2020: Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee

With my running goals (as of late April 2020) focused primarily towards road running events (and the need for sustaining a specific pace for a considerable distance), I knew the chances of participating in an event organized by Lazarus Lake (or just Laz for us cool kids) – assuming that I actually qualified for one – were pretty slim, if not non-existent. For those of us not yet familiar with the notoriety of Laz (I mean this in a good way), he is most famously associated with The Barkley Marathons held in the Frozen Head State Park and the Big’s Backyard Ultra (or The Last Human Standing Running) held in Bell Buckle – both in Tennessee. With most races around the globe either cancelled or postponed or turned into a virtual event as a result of COVID-19, a rare win-win opportunity came along: I’d get to continue working towards my long-term goals while simultaneously participating in a Laz-organized event, albeit virtually. Needless to say, I jumped on it!

RAT and BAT

The Great Race Across Tennessee (GRAT) was/is a 1000 km journey from the Mississippi River levee near Anthonyville in Arkansas (the southwest corner of Tennessee) to Whitetop in Virgnia (the northeast corner of Tennessee). Laz and his team gave a generous amount of time – from May 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020 (123 days) – to cover this journey. But it wouldn’t be a Laz-organized event if the distance was actually 1000 km. So, it was 1021.68 km (or 634.84 miles).

In the spirit of incremental modifications leading to an observable change, the journey boiled down to easily digestible bits of 5.16 miles per day. But because of the aforementioned COVID-19, registered participants were allowed to run/walk/jog wherever (while adhering to the necessary guidelines) and report the traversed distance on a daily basis in an honor system.

Upon completing the virtual Run Across Tennessee (RAT) from Anthonyville, AR, to Whitetop, VA, Laz would send an invitation to sign up for running Back Across Tennessee (BAT) – from Whitetop, VA, to Anthonyville, AR. Completing RAT would earn a belt buckle (or a medal) whereas completing BAT would earn a commemorative pin and map. Between RAT and BAT, completing them would amount to running 2042 km or about 10.30 miles per day. 

There were other options too – CAT (three crossings across Tennessee), GNAT (more than three crossings across Tennessee), etc. But RAT and BAT lined up well with the carefully designed 20-week training plan to build/improve my base fitness. The overarching goal for this plan was to go from being a verb to becoming a noun (more about this in a few weeks). Completing RAT and BAT (and in turn, earning the belt buckle, commemorative pin and the map) – though might at first seem like the dangling carrot that helped me stick with the plan – was actually a byproduct of  sticking with the plan.

Greetings newly minted RAT;

Congratulations GOWTHAM S on completing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000 km in 56 DAYS.

How could we let your achievement pass without giving you something to frame, mount, or display on your refrigerator? Something which tells the world that; "YES, I am one of the rodents of 2020!"

Here is the file from which you can print your shiny new certificate of achievement... OK, it won't be shiny, unless you print it on something shiny, and then polish it every day. And it will only be new until it gets old... but, it is yours, and isn't that what really counts?

If you have signed up for BAT already, that's great. But if you choose to continue your trek, here's the link to enter BAT/1000mi:

Good job;

Laz

The emails I received along the way from Laz were definitely informative and sometimes funny … or so I thought. But a predicted rain shower held off for a while … while I sat with my friends on the deck one day, and a cloudy day made way for mostly blue skies by the time some of us hung out in the backyard on another, and I have been getting the best damned seating every time I get takeout food from any restaurant. Just one of them could be misconstrued as a chance event but there’s tangible evidence that my life indeed has changed for the better upon joining the  ranks of genuine, bona fide runners … even if I was only a provisional and probationary runner at that time. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the upgrades I’d experience when the 1000-mile actually arrived!

Congratulations GOWTHAM S,

and welcome to the ranks of genuine, bona fide runners! As everyone knows, a runner without a 1000 mile pin is only a sort of provisional, probationary runner. Other runners treat you kindly, because that is the custom, but they all are wondering when you will get your 1000 mile pin.

Soon you will have your own 1000 mile pin, which will entitle you to all the rights and privileges that accrue to the holder of a 1000 mile pin. When you put that pin on, your whole life will improve. Provisional, probationary runners will defer to your opinions. You will get better seating in restaurants. Your family will treat you with greater respect....

It will not rain when you have a picnic! You will wonder how you ever got along without that pin.

Just remember; treat those unfortunate souls who do not yet have their 1000 mile pin kindly. Because that is the custom.

Laz

I was fortunate enough to have had the real but socially distant company of many dear friends – Andi, Angela, Ashley, Ayden, Bobbi, Brian, Catherine, Christine, Craig, Dan, Doug, Ellie, Jane, Jim, John, Juni, Kim, Kishan, Lindsay, Lizzie, Maggie, Mariana, Mark, Mary, Mike, Ray, Rob, Roger, Ryan, Ryan (yes, two Ryans), Shannon, Shannon (yes, two Shannons), Stephen, Stephen (yes, two Stephens) Todd, Tom and Zach – for a mile or more, and the virtual company of many more dear ones – Bruce, Christie, Edgecombe, Gurmit, Lori, Jeff, Jenny, Jess, Julie, Mariah, Mcloving (yes, I have a friend with that name!), Ray, Simon and Vince – spread around the country. I know I may never meet a vast majority of my fellow RATs, BATs, CATs and GNATs in real life. But reading their stories as well as seeing places where they ran in our Facebook group … whenever time permitted … was a lovely experience too!

Hello GOWTHAM S, newly minted bat!

I am just not sure if congratulations is in order or not...

Look around you. There you stand, right exactly where you started. You are surrounded by all those 303 poor sad sacks who never managed to log even a single mile. Even the four pitiful people who only logged one mile have gotten further from the start than you.

It seems like there has to be something to set you apart from all those other people hanging out at the start line, so we have employed the finest team of certificate designers that populate the vastness of the internet to design for you a genuine certificate of achievement.

So when that weird looking guy next to you says; "that entry screen was just toooo hard, right?" and looks at you with his hopeful face looking for validation.... You can wave your certificate right in his face and say; "not for me, I have been to buckeye hollow and back!"

Just be prepared to be surrounded by people begging to know the secret how the hell do they get out of this parking lot in Arkansas?

Good work;

Laz

I admit – I like numbers and the story they can tell. The relevant analytical eye-candies for this journey are below, and they are summarized for quick consumption here.

  1. 70 runs over 56 calendar days to complete the ~635-mile journey and become a RAT. Time wise, it took almost 103 hours at an average pace of 9:42 min/mile. This earned me my very first Belt Buckle as a materialistic memorabilia from an athletic event.
  2. 113 runs over 90 calendar days to cross off the 1000-mile mark. Time wise, it took a hair over 161 hours at an average pace of 9:38 min/mile. This earned me the commemorative pin (with magical and mystical powers to improve my life!).
  3. 144 runs over 114 calendar days to complete the ~1270-mile journey and become a BAT. Time wise, it took a few ticks under 206 hours at an average pace of 9:39 min/mile. This earned the commemorative map.

A dotted view of required daily mileage, completed daily average and the moving average of completed mileage is below.

 

A detailed view of the prescribed daily mileage and compliance, weekly and cumulative totals as well as period averages extracted from the bigger picture training plan for the duration of GVART are below. I know – the prescribed weekly mileage over these 123 days doesn’t necessarily add up to 1270 miles. For one thing, RAT and BAT were a subset/byproduct of a bigger picture. Keeping the promise I made to myself while painting that bigger picture (i.e., I’d listen to my body and its feedback, and make necessary changes to the plan), I did make some changes along the way to address different needs as well as work on different weaknesses. For another thing, I believe I have some experience in how many little things over a longer period of time can add up to make a big difference. I figured a tenth of a mile here and a quarter mile there added over many many days would take me beyond the 1270-mile mark … and they did!

 

Subset of my longer term training plan
Notation: Easy (E) | Speed (S) | Long (L) | Recovery (R) | Tempo (T)
Distance in miles and time in h:mm:ss.
Entries in the final column represent the average miles after a given number of weeks in the training cycle.
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
01 04/27
Rest
-
-
04/28
Rest
-
-
04/29
Rest
-
-
04/30
Rest
-
-
05/01
E 6.00
8.12
1:20:02
05/02
L 15.00
15.07
2:16:37
05/03
R 6.00
8.05
1:21:36
27.00
31.24
4:58:15
27.00
31.24
4:58:15

27.00
31.24
-
02 05/04
R 12.00
12.47
2:04:22
05/05
S 10.00
10.01
1:28:54
05/06
R 12.00
14.39
2:19:34
05/07
T 10.00
10.04
1:28:24
05/08
R 12.00
10.35
1:44:37
05/09
L 15.00
15.30
2:18:17
05/10
Rest
-
-
71.00
72.56
11:24:08
98.00
103.80
16:22:23

49.00
51.90
-
03 05/11
R 12.00
14.41
2:28:18
05/12
S 10.00
13.14
1:54:10
05/13
R 12.00
14.41
2:29:50
05/14
T 10.00
-
-
05/15
R 12.00
6.44
1:03:47
05/16
L 15.00
26.24
3:58:05
05/17
Rest
6.35
1:04:57
71.00
80.99
12:59:07
169.00
184.79
29:21:30

56.33
61.60
-
04 05/18
R 12.00
14.74
2:42:39
05/19
E 10.00
10.41
1:43:48
05/20
R 12.00
14.46
2:18:05
05/21
E 10.00
10.04
1:30:55
05/22
R 12.00
8.50
1:20:38
05/23
L 15.00
15.62
2:20:05
05/24
Rest
-
-
71.00
73.77
11:56:10
240.00
258.56
41:17:40

60.00
64.64
-
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
05 05/25
R 12.00
13.29
2:10:14
05/26
T 10.00
10.16
1:30:06
05/27
R 12.00
13.80
2:22:16
05/28
S 10.00
10.03
1:27:57
05/29
R 12.00
17.67
2:53:11
05/30
L 15.00
16.31
2:22:32
05/31
Rest
-
-
71.00
81.26
12:46:16
311.00
339.82
54:03:56

62.20
67.96
-
06 06/01
R 12.00
14.76
2:27:22
06/02
S 10.00
10.40
1:22:22
06/03
R 12.00
14.59
2:50:22
06/04
T 10.00
10.53
1:25:29
06/05
R 12.00
6.67
1:11:45
06/06
L 15.00
16.05
2:20:23
06/07
Rest
-
-
71.00
73.00
11:37:43
382.00
412.82
65:41:39

63.67
68.80
-
07 06/08
R 12.00
13.58
2:19:39
06/09
S 10.00
10.04
1:21:20
06/10
R 12.00
14.09
2:16:44
06/11
T 10.00
10.17
1:24:39
06/12
R 12.00
12.02
2:07:19
06/13
L 15.00
11.08
2:07:51
06/14
Rest
14.19
1:59:34
71.00
85.17
13:37:06
453.00
497.99
79:18:45

64.71
71.14
-
08 06/15
R 12.00
14.45
2:44:12
06/16
E 10.00
14.05
2:25:42
06/17
R 12.00
12.45
2:15:22
06/18
E 10.00
10.05
1:41:12
06/19
R 12.00
7.34
1:18:40
06/20
L 15.00
15.18
2:17:49
06/21
Rest
6.70
1:17:44
71.00
80.22
14:00:41
524.00
578.21
93:19:26

65.50
72.28
-
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
09 06/22
R 12.00
14.58
2:20:38
06/23
S 10.00
13.74
2:09:45
06/24
R 12.00
14.40
2:39:46
06/25
T 12.00
15.08
2:20:58
06/26
R 7.00
-
-
06/27
L 18.00
18.66
2:34:27
06/28
Rest
-
-
71.00
76.46
12:05:34
595.00
654.67
105:25:00

66.11
72.74
-
10 06/29
R 12.00
15.08
2:37:25
06/30
S 10.00
14.19
2:21:49
07/01
R 12.00
12.97
2:13:56
07/02
T 12.00
12.02
2:04:12
07/03
R 7.00
3.75
0:35:53
07/04
L 18.00
5.16
0:53:08
07/05
Rest
17.76
2:30:46
71.00
80.93
13:17:09
666.00
735.60
118:42:09

66.60
73.56
-
11 07/06
R 12.00
12.63
2:21:26
07/07
S 10.00
10.73
1:45:46
07/08
R 12.00
13.60
2:27:31
07/09
T 12.00
11.03
1:30:24
07/10
R 7.00
5.09
0:55:51
07/11
L 18.00
26.36
4:24:45
07/12
Rest
-
-
71.00
79.44
13:25:43
737.00
815.04
132:07:52

67.00
74.09
-
12 07/13
R 12.00
5.14
0:48:13
07/14
E 10.00
13.16
1:53:49
07/15
R 12.00
14.29
2:18:34
07/16
E 12.00
15.09
2:20:43
07/17
R 7.00
8.11
1:19:20
07/18
L 18.00
19.10
2:39:00
07/19
Rest
-
-
71.00
74.89
11:19:39
808.00
889.93
143:27:31

67.33
74.16
-
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
13 07/20
R 10.00
10.39
1:47:36
07/21
S 12.00
14.38
2:17:25
07/22
R 10.00
11.46
1:51:36
07/23
T 12.00
12.61
1:39:41
07/24
R 7.00
6.43
1:05:50
07/25
L 20.00
18.05
2:25:32
07/26
Rest
8.03
1:17:33
71.00
81.35
12:25:13
879.00
971.28
155:52:44

67.62
74.71
-
14 07/27
R 10.00
12.54
2:13:41
07/28
S 12.00
12.12
1:58:23
07/29
R 10.00
12.54
2:09:07
07/30
T 12.00
12.03
1:39:34
07/31
R 7.00
7.63
1:20:37
08/01
L 20.00
20.11
2:32:29
08/02
Rest
-
-
71.00
76.97
11:53:51
950.00
1048.25
167:46:35

67.86
74.88
-
15 08/03
R 10.00
12.89
2:10:21
08/04
S 12.00
15.92
2:13:53
08/05
R 10.00
10.71
2:02:59
08/06
T 12.00
12.56
1:42:33
08/07
Rest
-
-
08/08
L 20.00
20.55
2:58:10
08/09
R 7.00
8.08
1:35:59
71.00
80.71
12:43:55
1021.00
1128.96
180:30:30

68.07
75.26
-
16 08/10
R 10.00
11.47
2:04:46
08/11
E 12.00
16.03
2:45:06
08/12
R 10.00
10.05
1:51:21
08/13
E 12.00
16.48
2:32:32
08/14
Rest
-
-
08/15
L 20.00
13.36
2:34:50
08/16
R 7.00
13.34
2:18:44
71.00
80.73
14:07:19
1092.00
1209.69
194:37:49

68.25
75.61
-
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
17 08/17
R 10.00
11.04
1:57:45
08/18
S 12.00
12.25
1:56:20
08/19
R 10.00
9.37
1:49:00
08/20
T 12.00
13.11
2:00:34
08/21
R 5.00
5.70
1:03:02
08/22
L 18.00
18.20
2:23:04
08/23
Rest
11.83
1:51:50
67.00
81.50
13:01:35
1159.00
1291.19
207:39:24

68.18
75.95
-
18 08/24
R 8.00
11.35
2:09:31
08/25
S 7.00
7.08
1:06:30
08/26
R 4.00
4.35
0:48:37
08/27
E 4.00
5.25
1:07:45
08/28
R 4.00
5.25
0:56:08
08/29
L 17.00
16.87
2:05:02
08/30
L 15.00
15.47
2:22:22
59.00
65.62
10:35:55
1218.00
1356.81
218:15:19

67.67
75.38
-
19 08/31
R 6.00
6.52
1:18:29
09/01
Temp
-
-
09/02
Reco
-
-
09/03
Rest
-
-
09/04
Reco
-
-
09/05
Rest
-
-
09/06
Rest
-
-
6.00
6.52
1:18:29
1224.00
1363.33
219:33:48

64.42
71.75
-

 

As a vast majority of these runs were at an easy and conversational pace, I did carry my phone and take a lot of photographs to document my journey – sometimes during the run and many times after the run … especially of lovely flowers and all the yummy food I got to eat (and sometimes, even share it with friends while maintaining the necessary separation). Included below are just a subset of such photographs.

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