After a super fun weekend in Florida, I am back in Denver. My mind and body are tired but my heart is happy after a long weekend with 2 of my best friends and a race I’m mostly proud of, given my lack of training.
My friend Kristen and I spent the weekend Florida to visit our friend, Sarah. Months and months ago, she convinced us to sign up for the Zooma Women’s Half Marathon in Florida for a fun girls weekend. Kristen and I arrived in Orlando, where Sarah lives, late Thursday night after 2 easy flights.
We stayed with Sarah Thursday night and woke to the promise of paleo pumpkin pancakes and strong coffee. YUM. A few YouTube videos and repacked bags later, we loaded up the car to make our way to Amelia Island but not before a stop at Infusion Tea to meet Ashley (Healthy Ashley) for lunch.
It’s strange meeting fellow bloggers because, while we’ve never met in person, we know so much about the other person already. It’s like being friends before actually being in-person friends – strange but wonderful! Ashley, Kristen, Sarah and I had a great lunch chatting about races, injuries, pets and life.
We left Orlando close to 2:30 p.m. for our long 2.5-3 hour drive to Amelia Island. We checked into the race hotel, the ultra swanky Ritz-Carlton, and as we waited for our bags to be delivered, we received a very special delivery for Kristen and Sarah’s birthdays!
They’d asked if we were celebrating anything when we checked in and we were – we picked this race and trip because Kristen’s birthday was the week before and Sarah’s birthday is in a couple of weeks. They surprised us with a bottle of champagne and wished Sarah and Kristen a very happy birthday. Such a thoughtful gesture from the hotel staff!
Once our bags were delivered, we hit up the small expo – we weren’t sure what to expect from the expo or how large the race was but we guessed from the expo that the race was much smaller than most of are used to. (We later found out about 400 people ran the half – super small!)
We enjoy samples of Barefoot Wine (note to self: Pinot Grigo Champagne is where it’s at), Honest Tea and grabbed our race bibs. After securing the goods, it was time to EAT. We found a local Italian restaurant, Ciao Bistro, that was crowded with racers. Instead of waiting 45 minutes for a table, we opted to order our food to go and eat back in our hotel room. We kept it low-key and went to bed early Friday night.
The race didn’t start until 8 a.m. on Saturday which meant we could sleep until 6 a.m. – very wonderful for us Mountain Time girls! We hopped on the shuttle to the race start at 7 a.m. and waited in the parking lot for the race to start.
The race started right next to the ocean so there was a chilly breeze blowing through – we knew that once we started running, we’d warm up and appreciate the breeze but it was really cold before it started.
The race itself was a great course – we ran through downtown Fernandina, through a beautiful state park (with a turnaround at the northernmost part of Florida before it becomes Georgia!) and down a very straight and very flat highway that paralleled the beach. At mile 12.5ish, the course turned from the straight flat road onto the crumbly, loose sand, then onto packed sand along the ocean followed by .2 miles of crumbly, loose sand to finish. Not my favorite.
I loved the course of this run overall – the 5 miles on the highway were long and kinda boring. Because the race was smaller, it felt like we were running solo and it’s hard to stay motivated when there are no runners nearby. I loved that water stations were at every 1.5 miles – it’s no secret that I did not train for this as well as I should/could have so for me, it was really great to break the race up into 1.5 mile sections.
This race went significantly better than the Denver Rock N Roll (no crying this time!) – I felt great until about mile 6.5, and slowed from there. I let myself take walking breaks after the water station at mile 7.5. I tried to push myself to keep running, slowly, but my legs would have no part of it. My quads just don’t have the strength yet.
I finished at 2:19, officially. My Denver Rock N Roll finish was a 2:40 – a 21-minute improvement! Thank you, sea level. A great thing about having a terrible first-race-after-surgeries experience is that every race that follows is sure to be better than the first.
Kristen and Sarah both finished ahead of me and cheered me on through the finish – just the push I needed to keep my legs going! After a few necessary beach photos, we hit up the after party in search of food.
The after party was also small and we were disappointed to find a small selection of post-race food. Some fruit, yogurt and a small selection of mini-muffins were available but Kristen, Sarah and I needed a bagel, banana, granola bars – something with more staying power than mini-muffins and yogurt. I foolishly drank coffee to warm up and then a small glass of pinot grigo (to celebrate!) and promptly felt and got very sick. Do not try this at home.
We did love the yoga mats and foam rollers provided by Muscle Milk. It was the first time any of us had seen a set up like that after a race and it was awesome to stretch out and start to roll out of our tired muscles. This seemed to be a big hit with our fellow runners too – everyone raved about it!
Our bellies soon told us that it was time to change and find real post-race food. We went back to our room, packed up our bags and began the long drive back to Orlando.
Final race thoughts? I am proud of myself for not getting discouraged during this race. Kristen and I ran together until mile 6.5 when I started to slow down. She pulled ahead and I pulled out my iPod. Really, the 1.5 miles between water stations was such a blessing – I set mini-goals for myself to run/walk certain distances until the next station. And knowing I had already accomplished a half marathon and that I had slightly more fitness than I did in September, I was able to keep my spirits up.
I’m so glad Kristen and I made the trip to Florida to visit Sarah and it was so much fun to have a ‘girls weekend’ combined with a race weekend. I would definitely come back to Florida for a winter time race but I probably will not make Zooma a destination race in the future. If Zooma were to add a Denver race, I would consider signing up – I think this could be a fun race for local women but to pay a plane flight, registration fee, hotel, etc, I just expected a little more from my race experience.
First race of 2013 and a 21 minute PR – not a bad way to start the year! Now… to focus on letting my sore, sore legs recovery so I can work on keeping this PR streak alive!