It’s been a few weeks, but I can’t not share the experience that was the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon. Last year I ran the 10K, and decided to challenge myself and move up to the half this year. Aside from the trail half marathon earlier this year, it was my hardest half yet.
As with many local races, I spent the night with my friend, Beth, and her aunt and uncle. Beth was able to get our packets in Annapolis on Friday, which was a huge help and stress reliever. Our pre-race nights consist of a good meal and some wine, always. I feel so relaxed after a night of socializing. Typically I go to the race with them, but as I was running the longer distance, I decided to drive myself in case they didn’t want to wait for me after the race. Later than planned, I set out my “Flat Sam” and headed to bed.
I was up around 5:15 and out the door by 5:45 to drive to Annapolis. I met up my friend Erin, who was running the 10K, and her boyfriend (one of my best friends from college) before meeting up for the ambassador picture. I conversed with a couple of ambassadors, which I didn’t really do last year. It was such a great group of strong runner women!
After the picture we all headed towards the porta johns. Last year, the lines moved quickly. This time, not so much. I waited for 20 minutes and had to sprint to make the start of the race. Not. Fun. Whether there were more people or less porta johns, something was wrong. It led to a very anxious start our races.
I knew this race was going to be hard, as Beth and I had run the hills on the back half of the course a few weeks prior. Pair hills with a warm, sunny day, and it’s not a recipe for a “fast” day. I was ready for a challenge. I set out saying I’d be happy with a sub 2:20, but I ended up being happy to finish.
Miles 1-5: The first few miles were very similar to last year’s 10K, as well as the Annapolis Running Classic 10K. There are some small hills, but they are managable. While I knew I could run fast for these miles, I stayed at an easier pace to save myself, with 90:30 intervals. I found a great spot around my friend Erin, and I paced myself just behind her until the half split off from the 10Kers. At about mile 5 we started crossing the Naval Academy Bridge for the first time. I stayed with my intervals most of the way up, then walked a little extra to save myself. (Erin looked strong coming down the bridge towards her finish!) Splits: 10:57, :49, 11:03, :03, :04.
Miles 6-10: The bridge is where the hills start, and they don’t stop for the rest of the race. While in most races I’d want to speed up at this point, I was hoping to stay steady through the hills. I felt strong until the out-and-backs started, around mile 8. By then, the heat started to get to me. I had trouble taking in fuel and also felt a bit over-hydrated. I also was dumb and put sunscreen on my forehead, which meant I had sunscreen and sweat running into my eyes (should have worn a hat!). I struggled through 90:30 intervals from mile 8 until about mile 10, where I felt like I was just slogging. I was managing to make it through my intervals, but was very out of breath, so I knocked them back to 75:30. At mile 10, I reached the top of a hill where I could see the Naval Academy Bridge once more, one of the last big hills. Splits: 11:19, 10:53, 11:29, :50, :42.
Miles 11-13.1 (.32) – If the slowing paces and shorter intervals didn’t clue you in, I was struggling for the last 5K. I couldn’t take fuel without feeling like I was going to puke, so I started to “bottom out”. And frankly, my legs were just dead from the hills. I try to run some hills each week, but only on shorter runs (which I should improve on). People passed me left and right, and I walked more than I would like to admit. When I realized that this was going to be my slowest half ever, I just focused on finishing in one piece, uninjured. Splits: 12:09, :29, :49, 3:54 (last .32).
Final time: 2:33:27
Despite running my slowest half ever, I still felt very accomplished. I knew this was a hard course – the old me would have run the 10K, but I wanted the challenge. This is NOT an easy course, and no half is going to be easy during June in Maryland. I found pride in running very steady for the first half of the race, and making it through 4 miles of hills before I started to really struggle. While it wouldn’t have made any speed records, I think the last few miles would have gone better if my fueling had been better.
Post race: I know my fueling and hydration was off, because I felt horrible after I finished. Almost “med-tent” horrible. I sat with water, gatorade, and some chips. I was so relieved when Beth said that her and her aunt were still around. While they got massages and shopped, I had 4 more cups of gatorade and another bag of chips while sitting in the shade. I haven’t felt so poorly after a race since my first few long races (cough cough Chuck 12 2014). I didn’t even partake in the wine – shocker. After a few pictures, I headed home and had a feast of Taco Bell (my first in YEARS!). After a nap and another plate of nachos, I was feeling much better and was ready for a night at the ballpark.
Beth had a solid race and her Aunt Kate finally hit a big goal of a sub-60 10K! I was very happy for them both! Despite my slow time, this race lit a fire under me to do more hard races in order to truly challenge myself a bit more.
Before I forget – the SWAG. I was disappointed with it last year, but this year the swag was improved. The t-shirt was a grey, tech-cotton short with a simple design. It is very comfy. The half-marathoners got a running hat, which I love and was great during my recent Las Vegas trip. It came in a “lululemon” style bag, which I always like to have around! The medal featured a sail boat, was pretty, and was of a nice quality!
All in all, the Zooma Annapolis 13.1 is not for the faint of heart, or for someone who expects a fast time at every race. It is a challenging course and is typically hot and humid. The race atmosphere is positive and the post race party is fun. If you like to run with a pack, run the 10K – which is the biggest race out of all three distances offered.
I was a bit bummed about the food spread. Even though I was a “late” finisher and some food may have run out (not an excuse), I only saw potato chips, bananas, and some trail mix. I love a good post-race spread, and it didn’t live up to last year’s Pirate Booty. Seriously, I’m now addicted to that stuff. However, as much as I enjoyed this year and last year’s races, I won’t be back next year. The Baltimore 10 Miler is always the same day, and I’m ready to take on that course again as part of the King Crab Challenge. But I will be back in time!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary entry for Zooma Annapolis as an ambassador. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.