Zooma Annapolis promised to be a great race. Zooma puts on a series of women’s races across the country and its slogan is Run, Laugh, Celebrate. You could run a 10K or a Half Marathon. It sounded like the perfect race for Black Girls Run to participate in, after all we are a women’s running group and Zooma was pulling out all the stops with a pre-race day mocktail party, access to all-weekend yoga and post race massages. They even had a PR program set up so that runners who achieved their personal best or ran their first half marathon would receive a special medal. And, I got to meet the BGR visionaries Ashley Hicks and Toni Carey. What’s not to love, right?
Wrong. I have renamed this race “Zooma Annapol-hades: The Hilly Hot Mess.” Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad if you exclude the actual race from the equation … yeah you know, the real purpose of the event. There was a nice little expo going during packet pick-up, where I got my Achilles taped with Kinesio tape. We enjoyed a well thought out pre-race day dinner that appeared as a special on the host hotel’s menu before taking a stroll through beautiful downtown Annapolis.
We were enjoying Annapolis and all was good in the world until the actual race. Since the race started at 7:00 a.m., we left the hotel close to 6:00 a.m. but not before I had to re-tape my achilles. The expo taping didn’t make it through the night. The walk to the start line at the Naval Stadium was around 3/4 of a mile and was a pretty good warm up. At the stadium, there weren’t any corrals and there didn’t seem to be all that many women at the start line. I heard that most of the runners seemed to be lined up at the porta-potties but I couldn’t see the potties from where I was standing. Then the strangest thing happened. It was 7:00 a.m. and nothing seemed to be happening and so I figured the race was starting late. Anyway, a few moments later I heard the announcer excitedly say, “You’re almost at the start line.” What? The race had started? No anthem? No gun? No “On your marks, get set, go?” Nothing! No national anthem. For a race starting in the Naval town and on U.S. Navy property? That might have been an omen.
I was completely caught off guard, I tried to set my Garmin but it wouldn’t pick up a satellite. I crossed the start and began to run. It was hard to get into a rhythm because half of the runners were walking and so I had to try to run round a slew of people. It was hot but I started to feel good after the first mile. There was a water station before mile two but I didn’t it see until it was too late. So I figured I’d catch the next one. It was no big deal since I had just been drinking water at the start line. By mile three we had run a few hills and the heat started to feel oppressive. By the time we got to mile 3.5 I was parched and started to yell, “Where’s the water?” At mile 4 I saw this monster ahead of me.
Now this picture doesn’t even do the incline on that bridge justice. So now I’m panicking because I don’t see myself running this bridge without water. But a few moments later I spotted a water station up ahead. Relief wasn’t even the word. I get to the table and I pick up a cup … it’s empty. I grab another … empty. Yikes. I realize that the volunteer is pouring the water and there are only three or four cups of water in front of him and the demand was high. I ran behind the table so I was right next to the volunteer and grabbed some water. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I continued to run and passed the 10K turnaround on the bridge.
After clearing the bridge there was a monstrosity of a hill that made the bridge beast look like a walk in the park. After making it to the top of that hill, in not such fine form, I came upon an other water station. This time, there were no cups on the table. I actually don’t even really remember seeing a table. But I do recall that the volunteer was pouring cups of water and handing them out one by one while we waited on a line. What? This time I waited patiently for my water. I believe that was after mile 5.
A mile and half later, I hit a real hydration station that was equipped with Cytomax (Yuck, I guess Gatorade can’t sponsor all the races) and water. At this point, I was at the top of another nasty hill, it was blazing hot and I was mad that I didn’t turn around at the 10K mark. I informed the volunteer that I would be double fisting my Cytomax to which he graciously responded by telling me to take whatever I needed. I then grabbed a cup of water and took off at slow trot. I usually get a feeling of empowerment when I pitch my cup to the ground but now we were in a residential area and I reluctantly tossed my empty cup to the side and it wound up on someone’s lawn (that was a downer). Soon after, I hit the half marathon turn around mark. This should have been a joyous moment but all I could think was that I had to do this whole thing over … and it was HOT. After about maybe a half mile, there was another hydration station. Craziness. I had water though because I wasn’t sure when I’d see another one of these sporadic water stations.
By mile 8 I was in a bad way and I felt a hand on my back. It was one of my BGR sisters, Lisa. She literally pushed me up a hill. Bless her heart. I tried to enjoy the downhill but found I was struggling through that too. My knee was starting to hurt and I decided to take a walk break. WHAT??? I don’t walk my races, the main reason being because I just don’t do the run-walk thing well. Once I stop running, it’s hard for me to start up again. But at this point my time had already gone to pot and I didn’t want to get injured or pass out from heat exhaustion. So I began my run-walk journey, which was more like walk with sparse jogging intervals. I didn’t feel so bad though because most of the people around me were walking too. Lisa tried to get me going a couple of times but I wasn’t really hearing it.
At around mile 10, a police officer told us that we should turn left.The road looked blocked because there were cars on it but another runner confirmed that we should make the left. Now this whole part of the course was really weird. There were cars, two hydration stations within mile 11 and a make shift turnaround involving one solitary cone on the right side of the road (not even the entire road). The course doubled back to where the police officer was standing and then went back to the stadium. I was really punchy in mile 12. I was thoroughly enjoying my iPod and began to serenade a police officer, “You are in my system, Oh oh oh, you arrrre in my sys-tehehem.” Yeah! Lisa had to come and get me. When we hit mile 13, there was a steep little hill leading us into the stadium parking lot. How obnoxious! As I approached the finish line a couple of runners sprinted past me. Well I was having none of it. I ran as fast as I could manage and rebel yelled through the finish line. Real class. People took notice though. Jennean was crossing the finish line, albeit with a time of 2:42:15.
Post-race. That’s right I’m still not finished. I was handed a bottle of water and my finisher’s necklace. My phone refused to take a decent picture of the necklace.
Even though I knew we were getting a necklace instead of a medal, I was a little disappointed. The back says, “Zooma 2013.” This brings me to medalgate. Zooma had a PR program where first time half marathoners and those who ran their personal best half marathon received a real medal (it was a very nice one). There was a long line of people waiting for medals and scuttle was that they began to tell runners that they would not receive a PR medal because the course was .25 mile short and so they didn’t have real PRs. What!?! First of all, it is a wonder that anyone even came close to a PR under those race conditions. They would have had a real problem on their hands if I had run myself into the ground to get a PR, only to be told that I couldn’t get one because they had me run a short course. The distance came up short on my Garmin but I attributed that to the fact that I started it late.
We also picked up our swag after the race. That was awkward. We received yoga mats and a metal water bottle (I think because I still haven’t opened the box). While this is some good swag, we had just run 13 miles and had to lug this unbagged stuff around post race. “AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.” It was extremely difficult to handle the swag, the necklace and post race fueling. To the fuel. They had snack boxes but I had to pass on the mayonnaised meat that was in there and the neon white pita bread thingies. I just ate the apple and downed a Muscle Milk. At least the apple was tasty. I didn’t see any massages or yoga. I just saw long lines and confusion. So we decided to head back to the host hotel. YIKES!!! Now we had to lug this stuff almost a mile on achy legs. We did approach an ambulance driver for a ride but he said we didn’t want to go where he would be taking us. It was a long walk back to the hotel and I did my best impression of an ice bath with very little ice before leaving Zooma behind. I will not be looking in the rearview for this race.
To be fair to Zooma, they issued an apology and explanation for the short course. Like to see it? Here it goes. http://zoomarun.com/2013/06/zooma-annapolis-post-race-recap/
I received an email from them this evening offering a $20 discount for any Zooma Half Marathon in 2013 or 2014, $12 off any off their 10ks or $10 off a 5K.
I think I’ll cut my losses. On to the next one, The Oakley Mini 10K on Saturday.