Comrades Tips By - Nick Bester
Nick, what practical tips do you have for new Comrades runners, one day before the Comrades and also on race day?
It is very important that one does not make mistakes on race day. Don’t make any drastic changes. Stick to what has worked for you in the past.
Don’t start any new or additional training a week before the race. I stop doing any extreme speed workouts, thirteen days before any major race and also run much slower. Five weeks before the race my long runs are no longer than fifty kilometres. I decrease the distance of the long runs by 10 kilometres a week up to the last two weeks when I only run up to twenty kilometres for my longrun. Don’t try now and make up for not training enough in the weeks prior to Comrades.Eat a lot of carbohydrates and our favourite Future Life meal.
One’s power comes from the stomach. Ensure it is protected. Take probiotics regularly. Three to five days before race day, avoid energy drinks or food that one is not accustomed to. I know of some top athletes who take imodium on race day to cope with a runny tummy and who run without problems.
Running shoes are extremely important. It’s vital to train at least 100-150 kilometres in them to check that they do not chafe.
What do you do if nerves keep you awake?
A good sleep is absolutely essential. Two nights before the race is the most important . Don’t set an alarm. Since one is over excited one usually doesn’t sleep well the night before the race. However, this will not affect one’s performance provided one has slept well a few nights before the race. If one has difficulty sleeping consider a sleeping tablet.
How does one manage one’s anxiety?
It is normal to be nervous. If one is mentally prepared and has done sufficient training and hill work, one is ready for the race. Focus on being positive. Negative thoughts are stored in the brain very quickly. Repeat positive thoughts until they get stored in the brain. Mental power is crucial and will carry one throughout the race.
And if unforeseen cramps threaten to jeopardise one’s race?
I read an article recently about 30 Comrades facts. It said 48% of runners experience cramps during the race. There are many causes. Among them dehydration or an electrolyte deficiency, running very hard, or running a distance one’s, body isn’t used to. Accept that cramps will happen. Another cause could be too much sugar or carbs. Biogen`s Cramp Care will also help.
One’s body then pulls fluids to the stomach to dissolve the heavy concentration of sugar. Drink sufficient water to prevent the cramping.
How much water or fluid should one take?
It varies from runner to runner. The top guys take about 600ml to 650ml liquid per hour, but slower runners need less because they don’t sweat as much as the top guys. There are many excellent dehydration products on the market such as Biogen or Crampeze. One can also take potassium and sodium to ensure that one’s electrolytes are adequate.
Should runners still compete if they have a niggle?
It’s best to ensure that you stay injury free during training. If you feel a niggle stop running completely for a few days to avoid it becoming chronic. Once it develops into an injury it will take 6-8 weeks to recover. Get some physio and cold and hot treatment. One can also take an anti-inflammatory. Don’t run until it is gone. During the race continue running and work through it. You are there and you trained hard so just continue.
Is stretching advisable before the race?
Don’t stretch before a long race because one’s muscles are not warm. In the days leading up to the race one can stretch after training.
How does one pace oneself?
Running well is an art. Don’t run according to a wrist watch. Listen to your body so that you don’t damage any muscles. During the final twenty kilometre stretch you can try to increase your speed and achieve that silver or gold medal. In the beginning you must relax and talk to people. Don’t think about a time. You can realistically aim to complete the race by taking your best marathon time and multiplying it by two and then adding one and a half hours.
What is the most important factor that determines one’s performance during a long race such as the Comrades? I would say one’s mental toughness is the most important aspect of the race. No-one can teach you how to be mentally tough. I attribute my personal success to the fact that I trusted myself and believed that I could achieve my goal.
Do you have a mantra or visual strategy that carries you during the race?
I have had different mantras. Every race I choose a different image or word.
In one race I imagined myself to be a kamakaze pilot who was willing to die in order to reach my target. In another race I imagined myself being a strong ox if I ran uphill and an eagle on the downhills. I also visualise colours, for instance red to take away pain and blue to give me power. It gives me something to focus on. During the
100km world championships I divided the race into ten parts of ten kilometres each.
Each section represented a colour. In this way I was only running ten kilometres once in each colour. This helped me focus on each part and not become overwhelmed by the distance. Mind games are important when running such long distances.
Tips on recovery after the race?
Full recovery is very important. It takes one about three months to recover completely. I believe in active recovery supplemented with ample of Biogen Recovergen, vitamins, minerals . It is much better than passive recovery. If you do nothing you are going to take longer to recover than someone who is doing short walks or easy cycles a couple of days after the race. Every time one does something, one’s body pushes more blood through the vessels. In this way one gets oxygen to the muscle and recovers much quicker.
It is also much better to have cold showers or baths for the first three days after the race or after any injury or heavy workout. After that one can start heat treatment or saunas. When one does a long race such as Comrades, one gets small microscopic tears in one’s muscles. Cold showers help to stop the bleeding. Finally restore your body and eat food that includes good protein to build back muscle, carbohydrates to replenish energy stores and drink plenty of water.
Advice for post-race blues?
It is quite normal that for runners to experience post-race blues after achieving their goals. I usually start preparing for a duathlon and cycle to keep myself busy.