Caroline Wostmann went into the 2016 Comrades Marathon as the favourite. Rightly so having done the double in 2015, and having already retained her Old Mutual Two Oceans title. However Comrades is a totally different monster, it really comes down to the day. Looking so good for much of the race, Comrades had the final say. But not before Caroline fought on, like a true champion.
Welcome to this weeks edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition, I’m Mr. Active David Katz. We touched on it last week post-Comrades, what an amazing Comrades it was. What an incredibly tough Comrades it was specifically for our defending ladies champion Caroline Wostmann. But what a brave effort it was, absolutely incredible to see her in so much pain.
Little bit dehydrated, cramp coming in and she pushed on until she absolutely knew that Charne Bosman had finally caught her and was going to win. But to still come back and finish second was and incredible achievement. Caroline joins us now. She’s been with us before, but Caroline how did you fight through?
CW: You know it’s funny but when you in that sort of a situation you just, it wasn’t great because I was frustrated. Because my mind wanted to keep running and my cramps wouldn’t allow me to keep running. But it was never a question to me about quitting or giving up I knew I was going to finish the race one way or another.
When the mind says go, but the body says no
DK: Caroline that’s one thing I love about you. We’ve seen it the year you had in sort of 2015 winning Two Oceans going to win Comrades. This year already you retain the Two Oceans title, you were pretty close at Comrades.
But there’s this; this guts, this determination, this mental strength about you. Even though you were really struggling and you must have been in a world of pain that sort of pulled you through.
CW: You know I think that the mental strength has never really been the problem. I’ve been fortunate in the past that my body never really let me down like that.
So that was the most frustrating was when my mind wasn’t ready to give up but my body wasn’t allowing me to keep going. It was a very humbling sort of experience.
DK: Were you sort of with it the whole time or was your mind starting to take control. You weren’t really able to I mean your body in the end I don’t know how you kept going. You actually looked more comfortable when you were running than when you were walking.
CW: What was happening was I think I was still quite in control of what was going on. I knew that when I started cramping, I fell at one point when I tried to just override the cramps and keep running. I was worried that if the cramps got too bad and I fell again I wouldn’t be able to get up.
So whenever I felt cramps coming on I just forced myself to go back into a walk try and walk out the cramps. Then run as long as I could run before the next cramp came on.
Where Comrades 2016 went wrong for Caroline
DK: Caroline where do you think it went wrong on race day. I mean you were looking really good you seemed like you were set you had your plan. Then in that last sort of 20 odd 30 kilometres is when we finally saw you take an extra walk break that didn’t look like it was planned.
CW: I’m not exactly sure where it went wrong. I think before Fields Hill I started to feel a little bit discomfort in my legs. But I just attributed that to the fact that I had already run 60k’s. I didn’t take it too seriously. I just thought you know what of course you gonna be getting a little bit sore now. That’s normal and just keep going push through it.
It was only really probably with about 12/13k’s to go when I cramped so badly that I fell onto the floor; that I realised wait this is something that you can’t just keep running through. You can’t ignore it you need to change your strategy here a bit.
DK: One thing we noticed when the cramp set in and unfortunately with cramp once it sets in it’s very hard to sort of take a step back and stop it getting worse or just at the level it is. But you were really trying to get nutrition in.
You took in liquid when you can, you were using some of your 32Gi sports drink. Was that sort of running through your mind; maybe if you get a bit of nutrition in it’s gonna allow you to keep going and push through the cramp?
CW: Well look I knew the nutrition was important. I also missed a few of my bottles in the first part of the race which I didn’t think too much of at the time. But later on when I started cramping I started thinking maybe I didn’t get enough electrolytes in.
I didn’t get enough fluids in, in the early stages of the race. Although I probably can’t make up for that now, let me just get in as much as possible now. Hope for the best. But unfortunately I think it was just too late.
DK: Well Caroline you’ve had an amazing run in Comrades. The way you’ve built up and then going on to win it in 2015. But this years slogan is; it will humble you. Whether you at your level, or right at the back of the field, Comrades is such a long race. It’s such a long day. You could be in a perfect position but anything can go wrong.
CW: I think that’s what makes it so special hey. That’s why we love Comrades and we keep going back to it. Because it does humble you and anything can happen.
You can’t plan for everything. You go there to have an experience. Although it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, I did have an experience on race day.
Even Caroline needs a break from just running
DK: I think that’s the beauty of Comrades; whether it’s good or bad it’s an experience and you sort of learn from it. Talking about post-Comrades I know you sort of haven’t been lying back and recovering you’ve been on the bike a bit doing a bit of cross training.
CW: Yes so before Comrades I decided that I wanted to do the half IronMan, because it’s something that I can’t really do when I’m in my peak training. So I thought the perfect time to do it was during my down time after Comrades.
So I’m actually really fortunate now that I’ve got a bit of a distraction from my disappointment at Comrades. I’m getting to do a bit of cycling and swimming which is awesome. Cos I love the cycling and swimming as well.
DK: And as great as running is and you get into the rhythm and you sort of love running. With the amount of running that’s required to be running ultra-marathons it can get a bit monotonous and repetitive.
So especially after the last year and a half, two years that you’ve had; I think that break for you must almost be like a breath of fresh air. Something new something exciting.
CW: it is. I mean I’ll always love running. Running is definitely my favourite and I do miss it now. If I felt my body was ready to start running I would. But I think after what I put it through I just need to give it a bit of a break from, from the running for now. But also you know I love exercise in any form. I think it’s just nice to be able to do something else even when I can’t run.
DK: And sort of not just exercise. I mean you talk about just being active and maybe from a body perspective you need that break from running. But also probably a mental perspective. Yes you know we talked about being fun, exciting, new. I think that mental break to have a little bit of a reset. Is almost important for your mind as it is for your body.
CW: Yes most definitely. At the same time I still think that mentally it’s better to be active in one way or another. So whilst I agree to not run at the moment I think just doing some form of exercise and living a healthy lifestyle is always important for the mind.
Healthy lifestyle but still with a little sweetness
DK: Well very important for the mind. Talking about a healthy lifestyle. A lot of people will train, they’ll have their nutrition right, everything up to Comrades and then for the month or so afterwards till they start picking up again, that all goes out the equation.
But in terms of lifestyle I mean you can binge maybe a little bit. But generally because you running less as well, people need to remember that the more calories you putting in is not gonna be a good thing. But would you sort of propagate that keep that lifestyle trend going? Don’t just have a free for all after Comrades?
CW: You know I have two sorts of ideas in that I suppose it’s always important to remember what you are putting into your body and keep healthy. But at the same time you can’t live in such an extreme always. So when you are training very hard you tend to be very careful about what you are eating. What you drinking, you worried about absolutely everything.
Sometimes you just need to relax a little bit. If you really wanna have that cake have it you know. So I do think now is probably the time to just relax fully if you put on a few kilos you’ll leave them quickly when you start training again.
DK: Balance is key I’ve always loved the 80 sort of 20 principle. I think it works well. Depriving yourself of it is only gonna be sort of counter-productive. Caroline now as we stand you training for 70.3 in Durban it’s not too far away, what’s the rest of the year looking like for you?
Determined to be back and on top on 2017
CW: I actually haven’t thought about the rest of the year at all in terms of races. I think that I’m just going to make sure that my recovery is one hundred percent. Then I’ll discuss it with Lindsey and see what ideas he has. What he thinks that we should do to try and make sure that I can come back next year and reclaim my title.
DK: I love that determination once again that you have. That drive that sort of ambition. Just touching back on Comrades. There was a lot of talk about what time you’d go for; would you try to break a record, will you go sub 6. A lot of the journo’s were saying that was the big goal. In your mind sort of what was the plan what had you set out to do?
CW: I was in two minds about it because I didn’t really wanna put the pressure on myself of making announcements that I’d be going for the sub 6. But I knew deep down if I was gonna do something I wanted to do something better something great.
I knew it was also a risk, I mean you go for something that doesn’t get done often and you are putting yourself at risk to fail. But on race day I knew that I wanted to try and get that sub 6. That was my plan. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed this time. Maybe next time.
KPMG offer amazing support but also freedom
DK: Looking at the KPMG team I know you’ve almost had a well we going on sort of the whole year with them. You know what I love about the team is that it’s almost like a family, but you still allowed to do your individual thing. Having Colleen de Reuck out and you guys really seem to be such a close knit sort of group. Such a supportive club to the athletes aren’t they?
CW: Yes so fortunate to be part of that team. They really are the most supportive amazing people. Bringing Colleen out as well was just so special to have that sort of role model for me.
Somebody to talk to discuss training. she’s such an inspiration. Just in general I think we do have that whole family, family vibe going on. It’s just really fantastic to be part of that.
DK: Caroline lastly you know you’ve inspired 100’s maybe even 1000’s of woman to take up running over the last year or two or even three years. Your story is such incredible and people love following it. You know as much as everyone was happy for Charne Bosman to won this win this year, it was fantastic to see her realise that dream as well. You know people were a little bit upset for you. Because they have been following your story.
But if people were watching and they were thinking maybe I you know I will look at doing something like Comrades. Then they saw you sort of struggling a bit this year. What would you say to them about Comrades? Why even when you have a bad year like that, what would keep you coming back? Why should you do the race?
Why the Comrades Marathon remains so special
CW: I think that for anybody to go into Comrades thinking that it’s not going to be a challenge you’d be a little bit naïve. But that’s probably the reason why we do it. Because we want to challenge ourselves. We want to see that we can rise above our weaknesses and our doubts.
This year was particularly hard for me. But at the same time it meant so much more to me because taught me; that when I was struggling my most I was still able to keep moving and I was able to conquer that. So it really was very, very special for me.
Just with regards to Charne as well. I couldn’t have been happier for her to have that moment and that win. Because I remember how fantastic that was last year. It’s actually just so nice to be able to share that with somebody else. So I’m absolutely thrilled for her.
DK: I love that camaraderie and it came across from your side and her side which was so amazing to see. It’s just so great to sort of see the revival of woman’s ultra-running in South Africa. To have double champions again this year in the men’s and woman’s race was absolutely spectacular.
Caroline Wostmann thank you so much for joining us. We’ll be looking out for you, good luck at 70.3. From myself David Katz Mr Active, we’ll be back next week with 32Gi Sports Nutrition. But Caroline, good luck for 70.3 and enjoy the change of scenery.
CW: Great thank you so much David. It was great chatting to you.