The Casual Runner

2015 Zooma Annapolis 10k

Event: 2015 ZOOMA Annapolis 10K
Event Date: May 30, 2015
Event Location: Annapolis, Maryland

Why I Decided to Run This Race

After a less-then-great experience at last year’s ZOOMA half marathon, my husband and I decided to let the race redeem itself by signing up for the 10K this year. The half and 10K share the same course and by running “just” the 10K you get to see all the good parts of Annapolis without having to endure the long, unshaded, boring out-and-back highway portion (check out my review from last year’s event here to get an idea of what I am talking about).

Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race

Between an aggressive race and travel schedule for the first 5 months of the year and the long winter that made it difficult to keep to my training plan, I had not made as much progress in my speed and endurance as I would have liked.  In addition, I was just kind of burned out on long races.  I’d let my coach know that I was struggling and he gave me some specific goals to aim for in this race that were challenging but not too difficult to attain, which is exactly what I needed.

The Race Expo

The expo was held again this year in the Loews Annapolis hotel.  We arrived right as it opened and, although several of the vendors were still setting up, there was already a bit of a line for the bibs.  But we were probably in line no longer than 5 minutes.

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The swag haul.

The ZOOMA race series is women-focused, though men are welcome to run it.  As a result, most of the vendors catered to women.  There was a decent selection of cute running skirts and sparkly headbands.  But I did not need anything and my husband was not really interested in shopping, so we just did a quick lap around the ballroom and then got out of there.

Swag Review

The swag this year was about on par with the previous ZOOMA races.  We got a reusable tote bag, a dark blue race shirt, a pair of Feetures running socks in aqua, and a notebook that would work as a training log or journal.  I was pleased enough with the swag, but I think my husband was more relieved to finally do a race where everything was not so girly that he could not use any of it.  His socks were a nice grey color and would work as slippers in the winter.  And the shirt was not frilly or princessy or pastel.

The Gear

As much as I enjoy running I costume, it is freeing to occasionally run in normal clothes.  We were expecting a hot day in Annapolis and several portions of the course have no shade to protect runners from the sun.  So I opted for a tank and a skirt in the hopes I could keep somewhat cool.

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Jennifer’s Zooma race kit.

I wore: Sparkle Skirt with built-in shorts, royal blue Adidas tank top, royal blue Adidas sports bra, dark blue Bondi Band headband, Injinji socks, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14 shoes, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and Amphipod hydration belt.

The Pre-Race

The race was set to start at 7:00 AM sharp.  We pulled into the parking lot at about 6:30 and immediately got in line for the port-a-potties.  Unfortunately, the lines at the potties were a disaster.  They were curving back and forth on each other, and it seemed like there were only about 3 lines despite the fact that there were about 25 potties.  This made the whole process inefficient and frustrating.  I thought they had about the same amount of potties last year and I do not remember experiencing this problem, but my husband is sure they had a second bank of potties last year.  We did make it through the line before the race started, but just barely.  As I walked out of the potty, a singer was performing the National Anthem (and doing an awesome job of it) so we stopped to listen.  Then we hurried to the starting line.

There are no specific corrals at ZOOMA Annapolis; everyone is just expected to seed themselves.  The 10K and half marathon have a single mass start which means that the people at the end do not cross until 3-4 minutes after the first runners do.  By the time we got to the starting line the crowd was so big at the back that we did not even get to the official start area.  So instead we gathered with the other latecomers and eventually shuffled forward into the corrals and across the starting line.  Even though it was crowded and seemed that the race just did not have enough space to accommodate the size of the running field, it was pretty orderly—no pushing and shoving or yelling.  People just seemed to accept it.

Along the Course

As far as I can remember, the 10K course was identical to the past few years.  We started by doing a lap through the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot, then hit a few neighborhood streets before heading to historic downtown Annapolis.  This part of the course had some ups and downs, but was not too bad.  The only part of the course that I do not love comes around mile 5ish, when we have to go up a steep bridge to the 10K turn-around point before heading straight back to the stadium.  This hill, and the hills and bridges that follow it on the half marathon course, are why we chose to do the 10K instead of the half this year.

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The mass start before the race.

The on-course support seemed to be pretty good.  The water stops were frequent and pretty well done.  There were a number of port-a-potties set up along the way, and the course was easy to follow.  One thing I noticed was that there was no entertainment this year.  Last year there was a DJ at the foot of the bridge, but there was nothing there this year.  Also, I only saw two photographers on the course—one on the bridge (which is a great place for a picture…if it was not a grueling portion that a lot of runners have to walk up) and in the last yards before entering the parking lot to cross the finish line.  I wish I had seen them down by the water in downtown Annapolis since it is early in the race and that area has beautiful scenery that would have made for great pictures.

As for the running goals my coach set:  I did an OK job meeting them.  The overall goal was to run negative splits, something I’d never practiced before.  The time goals were set so that I could realistically hit the final splits, which meant the early goals were slower than my normal 5K/10K pace.  And since I was feeling so good for the first few miles I had a hard time slowing down to meet the goal pace.  I considered adjusting the goal times to match up with what I did on the first mile (which was a full minute ahead of the goal), but knew I would fall apart if I tried to do that final bridge at the adjusted goal pace.  In the end, I did a pretty good job of meeting the goal paces and I finally felt like I accomplished something during a race other than just finishing upright.  I definitely needed that confidence boost.

The SMOpinion

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The SMO for the 10k.

OK, some might call me a snob.  But can you look at this medal and tell me what distance I ran or even the location of the race?  Yeah, me neither.  ZOOMA does a great job theming the half marathon medals, but they need to up their game on the 10K ones.

The Post-Race Experience

My husband finished before me, and I saw him cheering me on at the finish line.  I waited for him to make his way back down to the finishers chute and then we went into the celebration area to get our snack boxes and free wine (yes, there is a free wine garden!) and listen to the live cover band.  Because most of the half marathoners had not finished yet the celebration village was not yet too crowded, which was a big improvement over last year for me.

Playlist Peak

For much of the race my iPod was just background noise.  But the shuffle setting did go on a nice stretch of Pink and Eminem and music from the Rock of Ages movie, which was quite enjoyable.

Looking Back Now

I know I seem quite critical of this race.  And I guess I am.  Even so I did enjoy the race.  I think the organizers have several things they can improve on: the port-a-potty situation at the beginning, the sad 10K medals, and the lack of photographers.  And, since they’ve been staging this race for a number of years, I would think that some of these kinks would be worked out.  Even so, I would consider doing it again.  I love running through Annapolis and this is a pretty nice course.  Also, it is capped at 4,000 runners, so it is not too crowded.

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The post-race jam…WITH WINE!

After the fact, I found out that Sean Astin—my long-time movie star crush—ran the half marathon.  (He was in Washington DC for Awesome Con and I guess decided to get in a race while in the area.)  And somehow in a field of only 4,000 runners I missed him.  GAH!!!!!

Don’t forget to check out Jennifer’s review of the 2014 Zooma Annapolis 10k & Half Marathon Events

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