Saturday, August 2, 2014

Zooma half marathon


Truth be told, I didn't really want to run this race. I signed up last spring after my 2 friends became ambassadors for Zooma. I figured it would be fun to run it with them. But even with the ambassador discount, the race fee was expensive--the most expensive half I had ever signed up for, including Disney.

As part of my marathon training plan, Becky included this race as a long run. We talked about using the race as a training run, to work on pacing. Pacing has been a big problem for me--in the past and currently--as I tend to go out too fast and crash and burn at the finish. My strategy was to run about 9:30 at the start and go with what the rest of the race brought me.

A bigger concern was that I hadn't run any distance farther than 8 miles since my 10 miler in April. I had planned a half in May, but was sidelined with that foot fracture for 4 weeks. I biked and still worked out with Becky, to maintain fitness. I knew I could run this distance, because this was my 10th half marathon. But how well?

I woke up at 4:00 this morning to get ready. Sara, my friend who has a FB page called Cheesy Runner Mom, was meeting me at 4:30 to make the drive to downtown Chicago together. The logistics of the race had me a little stressed out. The race was on the south side of Chicago, at the lakefront, but the parking situation was a little dicey. Zooma had arranged for shuttle buses to drive the runners from a downtown hotel to the race. Sara and I discussed it and we decided to go with that option. We parked the car at the Millenium Park garage and came out into the bowels of the city. Sara's GPS located us, and told us where we needed to be, but we had no idea how to get to the upper level where the street was. We went back inside the garage and took the elevator up, which got us to the street and the hotel where the shuttle buses were located. The ride down to Burnham Park was easy and uneventful.

When we got off the bus, we noticed the portapotties. Or lack thereof. We counted 7 total at the start line. We figured we had better use them before a line formed. My tummy had been funky before I left the house, and this was my 4th trip to the bathroom so far. Not a good omen.



The sun started to come up over Lake Michigan, and we took in the view of the Chicago skyline. Spectacular!



While we were taking our photos, Karen, from Trading in My Heels, found us. She and her friends got in line for the portapotties, which by this point had grown substantially. Michelle, from This Momma Runs, also found us. It was great to see our running friends!

Group shot in the portapotty line!
We lined up for the race. Sara, who is speedy, lined up at the front with the 1:50 pacers. Michelle, Karen, and I lined up with the 2:00 pacers. My first mistake--hello 9:30 pace? We took off, and Michelle ran ahead of us. Karen and I planned to run 9:15, which was a little faster than what I had planned. As we ran along, we both noticed that the humidity was affecting us. My tummy was not happy. My legs kept trying to go faster, but Karen kept pulling me back. Meanwhile, the race took us north towards McCormick Place and Soldier Field. The Chicago harbors were full of boats. Truly a great place to run. At 3 miles, we turned around and headed south.

I had planned to stop to gel at mile 5. I told Karen to go on ahead, because I felt like we were running a little faster than I wanted. Actually, I felt pretty bad. I stopped to use the portapotty (again). Funny thing, I thought I locked the door, but apparently I didn't because a man swung that door wide open while I was doing my business. Hello! I slammed it shut. And hey, isn't this supposed to be a women's race?

There were men running the race--I'm not sure how or why. There weren't very many. I found it odd.

Anyways, I took off again, slowly, about 9:20min/mi pace. After a few minutes, I found Michelle waiting for me by the side of the path. She told me she turned around to come run with me because Karen told her I was struggling. I was stunned. I mean, seriously, WHO DOES THAT? I almost started to cry, I was so touched. I really wanted to quit with the 10K runners, but I guess that wasn't happening...nope, Michelle kept me going. She wanted me to tell her some funny stories, but I was having trouble breathing, much less talking. Too bad, because I had some good ones!

Michelle is my hero! (My camera was all sweaty)


We kept plugging along, stopping to walk to catch our breath. Michelle has been struggling a little with her running too, ever since running an ultra this spring. So it was really nice to have company and not feel guilty when we needed to walk. She kept pushing me to the next mile marker. We walked a little each mile. And the miles passed. When we got to the turnaround, at mile 10, I actually thought I might do this thing! But my stomach continued to cramp. I gelled again at mile 11. At about mile 11.5, I stopped again, and told her to keep going. This time she did, and I walked a little longer, praying for a strong finish. By mile 12, I caught up to another woman in a really cute Lululemon skirt and top. She told me to run with her, and I did. We finished together, and strong. 


Thank you Yolanda, my new friend! Michelle teased me about "ditching" her and making a new friend. We all laughed because runners are all friends you haven't met yet, right? Sweaty hugs all around!

I look slightly deranged--or maybe it is the dehydration. My legs were covered with salt crystals!
Chip time 2:14:30. Mile splits average 10:14. I think this could work for my marathon, but I sure need to do a better job of running consistent splits! Still, I'm glad I finished strong, in spite of feeling pretty bad. This race reminded me so much of that half I ran in Florida last March--the conditions were pretty similar, with high humidity. Clearly, humidity is not my friend. Word to self: must run slower!



Thoughts about the race itself: 
--The course was beautiful. No doubt about it. The Chicago Lakefront is hands down one of the best places for running. BUT it is a public path, and there were all these cycling studs riding through the clusters of racers at top speeds. It was a little dangerous...imagine if you stepped to the side without looking over your shoulder...
--The finish line amenities were a little sparse. There were boxed lunches (which I took a pass on), muscle milk, water, and bananas. Oh, and wine! Which my stomach would not have liked, sadly.
--While the course was beautiful, I wasn't a fan of having to take a shuttle to get there. I get it, there was Lollapalooza going on this weekend, and so the race couldn't be held downtown. But having to be on the shuttle by 6am was tough. Especially coming from the suburbs.
--The cost was high. The goody bag was awesome, but since I didn't want to trek downtown to pick mine up (and pay again for parking), I had it mailed, at an additional cost.
--The race was well organized. There were water stops about every 2-3 miles and mile markers for each mile. No timers though. And even though there were course marshalls, it would have been easy to turn around early to cut some time off your finish time. Not that the thought ever crossed my mind.


--I thought an all womens race would be full of princesses and tutus but I was wrong! Everyone who ran it was nice and supportive. There were tons of high 5s and thumbs ups along the course.

And my final thoughts? I have the nicest running friends you could ask for. Even though the race didn't go as well as I had hoped, I had fun and ran with some amazing women. Lucky me!


26 comments :

  1. It did get pretty rough out there! Great job getting it done and having a fantastic time! <3

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    1. I just don't do well in the heat and humidity! I hope the marathon is cooler...

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  2. Great race review. I'm not a fan of shuttles and try to avoid them... but sometimes it's just not possible. My next Half is really close to home (Newport, RI) and I know the city very well, so NO SHUTTLE! I'm going to take your advice and go out slower and see what my legs do. I'm generally a go-out-too-fast runner, so I'll be thinking of that! Thanks for the review!!

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    1. It is so hard to shut it down at the beginning of a race, but that's what I need to work on if I want to finish the Chicago marathon strong! When is your half?

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  3. Wendy, This turned out to be one of my favorite races also. Not because of the running(because I was miserable, but loved the hugs you and Michelle gave me at 10.5!) but because of how we were all there to support one another. I never felt alone and I knew we all had each others back. We support, encourage and love one another no matter what is going on. I have the BEST running friends and I am so blessed that we met last year. I loved your recap and already miss you. :)

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    1. Thanks! I'm SO GLAD you were there. I loved all the support I got from you. And even tho you felt bad during the race, you pulled out a great finish! What a fun day--I'm so glad we are friends!

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  4. I'm sorry your stomach gave you so much trouble! That's a really tough thing to run through. I'm glad you had a good time and finished despite the issues! I was tempted to sign up for this race last winter but didn't because of the cost...after reading your review, I don't regret that decision. It stinks to pay a ton of money for a race that lacks the amenities that you get from cheaper races. Hopefully they change things for next year's race!

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    1. Some people were speculating that they may not come back to Chicago next year, since the race wasn't a big success. I'm glad I did it, because of the outcome, but would I do it again? Not likely.

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  5. Wow impressed that you finished the race with all of the challenges that you had. With the bathroom stops and all you probably still ran faster than most of us! I did the zooma Annapolis race a few times and I really like it. It's well organized and smaller than most of the half races here. Great swag bags too. There were a few guys running in our race too-odd yes but I guess they can't discriminate.

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    1. I haven't had those tummy issues for a couple of years, so I need to figure out what happened! I wouldn't have finished if it weren't for my friends, that's for sure! :)

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  6. Awww I'm glad you had fun with it even if conditions weren't optimal. The location, price and date of that race (hello dog days) are exactly why I did not run it this year. Was the field pretty small? Or were there way too few potties?

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    1. It was really hard, Marcia...I'm glad I had a group of friends to keep me going. The field was small--I think the total was about 450. And yes, way too few portapotties! Luckily I could find one when I needed it!

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  7. Summer racing is tough! I think it's great that other runners helped you cross the finish line. Congrats on your finish!

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad I had my friends (new and old) to move me along!

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  8. The best part is the finish line right? Chicago looks beautiful btw. I think racing in the summertime is rough! It's just tough! But I'm so glad you had friends to support you along your journey. Runners are amazing and so are you! Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks! Chicago is beautiful...imho the most beautiful city in the world1 Of course, I'm biased, since I live here...

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  9. I found your blog at Running N Reading's Weekend Update Link-Up...I'm currently training for my first half marathon and found your discussion of pacing and splits very helpful! I'm trying to determine what my race pace should be and I also have a tendency to go out too fast, especially since I normally run shorter distances (10Ks and 5Ks). My long training run this coming week is 7 miles..the first time I've run more than a 10K, so I'll be focusing on pacing for sure! I'm thinking 9:30-10 for the first half and then see how I feel after that...I like to try to negative split. Enjoyed discovering your blog!

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    1. Thanks! I'm heading over to check yours out too! And good luck on the longer distances. It is certainly addicting!

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  10. Wendy, I ran a Zooma race in Atlanta back in 2009; I enjoyed it but, like you, found the post-race amenities somewhat lacking for the price I paid to register. This is a great race recap, and I'm so happy you had lots of running friends and support along the way; makes a huge difference, I know! I'm also happy to hear that you were able to accept that this was a training run for your marathon and not get too caught up in the "race" atmosphere; you're going to do great, because that humidity is a killer and you still came through well! Thanks for participating in the link-up!

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    1. Thanks for doing the link up...I'm heading back to check out some of the other blogs (I posted and headed out to work!).

      It was hard to run a race as a training run...but I did the best I could! Lots to work on...

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  11. Humidity sucks the life out of me! GREAT job sticking with it, and how awesome all of the support you got....
    I don't do many city races, despite the fact I LOVE Chicago. Packet pick up is a pain, prices are crazy high, and logistics are tough when it comes to planning.

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    1. Yep. I'm really not good in the heat and humidity. Its what killed me in my first attempt at Chicago...I'm hoping for more runner-friendly conditions...

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  12. Sorry you felt bad during you race. Despite it all your finish time is awesome! I really want to do a Zooma because I think (hope?) it would be a much more supportive race with it being (almost) all women running.

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    1. So funny that you say that...it really is all about perspective! I know I've got a better race in me...

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  13. Congrats on your first HM back! And yuck to that humidity! That was so nice of Michelle to come back! :)

    I am happy to see they have a medal now! LOL! When I was an ambassador we got a necklace... but I like a medal better.

    WHAT is up with that guy opening up the porta pottie? At least you didn't have to wait in a long arse line for that one!

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    1. Yep, summer running...not so much fun, right?

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