Welcome To Virtual Racing

July 11, 2020

2017 was the last year I raced an IRONMAN. About 2 weeks later, I sold my TT bike and bought and a mountain bike and figured, “that’s all she wrote” when it came to my triathlon career.  And then, while watching IM Lake Placid in 2019, I somehow got talked into signing up for another IRONMAN in 2020. My arm really had to be twisted. The conversation when something like this:

My friend Marie: “Wanna do an IRONMAN next year?” 

Me: “Sure!”

Marie: “Which one do you want to do?”

Me: “How about IRONMAN Mont Tremblant?”

Marie: “Sounds good.”

And then about 4 weeks later, we signed up for IMMT and that was that. Like I said, my arm really had to be twisted.

2020 was to be the year of racing IRONMAN! I also signed up for a 70.3 in July (must remember how to do triathlon before doing IRONMAN) and was registered for the Boston Marathon in April.  I was pretty darn excited.  

But it was JUST about the time that I had finished paying for a NEW TT bike and brought it home from the shop, when we started to hear a little something about a thing called “coronavirus”. 

I remember eating dinner with my husband in early March, after the Tokyo Marathon had been cancelled, and saying “SURELY they won’t cancel the Boston Marathon?!?! I mean it’s BOSTON!!” Haha. Since then, the Boston Marathon has been cancelled not once, but twice. We definitely never could have seen this coming!

And so, what to do?  

I was amped to race and had worked hard on my fitness since the fall of 2019. I wanted to RACE! Or at least use my fitness. Or really just have a reason to keep my training routine going.  

Enter VIRTUAL RACING.

I’ll have to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first. It all started because The Run Formula, the brand of QT2 Systems that I am Operations Director for, decided to put on a virtual “broken” marathon for those spring marathoners (namely Boston) that had trained hard, but had their marathon cancelled. That “broken” marathon was a 5K on a Friday, 2 x 5 milers on Saturday and then on Sunday, a half marathon. By yourself.  It sounded, well, awful. But many of our athletes were doing it and I felt that I should commit to it, as well. And then something somewhat magical happened that weekend – I actually had fun, raced hard, ran WAY faster than I imagined possible, and honestly felt like I had a race experience – the one we all love so much. It was not what I was expecting. But, the nature of the event had many of the same people I know and work with, racing at the same time. I found myself doing my run, pushing really hard knowing others were doing the same, and then racing back to my computer to check out STRAVA and our Facebook page to see how others did. There was definitely a sense of community. Add to that the “race” endorphins and I had already begun changing my mind about virtual racing.

Next up was the QT2 virtual series of sprint triathlons/duathlons. These were set up as run/bike/run and later swim/bike/run (once people could swim in open water and/or pools were available to some). But the bike portion was done on Zwift as an actual meet-up where we all started and raced together. Now it felt even more like racing! At first Zwift felt like a barrier to entry – I had only used it a handful of times and it seemed complicated. I’m not a trainer person (well I was for years, hence the reason I am no longer), and riding hard inside on days when I definitely could have been riding outside, while trying to figure out some cycling video game seemed like a lot. But of course, it’s not. It’s really easy to use, QT2 provided a lot of support (actual race guides and race briefings!) and after the first race, I was hooked. In June I raced 3 of the 4 weekends available! My neighbors are now very used to seeing me sprint by their house on Sunday morning and then sprawl out on the lawn upon crossing my finish line. 

Eventually, as we know, IMMT got cancelled, as did my 70.3, the 70.3 that I deferred to, and much of our fall triathlon and run racing season. It’s disappointing, but I also saw it as an opportunity to make lemons out of lemonade. Virtual Racing is definitely my lemonade.

Below are some of my tips to make Virtual Racing a success. If you haven’t already - definitely give it a shot.  You might just love it!

  1. Figure out what it is you love about racing, and then look for VIrtual Races that will provide that. You love the race t-shirt and medal? Plenty of virtual races offer just that, after completion of the race. You love to race with friends or for the social aspect?  Well then find races that offer that option. Our QT2 and Run Formula virtual races have given me that opportunity to race along my teammates and some of my athletes and that has made all the difference for me. If you don’t have that available to you, recruit some friends or training partners to sign up for a virtual race or two with you, and plan to race at the same time (in your own locations) so you know someone else is out there hurting with you!

  1. Chart out your virtual race course beforehand. For our QT2 triathlon series, the bikes are taken care of on Zwift. But for each race, I made sure I knew exactly what my run course was going to look like and most importantly, where the finish line was!  Now having done a few of these I will say with certainty, it’s VERY important to know where the finish line is. :) Perhaps the best part of virtual racing is that YOU get the make the course and run on your favorite roads right in your own neighborhood!

  1. Tell others what you are doing!  Tell your spouse or girl/boyfriend, your kids, your friend, your neighbor; tell whoever you would like to tell so it FEELS more like a race than a random hard workout.  And who knows, you might even find that you have a little cheering squad on race day.  

  1. Treat your Virtual Race Day like an actual race day. Follow your pre-race routine.  I ate my race morning breakfast, wore my race kit, went to bed early the night before (well usually…), and even had some race day nerves.  It’s all part of making the most of the experience!

We will eventually get back to racing in person, but until then, virtual racing can be a very fun way to hone your fitness, have fun, get some race highs and have something on the schedule to look forward to!  If you haven’t already, give it a shot!  And check out our QT2 Virtual Race Series HERE and our Run Formula Fall Virtual Run Race Series HERE if you are looking for some good racing to be a part of!

~Beth Peterson - Run Formula Operations Director