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I rocked the hills of that half marathon! ZOOMA Great Lakes Half Marathon

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I had originally chosen a half marathon thats in two weeks. When I was considering my fall half marathon over the summer, the ZOOMA race wasn’t a choice because it cost $105 to register! But a couple weeks ago I hadn’t yet registered for my planned race and I saw a thing on Facebook to go to the race’s page and tell them Fleet Feet sent me. I figured why not? Even though at the time I hadn’t had a long run in a couple weeks I knew I could run the half two weeks earlier than planned. I really wanted to run down by Lake Geneva. Though now that I have, I’m not really sure I want to do it again!

I drove down to Fontana on Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet. In an effort to save money we didn’t spend the night. It was a nice and easy trip. Its only an hour and 10 minutes away, though the race web site says its 45 minutes. I hope I can offer the race organizers some feedback on that!

Lake Geneva is a gorgeous place. Its also very ritzy! When I was there on Friday I took a couple pictures of the lake and the beach and park… and expected to have such beautiful lake views for the race. But other than the area of the resort, the area where we ran is all built up with barely even peek-a-boo views! Its still a gorgeous, though hilly area.

I read on the race Web site about the hills. I even saw the elevation chart. But I didn’t really comprehend how that chart would translate to a half marathon route! I was quite surprised and a bit nervous as I started up the third hill of the race… and then got to the first mile marker! That certainly wasn’t the last hill!

I was a little nervous about getting to the race on time, though I felt better about it after making the drive on Friday. It was a pretty easy drive and traffic wasn’t going to be an issue at 5:30 in the morning. I wasn’t sure about parking though and getting everything coordinated. That part ended up being really super easy though. The race was going to be capped at 2,000 runners. Turns out the total number was a bit over 500. I’m not sure how long this race series has been around, but this was the first of the Great Lakes. So it makes sense that it was small.

Anyway, getting there was easy and parking was easy. The big concern once we got there was staying warm! It was about 37 and slightly breezy. The race started at 7:30 and the sun didn’t really rise until about 7! Luckily we got there and could seek refuge, along with the indoor bathroom, inside the resort.

We got there about 45 minutes before the start. I was able to use the bathroom, take off my layers, use the bathroom again, eat a protein bar and stretch. Then we headed out to the start about 8 minutes before, after snapping a few pictures of course!

We had dressed Allie in three layers, and covered her with my coats, but the poor kid was still cold and miserable! It didn’t help that she already had a runny nose. Doug and Allie left me at the start line about 5 minutes before to find a place to watch the start. There were announcements over the loudspeaker that you can never hear when you’re waiting for a race to start and then we finally quieted down to hear the national anthem. The flag was across the marina and it was really neat to hear the national anthem and salute the flag as the sun was just coming up over the trees. I knew at that moment it was going to be a good race.

My thoughts before this start were a lot different than they were when I was ready to start the Madison half. At that start I got a little choked up and still couldn’t believe I’d finally made it to that start. But before this start, I was just excited and I knew I’d conquer those miles.

And then it was the start! Along with the half marathon there was a 5K. The race route went straight out and up from the resort. It was out for about a mile and a half and then back. When we got back to the resort, the 5K finished and the half course turned left.

I’m not a huge fan of out and back race courses. But the nice thing about this was that Doug and Allie could see me three times without going anywhere. The picture above was when I was sprinting down the hill at mile 3. Right after Doug snapped this I stopped and gave both of them each a big kiss.

Allie and Dada were cold though. They played on the playground while they waited to see me at mile 3 and then got in the car and drove around for awhile while I ran for two more hours. I didn’t blame them! It was perfect running weather but not so great for spectating.

So the hills… I ran up the first two, and then got to the third at the same time as I saw mile 1. I decided I’d have to walk the hills or I’d have no shot of finishing or at least finishing well. The third hill was really steep. I walked up and then ran through the turnaround and then I got to go back down that huge hill! In spite of walking up, I still ran the second mile in 11:30! The hill continued into mile 3, which gave me a 10:38 split. Thats how fast I went down! The fast downhills wore on my legs after awhile but it wasn’t terrible.

I’ll be honest. I briefly considered running ahead to the 5K finish instead of turning to the rest of the half marathon. If Doug and Allie weren’t there, I might have just been done. But I’ve been training for this all summer, and I wasn’t going to give up!

After the course turned it was a mix of bad hills and slight hills, so I ran a few of them. I was still feeling pretty strong. The course was relatively flat between miles 4 and 6. Then it started going up again and I started getting tired. It got a bit more flat again between miles 8 and 11 so I felt renewed and a bit stronger here. But it just got to feeling long, and I think thats a big reason why I don’t like out and back courses. Its not as apparent how much longer I have to go when its a point to point course. I find funny that it seemed so long because I’m not sure my long training runs ever felt as long as that race! And I did run a 13-miler before the race! I was just tired. By mile 10 I just wanted to be done.

But even though I was tired, I still felt strong. It definitely wasn’t easy between 10 and 13.1, but I felt a lot stronger than I did during the Madison half. I remember struggling starting around mile 9 in that race. And in that race it felt like I was walking more than running in the last three miles. Here even though I was struggling, it was just because of the hills. A lot of runners were unhappy with the hills.

I had decided before the first mile marker that this was not my PR day. That wasn’t my primary goal anyway. My goal was to break 2:30. I had set my Garmin and figured out that I would break 2:30 if I averaged 11:30 pace or less. With 2 miles to go I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could do it, if I could just run more. My fuel at mile 11 helped. I had been by the same people for a few miles and walking a bit before mile 12. I started running again and started talking with a girl who’d been near me for awhile. We chatted a bit and motivated each other to navigate the last two hills and wondering where the “downhill” to the finish was.

The longest part of the race is when you can see the mile 13 marker and it seems so far away! It takes SOOOO long to get to! And then you pass it and still have .1 to go!

But I did it. It was so hard, but I did it. And I finished strong. I saw Allie and Doug as I was turning into the finish and ran a bit harder. Then I saw the clock just past 2:29:xx and ran even harder. I met my goal! I even managed to look pretty fresh in my finishing picture! Thats one thing Doug always mentions… that I always look fresh compared to some of the people who are dragging through the finish.

My final time was 2:28:54! I rocked it for how hard those hills were. I really think I could have beat my PR or come close if it weren’t for the hills! But I’m not talking about what I could have done. I’m talking about what I accomplished! I ran my fourth half marathon yesterday and it ended up being my second best. And it might have been my most confident half marathon… on those hills! I’ll run through the winter and I’ll beat that PR next year.

This was a good race. Parts of the registration and packet pick up were confusing. And the hills were brutal. But it was well run and a good time. The post-race party had free wine! I definitely enjoyed a glass. The post-race food was good too. I got a pre-made box with a string cheese, a hard-boiled egg (already peeled), a mini plain bagel, apple slices and a container of peanut butter, which was enough to dip both the bagel and the apple slices. It was great because I ate some right away and saved some for later in the handy box.

Instead of a medal, finishers got a custom-designed necklace. I thought this was kind of cool, but I thought sometime on it would indicate it was from the half marathon. It didn’t, but it is a nice necklace. I should take a picture of it. All in all, I won’t be doing this race again, unless I win another free entry. I could see some of the reasons for the hefty entry fee, but I don’t make a habit of paying over $100 to enter a half marathon. The half marathons in Chicago are only like $80! But it was good for what it was. And a race like this is good for Allie in a few years to see what girls can do. But I won’t pay $100 for it. And I certainly won’t run those hills again!


Author: Jessica

I am a running working mama. We work hard and play hard and I have a lot to share along the way.

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