I just completed my first virtual race, the Nike+ Women's Half Marathon.
I prepared as if it were an actual race. No expo? No problem. I made myself a virtual expo. That seemed appropriate for a virtual race. Checked out stuff online and used my Christmas/birthday gift cards. Downloaded new music from iTunes. Hydrated. Ate chicken parm from my favorite restaurant. Got my gear and clothes together the night before. Enjoyed sleeping in my own bed and not traveling. I only had to get up, have breakfast, get dressed, and roll down the street to the gym.
Off I went in the morning to the gym. It was a good morning to hit the gym. Temps in the teens with windchills around zero. Brrr. I would have done a long run outside, but not a race. Especially not a race by myself.
The treadmills are programmed to stop after 1 hour, so I had to trick the treadmill into letting me keep going. I was going to have to come to a dead stop and start the treadmill again. I decided ahead of time that I was going to run 7 miles, stop briefly, restart the treadmill, and run the last 6.1 miles.
I put my stuff in a locker, grabbed my water (1 L of Smartwater, two 8 oz bottles from my Fuelbelt, and .5 L Gatorade) and fuel (shot bloks and 4 mini pretzels) and pouch of extra stuff (chapstick, good luck charm), and hopped on my favorite treadmill, and warmed up. Then stretched. Then set the speed to 7.7 mph/ 7:47 pace and the incline to 1%.
I started my race a little after 7:30am. The gym was pretty quiet. I could have counted the number of gym patrons on one hand. The first minute, I thought the pace felt fast and wondered if I could hold on. And then it didn't feel so fast. Not easy but manageable. I had a TV schedule on a sticky note. I flipped between Saved by the Bell, ESPN, cooking shows on the Food Network, the Weather Channel, the Top 20 countdown on VH1, and CNN.
About 3 or 4 miles in, I realized Nike+ was eating my distance. Not cool, Nike+, not cool. Still, there wasn't anything I could do except run 13.1 Nike+ miles. The gym was getting busier, but there was still open equipment. Some people I knew came in close to mile 5. We waved at each other and that was it.
When I started to feel tired, I kept thinking that I paid $40 to run on my own and I am going to do it. That always brought on a surge of energy.
I stopped the treadmill at 7 miles on Nike+ and 7.55 miles on the treadmill. Note to self: if you ever try to do this again, don't try to drink out of a 1 liter Smartwater bottle. Fill your Fuelbelt bottles and loop the Fuelbelt on the treadmill rail. And off I was to run the last 6.1 miles.
Around mile 9, I got down to my sports bra. I have ran outside in the summer in a sports bra, but I've never done it at the gym before. I don't even think I cared at that point. I had a goal and I was going to work hard to meet it. I also realized that unless something unplanned happened, I knew I had enough energy to make it another 4 miles. Another surge of energy.
After 10 miles or so, I decided I wanted music instead of TV. Every song on my playlist was a song that I absolutely loved. My iPod picked me:
Switchfoot - Dark Horses
U2 - Magnificent (Redanka's 360 Remix)
Gym Class Heroes - Stereo Hearts
Katy Perry - Firework
Chris Brown - Beautiful People
Lady Gaga - Judas
U2 - I Will Follow
Kevin Rudolf - Let It Rock
skipped Jason Derulo - Don't Wanna Go Home and NKOTBSB - Don't Turn the Lights Out
Fitz and the Tantrums - Money Grabber
In my last couple of miles, there was a guy 2 treadmills down who looked like he was struggling. I encouraged to keep going and gave him thumbs up. Once we both stopped running, he thanked me for the encouragement at a time when he was feeling down.
I hit 13.1 miles on Nike+ and I think 6.3 miles on the treadmill (for a total of 13.9 miles according to the treadmill). And that was my virtual half marathon.
Nike+ says I ran 13.12 miles in 1:48:15. That comes down to an 8:15 pace. Except I had the treadmill set to a 7:47 pace the whole time (I dropped it to 7:30 for the last half mile, but that shouldn't have made a huge difference). Usually, that particular treadmill reads less mileage than Nike+, so I am not sure what was going on. Maybe it was because my Nike+ sensor is calibrated to be most accurate around 8:30-8:45? Assuming the treadmill is calibrated correctly, if my pace was 7:47, I would have ran 13.9 miles total and 13.1 miles in 1:42:02. That's an unofficial PR by almost 3 minutes! Which measurement is right, I do not know. I am leaning toward the treadmill being correct based on effort level and previous experience with that particular treadmill. I do know I am so done with Nike+. Oh, I was done with Nike+ months ago, but now I am really done with Nike+. Eating .8 mile of a 13 mile run at race pace is unacceptable.
I am not going to let it take away from successfully racing by myself on a treadmill. It wasn't awful! I never got bored because I had the TV and music to entertain me.
I walked on the treadmill for 5 minutes, changed into a dry set of clothes, ate a banana, grabbed a protein bar, and walked for another 20 minutes or so on the treadmill. I spent some quality time with my foam roller at home. Ahhhhh.
If I ever attempt to race on a treadmill again, I will make sure I have a good plan for entertaining myself and have water bottles that are easy to handle. Good thing I brought two of my Fuelbelt bottles.
First virtual race done!