Comrades contenders – how the team managers see it

Comrades contenders – how the team managers see it

The 2016 Comrades Marathon has arrived. It is not only one of the biggest endurance races in South Africa, but arguable the world. On today’s episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition we look towards this epic event. Hear from three of the leading team managers; about the race, and the importance of nutrition.



Welcome to this week’s edition of 32Gi Sports Nutrition. I’m Mr. Active David Katz and it is Thursday. It is the Thursday before the 2016 Comrades Marathon. We’ve been doing a little bit of a build up here on 32Gi Sports Nutrition some great information. If you haven’t seen it tapering probably a little bit late to be worrying about that. We’ve got a fantastic podcast I did with Mark Wolff about night before and race day which it’s not too late to go and have a listen to that if you want.

Expo is starting today people are starting to register the excitement is building for Sunday. Talking about the excitement and talking about the sort of top end of the race, whose gonna be coming out on top Sunday. It’s always up in the air.

It’s such a long race anyone can win we spoke to our defending Down run champion Bongmusa Mthembu recently and it’s now a great pleasure to welcome on 32Gi Sports Nutrition Arthur Ford team manager, Martin Ngwenya. Martin thank you for joining us.

MN: Thank you so much David.

DK: Well Martin coming to us on Skype from KZN, race week is here race day is coming up are your guys ready?

MN: Yes, as a manager at times like this, you get stressed. But I think my runners are ready.

Is Bongmusa in the shape to defend his Down title?

DK: Now we had that chat with Bongmusa a couple of weeks ago, he’s confident but he knows the luck of the draw. He knows what the race is like anything can happen on race day, how is he specifically looking?

MN: At the moment he’s looking good everything went well. He was training then up in the Underberg; actually when we started the training camp in October, he was in a little bit of a problems.

But now everything is looking good his fit I think he’s ready for the race. Not talking about Bongmusa only, all the guys that are there in the camp with him I think are ready.

DK: Well talk us through some of your other contenders in the Arthur Ford team.

MN: We’ve got Bongmusa first whose the defending champion. We’ve got Tuso who came 10th last year, and we’ve got Luzuko whose very, very promising. But now he’s in a good shape I think this year he’s gonna give good results, and we also got Mandla whose also, not having a good start he’s a silver medallist. He’s on good shape at the moment but we’ll see on Sunday what will happen.

How do you handle nutrition within the squad?

DK: Now Martin it’s always difficult every run especially at this distance as an individual. When it comes to nutrition sort of what they’re taking in what sort of guidance do you as a team manager give the overall squad?

MN: You know David, at the moment it’s been a pleasure to us because we’ve been with the 32Gi for the past, I would say from 2009 for the past eight years I think. They’ve been so good to us and we’ve been using 32Gi that’s the only supplement that we are using at the moment we not using anything.

It’s been good for us and all of our guys, have been tested and, nothing happened went wrong. So we don’t see anything to change the product and Mark Wolff has been very great to ask, because of he’s been sending us some of nutrition what do we need to take.

But we normally, like Bongmusa said before on his interview that he’s using, recovery. Most of our athletes they take the supplements, and they also taking vegetables. That’s the only thing that I can say that they are taking that’s nutritional that’s the most supplements that we are using.

DK: Martin lastly I just wanna ask you on race day itself. I mean there’s so many tables there at Comrades, I know the clubs some of them put tables for their specific club members every 15 kilometres. But for your team in particular how do you get nutrition to your guys on the race route?

Fuelling the athletes on race day

MN: Okay maybe with us especially with all the top um…elite, elite runners if I can call them like that elite runners, elite teams. What is happening we’ve got the secondary teams. So we’ve got people that second the guys, because we don’t want our guys to take anything from anyone, so we end up getting into trouble.

So what we do we arrange with the guys, the guys themselves Bongmusa whoever, and Thuso whoever that’s running on the day, he takes the bottles he needs to supplement himself. We take the bottles and put it in the car for the next day and put it in with ice.

Then on the following day on the race day we give them whatever they want. If they want recovery they just shout for recovery. But normally what we do, we talk we have a talk on Saturday a day before the race; that okay after certain kilometres what will you guys be needing?

Then we know okay if they need, they say endurance or all endurance if I can call it like that. They need after 15 k’s we know exactly Bongmusa there’ll be a guy there that’s standing waiting for you, you’ll get your endurance. After the race recovery we mix already is there because that’s it.

DK: Well Martin Ngwenya, team manager for Arthur Ford, best of luck. Thanks for joining us on skype and taking the time out so close to the race. Best of luck to all your guys out there on Sunday.

MN: Thank you so much.

KPMG – more than just new kids on the block

DK: Well I head over now to chat to Dana Coetzee a man whose become very well known in running circles, not that he wasn’t before. But he heads up he’s the team manager of KPMG running club, who’ve done absolutely fantastic things in the year over two years in the running scene.

They’ve signed up some really great elite athletes in the past year alone, none other than Caroline Wostmann. What a debut it was in the colours at sort of a major ultra-race in South Africa with her going on to defend her Old Mutual Two Oceans crown. Danar thank you very much first of all for joining us. For you guys as a club seeing Caroline winning Two Oceans must have been a magic experience.

DC: Yes thanks for hosting me David. It’s a very big privilege to have Caroline in the KPMG camp. It was amazing she used Two Oceans as a training ramp in build up to Comrades 2016, and the next moment she run 28:15 in the last eight k’s. Just to see if she got enough speed you know.

DK: Now Dana you know a lot of people out there sort of seen KPMG athletes popping out. I know you’ve got Christine Kalmer as well, you’ve got Jenna Challenor, whp has been with you a while. But people might not still know, they’ll think oh the club just sort of burst onto the scene.

For people out there maybe just give them a bit more of an idea of the ethos of the club, what your goal is. I know you guys also have a very big side where you focus on development as well.

The story behind KPMG Running Club

DK: Yes, David. At this stage we started with the KPMG running academy, Vorentoe Running Scademy in Johannesburg. It’s running now for plus minus three years. I’m very new at KPMG when we started the running club. We’re 10 months old.

We just started as an employee club and the then we slowly built up our junior girls who are amazing. With Simonay Weitsz, Nicole van de Merwe, Chery-Lee Schoeman. We started just last year August with the cross country and all over. The next moment KPMG was on the map.

Then we slowly work on a little bit of elites, very small elite, ladies runners to build up a very strong team on it. That’s where we get hold of, Jenna approach us, and Christine later on, and Nolene Conrad. She was a teacher with Vorentoe school. That’s how we started.

Late last year Caroline approach us and ask us, what is the KPMG running club involved with and all that, and she says because she’s qualified CA and it will fit in with her qualifications to be a run for KPMG.

Then we start talking to her and the next moment in January she joined KPMG. We very, very excited for Caroline to be in our camp. Like I said before it is amazing to see her train, run, support her club, and so it is a privilege to have her in our camp.

Big things to come from KPMG at Comrades

DK: Well it certainly is indeed Dana. Big week in running, Comrades Marathon it really does just highlight the running scene and has done for a long time. We’ve got three days of expo then the race day, lots of excitement.

Of course Caroline one of your big tickets, I know Colleen de Reuck is out, the South African marathon record holder, you had her here for Two Oceans. She’s now running her first ever Comrades which I think is amazing. So some big things coming from you guys this weekend.

DC: Ja it’s not only about Caroline and Colleen, it’s also about all our other elites. We trying to see if we could win a team prize for KPMG in the ladies; with Caroline and Lesley Train-Austin, and Wietsche van der Westhuizen, who is the SA marathon champion for 2016. So we hope to have a good day on Sunday.

With Colleen in our camp as well, it’s wonderful to have Colleen in our camp. She just came to Two Oceans for a type of showcase run from KPMG and to get the feeling to run Ultra marathon you know.

She did very, very well we very proud of her you know. The other day I talked to her coach and manager and husband Darren du Reuck, he just says she was only at a racing pace of 60 to 70% in Oceans. But she’s not coming for fun and games and to come down to Durban for a Comrades Marathon to have a holiday. You will see her on the Sunday.

DK: Well she really is a phenomenal athlete I think there’s a lot of excitement I know that woman’s category that team category always very competitive to see who comes out on top.

Dana lastly I just want to ask you I know 32Gi is a supporter of the club. How do you handle nutrition with your athletes? Is there something that you prescribe to them? Or do you allow them to do their own thing?

Allow our athletes to use the best possible nutritional advice

DC: We allow them to do their own thing and especially with Mark Wolff. He’s very, very, very supportive and well known nutritionist in the country. He answers all their questions and helps them to take the right intake of nutrition before race day, after race day and during the race day.

So I know it’s a very, very privilege to have 32Gi as a partner in with KPMG running club. I think that what they do is a very, very important thing, that Mark will be also on route to support the KPMG team with the necessary needs if there is a problem on race day Sunday.

DK: Well Dana very interesting stuff, very exciting stuff. Thanks for your time and best of luck on Sunday.

DC: Thank you very much David for this opportunity to have a chat with me today. We will see you later again and then we will see you on Saturday on race day.

Maxed Elite runners ready for a crack at Comrades

DK: We really are blessed in South Africa to have a lot of elite teams. We’ve talked, just heard from Dana Coetzee about the KPMG Running Club. We’ve heard about the Arthur Ford guys.

Now we moving over to the Max Elite team, some phenomenal runners in their camp; including the very well know South African runner Prodigal Khumalo. I did a race last year the Monte-aux-Sources Challenge, part of the Wild Series and he was the victor there. Very good runner but a whole host of runners in their stable. It’s a great pleasure now to welcome team manager Cuan Walker. Cuan, Comrades week is here we on the verge of Comrades it’s exciting.

CW: Yes thanks for having me on the show David. I’m really excited and ja Comrades is on this Sunday. I actually can’t believe it. It feels like yesterday when we were at Comrades last year. So really excited to be in the race this, this year.

DK: We say that every year; can’t believe Comrades, people aren’t associated with the race even, it’s Comrades again? But it really does fly so quickly that maybe part of the reason is yes people take a month or so off. But a lot of people then the training starts. So it’s almost like Comrades is on the go the whole year.

For your guys, for the Pros what kind of training are they doing? Are they in good shape? I mean their build up they’ve got some stuff in-between, but their build up also starts into the year before for sort of this year’s Comrades.

Long build up and trying to peak at the right time

CW: Definitely with my athletes from basically the first of November that’s when they start their training geared towards Comrades. As you mentioned they run races in preparation. Prodigal this year is actually taken a completely different take on Comrades. He’s actually being coached by the 1997 winner Charl Mattheus, who’s based in Hawai.

So Prodigal’s being coached by Charl and he’s taking a complete different approach this year. Where he ran just one marathon, which was a Postnet Marathon up in Maritzberg, which he won.

Then a lot of my Lesotho guys took part in the Two Oceans where they were in the top 10. Them Mgesi Mgese who won a car actually in the Nongoma Ultra, where he beat some very good Comrade runners. Like Bogmusa Mthembu, who’s the defending Down run champ.

So all of my guys who have been preparing for Comrades in the races that they’ve done this year, so far they’ve done pretty well. So I’m looking for some good performances on Sunday.

What separates a Comrades winner from the rest?

DK: Cuan, Comrades is so far anything can happen. We’ve got a list of sort of contenders who could win it. What do you think makes the sort of real difference on the day?

I mean all these guys have geared up, this is their goal. This is what they’ve trained for, but what do you think makes the difference between maybe just getting gold or winning Comrades on the day?

CW: I think to win Comrades you need to run the race of your life. So it needs, everything needs to go perfectly on the day. From the way you feeling to the second team supporting on your route, as well as the weather and a bit of luck on the side as well.

Like you mentioned the race is so far you can have the best build up to the race. But then on the day something as small as a stomach bug can ruin you know close to eight months preparation for the race. So the difference between winning and gold is quite big.

You get some guys who can always get the gold but they just lack that finishing speed as well. You need to be really strong over the last 15 K’s especially and to me that makes the difference between a winner and just another gold medal.

DK: I think Caroline Wostmann last year after Polly Shortts, I think she ran the fastest split to the finish. Talking about Caroline, I know she’s not in your camp but you know she’s on a bit of a role. Do you think she can repeat at Comrades?

CW: Yes I definitely think she’s the one to watch, last night I actually had dinner with Dana Coetzee the manager of the KPMG team. We were discussing Caroline’s chances and I really think that she’s gonna surprise a lot of people this year. By surprise I don’t mean by defending her title. But I think also going after Frith van der Merwe’s 1989 course record of 5:54. So I think she’s bringing something special for Sunday.

The importance of not messing with race day nutrition

DK: So that would be quite something. Cuan sort of the last thing I want to ask you looking at diet. I know a lot of your guys are also on 32Gi. This is 32Gi Sports Nutrition podcast so we need to touch on that. It’s such an important element as well in the race is fuelling. Not just on race day but in the sort of week leading up.

We did a podcast with Mark Wolff on that, but we also did a podcast with Bongmusa Mthembu; and I asked him you know have you changed the way you eat?

He has slightly but he says; he sticks to what he knows and that works for him always and he’s stuck to it. What do you find with your guys? Have you sort of been able to move them over to a more advanced racing diet? Or are they sticking to their traditional stuff?

CW: My athletes I don’t like to change anything for them. Because we have had the instance in the past where, the one year Two Oceans. One of the previous guys that worked with us in the Mr Price team tried to get them to eat all this pasta the night before.

The next day they actually had terrible runs and they actually had runny tummies and stuff from just eating a simple thing like pasta. Which for you and I wouldn’t have been a major problem.

But these guys are brought up, their diet is very high in carbohydrates with the pap that they eat. Also very high with chicken. Pap and chicken for most of my guys have been the winning recipe in terms of eating for the race and stuff.

But on the day itself and also in training, 32Gi they sponsor our Maxed team as well. And on the day of the race some guys also use the protein shakes along the way. Then the 32Gi tabs as well has really helped our guys. I will put it down to the tabs as well as the difference between my guys getting gold at the end of the day and just another Wally Haywood medal silver. Coz those tablets have really helped our guys especially in the last 20 kilometres.

DK: You talk about those tablets and just from sort of trial and error myself I now use them to sort of keep me awake. Make me more alert when I need to do a voice over or an interview. As a parent I find they are a huge help.

So you’ve touched a great point. If you haven’t tried them are absolutely phenomenal. But Cuan thank you very much for your time, all the best for your guys and enjoy race day.

CW: Thank you very much David and thanks for having us on the show and we’ll see what happens on Sunday. But we looking forward to a great race not just from the Maxed team, but all the other teams that are competing too. So I wish them all the best as well.

DK: Well there we go, thanks to Cuan Walker. I hope you’ve enjoyed the three chats we’ve had on this podcast in the build up to Comrades on Sunday. If you coming down to the Comrades Marathon expo the next three days I’ll be broadcasting with Old Mutual Live, maybe we can do an interview with you. I know Mark Wolff will be down on the 32Gi stand. He does move around quite a bit, but if you lucky you can get him there. He’s always willing to give some fantastic race day advice.

But the biggest thing and the most important thing is don’t try anything new on race day whatever you do. Thanks for joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition, I’m Mr. Active David Katz, I’ll catch up with you next week and it’ll be a bit sombre with Comrades having past.

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