Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Race Recap: ZOOMA Half Marathon

There is a reason I love small races.... and ZOOMA Women's Series demonstrates in every aspect how a small event can be MORE.  Before I get into details, I feel like I need a disclaimer: This was my birthday getaway weekend - two days away from the busy duties of motherhood and housekeeper. Two days of girlfriends, running and beautiful fall weather.

After a three hour drive, I arrived in scenic Lake Geneva on Friday afternoon. As a Wisconsin native, I was familiar with this ritzy vacation area, but never actually stayed here. The Abbey Resort was my home for the evening, host hotel for the event. The resort was huge and I nearly got lost trying to find my room.
My gorgeous home for an evening

I hurried off to the race expo to pick up my packet, but more importantly, to stalk find the ladies of Another Mother Runner.  Run Like A Mother was the very first running book I ever read. I can not express how much the words of that book echoed my thoughts when I first started running. The book literally fueled my run in those early years. Their second book Train Like A Mother is just as timely as I continually progress into more serious training plans.
Dimity McDowell, me, and Sarah Bowen Shea
They were much taller than I expected, but who isn't standing next to me?
I absent-mindedly forgot my books at home (duh?), so the AMR's signed my race bib for me.

The expo was perfect sized, not real big but plenty of interesting booths to stop at. I walked away with a new pair of running shoes and a coffee mug. Trek Women spoiled me rotten with a whole bag full of goodies. I scored a cool wine stopper at the Barefoot Wine booth (love their sweet red), and oh'ed and ah'ed over the apparel at Skirt Sports and WHOOHA Gear. A great selection of companies considering it was a race of only 600 runners.

Dimity and Sarah gave a casual, yet entertaining, "Race Tips" presentation at 5pm, followed by a course talk from the event organizers. (Just a note, the ZOOMA series is conducted by three women and it shows. If you're someone who appreciates the little details in a race event, you will like ZOOMA races. No offense to the male race directors, but women are just super organized and better at making an event warm and welcoming.)

twisted the arm convinced four other ladies from Peoria to run ZOOMA with me. I made a second loop through the race expo with them and then we hit dinner. No carb loading for us. Instead, we enjoyed the upbeat and fun environment of the resort restaurant. I loved that bar and dream of the day that my hubby and I can revisit in the summer to enjoy some brews on their deck overlooking the marina.

After dinner, I snuck in late to the ZOOMA Mocktail Hour. As a new cyclist, I ate up every word of the Trek Women presentation (with blogger Skinny Runner as the model). Biking is such a great cross-train to pair with running.  All the chairs had a complimentary pair of athletic socks and a Bike Guide (awesome center pullout on how to change a flat tire). At the end, I even won in the prize drawing... a Badass Mother Runner headband!

Whew! What a fun time so far (for this mother on the loose) and it's not even race day yet!

Race morning came early and I was surprisingly calm. I had no expectations for this race. I was using it as a training run. I knew it would be hilly but wanted to test out my pacing for the marathon. My goal was to run the entire 13.1 as evenly as possible around the 9:45 min/mile mark. At that pace, I wanted to feel like I could "run forever" near the end and have good energy left for the finish. That was the goal.

The ZOOMA course was a point-to-point route from Lake Geneva to Fontana. We loaded up school buses to take us to the start. Our school bus driver was fun and shared some stories of landmarks along the course to look for. It was a chilly fall morning, but exactly how I prefer it.  I brought a throwaway sweatshirt and actually tossed it before we even began.

This was our starting line...

The course lived up to its reputation. This is no chick course. It's a "I am Woman; Hear Me Roar" kind of course. The hills started inside mile 1 and rolled and rolled without end. There was little flat in between. It felt like we were either going up or down at every point.  I ran side by side with my friend Cassie, who was doing her first half. I focused on keeping my breathing steady and the pace comfortable... which proved challenging with the constant elevation changes. My splits were all over the place, more uneven than I like...
Geesh, the only photo I got on the course...
Mile 1 - 9:28
Mile 2 - 9:05
Mile 3 - 9:53
Mile 4 - 9:20
Mile 5 - 9:38
Mile 6 - 9:45
Mile 7 - 9:47
Mile 8 - 9:35
Mile 9 - 9:45
Mile 10 - 9:40

At mile 9, I slowed to a walk to take in some GU and water. Cassie cruised ahead, but after a mile, I caught back up to her.  As we entered into Fontana, there were a bunch of spectators near the mile 10 turn. I was happy at this point with how the run was feeling on my body. Not sure if it was the "run forever" feeling, but I was in a good place for 10 miles in.

We ran past the finish line and headed out the 5K course. This part of the race was hell hard. Awaiting us were more rolling hills, up and down, up and down... and then one giant mountain to crawl up. It felt like I was on a stairstepper, not actually moving forward but going through the motions. I looked up ahead and there was NOT ONE PERSON running. Everyone was walking up that hill. I said, "Screw it" and joined in. It was still difficult walking.  Happily, I reached the turnaround (with some dumbass driver in a vehicle right on my heels!). I wish I could say the return trip was easier, but somehow not. I hit the mile 12 marker and wanted to see what I had left and tested my energy reserves.  The final 1/4 mile stretch was downhill, but hurt the quads just as much.
Mile 11 - 10:07
Mile 12 - 11:03
Mile 13 - 9:18
Mile 0.2 - 1:35

This was by far the most challenging course I've ever run. Yet at the finish, I felt great pride in overcoming the obstacles... and extremely happy with my pacing and final time.

Remember how I wanted a 9:45 pace? You don't get any closer than that folks!

The post-race party on the lakeside lawn of the Abbey Resort was really fun. It was a perfect autumn day to just hang outside and rehash the course with girlfriends. There was more shopping, music and food.  Muscle Milk had a large tent setup where you could stretch, foam roll and grab a massage. I met up with the other ZOOMA Ambassadors there for a post-race photo...
So excited to see many of the Chicago Running Bloggers!

And I met thee Sara Hall ... and fun blogger Skinny Runner... 
Yeah, definitely a run celeb filled weekend!

Finally, I found the wine with my running partner Cassie...

It was a tough course, but all the extras included in this event made it a special and fun day! ZOOMA Women's Series is more than just a race - it is a special occasion that you should pick only your favorite girlfriends to spend it with. Check out their upcoming race schedule here.


  1. What an awesome experience! I just registered today for Austin in March! Can't wait!!

  2. Love everything about this post except you seem to have forgotten to mention how awesome it was to meet ME! ;) Totally teasing. Super fabulous to meet you girl, congrats on your race!

  3. Thanks for sharing this recap. So much fun!!! I registered for the race in January but cannot run it anymore. I can sell/transfer my bib so if you are interested or know someone let me know. :-)

  4. I love your recaps, Jess. Sounds like you had an awesome time and a great birthday weekend! Can't wait to run Tulsa with you!

  5. I ran Zooma Cape Cod in September. It was great. I'd love to run another one next year.

  6. How fun. At least they didn't send you the wrong way on that super hard course.

  7. It was great meeting you there! That last hill was super killer.

  8. Looks like a blast and I would have loved the Trek demo! Great job, Jess!

  9. Looks like you had a great time. But my goodness I can't help nut notice that steep uphill. That must have been a really tough course.

  10. Awesome! I'd be stoked to meet AMR's Sarah and Dimity! You are so tiny--I didn't realize how tiny you are! I can never keep them straight--which one is Dimity and which is Sarah? Is Dimity the taller AMR?

    1. Dimity is the taller one. I know it... I look so incredibly short next to them! LOL

  11. yyyeah you definitely have me very excited to run the florida event!! so glad you really enjoyed the day

  12. Hey I stumbled upon your blog, love ur dedication and commitment to run!
    I completed my first half marathon in Sept and training for another one in Feb 13 along with doing some major weight loss!
    Happy to follow you.

  13. I think that it is great that you took your time and enjoy those two days of free time because you deserve them.


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