Zooma Half Marathon Race Recap

I went into this race with hopes that I could at least match my time from last year's Houston half marathon, but knowing full well that it wouldn't happen. I finished in 2:18:24 as compared to Houston's 2:16:06. I was disappointed in myself at first, but then I remembered how the last 5k of last year's race seemed impossible and I didn't know if I'd be able to finish; this year, the last three miles were definitely my strongest! I ran parts of it with the adorable Elle, and I was so happy for her finishing her first half marathon.

I should also probably add that in the past month before this race, the most I have ran, in total, is 9 miles. I have been working out at the gym for the past couple of weeks, but it's mostly weight training and light cardio. Running more long runs leading up to the race would have possibly helped my time some (although I'm not sure, since I wasn't able to hill train in the middle of Houston). I'm not making excuses, but in the past month, here is what has happened with me: traveled out of town for two weddings (arrived back too late to do long runs), got a light bout of food poisoning, had strep throat, had the flu (most likely the swine flu).

Zooma Support
Leading up to the race, Zooma did a lot to keep us excited and motivated. We received regular emails, and some of them had contests. I actually won an email contest and received in the mail a pink tech tee by New Balance, lots of the new Luna Chews, an eco grocery bag, and some other goodies. It definitely kept me excited and looking forward to my race.

Expo
The expo was the biggest disappointment of the weekend. The only expo I've had any experience with was Houston's and it was amazing, it took us hours to get through it, and we end up with bags of freebies (mostly food, sports drinks, supplements). I was really excited about Zooma's expo since the race had great sponsors and since I'd received so many fun things in the mail from Zooma.

I was really bummed when we arrived and the expo was set up in a really small room. They had samples of wine and samples of Luna protein bars, but the rest of the tables were just clothes, jewelry and shoes that you could buy. It really is just for packet pickup, not a real expo. We did get a nice (white) New Balance tech tee, which was nice. Lots of races only offer these for the actual finishers.

Race Course
Hills, hills, and more hills! No amount of hill training that could be done in Houston would have prepared me for this race. I knew it would be hilly, and there was really nothing I could do about it. The only hill in town for "hill training" is just about 100 feet long.

The first three miles was all incline, which was hard. During this time we ran through some little country farms. It was pretty but smelled like cow poop, which is really gross when you are breathing hard, it made me not want to breathe through my mouth at all. Finally, at about mile 3.5, we got to run on the highway, which was flat. Then we made our way back into the resort and started to decline a bit. At this point, I could just feel my shins hurting when my feet thomped onto the pavement running downhill. I did start to worry a bit that I would end up with horrible chin splints, but I didn't. Zooma says I ran my first 10k in 8:28 per mile, but by my watch they were 10:15. There's no way I did under 9 with all of those hills. Elle was definitely tracking and keeping a 10 minute/mile pace and I was behind her for these first miles.

Miles 5.5 through 9 were extremely boring, but flat. I hated that they were boring, but I was thankful for a flat course, finally. By this time I felt like my energy had been drained from the hills. I caught up with Elle and kept at 10:00 pace until around mile 10. I knew that from this point on had been my weak point in Houston, and I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again. I was still feeling great so I sped up ahead and just pushed myself to run the last 5k at a quicker pace.

The last 3 miles were through a freaking golf course - so disappointing. Disappointing because you could actually see the 500 people ahead of you, weaving around, and it seemed the sidewalk went on forever! When the end is in sight, I just want to see the end and get a straight shot there! Another thing, when we first entered the golf course, a bit of the run was on a trail. I actually stopped and walked part of this. The ground was uneven, after 10 miles of running, I was tired and I didn't fully trust my footing. Plus, at the end of this portion, several women were stopped cleaning out their shoes. They had gotten twigs, leaves and other stuff in their shoes from this part.

The golfing sidewalks were winding and the wind was really blowing against us, but I finally made it out of there and ran the last half mile or so back through the parking lot (I know!) and over the finish line. Like I said, I was disappointed in my time, but I did not face any hills or wind in Houston, so I guess my time was OK considering that and the fact that I didn't really train for this race.

Race Support
I was extremely happy that water was offered pretty much at every mile, starting with mile 2. Gatorade was offered frequently, and mile 8 had GU packets. There were race volunteers and paramedics on bikes for a lot of the way, especially the areas where cars were allowed to drive on the opposite side of the road from where we were running. I know some smaller races do not have as many drink stops, and I was really thankful this one did.

Crowd support was nothing like Houston, which had cheerleaders and bands along the entire 13.1 miles. Zooma had some spectators at the beginning and end, so I'm glad I had my ipod for the rest of the race. The course didn't really allow for spectators at any other points, though.

I'm really happy that David made it his job to make sure Elle and I had someone cheering for us
at pretty much every point. He was yelling for us at miles 2, 5.5, 10, 13 and 13.1, which are pretty much the crucial points when you need someone yelling for you! He said he caught a couple of shuttle buses (that were NOT related to the race!) to get from point to point quickly.

Organization
This race was so well organized! All parking (unless you were staying at the resort) was off campus and regular shuttle buses brought us in. There was one parking area near Austin, and one about 5 miles from the start line for people who live east of Austin. It was nice to be able to park close and not worry about getting there early to fight for a parking spot.

We didn't start in waves, but I think there were only around 2,000 participants, so this worked out OK. There was also definitely enough water stops and porta potties along the way.

After Party
Awesome and made up for the lame "expo". There were the usual bananas, oranges and bagels, as well as sports drink, water and protein bars and energy chews right at the finish. Actual hotel towels and portable sinks so we could clean our sweaty faces off was greatly appreciated (I love women's races for reasons like this!). Champagne, wine and beer flowed freely; baby cupcakes and samples of Luna protein bars were also available. We got a really great boxed brunch which included a mini wheat bagel, peanut butter, cheddar cheese, boiled egg and apple slices. I devoured all of mine, of course.

The only complaint, which Zooma couldn't help, is that New Balance was giving out towels to participants. I was chilly after the race was over and I really wanted one to help me warm up. I saw several women walking around with more than one...one woman had SIX! They were all out of towels when I went to get one (about 30 minutes after I finished). They either need to bring enough for all participants or limit the amount each person can pick up so we all might have one.

Hopefully photos to come later...I'm not sure how they turned out yet!