We help Andrew put a plan in place to run fast at the Soweto Marathon

We help Andrew put a plan in place to run fast at the Soweto Marathon

On this edition of RUN with Coach Parry we help Andrew Fehrsen put a plan in place to run a fast Soweto Half Marathon. As mentioned in the podcast, register for our upcoming Soweto Marathon webinars here. Whether you're running the 10km, 21km or 42km, let us help you achieve your goal.

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BRAD BROWN:  We are joined now by Andrew on Run. Andrew welcome onto the podcast and the coaching call with Coach Parry. Good of you to join us and thanks for taking the time to chat.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

BRAD BROWN:  Before we get into how we can help you achieve some of your goals towards the end of this year, tell us a little bit about your background from an athletic perspective. What sort of stuff have you done over time?


Andrew's background


ANDREW: I'm in my early to mid-thirties. I was a very strong swimmer when I was younger, I swam provincial and that was my focus for about 7 or 8 years. At 16 or 17 I decided that it wasn't a career option for me and I was going to stop. Then just the standard stuff at school. Doing swimming, athletics. Tried a bit of rugby, a bit of tennis, a bit of squash. Kind of did everything, water polo the likes.

And then after school not a whole bunch. Then met a lovely lady that I wanted to pursue and she was doing some mountain biking. So I got a mountain bike and did some of that. Then she entered Two Ocean half marathon so I decided I would do that. A couple of 10k's, a couple of 21's.

We actually got engaged 3 years later at Two Oceans, that weekend, and she said yes so that was awesome. So running has been a big help in my life.

Decided I wanted to try for Two Oceans Ultra. Decided 3 weeks out from Vaal Marathon that I can give it a smash and qualify. So upped from 15k a week to 50k the next week, then 70k the week after and developed shin splints and the likes. Got to the Vaal and decided to get a mate of mine who has done the Comrades Marathon and a whole bunch of stuff, to pace me through because I didn't have a watch on. Ran the first half, which is a double lap race, in a PB half marathon for me at that time.

He kept asking if I was fine and I kept saying that I was fine but got to 28k and then I wasn't fine. Made my way to the finish and decided I would never ever do a marathon again. Decided I would focus on my strengths which were swimming and cycling and I'd throw in some running and join the big group of the triathlon community.

I did a couple of sprint triathlons, a couple of Olympic distance triathlons and did my first 70.3 in East London. And then the next year my wife entered me for a full Ironman, which would be my next marathon after a little swim and a little cycle. So I gave that a bash and finished and hated that marathon as well. Also I focused on the swim and the cycle and not so much the run.

Since then I entered Ironman the next year. Did a lot of training, had a DNF, pulled off the bike. Had a medical incident 150k into the bike so I didn't finish that race and then decided no, this full Ironman, triathlon thing I need to give a break for a while. Nearly threw my bike into the ocean and then just took some time off.

I haven't been doing a lot of endurance stuff over time. I've ranked up pretty quickly. So go back to basics, focused on riding, focused on running. Decided this year to give the Cape Town Marathon a bash, so this year I've been building up towards that. The last year and a half I've been doing quite a few 21k. A lot of speed work for 10k's, that kind of stuff but now need to ramp up to more distance stuff.

BRAD BROWN:  Well Lindsey I'm going to let you jump in there. I'm sure you've got some questions for Andrew and I know Andrew has some questions for you but let's see if we can help him. I know he said he's running the Cape Town Marathon. But also, as a goal for a sub-90 minutes, the Soweto half marathon. So your thoughts on looking at Andrew's background and hearing that back story.


Lindsey's thoughts


COACH PARRY:  Yes, so if we look just purely at your running pedigree and we ignore the so far fairly horrid marathon experiences, your 5k is certainly relatively your best time. That tells us you have a lot of speed.

Coming from a swimming background though, you should have plenty of endurance or certainly capacity to build endurance. When we were talking off-air a little bit just now you mentioned that your pacing may also be an issue so we can chat about that a little bit just now. But just to give you an idea, based on that 5k, just out of interest, where did you run that 5k, that 19:25?

ANDREW: That was in Joburg.

COACH PARRY:  Was it a Parkrun or which time trial was that?

ANDREW: It was a route in the Wanderers area.

COACH PARRY:  Okay, so it's not flat. A couple of hills which is good. Because if it was on a fast and furious route I would say you would have your work cut out for Soweto but being on a bit of a lumpy course, 19:25 gives you 40:20 for 10k's. So you can already see you start to slide as early as 10k and your 21 potential sits at just sub-90 based on that 5k.

Assuming we don't get you any quicker at all over 5k, you should be right on the borderline of a sub-90. Your marathon time potential sits at about 3:10. So certainly, your goals are realistic and that is the first port of call.

Looking at the training program that you're currently following there's definitely not enough endurance stuff in there and there's plenty of hard in there. You're running your 8k's a week too hard. You certainly are stimulating your anaerobic. But your Saturday is also pretty short in terms of what you're training for. And then Sunday is probably just about good enough that you should be able to reach your potential at 10k. But the 15 to 20k as your long run, that's not going to give you enough endurance to reach your potential on a half marathon.

Of course you may still be incorporating some other cross training besides the Yoga in here that you haven't put on. I'm not sure if you've just put your running stuff on or if you are also still doing a bit of cycling, swimming, and all that sort of thing.

ANDREW: Yes, in the week I'm generally reaching probably 1 or 2 watt bike sessions as well and that's all short term, power based stuff.

COACH PARRY:  Again, that means you're incorporating for very high intensity sessions in your week. A little bit more than moderate, so sort of zone three and a half, let's call that threshold stuff. The first thing you do need to do is bring in a little more endurance into the week.

If time allows, I would probably change that Thursday run. You can still go and run down at the club if your competitive side can stop you from running the 8k hard, then you can still go down and run and I would probably build that up into more of a 12 to 15k if time allows.

ANDREW: On that, on a Thursday what I do is a 4k warm-up prior to the 8k, so that is currently sitting at 12. But you're saying so maybe taking that 4 and adding 12 to that, so 16k?

COACH PARRY:  No, I'm saying if you run the 4, then run the 8 a bit easier and then perhaps another 2 to 3k's after the 8, to cool down. Just to bump it up a little bit but not too much. Then over time I would build the Saturday run up to at least 15k's. I'd probably get it quite close to 20, so somewhere between 18 and 20. Then your Sunday run, for the half marathon, and to run a fast half, getting it up to about 25k's is probably sufficient. But for the marathon you're going to have to get it at least up to 30.

Now that doesn't mean you have to run 30k's every single weekend. Taking your history into account that's not what I would do. I would build it up pretty gradually over time. Essentially go up every second weekend. There isn't tons of time between now and Cape Town Marathon but I would go basically 22, 20, 25, 20, 27, 20, and 30. As long as you can get in at least one 30, that should give you the endurance that you need to get yourself through Cape Town. Provided you set yourself a realistic target for the day and that you pace yourself accordingly on the day.

BRAD BROWN:  No half marathon PB's through halfway Andrew.


Running slower


ANDREW: Yes. I think on the speed side of things for me, I think what I struggle with because I've always run at this pace in terms of Olympic distance, 70.3; it's kind of the same pace. I feel comfortable at that pace and I find running slower very tough. Mentally, physically, my cadence, my form feels like it is out of whack. Because I'm just not used to it I think.

COACH PARRY:  Yes that may well be the case but you have to get used to it. Especially if you're going to run 42's. And that's perhaps also why you, even in the Ironman, it's because training for Ironman, you said you focused on the swimming and the cycling but you would have done plenty of cycling, so the endurance shouldn't really have been an issue for the run either. But again, you have to teach yourself to run at that slower speed because in the marathon you are going to be running slower.

To be honest, those long runs, that Sunday long run, it should be even slower than your planned marathon pace. I'll give you a good idea, based on your 5k, your endurance workouts should be run at between four-and-a-half-minutes a k and five-ten. Around there. Let's call it 4:40 to 5:00 per k, is actually where you should be running.

Some of this probably comes from your swimming background because although swimming is quite a heavily based endurance sport, you do a lot of repetitions with rest in between. You will need a longer rest for the very fast repetitions and shorter rests for the not so fast. But you very seldom, besides when you're cooling down, swim very, very slowly. You've also kind of gotten used to revving your engine high. But you do have to force yourself in the short term to do that. And perhaps in the first couple of weeks you may even feel like you're going backwards a little bit but it will turn around. And 6 to 8 weeks down the line you will be feeling a whole lot better and I think you've got just about 12 weeks.

Those are the changes that I would incorporate. And I would keep those watt bike sessions there because they do help you to rev your engine and with your dodgy ankle which we haven't spoken about, I know you are doing things to address it. But if you started to do a very formal type of speed work, intervals, then you would risk irritating that ankle so I quite like the one hard time trial a week. The rest, bring the intensity down and then by klapping those watt bikes, you're still going to be getting plenty of stimulation for your anaerobics.


How to approach your time trials


ANDREW: Lindsey, on that hard TT once a week, is that a flat out effort? At the moment I'm warming up to a 3k and then when the announcer says go, I'm flat out from the start to the finish.

COACH PARRY:  That's absolutely fine. That's how I do it. When you do intervals you may even run slightly harder than that effort but obviously with breaks. I'm quite happy with a 5 to 8k pretty much as hard as you can. So when you do Pirates for example, in August I think they moved it to, and then I wouldn't hammer the time. I would run those 2 easy and Pirates would then become your hard training power.

ANDREW: Yes, okay.

COACH PARRY:  And that is a toughish route but I like the way that it's set up. A lot of reward in the second half. The goal there would be to see how close you can get to that 40 and 20 seconds or even under 40 seconds. If you get that under 40 seconds then suddenly you start getting a bit of a buffer on that sub-90. You're not on the edge and it would be nice to get yourself into that sort of shape. Out of interest, what's your best time over the 8k? Which time trial is that which you run?

ANDREW: I'm currently running RAC on Tuesdays and Wanderers on Thursdays. My PB at RAC I think is a 31, 31 and a half. No sorry, it's a 32 and a half. I haven't gone under 32.

COACH PARRY:  Look that is a tough time trial. So again, your 5k is still a lot better and that puts you on a 1:31:19. But I think that if you carry on running that time trial hard and then you allow your aerobic capacity to build up, that you will get yourself up 32 minutes which is where you're aiming for. If you get yourself under 32 minutes, then you're looking at not a comfortable half. But certainly then it starts to look feasible on what is a tough route and it's also hot. In fact the heat is probably going to be the toughest thing to deal with come Soweto. So you're also going to have to keep yourself wet and keep yourself cool on the road.

ANDREW: Fortunately I have done Soweto before so I do know the conditions. Lindsey, another thing that I struggle with in my running in terms of pacing and speed. I excel on uphills and I struggle to maintain or pick up speed down. I'm 189cm tall, just over 6ft 3 and currently weighing 83 kilos. My knees, hips, ankles on downhills really hurt if I push hard, but I'm strong uphill. I gain a lot of position and a lot of time uphill, especially at time trials and stuff.

COACH PARRY:  On the downhill, one of the ways that you can look to improve your speed and to reduce the pain or the discomfort that you feel, is to shorten your stride and to really focus on jacking up your cadence. It may always remain a relative weakness, exactly the same as me. It will always remain a weakness but by really just shortening that stride and getting a proper big turnover and not leaning back. Actually, lean into the hill. Get your feet underneath the centre of mass. It feels just about like you're getting to the point of spinning out.

ANDREW: Okay. I think my tendency, having long legs, I think I have like an 83cm in seam, is to open my stride. I'm still maintaining a 180 cadence downhill but my uphill’s are 174, 175 so that's not much of a difference.

COACH PARRY:  No, so shorten that up and then on the flats you want to then use that stride of yours and then go for it. High cadence and then high stride.


Putting together a nutrition strategy


ANDREW: Lindsey, then one thing in terms of training and efforts and that kind of stuff, something that I haven't really focused on in the run is nutrition through a race. 10k, I'll have a couple of sachets of water mostly just to wet my mouth but 10k I can go through, no issue. But 21, I feel like to maintain that kind of effort and intensity, I need to be putting stuff in but I don't know where and what. Obviously in Ironman I did it.

COACH PARRY:  In a 21, you really shouldn't need more than a gel or its equivalent. Be that a glass of coke. Particularly going at an hour and a half. We've got enough, or you should have enough stores, to get us through an hour and a half of moderate intensity. So at the high intensity that you are going to be running to get yourself under 90 minutes, it probably means that you've got enough to get you through an hour, to possibly an hour ten. And if you literally topped up with a gel that should get you across the finish ok.

Part of the difficulty when you're running at that intensity is, it isn't that easy to get that stuff in. You perhaps want to do it in the odd, even though you don't need it at the time trial; you do it in the time trial just to get used to using gel. And I always use a gel because it is the easiest to get down. I know there's a wide range of products but you want to get one that's fairly fluid. You don't want the thick, chewy ones. And then a bit of water and then that should get you through.

Marathon, you're looking at 2 to 3 gels that you will need. Again, being on the sharper end of the field you don't need more than that. You won't run out. If you get down 3 gels, effectively at 10, 20 and 30, or probably better to do 12, 24, 36, you shouldn't run out of energy.

ANDREW: Okay. And in terms of pre-race prep for Soweto specifically in terms of nutrition and hydration.

COACH PARRY:  If you can get in a fair meal 2 to 3 hours before, that's great. If you can't, then I would look to something like a meal replacement or even like a recovery type of drink that you would then have maybe an hour or 30 minutes before. But the closer to the race you have it; the smaller that volume must be because you don't want it to be sitting in your stomach.

Then for Soweto you've got to wake up early anyway so that probably lends itself well to having a reasonable breakfast. Something that you're used to eating. That's the key. Be it oats or cereal or toast. Whatever you normally eat and if you have that about 2 hours before you'll start in a good state and if not, then I would mix something up, drink it in the car slowly as you're driving.

BRAD BROWN:  Cool. Awesome stuff Andrew. Thank you so much for joining us today. We're unfortunately out of time. We hope that helps and let's hope that you smash that sub-90 at Soweto. It should be a goodie. We'll be there to pick up the pieces afterwards so go as hard as you can.

ANDREW: That's hoping my legs are still together after Cape Town.

BRAD BROWN:  No 21 PB through halfway Andrew.


Recovery between marathons


COACH PARRY:  As a parting shot I would just take 10 days off. Very little running after that then you should have recovered. And then take 10 days to build back up and then you can train. If you do that, the endurance that you get from the marathon will serve you really well.

ANDREW: So then between Cape Town and Soweto should I focus on speed work more coming off that endurance base?

COACH PARRY:  I would drop the volume slightly. So instead of doing those 30k runs, hit like between 24 and 26k. And if you've gotten through and everything feels good, that would probably be the time to risk maybe doing some more formal speed work like 1k with 400 repeats or 2 minutes and 3 minutes. In fact, even though you are strong at hills, what I would probably do is to do some hill repeats to get you properly strong to maintain the pace on the hills at Soweto.

ANDREW: Okay, perfect. And one last question. I know we're out of time. In terms of Cape Town, what would you say a realistic goal for me would be?

COACH PARRY:  Your potential sits as I said, at 3:10. But looking at your time trial too, I would say you're probably better off aiming for between 3:15 and 3:20.

ANDREW: So I'd say my A goal is 3:15 and the B goal is 3:30.

COACH PARRY:  Okay. I would set out, look, it's a pretty flat race so set out your average time you need to be at about 3:17 and that's what I would start at. And after 10k's you can assess just how good you are feeling and then you can start working towards getting closer to 3:15. Or, I'm happy with the pace I'm running and maintain that and see again how you feel on the last 10k.

A: Okay, good.

BRAD BROWN:  And your plan C could be to come hang out in the sub-5 hour bus with us.

ANDREW: I think that's one of my itches, if I'm doing a race I want to get there as quickly as possible. I don't want to be out there for any amount longer than I need to be.

BRAD BROWN:  We take in the sights and sounds of Cape Town Andrew.  Come and have fun with us at the back.

Awesome, thank you so much for your time bud.

ANDREW: Great, thank you so much guys.

BRAD BROWN:  I hope that helps.

ANDREW: Yes, it was awesome. Very insightful. I appreciate your time Lindsey.

COACH PARRY:  Pleasure.


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