What: Virtual 5K race
Where: on the treadmill
Who: me and David Bowie*, running virtually with other Nuun fans around the country
*David Bowie did not actually run with me… obviously
Benefited: Challenged Athletes Foundation
Note: This post is a bit rambly. TL;DR? I ran a virtual race and you can see my fancy results page here. Scroll to the bottom of this post for my more substantive thoughts!
Last summer, Nuun hosted a virtual running/cycling race for its Nuunbassadors and sponsored athletes. Always a sucker for bling, I jumped at the chance to take part and ran my race around the Ballona Wetlands in Los Angeles (you can read my recap here):
A few months back, I got an email from Nuun that they were hosting another virtual race, but this time it would be open to all runners and walkers, regardless of Nuun affiliation. Once again, distracted by the opportunity to get another shiny medal (and another sweet t-shirt… the one for Run Ride Hydrate (seen in the photo above) is one of my faves – so soft and fits perfectly!), I signed up immediately.
At the time I signed up, back in November, I was still in the midst of recovering from injury, and thought a virtual 5K would be a nice way to start the year – a gentle return to racing and something to look forward to. I didn’t know at the time that I would have already made a victorious return to racing, or that the 5K would clash with my training schedule… oops.
Fast forward to this past weekend: race weekend. My training plan dictated a “long” run of 2 miles – this being the first week of said plan, which is nice and gentle – and yet here I was facing a 5K race. It definitely seemed doable, but after my plethora of injuries of late I was hesitant to over-do it and send myself down another spiral of injury and resting sadness. However, I had already paid for the race, I already had the swag in hand, and not doing it seemed like a waste. So I decided to run the full 5K, but very, very gently.
Sunday – long run day – arrived, and I got amped for my virtual race. I donned my spiffy new Nuun shirt, hydrated properly (#nuunlove!), picked out a good playlist on the ‘pod, and shuffled off to the gym. Despite the relatively warm temps (low 40s), the sidewalks were still a slushy, icy mess from Friday’s snowstorm and I didn’t want to take any risks.
Being Super Bowl Sunday, the gym was gloriously not crowded, and I had a choice of treadmills. Huzzah! I fired up the belt and walked for 5 minutes to warm up, flipping through the channels on the treadmill TV for something I wouldn’t mind staring at. Usually I end up watching a basketball game I don’t care about, or HGTV, but the stars aligned this day and gave me the gift of a David Bowie documentary on VH1. (Although, except for the part when they explained how “Heroes” was made, I listened to my iPod instead of the documentary, since I wanted to run to music and not talking.)
Once I was warmed up, I restarted the treadmill and hit the belt running. Slowly(ish). I kept the speed set to between a 12-13-minute pace in the name of taking it easy, but holy mackerel – running a 13-minute pace on a treadmill feels just as intense as running a 9- to 10-minute pace outside! To me, anyway. I felt like I was putting in nearly the same effort as I did in recent races where I finished around 32-33 minutes, and yet this run took about 8 minutes longer. Treadmills are weird.
Anyway, as I was running and trying to figure out how I could drink water without stopping, but also without dribbling down myself or tripping/flying off the machine, I got a brilliant idea – to stick with my training plan, I’d run straight for 2 miles, then slow the belt down for a walk-and-water break, and then determine how I felt about going the remaining mile and change. That way, I’d still technically be keeping myself on the plan, while also giving myself a way to hydrate safely and (in theory) without embarrassment.
I hit 2 miles in just over 25 minutes, which was a little self-esteem boost since the day before I had gone 1.8 miles in the same amount of time. It’s the little things! I slowed the belt down and walked for a bit, downing some water and enjoying the breeze from the little treadmill fan, and made a mental systems check. I felt good! I felt like I could keep going, so after about a tenth of a mile I sped up again to run the last mile of the 5K.
Dude. Treadmills make me feel so slow. I seriously felt like I had just put in the same effort as I did in the Dockweiler 5K where I PR’d, and yet this time around I was going so much slower. I tried not to focus on that too much though; there were a few spots during the run where I noticed how strong I was feeling, or how I’d hear a song that matched my cadence perfectly and made me feel like I was unstoppable. It felt awesome.
Plus, I had already seen a bunch of Nuun Year Dash results online, and it wasn’t like I was going to win any speed prizes, so I opted to just bask in those few moments of strength and awesomeness. I walked some more to cool down, stretched, and drove home feeling awesome. And thirsty:
So, after that rambly tale of my treadmill adventure, what about the race itself?
-I love the swag. Super soft, nice-fitting t-shirts are awesome, and bling is always fun.
-I like running for charity, and the ones Nuun has chosen for their virtual races have been ones I feel good supporting.
-It’s really cool following the other runners’ exploits on social media. My facebook feed was teeming with fun photos from all over the country, and I loved getting to see the diversity of places as well as the runners/walkers themselves.
-As much as I loved following the races of my fellow runners, the social media aspect turned into a bit of a deluge. However, this could have been easily remedied if I had chosen to unfollow the event on facebook; it was much more manageable on instagram and twitter. I felt like a bit of a spoil-sport unfollowing the event though, so I just
ended up ignoring my phone put up with all the alerts.
-If you want to be eligible for prizes, you have to submit a link to your time on the results reporting page – so a link to Garmin connect, MapMyRun, Nike+, etc. If you’re like me and you ran on a treadmill, but don’t have the fancy accelerometer foot pod things to track your distance on the ‘mill, then you have no way of proving your activity. Like I said earlier, I didn’t run fast enough to be anywhere near a prize category, but it was still a bummer to be unable to submit “legit” results.
So, to sum up? Nuun – and FitFam, the virtual running organization who took care of the race logistics – puts on a fun virtual race, probably the best I’ve done. (To read recaps of my other virtual races, you can go here, here, here, or here.) Compared to the others, Nuun’s races definitely have had more of a sense of community, which is impressive given that it’s a virtual event. The others I did were basically just an excuse to get a medal… there wasn’t really any connection with other participants.
All that said, I think I’m going to hang up my virtual racing shoes, at least for now. The first three I did were honestly just a way to get more running bling, but I’ve come to feel that bling earned virtually just doesn’t feel as awesome as bling earned in person. Maybe it’s because the medal tends to arrive in the mail before the run even takes place? Whatever the reason – and not to knock virtual races at all – I think I’ve reached a place in my running where I don’t need the bling incentive to make me go out and run; I’m finally doing okay getting out there on my own, and prefer to share my races with other people (IRL, not virtually). Race day atmosphere is something you really can’t replicate virtually! I mean, never say never, but… I think I’ve officially hit the “been there, done that, got the t-shirts, next!” phase with virtual races.
What are your thoughts on virtual races – yay, nay, or eh?