Jeffrey Stern Adapts to Social Distance Training

Jeffrey Stern has a very hard time turning down a challenge. He fills his calendar with races of all distances and surfaces. If it’s a storied race, he’s done it or wants to do it. He soaks up his experiences, the grit of running and the warmth of fellow runners, and shares them through coaching, writing, and working in the endurance community. He’s already missed a few races he had signed up for and has adapted by finding new challenges for himself, including the fastest time yet for SBVK. You can learn more about Jeff on his website or go straight to pictures of beloved dogs. (Photo here: @kmonosan)

Hello Jeffrey, I appreciate your enthusiasm for SBVK and for checking in with the blog!

You usually race a wide variety of races. I imagine race cancellations have hit you. Based on Strava, you’re continuing to train hard and challenge yourself. What adaptations have you made and what are your plans going forward?

I truly love pinning a number on. I thrive on the competition and personal challenges of racing a wide range of distances and on many surfaces so, like all athletes, I’ve have had to adapt a bit.

From a training perspective I’ve dialed back the specificity of workouts and am mostly aiming for longer endurance efforts and tempo runs, with a little spice added in for fun and to keep some speed in the legs. In general, I’m aiming for quality over quantity right now. I’ve even gotten back into cycling a little and keeping up a solid strength and core routine each week. In the long term, I think I’ll look back on this time period as an opportunity to work on some weaknesses and keep a general baseline of fitness without over extending myself too much. It’s been exciting to do a few virtual races like SBVK as well as some random solo tests, like running a 50k PR on the track last month.

Photo @penperezstudio

How are you guiding the athletes that you coach through all the disruption?

The same principles apply for most of the athletes I’m coaching too—less is more is my approach. Extra rest days, fun workouts that are less focused on specific times/splits and more based on effort, and keeping things dynamic and engaging with variety are all super important right now. In general, I think keeping the same structure is good to maintain momentum because events will eventually return, whether it be at the tail end of the year or in 2021. I know everyone I’m helping will be well rested, have a great endurance base, and be more motivated than ever before to chase their goals and push their limits to new heights with a deeper appreciation for the opportunity to race with the community we all love so much.

You are the first runner under an hour up SBVK. How would you suggest people approach the course?

Something unique about the SBVK course compared to other more traditional vertical kilometers is that you need to be a pretty well rounded runner to find success. The course starts with a moderately pitched road mile and half that you can take a couple approaches on: either you save some energy for the steep start of Tunnel Trail or you blast it and put in some time on your competitors. It completely depends on where you think your strengths lie.

Going into my attempt on April 12th, I felt Will’s time was wicked fast with the sloppy conditions we had from all the rain Santa Barbara has accumulated this spring, and I thought my road speed was an asset I had to take advantage of. My trail running and technical climbing abilities have been lacking some, so I tried to stay calm and collected until around mile three, when Tunnel flattens out a bit and you can really move. If you go out too hard, you’ll be too fatigued to push and will lose precious time in the middle section. You have approximately another 3/4 of a mile of steep, rocky terrain and then the final 1/4 mile of Tunnel is another time to put in a solid push as it starts to flatten before reaching Camino Cielo. Once you’re on the road you really just need to give it all you have left. If you feel good at this point with just over one mile remaining you can run it pretty swiftly. But if you burned too many matches on the steep sections of the trail portion (miles two and four), that final effort to get to La Cumbre Peak will not only make you suffer, but can add an extra few minutes to your time.

When in doubt the best advice I can give is to pace yourself. There’s a reason why Tunnel is considered one of the hardest trails in the front country, it can demoralize even the strongest athletes without the proper game plan; I’ve experienced this first hand many times.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Even though we can’t run together right now, it’s awesome to have virtual events to participate in. I’m super grateful that the Los Padres National Forest hasn’t closed our trails yet, so let’s all please help keep it this way by packing out everything you bring in and not over-extending yourself leading to any dangerous situations. Bring enough food, water, and the right gear to keep it enjoyable and safe, while maintaining your distance from other trail users. Thank you Scott for putting this all together!

You can follow Jeffrey on Instagram @uponward and visit his website His sponsors are SalomonSuuntoInjinjiSpring EnergyLittle Tree LabsStrength Happens, and Squirrels Nut Butter

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