Disclaimer: I received entry to the Statesman Cap 10K to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
On April 3rd, 2020, I was supposed to fly to Austin, Texas to participate in my first race as a BibRave Pro. Instead the 43rd Statesman Cap 10K was canceled by the City of Austin in response to the current health crisis surrounding Covid-19. The Race Directors gave racers the option of completing the race virtually. There has been a fair amount of communication from the RDs regarding this issue. They even released a new hashtag, #Cap10Kvirutalrace, to use in social media posts. However, as of today there has been no decision on how get the race swag to all the virtual racers. I decided to stick to the original plan and race on Sunday, April 5th, 2020, being the original race day.
The Statesman Cap 10K is not only the largest 10K in Texas but the sixth largest in the nation. At the time of the cancellation there were over twenty thousand registrants. I was really looking forward to spending several days in Austin and racing through downtown. Although I lived in Dallas several years and have traveled to many parts of Texas, I have never been to Austin. So this was a much anticipated destination race and my first race running as a BibRavePro. Additionally, my goal for the race was to PR the distance. But it is important to go with the flow in life.
I am sure like a lot of runners I had never participated in an official virtual race. This was my first experience with it and I was determined to make the best of the situation. I am a very ritualistic person when it comes to races. I have a set pre and post race process that I follow religiously. Specifically my pre-race routine allows me to mentally prepare for a race. It is a process I start the week of a race by visualizing myself racing the course and distance, making lists of potential gear, following a particular nutrition plan the nights before and setting out the gear I will use the night before. These processes help me feel prepared going into a race and calm my mind. A virtual race wipes these processes out–Bye Bye structure ha. Additionally I relish the competitive feeling and adrenaline that builds in the corrals before the race. That adrenaline is usually good to shave time off my race. But how do you duplicate that intensity in a virtual race? I am not sure it is 100% possible. This was further complicated by not having a specific virtual race date set by the RDs. So there wasn’t a feeling of competing against other runners the day I ran my virtual race.
The best I could do was follow as much of my pre-race routine as possible to make me feel like I was lining up for an actual race. I decided on a route a few nights before my race, so i was able to engage in my mental exercise partially. I also laid out my race gear the night before (as depicted in the picture above) to make sure I had everything important. Although I listen to podcasts or music on the majority of my training runs, I do not listen to music in races because I try to engage with the other races whether its a short, but meaningful, conversation to get your through a tough point or to just encourage the other racers. The one exception to this rule is when racing ultras, I will usually listen to something during the overnight portions of the race.
My training began before the Covid-19 outbreak shut everything down. The training plan was simple. I was trying to build up speed. So I ran lots of fast 5Ks mixed with longer runs focused on HR control. I participated in multiple run clubs each week and ran in my local ParkRun group every Saturday morning. These simulate race day conditions for me given the competitive factor of other runners doing the same course as you. I also had a few races to use as benchmarks. In February I ran my 3rd Double Bridge Run 15K in Pensacola and finished with a PR on that course. Also in February I ran RunDisney Princess 10K with a time of 52m 1s and a 8:15 /mi pace. I was very happy with this effort and was convinced I would break 50min on the Cap 10K, which was another goal. I also had a marathon and a 24hr race in February, so a race every weekend almost. March stated with a Pensacola favorite McGuire’s St. Patty 5K race, also my 3rd time racing, and I crushed my course record with a 24:42 & 7.52/mi course pr. This was also the first time I broke an 8/mi 5K since 2016 after an injury, a new state and new job pulled me away from serious training again. My training and focus went into the tank late March for a few weeks when the Covid-19 crises started and everyone’s lives were upended. I never recovered that lost fitness before the virtual race. This eroded some confidence and also made me less mentally prepared race morning.
I realize that with a virtual race you can literally run the distance anywhere including a track or the treadmill. However, I tried to find a route that would be similar in terrain and elevation as the offical course. I believe this is an important step to a successful virtual race. Otherwise, in my opinion, the swag is your only interest. The course I chose ended with 270ft of elevation which is more than the official course. Initially my plan was to wake up very early and race. But it was raining for a few hours that morning which delayed my start to 7a.m. Another obstacle to a good race. Since I live in Florida there is a significant difference in running at 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. It was hot and humid now due to the rain. I have been implementing some stress into my training runs by not carrying water (I sweat a lot and drink a lot of water). As a self assisted virtual race I initially planned to bring water, but decided at the last minute I didn’t need it for a 10K. This was a mistake given the extra output for race simulation. I had a great pace at the start and had no problem pushing like it was an actual race. However, I hit a wall at mile 4 and then again at mile 6 due to training lapses and a few good hills back to back. Again the lack of hydration did not help either. My first three miles were 8:05, 7:56 and 8:48. This was not great pace management and you can see the struggle coming. Overall I was able to keep somewhat of a competitive mind set despite a few weak moments where I felt like I was just doing a solo run. In those moments I would remind myself that I was actually racing, to dig deeper, and it worked in mile 5 where ran a 8:43/mi. This is not my last virtual race this season, but it was a good lesson for me. I am confident that I can continue to become for efficient and impose my usual race mind set in the virtual arena.
Although it was not the time I wanted nor the PR I wanted, it was a fun process to race virtually. I do look forward to my swag and adding my medal to the wall. I recently read a thread on twitter discussing if virtual races were actual races? If you try to replicate the course and run hard like you would in a race, than the answer is a resounding yes. I will be counting all my virtual races as races. I hope you will join me on my next virtual race.
I was bummed to miss out on Austin and running in one of the largest 10ks. I was bummed to miss out on a great expo and the post race party. I was also bummed not to run with new friends and reconnect with some old friends who now live in Austin. But I still ran the 43rd Statesman Cap 10K and I enjoyed the process.