Training in Plague Times.

“We live in plague times.” That’s the phrase G has taken to saying when I comment on how… weird… things are. I like to think it’s a tiny bit tongue in cheek—yet also so accurate.

In December, I decided to try something new in 2020. I signed up for my first 50-mile race, Wy’East Wonder in June 2020. If I’m honest, it scared me a little, maybe still does. My longest race to date has been 55K (35 mi). I was a little worried about the training volume, but I’d been working with a remote coach a few months and knew I could leave the planning to her.

I signed up for a ridiculously challenging 25-mile race as a “training” event. We ran Tiger Claw last year, and it was brutal but fun. It would have more vertical gain and about 85% of the vertical loss that my 50-mile race would have. So why the heck not?

In January, my coach started building volume. I’ve rarely, if ever, hit 50 mi weeks, even in training for the 55K. I’ve had 5 or 6 of those weeks already this year. I’ve been surprised by how strong I’ve felt. I’m not feeling totally wrecked after some pretty long trail runs. I even went out a few weeks ago and did 2 of the 3 loops of the Tiger Claw course.

That’s about the time that COVID-19 hit Seattle. I started working from home on March 9. I got a couple of kettlebells and medicine balls to have a little more versatility for workouts at home. My April conference in DC was canceled, and our subsequent vacation called off. The restaurants and cafes are only open for takeout or delivery. The gyms and most shops are closed. Some shelves at the grocery stores and pharmacies remain rather bare.

Tiger Claw is postponed, with a new date (hopefully) to be determined. Wy’East Wonder is still on for now, and while I hope that it will go on, I can’t say I share the organizers’ optimism.

I’m not the only runner facing cancellation/postponement of major events/goals. I also don’t find this to be the most disconcerting thing in life right now, not even my own. There are much bigger issues at play, like the failure of physical distancing we’re witnessing in many places (even here in Seattle), the continued spread of the virus, the burden placed on our healthcare systems and providers…

Still… there’s that twinge of sadness, even as you know that the race organizers are doing exactly what they should to maintain the health of our communities. We wouldn’t want runners training and racing with serious injuries, risking further damage to their bodies. I’ve had to take time off training and miss a couple of races to give my body time to heal. It sucks. The scale of COVID-19 is much larger, and our (in)actions will ripple beyond our own lives to many around us. I’m disappointed that I won’t have that incredible experience that I was looking forward, but I am not for one second disappointed in the race directors who have made these calls to postpone or cancel or go to virtual events.

So I accept that my goal races (likely) won’t be happening this summer. But I took a different perspective on racing after reading The Happy Runner by David and Megan Roche last year. In short, race day isn’t the point of running. It’s simply a celebration of the training that you’ve been putting in over weeks and months.

What does that mean for my training? I can reschedule celebrations. But celebrations will suck if I don’t put in the work for them.

So for now, I continue forward with my training, preparing as if I’m going to run 50 miles in June. Maybe the race will happen, maybe it won’t. But that’s not the point. The point is experiencing the progress I have made and will continue to make. I realized a while back that testing my limits is one of my long-term goals in running. And I can do that without a race. I hadn’t really imagined that a 50-mile week would so quickly go from “Can I do this?” to “I got this.”

Maybe I’ll find another way to celebrate my training, if it comes to that. But now is the time to put in the work and appreciate what I’m doing now.