Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Virtual Marathon

A Virtual Marathon

When the San Francisco Marathon was cancelled, at first I was pretty ok about it, because it was not a big surprise. I chose to defer to 2022 and decided I would run a virtual marathon on my own. I decided to run it the week before, because that worked better with our schedule. Then I decided to run it on Saturday, July 18th, because the 19th was my husband’s birthday. And then I looked at the weather. There was a heat advisory for Saturday, so I moved it to Friday instead.

It was still going to be hot, however, so I decided to get up early, at 2 am! That gave me plenty of time to eat and get ready and still get out the door by 4.

The most challenging thing about a virtual race is that there’s no race day magic.  And because I couldn’t psych myself into feeling nervous, I couldn’t poop before the start and I ended up having to go during the race, something that has never happened to me before. I did plan a course that had plenty of porto potties, so I didn’t need to worry about THAT!

I decided to do a loop course because otherwise there was no way to carry all the water I would need, not to mention gels and snacks and changing from a headlamp and a visibility vest to a hat and sunglasses. I put a box and a cooler at the end of our front walk and that was my start and finish line. But each time I stopped to refill my water bottle, grab a gel, take off my headlamp, etc etc, I lost time. The one advantage I had was that I used the time on my Garmin and didn’t worry about GPS creep, so for once when my watch said 26.2 I was done.

My loop was 5.16 miles long, so I did it 5 times, and then did a little half mile out and back to finish it off. There was a very pretty pond along my route and I decided I would take a picture each time I passed it. The first time it was pitch black, with a sliver of moon and Venus shining beside it. 

The next time the horizon was turning faintly red. 

The next time the sun was up and the shadows were beautiful. That was the best picture I think. 

Then one with glaring sunlight and a clear blue sky, 

and finally the last one with interesting clouds scattered across the sky. That was fun. 

I always use run/walk intervals so I decided to use 45 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking. I stuck to these intervals except occasionally when I needed to walk a little bit more. There were some hills but I avoided anything too challenging. I would slow down a little in the hilly part but make up time on the shady rail trail and on the downhill parts. 

The last two miles were pretty awful. I was so very tired. I walked if I needed to but I actually felt better if I ran a little even at this late stage. It’s because running and walking use different muscles so it spreads out the effort a little.

I watched my wrist based heart rate on my Garmin, even though I knew it wasn’t that accurate. If it started climbing into the 160-170 bpm range I walked a little more until it came back down. Strangely sometimes I felt like I was breathing hard, but my hr was only 140 or so.

The second to last time I passed the house everyone came outside and cheered for me. My husband found some marathon crowd noise  on YouTube and played it, haha. But when I finished they had all left to go out on the boat for awhile.

I was so tired at the end I could barely walk. I kept having to sit down while making a smoothie, and even in the shower. But once I started doing some serious rehydration I felt a lot better. I did get a little dehydrated; I lost 5 pounds during the race. But of course I gained it all back by the next day!

When I came inside my son had bought me a medal! It said I was #1, and of course in this particular race I was first AND last!

I laid down and took a nap when my grandson took his but I was woken up twice by a terrible calf cramp. Ow ow ow I’ve never felt anything so painful! I took some Motrin and someone said to drink pickle juice so I drank a small glass of it. Yuck! Very vinegary and salty, but the cramps stopped so I guess it worked.

That was one hell of a challenge. I’m really glad I went ahead and ran my virtual marathon, but I think I’m one and done on that count. It was incredibly hard, mentally and physically. Part of it of course was the weather. I just can’t race in the heat. But it’s funny. This weather was worse than Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in 2016 but I feel much better about this race. I didn’t have unrealistic expectations because I’ve been struggling in the heat for weeks. And I already knew I would need to walk more at the end.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with family and feeling happy that was finally over. No running at all for a week, then not much for the next month. I don’t expect there to be much in the way of real races for the next year, or even two. At my age its going to take a lot for me to start racing with a lot of people again, as much as I love it. I’ll do some more virtual races, just not a virtual marathon!

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