My first virtual race weekend: The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend Dolphin Challenge

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Dolphin Challenge during Shamrock Marathon Weekend as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

The reason I sign up for races isn’t the shirts or medals — it’s the experience. I love testing myself on closed courses with entertainment and crowds along the way, funny signs, plenty of other runners to enjoy the experience with and a fun post-race party.

The Dolphin Challenge — 8K and half marathon — during Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend would have had all those things. It was set for this past weekend, March 21-22. But unfortunately, because of the novel coronavirus, the event had to be canceled, like events across the country.

The weekend was also going to be a BibRave Summit — an opportunity for me to connect with Team BibRave and fellow BibRave Pros in person for orange fun and photoshoots.

The J&A Racing team did a good job keeping runners updated as the situation progressed. Runners could choose to run virtually (run the distances from home) or defer the race, for a fee. It was clear the J&A team did not want to cancel — who would, after all that hard work? — and the decision was made just a little over a week before the race.

So, they’d already spent money on race costs — certainly finisher swag, but maybe also permits, porta-potties, police, tents, food/drinks, water/sports drink/gels, 2020 merchandise for the expo they won’t be able to sell (or will have to sell at a discounted rate), convention center rental, etc. I have no idea what they spent or what they might be able to get refunded, but I was just brainstorming the various costs that go into a race.

Since I had a free entry through BibRave, I decided to run virtually. I’d never done a virtual race, because I run all the time from home and being at a race is what makes it feel different. I did do a virtual run that lasted a month back in 2016 (blog post here), but it wasn’t a race.

Here I am after finishing Saturday’s virtual 8K.

I’d been having issues with my shins, but I took Thursday and Friday off from running and decided to give the 8K a try on Saturday. I’d seen the chiropractor the previous week, and in normal circumstances, I would have gone back last week. But I wasn’t sure if I should go to a doctor’s appointment that was not urgent — my shins only bother me when I’m running, not all the time.

I drove to Pemberton Park for the run, because I’d participated in the Pemberton Half, an event with friends that doesn’t have closed roads, and I figured it would be pretty quiet and I wouldn’t have to worry about cars. I mapped out a five-mile course (8K is just a hair under five miles).

I parked and ran up the crushed stone road leading into/out of Pemberton Park, then turned right onto Pemberton Drive. If I’d have been at a race, I would have been hoping for a time in the 9s — I ran two 10Ks at an average pace starting with a 9 last year.

The first mile was 10:01, which I figured was OK. But my shins were bothering me, and I soon stopped to roll out my ankles, feeling it in my shins.

I kept going and turned into the Pemberton Ponds neighborhood. Right before I hit the second mile, I found a penny. I stopped again to roll out my ankles.

After a short bit on Nanticoke Road, I turned into Willow Creek, which had some beautiful trees at its entrance. I turned right, running through some neighborhood roads before making it back to Crooked Oak Lane to head back to where I’d started.

I had stopped again to roll out my ankles, but I tried to pick it up a little bit in the last mile, since I knew it would be over soon. My left shin in particular was feeling kind of numb, a weird feeling.

I ended up finishing the five miles in 59:05, an average of 11:49/mile. As in a race, I kept the clock running when I stopped to roll out my ankles or walked.

Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 12:10
Mile 3: 13:21
Mile 4: 12:33
Mile 5: 10:57

This shin pain left me wondering whether I should attempt the second part of the Dolphin Challenge — the half marathon — on Sunday. I used a roller on my shins and some CBD oil when I got home.

I’d set my alarm to go off early Sunday morning, but I ignored that, went back to sleep and woke up just before 10 a.m. I did a 10 a.m. live-streamed yoga class with Meta Yoga, then charged my phone and AfterShokz and hung out a little bit at home before starting my half marathon.

I found eight cents during my virtual half marathon.

I’d originally been thinking about driving to Assateague for the half marathon, because I could run on the paved path without having to worry about cars, and driving somewhere would make it feel a little bit more like going to a race rather than just leaving my house and starting my run. I figured the trail would not be too crowded, as I still wanted to practice social distancing.

Instead, I decided I would leave from my house and do a consistent run-walk, because of my shins. I changed my mindset from “race” to “run.” If I stayed close to home, I figured I could turn around if I started having issues, and I wouldn’t feel like I’d driven a half-hour or so just to run a mile and leave.

I decided to do run/walk intervals of four minutes running and one minute walking. This makes for easy math, as I didn’t have the intervals set on my watch.

Although I don’t think I will run 100 percent of Salisbury roads, I’ve been using a website called CityStrides to see how much of Salisbury I can run, and there were a couple neighborhoods off North Schumaker Drive that I hadn’t yet run. I decided to keep my run interesting by filling in these areas of the map, going in and out of courts and other roads.

After these neighborhoods, I went to the neighborhood across the street, where I’d run before but wasn’t sure if I’d hit every road. Then, I continued along North Schumaker Drive toward Johnson Road, taking Hinman to Johnson and then turning onto Mount Hermon Church Road, past the house where I lived in 2015.

On Mount Hermon Church Road, I found eight cents on the side of the road, all near each other.

I turned left onto Mount Hermon Road, heading back toward my house, then turned on S. Kaywood Drive to make my way back toward Glen Avenue.

I’d been continuing the four-minute-run/one-minute-walk intervals, and my shins hadn’t hurt at all. I was having some breathing issues and was coughing, but coughing is something that happens to me somewhat regularly when I run — to clarify, not coronavirus. I had taken my inhaler before starting the run.

Since my shins weren’t hurting, I decided to pick it up during the last mile and give it what I had without taking the walk breaks. My legs had started feeling it around Mile 10 — even though I wasn’t at my normal race pace, this was the furthest I’d run since the Publix Atlanta Marathon three weeks earlier.

Without the walk breaks, that last mile was my fastest, at 10:45. Most of the other miles had been in the 12s, with two in the 13s and one just barely in the 11s (11:58).

I completed the 13.1 miles in 2:42:46, a 12:25 average pace. I’d finished the run with a little bit to go before I got to my house, so I walked back.

Since I had no shin issues Sunday, I’m glad I completed the Dolphin Challenge — although not at the early hours of the morning that I would have raced. I didn’t have the race performances I’d have hoped for, but I’m glad I was able to get the miles in and enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air in these crazy times.

During both of these virtual races, I also enjoyed listening to podcasts on my AfterShokz. I don’t wear headphones for races, but I figured without crowd support and entertainment, the podcasts would help keep me company, and they did. It was a little odd to hear “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” with no audience!

Mile 1: 12:11
Mile 2: 13:05
Mile 3: 12:18
Mile 4: 12:43
Mile 5: 12:26
Mile 6: 13:24
Mile 7: 12:33
Mile 8: 12:52
Mile 9: 12:15
Mile 10: 12:48
Mile 11: 11:58
Mile 12: 12:17
Mile 13: 10:45
Last part (.11): 1:04 (9:50 pace)

J&A Racing would have sent me my race packet, but upon seeing a post from a fellow BibRave Pro in Slack and then the email from J&A, I decided to have them donate my packet to a charitable cause. It was no fault of theirs the race had to be canceled, but with the amount of shirts and finisher medals I have, I didn’t really think I needed more for running at home.

However, I like that they gave the choice, because they did look like nice finisher items, and I’m sure some people definitely appreciated getting theirs in the mail.

Hopefully, once this is all over, I will be able to connect with some of my BibRave Orange Family in person!

6 thoughts on “My first virtual race weekend: The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon Weekend Dolphin Challenge

  1. Great job on the challenge, Vanessa! I am super bummed that we didn’t all get to see each other but I definitely agree that it was the right call. Seeing everyone running on their own all over social media this weekend was lovely – our community just strengthened our bond through the internet. ❤

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