Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Race Recap: ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon

I ran my first ZOOMA half marathon in 2014. That race took place in Chicago on the lakefront path. You can read my recap here. It wasn't a race I planned on repeating. Fast forward to this winter when the ZOOMA race series made plans to return to the area, but instead with the race taking place in Lake Delavan, Wisconsin. That sparked interest in me. The original ZOOMA race was in nearby Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and I had never run a race in that area. Also, the race series had been purchased by a new promoter and they hired Erika Howder, who blogs at MCMMamaRuns, to be in charge of the expo and the ambassadors.

That sealed the deal. I wanted in.

I submitted an application to be a race ambassador, was chosen to be a national ambassador, and before I knew it, race day was here!



On Friday afternoon, I picked up my friend Steph for the ride up to Lake Lawn Lodge, the site of the race. We were meeting up with Marcia and my cousins, Erin and Heather. The ride took us a little longer than we expected--almost 2 hours--due to Friday afternoon traffic, but since Steph and I haven't run together lately, we had a lot of catching up to do! Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at LLL, I missed my assigned volunteer spot. We went to packet pickup where we found my cousins and Marcia.

Packet pickup, while not crowded, didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. They couldn't find my bib and I ended up with a generic bib. All the other ambassadors, as well as anyone who purchased the VIP package, received a personalized bib. While it wasn't a big deal, it kind of was. Plus, the guy who gave me my bib wasn't at all apologetic.

I let that roll off my back while Steph and I checked out all the merchandise available. There was a really nice variety of unique items, including a line of t-shirts called "Dog is Good". I bought a cute "Dog is Zen" t-shirt because, yoga and Cocoa... There was also another company selling cute t-shirts with sassy sayings but $45 for a t-shirt seemed excessive to me. As a race sponsor, Momentum was there, as well as Bondi bands.

While we shopped there was a lifestyle guru speaking. While I respect lifestyle coaches' missions and beliefs, as a medical professional I struggle with some of the information they present. Fortunately, Marcia and Steph wanted to get dinner and we left, dining at a local restaurant. The food was good and the conversation was better. We returned to the resort and settled into our cozy lodge-themed room for the night, but not before checking out the sunset.



Marcia's alarm went off at 5:30 and we made our preparations for the race. We headed over to the start line a little before 6:30 for our ambassador photo. I was surprised at how many ambassadors there were! We didn't really get a chance to meet and greet. I think it would have been nice to have a special singlet or a bib that signified who was an ambassador.

ZOOMA Great Lakes Ambassadors
I also ran into my cousins and it was so great to see them! We grew up together but rarely see each other any more. I was so excited when I found out they were running this race.

Erin, me, and Heather
We all moved to the front of the resort to line up for the start. One of my favorite moments of the race was the Star Spangled Banner. The night before the race, some of the runners were doing karaoke and one of them had an amazing voice. After hearing her sing, the race organizers asked her to perform the national anthem. Guys, it was AMAZING. Goosebumps. Can you imagine doing that on the fly?

Ready to run!
We ran out of the resort and up along a busy highway for about a 1/2 mile until we turned onto a side road. It was there that I saw the first hill and knew that the "rolling hills" advertised in the course description were more like cliffs. I am not exaggerating. So my plan to do 4:1 run/walk intervals went right out the window. This was going to be a run the flats/downhills and walk the uphills kind of race.

If only I'd known this in advance.
The course reminded me of the Door County half marathon, where I employed that walk the hills/run the downhills strategy. Initially, my plan worked very well for me. I kept playing cat and mouse with a couple of ladies and I thanked them for pacing me. What I didn't count on was the temperature rising so quickly. By mile 8, I knew I was in trouble. I was pretty bummed out. Up until then, I was pacing really well and thought I'd do a 2:10 half. I'd been hydrating at the water stops. Sipping my Tailwind during my walk breaks. But at mile 8, the wheels came off the bus. There was a long hill and I walked all of it. To amuse myself, I started singing "the wheels on the bus keep falling off..." but then I realized what a self-defeating idea that was. While I was walking up the hill, I started chatting with one of the women who I had been pacing with. It was nice to have someone to commiserate with and we commiserated the rest of the race.

My split for this mile was 12:49.

After this horrible hill, we ran along the south side of Lake Delavan, which is lined with beautiful homes. This part of the course was what I'd call rolling hills. We didn't have any more of those horrible hills like mile 8 until that last mile running up the busy highway and heading into the resort. Sadly, the course took its toll on me and I did a lot more walking for those last 5 miles than I wanted. The final part of the course was in full sun and full nausea. At one point, ZZ Top came on my playlist singing La Grange and that got me a good 4 minutes running. Once we were back in the resort, we ran up a gravel path and along the lake to the finish line.

I thought I could not run anymore.

I vowed to finish running and I did.

I didn't want to personal worst my personal worst and I didn't.

I crossed the finish line, collected my medals, and met up with Steph and Erin. I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to vomit. They wanted me to drink water. I put my head on the table and to all our surprise, I started to sob. I hated this, I hated running, I hated getting older, I hated RA, I'm never doing this again.

I think I scared them.

Once I calmed down and ended my pity party, we found Marcia. She was much less upset than me. "It was so hot!" she exclaimed. Silly me, I didn't even notice the heat. I just noticed how horrible I felt. But here are the details:

We made our way through the post-race refreshments, which were a little underwhelming. I grabbed an Udi's cookie and an orange. No protein? Then I made a beeline for the bar. With my drink ticket in hand, I was disappointed to learn that the drink ticket only was good for vodka lemonade. Crap! I may as well add the vodka to my Tailwind. Fortunately, my new running BFFs took pity on me and chipped in for a Spotted Cow.


I sat down with Steph and Marcia and we recapped the race. We were shocked to learn that all of us won age group awards. That speaks to the tough conditions--if 2:17:24 counts for a 2d place AG award, then you know everyone was having a tough day.

Age groupers Steph, Marcia, me, and Erin
So overall, what did I think? Would I do this one again? Are you still reading this crazy long race report?

I loved the setting and the course. Yes, the course was hilly. But knowing this now, I would have trained better for it. The course elevation was very similar to the Door County Half Marathon. This is a beautiful place to run and I would hands down do it again. The resort was so nice and I think that it would be a great girls' weekend. In fact, had I realized that I would have planned to stay 2 nights and make a trip out of it. I loved that in spite of my running struggles this summer, my running pal Steph and I got to spend the weekend together. Having Marcia along made it even more fun!


Overall, it was a really fun weekend. The post-race food could have been better. I would have liked some food that had protein. Erika told me that they only had a couple of volunteers for the aid stations and I had no idea--they were so enthusiastic. Hopefully, if this race continues to grow--and I hope it does--more people will step up to man the aid stations. For this first reincarnation of the ZOOMA Midwest series, Sarah and Erika did good. I hope they do it again!

Marcia, Erika, me
Have you ever run a ZOOMA race? Would you do this one? Have you ever cried at a finish line? By the way, I am going to run again...

I'm linking up with Erika, Marcia, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run and with Debbie, Rachel, Marc, and Lora for Running Coaches Corner.








36 comments :

  1. It was a tough day for sure. Physically you did fine. Mentally you've got to switch gears and take some pressure off of yourself when conditions are like they were. This is supposed to be fun! It was a fun weekend.

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    1. You are so right! I completely lost my head in my misery. It is so hard for me to get my head around these slower finish times. Sigh.

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  2. Oh I'm so sorry you were so upset by that race, how horrible. That course profile is AWFUL. And looking at your winning an age category prize, you can see how tough it must have been for everyone.

    I cried at the end of my first half marathon (and during it) and surprised everyone by NOT crying at the end of my first marathon (I cried during it, but out of overwhelm when I was running along a bit I'd been visualising in my training and it was bee-yoo-tiful.

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    1. I cried tears of happiness at my second marathon! My first one was so disappointing and #2 was total redemption.

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  3. Nice pics! Sounds like a tough race with the humidity. I have not run a Zooma race. I hear they have great swag. Great job on your finish!

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    1. It was a great experience overall. I just wasn't prepared for the heat and humidity. And the hills. My bad!

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  4. It was great to meet you!

    ZOOMA races pretty much always offers some sort of girly drink. It's their "thing". We only had the cash bar for beer and other things because I like beer LOL. Hope to see you back there next year. I love the idea of an ambassador bib.

    -MCM Mama

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    1. Not being a "girly girl", I didn't realize that about ZOOMA! I'm glad you had the cash bar--that was a hit with a lot of us!

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  5. Congrats on a tough race conquered. I have never cried at a finish line, but I have come close. Very close. Route 66 had me fighting that huge lump in my throat and wet eyes...not sure (yet) it was tears of frustration or tears of joy for having fought and won.

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    1. I guess it was both for me. This has been a year of utter frustration. I know I need to let it go. It's hard to accept where I'm at but I can't change it!

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  6. This weekend was brutal & I think you did great. Heat + hills have definitely given me some of my worst races (unless it's a dry heat, which I know it wasn't).

    This weekend was brutal everywhere. I did a progressive long run sunday and I was on track to actually almost nail it until the last mile. It was hot, humid, and the clouds had burned off. I just couldn't take it anymore.

    2 of my friends were racing a half at the time -- similar story.

    I'm not much of a crier, so no, I've never cried at a race. Not yet anyway. But I have definitely had some hot ones where I've felt horrible at the end.

    I love Erika, but I don't really love ZOOMA. It's why I never applied to be an ambassador. Maybe Erika can whip them into shape. :)

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    1. Have you ever run a ZOOMA race? Tell me why you don't like the organization.

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  7. It sounds like a really tough race given the heat and the hills. Congrats on that age group award! That's great that your cousins were doing the race too.

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    1. I was so happy to see them there!! I love how supportive they are of each other.

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  8. My fear is having heat during a race like this. You did a great job in those conditions, and snagged an AG!

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    1. That AG was a total shocker! But I'll take it. It was worth the fight.

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  9. Oh yes, I have definitely cried at the finish line. Almost passed out, too. In Baltimore. My very first half marathon. It was awful. I'm surprised I actually ran a full (also my first) the next month. LOL Maybe next year I'll be able to get up there and run that with you! I wanted to come but there were just too many things going on and then I used those miles for something else. :)

    Congrats on that age group award! And congrats on toughing it out through all those hills and that heat and humidity!

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    1. I definitely want to revisit this one. I hope that we can make it happen!

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  10. Zooma Annapolis was the first half that I ever did about 7 years ago. I loved it! Always a very hot and humid race as well. Sounds like a tough one for all of you but also a fun one. Congrats to all of you on those AG awards! That is something to be proud of for sure!

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    1. The whole experience wasn't anything I expected! LOL! But yes, it was a fun weekend and I hope to do it again next year.

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  11. Congratulations! It sounds like super tough racing conditions but you did it! It had to be great being surrounded by so many friends and even your cousins!

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    1. Definitely a great experience! But wow, the emotions! It was tough and that AG award was earned for sure.

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  12. An AG award is quite pity party favor! I know your struggles are real, but you also hold yourself to really high expectations! I'm happy if a race has fresh bagels and bananas afterwards -- protein is a rarity. I've come around to post-race beer, but I would skip post-race liquor. Looks like a great place for a girls race weekend.

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    1. I don't drink hard liquor so I'd have stuck to water. I needed a beer after that one, tho!

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  13. I don't think they have any Zooma races out here. Maybe I'll have to come visit you next year. :-). I'm sorry it was a tough race, but you're tough too and you did just fine. Age group award says so!

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    1. It's not easy being type A! LOL! I hope you can join me next year! I'd love it!

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  14. Oh wow, when you said hot...I was thinking maybe upper 70s? 83 is just too hot for a half! I think you pulled out a great time considering the conditions. Congrats on the AG award!

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    1. The heat snuck up on us--it was about 70 when we took off. Truthfully, I didn't notice the heat until the end. I was so focused on those hills!

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  15. Congrats on sticking out a tough day! Those are the worst...

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  16. It looks like a really fun weekend and like you made the best of it despite the conditions. I don't have RA but a client of mine does and she finished a race feeling like you did after this one. You could tell how much pain she was in, it hurt to watch her like that :( I say that just to say that I think you're rocking it! It's certainly not easy.

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    1. No, but after a week of complete rest, I have to say that I am feeling better and I'm ready to get moving again.

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  17. Wow. Between reading your recap and Marcia's recap, I can tell that they was a tough course, and I'm sure the heat didn't help at all. Congratulations on your AG award!

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    1. Such a tough course! I think the heat is what did me in tho. I was doing fine until it warmed up.

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  18. Vodka and Tailwind...? Say, you may be onto something...j/k (sort of) Good job pushing through that heat!

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    1. Right? Sounds like the perfect recovery drink.... :p

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