pretty well. And that tells us that as you improve, you're going to improve across the spectrum.

So essentially, everything lines up really nicely. It tells us that based on your kind of speed ability right now, not saying that it can't be improved, but where it lies right now you're converting quite nicely to the marathon distance. And that also in turn means that your target time for Comrades is absolutely realistic. And I think going forward with the approach that you're taking, and because the, let's say, the balance of your training is you've got the balance, right.

So therefore, you should improve a bit on the fast end and you will definitely improve a lot on the top end. So you know, by the time you get around to Comrades, I think that your target goal would probably be closer to 10-10:15 rather than 10:15-10:30, which is right now, the 10:20 to 10:30 is the appropriate goal. But yeah, I think you'll be able to reassess that come March, April, and potentially be looking at going closer to 10.

Yeah, so you did send through a whole list of of questions. So you may have some new ones or whatever, but I think the format lends itself well to you, even though I've got the question in front of me, if you just kind of go through your list, and if you've got any more you can just add them at the end.

 

What is the difference between a tempo run and a time trial?

 

MARK
First one, is looking through the training for next year. The difference between a tempo run and a time trial?

LINDSEY
So time trial is almost like a race. So think for all intents and purposes, it's a race. You're trying to run a given distance in the fastest possible time, be at a 5 K or a 10 K, sorry 8k is normally the more standard distance for time trial, but it's as hard as you can. Whereas a tempo run can be, the best way for me to describe a tempo run to people, is to say it's a little bit slower than your half marathon race pace. And those tempo runs tend to be either in intervals or maximum hour and a half type of session. So that's kind of your range, you can split them up a little bit. But the longest you'll do a tempo run is around about an hour and a half. It's a fraction slower than your half marathon pace. So there's quite a big difference in intensity between your tempo and your time trial.

 

Drinking to thirst and staying hydrated

 

MARK
Okay. All right. Then some comments about drinking to thirst that you recommended. About a year ago, when I started running these races I would start drinking water, alternate with water and coke, a gulp at pretty much every stop. The last two races, which is Soweto and Tough One actually reduced that by maybe 30%. And generally felt okay, had a slight injury with Soweto so I slowed down towards the end. But with the Tough One, around about the 28 k mark, I don't know, I just lost focus. And I was like, you know, why the heck am I on the road today, I could be somewhere else and I can't believe there's still that stupid [***10:50], and, you know, I don't know if that's a sign of dehydration, or purely I need to up my mental game.

LINDSEY
So look, it's probably not dehydration, but it certainly does sound like a bit of an energy dip there. So I mean, how, how thirsty, were you feeling through that? I mean, it was unbelievably hot that day. So I would imagine in those conditions that your hydration requirement would increase slightly, even self reported. So I'm just interested to know, like, how thirsty did you feel, in the last 10k's of that race?

MARK
I didn't feel particularly thirsty. I've made it a point to do a fair proportion of my long runs later in the day, so that I get used to running in hotter conditions.

LINDSEY
So look, that is a good tactic, but even if you're used to it, that doesn't, typically preclude you from getting thirsty. For me, it just sounds like you've probably gone just a little bit over to the other side of the fence, and that you, not necessarily need more water, but you certainly do need a little bit more energy. And that's typically we taking in the form of energy drinks. So for me, I don't outright skip a lot of tables. And it's not a thing that's easy to calculate while you're moving.

But I do find that if you have kind of half a sachet of water or energy drink at every water station, you probably come out with around about 300 mls, maybe a little bit less, maybe a little bit more, but you kind of safely around about 300 mls of fluid, which is never going to be too much. It might be too little in extreme conditions. But again, as I said, then I typically do feel thirsty, and then I know I need to do a little bit more.

So I like the way that you normally do it, which is to say that a mouthful of water or coke at every station is not a lot of fluid. And I think that way, you're probably getting quite close to getting enough energy in, but this definitely to me feels more like you were tired and low energy. And you know, if you do get a blood sugar dip, remember that our brain fuels off glucose. So if your blood sugar drops, then you will get confused, disorientated, because your brain isn't getting quite the amount carbohydrates that it would be like to be getting.

MARK
Alright.

LINDSEY
Cool, what's the next one?

 

Running solo vs running in a group

 

MARK
Okay, I do most of my training runs solo. Probably 90% of my runs are like that. Once I started running with a couple people, but then it was always difficult to judge my pace, because they might want to run faster, or slower, and maybe not go as far as I wanted to, or whatever. So I've generally been doing a lot of solo running these days. Should I be running more with a group of runners? What do I lose out by doing mainlly solo runs.

LINDSEY
I mean, you do only really lose out on the social aspects, to be honest with you. If you enjoy running on your own, you literally can control all the variables yourself. So there are many advantages to training on your own. Obviously, the kind of social impacts of running with other people, that can be quite positive, but also just knowing when we get into winter up here on the high veld, and particularly if you need to train early in the morning, it can be a lot easier to meet people in that than to get up and have to do it on your own.

As you get better and better, and perhaps you start looking at running very fast fives and 10s and 20 ones, it can be beneficial to have a group where you do your speed work and hills and that type of thing together so you can push each other. You know, if you're happier running on your own, you then control everything. It really is a good way of training. So no, if you don't get lonely doing it, I say you're absolutely fine.

 

Running the same route vs changing it up

 

MARK
Okay. Alright. Yeah, and then training routes, is it advantageous to run the same routes over and over? I like to pick my own route, change it up, wander down a new road, maybe explore and get a little bit lost. That's one way I keep engaging with the run.

LINDSEY
No, it's not better at all. I mean, to be honest, to me, there isn't a right or wrong in regards to that. I can tell you that the one advantage that you will have by doing it the way that you're doing it, is that you don't excessively load any particular muscle group. Now my training partner moved to the UK after we'd been running together for about 10 years, but we had one route that we ran every Wednesday come hell or high water, and that finished up Grosvenor. And over the years, when I look back now, and we've had the discussion a few times since he's been gone, we both suffered from similar niggles, same sort of place on inside of the knee and in the glute. Now that he's not here and I don't drive out there to run that route with him anymore, I haven't had those little niggles at all.

So the one advantage is that you're not going to overload by repeating the same route over and over. And that to me would be a big advantage. And look on the downside, I guess some people say you can't compare your your progress. But quite frankly, of course you can, you're going to do enough time trials, races, and so on. Sorry and the other big advantage is it doesn't leave you in a position where you kind of run that same route over and over, and are comparing it competitively. So in other words, you artificially increasing your pace, because you want to run faster this week than last week for an example. So that's the other big advantage you've got. You're not losing anything by running a whole lot of different routes. Again, same as the previous answer, I think mostly you are gaining.

 

Switching around your long runs

 

MARK
Great. Looking ahead for the bulk of the long runs, weekends. That's generally the longer run on the Saturday and a slightly shorter run on Sundays. I've got a lot of errands to run on Saturdays. So usually, I prefer to do the longer run on the Sunday. So in terms of quality?

LINDSEY
You lose nothing. So that is an absolute personal bias from me in that I've just found it easier to do long runs on a Saturday. It's easier to get someone in to watch the kids etc, etc. So that is literally a personal bias. So you can absolutely swap those around. The most important thing to remember is that a long run is really just, it's a very easy training, right? So the long runs shouldn't take very much out of us. And that is precisely why it is easy to swap the Saturday or Sunday around. And so if you run Easy enough, on Sunday morning, by Monday, you should be fairly well recovered from that long run. And certainly by Tuesday, you should be absolutely recovered from the long run. Otherwise, you're just running it too hard.

 

Training on hilly terrain

 

MARK
Okay. On the weekend long runs, I stay in a fairly hilly part of Joburg, typically I've got five to 600 metres of elevation in a 25 K run. Is that too hilly?

LINDSEY
It's a difficult thing to avoid living in most parts of Johannesburg. So again, for me, the emphasis isn't so much on avoiding the hills, the emphasis is just on making sure that you run the hills easy. You don't want to be pushing yourself up 500 metres of elevation every time you going out on a long run. The advantages of having those hills and running lots of hills far outweigh if you lived in Dubai, or out in the east of Johannesburg, where they have very few hills, the advantages of getting strong and running those hills and getting essentially really well prepared for Comrades for outweigh the negatives. But you've just got to be mindful of the fact that 500 metres of elevation is a lot. So then you don't want to be racing those hills. You just really want to take your time and run them easy.

MARK
I have noticed the progression, when I started I would get 20 metres up in the hill and then would be down to a walk by the end. Then these days, some of those hills I can go into a lower gear and carry on chugging up if it's not too steep.

LINDSEY
Yeah, so that's what you want to do. One thing that I meant to say right at the beginning of the call, when I first looked at your questionnaire but I forgot, but it's definitely worth mentioning that the other huge advantage you've got coming off a sort of semi competitive walking background is that in Comrades, in particular, we need to do a lot of walking. And so because you are probably quite an efficient walker, you want to use that as a strength. So the walking for you in particular, but for all of us isn't really about a rest per se.

So we're not dawdling and getting our breath back, all we're doing is giving the muscles a bit of a rest by utilising them in a different way. And because you come from the walking background it means that when you do walk, you're really not going to lose a lot of time. So one of the things people worry about when they walk too much is that they lose a lot of time, well no, because you're supposed to be doing a brisk walk. Typically in the kilometre where you walk, it doesn't even cost you 10 seconds and in your case it will cost even less. So keep that in the back of your mind, that when you are going up hills, doing a little bit of walking on those hills is going to have really positive energy saving, muscle saving, but you're not going to lose that much time by doing a part of that hill in a brisk walk.

MARK
I've found in the past, it's quite a confidence booster. When I'm walking up some hills and I'm passing a lot of guys who are sort of trying to run even.

LINDSEY
Exactly.

MARK
I like the point about it engaging different muscles because the one race that penciled in next year, which I'm a little bit worried about is actually the Vaal. Because it's just so flat, it becomes incredibly repetitive.

LINDSEY
Yeah, and walking will be an excellent way of breaking that up a little bit. And again, with you being able to walk pretty fast, I would say if you chucked in like a one minute walk break every five to six k's, that will go a long way to meaning that when you get into the last five to seven K's at Vaal, that sort of discomfort that you're talking about from doing the same thing over and over and over, will not be nearly as prevalent.

 

How frequently should you be going to a physiotherapist?

 

MARK
Okay, great. And then another question about just keeping everything toned and in good shape during training. I'm going to physiotherapy, getting anything sorted out, how frequently would you recommend that? Or just when you feel that there's a problem?

LINDSEY
No. So look, I go for weekly massages when I'm training hard, and I encourage my athletes to go once a week, but obviously that's not always financially practical for everybody. I would say you want to get an actual massage as often is practical. I'd certainly encourage people to aim for at least once a month, but yeah, if you can go weekly, that's fabulous.

Physio becomes more of a when there's an actual issue. But again, for me, that's the other advantage of the weekly messages, often the massage therapist tells me 'Listen, this is something that I'm not really going to be able get out you need to go and see a physio', so they also can help you see things arrive before they actually become a problem.

MARK
Right. Okay, it's a tactic I'm thinking of to keep myself injury free during training.

LINDSEY
Yeah, absolutely.

MARK
Yeah, I think that's basically all the questions that I had written down.

BRAD
Brilliant. Mark, some great questions there. Absolutely. I had a quiet chuckle to myself when you were talking about it's a great confidence booster when you passing people when you walking up the hill and they're running - it's a great confidence booster for you not so much for the guys you're passing up the hill. That's for sure. And I have the same because I'm six foot forever so I've got really long legs and I can walk really fast. I have the same thing. I think I can walk up a hill faster than I can run it. So yeah, I definitely get you. Mark, we love having you in the forums. You ask such great questions. And I think everyone who's in there gets great value out of the questions that you're asking. So yeah, thanks for your input in there. We really love having you around.

MARK
Okay, thanks very much. I'm getting a lot of benefits and yeah, looking forward to a nice relaxed Christmas period, and then guns blazing next year.

BRAD
Yeah, absolutely. I think that it's going to be a great year. Best of luck, you know where to find us. We look forward to sort of following your progress up to Vaal and obviously beyond to Comrades and let you get that medal. I think it's going to be an exciting build up and, like you say, something that has been sort of in the back of your mind for a long, long time. Let's make the dream come true. It's going to be amazing.

LINDSEY
Awesome chatting.

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