[Virtual] Personal Peak Summer Race Series (2020)

Race Status

The race format is pretty simple: just run as far as you can in the allotted time.

After I gave the Quarantine Backyard a whirl a couple months ago, I found myself on a fortuitous mailing list. Last week I got the notice that the same crew were hosting a second race, this time a summer series, in a different format. Rather than looking to long-term endurance for the measuring stick, this time the race is a time trial.

I signed up for three of the four races this summer:

May 30 – 20 minute time trial (registered!)
June 27 – 45 minute time trial (registered!)
July 25 – 3 hour time trial (registered!)
August 22 – 12 hour time trial (skipping...)

It was suggested (by Leon) that even if I only ran for an hour or two in the August 22 race that would count for "run as far as you can in the allotted time." Which is true... if not exactly in the spirit of the event.Instead, I'll strive for yet another participation badge in yet another virtual race, and that's likely better than sleeping in and letting yet another whole day go to waste.

May 30 - Race #1

Even when the race starts at your own doorstep, you don’t really get to sleep in.

I was logged onto the Zoom call by quarter to 7am and was just in time to hear the final instructions. For a twenty minute race, there was still a lot of rules and logistics. I opted to set up on my patio door and leave by the back way, so when the countdown started, I primed my watch with a minute or so to spare and as the announcer said thirty-seconds I popped out onto the deck and tucked around to the street and just started running.

Nothing fancy. The park near my house is about 1.2 klicks per lap, and knowing my pace bracket I figured I’d end close enough to the start of the loop for a quick walk back to the house.

To say I’m not exactly in the prime of my training lately is an understatement. The pandemic has left me balancing a bit of mental stress with a crazy work-life imbalance with a lingering apathy towards much of anything. These races (and a list of other virtual challenges) was meant to pile a bit of motivation counter-balance into that mix. My average pace for the run hovered in the 5:35 min/km range for the first two laps then tapered down to about a 5:40 min/km in the last, settling on an overall of 5:42 min/km because (feeling like I was gonna hurl) I walked the last 15 seconds. Twenty minutes on the nose left me with 3.51 klicks.

I went back to the house, logged my time, and sat on the Zoom for a few minutes, cooling down and waiting for the result announcement.

I was never going to win. I knew that before I signed up. I track guys on Strava who call it a bad run when their pace isn’t in the 4s. The way it worked was that they wanted the top runners to stay on the Zoom so they could get all the top runners on the screen for a “photo” — “all runners who clocked less than 5.4 kilometers, please leave the call.” They announced suddenly. So yeah, that’s how bad I was never going to win.

In about a month we’ll try and keep at least that pace for a 45 minute run. Still gonna lose, but at least I’ll start.

June 27 - Race #2

I was definitely more trained for the second race than I was for the second, but a restless night’s sleep didn’t help.

Three weeks of daily running followed by a light, recovery week with only a pair of moderate distances, and I was feeling strong and eager to burn forty-five minutes of time trial into the pavement.

Here’s the thing. In my forties I’ve developed some minor allergies. Spring is particularly bad, and for the last week the poplar trees have been shedding a white, snowy fuzz that (in some places, really) covered the ground like a light snowfall. I get stuffy, and my throat gets a little tickle and (normally) I get a pissy night’s sleep out of the deal.

But we’re in this pandemic, see. And I know I have allergies. I know it gets worse when I go outside. I know if I sleep with the window open it’s inviting hell into the bedroom. But convince yourself at 2am that allergies are to blame and no, in fact, it’s not likely that the respiratory illness that is bringing the world to its knees has infected your soul as much as your body.

So I tossed and turned all night thinking that I had COVID and thinking that if I did I could think my way out of it at 2am.

The morning came way too early and forty-five minutes was respectable but nothing worth bragging about. I ran 7.3 klicks, which was enough to get me to about the top of the bottom third, and barely more than half the distance of the guy who won the whole thing with nearly fourteen klicks.

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