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Going for Gold with Ann Ashworth
David “Mr Active” Katz was in the Team TomTom training camp in Dullstroom recently, catching up with inductee, Born2Run’s Ann Ashworth. Ann has stepped up her game in 2017, and has some Comrades Marathon advice for each and every shape and size. Endurance nutrition is essentially the same, whether you out there for six hours or 12.
Thanks once again for joining us on 32Gi Sports Nutrition, I’m Mr Active, David Katz. It’s been a great privilege recently to be in the training camp in Dullstroom of ‘Colonel Coach’ John Hamlett, who has had the last two men’s champions.
Ann Ashworth from Born2Run, who are a partner of 32Gi, they do sponsor products for their elite club and she has been training with John. She’s after a very impressive Comrades run, a Gold Medal, which is a very difficult thing to attain. It’s a great pleasure now to welcome her onto the podcast; Ann, thanks very much for joining us?
Ann Ashworth: Thanks very much for having me, thanks for coming through to Dullstroom.
DK: Tell me about Dullstroom, tell me about high altitude. I know you talk about not having not done much mileage, for most people it’s quite a bit of mileage, but this year has been a bit of a game changer?
AA: Yes, John runs an eight week camp sort of from just before Easter to Comrades. During those eight weeks you are expected to live and train exclusively in Dullstroom. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the full eight weeks, I’ve just been able to come in for three weeks and weekends.
How to get into that Comrades Marathon zone
But training at altitude, it’s over 2 000m which is not that much higher than Johannesburg, but the benefit of being out here is that you don’t have to deal with the traffic, you don’t have to deal with work, you don’t have to deal with all the outside distractions. You get long, open stretches of road where you can test your hill strength and you can test simulated race conditions and that’s a huge bonus to be out here.
DK: Looking towards Comrades 2017, the goal is that Gold, that race day anything can happen, but you’re feeling like your training is there?
AA: Definitely, I’m feeling more confident than I have in the past. Just because I feel that I might actually get to race day feeling like I’ve prepared for it. Whereas usually I’m like: Oh heavens, what’s going to happen today. You can never tell what’s going to happen on race day and maybe you have a complete meh and the wheels fall off and you just have to deal with that.
But I’m really hoping that I’ve put in significant hours this year and hopefully things come right for me. If I can finish strongly and not have to stop and have walk breaks. If I can just hold an even pace throughout the race, I’ll be very happy with that.
DK: Training is one thing nutrition is the other, what adaptations have you done in the preparation this year for Comrades?
How a change in diet can make your Comrades
AA: Working as a lawyer, we tend to eat a lot of food on the run, drink far too much coffee and go from sugar-high to sugar-high. This year I’ve really tried to cut out all the fat in my diet, cut out all the sugar in my diet and basically just go back to whole foods.
I’m sticking to a very high protein diet but I do use a lot of supplements, just to supplement natural food and it has definitely helped a lot to cut down on my coffee etc. The diet, I think, does play a massive role. Then using the right supplements for the high intensity training and things like that is obviously vital.
DK: For elite athletes who are doing a lot of running and a lot of training and yes, diet is important, but your immune systems are constantly taking a knock. How do you combat that?
AA: If you’re taking a high protein diet, it seems to just keep you a little bit stronger to withstand the training. Obviously we take things like a lot of Vitamin C, a lot of Omega 3’s, but not Omega 6, a lot of calcium, a lot of iron. That really does keep us going.
Then I know that a lot of athletes will have regular Vitamin B injections, particularly now these last three weeks as you get towards Comrades. If there’s a sick person or someone sneezing anywhere near you, you tend to just excuse yourself and go somewhere else. We do definitely avoid anyone who looks like they might have a sniff or a cold, especially at this stage. You also just have to live your life and hopefully none of us get sick.
How Ann handles her Comrades nutrition
DK: That’s not just for elites, that is for every single Comrades runner. Avoid people who are sick, you don’t want to ruin your race, very close to Comrades. Looking at race day, looking at the evening before, you already have that nutrition planned. Run is through some of your nutritional planning from the evening before, the morning of and during the race this year?
AA: So, I think the most important night to get your sleep is actually on the Friday night. I work backwards from then. So Friday night I’ll go to bed early and I’ll stay in bed as long as I can on Saturday morning. Then that has knock-on effect, so I won’t have breakfast, I’ll have a late brunch. Then I won’t have lunch, I’ll sort of have afternoon tea, which will be my biggest meal. I’ll probably look to eat at about 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon will be my big meal of the day on the Saturday. Then a very light dinner on Saturday evening.
Then getting up very early on Sunday to eat about two hours before the race and all of those meals will be clean meals. They’ll be sugar-free, fat-free, high protein with some carbs, but we don’t really carbo load anymore. In the past there was a lot of focus on athletes carbo loading, most of us don’t do that. You will increase your carbohydrate intake by a little bit, but not by a lot. So you basically are doing what you would do every day and maybe having an extra two slices of bread, for example.
The science behind the quantity of fat
DK: You talk about cutting out the fat but you’re not cutting out all the fat, you’re cutting out, in a sense, the bad fat.
AA: Yes, so there are some measurements, when you’re checking ingredients you would say okay, I won’t have more than 2g fat per 100g in a carbohydrate item, for example. For example I can eat Woolworth’s pasta, but I can’t eat Fattis and Monis because Fattis and Monis has 3g per 100g and not less than 2g.
It’s silly little things like that, but I still cook with oil. There’s no chance I can get away with not cooking with oil. I still have avocado and things like that, so it’s not completely without oil, but we do try and keep it quite low.
DK: In terms of recovery, what’s your trick and how are you recovering from sessions. I presume race day would be a similar recovery strategy?
AA: Usually after any run I will have a protein shake and then usually within a short time thereafter I would have a protein meal. Whether you’re going to have scrambled eggs or whether you’re going to have some grilled chicken breasts or something like that, then what’s I’ll have.
On race day I really hope that I will have burned enough calories to eat whatever I want when I get to the finish. I feel like I’m definitely going to have a Steers burger waiting for me! At Born2Run we’ve got a tradition that when you finish a race, you’ve got to have a chocolate milk and so I think we’ll probably buy out whatever the closest Pick ‘n Pay chocolate milk supply is. Definitely planning on sitting down with a chocolate milk at the end of the race.
DK: Ross Tucker’s perfect recovery, he loves his Steri Stumpie post-race. Ann, thanks very much for chatting to us, all the best for Comrades and we’re looking forward to seeing how you go.
AA: Great, thanks very much.