Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My thoughts on Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon

Alright, so here's where we get honest. You already know how my Saturday went, how awful an experience Zooma Annapolis was for me. This is the post where I tell you what I thought went well, what went wrong, and whether I would ever do this race again.

The Good
* While I wasn't thrilled we had to pay for parking for the expo, it was only $5.00. I am pretty sure a parking garage would have cost us more. So, this goes in the good category.

* The expo was pretty nice, if a bit small. I liked that it really did focus on women's items. It was fun seeing the cute shirts and such around the room. I also liked that they had the typical expo stuff too for people who might need a last minute gu, gel, sock, or what have you. I grabbed a few shirts, a flower, and a card. 

* Parking at the race itself. The parking lot was huge and we were lucky enough to get a spot really close to the start/finish. After the race, it felt like it took forever to get there, but we were really close. 

* Pre-race bathrooms. Tons of port-a-potties. As much as I hate the port-a-potty, there was a nice long line of them waiting for us when we got to the start/finish area. I waited maybe 2-3 minutes to use it. Not too bad for a race of about 4,200, where I would bet 95% of the runners were women.

* I felt like there were enough water stops. I know many people didn't (and if you ran the 10k, I will agree with you that there weren't enough - they only had 2), but other than missing one from miles 4-7, I felt that they were pretty good. I did say I would have wanted a water stop around mile 5ish and if there hadn't been a screw up in directing runners, there would have been one. I still think there were enough overall (in the half course).

* Swag. In terms of items given out, it is probably only second to Yuengling Shamrock weekend. I received a bag and a t-shirt when I picked up my bib. When I finished the race, I received a necklace, yoga mat, and water bottle. Not too bad. 

* Black Girls Run. Hands down, THE BEST part of the race. These ladies rocked it! They were on the course running, they were on the course cheering, they were on the course volunteering. Was there nothing they couldn't do? I first saw this group last year at the Baltimore Women's Classic and loved the idea. This Saturday, I have a new found respect for these ladies. They cheered me on when I was dying. They spritzed me with water and gave me M&M's when I was dying. They gave me high fives. The lady with the spritzer remembered me from the course at the finish line and spritzed me again. She rocked. Can this white lady join? Because I would be honored to join such a fabulous group of women!

The Bad
* One of the reasons I signed up for this race was the amount of stuff you got. When I went to packet pick-up, I received a bag and t-shirt. Where was my water bottle and yoga mat? At the time, I didn't know this was a finisher item and not just a swag item. I was kinda upset at packet pick-up because of this.

* The Mocktail Party. We got to the expo originally at 2:20 p.m. and headed to our hotel about 4:30 p.m. We checked in, prepped, watched tv, and turned around back to the Lowe's. After paying a second time to park, we headed into the party. Which was nothing. It was in the same area as packet pick-up, but they didn't do anything to make it stand out. I RSVPed for me and hubby, but no one checked that. I don't care that everyone can go, they should. What I didn't like was the idea that you had to RSVP, then there was nothing special about it. We grabbed one drink, which was tasty, then decided to go to dinner. I really didn't think it was worth the drive back to downtown Annapolis for.

* The lack of communication at the start. I had no idea where to go, there were no corrals, and the only way I knew where to go was when the pace runners showed up. I am a slow runner (fact, not putting myself down), so I try to stay towards the back so those who are faster don't have to weave around me. Without any help, I could easily mess with someone's race. I try hard not to. But, more direction would have been nice at the start.

* During the race, my Garmin was always a bit off from the mile markers. Ok, I wasn't running the tengents, I get it. Then, it went to 1/4 mile off. That's when I stopped paying attention to distance on my Garmin and just used it for time. I thought I lost signal. I have a fairly old Garmin and that happens, especially with trees. Turns out, the race that was USATF certified was 1/4 mile too short. A goof-up with one of the police officers and where he was to be. OK. I am slightly annoyed by this. Not because I didn't run a full 13.1, but because the whole time I felt like I didn't know the true distance. It kinda messed with me mentally. 

* The heat and hills. I get it, they don't control the weather (only Pudge the fish does that), but the hills they did. It was insane. I know that this might be an irrational con, but here is where the race was lost for me (in terms of PR, not as in 1st place). I couldn't handle the heat of the day or the hills. Lack of training, very probably. But, knowing that the Mid-Atlantic in June gets hot, why didn't we start earlier? Sure, we started at 7:00 a.m., but Disney starts earlier and they know their weather. Yea...yea...the roads Disney races are run on are their own, but getting the roads open earlier in a town based on the water on a Saturday is never a bad thing. 

* There was a turn very late in the race (between miles 10 and 12) that we randomly backtracked onto streets we ran initially. By the time I got to this spot, there was no one to help direct. The two people in front of me skipped this portion altogether. I made the turn thanks to a traffic cop, but once on these side streets, there was no direction. Since I was so far back, there wasn't anyone ahead of me to watch what they did, where they turned. These two miles I felt so lost. I got discouraged. I didn't know what was going on. Another part of the race that messed with me mentally. If there had been people there who could direct us, that would have been great.

* The finish. A hot mess (pun intended). I crossed the line and apparently everyone who crossed the line had their name called out. Mine? Nope. I crossed the line solo with no one near me. I didn't see any water or post-race food. Hubby and I headed the direction a sign saying "Food" indicated. No food. No water. I was overheated. Hubby left me under a covering looking for water. Apparently, it was in a bucket of ice near the finish line - not marked, not manned. By the time I finished it was probably about 82-84 degrees. No volunteers to hand out water to those who had been on the course 3+ hours? And no food. By the time I finished, there wasn't anything in terms of food. I heard there were boxes of food, but I never saw them. I left shortly after getting my water, ignoring the vendors, the wine, the massages (which I heard were booked and if you were a later finisher you couldn't get one). The post-race was the biggest disappointment I've ever had at a race of this size.

* Shortly after the race, probably while I was still on the course, people were complaining about the race. About the shortness of the course, about how due to their incompetence people were denied their PR medals, how volunteers at the computers were rude, how people who were misdirected and ran only 11 miles rather than 13 were given a DNF and denied their swag (and wine!), how there weren't enough water stations, and the lack of food at the end. The organizers apologized and said they will take into consideration everything people had to say in their wrap-up and planning for next year. Then they announced to make up for it, all racers will get a discount on any remaining 2013 Zooma race. Ummmm...the races are in Texas, Florida, Cape Cod, and Chicago. I live in PA. Your discount to make up for my awful experience means I would need to either drive for hours or fly to a race. I can't imagine your discount is going to be enough to cover my flight. To me, this is a totally inappropriate response to a hot mess of a problem.

* Late Sunday, they put the official results. Yea! I knew I stunk it up, but I wanted to see it anyway. I plugged my race bib number into the search box and my name came up...with null next to it. I tried going through my name...null. As of Sunday night, it registered I was registered to run, but they had no time. Seriously?!? After all that, I had NO TIME???? I left a FB message with the race organizers and they said they would look into it. Monday, I got an email back from whom I emailed saying I needed to email someone else. Ugh. So, I email them. And now my results are on-line, but for 48 hours they were not. I was pretty upset for those 48 hours. I know it sounds silly, but after 3+ hours of heat, pain, and frustration I wanted proof I was out there!

* No medal. Ok, I knew this going in, so I'm not complaining per se about no finisher medal. But, I didn't realize how much a necklace does not compensate for a medal. Crossing the line and getting a silver necklace rather than a large shiny medal is anticlimactic. Sure, I can wear the necklace out in public without getting funny looks, but it's just not the same. Plus, the necklace is kinda blah. 

The back says Zooma 2013

Would I run this race again? No. No doubt in my mind. Sometimes you think, I need some space between the event and the next time. Not this time. It taught me several things:

* I don't like running in the heat
* I don't like hills
* I want a medal for 13.1 miles!

If you ran Zooma Annapolis 2013 do you agree? Am I just bitter? What was your worse race? Are there any races you would never run again?


  1. 1) GO you for first running and second putting up with all this shit.
    2) Definitely try and hook up with the Black Girls Run. They sound AWESOME!
    3) You TOTALLY deserve a medal. A huge one - like Mr. T Big!
    4) You are my exercise HERO!

    1. Thanks Nicole! I so appreciate all your support! You rock friend!!

  2. Hi Chris! I am sorry you have such a suckie experience. Thank you for sharing. I hooked up with a group from Black Girls Run at the Diva half in Myrtle Beach last year. They are an amazing group. Did you ever look into whether we can join? I would love to! As for the necklace/medal--I have two Nike Women's Marathon Tiffany Necklaces. I LOVE them! Maybe because the are Tiffany and I could never afford anything like that? I'm not sure why--but they are my favorite pieces of jewelry. I wear one ever single day. I they remind me of the amazing time I had in San Francisco and DC running with my Team in Training teammates. I hope your next one is a much better experience!

    1. Hey Amy! Yea, it was a rough day and some of the issues were their fault, some mine. But, both together color your experience so they all go in.

      It's funny you mention the Nike necklaces because I know that for me those are not an incentive. I know they are Tiffany, but Tiffany doesn't excite me. After this race, I know that a necklace isn't going to do it for me. I have two running necklaces - one I got at Princess in 2011 (a disc with 13.1, a crown, and a pink bead) and a green circular necklace on the back of a dime with 13.1 on it. I wear those all the time. I guess I just like having my medals hanging and for Zooma I have nothing to hang really.

      Not sure what my next big race will be. I know BWC at the end of the month. Possibly the Shoe House 5 Miler on July 13 (maybe!). But mostly, taking July and August off to rest and determine fall schedule. Definitely want Celtic Solstice 5 miler. Other than that, I'm kinda floundering for races.

  3. I felt the same way about the necklace, but the quality is not that good. I ran the race in 2008 and mine is totally rusted :(

  4. You are the second person to say that. :( That makes me sad. For that reason, I try not to wear it too much. I have one from Disney that I wear a lot (circle with 2011, a pink stone, & a crown) and a dime necklace with a green background with 13.1 on it. Those I wear constantly. I'll be honest, I've seen a photo of an old necklace from Annapolis that was in the shape of a sailing ship. THAT would have been cool!