Trying Out Virtual Racing

There isn’t a weekend that goes by where I don’t run. Of course some weekends, I even race. However with winter having NYC in its grip, I haven’t run a race since Thanksgiving and that is a long time for me! Last week, I once again looked at the New York Road Runners website hoping there was something sooner than February 4th that filled my needs. They have a half marathon coming up this weekend, The Fred Lebow Half Marathon however I don’t think I am half marathon ready yet.

The lack of races made me look at something that I had overlooked and flat out ignored on their website, their virtual racing series. Virtual racing is basically a fancy name for “do it at home” racing. This particular race was a 5K distance. The way it works is they give you a length of time to complete the distance. In this case, it was two whole weeks and at any time during those two weeks, you can run the 5k and track your run using the Strava Application, which is a free download. Once you have run your race, your time gets uploaded to the Strava site and NYRR then throws your time into a pool of all of the other runners running the virtual race and they rank you by time. No traveling on your part. You can do this in your neighborhood!

I took part in the virtual 5k and allow me to break down the pros and cons of this type of race and maybe it will help you decide whether this is something you want to part take in.

PROS:

  • There is no traveling involved and no schedule to adhere to. You don’t have to worry about commuting to the race or driving to it, or being stuck in traffic or even parking! Just strap on your shoes and go.
  • This particular race was free. Free is always good!
  • You can run this race wherever you want. No need to deal with a hilly course if you don’t want to. Just pick out a flat course and fire away!
  • No dealing with crowds

CONS:

  • For me, there is no adrenalin rush of the crowds, the spectators or even the starters gun. It was me hitting my watch and just saying “go!” lol
  • I don’t know that the timing on a Strava app can be that accurate. I enjoy the fully automatic time of most races.
  • It was a pro above, but for me its also a con – you can run this race wherever you want and get away with a much faster course for the distance than what you may usually run. I chose to run the 5k on a track for example. No hills at all. Is that cheating? There were no rules against that! I think by being allowed to do this, it discredits time, placing etc.

PERSONAL TAKE AWAY:

Look, I ran the race because I was desperate to run a race. I ran it on a 400 meter track. I don’t think I have ever run a 5k on a track (lol). This presented a flat course with no hills. Guess how I ran? Personal record for 5k by 8 seconds (22:31 to be exact). Strava app says I PR’d but do I count it? If you are looking for a good workout and looking to see how that workout compares to others, then this might be a good “race” to run. Another thing I wasn’t a fan of and this may be isolated to New York Road Runners, they actually tried to charge for a variation of this race. As this was their first virtual race of the year, they have an incentive, that if you ran 6 of these virtual races, then you automatically qualify for next year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon. The catch however is that if you want these races to qualify for the half marathon, then each virtual race costs you $20. That’s 6 races at $20 each and ending up costing you $120 to qualify for a race that you will pay another $100 for. I’m sorry but that is just not for me. I have no problem paying a race fee when I get the full experience, the adrenalin, maybe a medal and a fully automatic timed race. But $20 for me to run in my neighborhood to be timed by a free app – I just can’t justify a fee for these.

Will I run these virtual races again? I don’t know. I guess it depends on how my race schedule looks at the time. I enjoy racing for the full experience. The commuting. The buildup before a race. Having to use the bathroom countless times before entering a crowded corral with thousands of other runners. Hearing the national anthem before the race, hearing the starting gun, then having all of these other runners push me along the course. Finally, nothing like coming down the home stretch of a race with spectators cheering you on. Thats the race day experience for me!

Anyways, I thought I would share my “virtual” experience with you. Have you run a virtual race? What was your take on it?

Last Minute Xmas Gifts For The Runner!

Well, Christmas has snuck up on me once again. I can’t say I have been caught with a list of people’s gifts to buy. Thanks to my wife, our Christmas shopping is just about done! This year I have been getting asked a lot about gifts for people that are runners – geez I wonder why? There is less than a week left til Christmas, but you can still pick up some great gifts if you are willing to walk into a store and get them.ย  I say that because I feel like almost everyone does their shopping on Amazon now! I know most of you may be runners, so maybe you just want to spoil yourselves with a gift for yourself. Hey that’s allowed too!

Here are some ideas that you can easily pick up. I will start pricy and work my way down!

The Apple Watch

Do your homework on this one because it comes in a few different variations. I must say, I am a fan of this watch. It comes with a heart monitor, capability to work with running apps including the nike running app, and if you are into it, you can take phone calls from the watch. It’s not cheap . The base watch will cost you around $325 and they can run up to $425 once you throw in the phone service. This one might be reserved for that special someone in your life that is a runner!

Jaybird Wireless Headphones

If they are like me, most runners like to run with music. Some are even still stuck to the cord, the headphone cord that is. I know that many runners are reluctant to switch to blue tooth headphones. I was run of them. Fear of more radiation close to my head and other theories kept me from going wireless. However once I did, I wondered what took me so long. Do that runner a favor and gift them wireless head phones.ย  My headphone of choice are Jaybirds. They tout three types of headphones for runners, The Run, The Fredom 2 & The X3. I personally own the X3 and I can tell you that I love everything about them. They are light, have terrific sound, fit comfortably and have a very good battery life. Your runner will be happy with a pair of Jaybird Wireless Headphones – trust me!ย Jaybird brands can be found in your local Best Buy store as well.

North Face E-tip running gloves

If you are in the northeast, lets face it, winter is here! Runners logging those long miles outside can do so longer with the right gloves. These days however, any old pair of gloves won’t cut it. In an age of social media and running pics being posted on every run (I’m guilty – my instagram account will prove that!), you need a pair of gloves with e-tips so that they can access their phone without having to take their gloves off. North Face make a great pair at an affordable price of $30. A great gift or a stocking stuffer for the runner in your life! Add on a hat at North Face and this would make a perfect combo!

Foam Rollers

I don’t care how good and healthy that runner in your life is. They have aches and pains at some point during training runs or after a race. They need to loosen up those stiff and sore muscles. These days, foam rollers are the thing! Walk into Walmart and they sell a variety of them at all prices!

Reflective & Safety Devices

As I mentioned earlier, winter running is in full effect. That means for your runner, he/she will likely be doing alot more running in the dark. There are so many products that help to keep your runner safe in the dark. Reflectors, head lamps, visibility vests and so many more products can be found at any Dick’s sporting goods store. These items usually run no more than $30 per item! Trust me your runner will thank you for worrying about their safety in the dark!

So I gave you a few ideas here based on different price points! Hopefully I can bail you out of some last minute Christmas shopping pressure for that runner in your life! As I mentioned above, all of these can be purchased in person by walking into the respective store. No need to risk online ordering this close to Christmas time!

Whole Foods Gift Card

Wholefoodsgiftcard

Finally, if you are not sure if any of the above will suit your runner, buying a gift card at Whole Foods is a sure shot. Runners like to eat right and it is a good chance that your runner shops a lot at Whole Foods. If he doesn’t, well maybe your gift card will introduce him to the wonderful, healthier selection of food that they have there! As always with gift cards, spend what you want!

This Is Your Journey

Good day friends! Time to get over that hump, its Wednesday! These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reactions I get from people when we discuss my running. Of course there is always the comments like “dude you are crazy” or “running is just boring for me”. Those are to be expected. Then there are those that claim not to have the time or will blame something else for them to avoid running all together. Then there is the bunch that confuse me with the following comment: “I’m not fast enough, so why bother”.

When I hear that comment, or something similar, it’s like a punch in the gut. My first reaction is to say, “you know you are right, I’m going to stop running because I’m not fast enough either”.

There are tons of people faster than me. So I wonder, why compare yourself to anyone at all? This is your own journey. It’s my journey also. My journey will be completely different from yours. There may be some similarities but at the end it’s customized to you and me.

My journey three years ago started when I was holding onto my daughter’s stroller to use it as a walker in Disney World because excess weight had given me bad plantar fasciitis and the pain caused me to hold onto the stroller, just to walk!ย Myย journey startedย when I got home from Disney. Lose the weight with exercise. I took small steps. Walking, jogging, stopping even during my running as my foot got thru the discomfort. Time on myย watchย didn’t matter. What mattered was dropping the weight.

When the weight started to go down, the satisfaction ofย a walk or a jog felt so euphoric. It was like a drug. An exercise high if you will. I never wanted to give this drug up. Walks became jogs and jogs became runs. Never since HS did I ever think I would run as much as I do now, however that journey has led me here.

Going back to the concept of being fast enough, did it matter how fast I was going to walk around my block three years ago when I started my journey 40 pounds heavier? Not at all. My eyes were set on losing that weight. My daughter was 5 at the time. Dad wasn’t about to be slowed down at this age because of some excess weight andย ankle issues. When you put all of this into perspective, ask yourself instead, ‘are you fast enough to make the decision to do something better for yourself before too much time passes or before its too late?’ That’s where the question lies. That’s where you question ‘your speed’. Never mind how far others are running or how fast they are running it. They aren’t on your journey. Only you are!

Further what awaits you once you decide to take on ‘your journey’ย is a transformationย into a better version ofย yourself than ever before. For many, the physical aspects of your journey willย bring youย a healthier, stronger and more fit self. However that’s not the only transformation you will see. I talked about that ‘fitness high’. Oh its real…it is very real! Runners can tell you about their ‘runner’s high’ also. For me it is a feeling like no other and it isn’t one that I feel only when I run fast orย I set a personal best at a distance. I feel it every time I run. You may not feel it initially but it always comes around! How I wish more people would experience this – but they don’t because mentally they have put up a road block that won’t allow them this euphoria.

Now that I’ve explained why time doesn’t make a difference, I hope I have been able to push some of you out there to stop doubting and questioning yourselves! Sometimes the mind is our worst enemy. Ironically enough, just yesterday I spent the whole day thinking of a quote thatย a great American Olympic distance runner, Kara Goucher, said back in 2013. I will leave you with a graphic of that quote below and implore you to start your own journey now!!