Fitness Swellness: Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee month 1 recap

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Running 1,021.68 kilometres sounded like it’d take FOREVER. Now, four weeks into the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, these are some of the key things I’ve realized this month:

Breaking up my runs into several short runs is easier for my mental strength.

When I started this race, I was running once a day. In the latter half of May, I realized I could likely log more mileage and more easily wrap my head around tackling more mileage by doing a few runs a day. Although I’ve become used to running 15k straight, some days it’s just easier for me to tackle it in two runs. And on days I plan to run 21k, which is a distance I will typically dread having to complete, breaking it into two or even three runs simplifies it for me. There’s also the added bonus for being able to bring my dog Billie Jean when I break longer runs into shorter runs; with the heat wave we have already had, I’m reluctant to take her on any run that’s too long (even though she is happy to run for long distances, I worry about heat stroke and the hot pavement). Billie Jean, by the way, has run all except 46 kilometres of May’s 450k, she’s a great runner!

Podcasts are good to listen to if you’re just trying to rack up distance.

I’ve tried listening to podcasts while I run in the past, but I’ve never found them motivating enough for my workout. But now, since my only goal is logging distance and I’m running at whatever pace feels good, podcasts are proving to be a good listen. I’ve run most of this month without listening to anything (mostly because I’m having earphone issues–I think the jack on my phone is a bit broken, and my phone won’t connect to my bluetooth earbuds), but when I am able to get my earphones to work, I’ve listened to Fake Doctors Real Friends (a new podcast from Zach Braff and Donald Faison from the tv show Scrubs), Spilled Milk and Hottest Take.

Logging mileage is easier than running a marathon.

I of course knew this in theory, but I still entered this virtual race nervous about being able to complete the 1,021.68 kilometres, but it dawned on me early on in the race that I don’t have to concern myself about pace. So I run each run at a comfortable pace (which changes from day to day; if I take it very easy and run a shorter distance one day, I notice I can run a faster pace comfortably the next day) and although my legs do feel tired some days, and that I often feel like I’m always at about the 30k mark of a marathon (which is to say I’m starting to feel fatigued but I’m not quite yet cursing my chosen sport), it’s never close to feeling like how I do in the last few kilometres of a marathon. I’ve adapted to logging mileage and run streaking so well, in fact, that I changed my goal for this race and the month of May a few times.

Where do I stand one month into the race?

And how much easier is it? I’ve somehow managed to complete 450 kilometres in the month of May. That’s nearly double the most mileage I’ve ever run in a month. I ran week 1 moderately, but quickly became obsessive about the race, and all the days off I said I’d take? Well, I haven’t taken a day off yet. I used to say I would work in rest days…and then I see myself fall in the standings when I run only 10k, and I go right back to a minimum of 15 or 16k per day. It didn’t help matters that I believe Laz posted that the first 3,000 finishers get a special type of prize or recognition; I started gunning for top 3,000 and I’ve managed to work my way into the top 3,000 as of the past week.

What I am scared about…

I can’t deny that I am scared of getting injured just from sheer overuse. The repetitive action can’t be that great on my body and I’ve been researching stress fractures. I feel great so far, but I have deliberately pulled back my pace so that I’m always running at a long slow distance pace or a recovery pace. I’m paying close attention to how my body feels, and have even done a few stretches (halfheartedly, but any stretches at all is still significant, given my aversion to stretching!). I’m also trying to get more sleep by getting into bed right after my nighttime runs (which will always translate into me falling asleep several hours earlier than if I’d parked myself on the couch with some Netflix).

Month #2, let’s do this!

I’m 450 kilometres in, with 571,68k to go! This race may not take me all summer after all…What will I do the rest of the season now that it doesn’t seem like fall marathons will be held?!

Leave a Comment June 1, 2020

Fitness Swellness: My goal for the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

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When I started the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, I fully intended on using the full four months (the race is from May 1st until August 31st) because anything more than the 8.5k daily (or approximately 60k per week) sounded very close to impossible.

I started week 1 with this schedule in mind. I’d just run nearly every day in April to complete 200k and I was kind of regretting having jumped right into a race that would have me running nearly daily all summer.  So I’d run 8.5k one day, but the next if I was tired I ran 6k, figuring I’d make up the distance with a longer run on a day with nice weather later in the week. I was very conscious of not falling behind on distance because it could quickly add up and become impossible to complete the race in time.

Then came week 2. And logging my miles into the GVRAT system, I saw where I stood amongst the 19,000 other runners, and well, that competitive side kicked in. I regularly upped my mileage, and now my usual run is 15k, and I’ve taken no days off. Taking a rest day usually means running 10k at a pace that feels easy.

And my goal for the month of May has changed over these past three weeks as well. I initially planned on 250 kilometres; then when I realized the race is actually 1021.68 kilometres (because that’s the actual distance across Tennessee) I added on the extra 22k to May, making my goal 272k. But then with my increased mileage, I realized I’d easily reach that, and I upped it to 300k, then 322k.

So this photo, which I took about a week and a half ago, was intended as a photo for reaching my goal at the end of the month. Except I’ve just reached 322k today, May 24. As for this upcoming last week in May, I’m going to stick to roughly the distances I’ve been logging daily, depending on how my body feels. Today and last Sunday, I can tell my legs need some rest after the 21k I’ve logged two Saturdays in a row.

The race has become a really welcome distraction in my life during the coronavirus pandemic, and my overall goal for the race is now to complete the 1,021.68 kilometres as soon as I can, within reason. I’m wary of injuring myself (this is more mileage I’ve ever run in fixed period of time, and run streaking is also something I haven’t done much of, and knock on wood, I’ve never had a running injury before and I don’t care to have my first injury now).

I’ll recap May at the end of the month, but right now I’ll continue my routine (which besides running, sometimes multiple times a day, translates to so much showering and running-gear laundry!).

1 Comment May 24, 2020

Fitness Swellness: I’m running 1,000 kilometres in the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

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So…I’ve set a major running goal for summer 2020: I’m going to run 1,000 kilometres in the next four months.

But let’s backtrack a bit so you can get some context. On April 30th, I reached a distance goal of 200k I’d set for myself for the month of April. I’ve run more than that distance before in one month, but always when training for a marathon. For me, 200 kilometres without a marathon goal race in the calendar is a lot. I’m not the kind of runner who loves doing anything much longer than 10k unless I need to for training. And my preference is to run three days a week, four if I’m feeling ambitious. In April, I ended up running 24 days. They were mostly run at a comfortable pace; given the higher overall mileage and greater frequency, my focus was just getting the distance completed. My legs were tired and my pace never really improved, but I was fine with that. It wasn’t about speed. These runs in April became some much needed almost daily stress relief and nice outing in the fresh air while living in quarantine.

How did I come around to making my goal to run 1,000k this summer?

On the last day of April, here is my series of texts to a running friend:

4:06 p.m.: I completed my 200k goal for April and reached 14,000 km on Nike Run Club. My legs are tired, though. I’ll scale back my distance in May.

8:16 p.m.: In crazy runner fashion, now I’m thinking maybe my May goal should be 250 km.

11:40 p.m.: (upon coming across an article on Facebook about the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k) Oh, and look what just popped up in my feed! That would be 250k a month!

What’s the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000k? The GVRAT is a summer-long race from the creator of the extremely vigorous Barkley Marathons, Lazarus Lake. The distance from the southeastern corner of the state of Tennessee to the northwestern corner is approximately 1,000 kilometres (or 621 miles). The race started on May 1st and goes until August 31st, which means participants have four months to run 1,000k. I was already considering 250k for May… so why not making it four months straight?

(N.B. The distance across Tennessee is actually 1,022 kilometres…and tbh, I’m not clear if it’s 1,000k or 1,022k I have to complete–as it stands, I will complete 1,022 to ensure I complete this virtual race!)

I hemmed and hawed about registering and I had some mixed feedback from friends about whether I should register or not. One reason I was compelled to register? Completing the 1,000k in the virtual race would also coincide with reaching Volt status on Nike Run Club (NRC), so it’d be kind of epic to complete both at the same time.

However, a reason I was iffy about registering (besides the daunting distance through the heat of the summer) was that if I had to prioritize, I’d rather run a marathon in the fall. My plan is to run Detroit Marathon again since I had such a great race last year there. But with the pandemic, who knows if marathons will actually be held this fall. If I were to register for GVRAT, and fall marathons do indeed take place, I’d have to figure out how to manage my training. While I would complete about 250k in a four-week period roughly a month before the marathon, to be completing 250k each month while hoping to run a great marathon is asking a lot of me, mentally and physically. And in training for a marathon, I’d be focused on improving speed and doing hill training, rather than simply completing distance. So juggling the two goals would be a challenge.

I waffled a bit, but I decided it would help to have a goal like the GVRAT to focus on and help me manage  the stress of the pandemic. I can’t control many aspects of life right now, but I can manage my running workouts. It will be a good distraction, and having a running schedule would add some structure to my calendar. Also, normally, I often have to juggle marathon training around traveling for work; now, it will likely be a long time til travel picks up again, so I have plenty of time while at home in Toronto and I can invest that time towards this running goal.

And so I registered for the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee and joined the 16,000+ runners worldwide taking part as well. You can also register your dog, and Billie Jean will likely run most of the 1,000k with me, but I can’t be sure of that (sometimes I may run home from an errand when she’s not with me, plus I can’t have her run with me very long on the days it is unbearably hot and humid), and so I haven’t officially registered her in the dog category of the race.

How I will structure my 1,000 kilometres

Currently, my plan is to switch up the distances. If running daily, 1,000k works out to approximately 8.5k daily. I prefer to have some rest days so I plan to change it up from week to week with some longer runs so that I can take a rest day. That said, I don’t really enjoy running more than 20k when not in training for a marathon. Right now, I’m thinking a decent week might be to run four 15k runs, plus a short recovery run. Also, I predict many of Billie Jean’s quick pee breaks will likely become short, slow and easy runs. I’m going to play around with the schedule and see what works best for me mentally and physically. The race rules allow you to walk (but it has to be a walk with the purpose of walking/hiking, not simply the tally of your day to day steps).

Here I go! Virtually traveling on foot across Tennessee!

A few days into it and it’s nice to have this distraction. GVRAT team is working hard on getting the online tracking system up and running. The site has fun stats including where you are in the standings, projected finish date, and shows you approximately where you are on the course. Today, I finally reached Memphis!

Who else is doing the race? By the way, registration is still open… anyone else want to register? The more the merrier, we can cheer one another on! In any case, you can follow my progress across Tennessee on my social media (follow me on Instagram and Twitter!) and here on the blog!

Leave a Comment May 4, 2020

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