From Dusi to Comrades – We help Matthew Tatham put a plan together to conquer Comrades

From Dusi to Comrades – We help Matthew Tatham put a plan together to conquer Comrades

On today's podcast Brad and Coach Markus help Matthew Tatham put a plan in place to transition from Dusi Canoe Marathon training to taking on the Comrades Marathon.

We also announce this week's #BiogenJourney winner and have some feedback from previous guest on the podcast Trevor Smith.

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Transcription

 

BRAD
Welcome on to this edition of RUN with Coach Parry. I'm Brad Brown. It's good to be with you. Today on the podcast we catch up with one of the members of the Coach Parry Online Training Club, Matthew take them who's training for Comrades this year, and we put a plan together with him to help him to the start line and beyond Comrades this year. So that's all coming up on today's podcast. We head to Howick just north of Pietermaritzburg to catch up with our next guest today, Matthew Tatham. Matthew, welcome on to RUN with Coach Parry, thanks for joining us.

MATTHEW
Yeah, thanks very much for having me, Brad.

BRAD
I love these chats, it's probably the highlight of my week because I get to chat to people who are my tribe essentially. I love doing these things, we've got our running coach Markus van Niekerk with us once again as well. Markus, how's it?

MARKUS
Hey Brad, thank you so much for having me. I'm good thanks.

 

Matthew's running background

 

BRAD
Awesome. Great to hear. Matt, before we get into hooking you up with Markus to help with your goals, tell me a bit about you, beautiful part of the world so for those who run Comrades you all know Howick well because on the down run, the H batch, that's what the H stands for, you actually start in Howick, that's why it takes so long to get over the start line. I'm actually only joking for the novices. You don't start in Howick, before you start panicking. Tell us little bit about your running background. How did you get into the sport?

MATTHEW
Well I've enjoyed running and endurance sports for a long time. Since school I've been paddling and doing Dusi and that kind of thing. And then running's sort of been in the family for a long time. Mu uncle's got a double green Comrades. My old man's got like six or seven, brother in law's done a couple. So it sort of just time for me to get involved and keep going. So yeah, I've always enjoyed it.

I was listening to one of your podcasts with one of the Aussie guys the other day and I think I've got the same mentality as him. He only gets better when the race gets longer and all the other guys pull out. So that's where the endurance side of things is has come from. Yeah, always enjoyed running. It's been one of those things that I can go out and do relatively well. I'm not challenging for places or anything, but you can have a good time doing it and just relax and meet people and have fun.

BRAD
Yeah, you talk about the family history with Comrades but also living where you live, even though it's not on the Comrades route, I mean, comrades is a massive part of culture in KZN. I don't think there's anybody in KwaZulu-Natal, who hasn't run Comrades or knows someone who's run Comrades.

MATTHEW
Absolutely. As laaities, you grew up knowing about Comrades. You would go to school and, as you said, someone's dad or someone's brother or someone's mom was running. You just know all about it and you know that come June the streets are going to be chaos. If it's an up run, don't even bother going anywhere because there's just runners everywhere. You sort of buy into it, you might not have anything to do with it, might for one year not know too many people doing it but off you go out there, you take your cooler box and chairs and you watch and you cheer guys on as they come past.

BRAD
You can't help but be inspired by it. You mentioned the Dusi as well. For people who don't know I mean, I think South Africans are probably aware of what the Dusi is, but we've got quite a big international listenership as well. The Dusi's a canoe marathon which is basically the Comrades route but the river that runs through the valley of 1000 Hills, the Msunduzi River I think it is and it ends in the estuary just north of the Moses Mabhida Stadium. It washes out basically into the sea. It's a three day event if I recall correctly and there's quite a few portages too. So there's some running involved where you end up carrying your canoe. How many of those have you done, Matt?

MATTHEW
Yes, So now I've done 4 Dusi's. This year was the first one I've done in a K1. There's 120k's over three days and day one, as you say, there's a lot of running. It's just under 9K's of running with your boat on day one, and day two's a lot less, and then day three. If you choose to paddle the fun rapids or go over the top of Burma Road then you run a bit more. All in all, it's probably close to 15 K's of running with your boat on Dusi.

 

Building up to Comrades

 

BRAD
It's not easy, but it's one of those things too. I think with South Africans, I don't know if we've got a wire that's misfiring in our heads, something like that, that we want to do these sorts of events, but there's lots of them and I think Dusi's one, like Comrades, is on a lot of people's bucket list and it's definitely on mine. I've never paddled a boat in my life, but I think Dusi is something I want to do. So I might have to have words with you after this or at some other stage. But tell me about your build up to Comrades 2019, how you feeling? How're things going so far?

MATTHEW
So it's going nicely at the moment. I'm pretty confident, I've been following Lindsey's sub 10 hour training programme. Coming out of Dusi, I was a bit concerned. I've spent a lot of time focusing on paddling and far less on running then I felt that perhaps I should be for Comrades. So I finished Dusi and that's actually when I joined up with you guys. So that was the Comrades Roadmap or something. Then did a bit more reading and then joined up for the full thing, because I just felt that the time was running out.

Most guys, I think there's that saying 900 to 1200k's from January to race day, and I felt with Dusi being mid Feb, I've fallen short of that a bit. So I need to make sure that everything I do from now is quality and is perfect. You guys stand around a braai in South African and 15 of the 16 guys there will give you advice on how to finish Comrades. I just felt I needed to consolidate, bring everything back together and find out what was happening. So at the moment, I've been following it and I'm feeling pretty confident, a lot better than I was two weeks ago. So yeah, I'm excited.

BRAD
Yeah, I'm going to bring Markus in here too, because I think this is a great sort of starting point that we can go from. Obviously, Matt, you're coming into the sort of main window of Comrades training with a bit of an aerobic base, from the paddling so you might not have been running.So physically your body might not have been as sore as runners coming into it, but you had that fitness base coming in. So I think that's a big advantage. We often talk about cross training, Markus, how big an advantage has Matt got coming into the big January to Comrades window, having Dusi training under his belt, and then after Dusi picking up Comrades training?

 

Going from Dusi to Comrades

 

MARKUS
Thanks, Brad. So I think it's a good thing. I couldn't agree with you more with regards to the reference to the aerobic fitness that he has. What I definitely would do, in your case, Matt, is just to incorporate some gym work to make up for what you haven't been doing. Then obviously just following the programme. You mentioned something very interesting now and you couldn't have said it better. You know, 15 out of the 16 people standing around the braai is going to give you advice and that is super dangerous. If you're really unsure about what you've done, what you ought to do and how you're going to get to Comrades. You couldn't have said it better, just focus on one source of information and move on from there.

The fact that you're feeling way better now compared to two weeks ago. Once again, it tells us that you do have that aerobic fitness. You just need to keep on plugging away. Focus on what's on the programme. If that gets difficult, then you need to step back and say, listen, is this my year?. But from what I've heard, from what I've read on your online questionnaire, whether you're a big guy or not, the fact is, you're an active guy. That's what makes a difference. You came from being a professional couch potato to wanting to run Comrades with absolutely no history. I say let's see how the training goes and make a call from there but it's not the case. So get your info from our website. Read the comments in the forum, follow the programme. If you do have questions, pop them into the forum, but I've got hopes for you finishing the race, definitely.

BRAD
Yeah, absolutely. Then if I can just jump in and we'll get on to your questions, Matt, is Lindsey and I always talk about this being the case is like you say they are so many people who've run Comrades and and I think it's very much a South African, I don't want to call it a problem, but it is an issue because everyone's run Comrades, everyone's willing to give advice and it's a cool community. But the problem is you can't run a race like Comrades on consensus of getting buy in from 40 different coaches. And we always say it, we're not the only people who talk about Comrades and running Comrades. But if you're going to follow someone's advice, give yourself the best shot and follow that person's advice. If you've got any questions go to that person because they wrote the programme.

That's why we've built what we built at Coach Parry, to give people the opportunity to literally plug themselves directly into the matrix, whether it be Markus or Lindsey, because those are the guys that are actively involved in writing the programme. So you don't have to look at a programme and then go and ask you mate who ran Comrades in 1980 in a pair of tennis takkies, what he thinks of a two hour long run, because he's going to tell you in his day they used to walk barefoot in the snow to school and back before they were 10 so you should be running at least double that.

So that's why we've built what we've built is to give people like the average guy, like you, direct access to the coach. So you're in the right place in case you're wondering, we're glad you're with us. Let's get some of your challenges and give you the support that you need between now and race day. What are you struggling with? Let's hand it over to you. You've got some time with Markus, what can we help you with?

 

How do I pace my qualifying marathon and Comrades?

 

MATTHEW
Okay, great. Markus, my first question is how do I pace my Comrades and my qualifying marathon? So I'm going to do the Deloitte 42 in Durban, which is the weekend after this the 17th, and I understand the concept of go out easy and then try and run a negative or an equal split and that kind of thing. But for me being essentially brand new to marathon running. I've done one and that was really just to know if I could do it. What is easy? My training paces in this programme, I think it's easy or long runs are 5:50 to 6:25. Are those the easy paces that I should look to set out at or do I go slower? Or how does that equate to race pace?

MARKUS
Okay, so let's first confirm which programme are you on?

MATTHEW
I'm on the sub 10 hour Comrades.

MARKUS
Okay, and what is your marathon PB?

MATTHEW
4:18, it's the only marathon I've done. I did that in October last year. I went into that very much with the idea of all I want to do is get to the end, because it was a first marathon I ever ran and what I was most petrified of was running it and not doing it.

MARKUS
Okay, so look, if you want to do a sub 10 hour Comrades, you should be able to do a marathon in four hours. So if you do a marathon in four hours your goal pacing should be about 5:40 per kilometre. What's important is, is that if you start the race and it feels uncomfortable from the get go, just make peace with the fact that you have already qualified for Comrades and you just going to do it as a training run. Even if you do push a bit in the race.

Having so little experience, it could be very rewarding or it could be a big failure if you aim too high, shoot yourself in the foot in the process and you end up walking the last 12 kilometres, because that's not going to do much for your confidence either. So what I would suggest is get the idea of 'start slow, finish strong' out of your head and rather say, look if I want to do a 3:58 that's at 5:38 minutes per kilometre, that should be your pace. If you're not used to running at that pace, then probably you're going to find it quite difficult to get to that. Just out of interest, you said your easy running pace is what at the moment?

MATTHEW
It's between 5:55 and 6:25.

MARKUS
Okay, perfect, and how do you find those paces?

MATTHEW
Very, very easy. I was actually looking at my Garmin Connect beforehand and for example, on Sunday, I did it and I didn't get out of aerobics. I didn't go into anything anaerobic at all during that hour and a half.

MARKUS
So if you really want to try and get that sub 4, aim for anything between 5:38 and a 5:40 per kilometre pace, that is very important. So then the second part of your question is referring to your Comrades pacing. That we can just determine at a later stage, because you might surprise yourself and run a 3:50 come Sunday, or you might not be able to make it at all. So I don't want to get too excited too soon.

You can always play around on the Comrades Marathon app, it's got a pace calculator there. But even doing it now is going to be way too premature, rather wait for a month before the time, and then get really specific about it. If you're making major gains, that's awesome, then pop some questions into the forum, we can answer those for you. But for now, let's take baby steps.

Look, you're on the backfoot with regards to doing the Dusi. Moving on from there, we need to get you to do this marathon. If we can get you to do an ultra before the race, that'll be awesome. And slowly but surely set one goal of the other. And once we get to a month out from Comrades, and we see what your shape is like, you can do a time trial. From there one can calculate and say look, you should be able to do a marathon in let's say 3:45 and based on that you should be able to do a 9:45 Comrades. So then we can get way more specific.

 

How do I break up my race?

 

MATTHEW
Okay, and then, in terms of breaking your race up, is it a good idea to say for the marathon to go to halfway and then to the finish? Or do you sort of break it up into smaller increments and do say 10 K's or five K's? I noticed on one of the other podcasts, I think you're talking to one of the quicker guys, and he was saying he goes until 8k's and then decides whether or not he's got anything more. Is that a wise way for me to do it? Or rather just sort of say, right, you've got to go between 5:40 and 5:38 and just try and cruise along at the same sort of speed there.

BRAD
Before Markus jumps in there, if I can just add the way I break it up. I break mine up into 7k segments. So for a half marathon, it would be 3x 7k segments. If it's a marathon, it's 6. I just find for me the math is easy to work out but Markus your take on it?

MARKUS
Whether it's five or seven, for me five will just have more time checks. Seven is a nice round number because it fits into it. But once again, taking your situation into account, I would stick to the average pacing. Look you're going to slow down slightly when it comes to uphills, you're going to pick some pace up when you go down hill. But for me the most important part is 8k's is quite a big number for a novice to start putting the hammer down.

What I would do though, because for me the magic number in a marathon is 36 to 38 kilometres, that's usually when people's wheels come off. If you're still feeling fresh between 36 and 38 then I believe that from 38 onwards you can go crazy. If you want to run yourself into the ground in so be it. The other thing that we also need to take into consideration is the harder you push in this marathon, the more it's going to affect your training the week post race. That's something that we can't really compromise on at the moment, coming from the fact that you've only really started focusing on running post Dusi.

Last year, I did some running and then I had to focus on mountain biking for the Cape Epic, and became a point where I couldn't do running at all, I just focused on cycling. And then after that took some time off. And then I basically said, Okay, that's me, I now have to start running. So I didn't do any races hard. And my hard sessions were also very limited. So it's more about getting the training done, getting the distance done, than just running yourself into the ground.

BRAD
I know this from hanging out with Lindsey as much as I do, at this stage in Comrades training, the difference between running, and I'm just talking about from a physical perspective, you could run 4:10 marathon, for example, and it could feel really easy and you feel great the week after and you can pick up your training as per normal. Or you can go and smash a sub 4 marathon as hard as you can but it's going to impact your training post marathon.

So that 10 minutes in my mind, at this stage, you want to go out of that marathon feeling confident, that you go 'you know what, I ran a 4:10 marathon, I could have easily, just feeling wise, gone under four hours'. You're going to get more benefit from a confidence perspective, knowing that you could have done it but you haven't damaged yourself, you can carry on training afterwards, as opposed to smashing it, going under four hours, being broken and you think to yourself, gee, I've got to go and do another one of those things plus a Parkrun afterwards. From a confidence perspective, in my mind at this stage in Comrades training is way more important than going under four hours for instance. I don't know if Markus agrees on that.

MARKUS
100%

 

Starting behind the green number batch. Is it an issue?

 

MATTHEW
Okay. Then the seeding, because obviously, the reason I was looking at 4 is because that puts you ahead of the green number batch, I think, as opposed to behind it. Is it not too big of an issue?

MARKUS
It's actually a good question and one that I don't really have an answer for. I've just found that running from Durban to Maritzburg, the starting pen is a slightly bit more tight for me, as opposed to the opposite. But it's something that I actually have to ask Lindsey about, because, look, the green runner numbers could be very fast runners or they could be people that are there just for the fact of being a green number runner. So it's actually something that I haven't really thought about in the past, it is a really valid question. What I'll do is I'll just chat to Lindsey about it and I'll get back to you on that one.

BRAD
If I can jump in because I was involved with the Comrades charity side of things too, so that obviously that C batching with the charity allows you to do that leap frog without actually running. So it's not just the green number club, you also have to factor those guys into it and a lot of them are like me who's never going to come close to running a sub 4 hour marathon. So there obviously is some impact where you are behind guys that are generally slower than what you would be. I don't think the impact is as big as people make it out to be.

Especially, like Markus says, on the up run, because you're coming out of Durban and the roads are a lot wider than Maritzburg and you wash out onto the highway pretty early on. So to get past those people is pretty simple. But I'm going to put a shameless plug in here because I was the brains behind it. You can also just raise yourself 6000 bucks for charity, one of the Comrades charities and then you can be in front of the green number club and that solves that problem and you don't have to then smash the marathon and kill yourself to try and get under four hours. So if you want to find out more about that comrades.com all the details are there.

 

The training runs feel too slow

 

MATTHEW
The funny thing is I'm already running for one of those charities anyway.I didn't even think about it. Okay, cool. As far as the speed on the training runs and things like that, I know a lot of guys have asked questions like this, and it sort of feels like it's quite slow. And I just think back to how I was training before I joined this forum. If you're not running as fast as you can, then I sort of felt that I was wasting my time. Is that one interval session a week, or every two weeks or something like that, is that enough to sort of help you build speed? Or do you not worry about speed too much, especially with Comrades? Or how do I check if I'm getting quick or if I'm actually getting slower and just more sustainable?

MARKUS
Okay, so just going back to that, so let's say we look back at this four hour marathon, and also in line with a 10 hour Comrades. Okay, so if I work on a four hour marathon, your training paces should be anything between 5:40 and 6:10. That's for your easy runs. Your long runs should be 5:40-6:20. And your recovery runs 6:10-6:30. Now, what's important is that if you don't have access to something like a power metre is that you use your heart rate as cross reference. So unless your heart rate is abnormally higher than normal or lower than you take 180 minus your age, and that should be your average after your easy or long runs. If you want the reference for recovery runs, it should be 175 minus your age. And that's a very, very good reference.

Just to put things into perspective, when I started training for my first Comrades, my heart rate was supposed to be 148 beats per minute, based on the 180 minus your age. So it was supposed to be 148 and I started off running at about 5:25/5:30 per kilometre at 152 beats a minute so it was actually four beats faster or higher than I should have been doing. But coming from the way I used to train to this concept that I was trying to do to experiment with, I just told myself I was not going to run any slower than that. So that was in October 2016 and I just kept on running and I followed that philosophy. And by the time Lindsey and I did our last run for Comrades, we comfortably ran at 4:40 per kilometre at about 142 beats a minute. So my heart rate had dropped by 10 beats, but my pace had dropped by about 40-45-50 seconds per kilometre.

So it was I always say engine first, speed second. On the day, it's more about covering the distance then doing it at a specific pace. Yes, your speed work will help you, the hill repeats are gold, so that you really need to stick to. Like we mentioned in another episode, hill work is a form of speed work and strength work combined. So that is really good for you. So don't ever underestimate the power of just running at the fastest pace, but still being aerobic. As soon as you go anaerobic, you're busy defying the purpose, don't go there.

MATTHEW
Okay. Then just in terms of mechanics, as you do that more and more, will you get faster and stay aerobic?

MARKUS
For sure. That's the whole thing. So by my heart rate coming down, back in the day in 2017, I mean, I was even more aerobic than I was when I started training, but my pace once again was about 40 to 50 seconds faster per kilometer. So that is the whole idea. That's the concept of developing that engine.

 

Adjusting the paces in the training programme

 

MATTHEW
Okay. Then sticking with those times for that 4 hour marathon. So I put it on the forum a while ago that I'm doing this Deloitte marathon now and asked Lindsey how I should manipulate the calendar because they had a training marathon I think this last weekend. So he told me which way to do it, should I change my long run speeds from 5:50-6:25 and bring them down to 5:40 and 6:10.

MARKUS
Good question. So what I would do is once again, I'd use the 180 minus my ages as a cross reference. Just another example, my mother in law is now almost 60 years of age, and she's been running for as long as she can remember. But she's been running incorrectly for as long as she can remember as well, because she had a pace what she perceived to be easy. And then one day after a few questions I discovered that the difference between her easy pace and her race pace is there's barely a difference. And that's the problem. That's why she also got sick often, because your mind thinks it's easy, but your body definitely doesn't. So, time and time again, you're beating your immune system. And before you know it, you're going to be sidelined. And that's what you also don't want, especially if you're working on a tight schedule, referring to time available from after Dusi until Comrades.

MATTHEW
Yeah, okay. No, that makes sense.

 

Matthew's thoughts on the Coach Parry Training Platform

 

BRAD
Awesome. Matt, we are unfortunately out of time. I know Markus needs to shoot but yeah, it's been amazing. Thank you so much for for joining us. And then just finally, I mean, obviously, you've been with us for a little while now on the Coach Parry Training Platform, your experience, what do you enjoy about it?

MATTHEW
Brad, to be honest, I think it's absolutely brilliant. What I've liked is, as I said, the sort of quality and to the point advice, and it's from guys that know what they're talking about. So you can just log on and you get everything in one place. I mean the strength training, the nutrition stuff, advice from the likes of Markus and Lindsey, and it's just I remember you saying in one of your earlier podcasts that it's your new go to on your social media and stuff and I've actually found that I started to do the same thing. First thing, wake up and check what's happening on the forums. I've absolutely loved it hey.

BRAD
I love it. Yeah, it's weird. I'm so over the rest of it. It's such a positive, cool environment. So yeah, Matt, we love having you in there. Keep the questions coming. You ask such great questions in the forum. And best of luck for Delloittes. It's a great marathon. And yeah, let's see how you go. Let us know how it goes. If you've got any questions in the build up to it, ask them and yeah, we look forward to seeing how you go at it. And then obviously in the rest of the build up to Comrades. Best of luck.

MATTHEW
Yeah, awesome. Thanks very much Brad. Thanks for your help, Markus, that was great, thank you.

MARKUS
It's a big pleasure and all the best and I'm super jealous of you living in Howick because it's one of the most beautiful areas in this country.

MATTHEW
It is awesome.

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