My First Virtual Race Experience: 10k Edition

Last Saturday morning, I sipped my coffee and ate my typical pre-race breakfast of almond butter + oatmeal.  And to the pit of my stomach, I felt the race nerves building.  

Here is a little confession: I was nervous for my virtual 10k I was running in a couple hours.  You might think this is funny. And I can see why, but I was actually really thankful for the nerves I felt on that virtual race morning.  From the outside world, it might seem strange and even silly to be nervous for a race that has no crowds or audience or big outcome. But internally, this is the greatest sign to me that I deeply care about being the best runner I can be, not because of the major marathon on the calendar or the applause of the crowds, but because I love the sport and every time I step on the line (or virtual line) I want to perform at my very best.

Race Nerves

In college, the nerves often stemmed from a fear of disappointing my coach and my team.  The pressure I felt collegiately ran deep.

The first year postpartum, the nerves stemmed from wondering if I was even that good at running anymore after a couple years off and a baby.

But last Saturday morning, the nerves were my friends.  They reminded me that I care about running no matter what the stage is.  

It is easy to care and be nervous and feel the adrenaline when you are running on the track with some of the best collegiate 5k runners in the region.  It is easy when you have crowds cheering and yelling for you.  It is easy when it feels like a big deal.  But how you respond, when it is very much not a big deal, to me, that is the better indicator of your drive and motivation and love.  

So those nerves Saturday morning over coffee and oatmeal, were welcomed.  For those that have run virtual races in the past, you know that one of the hardest parts is not having the adrenaline of a typical race full of crowds and a big finishing line.  I knew those race butterflies would be helpful to get a little adrenaline to push me through.    

The nerves seemed to quickly subside when I started running.  Taylor Swift’s Reputation began on shuffle right as I started my Garmin for the 6.2 miles.  With music booming in my ears and the lightness of my racing flats beneath me, I focused on the back of my husband, ready for him to pull me along.  

Race Breakdown

The first mile felt easy and controlled.  5:50. 

Miles 2 and 3, I settled in and got comfy.  6:04 and 6:03, respectively.

Miles 4 and 5, I started feeling tired and the reality that I did not have the normal race energy and crowds to pull me through, hit me.  I was suddenly made very aware that I was running through a relatively empty street. I turned Swift up a bit louder in my ears and tried to not let my husband run away from me.  6:07 and 6:06, respectively.

Mile 6, my legs came alive again.  I took a quick glimpse down at my watch and knew I would definitely be under the 38-minute mark.  At this point, I was definitely feeling fatigued and a bit unmotivated, but as we were getting closer to the “finish line,” I saw a group of familiar faces clapping for me.  This was totally unplanned, but seeing familiar faces from the local running community, including my high school coach, who I adore and look up to, really made a difference.

With a bit of extra energy, we stopped our watches right when we hit the 6.2 mark at 37:20.  Hands on knees, I smiled and high-fived my wonderful pacer.  

A Year Ago

To be honest, I was hoping to be sub-37, but I was still really proud of that time.  It was even more significant because almost exactly a year ago I ran LA’s Race to Remember.  It was my first race back postpartum. I ended up winning the 10k with a time of 38:04. That race was really special to me.  It was a reminder of my love for the sport. It was a reminder that I was not only still a runner; I was a competitor. You can read the full race recap here.

Even though this past Saturday, I did not get to run through finishing tape or get interviewed at the end, it felt like a lot of progress to be 44-seconds faster in a non-traditional race setting.  

This makes me excited for future races (both virtual and in-person). 

 It makes me excited to keep chasing down times.  

It makes me excited that my progress as a runner does not need to be dependent on a race or crowds.

I can still push myself.  All I need is a watch, my flats, an empty road ahead, and my speedy husband.  

Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to pushing myself on big stages, like Boston, but for now, these virtual races are a welcomed and needed friend.

Rambling Runner Virtual Race Series

Thanks to Matt Chittim from the Rambling Runner Podcast and the sponsors for making these virtual races happen.  There are still two races left! The half-marathon and full-marathon. You can find all the info on how to join, right here.  It has been a really key aspect to keep me focused, motivated, and excited to keep stepping out the door.  

Marathon Monday: The Miles to Boston Pt. 6

7 Mondays Until Boston! 

Another week of training in the books.  This week did not feel particularly good, but I hit most weekly mileage for this training block, made it into 2 strength classes with Petra, and had a solid 20-miler.  So while things did not feel great (low energy, throbbing legs, tender toenails), hard things still got done. This past week felt like an important week of pushing through and getting some solid work in.  I know there are really only a few solid more weeks left of really hard training before the taper will begin. I want to take full advantage of this time to push myself and run hard and long.  

Even as I type up this recap, I can tell my enthusiasm and motivation to do so is a bit lower than it was last week.  Last week, I just wrapped up a great week of training where I felt amazing. This week is a different story. My toenails feel like they are going to fall off.  My head feels foggy and tired. The fatigue is really beginning to set in. With that said, I am going to keep this short and sweet so I can maybe lay down for a few minutes before Hudson wakes up!

These easy sunrise runs are some of my favorite miles of the week.

The Miles

  • 8 miles on the strand with jogger
  • 7 solo park loop miles
  • 10 miles with a workout (3 miles of slightly faster than goal race pace, 6:15ish + 4 x 1 K, these were supposed to be 5:40ish pace, but I was dying and did not hit pace) 
  • 8 miles on the strand with jogger
  • 6 solo park loop miles 
  • 20 miles! Solo.  Headphones made it a bit less lonely. This one hurt, but after the fact, I was pleased when I saw overall stats for the run.  More on this at the end!

The only part I want to expand on is that Wednesday workout.  I am the type of person that hates changing a workout. I am pretty determined to hit all my splits and finish a workout in its entirety.  This was not the case for that Wednesday. It was supposed to be 5 Ks, but I texted Lance after 3 and asked him what I should do since I was dying.  I was already way off pace and felt empty.  I ended up doing one more and calling it a day after 4.  This is so not me to cut it short, but I also know my body really well and on that day, my body was done.  There was nothing left. After recovering for a couple miles on the way home, I tried doing some pick-up 100 meters to make for the shortened workout, but even that felt hard.  

Besides the fact that my body is still adjusting to more mileage, it was also super hot out (hello, February in Southern California) and I am not very good at changing pace.  The 3 mile tempo part felt totally fine. It was right when I started the thousands that my legs felt like bricks. I need to work on getting better at changing gears.

What I am Listening To 

I listened to a lot of different interviews this past week.  There were a lot of solo miles with headphones. Of everything I listened to there was only one episode that really stuck with me and inspired me.  It was an interview with Veronica Jackson and Alex Bernardi on the Ali on the Run Show.  They both ran at the trials! They are two friends that pushed each other to believe in this shared goal of qualifying amidst full-time jobs and families.  I love their story. I love their dedication to dream big together. This episode was a treat to listen to and it made me really want to find a group like the women that run at 5:45 in Central Park.  Maybe, we just need to move to New York.  

How I am Fueling

Really it is all the same.  The only thing I need to add is Trader Joe’s cold brew latte dessert bars made the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up as my energy was really dragging in this hot week of training. 

Also, salt sticks, which I mentioned last week, has been a real game changer for me on my long runs.

Bowling with family really was the perfect way to spend our 20 miler.

Recovery

  • Sunday Nap 
  • Stretching at parks, while Hudson plays
  • Bowling? After our 20 miler, we bowled with Grandma Jo! It was a good reminder why I run and I don’t bowl.
  • Clearly, not a whole lot of recovery being done.  I really need to commit to rolling before bed. 

Cross-Training

  • 2 strength classes with Petra.  This will probably be my last week of these classes, since my membership just ended. I am likely not going to renew it.  I am going to have to figure out a way to supplement these classes in the weeks of training ahead.  This will probably involve some creativity and planks in our living room.

What I Keep Telling Myself 

You will eventually feel good.

This was not my week.  Things are hurting. The workout nearly killed me.  However, I still have confidence that fitness will come together in the remaining weeks and I will eventually wake up actually feeling good!  The time will come.  

Also, telling myself that the whole Boston experience is going to be so much fun.  It is beginning to feel closer and both Lance and I are getting more excited. We both will have family coming to watch, which is super special and just last week, we all got tickets to a Red Sox game.  Maybe not the best pre-race activity for a pro, but hey, that is not us, so anything goes, really.  

High + Low

HIGH

  • Hudson has finally gotten used to being back in the jogger and he has been an angel on our 8 milers.  My pace has been real SLOW on these jogger runs, so he has been extra patient to hang out in jogger for a bit over an hour.  
  • 20 miles! It did not feel perfect, but 20 miles is 20 miles.  It always feels like an accomplishment to get these 20 miler training runs in.  

Low

  • So tired!
  • The workout 

The Long Run

Thankful to have a community of loving family and friends that help out with Hudson so we can get our long runs in! Also, Hudson learned to say “Google.”

This long run was a bit different from the typical one.  Since family friends were watching Hudson, we decided to save a bit of time and run from their place in Hermosa Beach and just go out 10 miles and back 10 miles.  From Hermosa, we both made it pretty far into Palos Verdes.  

The run itself was a good mixture of flat, road surfaces and hilly trails.  It was a bit lonely, since we both did the run solo, but I think it built some good mental toughness.  

The last few miles were definitely a bit painful.  My hips felt like they were on fire. I pushed through and even got some faster mile splits in as I was on a flat surface.  While, I chose to not do an intentional workout, I did focus on staying as controlled as possible and getting faster in the last half.  

Here are the stats: 

  • 2 hours 31 minutes
  • 20 miles
  • 7:34 minutes/mile average.  
  • Fastest mile was the 19th mile at 6:36.  

Okay, I am exhausted.  This is all I got for this week.  Hopefully next week I can report with a bit more energy and enthusiasm!

5 Ways to get Motivated to Workout Alone

This mama needs to work out alone.  This is much more of a need than a want.  Every part of me wants training partners and a team to keep me motivated, but this is just not the season I am currently in.  It seems like groups meet either too early or too late.  6 am just does not work for me because I have a sleeping babe and a husband that needs to leave for work even earlier.  Evening groups also are not ideal because Lance is finally home and I want to spend time together as a family.  I also usually have to run with the baby jogger so this makes it so I can’t run on all terrains with ease, nor can I run quite as fast with a jogger in hand.  All this makes it very difficult to run with people.  I think I am not alone here.  It can feel nearly impossible to find even just one person that is at a similar level of fitness and is available to train with you at the same time that works for your schedule.  While it makes working out so much more fun when you have someone to share in the miles and the sweat, the reality is that there are going to be days where working alone is your only option.  And let me tell you, working out alone is 100 times better than not working out at all.  This past month I have had a lot of solo runs and workouts.  And the truth is, I am loving it.  Initially, not so much, but when I am in it and grinding alone, there is something that changes within me.  It is crafting within me a strength and boldness I did not know I had.  I am learning that you really find what you are made of when all eyes and pressure are off.  There is no coach yelling out my splits.  There are no teammates pulling me along.  There is no one.  Just me and my watch.  I could stop.  I could skip an interval.  I could slow down the pace, the time, the effort.  But I don’t.  I grind it out.  And let me tell you, it is a grind.  I run circles and circles around the park by our house.  I sprint, I tempo, I recover.  I am constantly checking my watch to make sure I am on pace.  When you workout alone, you are required to dig deep within yourself.  You no longer can rely on teammates pulling you along.  It is all you.  While I would not recommend doing this all the time, I get something out of my workouts now that I never found in college on the track.  I cannot even name exactly what that something is, but it’s wonderful.  I jog home from an evening workout at the park with a sense of confidence, strength, determination, and passion that I just never got in college.  There is something to this working out alone thing.  It is an exercise not just for my legs, but for my heart.  My pace is not what it was a few years ago, but the effort is.  The passion is.  The heart is.  I might not be as fast, but I don’t think I have ever truly loved running more.  It is real to me in a way that it never was before.  It is more of an old friend.  That is exactly what running is to me now.  It is an old friend.  But I digress.  The whole point here is that working out alone can be a powerful experience, but truth be told, it is not always easy to make that initial push when you don’t have anyone keeping you accountable.  Here are 5 of the best ways that get me out the door even when it is just me:

1. Drop the Excuses 

The excuses never seem to leave.  It is so easy to let the excuses rule your day.  It is raining.  I woke up 5 times last night to be with the baby.  I am sore.  I don’t feel good.  I don’t have time.  I need to do x, y, and z first.  I will do it tomorrow.  And the list goes on.  If you are anything like me, you will never 100% feel like working out.  Every single day I am again faced with the battle.  My bloodshot and tired eyes tell me no.  My aching back tells me no.  My long to-do list that I just never seem to get to tells me no.  The crying babe tells me no.  The rain tells me no.  But, my heart tells me go.  It tells me to run and sweat and try as hard as I can.  It tells me to tune out the millions of no’s I have floating in my head.  This is not a battle that is easy to win, but I think the first step is recognizing the excuses.  Put them on paper.  Then write down your goals.  Choose those goals over all the excuses.  Actively tell yourself that you are ignoring the excuses and taking action to meet whatever goals you have.  It is raining but I am going to get better by doing this long run.  I have slept only a few hours but I will be stronger after running this tempo.  I have a lot to do but this workout matters just as much.  The excuses are so much easier to listen to, especially when you are working out alone, but you need to drop them, or it just is never going to happen.

2. Make a Plan 

This one is especially important when it is just you.  Working out used to be so much easier for me because it was something that was scheduled into my days.  Workouts were every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 pm.  There was a van that drove us to the location.  There was a coach that had a plan and would tell us exactly what to do.  There was a whole team that was doing this same exact workout.  These are the perfect conditions and the fact is, even then, I did not always want to do the workout.  I dragged my feet out of the van.  This is just more reason why having a set plan and time to workout is so essential.  Without one, it is nearly impossible to make it happen.  I am not a college athlete anymore.  I am a stay-at-home mom.  No one cares if I workout.  Literally no one.  Except maybe Lance.  The fact is I can just not workout and there are no consequences.  No coach calling me up.  No teammates waiting on me.  Because it is just me, I really need to create a plan that will help me stick to my training and workouts.  Just like in college, I have chosen Tuesdays and Thursdays as workout days.  Just like college, I try to make these workouts non-negotiable.  I literally pen them into my calendar.  I set a time.  I plan to have someone watch Hudson or I plan to workout right when Lance gets home.  I plan whether I am going to drive down to the strand or if I am going to just do loops in the park.  This planning part is so necessary, especially for true workouts.  If you are just going out to run, it can be looser, but for those tough and grinding workouts, you really need to set up a plan to ensure it actually happens.

3. Gear Up Confidently

When I was running in high school and college, I always wore my lucky racing socks come race day.  It is such a small detail, and sure I guess it is a bit in my head, but I am a firm believer that how you clothe yourself matters, especially when it comes to performing well.  Everyone has their thing, for me it was my socks.  For you, maybe it is a headband or your lucky watch.  Whatever it is that makes you feel stronger, faster, better; wear it.  Every. Single. Workout.  This is a new thing of mine, but recently what makes me feel fast are leggings and a visor.  In high school, I always ran in spandex shorts.  After a few years and a baby, there is no way I will ever run in spandex again.  In college, I wore slightly more fabric.  I typically ran in a pair of Lulu shorts.  This style I am linking here was my favorite.  A month or so after Hudson was born, I tried on a pair of these shorts and it was embarrassing.  They technically fit me, but they didn’t feel right anymore.  They felt way shorter and snugger.  That led me to leggings.  I am sure very soon it will start to warm up again and it will be too hot to workout out in pants, but with this weirdly cold California winter we are having, it works.  I have recently been obsessed with the leggings from Gap. They are really great quality, super cute prints, and much less than a pair of Lulu tights.  Here is a pair I have recently been working out a lot in and loving.  I have been loving workouts in these tights for a few reasons.  1. They keep me warmer. 2. They make me feel faster.  3.  They make me feel confident.  While I used to feel confident in my spandex shorts; now I feel best in tights like these.  They just fit me better and they meet me where I am at.  Fast but not that fast.  Serious but not that serious.  Competitive but not that competitive.  Tiny shorts were college days, now it is all about the long tights.  To top my workout outfit off, I grab my visor.  I have never been a visor person or really a hat person in general, but my visor has become a necessity for hard workouts.  I have been loving this Adidas Superlite one.  Again, some of this stuff is all in my head, but I think what is in your head matters, just like what is in your heart.  Wearing a visor makes me feel like a mature and seasoned runner.  It makes me feel serious.  It make me feel fast as I imagine it making me more aerodynamic.  Of course the right shoes matter a whole lot, but that is for another day.  The shoes matter, but the even smaller details of leggings and visors matter too.  Choose gear that gives you confidence.  Choose styles that make you feel faster and stronger and more powerful.  If you invest in good quality stuff, I really believe it is easier to get out the door and get that workout done.

4. Find a Sound that Inspires You

I know a lot of people like to listen to music when working out.  If this is you, create a specific playlist that is especially for those really hard, grinding workouts alone.  Take some time in crafting a really strong and powerful playlist.  Put the songs in there you know will help you push through and not just give up since no one else is watching.  I might be an anomaly, but what really pumps me up is a good podcast.  I love listening to inspiring and motivating interviews.  Granted, if I am in a really tough section of a workout, I might not be really listening to it, but the rambling of words as background can help distract me from the pain.  I tend to listen to interviews by women telling stories of faith, family, and dreams.  My current favorites are the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs.  Listening to these podcasts, help me feel like I am not out there alone.  It makes me feel connected.  I know music can do this too.  Maybe for you, you prefer working out unplugged.  That is great too.  Choose a background that will inspire you.  Put the extra effort in and drive to a nearby location that will have more peaceful sounds than car engines.  For workouts, I typically run to the park or drive to be down by the strand.  Location and sounds matter, take the extra time to think this through.

5. Find a Coach 

It is hard when it is just you training for a specific goal.  Even if you are working out alone, you need to have a person that knows your training goals and will help create and tailor training that will get you there.  Thankfully I have a husband that is also the perfect coach.  I am not good at generating my own workouts, but tell me what to do, and I will do it.  And this is exactly what Lance does.  He writes out my workouts and I get them done.  You might not have a person that is able to do this, but there are so many great online resources and apps.  To really feel like you have your own coach, you should check out Freeletics.  You can pay for a membership to get training or there are also free plans.  I am linking to the site here.  Whether it is a virtual coach through an app or website or your spouse, find someone that can guide you and keep you accountable.  One of my favorite parts of working out is talking about the workout after.  I love coming home to Lance and telling him all about the workout and how I felt.  Even though you are technically out there alone, you should not be really alone.  It is essential to have a team behind you that believes in you and pushes you to be your very best.

I know this is turning out to be a long one, but I want to end with this: don’t think working out is just for the real serious athletes.  Also to be clear, “working out” is going to look different for each person.  To me, a workout is anything that really pushes me out of my level of comfort.  For me, a regular run comes relatively easy.  It is calming and meditative.  Therefore, a workout is more than just a run.  It is usually a tempo with a pace at least a minute faster than what I typically run.  Or it is a set of intervals where I am changing my pace based on my goal 10k time.  This is what working out looks like to me, but your workout is likely different.  If going out for a 5 mile run puts you out of your comfort zone, then that is a workout.  If sprinting a 800-meter distance puts you out of your comfort zone (which it should), then that is a workout. If going out for a 2-mile walk puts you out of your comfort zone, then it is a workout.  The point here is that on a weekly basis, you are committing to pushing yourself outside of the normal, comfortable routine you are used to.  Whatever working out looks like for you, I hope these 5 things can be the push you need out the door because let me tell you, it is worth it, even if you are alone.