Virtual Racing For Thee But Not For Me

Race organizers have taken a big hit since the pandemic. They’ve been unable to operate except for a small few in certain areas. The ones that have been able to operate have had to limit capacity and make other changes that have cut into their profits. Us runners need race organizers, big and small. How else would we get to race each other, win medals and hang out on a Saturday or Sunday morning? We can only hope that when “normal life” resumes we’ll get to enjoy the regular amount of races. Before the pandemic, there were several races of various distances each weekend in southern California. If you had an itch on a Thursday to race Saturday, you had options.

I’ve never organized a race but I do know that a lot of work goes into it such as mapping the course, getting permits, renting porta-potties, ordering t-shirts and medals, recruiting volunteers, etc. They do all this so people can challenge themselves through racing. How have some of these organizers been able to survive the shutdowns? Virtual racing.

Virtual racing isn’t new. It’s been around for a bit as an option for people unable to run in the real race. I’m not going to do a deep dive into its history but it’s really gained momentum during the pandemic as a way for organizers to stay afloat. Basically, you register for a race like you usually would and pay a fee. Then you are given a window of time (usually a week or two) to complete the distance in one session. You can run that “race” distance anywhere you want—around the block, on a track, up in the mountains, wherever. You then submit some kind of proof you ran/walked the distance and you receive a medal, t-shirt, whatever else you’re promised.

The Boston Marathon did this last Fall. Though, let’s be honest, it wasn’t the same as running in the actual race. You need to run the actual race itself to experience the spectacle of the Boston Marathon. The London Marathon is doing something similar this year.

I think virtual races are a great idea for organizers and runners looking to add to their medal collection and those who need the extra motivation to run. I support the idea of virtual races for these reasons. So that means I do them, right? Here’s where things aren’t always black and white. Yes, I totally support virtual races but no, I don’t run them. They’re a great idea but not for me. I’m motivated plenty to run even without formal races and I have plenty of t-shirts and medals. Virtual races do nothing to excite me. I prefer the real thing. I need the competition of other runners next to me. I need the excitement and rush of crossing a real starting line and the exhilaration of making it to an actual finish line with people cheering for me and others. I like running in the middle of a street closed for us racers.

Virtual racing is fine but there’s nothing better than the real thing.

I enjoy accepting an age-group or top three finisher medal. I like seeing others achieve their goals while others pat them on the back and congratulate them. I love the crowds, even small ones, and the coalescence of positive energy centralized into one space. There’s just nothing better. I like the real thing. I miss the real thing. If I’m going to spend money, I want the full experience. Race organizers provide that experience for me and many others.

That being said, I still think if you’re considering a virtual race do it if it’ll get you out running. Just because I choose not to partake doesn’t mean I don’t think you should. The larger point to this post is to show people that we all have different views on aspects of the running world. Those views are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. I don’t think less of or look down on runners who are thrilled about a virtual race just because I don’t care for them. I think virtual races have a lot of positives.  We need to respect those looking to better themselves and stay motivated through virtual races and those organizers looking to survive in these uncertain times. We also need to respect those who would rather just wait for actual races to come back. We all run to better ourselves and as long as we’re all running then isn’t that the point? Maybe if we adopt this “run and let run” attitude in other aspects of life, we might all be a little friendlier to each other.

London Marathon Training Week #13 Days 6 and 7 A Rainy Run Followed With A Long Interval Session

NOTE: For those of you interested in donating to the charity I’m running for in London please click on this LINK.

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperatures: Day 1–Rainy 54 degrees, Day 2–Partly cloudy 59 degrees

Types of Runs: Day 1–Easy, Day 2–Intervals/Speed

Lengths: Day 1–9.08 miles, Day 2–8 miles (4 x 2 miles)

Types of routes: Day 1–flat with some gradual uphill and downhill; Day 2-400-meter oval track

Times: Day 1–1 hour, 5 minutes, 14 seconds; Day 2–47 minutes, 58 seconds (11:56, 11:57, 12:03, 12:02)

Paces per mile: Day 1–7:11, Day 2–6:00

Reason for Runs: Day 1–This run is designed to be comfortable. Not every run during the training week needs to be difficult or long. Some runs should be easy to give the legs, mind and body a chance to recover from the more difficult workouts. The distance of 9 miles rather than 5 or 6 is to help improve endurance.

Day 2–This interval workout is meant to improve race endurance, meaning it’s designed to get the body used to running fast and long. 2-mile repeats allow the body to adjust to a hard pace for a longer duration. This improves mental strength as well because you have to keep the pace for 2 miles rather than just 400 meters or 800 meters. For marathon training, the pace should be between half marathon and marathon pace.  You want your body to feel what it’s like to run that fast for that long. I gave myself rest of between 3 minutes and 3:30 between each rep. This gave my body some rest but not enough to make things comfortable.

How did I feel? Day 1–Good. I felt fine despite rain during most of the run. Usually, I don’t like running in the rain. Maybe it’s a southern California thing. Since I’m so close to the marathon, I’d rather not take a day off because of something like rain. I put on a hat and a jacket and opened the door. It didn’t rain that hard so it wasn’t all that bad. My pacing was good despite the weather and I felt comfortable which I was most pleased with. I ran a generally flat route around the block near my home just in case the rain become too much for me to tough out. I wouldn’t have to go far to get home. Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue. I wouldn’t recommend running in the rain if it’s moderate to hard unless you’re experienced running in those conditions. You don’t want to get hurt by slipping or run the risk of getting hit by an out-of-control car whose driver is having vision problems.

Day 2–Fine. This interval session tests mental strength as much as physical because 8 laps around a track gets boring. It’s easy to slow down and settle into a comfortable pace. I remember running track in high school and I disliked the 3,200-meter race at the end of the meet because it was so boring and anti-climatic to run that many times around the track. Of course, looking back on it, I wish I would’ve taken that race more seriously just so I would know what I was truly capable of in that event. Now, we’ll never know. Oh well. Back to the matter at hand–I wanted to run these four reps at half marathon pace. I was able to do that. I could feel my body getting used to longer interval workouts now because my legs held up well after the workout. I probably could’ve pushed through another rep but I don’t want to overdo it. My pacing was generally consistent with only seven seconds separating my fastest and slowest rep. The cooler weather was nice. There was some wind which wasn’t nice. I have at least two more tough and long interval sessions and hopefully a 10k race before the marathon. It was nice to complete this session feeling like gains are being made.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #8 Day 4 A Strong Tempo Run At Sunset

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Sunny but with a setting sun, 84 degrees

Type of Run: Tempo

Length: 8.02 miles

Type of route: Some slight gradual inclines and declines with one downhill descent and one uphill descent

Time: 48 minutes, 23 seconds

Pace per mile: 6:02

Average heart rate: 162

Reason for Run: A tempo run is a hard run meant to improve endurance, strength, speed and mental toughness. The goal is to run comfortably hard. That means you should go fast but not race pace fast. After the run you should feel some fatigue but not exhausted. Ideally, you want to feel as if you have a little left in the tank if you had to go longer. If you want to run fast in a race then you have to run fast during training. That’s what a tempo run is for.

Fontana Payday Pic Edit
My first “paycheck” from running has finally arrived. This is from winning the Fontana Days 5k in June. Maybe I should quit my day job now 😉 

How did I feel? Good but you’d think great based on my time. I kicked butt on this tempo run but I didn’t feel like I was kicking butt. I was a little tired overall and my legs were still slightly fatigued from the long run two days prior.  Before this run started, I expected it to be a solid tempo run but one with a slower pace than my tempo runs the past few weeks. I took off to start and kept a hard pace that I felt I could handle. After seeing the first mile split of 6:00 I was surprised but I kept pushing myself. I wanted to slow down but I just told myself to keep the pace. I did mostly.  I slowed down slightly after the second mile but not by much. My pacing was consistent. My slowest mile was mile 7 at 6:13. But that mile was the hardest with most of it being uphill. After the run, I couldn’t figure out why I ran so well despite feeling tired before the run. Sometimes, good days are unexpected. Those days are welcome. I was pleased.

 

 

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #7 Day 3 A Recovery Run

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Sunny, 85 degrees

Type of Run: Easy

Length: 6.04 miles + 5 sprint strides

Type of route: Some flat areas with some gradual inclines and declines plus one minor and small hill climb

Time: 42 minutes, 46 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:05

Average heart rate: 138

Reason for Run: This was an easy recovery run meant to be done after a long run. The day after a long run is when I usually run the shortest mileage of the week. This is to give my legs some rest. The pace is meant to be easy and comfortable. Sprint strides were done after the run. The goal is to help improve leg turnover and work on speed.

How did I feel? Decent. I was a little tired in general. Plus, my legs were a little worn out and slightly achy from the 17 miles the day before. This was a normal feeling after a long run and I didn’t think there was any reason to worry. Your legs will feel that way after spending so much time running the day before.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Training Week #6 Day 5 Back to Normalcy

Location: Pasadena, CA.

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 79 degrees with 50% humidity

Type of Run: Semi-long

Length: 10.26 miles + 5 sprint strides

Type of route: Gradual inclines and declines with four hill climbs and four hill descents

Time: 1 hour, 12 minutes, 13 seconds

Pace per mile: 7:03

Average heart rate: 145

Reason for Run: This was the weekly semi-long run. As my training progresses, this run will increase to a max of 13 to 14 miles. Semi-long runs should be run faster than long runs but not nearly as fast as tempo runs. The goal is to build endurance. Sprint strides help improve leg turnover, running efficiency and speed.

How did I feel? Good. I ran at a comfortable pace. I felt in control which was good because warmer temperatures and higher humidity levels can have a major effect on your runs. The route is not easy with four hill climbs on the streets. Running hills is a great way to build leg strength because you’re forcing your muscles to work harder. This was a good workout before a challenging interval session tomorrow which I’m sure you’ll be excited to read about.

Running With You,

Donald

Berlin Marathon Week #2 Day 3 Tempo Run Fun

Location: Pasadena, CA

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 62 degrees

Type of Run: Tempo

Length: 6.31 miles

Type of route: Long gradual incline, shorter gradual decline,  one longer and one shorter hill climb with a downhill descent.

Time: 39 minutes, 16 seconds

Pace Per Mile: 6:13

Reason for Run: Weekly tempo runs can improve the body’s ability to sustain hard efforts for long periods of time. A tempo run is basically a high-intensity run. The pace is generally described as comfortably hard. You’ll feel the increased effort during the run but shouldn’t be exhausted at the end like you possibly would following a race.

How did I feel? Decent. This route is not easy for a tempo run due to the roughly 3-mile length of the gradual incline. (Remember, hills increase leg strength.) It’s a tougher route than last week’s tempo run which partially explains why my pace was slower. My legs were also a little worn from the long run on Monday and 7-mile run yesterday but that was not problematic. It was also a little humid due to southern California standards (roughly 60%). That was probably because I ran shortly after the marine layer burned off.

Running With You,

Donald