- 3 miles/5K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, Other
- Road Race
*Full Disclosure: I was selected as a race ambassador for Zooma Florida 2014 and was offered a free entry to the race at Amelia Island in exchange for mentioning the race, attending the event, and recapping my experience. All opinions are my own- especially regarding quicksand.
This Summer I was selected to be a race ambassador for Zooma Florida. I remember the entire process clearly- Jesica from rUnladylike and I were sending tweets back and forth with the ZOOMA race account and it quickly led to Jes and I decided we were going to apply to become ambassadors together. This was a great way for us to meet and to escape for a weekend getaway in January. We’re both from the South so it isn’t like we have horrible weather where we are in January but hey, things are always slightly warmer in Florida right?
All the while, I had started my training for my two full marathons [one in October 2013 and one in November 2013] and was well on my way to my twenty mile training runs. However, a few weeks from my October marathon I was told I would have to pull out due to a hamstring issue…. and the week after the race was ran without me I was told the same news for my November race.
To put it bluntly, I was ticked off. I trained HARD and put in a ton of miles to get pulled out of two races that I was excited about. And to be fair, my mind wasn’t on Zooma. At this point my mind was on healing so I could just run again. Not necessarily run a half marathon, just run.
love the runI started slowly back to running in November [time spent cross training, strengthening, and listening to my PT helped my recovery go MUCH quicker than I had originally anticipated] and I picked up my miles. I decided not to follow a training plan for Zooma because my goal was just to complete it. To come back from some time off and to enjoy the race.
As Zooma started to approach and I knew I was hitting enough miles to give it a shot, I started to plan out the logistics. Unfortunately, life and work got in the way and we booked too late to enjoy the race’s host hotel- The Ritz Carlton [though I hear those things are rather fancy ;)]. Then I realized it was on a weekend that started with a day that I had to work and couldn’t take vacation for [we had a professional development meeting[ so we would have to leave Friday after work. The race was Saturday morning.
We decided to drive to keep it simple.... simpler may be the better word for us. Since getting Axl we haven't really had a ton of sleep which meant the 7 hour car ride became very interesting towards the end. We arrived around 11 p.m., in time for me to run into an expo designed just for me- the Ritz Carlton reception desk to get my race packet that Jes picked up for me earlier that evening. I did live through the ZOOMA race expo pictures posted on instagram though and again, you all got HOOKED up by Zooma.
race morning zooma floridaBen and I stayed at the Residence Inn which was conveniently close to the race and we even ran by it around mile 10. [there may have been a moment during the race that I considered making a right to the hotel instead of going straight to the finish line]. On race morning I got up around 5 which is typical for me on most mornings, especially race morning. For some reason I never sleep well the night before a race. We ate breakfast, I drank my coffee to clean the system and we headed out the door around 7:30. Yes, thirty minutes before the race start and it was pure genius.
Ben drove me right up to the start, we parked, and I stayed in the car until 7:52 when I then got out and met up with Jesica, Presley, and Meghan.We got to chat for a little bit as the last few minutes before kickoff ticked away and I have to say, it was so good to meet these three. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Jesica but this was the first real interaction I’ve had with Presley and Meghan- both awesome girls so you should probably stop by them and say hey.
race day temperature. The race started through the Fernandina Beach downtown area- a couple miles in went past a cemetery and over a bridge that allowed you to look out on each side [beautiful by the way] and my favorite part of the entire race started about 3 miles in when we entered the Fort Clinch State Park. Now THAT was when I was really in my element. I love running in nature, on trails and where there are tons and tons of trees [I should really be a trail runner]. I was feeling strong but I was running the race very conservatively. My breath was smooth and steady and didn’t feel like I was straining myself at all… I definitely wasn’t at a race pace for me but I just wanted to take it all in. After all, it had been a while since I had run a race… especially at a distance above a 10k.
Around mile 7 I knew I was over halfway and still felt strong so I kicked up my pace and headed in to the mid to upper 8s [prior I was holding closer to a 9]. At about mile 8 we exited the park and started on the road. I have to admit, running along the bike path wasn’t my favorite part of the race. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful- you’re looking at a lot of very beautiful beach houses- but the elements changed quite a bit when you began your last five mile stretch. You were now exposed so the sun made you feel warmer, the wind was blowing and hitting you harder, and you could smell the exhaust from the cars driving by [not really anything Zooma could do about that, just to note for future runners]. Since you were running on a bike path and the road was still in use [although there weren't many cars by any means] it was a little more difficult to pass other runners without running outside of the cones since I found a lot of people running in pairs or in small groups.
Around mile 9 it became a huge mental game for me. Like I’ve shared before, I didn’t train like I should have for this race. I did do a few 10 milers right around and on Christmas but after those I didn’t really try to get my miles up above 6-7 until race day. I knew that I would end up with the mental games around this point but I kept talking through my mantras and using some of my race day mind game tactics.
At 12.5 is where the only negative thing I have to say about this race hit- sand. No, not hard, you can run on sand… fluffy soft sand. I swear to you it was half a mile. I felt like I was in quicksand and unable to save myself. There were two girls off to the side taking pictures and I even begged them to help pull me out. It was to be frank, awful. I like to finish strong and I felt like a huge flopping fish as I mustered my way through it. About two tenths of a mile from the finish there was a VERY small boardwalk that appeared so I started to run on that. Thinking- thank GOD they gave me SOMETHING but sand to finish on… but nope. I ran it all the way into spectators- missing the finish line. I had to stop, walk back around the fence and go across the finish. They clocked me at 1:53:43… but if you ask me they should automatically drop that to 1:52:00 for all that sand and spectator visiting I had to go through before I finished.
zooma floridaThe after party was a ton of fun with GREAT hook ups. I walked away with muscle milk, hint, a swig of Honest Tea, and a banana and water from the finish. That is on top of the amazing race bag we got when we arrived to the expo [or in my case the front desk of the Ritz Carlton].zooma.
Overall, I give the race a HUGE thumbs up. I’d drive 7 hours in the middle of the night with minimal sleep, get up 5 hours later to run 13.1 miles all over again just to be apart of this race series.ZOOMA FLORIDA RECAP
Expo- I wish I could have made it, but I heard NOTHING BUT great things.
Swag- I was impressed. I’ve done full marathons with bags that weren’t this good.
Logistics- Extremely well put together. It started on time, the course was beautiful and well organized- I even got to see the girls at one point during the race on a quick out and back turn around, and the after party was well stocked and had great energy.
Course- Beautiful, flat and the State Park was by far the most enjoyable part of the entire experience. It is definitely a PR worthy course…. minus the quicksand at the end.
After Party- Great choice of vendors, music and takeaways. Plus, the view was AMAZING.
My performance: Not a PR for me but as my first race back post injury, not following a plan and being conservative I did accomplish my one goal- have fun.
Thank you ZOOMA for inviting me and allowing me to crash the party. It was the perfect race to start the year off with. I learned a lot and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
To read more please check out: http://olivetorun.com/2014/01/20/all-i-want-to-do-is-zooma-zoom-zoom-zoom-race-recap/