My two Virtual half marathon recaps

It has been quite a long while since I’ve written a blog post – and even more so it has been even longer since I’ve written a race recap!

I don’t know that I can write this as a full race recap, but I wanted to take a moment to write about the two recent virtual half’s I ran (October 31 and and November 21, respectively). The October 31st half I ran for time and the November 21st half I pushed my pace but wasn’t going for a full out.

What I wanted to share about these virtual half marathons wasn’t so much about the events themselves, but how I treated them more like races and less like long runs.

My virtual Halloween half, dressed as Super Mario

For my October 31st virtual half, I knew I had to push harder because it was my first time running a virtual half. I needed to engage mental tools because I was being faced with the following challenges:

  • I had to route out my own course since no street closures or anything were available like in a regular race
  • I had to carry all of my own water and fuel because there were no aid stations. In a standard half marathon race I can bet on at least 3-4 aid stations being available
  • I had no one around me to help motivate me to push. No pacers, no crowd, no volunteers, no fellow runners. For the ten mile virtual race I did in September I enlisted a friend who is faster than me to run with me. I didn’t even have that for this race.

In order to combat the struggles I knew I was faced with, I planned out the following:

  • I reviewed what my paces were from the most recent in person half marathon I had run when I weighed the same amount I weighed on race day were. I had to go back quite a few races since I had lost a significant amount of weight from the last half dozen or so half marathons I had run. I used that as my starting point for making a pace plan
  • I wrote out an estimate of paces based off of that estimated finish time, built in with negative splits. I charted out paces ranges to hit that picked up about every three miles
  • I told myself I had to take the first mile slow. I did NOT want to come barreling out the gate since I haven’t raced in a while
  • I plotted out a course. It was terribly boring but it helped me get to my goal. I did the same 4.2 mile out and back stretch three times and then in the last (less than) a mile I ran all out on a long fat stretch. This helped mentally trigger when I needed to be pushing a bit more with each completion of a 2.1 mile out or back stretch. I would never want to do this in an actual race but it helped me have the most successful solo event

Plotting this out helped me to be very successful. I estimated a finish of 2:53 or so, and ended up coming in at 2:47. I stuck to my aforementioned plan, however I ended up tweaking throughout the run. When my first mile came in significantly faster than I thought I would be pacing at, even though I was running at conversational pace, I knew I was going to have a good day.

My Santa Rosa Marathon half marathon, November 21st

Now that I’ve learned the value of recovering after runs, I had another virtual half marathon on November 21st but it wasn’t a full all out since I had just done that a few weeks prior. My goals for this virtual race were a little different, which my running coach Coach Patrick at Good Fit Coaching advised me of

  • Warm up
  • Push the second half of the run
  • Really push during the final 5k

I took that to heart. I plotted out a route, took it easy the first five miles gradually getting faster with each mile, then picking it up even more the second half, and pushing the final 5k. It was much colder at this run than my Halloween one (34 degrees or so when I started) so I was glad to not be going all out because I never fully warmed up. Unlike the Halloween event, I plotted out an 11 mile out and back and then went one mile back out and then return to my start. This helped have a change of scenery from the previous run, and kept me mentally engaged.

Do I love virtual races? I won’t sugar coat it – I don’t. I am not a fan at all. However, in this time where there aren’t any in person races to be had, they do help to break up my training and I enjoy supporting my local race companies through virtual events.

I’m taking a break from virtual events and would like to take a full quarter to just focus on training before I tackle 13.1 again. My hope is that it can happen at an in person event some time in the end of Q1 2021. My fingers are crossed for safe racing so I can really put myself to the test.

I can see my fitness level has really improved over the last 8 months and it felt good to get a few bench marks about where I am. My current half PR is 2:26 and I am much closer to breaking than then I thought I was. For reference – I believe that almost all of my 2019 half marathons exceeded 3 hours.

Do you like doing virtual races? Which ones have you done during this pandemic? Cheers to staying active however we can!