I’ve been looking forward to this race weekend since August, when I applied to be an ambassador for the ZOOMA Florida half marathon. A weekend away with some of my girlfriends, eating at yummy restaurants, running a half in a gorgeous location, an after party old and new friends, lots of wine, massages, yoga, and awesome swag.. who wouldn’t??
As soon as I got off of work on Friday, I tossed my suitcase in the car and headed out to Amelia Island. I meet up with Jenn and Aleisha and headed over to the expo to pick up our race packets and check out the vendors.
I didn’t get a picture, but ZOOMA has the best race swag of any race I’ve ever run, by far. We got reusable bags, Luna Bars, Hint Water, a RUN hat (you can see it on two of the girls in the ambassador photo below!), a pair of Feetures! socks, and of course the adorable race shirt. We chatted with some of our runner friends, sampled some Cabot cheese, and did a bit of shopping.
We worked up quite the appetite, so we headed to dinner at Ciao Italian Bistro in downtown Amelia Island. Aleisha lives in the area and recommended it and it was delicious. We had the Arancini (fried cheese balls) while we waited for Jessi to arrive, then for dinner I had Gnocchi Ai Quattro Formaggio — not my typical dinner for the night before a race, but I’m so glad I ordered it. It was delicious! I already told Adam we need to plan a date night out there soon with Aleisha and her husband (already working on those 2014 Goals)!
We finished up dinner and walked a few doors down to a little candy shop to get some sweets for the hotel room (dark chocolate caramels and milk chocolate covered pretzels for me!) then Jenn, Jessi and I headed back to the Ritz-Carlton in time to make it back for the Honest Tea Mocktail Party. The GPS on my phone was not cooperating so we ended up getting to the party about a half an hour after it started, but we finally got the chance to meet up with some of the other ambassadors that we’ve been chatting with for the last few months. They’re such a fun group of ladies!
After the party, we went back to our room to get our stuff ready for the morning and chatted for a bit. I’m pretty sure that Jessi and I almost had Jenn convinced to run a marathon with us next year.. 😉
We were up bright and early the next morning (which was practically sleeping in by Disney race standards — so nice!) and were in the lobby by about 10 ’til 7, when the first shuttle was leaving for the race start. They were leaving right on time, but I was in desperate need of coffee. The Ritz-Carlton had a great little coffee station set up in the lobby, but I think they underestimated the number of coffee-loving runners they’d have on their hands. We were emptying the urns as fast as they could fill them! While I waited, Brooke urged us to go outside and check out the sunrise. It was absolutely stunning (and freezing!!).
We made one last potty stop, then Jenn, Jessi, and I boarded the bus to get to the starting line. One really great thing about this race is the size – it’s not huge so you can really take your time in the morning and enjoy chatting with other runners. It’s not one of those races where you have to be up hours in advance, stress over parking and potties, the ZOOMA ladies thought of all of it and it really takes the stress out of the morning.
The one thing they couldn’t control was the weather. It was perfect for running in, but absolutely frigid to stand around waiting in. There was some sort of cage structure with some viney looking plants growing on it and most of us huddled around it to share the body heat and block the wind from blowing directly on us. I’m not kidding when I tell you that my thighs were like ice cubes when they called us over to the starting line to get ready to go!
I didn’t really have a time goal for this race since I was 6 days post-marathon, I just wanted to run with my friends and have fun. Jessi was thinking about shooting for all sub-10 minute miles so I figured I’d start with her and see how I felt. We found the 2:10 pacer, introduced ourselves to her, and planned to stay somewhat close to her during the race.
The first 2-ish miles took us through downtown Amelia Island and it was gorgeous. I did a bit of window shopping as we ran by and made a mental note to come back later in the afternoon to check out some of the shops!
1 – 9:41
2 – 9:36
Miles 3 through 7 took us through Fort Clinch State Park. It was a paved, tree-lined road, and fabulous for running on. There were only 2 cars that passed us the entire time, and there was a short out and back section where we got to see and cheer for the other runners — I love that! We took a short walk break during mile 4 so I could take a Gu and played a lovely game of catch with the 2:10 pacer. We’d pass her, then she’d pass us. The weather was perfect and I rolled my sleeves up because I had warmed up and I was thinking I really wished I had worn a tank top under my long sleeved shirt.
3 – 9:43
4 – 10:13 <– gu stop
5 – 10:07
6 – 10:04
7 – 9:49
As we ran out of the park, we made a left and then a quick right to South Fletcher Avenue, which runs right along the ocean. My legs were screaming at me, but I was trying really hard to keep up with Jessi. When I mentioned it to her, she said she could use a walk break too, so we took one and slowed our pace down a good bit.
8 – 11:29
Just after the mile 9 marker, I needed to make a potty pit stop. We ran past a house that was under construction with a port-o-potty out front and I told Jess I was going to stop really quick and I’d catch up. She needed to go too, so we both went and chatted with the guys there working for a second (they were laying tile and nearly scared us half to death when they walked out of the house as Jess was going into the port-o-potty!)
9 – 13:08 <– potty break
After our stop, we figured we were way off pace for the 2:10 finish so we decided we’d just enjoy the rest of the run. Instead of pushing ourselves to the point where we were struggling to keep going, we ran at an easy pace, chatted about lots of fun stuff, planned a few trips, admired the gorgeous houses, and decided to run 3/4 of a mile, then walk 1/4.
10 – 11:34
11 – 10:59
12 – 12:45
13 – 11:55
Last .2 – 4:17
We kept up with those intervals until the last little stretch where you make a turn onto sand and it’s a straight shot to the finish line. A few weeks ago, some of us were chatting with Brooke (ZOOMA’s Director of Operations) at the ZOOMA and Mom’s Run This Town happy hour and she told us they had some complaints about the finish line last year, that it was hard to sprint to the finish since it was on sand. They re-routed it this year and it was supposed to be on more firmly packed sand so that it was easier to manage.
It was not. Well, I didn’t run last year so I can’t compare, but it was not hard packed sand. It wasn’t the super soft powdery stuff that’s hard to walk in, but it was still difficult to run in. Jess and I slowed down to walk and a guy ran up behind us and said something along the lines of “Aw come on, you can’t walk now! The finish line is just ahead! You aren’t going to let me pass you, are you?”.. no, we weren’t! We took off running for the finish and thank goodness there was a narrow wooden pathway that led almost the entire way to the finish line so running was much easier!
We crossed the finish line together with a time of 2:22:31 for an average pace of 10:53. I think this is my slowest half marathon time, but it was absolutely the most fun I’ve had running one! I’m smiling in every single one of my race pictures. My only goal going into this race was to finish and have fun and I definitely accomplished that. It’s really hard to beat running with a friend, especially in such a gorgeous location!
We grabbed a banana and some water and stayed close to the finish line so we could see Aleisha and Jenn finish. Poor Aleisha came down with a terrible stomach bug the night before, but this was her first half and she was determined to run it since she had trained so hard. She was up sick most of the night, but still ran the race — talk about hardcore!!
We walked over to the post-race party and grabbed some snacks and muscle milk and watched the awards ceremony. Two of the other ambassadors, Jesica and Krissy, took first place in their age group!
Then we met up with the rest of the ambassadors to chat and for some pictures. It was so great to finally meet some of these ladies and to see how their in-person personalities compared to what I get when I read their blogs. They were all incredibly nice and a lot of fun. My only regret for the weekend is that we didn’t get more time to just relax and hang out together — perhaps next year?
Once we finished up our ambassador duties, we made our way back down to the finish line to watch another friend of ours finish. Kelly ran her very first half marathon today, too! (I forgot to mention, this was Jessi’s first half as well. She’s run several 5K’s, a marathon, and even an Ironman, but never a half!)
Seriously, how gorgeous is this finish line? And that’s just an iPhone picture, totally does not do it justice.
After Kelly finished, we were all completely frozen so we headed back to our room to thaw out and take showers. Jess had other plans for the rest of the weekend, so Jenn and I changed into our super cute and comfy Altra Zero Drop shoes (Cannot wait to run in these!! Thanks ZOOMA & Altra for sending them to me to try out!) and headed back to the downtown area for lunch and shopping.
The night before, Aleisha pointed out Tasty’s and said they had the best burgers on the island. Jesica had mentioned wanting a burger after her huge PR and since I was starving at the time, a burger was all I could think about. They definitely did not disappoint and I have been dreaming of those spicy sweet potato fries..
We grabbed milkshakes on the way out and were going to check out some of the shops in the area, but we couldn’t go in with our shakes and we didn’t want to give them up, so we made plans to have another Tasty’s lunch date and shopping trip in the near future. We said our goodbyes and both headed home.
This race is definitely going on my race calendar again next year — especially if I can talk more of my girlfriends into running it with us!
I loved working with the fabulous ZOOMA ladies and meeting the other ambassadors was the icing on the cake of an already amazing weekend! Be sure to stop by their blogs to check out their recap of the race too!
- Presley – Run Pretty Blog
- Jesica – rUnladylike
- Cori – Olive To Run
- Jen – Runs with Pugs
- Meghan – Little Girl in the Big World
- Krissy – Shiawase Life
- Rachel – Runners Tales
Disclosure: As an ambassador, I received a free entry to the ZOOMA Florida half marathon, as well as several freebies from ZOOMA sponsors. All travel accommodations and meals were paid for by me. All opinions are my own.