The concept of 'Everesting' has really taken off during lockdown as athletes attempt to conquer the equivalent height of Mount Everest by climbing 8,848 metres in one activity.

It's certainly proven to be a good way of offering a new virtual race goal until real world events start again and we had to speak to triathlete Sam Pictor after he conquered his own Virtual Everest... 

Hey Sam, we noticed you just completed your first Everesting Attempt on Zwift. Besides being 'stuck' with mostly training indoors at the moment, what inspired you to spend almost 11 hours on the trainer?

When I first heard about 'Virtual Everesting', I thought it sounded terrible and I had no interest in it whatsoever.

However, after 8 weeks of lockdown and cancellations of pretty much every goal I was working towards, I felt like I really needed to achieve something.

The Virtual Everest Challenge then became an obvious and appropriate thing to tick off. I think this is probably the reason most people are drawn to it at this time... it’s a nice big goal and we have control over it.

During this lockdown have you accomplished any other "crazy" challenges?

Good question. If you’d have asked me this before lockdown, only being allowed to venture outside once a day here in the UK would have been the biggest challenge for me.

I have to walk the dog most days, so that has often counted as my one exercise a day, meaning I’ve spent a lot of time on the turbo trainer.

Credit: Sam Pictor Instagram ©

I combined most of my running with dog walks at first, but eventually the dog got fed-up and just started stopping to smell stuff/cause havoc, so I eased off that idea.

I did get quite carried away with my running at the beginning, but after a few back-to-back 20-mile runs, my body told me to ease off for fear of injury.

I guess that inevitably led to more time on the indoor trainer and the Everesting challenge. So, what had been the longest time you'd spent on the trainer before lockdown?

My longest ride before lockdown was 3 hours, and the last hour of that was a mental battle.

Interestingly, I think I found that mentally challenging because at the time there was no obligation to ride my turbo, it was just terrible weather outside.

However, with lockdown in place, it’s taken that decision out of my hands and I’ve found it so much easier to ride long on the trainer.

I completed a 5-hour, 100-miler a couple of weeks before the Everest challenge, and I’d found that surprisingly manageable, so I was well up for “Everesting”.

How did this challenge compare to your first Zwift Pro Tri race? Was it harder climbing Everest or trying to hang onto Lionel Sanders' wheel?

100% trying to hang with Lionel Sanders!

I managed to complete the Everest Challenge, but I didn’t manage to stick with Lionel in the first Zwift Pro race.

Zwift racing has been an incredible blessing for training and motivation during lockdown, but they are so intense – I’ve set several new FTP’s during the ZPro races!

Credit: Sam Pictor ©

Fantastic! How have you been coping during the pandemic though? Have you acquired any new skills during this time?

I asked my wife this question and she replied, “sitting on a turbo for 11 hours”, which probably answers both parts of that question.

At first, I completely relaxed my training and gave myself some time off. With all races cancelled or postponed indefinitely, my motivation was through the floor and it made no sense to continue building up for a training peak that was no longer necessary.

Since then, I’ve found a new rhythm to training and life and that’s meant I’m coping fine with the pandemic.

We’ve got a garden/outside space at our home in Bristol and consider ourselves very lucky to have what we have.

A garden is certainly a blessing at this time. Despite all of the obvious negatives of the pandemic, what's been the biggest positive that has come out of this for you?

Learning to stop and smell the roses.

Prior to lockdown, our diary was rammed as every weekend was either racing/training/socialising away from home.

It’s actually been great to simplify life a bit more, and I hope I can carry this forward.

Having said that, my wife Claire, is due with our first child in September, so I guess life will never look the same for us whatever happens!

Congratulations to you both! It sounds like you've got a good handle on your own expectations at the moment, so what would be the best tip you have for someone who might be struggling with motivation right now?

Do the things that attracted you to the sport in the first place.

If that was training for something specific, then pick a goal such as Everesting and hit your local hill (restrictions allowing) or your trainer.

If it was the love of swim/bike/run, then do the bits you find exciting – go for an adventure on your next run, and run easy or fast, depending on how you feel.

Now is not the time to stick to strict training plans without flexibility. Having said that, if that’s what motivates you, then do that!

Ultimately, do what makes you feel good.

And with regards to your own plans, do you have an "ideal" plan for when racing resumes?

I’m very much taking it day by day. In my view there is no point in planning for a specific race in September as I know that's all very likely to change.

I pick small targets such as run 5 times this week, or bike 14 hours on the trainer, do 3 Zwift races, or just get out and do something every day.

Within these small weekly goals I can build a framework of training and ultimately this leads to consistency that will help me race well when events do start up again. 

When this all kicked-off, I definitely had to spend the first few weeks re-calibrating my mindset from one 100% geared towards performing in races, to one that is once again enjoying the process and loving the exercise for what it is.

The latter mindset is what will get me through this global pandemic.

Great stuff, thanks Sam. We look forward to meeting the newest member of the Pictor family in September! 

Sam has since found another goal to get him through the pandemic - he ran 100km in one go as he joined the Global Triathlon Network's Mark Threlfall to run The Cotswold Way in 11 hours 20 minutes...