The Casual Runner

Race Review: 2014 ZOOMA Annapolis 10K and Half Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event:  2014 ZOOMA Annapolis 10k and Half Marathon

 

Event Date: May 31, 2014

 

Event City: Annapolis, Maryland

 

Why I decided to run this race.

Last year, my first official race was the 2013 ZOOMA Annapolis 10K.  This year I wanted to up the ante and try the half marathon.  A friend who’d run it before warned that miles 5 through 12 were all hills.  I really wish I would have listened…this ended up being my second worst race time ever.  Even so, it was a beautiful day for a run through historic Annapolis, Maryland.  And in the end I got a shiny medal shaped like an old-timey boat steering wheel.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race.

I had this crazy idea and signed up for three half marathons in 4 weeks, with a random 5K thrown in just for fun (and for charity).  ZOOMA was the last in that series and I was tired by the time it rolled around.  I hadn’t really had enough time to properly taper or train for the hills of this race.  I just wanted to finish.  And I was lucky to even do that.

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Event swag and bibs.

The race Expo.

Packet pick-up, for at least the past 2 years, has been at the Loews Annapolis hotel.  I didn’t attend it last year, so I’m not sure how the size compared.  This year there were maybe a dozen or so different booths, not including the actual bib pick-up.  Because ZOOMA is a female-focused event, all of the tables were stocked with girly things.  If I’d been on my own I probably would’ve spent too much money on stuff I didn’t really need, but my husband kept me moving along… 🙂

Because we got there early in the afternoon, shortly after the expo started, it was pretty empty.  It was very easy to get to the back of the expo to the bibs.  There was a bit of confusion back there…it wasn’t clear if there was a line or if we were supposed to look up our numbers first or if there were different lines for the 10K and half marathon runners.  Luckily since there weren’t many other people there in front of us, we didn’t have to wait long.  It probably took about 15 minutes total to get our bibs and swag, pick up some freebees, and get out.

Swag review.

The swag bag was pretty good: The bag itself was a cute little reusable tote…kind of like the reusable bags you can get at the grocery store, but sized more like you might use for a lunch bag or your toiletries while traveling.   There was a tech tee — men’s cut or fitted women’s cut (yay!  I might actually be able to wear it!), some Feetures socks (nice, but I’m loyal to the individual toes on my Injinjis), and a running hat that will probably go in my gear bag for those days when I forget my sweatband/sunglasses/hair-tie.  In other words, there was stuff I might actually use in this swag bag.  It doesn’t quite measure up to the full set of wine glasses I got at the Wine in the Woods 5K two weeks earlier (Real wine glasses! Perfect for my wine tasting group!), but outside of that, this is actually a useful collection of stuff.

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The United States Naval Academy in the early morning, what a beautiful sight.

The gear.

In any race, if I’m not wearing a full costume, I’m at least wearing a sparkly skirt.  One of my favorite parts of races is the interaction between the spectators and the runners.  And in a sea of black spandex, the girl in the bright sparkly clothes is the one who gets the attention.  (I’m not an attention addict!  Really!  But when you’re in the back of the pack, sometimes it’s the random “Go sparkle skirt!” cheers that keep you moving.)

So this race was pretty much standard race attire for me: Under Armour running tights, blue skirt from Sparkle Skirts, Adidas sports bra, Nike tank top, headband, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenalin shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620, and Camelbak hydration system.

The pre-race.

We arrived at the Naval Academy stadium about 45 minutes before the start.  The set-up was the same as last year, with plenty of port-a-potties and an easy-to-access starting line.  It’s a relatively small race (a little more than 900 did the half; I’m not sure how many 10K runners) so parking was easy and we had plenty of time to visit the potties.  About 10 minutes before the race started, my husband and I wandered over to the corrals, turned on our GPS watches, listened to a very good version of the National Anthem, and then we were off.

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Along the course down the historic streets of Annapolis.

Along the course.

The 10K and half courses follow the same route until about mile 5 when the half course veers off.  We meandered from the stadium into old-town Annapolis, around Church Circle, down Main Street to the dock, past the Naval Academy…some of my favorite parts of town.  (Race Icon: I’m not sure I’d say this race had a specific icon, but if it did it’s probably the Annapolis Harbor, which was the mile 3 water stop.)

Eventually the half runners continued across the Naval Academy Bridge onto an out-and-back route along Ritchie Highway.  Whereas the first part of the race was very scenic, the out-and-back part was kind of monotonous and filled with miserable hills and steep bridges.  Hills are not my friend, though the water views from the bridges were striking.

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The reward for running hills is water views like these.

I loved the 10K last year and really enjoyed the first part of the race this year.  If I’d been doing the 10K this year, I was on pace for a pretty good time.  The hills killed my time, my legs, and my fun.  On top of that, there were very few spectators and the on-course support (water stops, live DJ) were packing up before the final runners were through.  It was kind of disheartening.  I admit that I’m not a fast runner on my best days and I’m worse when dealing with hills, but at least 10% of the runners were still on the course and us back-of-the-packers are the ones who really can benefit from the on-course support.

 

 

 

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The SMO and the sparkly running skirt.

The SMOpinion.

One of the fun things about the ZOOMA races is they tried to theme the medals to the location this year.  Since Annapolis hosts the Naval Academy and has a significant on-water culture, they gave the medal a nautical theme.  This medal was a huge reason I decided to run.

In the end, I was just glad I got a medal.  My husband claims it looked like they were running low toward the end of the race and he was worried I wouldn’t get one when I crossed the finish line.  Luckily, there were still medals left when I crossed.  I didn’t really feel like I earned it because it was such a bad race for me.  But I did still wear it to lunch.

The post-race experience.

By the time I finally crossed the finish (over 3 hours later…ugh), all I wanted was cold water and my medal.  Luckily that was all I wanted, because they were out of almost everything else.  We did wander in to the after-race party and grabbed snack boxes (they were out of everything except chicken salad), but didn’t eat them because they were…bleh.  Although I had a great time at the free wine garden last year, we didn’t visit this year because I needed real food before I could drink and they didn’t have any real food left that I could eat.  Instead we walked back to the car where I had a chocolate milk waiting in a cooler, and headed to Cracker Barrel for brunch.

Looking back now.

I’m not sure I’ll do the ZOOMA half marathon again, but it wouldn’t take much arm twisting to get me in the 10K again.  The first part of the course is beautiful and relatively flat, there would still be plenty of snacks and medals left when I crossed the finish line, and I would have time to enjoy the wine garden.  That’s basically my definition of a perfect race.  Maybe next year I’ll experience it that way.

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