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.  

To Believe She Can

This mama needs to believe she can.  I have always struggled with self-doubt.  I am not pretty enough, fast enough, smart enough, bold enough.  I can’t run that fast— I am not strong enough.  I can’t possibly get that job position—I am not qualified enough.  The not enoughs and cannots have been running through my inner dialogue for years now.  In some ways this inner voice of self-doubt has created a character of humility (at times, but of course I also am not humble enough).  But in a lot of ways this internal voice of mine has really beaten myself up.  It seems to show up the most when it comes to running.  In high school, I really loved running.  I had a coach I looked up to and teammates that pushed and encouraged me.  I was on a really great team and for most of my time in high school, I was anywhere from the 7th to 4th runner.  In a lot of ways, I thrived in this position.  In cross-country, 7 make a team and 5 score.  One of the things I loved most about the sport is that your 5th runner was just as important as your top runner because even if your top runner won the race, as a team it would be difficult to win if runner number 5 was high in place.  That is why it is so important to have a small gap between runner 1 and 5.  I work best in a runner number 5 position.  On the course and off.  I don’t like the pressure or the responsibility of being the best, but I crave to make a difference and impact.  As a number 5 runner I could do this.  I could still help my team without being the one that everyone had their eyes on at the front.  Something changed when I went to college.  Maybe it was the coach.  Maybe it was a newfound pressure I didn’t have in high school.  Maybe it was me.  The sport I loved slowly became an arena of self-doubt.  I ended high school, on a high.  I no longer was the 5th runner, I was the first.  It turned out I also could be a number one type of runner.  I gained a lot of confidence my senior year as I was running the fastest I ever have.  This confidence for some reason did not seem to translate over when I began running for an NCAA Division I team.  I suddenly felt lost in the fastness, in the talent.  They were so much faster than me.  This self-doubt carried itself over to racing as before races that voice was its loudest. You feel tired.  You feel sore.  You aren’t mentally or physically ready to run that pace.  You can’t hang on to that front pack- they are All-Americans, you are not.  While I still had moments of confidence where I ran well and even surprised myself, each race was an internal battle.  My coach used to always tell me I was not mean enough.  As if my ability to be super competitive in races depended on having to be mean. Throw a few elbow jabs.  Cut a few runners off.  Glare down the competition. This has never been me and I hope it never will be.  It was never a matter of meanness, but more so a need to have a stronger and more firm belief in myself. I had to believe I was fast enough, talented enough, determined enough.

All this to say, I still am not quite there yet. Self-doubt still very much creeps in to my daily dialogue to myself.  As I was running today, I was hit with the all-familiar feelings and nerves I was met with before races.  It feels funny to even say but I am nervous for tomorrow’s turkey trot.  For the past 2 months I have been training with the turkey trot as a goal. By training, I really mean running 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes at a pace much, much slower than I ran a few years ago.  No workouts, just squeezing in runs when I could. Whether that be early in the morning before Hudson woke up and Lance left for work or during nap times when Hudson was with his grandparents.  The first few weeks were hard.  I had to quickly come to turns that my body was not the same.  I could no longer roll out of bed and run an 8 miler with ease.  I needed more time, more coffee, more sports bra support.  Things were different now.  But I ran.  It started with running a couple times a week for 2 miles (it felt like 12).  Slowly, very slowly, with each new mile I felt a little stronger.  It was in this place of running not for a coach or really for any particular reason at all, that I have begun to mend my broken relationship with running.  This took weeks, but these past couple weeks, I have enjoyed my runs.  Like actually enjoyed them and craved to be out running again.  My body missed the miles, the steady rhythm, the fresh air.  So just as I am getting into this healthy place with running, I found my brain wandering on my run.  You shouldn’t even get towards the front of the start line.  You are going to go out too fast and blow up.  You haven’t done any true workouts.  You won’t be able to maintain a fast pace.  The voice is back.  All of this sounds and even feels a little silly because it is not like I am running at Nationals tomorrow.  I am running a local turkey trot.  But all this to show, that it doesn’t matter the situation, the voice of self-doubt is real.  But, there is a voice that is greater. Jesus.  This voice of self-doubt I have been referring to is most definitely planted by Satan.  He loves my self-doubt.  Why?  It pulls me away from the truth.  It pulls me away from seeing myself the way Jesus sees me.  It also makes me focus more on myself and less on Jesus.

I need so much grace in this area.  I need grace to fill all these holes of my not enoughs and cannots.  I daily need His grace to remind me that it is not about me. No one cares how I run the turkey trot tomorrow except for maybe Lance.  So tomorrow, I hope to run with confidence. Confidence not in my own abilities or training, but confidence in Him.

UPDATE: Turkey trot ended up being a lot of fun! Did I win? Not even close. Did I die in last mile? Yes.  But, I hit my goal of at least being under 20 minutes. The photo above is our little family post-turkey trot. Even Hudson raced!