Training for the biggest race of your life during lockdown

Posted on Wed, Apr 01, 2020

The current lockdown situation of COVID-19 is quickly causing havoc among multiple aspects of our daily lives. For the members of our Maverick Trail Division who train hard and race harder, their ability to train for their big ‘A’ races has suddenly been turned on its head.

I interviewed MTD teammates Sarah and Spenny to ask them a few things about their current training towards some pretty big races. I caught up with them (sadly it was virtually) as they get closer towards their big races of the year. Sarah is currently in training for her second 100 miler, the SDW 100 which takes place on June 13th, and Spenny is currently in training for the ‘big’ one, the full UTMB which starts on August 28th. Both are under no illusions that their race could well be postponed or even cancelled for this calendar year, but the overarching message from them both is to remain positive, use this time to build strength and know that there is joy to be found in the process as well as the outcome.

It was really fun interviewing these two and they were both amazing and giving really honest, personal answers which makes it so much easier to write up, and I know you’ll all enjoy reading it. So a big thank you to S + S.

At the moment, as of 1st of April, is your race still going ahead as planned?

Sarah - Well, I’m still very much acting as if the race will go forward because for my own mental health I think that mindset is much more beneficial to me. It is still scheduled to go ahead… so I am going ahead…

Spenny At the moment UTMB is a go… but in reality I’m also preparing myself for the inevitable decision of postponing the event...

How has your training for the SDW100 / UTMB changed / adapted since lockdown?

Sarah - I’ve had to change my training a little bit. I’ve cut back on long runs and the ‘mega miles’ because I don’t feel that 4 hour + runs are in the spirit of the ‘rules’ of lockdown. Therefore I’ve gone from a 6 day running week to a 7 day running week. What that means is instead of having a full rest day, I have 1 day where I run between 3-6miles where I take Watson (my dog) with me. It takes the stress off my legs but still adds load to my mileage. So far I’ve had 2 weeks without a rest day so I expect next week to take a full day off.

Prior to lockdown I was also running 1 double day with a client. However due to the ‘rules’ that isn’t happening. Overall my mileage has decreased, and where I was doing some speed work I’m not doing that at the moment because I feel like it’s a potential injury risk and I’m not prepared to increase that risk right now. So speed workouts are out.

Sarah - I’m building an aerobic base the best I can right now, which combined with my online PT classes I’m getting A LOT more strength training, which is a huge positive.

Spenny - Well, YES it has changed MASSIVELY! Without the ability to travel even to my favourite trail spots for those long weekend runs it is fair to say that my overall training has taken a bit of a hit in terms of mileage. Also without the ability to get myself to the mountains  there is no hope of any decent vertical gain in the near future. But we adapt, find some focus elsewhere and train what we can right!?..

How are you using lockdown to your advantage or what positives are you taking from it?

Sarah - Super easy one! I have recognised how much I really appreciate the teachers in my daughter's life, my freedom to drive to and run on epic trails, and how much I love my friends and teammates. AND I will never ever complain about getting up at 4am to go to a race ever again….I am loving having this time with Daisy (my daughter) as normally we don’t have that much time, so it’s been amazing to just hang out with a slightly slower pace of life. And I know I’ll come out of this feeling really grateful for everyone I have in my life and the ability I have to travel and go places. 

Spenny - I’ve been focusing on sleeping well and carving out a good daily routine. I’ve also become a bit of a stickler for the rules since the official LOCKDOWN was implemented, just getting my 1 hour a day run in, which I'm really enjoying and have decided to use this time at home to dedicate myself to some proper strength, conditioning work and core workouts. The stuff that I often neglect when the running is so freely available.

Spenny - It'll be great to come out of this hopefully a bit stronger and with a good mindset and routine I can maintain. 

If you knew lockdown was going to happen 1 month ago, would you have done anything differently or prepared in a certain way?

Sarah - I actually don’t think so… this stage of training has been all about building an aerobic base. So ending March I’m on my highest monthly mileage ever (321 miles) due to long weekend runs. So when the lockdown started I was able to reduce that mileage but still have a good amount of bulk in there.  I’m just going to keep building that base and keep that aerobic fitness and I should be ok. I did consider getting a treadmill… but that’s not going to replicate the SDW so… yeah. 

Sarah - I would have appreciated the time I had on the SDW as I feel I took it for granted at the time. As I was so free up there, it’s so beautiful, it’s my favourite trail but I wish I had had more appreciation for it as I miss that wide expanse of space. 

Spenny - I think I would have moved somewhere with some direct trail access at the least, or gone full rogue and rented a cabin in the mountains somewhere! But we work with what we have eh... seriously I might have bought a treadmill and got a bit obsessed with it possibly ;) ...


 Lastly can you give us a tip for people who's races have been cancelled and are struggling with no goal, or a tip for people who still have races later in the summer and are struggling to train ?

Sarah Lots of us have had races cancelled, so, look forward and accept it as you can’t change it. We all need to recognise that we are super fortunate and it’s a good time to remind ourselves as to why we run. I personally had a re-focus of this last summer where I realised I ran not for races, or posting on the internet but for the sense of freedom and satisfaction. So yeah the races are cancelled, but running isn’t cancelled. Remind yourself of all the reasons you love running.  

Secondly it’s time to train with ‘quality’... if you have a treadmill then great, you can get on there and do those really long runs. Otherwise we are all in the same boat so when we all line up on the start line together we all have the same conditions. Therefore you need to take advantage of the time you have! If you can get out then and you can safely / respectfully do your run, then don’t skip it because you ‘CBA’! This is a really good time to treat your runs as being precious and make the most of it. 

Lastly, don’t stress out your immune system! Which is another really good reason not to do those long runs. Keep your runs easy and mileage down. We are all in the same boat and the most important thing is to keep positive and keep yourself ticking over. 

Spenny - I’ve already had my warm-up races cancelled and still crossing my fingers that the UTMB will go ahead, although in reality, I’m also preparing myself for the inevitable decision of postponing the event... therefore I’ll likely be like many others, without a target to aim for.

So, get out for your run every day to maintain your fitness and well being, maybe double down on some home strength workouts in the meantime, give yourself a chin-up or a plank time challenge, get your friends involved too and keep a focus on building a strong mindset for when life does return to normal. That way you're more than ready for it ! "You don't get better by CHANCE, you get better by CHANGE… 

Spenny - All we can do in these times is to stay positive and know that The Outdoors Will Wait for us. 

Throughout chatting with Sarah and Spenny it’s obvious that they would love for their respective races to go ahead, however, the most important thing to them was actually enjoying the running that they could do, and adapting in a way that was positive for their well being. They weren’t intent on using running as a stick to beat themselves with or using their decreased mileage to enter a negative cycle of feeling like an underprepared failure. Instead, they were both super proactive in using that time to build physical and mental strength, and spend it with their children (Sarah) or picking up old hobbies (Spenny). 

Both Sarah and Spenny are incredibly talented long-distance runners who have finished their fair share of monumental races. Their training schedules are mind-blowing and their dedication to them is immense, but nothing is more important than following the current rules and looking after your own health and the health of others. They will again cross the finish line of many big events, it may not be in 2020 but they will. The take away from that is, if they aren’t panicking, if they are able to adapt and if they are able to use this period of lockdown to their advantage, so can you!

Remember #theoutdoorswillwait


Sarah - @yankeepankyruns

Spenny - @runsonfruit_

E -@e.runs.this

@maverickrace @maverricktraildivision


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