Tuesday, August 5, 2014

ZOOMA Chicago Expo + Race Recap

It seems like once one of my Monday night shows ends (Dancing with the Stars, the Bachelorette, The Bachelor), another one starts back up the next week!  Well, last night I watched the Bachelor/ette spin-off Bachelor in Paradise.
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I told myself I wouldn't watch it, but I was a little curious.  Now that I have, I feel like I lost a few brain cells while doing so.  Unfortunately, I will probably watch the whole season since Bachelor In Paradise is kind of like a trainwreck--you just can't look away!


As you may know, I ran a half marathon in Chicago on Saturday!  I wanted to recap my whole race experience with the ZOOMA Women's Race Series today.  I won a free entry to this race through a #RunChat, so I was excited to experience this race series!

I'd heard a lot about this race series before running it, so I expected this to be another large race much like runDisney or Rock 'n Roll races.  Well, I quickly learned walking in to the expo that the ZOOMA races are not as large as other race series I've done.  The only booths at the expo were the sponsors of the race, but I still managed to get some free samples!
The swag bag that came with race registration was great--the race tech shirt, a pair of Feetures! socks, a reuseable bag, a hat, and some other samples.  Good stuff!

The race on Saturday started at Burnham Park at 7am.  I got there very early and was able to enjoy some beautiful views while prepping for the start.
There were about 600 runners total (400 for the half marathon and 200 for the 10K, almost all of them women), and everyone lined up in "corrals" based on pace.  I started the race with a lofty goal of keeping up with the 2:20 pacing group.
The course took us along the Lake Shore Trail, an awesome path that runs right along Lake Michigan.  The path is two lanes and was not closed off to the public while we were running.  It made for a little bit of a bottle-necked start.  The first half of the course was three miles out-and-back into the city.  Our turn-around point was a famous Chicago landmark, Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears football team plays. 
We ran back to Burnham Park, where the 10Kers ran to the finish, and the half marathoners continued 3.5 miles south on the Lake Shore Trail for another out-and-back route.

Before the race, I knew I wasn't very prepared.  I decided on a strategy much like the Lake Minneola Half Marathon: run the first mile straight, then start a 3min:1min run/walk ratio.  I started this race out a little fast, but I was able to stay in between the 2:20 and 2:30 pacers for about 5 miles.  

I think I started the race a little fast because I became REALLY tired after those first 5 miles.  So much so that I considered pealing off at the 10K finish and stopping then.  However, I extended my walking breaks and regained some energy.  My time from the first half of the race was pretty good, and I decided to make my goal to finish in 2:30.

When we started the second half of the race, the outside of my knee started hurting, signaling some IT band problems.  I continued to extend my walking breaks and stretch out when possible.  The 2:30 pacers passed me during mile 7, so I readjusted my goal to finish in under 2:40.

I was already struggling during the second half of the race, and to make things worse, there were no water stations from mile 8 to mile 11.  There was also very little shade, so it made for a very warm, semi-miserable time during the race.  Luckily, there were a few water fountains along the path, so I was able to get some water.
Joe texted me when I was around mile 11 telling me he was at the finish line, which gave me the push I needed to get to the end!  I decided to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute until I was only about half a mile away.

Despite my struggles, I managed to finish with a smile!  The cool medal and beautiful scenery certainly helped, too!
I also was able to meet my third goal in finishing under 2:40.  I figured I would since I never saw the 2:40 pacers anywhere close by, but it was really exciting to actually do so.  Please ignore how horrible I did in my age group.
I knew the post-race party was one of the things ZOOMA races are known for, so I was excited to check it all out.  First stop: free Muscle Milk samples while foam rolling!  GREAT IDEA to have those available, especially after my IT band problems!

Next up, I grabbed my snack box and a banana.  These snack boxes were pretty fancy!
I wound up eating the sandwich later, but I was impressed at the quality of the food!  Tomato foccacia bread was really, really good!

Last up: time for some wine!  Barefoot Wines brought their new Refresh line of sparkling wines.  I like drier wines, so I didn't think I'd like these much.  I tried the Crisp Red, and it was actually really good!
I should have gotten more than one glass, but I figured I should probably drink some water.  They also offered free yoga sessions for recovery, but I decided to skip that and head back to the hotel with Joe.

I really liked the medal they gave us, too!  Pretty design, sparkly, and features a Chicago landmark: the fountain in Grant Park!  Plus, the charm at the bottom is removable to make a necklace.  Sweet!
Overall, I really enjoyed this race despite my personal performance.  I wound up enjoying how small the race was.  Everything was very well organized, and I loved how the swag, pre-race, and post-race experiences were geared toward women.  The scenery was really great, as well.  Plus, it was great to take my first race-cation with the hubby!!

I do wish they had more water stations (both at the start and throughout the course), especially later on in the race.  I also wish I'd known about the size beforehand, even though it turned in to a positive for me.  

If you have a shot to run a ZOOMA race, I do recommend it.  Just be wary that it is a smaller race, but they do have some great things going on!

Question for you: Have you ever run a ZOOMA race?  Have you ever run a gender-specific race?  


  1. I haven't yet, but now I want to run Zooma Annapolis next year!

    1. You should! It was a good race experience :)

  2. Way to go Amy! Summer races are never easy, but you finished and that's the most important!

    On a side note, I too said I wouldn't watch Bachelor in Paradise. Now I've watched the first episode, and now I'm hooked. Oops!