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Virtual racing during the COVID-19 country-wide shutdown

I’ve never been a fan of virtual racing for runs (or triathlon/duathlon). To me, virtual racing wasn’t a race. It is just a training run, right? I had done one for the National Parks 100 celebration, but that was it. Then, when I started going up north to see my parents for Thanksgiving instead of them coming to Indianapolis I would run the Drumstick Dash as a virtual race, still donating to/benefiting Wheeler Mission. That seemed acceptable, because there isn’t a Thanksgiving race within two hours of my parent’s town and I wanted to support Wheeler.

But then came COVID-19 and all of the race cancellations. My first race of 2020 was supposed to be the Carmel Marathon on April 4th. I am a streaker for the Carmel Marathon Weekend Races, having run every race since the beginning in 2011. I didn’t want to see my streak end, but the “rescheduled” date was the date I have a half-Ironman in Wisconsin (it is now slightly questionable that either will happen as the coronavirus shutdown has extended longer than I imagined). I had taken the deferral option to 2021 and was going to see the streak end. Then, unprompted and generally not into streak-like things, my run/bike coach was like “How about a virtual Carmel Marathon?” Eh, I had to think about it. Then I did it (read that story here).

In the meantime, Ironman came out with an Ironman VR (virtual reality) series. The format is a bit weird because transitions don’t count, and the race can be done over three days. Additionally, the race is a duathlon format – run, bike, run. There was a misstep on posting the dates/distances on social media, and I ended up deciding to do a half Iron distance duathlon (3.1 mile run, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) but using traditional rules and transitions counting with no watch stop time. I planned and local route and did it (read that story here).

I am learning that as much as I train alone and am fine with it, there is something about racing that brings out my best even when I have a rough day. I really became an athlete through racing because of the joy of racing. It is hard to make it feel like a race when there is no start, no finish, no spectators, no volunteers, no medal, no shirt – none of the “trappings” of racing. Through virtual racing, I have also learned I have the discipline to finish what I start (which I kind of knew with Ironman – read that story here). And, finally, I am learning that there is a fire to racing that I just can’t replicate by myself, for myself.

Nevertheless, she persisted. I will continue to do these types of events (official virtual or just on my own), so I will be ready to race when racing is ready for me.

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