Why I stopped hating on virtual races — and 4 reasons you should run one this year

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the United States earlier this year, most of the races that I had signed up for were canceled. Many were converted to virtual races, meaning the planned event wouldn’t happen but registered runners could still choose to run the distance wherever they wanted. Just not with a large group of runners! 

I wanted nothing to do with it. One of the best parts of racing is the atmosphere, I reasoned. A virtual race just sounded like an expensive training run to me. 

But then Rip It Events announced a series of virtual races this spring. I’m in my fourth year on their ambassador team, and I wanted to do what I could to support them, so I registered for these events. (As an ambassador, I get free registration.) 

Then, a 15K that I had been planning to do went virtual. Race organizers announced that all registered runners were automatically entered into the virtual race, and our T-shirts and medals would be mailed to us. Since I was getting a medal regardless, I decided I needed to earn it, and I did! 

After that, I decided maybe virtual races were OK after all. 

If this Dumpster fire of a year has you bummed out and you really miss racing, you should consider signing up for a virtual race! Here are four reasons why.

  1. You pick the day and time that you run! If an in-person race starts at 7 am, you gotta be up at the crack of dawn and ready to race at 7 am. And if the race happens to fall on a day with horrible weather? Too bad! But if you sign up for a virtual race, you generally have a time frame during which you can complete it. So you can look at the weather forecast and choose which day you want to run. And if you’re not a morning person, no problem! Feel free to start the race whenever you want. 
  2. You pick your course! For an in-person race, you are at the mercy of the race directors. If they hold the race on a flat and fast course, cool! If it’s a hilly, difficult course, well, that’s another story. I’ve been running all my virtual races around my neighborhood. I know the area and it’s nice to have the start line right at the end of my driveway. I don’t have to drive anywhere!  
  3. You can use virtual races are an alternative way to test your fitness. Sure, you could look at a virtual race as a training run with a medal. Or you could push yourself and find out exactly what you are capable of. That’s how I have approached my recent 5Ks, which I’ve always felt are my weakest distance anyway. Prior to May’s Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, I hadn’t raced the distance since Thanksgiving. So being able to race a 5K, even a virtual one, allowed me to see how fast I could do it! (And I had a great race that day, one of my fastest 5Ks, actually!) 
  4. You can use virtual races as mental strength training. The point of all of these virtual races is to practice social distancing and avoid crowds of people to stop the spread of COVID-19. You’re supposed to race them alone. And that’s not easy! It’s much different when you are racing in person against other people and there are crowds cheering you on. Pushing yourself when you are all by yourself is quite a challenge. But that mental toughness will come in handy when in-person races return and it’s near the end and everything is hurting.   

As for me, I’m racing the Quantico Virtual Duathlon and the I Just Kept Running Half Marathon this summer. The latter is a race my friend Staci saw advertised on Facebook. She wanted to do it for the Forrest Gump medal and convinced me to do the same. I’ve decided to race that virtual half the weekend of Aug. 9, when I have a half marathon on my training plan anyway. 

Then in September, I plan to race the virtual Market Street Mile. I ran the real thing in Frederick, Maryland last September and finished in 6:11. But this past May, I ran a mile in 5:56, my fastest ever and first time breaking six minutes, so I’d love to see if I can do that again! I can run the mile any time between Sept. 1 and Halloween. 

Rip It Events is also holding the Run Dirty Trail Challenge through the end of September. You can choose to run 25, 50, 100 or 150 miles on local trails. They also just announced a real, live, in-person race: The Bear Trail Half Marathon and 10K at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware on Aug. 23, which is super exciting. 

I probably won’t do either of those because I’m not really a trail runner. I’d love to be, but I am too damn clumsy. I almost fell and twisted an ankle numerous times during the Bigfoot Endurance 10-Miler in March (the last in-person race I did before COVID!). But if you are into trail running, you should check out these events.

What virtual races are you excited about running?

A 5K on 4th of July weekend: Another virtual race in the books

I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about racing Rip It Events’ 5 on the 4th Virtual 5K when I woke up this past Friday morning.

Classes have resumed at my kickboxing school, so I went Thursday night and got absolutely destroyed when we had to do about a zillion and one weighted squats — I knew my legs would be feeling that workout for days. Plus, I knew it would be hot (because July 3) and since I had the day off work, I planned to sleep in a little (not too late, but later than I would normally be up for a race). My “A” goal for 5Ks is always to be in the 21s (it rarely happens) and my “B” goal is to be in the 22s (which happens pretty often.) I figured I’d be lucky to clock somewhere in the 23-minute range. 

But I actually ran this virtual 5K three seconds faster than last month’s Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K, finishing in 22:15. Just goes to show you how unpredictable racing is! There were times when I wanted to stop so bad, but told myself to just keep pushing and that it would be over before I knew it. I did actually stop once, because my phone was ringing. I let it go to voicemail, but it caught me completely off guard so I did stop for a few seconds. Wish I hadn’t, but whatever. 

I’ve been really happy with my recent 5K times. Especially because they were during virtual races. It’s undoubtedly a lot harder, at least for me, to push myself to run my 5K race pace when I am all by myself. I’m pretty curious to see what I can do when real races resume. I actually have gotten a few emails recently about some smaller 5Ks, but none have been very close to me, and I don’t love the distance enough to drive an hour-plus to run it.  

This was Rip It’s third and final virtual 5K, at least for now. I ran the same course around my neighborhood for each one, which makes comparing my times easy. The 5K loop I run has some rolling hills, so it never feels like a PR course. But then I run it all the time, which gives me an advantage. 

Although this was a 4th of July race, I ran it on July 3 because we had plans to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park on the actual holiday. I also ran a one-mile warmup and a 1.9-mile cooldown to make it an even six miles, per my marathon training plan. 

 And then on July 5, I did a long run of 13 miles in 87-degree weather (the heat index was well into the 90s.) Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of the weekend and was happy to spend Sunday afternoon at my neighbor’s pool and Sunday night on my couch binge-watching The Babysitters Club reboot on Netflix. (Calling all my fellow children of the ‘80s and ‘90s — it’s fantastic!) 

Though there are no more 5Ks on Rip It’s virtual race calendar, there is the Run Dirty Virtual Trail Challenge, which runs, no pun intended, through the end of September. Participants can choose to run either 25, 50, 100 or 150 miles on local trails. It’s not a virtual ultra — the runs aren’t meant to be completed in one day. You can learn more and register here. I’m not doing it, only because I am marathon training and I am not sure-footed enough to run very fast on trails. In other words, I am klutzy. But it sounds fun! 

The Clyde’s 10K, originally scheduled for April and postponed until September, has now also gone virtual due to COVID-19 and the sudden closing of Clyde’s Restaurant of Columbia. I would do this one, but I am supposed to be running the Chasing the Unicorn Marathon on Sept. 13, if it still happens. Learn more and register here

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. 

Running for Donuts: Recap of the Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K

Twenty-five degrees, give or take, and a much higher dew point sure makes a world of difference when you are running. 

Particularly when racing. 

So when I was able to run Rip It Events’ Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K within a minute of my finish time for the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, I was pretty happy. On the morning of the Cinco De Mayo 5K, the weather was cool enough for me to wear arm warmers with my race outfit. On the morning of Donut Worry (held on National Donut Day on June 5!), the temperature was in the 70s and it was muggy as all hell. But that’s Maryland — summer comes in hot and heavy, literally, every year and sticks around for months. 

As I did with the other virtual races I have done this spring, I treated this like a real race, waking up early (shortly after 5, as I wanted to knock this out before work) and eating my peanut butter and banana on naan bread (sometimes it’s bagels, other times it’s English muffins, but I need that peanut butter and banana on race morning!) for breakfast. Given the weather forecast, that was for the best. I did a quick warm-up around 6:30, then set off following the same course I ran a month earlier on Cinco De Mayo.

At first, there was a nice breeze coming off the water and I thought, “OK, this isn’t going to be so bad!” That lasted approximately a half mile before I started to feel the humidity. Not only that, but my legs were still feeling pretty beat up from three days before, when we ran sprints in the parking lot in kickboxing. The duration of that workout wasn’t very long at all (each of my sprints took me six seconds, and we did that 10 times, so that was a minute), but the next day, I felt really sore! And I was still feeling sore on Friday! Particularly when running over the rolling hills in my neighborhood. 

I ran the first mile in 6:42, which was too fast. Last month, I was proud of my negative splits in the Cinco De Mayo 5K, because I can never manage them in this distance. Sure enough, I did what I always do and went out way too fast. I ended up taking two (short) walk breaks in mile 2. Between the weather, my already-sore legs and that fast first mile, I already was feeling spent and ready to be done. But I ran that second mile in 7:39, when I was sure it was going to be in the 8s, so that wasn’t too bad. 

Right after I finished the second mile, I saw my friend Shannon, who was outside walking her dog. I gasped out hello and she snapped my picture. At this point, I knew I was in the home stretch and that the rest of the way was flat (and that I might get a nice breeze off the water again.) 

I ran mile 3 in 7:16 and after my watch beeped, I pictured seeing a finish line ahead and gunned it as best I could. Of course, since there wasn’t actually a finish line because it was a virtual race, I was running while staring at my watch and waiting to see 3.1 on it. The second I did, I stopped my Garmin and saw my time — 22:18. Pretty solid, especially given the humidity! It’s always a struggle for me to break 22 minutes, and I didn’t think I’d be able to run another 21:35 as I did in the Cinco De Mayo race. But I wasn’t too far off, and honestly, if I hadn’t taken those walk breaks, I might have pulled out a sub-22. Oh well. I ran the best I could that morning. 

I ate real donuts aftwards, don’t worry!

And since it was National Donut Day, obviously I had to pick up Sandy Pony Donuts that afternoon! Best donuts in the Mid-Atlantic, in my opinion. 

With races still canceled for the next few months, virtual races are all we have. The next one on my calendar is Rip It’s 5 on the 4th, another 5K that I will run on the 4th of July. This year’s July 4 celebrations will definitely look a lot different than they have in past years, so this will give me something to look forward to. Even though it is sure to be sweltering again! 

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. 

New PR: I broke 6 minutes in the mile

As I’ve written here before, I started running as an adult. I have zero athletic background and never participated in any sports as a kid. Part of that was lack of interest — I preferred to spend my free time reading (and I still love to read.) And part of it was, honestly, lack of talent. I sucked at team sports and was always picked last in gym class when it was time to play volleyball or basketball or whatever kind of ball. 

Sports were just not my jam. 

And when I did start running races about eight years ago, my goal was never really to be “fast.” I just wanted to have fun with it. But then I started winning age group awards in races and realized I was actually a decent runner. I was more surprised than anyone, but it made me love the sport even more.

Fast forward to May 2020, just about two months before my 40th birthday. I did something I truly thought was beyond my capabilities and ran a sub-6 minute mile — 5:56 to be exact. 

When my watch beeped, I screamed and yelled out a “holy *$$#!” (sorry to my neighbors). For a brief second, I wondered whether my Garmin was broken. A 5:xx mile? Me?! Only really fast people can run a mile that begins with a 5. 

I hadn’t been training to PR the mile or anything. In fact, I haven’t done any speedwork in more than two months, stopping once my spring marathons got canceled. That said, I haven’t been really running “easy,” either. When I was training for Coastal Delaware, I was conscious of not running my long runs too fast and keeping the easy days easy. Now that I’m not training for anything, all that is out the window and I just run what I feel like running. These days, my pace tends to vary between the 7:50s and the 8:20s. The paces don’t feel difficult, but I know they aren’t my true easy pace, either, which would be probably around 8:45-9:00.

That said, maybe this strategy is working for me, at least for shorter distances. I ran a 21:35 a few weeks ago in the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K, and now I’ve had this huge breakthrough in the mile. 

It happened at the beginning of my fourth sprint duathlon in Rip It Events’ V5 Virtual Duathlon series. For the sprint, you have to run one mile, bike 10 miles and then run two more miles. I decided at the beginning of the series that I was going to try to go all out with the beginning mile just to see how fast I could do it. 

I ran the Market Street Mile in Frederick last September in 6:11, and was insanely proud of it (and thought it was insanely hard). I hadn’t raced a mile since then, so when I ran a 6:25 mile in my first duathlon, I was happy with it. The following week, for my second duathlon, I ran a 6:11. Then for my third duathlon, I ran a 6:14.

Two weekends ago, it was hot and I honestly wasn’t sure I had it in me to push really hard, so I told myself to just do my best. I started at my house and set off on the one-mile loop around my neighborhood that I’ve been running. 

The mile itself was, of course, a blur. It hurt. I honestly don’t really remember any meaningful details, though at one point I glanced at my watch and saw I was running a 5:40 pace and thought “whoa that’s really fast.” Then it was over. And I saw the final time on my watch. 5:56! (I stopped my watch at 1.01 miles, so it read 5:59, which was the time I submitted for that portion of that virtual duathlon.) 

Even though this was not part of a standalone mile race, I’m still counting it as a mile PR — I mean, it is the fastest I’ve ever run the mile! That said, I would still like to see what I could do in a real mile race, whenever we have those again. The 2020 Market Street Mile is still scheduled to happen in September, but I suspect it will be canceled like everything else this year.   

I’m proud of myself for being able to go as hard as I did even though I wasn’t at a real race. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for when races do come back — whenever that is!    

5 duathlons in 5 days: My experiencing racing virtual duathlons

About six years ago, my now-husband and parents teamed up to buy me a Jamis hybrid bike for my birthday. I love to ride it, but I find that running takes up so much of my time (especially when I am marathon training) that I don’t take it out as much as I should or would like to. 

That’s changed over the past few weeks as I took on Rip It Events’ V5 — 5 Virtual Duathlons series, and raced five virtual run-bike-runs in five days. I wrapped up the challenge today after five weeks — I did one duathlon every weekend and opted for the sprint version (1 mile run, 10 mile bike ride, 2 mile run) for the first four duathlons, then bumped up to the intermediate version (2 mile run, 20 mile bike ride, 4 mile run) for the last one. Woo, that was tough! It’s been years since I’ve ridden my bike that far.

It was a ton of fun and reminded me that when things get back to “normal,” I’d like to start signing up for more duathlons. Before this series, I did Rip It’s now-defunct Maryland Duathlon in 2017 and 2018. It always was held the day I left for Rehoboth for vacation, and honestly it was a struggle to wake up before the sun, drive an hour to do the race, race, and then drive to the beach. (In 2017, I stupidly went to an Orioles game the night before the race and got about two hours of sleep! I don’t know how I managed.) So last year, I decided not to do it, and unfortunately that was the last year for the race. 

Duathlons are definitely a different kind of challenge than running. While I love to ride my bike, I am not fast on it, and part of that is because I do fear crashing and hurting myself. (You don’t have to worry about that with running!) Aside from that, doing the last run after getting off the bike is HARD — my legs always feel like Jello. (How do my friends who race Ironman triathlons do it?) 

I also decided to push myself with the sprint duathlons and run the one mile at the beginning as an all-out effort to see what I could do. I’ve only raced the mile once, and that was last September when I did the Market Street Mile in Frederick in 6:11. I haven’t been doing any real speedwork lately, so imagine my shock when last weekend, in my fourth Du, I actually broke six minutes in the mile and ran a 5:56. I truly did not think I was capable of that. I’ll write a blog post on that in a few days, but needless to say, I was so excited. 

I believe I completed all of my sprints in around an hour and 10 minutes, and last week’s duathlon with the mile PR was right around an hour and five minutes. Today’s intermediate effort took me about two and a half hours to complete. I’ve been treating other virtual races, including Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K, as real races in that I am waking up early like I would for a real race and even wearing race bibs. I didn’t do that with the duathlons, mostly because I don’t like to wake up early and also because I didn’t necessarily have goal times in mind for these races. As I am not an experienced duathlete (yet?!), simply completing them was the challenge.

And it sure was a fun one! I truly looked forward to “du”-ing each one, so thank you again to Rip It Events with coming up with such fun and creative virtual events in these bizarre times.

Proceeds from the race also benefited Food It Forward, a collaboration between a small group of restaurants to drive business, save restaurant jobs and provide food to those in need throughout the pandemic.

In fact, I enjoyed these duathlons so much that I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon’s virtual Quantico Duathlon (originally supposed to be a triathlon that obviously got canceled). I have until the end of August to complete it, and I may save it for July 26. That’s two days before my 40th birthday, and the half marathon I was scheduled to run that day got canceled, so this might be a good substitute. If it’s not 100 degrees, I guess.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. 

A solid performance at the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K

I surprised myself with my performance in Rip It Events’ Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K earlier this week! My 21:35 was one of my strongest 5Ks ever, especially when I thought I’d be lucky to be in the 22s. 

There were a few reasons why I didn’t think I’d run that great. First of all, I had raced the second of five virtual duathlons in Rip It’s V5 Duathlon series on Saturday, then turned around and did the virtual Get Pumped For Pets 15K the next day. I ran an easy three miles Monday evening, then Tuesday was Cinco De Mayo, so I wasn’t sure how recovered I was. 

Second, I always say 5Ks are my nemesis, and try as I might, I almost always end up going out way too fast and the last mile feels like a death march. 

Third, it was still a virtual race, and without the race atmosphere, it can be hard to really push. 

So why DID I run well? Again, a few reasons. First, the weather was freaking fantastic Tuesday morning — high 40s and little wind. Ideal running weather. Second, I ran a 3.1 mile loop in my neighborhood that I run allllll the time, so I knew my course really, really well. 

Third, much like with Get Pumped For Pets, I treated it like a real race. I went to bed early the night before and set out my race clothes before falling asleep. This time, I didn’t have to make my own bib — Rip It made one for me!

 I woke up early to eat my breakfast (peanut butter and banana on an English muffin, not a bagel …. I find a bagel is just too heavy for a shorter distance like a 5K) and do the race before work. I could have waited until after work, but that makes fueling effectively more challenging. 

I’m thrilled that I actually negative split the race, running the first mile in 7:09, the second in 7:00 flat and the third in 6:46. (I didn’t look to see what my pace was for the final 0.1.) That almost never happens for me, especially in 5Ks! 

I started my race around 6:40 am, so actually earlier than most race start times, but like I said I wanted to knock it out before I started my day of work (from home). There were a few people out walking and running, too, and I don’t know if anyone noticed I was wearing a bib, but one woman called out “nice pace!” as I ran past.     

5Ks hurt, there is no doubt about that, but I had a lot of fun doing this. I shouldn’t have discounted virtual races as much as I did, because I am loving the V5 Duathlon series and I was legitimately excited to wake up and race Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K. These events are really giving me something fun to look forward to in very challenging times. 

That’s probably been my biggest struggle through this pandemic — I haven’t had anything to look forward to, and it’s been hard for me to get excited about much. I know this makes me very privileged in the grand scheme of things, but that’s how I’ve been feeling. So I am very grateful to these virtual races for giving me some of my enthusiasm back! 

My next virtual race is Rip It’s Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K on June 5, which is also National Donut Day. It’s on a Friday, so again I plan to be up early before work (I’m assuming at this point I’ll still be WFH) and I’ll run the same course I did this week. It’s likely to be much warmer then, so we’ll see how it goes! 

Have you signed up for any virtual races this spring? 

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. The Donut Worry 5K is sold out, but you can register for the V5 Duathlon series here!

Maybe virtual races aren’t such a bad thing after all

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I have zero interest in virtual races. Why would I pay money for that? What’s the point when I would just be by myself and unable to enjoy the race atmosphere? Can’t I just go on a regular old training run? 

I may have *slightly* changed my tune. I don’t see myself running a virtual marathon any time soon (or ever), but maybe I’m down with virtual versions of smaller races after all. 

My change of heart started when Rip It Events announced a Cinco de Mayo virtual 5K. I’ve been a proud ambassador for Rip It for several years, and I’m so sad to see their spring race season just disappear due to COVID-19. First they had to postpone the Clyde’s 10K, then cancel both the Bear Triathlon and the Columbia Association Triathlon. (That last one really stings, personally. Last year’s Columbia Association Tri was my first and only tri, and I was really looking forward to doing the super sprint again. Next year, I will be there!) 

So to make up for these postponements and cancellations, Rip It owners Danny and Suzy decided to organize the Cinco de Mayo virtual run. It sold out so quickly that they pulled together a second virtual 5K, the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual 5K Run to coincide with National Doughnut Day in June. 

I registered for both, because as an ambassador I want to show my support. I figured that was probably it for me for virtual races. 

But then I got an email from Get Pumped For Pets, a race that I was supposed to be running on May 3 on Kent Island. The original race had been scheduled for March 29, but when coronavirus started blowing up, the Seashore Striders optimistically rescheduled it for May 3. I figured they would end up either rescheduling it again or canceling it all together, and earlier this week, they decided to do the latter. They also decided to convert everyone to a virtual race and mail out finisher medals and T-shirts (which apparently have a special quarantine-themed logo on them, LOL) afterwards. 

So, I’m already getting all the swag associated with that race, including a medal. I hate the idea of hanging up a medal (yes, I display every medal for every race I do) for a race I never ran. Therefore, I decided that I am going to race a virtual 15K on May 3. That way, I’ll feel like I have actually earned the medal and the shirt! 

And honestly? I’ve been struggling with feeling like I have nothing to look forward to. I’m normally a pretty upbeat person, but this is a challenging time for everyone, no matter your life circumstances. All of my races are canceled through at least the month of June. I can’t go anywhere. Who knows if I’ll be able to take my planned summer vacation. At least virtual races will give me something fun to plan for.

I doubt I’ll be seeking out virtual races to sign up for, unless they are Rip It races (update as of April 27: I’m now also registered for Rip It’s V5 Virtual Duathlon series! Check it out and sign up for one of four different distances), or unless my favorite A10 goes virtual this year. But I think if a race I’m signed up for automatically converts my registration to a virtual one, I might as well do it. If there’s a deferment option, I’ll take that instead, but if not — why not do the virtual race? This is our life for the foreseeable future.  

Might as well make the best of it.

As a Rip It ambassador, I received free entry to these races and other Rip It races.

Running through a global pandemic: Staying motivated in uncertain times

I miss racing. It’s such a small thing in the grand scheme of all the awful things that are happening in the world, but man, I can’t wait until I get to do it again. 

First both the B&A Trail Marathon in March and the Coastal Delaware Running Festival in April got canceled. The West End St. Patrick’s Day 5K that Staci and I were going to run together got canceled. The Get Pumped For Pets 15K, which was supposed to happen on March 29, has been rescheduled until May 3, but I assume that will be either rescheduled again or canceled all together. 

Then last week, I learned that the St. Michael’s Running Festival on May 16 had been canceled. I had wanted to do that race for years and was registered for the half marathon, so I’m disappointed, but again, not surprised.  

Even though I just wrote about my disinterest in virtual races, I’m now starting to change my tune … a little. 

I’m an ambassador for Rip It Events, which, like many other race companies, has suffered the effects of the pandemic. Their Clyde’s 10K, originally supposed to happen on April 26, has been postponed to the fall, and they had to cancel the Bear Triathlon in May. 

So, to fill those gaps, Rip It Events pulled together two virtual 5K races — the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K and the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual Run. I signed up for them because I want to support Rip It and at least with the Cinco de Mayo race, we’ll probably still be under a stay-at-home order and so I won’t be going out for Mexican food and margaritas like I usually do! People responded really well to the Cinco de Mayo race and it sold out in less than a day. I’m expecting the Donut Worry run to fill up fast as well, so sign up here if you want to join in on the fun

After that, I don’t have a “real” race scheduled until Rip It’s Columbia Association Triathlon in June, which is still happening as of today, but if I can’t get into a pool to train before, well, mid-May at the absolute latest, I might as well defer. (I haven’t swum since last year’s Columbia Triathlon — my first and only tri — last June!) And who knows what things are going to look like this summer. I was going to register for the Seashore Striders 5 Mile Run in Rehoboth in July again, but I’m holding off on that for now. I hope things will be back to normal and I’ll get to enjoy a vacation at the beach like I do every summer, but I really don’t know. 

I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. 

I’m still running at least four days a week, including a long run on the weekends. I’ve backed off on the speed work and tempos, and haven’t been paying much attention to my pace. Two weekends ago, I ran 15 miles at an 8:06/mile pace. If I were still officially marathon training, that would probably be way too fast for a long run, but that was the pace that felt good to me that day so I went with it. It was bittersweet because I really feel I would have met my goal and then some at Coastal Delaware. But things happen.

I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on social media about how to stay motivated when there are no races on the horizon. Honestly, habit is driving me more than motivation these days. I run. That’s what I do in my free time. And aside from that, if I couldn’t run (and take kickboxing classes via Zoom! Yes, we actually punch invisible targets!) I feel like I might go crazy.

I’ve been working from home for three weeks now, and I am fortunate that I have the ability to do this. I also work in communications for a hospital, so to say things have been stressful lately is an understatement. I’ve been busy with work, and of course I’ve been following all social distancing requirements. Going outside to run — which is allowed, as long as you stay six feet away from others — is really the only time I leave my house/yard. 

It’s really tough. And it’s hard not to know when the end date is going to be. I try to remember that I’m pretty lucky. My job sure isn’t going anywhere, and my husband is still able to work, too. He works in the marine industry and has been physically going into work daily, but it’s just him and two other coworkers and they wear masks and keep their physical distance. We are OK financially. And so far, we are healthy and everyone in our families is healthy.  

How is everyone managing in these crazy times?

Recapping the Bigfoot Endurance 10-Miler + an update on a last-minute marathon

First of all, I’d like to start out by saying that I love the idea of trail running. I love being out in the woods — hiking in places like Shenandoah National Park is one of my favorite leisure activities. I love the peacefulness and solitude. I love the scenery. And I admire the relaxed vibe of trail runners and the fact that trail runs always seemed to be followed by craft beer. I can totally get on board with that. 

Problem is, I’m just not very good at trail running! Or, I should say I’m just a much more comfortable and confident road runner. 

Last weekend, I ran the inaugural Bigfoot Endurance 10 Mile Trail Run with Rip It Events. Bigfoot Endurance’s races raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, and this was Rip It’s first time partnering with them. The race, which also included a 5-mile option, happened to fall on a weekend where I was supposed to run 20 miles one day, 10 the next. So I decided to sign up for the 10-miler, knowing I’d likely be pretty sore from the 20 miler the previous day. 

I actually wasn’t that sore, but man, that race was HARD. It was hilly, though no worse than the Little Patuxent River Run. However, the terrain was pretty uneven, with roots and rocks all over the place. I estimated that I almost fell about a dozen times. And I was running conservatively and trying to watch where I was going! 

The race took place at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, Maryland, about a half hour or so from where I live in Anne Arundel County. Even though it’s been an extremely mild winter, temperatures were in the mid-20s on race morning– surprisingly, much colder than Little Patuxent was! Runners were lined up by their estimated pace, and I lined up with the 8-minute/mile group. (I ran my last 10-mile race at a 7:27/mile pace, but that was on pancake flat roads in Delaware. I had no idea what to expect at this race.)

Runners doing the 5-miler ran one loop of the course, and 10-mile runners did two loops. I could tell not even a mile into the race that it was going to be a challenge because of the technical terrain (and I do not own trail running shoes, so I was wearing my trusty Brooks Ghosts.) It was a really pretty course, and we even crossed a few streams. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful, if cold, day. But it was also pretty muddy in some parts, and as I mentioned, there were roots everywhere. By the time I finished my first loop, I was pretty spent and wished I could just be done then. However, I am not a quitter and my marathon training plan did tell me to run 10 miles, so of course I continued. 

I heard later from a fellow Rip It ambassador that one runner had fallen and broken her leg, and I feel like that could have so easily been me! This is no reflection on the race — it was perfectly safe and well-organized — but trail running is just riskier.

At least I knew what to expect with the second loop, but I ended up running it about three minutes slower than my first loop. Maybe the 20-miler the previous day caught up to me, I don’t know. My finish time was 1:28:10, my slowest 10-miler ever by about four minutes, but I didn’t really care too much. I was just glad to have finished uninjured! I came in sixth in my age group and ninth overall female, which I was pleased with. 

Oh, and there was beer afterwards from Hysteria Brewing Co. and a taco truck with vegetarian tacos as an option, so of course I was happy about that! I think if I do this race again, I’ll run the 5-miler. I’m just not coordinated and sure-footed enough for longer trail races. Maybe someday I will be! 

Just thinking of that post-race beer

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

Signing up for a last-minute marathon

I’m running the B&A Trail Marathon on Sunday, March 15, breaking two big rules I have always followed as a runner. (ETA: This race is on a paved trail, so it’s not really a “trail race” despite the name.)

  1. I don’t run marathons as a way to train for a goal marathon (in this case, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival.)
  2. I don’t run the same marathon twice, unless it’s Boston (I ran B&A two years ago.)

So, why am I doing it? One word: CORONAVIRUS. Unless you are living under a rock, you know about the novel coronavirus/COVID-19, which has spread around the world and has led to cancellations/postponement of events including road races (the Paris Marathon, the Tokyo Marathon, the Rome Marathon…..) I initially wasn’t too worried about Coastal Delaware being canceled; it’s a smallish local race, without a lot of runners traveling from other countries to run it. However, my husband has made me really paranoid and started telling me several weeks ago that I should find a backup marathon in case everything really went to hell and Coastal Delaware was canceled. 

I went back and forth about it and last week, decided to go for it and sign up — and saw on the website that the race was full. Balls. OK, I guess it wasn’t meant to be, I thought. 

But then, two days later, I saw the Annapolis Striders posted on Facebook that there were actually less than 10 spots remaining in the marathon! So with 11 days to go until the race, I registered. 

I figure this could go one of two ways. I know I can run the marathon distance now, but am I ready to run the race I want to run and have been training for? Best case scenario, I have an amazing race, PR the crap out of it and punch my ticket to Boston 2021. Worst case scenario, I have a mediocre-at-best race (as I did in 2018) and then it kind of throws a wrench into my training for Coastal Delaware. (I’m still banking on that race being a go.) It’s a total gamble, and I’m not adequately tapered and I’ve only run one 20-miler (sufficient for a marathon finish, but in my opinion, not sufficient for me to run a marathon PR.) 

But. I am going to go for it. And now I’m pretty excited about it.  So wish me luck!

Update on training for the Coastal Delaware Running Festival

It’s hard to believe that my 8th marathon is now less than two months away, and I’m past the halfway point in my training. This training cycle has gone really well, especially considering that it’s February and winter has yet to show up. We’ve had multiple days in the 50s and 60s, though it has been raining a ton. I am a bit paranoid that a huge Nor’Easter is going to hit Maryland in March — you know, right around the time that I’m supposed to run a 20-mile training run. But that’s what the treadmill is for, right? (Though I shudder at the thought of running 20 miles on a treadmill, ugh.) 

I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 Marathon Training Plan pretty religiously, with a few exceptions — I cut out hill training because the Coastal Delaware Marathon is pancake flat. I am running my Yasso 800s every three weeks and running tempo runs on the weeks that I am not running 800s. This is new for me. I’ve always been a big slacker on tempos, even when I was training to break 1:40 in the half, so I am hoping this is really going to help me reach my goal in the marathon! 

Since I still want to go to kickboxing twice a week, I’m doing an easy paced run before class on Thursdays (no more than three or four miles). I’m following the weekend run schedule exactly, and as you can see from the plan, it gets tougher and tougher — I have three weekends where I am running 20 miles one day and 10 the other. This is what I did when I got my first BQ, so I feel good about it even though I know it’s hard. Two weekends ago, I ran 17 miles on day and eight the next, and didn’t even feel sore. Just tired, like I wanted to sleep for days. This weekend, I have a 19-miler and a 9-miler (the latter at marathon pace) on tap. 

My “A” goal for the race is around a 3:30, which would be a 10-minute BQ and a 5-minute PR — I think it’s totally possible as long as everything goes well on race day. Marathons can be unpredictable, of course. I need a 3:40:00 or better to qualify for Boston, and who knows what the cutoff will be. I’ve seen commentary online from people who think the cutoff is going to be brutal for 2021, what with more people hoping to run the race for its 125th anniversary. But I would definitely be safe with a 10-minute buffer. I’d probably feel safe with anything more than a 5-minute buffer. But again, who knows what race day will bring! Just gotta keep grinding.

Other races on my calendar

On Super Bowl Sunday, I ran Rip It Events’ annual Little Patuxent River Run Half Marathon and 10K, opting for the 10K. This is a trail race and while I’ve done the half marathon twice before, I didn’t want to risk injuring myself two months before a big goal race. (I’m klutzy.) This was actually the best weather we have EVER had for this race — it’s usually really cold and last year, it was icy in some sections on the trail. But this year, the weather was in the 40s and it was nice and sunny. I planned to run conservatively, and was very happy with my performance — I won my age group, finished fourth overall female and averaged a 7:58 pace for 6.55 miles (the 10K course is a bit long).

If you’re looking for a fun winter race, put this one on your calendar for 2021. It’s always on Super Bowl Sunday and while I can’t guarantee fantastic weather again, I can guarantee beautiful scenery and delicious food and hot chocolate afterwards (we’ve had a taco truck the last few years!) Registration usually opens in December and the race sells out VERY quickly, so watch Rip It Events’ Facebook page for details. 

Next weekend, I’ll be running in Rip It’s second race of the season, the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. This is also a trail race and I’ll be running the 10 miler, as this will be the first of my three 20/10 weekends. I’m pretty excited for it. It’s the first year for this race and it just sold out earlier this week, so it should be a good time! 

(As a Rip It Events ambassador, I received a free entry to the Little Patuxent River Run and the Bigfoot Endurance 5 & 10 Miler. Contact me for a 15 percent discount off of any 2020 Rip It race!

On March 22, I’m traveling to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to run a St. Patrick’s Day 5K with Staci in Allentown. I’m excited to see how I do after all the speedwork and tempos I’ve been running– maybe I could squeak under 22 minutes? I know I CAN do it, it’s just the matter of committing to making myself really hurt for 3.1 miles. That’s where I always fall short in 5Ks. 

And then a week later, I’ll run in the Get Pumped For Pets 15K on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I ran the 10K last year and won it, two weeks before Boston. I opted for the 15K this year because it falls on the last of my 20/10 weekends, and a 15K is 9.3 miles, so it fits in nicely! Plus, some of my friends from work are planning to run it, too. (There are 5K and 10K options as well!)  

What runs are you looking forward to this spring?