Disclosure: I was selected as a 2014 ZOOMA FL Race Ambassador and received free entry to the 13.1, as well as some merchandise from event sponsors – food and travel expenses were not covered. All opinions are my own.
I don’t know about you, but despite my aversion to mathematics, I am pretty big on numbers. Not necessarily numerology or anything fancy, but just placement of numbers, lucky numbers, etc…so when I realized that this weekend’s half marathon was my 13th 13.1, I truly felt that it was going to be something special – and I was definitely right.
I was extremely proud to represent this event as a 2014 ZOOMA FL Race Ambassador in beautiful Amelia Island, Florida. I had never been to that region before, and it was truly breathtaking. The moment that Rachel and I pulled into the host resort (the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton) the mood was set: a truly indulgent “fit friends” escape, with lavish accommodations, an uplifting, female-centric energy and of course, a lil ol’ 13.1 mile run :)
Since Amelia Island (just north of Jacksonville) is pretty much across the state, Rachel and I coordinated our travel together. Since she had not only run, but served as an ambassador for the year before, she graciously offered to drive from our central meeting location in Tampa. I was so thankful! I am a horrible navigator and nervous driver, so this worked out the best for everyone :)
The total drive over from Tampa (it took me an hour and five minutes to drive from Sarasota to our Tampa meeting point) was about 4.5 hours. Upon arrival, we headed straight to the low-key expo at the Ritz and picked up our bibs and swag bags. The bib assignment process was similar to that of Nike Women’s, where your bib number was assigned upon pickup, and since it was a smaller race (official results indicate 473 crossed the finish) that worked really well! There were no lines whatsoever, and the expo was small and easy to navigate. I saw my friend Marcia, Social Media Butterfly for 26.2 with DONNA so that was an awesome perk!
After mingling around the expo, sampling Cabot cheese (mmm) and Honest Fizz, it was time to head to the Mocktail Party to mix and mingle with participants and fellow Ambassadors! It was held in a cool side room area, with an 80’s theme, trivia, dancing and a mocktail bar, to boot! Prizes like gift cards were given out to trivia winners, and it seemed like everyone in attendance was having a relaxed, chill time – perfect atmosphere for 13.1 prep, if you ask me!
At the party, I was excited to meet “in real life” several of the ambassadors, as well as hang out with the amazing Tricia, who had helped us organize pretty much everything throughout our ambassador prep. I was especially stoked to finally meet Jesica, who was gunning for a 13.1 PR at the race. She asked me if I’d like to run with her, but with her big goal (sub-1:45) I told her I’d be more than happy to start the race with her, but she’d likely leave me in the dust (spoiler alert: she killed it with a 1:39!!!!!!)
After the party, Rachel and I headed to ‘eight’ the sports bar/burger place in the hotel, since hunger hit us like a ton of bricks! I had a “build your own burger” with sauteed mushrooms, and a local IPA (Mad Manatee IPA from Bold City Brewery). Perfect yummy mix of carbs, if you ask me! Rachel ordered their version of chicken and waffles, and it was super cute – small chicken pieces sandwiched between mini waffles – and she was kind enough to share her sweet potato fries, too :)
After dinner, we headed back up to the room and assembled our ‘flat’ versions of ourselves and flipped on the tv. We ‘watched’ parts of Transformers and Men in Black 2, as I worked on my race playlist before drifting off to sleep. The alarms were set for 6:15 AM, a welcome “sleep in” time compared to the runDisney races from the week before (Rachel ran Dopey last week)!
After more than 7 hours of luxurious sleep (those sheets must be like, 10000000 thread count) we got ready and headed down to the shuttle which departed from right outside the main entrance of the hotel (super convenient). It felt pretty cold outside, but fortunately the bus was toasty warm. I noshed on my mini LUNA bar as pre-race fuel and chatted with Rachel on the bus ride…I think it only took about 10 minutes to arrive to the race start, which was a pretty harbor area. We hung around a gated area to break the wind for about 30 minutes before I decided to head over to the portapotties quickly.
Although there were definitely enough, the line I picked (as per usual) was hardly moving, but fortunately, I was able to get in and out before the anthem started. Since the race was pretty small, we lined up according to predicted pace, and I found Jesica, so I lined up right next to her, and when the gun went off, I matched her pace…for all of like, 1.5 miles, since she was FLYING! Wahoo!!
Since I had been somewhat under the weather for most of the week leading up to the race, I decided that I’d treat the race as a sort of training run, at or under my marathon pace, which ended up happening. The course was extremely conducive to my plan, as it truly felt like a supported long run (I walked through each water stop, and gulped the GU in my pocket right at the halfway point): peaceful, calm and pretty quiet.
Now, if those words don’t match your idea of a good run, this might not have been the best race for runners who prefer lots of spectators and cheering, but for me on Saturday, it was perfect. When the course winded through Ft Clinch State Park, there was a turnaround point and it was great to wave at runners on both ends of the out and back. After we left the park, it was a long straightaway down A1A on the side of the road. Since it was a quiet morning, it really felt super relaxing in a way – no stress, no pressure.
One of the greatest points of the race was when we left the road, through a parking lot which looked as if were facing directly into the ocean! That was neat – of course, that was followed by a .2 jaunt through softish sand dunes, but I could hear the finishing area music and the finish arch, and the announcer bellowed that I’d be coming in right at 1:45 if I kept moving…and sure enough, I did it! A strong finish, at a flat 1:45 – which meant a 2 min and 6 second PR from two years ago at the Princess Half! Yahoo!
I was planning on cowbelling my ambassador team, but the wind picked up and I thought it would be better if I ran to the front desk to ask for a late checkout and grab a shower and change before heading back to the finish area so I could catch the later finishers and then at our ambassador meetup location for our group picture. That strategy worked out pretty well, and I was back down to the dunes in no time!
I really enjoyed this race and the PR was just the icing on the cake. ZOOMA does an excellent job at creating a positive atmosphere! All details were taken care of, from a stress-free expo, to stretching zones (plus foam rollers) post race, yoga, massages, a great band at the finisher area, and yummy snacks (packets with pita/hummus, a portion of macaroni/veg salad, and a tasty chocolate chip cookie) and fabulous wine (Barefoot is a sponsor), too!
The sunshine was the perfect accompaniment to the joy in the air, and if I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed that the organizers of ZOOMA had ordered that up just for us – and to my surprise, as we were enjoying the atmosphere, I learned that I had earned a first place Age Group Award, which was a great coffee mug – how perfect is that?
I could not have asked for a better race weekend, and to be perfectly honest, I do believe that the atmosphere is what really contributed to my successful race. I joked about it later, but it’s true – the theme of the weekend was CHILL. CHILL, as in cold temps (it was in the 30s-40s) and CHILL, as in absolutely no stress, and no worries.
Amped up on this past weekends’ energy, I was excited to learn that ZOOMA is starting a brand new blogger contest! This Run to Napa opportunity is incredible: one inspirational blogger will win an all-expense paid trip to the first ZOOMA Napa!
Now, I relish in motivating others, it’s difficult to call myself any more inspirational than anyone else, but I can tell you this, ZOOMA is something special (just as my friend Michelle can attest) and it would be incredible to be able to share this with with a reader!
To help me get to Napa, all you have to do is vote for my photo here.
You can vote everyday and the contest lasts through 2/24 and I thank you for your time in doing so!
ZOOMA prides itself as an event that inspires women to live healthy, happy and active lives – and after my weekend, and my experiences with the amazing race staff, and all of their programs and sponsor involvement, I can definitely attest that it is…and then some.
So, “run, laugh and celebrate” with me – all the way to NAPA! Let’s do this! :)
Have you ever run a ZOOMA event?
ETA: Here are some of my fellow ambassadors recaps!