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2016 ZOOMA Amelia Island half marathon race report

2016 ZOOMA Amelia Island half marathon race report

Two weeks out from my target autumn marathon, I flew cross-country to meet-up with my mom, sister, and sister-in-law and run ZOOMA’s Amelia Island half marathon in AI, Florida. (The short version: it was great). If you’ve been reading here for a bit, you might recall that in 2014 and 2015, I was a social media ambassador for ZOOMA’s Napa Valley half marathon/race weekend. Unfortunately, ZOOMA nixed their Napa race, but due to me being a social media ambassador again for them this year (even though all their races were on the east coast), and the very cool fact that based on last year’s Napa ambassador gig, I won myself a race weekend, I got to run a ZOOMA race again this year. It was a pretty sweet deal, for which I’m grateful.

Before I get too far into my race recap, I’ll preface this by saying that generally speaking, I’m not really into all-women’s races (or rather, “races that are heavily marketed to women”). It’s not my thing. Aside from the now-defunct Napa race and the Santa Cruz race (the latter I do pushing my daughters), I don’t typically run women’s races. The short version: I take serious issue with the way race orgs. typically market their “women’s races” and the absolutely absurd (and ludicrous, if not also insulting and misogynist) bevy of assumptions they make about women runners. ZOOMA/s.i.b. fortunately don’t do the things that I find most infuriating about most other women’s races I’ve seen. What has kept me coming back to race a ZOOMA race, besides the obvious camaraderie element (and comped race) that I get from being a social media ambassador, has been its very supportive and empowering atmosphere; many runners at ZOOMA races are running their first endurance event ever, so it’s cool to be a part of that. Plus, ZOOMA treats its race as an actual race: a chance for you to perform at your very best. It’s not “dumbed-down” in the slightest, nor are there some naked-ish males waiting for me to come up to them for a photo opp, both which happen at other women’s races.There’s no bullshit. It’s running. It just happens to be with a bunch of other women.

Going into the race weekend, my plan was to use the race as part of what would be my final 20 mile LR. I planned to run 2 miles to the start, the 13.1 race, and 5 miles back to the hotel, which would basically be perfect because our hotel was situated more or less two miles from the start and then five miles from the finish at the Ritz. The weather on race morning was wonderful: a little cloudy and windy to start, maybe in the low 50s, and very little (if any) humidity – a far cry from the day before’s 80+ and super-humid temps. I didn’t want to all-out race the HM with my marathon being two weeks later, but I thought I could at least maaaaaybe go for a lot of GMP miles for the front half/half-ish and then cut it down on the back-end and go for a big negative split. That was the extent of my goal for the day. My time goals – things I am usually so hung up about – also basically didn’t extend much beyond “hopefully I can at least average GMP for the duration of the race.” I guess if your expectations aren’t too high then you won’t be too disappointed with the outcome, eh?

There were also monarchs everywhere (PC: my sis)
There were also monarchs everywhere (PC: my sis)

More than anything though, I wanted to have a good race, though “good” was admittedly a bit nebulous and flew in the face of everything I know about setting goals. I wasn’t interested in going for a PR attempt (remember, 26.2 is looming), but I still wanted to have a “good” half, one where more things went right than wrong for once, and one that I could finish knowing that I ran well within my means. My running has been solid lately and I’ve been feeling strong, but my stomach and all the ongoing GI nonsense I’ve been having throw a wild-card into the mix each day. Plus, realistically, and rather unfortunately, my HM track record from the past three years has been haphazard at best. There’s always been something with me and HMs: my stomach blowing up (Kaiser ’14; Jungle Run ’14); going out way too fast and just dying a slow, painful death (ZOOMA Napa ’14); or that the runs were either for fun/pacing/part of a longer training run that day for a marathon or an ultra/I’m pregnant/I’m freshly postpartum and give no fucks about how this will go (Nike Women’s SF ’14; RNR SJ ’14; Trail Hog 13+ ’14; Santa Cruz ’14; Western Pacific ’14; SLO ’15; Berkeley ’15).

Suffice it to say then that I hadn’t run a HM well in a while, so it made it a little challenging to know what to expect or anticipate at the line. Add to that drama the fact that a) I wanted to get in a “good” workout/solid LR two weeks out from 26.2 and b) I wanted to reaaaaaally focus on the pending 26.2 and not jeopardize myself at all by running irresponsibly in the HM, it basically seemed like I had this mental cacophony that was at odds with itself. Don’t waste this racing opportunity (supported LR!), but don’t go all out; this should be faster than your usual LR, but don’t finish feeling gassed; go in expecting nothing, but if you don’t achieve (_________), then it’ll be a huge let-down. Yeah. Lots of competing interests, to say the least. Surely I can’t be the only one out there who has this intricate of a monologue pre-race…

Come race morning, I took a gamble and didn’t pump before I ran – figuring I wouldn’t be gone too too long – dutifully ran over to the starting area, met a couple of the other social media ambassadors, introduced myself to Brae (the ED of the ZOOMA race series), threw my gear into the back of a jeep (easy gear check FTW) and basically toed the line. I managed to screw up my watch, so it didn’t kick in until I had been running for about 5-10 steps, and it took until about mile 8 for my GPS to align with the course markers – no big deal. I usually hug the tangents hard during races, so I figured it’d take a while for things to finally more-or-less match up. The first mile took us through quaint little Fernandina Beach’s downtown, before we picked up a side road that eventually led us into Fort Clinch State Park, where we spent a lot of our miles before picking up A1A, the road parallel to the beach, that would ultimately dump us at the Ritz and the finish line on the sand (!!!).

very near our hotel, right off A1A
very near our hotel, right off A1A

Fernandina Beach is part of Amelia Island, the latter being only two miles wide and thirteen miles long, so there’s really not a whole lot there. I think I read somewhere that it’s the geographical size of Manhattan but a whole lot less dense.Once we left the downtown area and the side street that adjoined to Fort Clinch, we had a beautiful tree canopy over us. There were little bike-path trails on either side of us, and the winding roads (along with a bicycle race taking place simultaneously as our footrace, though fortunately going in the opposite direction) made for some pretty and relaxing scenery. Going into Fort Clinch, I was third OA, having caught up to the third woman after mile 1, where we commiserated over the weirdness of the aid station being unattended and self-serve – fortunately, the only real hiccup of the day – and though I couldn’t see how far ahead first OA was (Jenn), I could see second ahead of me by less than a minute. We did a little out-and-back around mile 5 or 6 in Fort Clinch, which allowed me to see how far ahead the number 1 and 2 women were, and later allowed me to both be cheered by and to also cheer for all the other runners behind me. I kinda love OAB races for this reason. I will always cheer for other runners when I see them; it makes me really freakin’ happy.

This was from my run on Sunday on the island, though this wasn't in Fort Clinch. Add more tree canopy, and substitute pavement for that dirt road, and you'll get the idea of what it was like to run in FC.
This was from my run on Sunday on the island, though this wasn’t in Fort Clinch. Add more tree canopy, and substitute pavement for that dirt road, and you’ll get the idea of what it was like to run in FC.

I eventually got my mental competing interests to settle with running GMP for the first 7-8 miles and then going for a big negative split home; what those “negative split” paces would be would remain to be seen and would be determined entirely by feel. I’ve listened to a fair number of running podcasts lately, and I recalled listening to a few whose speakers basically harped on the messages of a) trusting your training when you’re in a race and are intentionally holding back early, in the plan to negative split and b) focusing your training on one goal/one goal race at a time. Admittedly, it was a bit challenging to feel like I was running along very comfortably and around 3/4th overall – like I should have been working harder and shouldn’t have been wasting what was essentially perfect race weather – but I constantly reminded myself that I needed to follow my plan for this half – something I apparently haven’t done/haven’t done well in quite some time – and that I had to keep my eye on the marathon prize in two weeks’ time. Again with the mental back-and-forths during a race…

Once we got out of Fort Clinch, right around mile 7.75, we passed our hotel, and just as she said she would, my sister was on the sidelines! My sister! I never get to see her (or really, anyone in my family) since we live so far away from each other, but she told me that she’d be standing outside cheering for me and would be ready to give me some “real water” if I wanted it. For as lovely as Fernandina Beach is, the island water is downright disgusting. The best way I can describe it is that it tasted how cigarette butts smell. (Fucking disgusting, right?!). Fortunately, the ZOOMA crew must have realized this as well, and the water and electrolytes on course were totally fine. I passed my sister shortly before mile 8, got a ton of feel-good vibes from her, turned onto A1A, parallel to the beach, and decided that it was time to finish executing on my plan and to go for a respectable negative split, whatever that was.

SISTER!!!!! (PC: my sister!). FC, where all the trees are, is there in the background.

When my sister wasn’t telling me she had “real water” for me, she yelled that I was third and that I should GO-GO-GO! to catch second. Right before or after mile 8, I had caught up to second, said some encouraging remarks (as is totally the norm at ZOOMA races I’ve run – everyone supports everyone else), and I was off. I’ve run many small races before where you’re essentially running blind if you’re in the front because you can’t see or hear anyone before or behind you, and it’s shitty. When I’ve been in those places before, I’ve constantly wanted to look behind me, but it’s obviously counterproductive and a waste of time. Just like in any other race or training run I’ve done, I had to tell myself to not worry about who was behind me or how far behind he/she was; I had to trust in my training, run my own race, and concentrate on the mile I was in.

Miles 8-13.1 went by in a blur. My family and I had driven/run A1A on Friday, so I was familiar with the road and the territory and knew what to expect (flat roads, beach houses, too many godforsaken Trump signs, a golf course). I concentrated on the road ahead of me and began to think that if the rest of the race ran as smoothly as it had been, that there was a good chance that I could end in about a 1:34 and change – what would be my second-fastest HM time and the fastest I’ve run one since leaving Chicago. I felt fantastic, and I reigned things in a little when I’d begin to see my current pace creeping into the 6:40s (again: marathon). I know it’s so unhelpful to compare races and training cycles, but I couldn’t help but laugh at how much better this race was going than the other times I had run a 1:33 or 1:35, wherein I started out like a bat out of hell and just faded. At ZOOMA, I felt like a million bucks during the final portion, and I couldn’t get over just how good I felt, given the distance I had already covered and the considerable uptick in pace. Miles 8-13.1 basically mirrored what I had been doing for my tempo runs – something in the 6:5x-7 flat range – though it was a lot easier to do that in the heat of a race than by myself in a workout. (Race day magic is real).

We HM runners eventually got onto the heels of the 12k runners and walkers, but it was basically without consequence; like I said, I love the encouraging atmosphere this race series provides, so I was all about the “good job!” and “yea girl!” and the like. When we made our final turn onto the Ritz-Carlton property, where the race ended, I began to mentally brace myself for the final .2 that’d be on the sand. I’ve run on sand exactly one other time in my life and swore I’d never do it again because it sucks. It was annoying and frustrating to be slowed down by the super-soft sand at the very, very end of a HM, but I get the novelty of it. Not far from the finish line, a boardwalk appeared, so we got a momentary reprieve and one last chance to pick up speed again. For as much as I mentally bitched about the sand, though, it sure made for a pretty and memorable finish line. Point taken, ZOOMA.

very near the finish. Notice the boardwalk. This must have been right when I was going around a 12k walker; otherwise, I'd sure as hell still be running on something that wasn't sand.
very near the finish. Notice the boardwalk. This must have been right when I was going around a 12k walker; otherwise, I’d sure as hell still be running on something that wasn’t sand.


who's happy to stop running in the sand? THIS GIRL!
who’s happy to stop running in the sand? THIS GIRL!

I was thrilled and so happy to finish how I did – second overall, 1:35:09, my fastest HM in a while and second-fastest ever, and perfectly executed my GMP-then-negative-split-plan – but more than anything, it was honestly such a huge mental relief to a) not have a GI catastrophe ruin the run and b) have a bit of a confidence boost two weeks before my marathon.


I’m almost 15 months out from having my baby, and while my postpartum running has been fairly smooth, it’s still pretty challenging for me to know what I can do or the paces I can expect on any given day. Now that I say that out loud, that’s probably true for everyone though; we often don’t know what we can do until we just show up and try. This distance stuff is just really unpredictable, which is what makes it so frustrating but also so enticing. So many times, you just have to deal with what the day brings. You can’t change the course; you can’t change the weather; you can’t change if your stomach is going into meltdown mode or if your legs are suddenly leaden; but you can change your perspective and outlook. I went into this race expecting virtually nothing, and while that may not be the best way to approach things, it was also something of a relief to get outside my own head for a while – to get outside the confines of a hard-and-fast time goal for a race – and to just run more or less on feel. Deep stuff, guys, I tell ya what.

After the race, my sister drove down to the Ritz, so we hung out, had some wine samples, jammed to the very awesome cover band, and I eventually got a massage and some chiropractic stuff done on my TFL. The very-sweet first place finisher Jenn, my sister, and I chatted for a while before the awards ceremony before heading back to our hotels.

with the winner, Jenn. She rocked!
with the winner, Jenn. She rocked! (PC: sister)

I never finished those final 5 miles that’d get me to 20 for the day, but I didn’t mind. I chased the morning’s race with more quality time with my mom, sis, and SIL at the beach, where we took fantastic glamour shots, and felt such a deep gratitude that I kinda can’t explain it well without sounding ridiculous. Running can break our heart, no doubt, but god can it ever make us feel so fucking amazing, too. Add a satisfying race to the already lovely weekend that I got to spend with people I rarely see but care so much about, and my heart was pretty full (and my legs felt pretty fantastic).

pretty good considering there's a big height discrepancy amongst us
pretty good considering there’s a considerable height discrepancy amongst us


makes my soul sing
aside from the slight time discrepancy (remember the watch issues), you'll get the general idea for how things shook out.
aside from the slight time discrepancy (remember the watch issues), you’ll get the general idea for how things shook out.

Next stop: 26.2 on 11/6!

2015 ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon race report

2015 ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon race report

Not very long ago, I wrote about how stoked I was to be running ZOOMA’s Napa Valley half marathon again this year because a) I so enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other ambassadors throughout the past year, b) I was looking forward to seeing my South Bay-based RA pacing buddies on the course again this year (like last), c) Chicago-based-but-recently-CA-transplanted friend Meredith would also be running the 13.1 (on her birthday!), and d) I’m just shy of 8 months pregnant, so to even be able — and wanting — and willing to run 13.1 for the hell of it was just … cool. At any rate, as I suspected, all these great factors combined to make for a 98% enjoyable — I’ll elaborate — experience in beautiful Napa over the weekend.

On Friday mid-morning, after a nearly 3am bedtime (thanks, delayed flights from the midwest), A and I trekked north to volunteer at the expo for a few hours. Much like last year, the expo was pretty low-key, but we still had a good time. I enjoyed chatting with the Napa-based GOTR volunteers and getting to meet some of the ZOOMA staff with whom I’ve been corresponding over the past year. A and I left around 4pm to not lose our souls in traffic heading back to the south bay — on a good day, getting to Napa is about a 1hr40 minute/90 mile-ish drive — which meant that again this year, I’d have to miss all the ambassadors at Friday’s mocktail party (boo). You can just pretend that I’m in this picture, though.

PC: Lynda. Just pretend I'm in there.
PC: Lynda.


With a 7am start time in Napa, and another 90 miles or so of driving, and with a heaping of jet lag, I greeted Saturday morning at WTF o’clock and picked up Meredith at a BART station along the way. Although she’s been in CA now for nearly 9 months, I hadn’t seen her since the last time she was here for work, so this weekend was even more special because it gave us lots of time to catch up (in addition to run). We got up to Napa around 6:15, took care of the typical pre-race logistics before hopping on the hotel shuttle to the starting line, and suddenly, somehow it was already nearly 6:40 and we were scrambling to drop our gear check bags off, pee, and warm-up … and yet again, I had missed another photo opp (that I had arranged, grr!) with the social media ambassadors under the starting arches at 6:30. WTF, self?!

PC: Laura
PC: Laura


I managed to get in a super-short warm-up, barely a half-mile, as well as a pee stop, before things kicked off, and I was feeling pretty great. Seeing my pacing buddies and some of the other ambassadors pre-race in the starting corral was also a nice pick-me-up, and I started the race looking forward to just going for a little 13.1 mile jaunt through the streets of Napa. Fortunately, the potentially disastrous 90s/50s weather report didn’t appear to be manifesting,  so the temps actually felt rather comfortable for a majority of the run. Plus, really, even if things didn’t feel comfortable, there’s enough pretty stuff to look at in Napa/on this course, like hot air balloons!

Napa on a Saturday morning! PC: Linh/RA
Napa on a Saturday morning! PC: Linh/RA


At the risk of sounding like an ass, my goal for this race was to “try to not try” — basically, to run at a really comfortable pace, my “run all day” speed, and to just have fun with it. As a third trimester/pregnant runner, I know/knew that ZNV wasn’t going to be about racing as much as it would be about just enjoying the day and the scenery, so I wanted to keep things low-key, if not somewhat pedestrian (that makes me sound kinda douchey … sorry). The other thing about running this late and this far into pregnancy is that it is really important — as in, super, critically, essentially, vitally important — to acknowledge how your body feels and to respond appropriately. As runners (pregnant or not), I think many of us become rather hyperaware to all the little kinks or imbalances we sometimes feel, so generally speaking, we’re pretty good about monitoring when things go south in a run/workout. Obviously, this hypervigilance is all the more critical when you’re running while pregnant because best case scenario, it’s no big deal (like feeling an appendage on your bladder) but worst case scenario, it’s a BFD (like going into preterm labor).

With all of that in mind, then, I wanted to “try to not try” at ZNV. I would love to run a sub-1:55 (arbitrary time goal), or maybe even match or come really close to my SLO half marathon time I posted at 24 weeks/6 months pregnant (a high 1:49), but ultimately, I just wanted to have fun, enjoy the run and the experience, and as cheesy as it sounds, just effin’ celebrate that I can and still want to run this far, this late into my second pregnancy.

The first few miles, when all the HMers and 10kers were together, were nice and quite chill. I was surprised that my watch was displaying 8:teens for some of these miles because I felt like I was kinda running through molasses. I was certain that holding an 8:teen effort for the duration of the race would be challenging, but I figured I’d just assess things as they happened and take each mile as I ran it. Seeing Linh and his 1:45 group not too far ahead was fun, as always, and chatting with ambassador Amanda and her husband, who were both doing the 10k and vying for an AG/OA place, was also cool. Man, I so dig this community.

queen-waving to Linh. PC: him/RA
queen-waving to Linh. PC: him/RA


The other thing about the ZNV half is that even though I was running this year’s iteration very pregnant, I went into it with something of a chip on my shoulder. At last year’s race, I had a really good 10k+, but between miles 7-11ish, I got into such a negative mental space that it has damn near haunted me for the past year. I know it’s normal to go through these highs and lows during a run/a race, but it was like ZNV last year really brought out the horrifically mercurial side of racing for me. I finished last year’s place with decent OA/AG places, but I was so incredibly disappointed and pissed at myself for allowing myself to get into this mercurial mental space that I was determined to not go there this year, even though I knew this year’s race would be slower and more of a run than a race. My time be damned — I was determined to not have an encore performance.

Well … determination can be one thing and reality another, my friends.

After the 10k and HMers split, things went from “pretty quiet” to “even more quiet.” Very few people had passed me, and since the race was small (with fewer than 400 people in the HM), things also got pretty spread out up where I was. Eventually, I saw the lead runners run against us and scored a solid side-5 from Meredith (nice pick-me-up), and by my estimates, I was somewhere in the top 30 runners, maybe top 20 women, which was also cool. I felt pretty comfortable still on the run and hit the halfway mark at a high 8-teen average. While I still didn’t think that the pregnancy would allow me to hold that pace for the final 10k and change — which, again, was fine, given my goals for the day and my obvious current physiological state — I figured I’d just press on and assess at each mile. Taking a couple gels and ingesting some water and gatorade on-course probably also helped keep my energy levels from completely tanking, but by about mile 8, I had begun to mentally resign myself to acknowledging that I was getting tired — the 25+ pounds of pregnancy I’m carrying was making itself known — and again, for whatever reason, just like last year, hope went to die between miles 7-12 for me. I hadn’t gotten passed by any runners for a really long time, and eventually, at around mile 10, the 1:50 gang caught up to me (fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck).

Though I was disappointed that hope showed up again to just die (again) between miles 7-12, I kept forcing myself to have some pretty hard conversations with myself. As runners, we’re taught, and we constantly teach ourselves, to break through ruts. We teach ourselves to meticulously distinguish the fine details between things like pain, discomfort, boredom, hunger, thirst, bathroom cues (I can’t be the only one, ha), overtraining, undertraining, lack of motivation, laziness, or sluggishness, and time and experience eventually give us mechanisms to combat all of these relatively common or benign ailments. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced or novice runner; we all encounter these ailments periodically. It’s part of the program.

Running a HM at nearly 8 months pregnant though, and facing these “where hope goes to die” miles and the associated ailments above, proved to be rather challenging in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. I acknowledged that I was getting tired and bored and even considered that maybe stopping for a bathroom (which I didn’t really think I needed, but WTH) or stopping for a walk break (which, again, I didn’t really think I needed) would bolster my attitude and help me finish strong. I wasn’t in pain at all, though my hardening midsection was giving me the impression that maybe I was having some benign Braxton Hicks contractions. I eventually decided that even though I was nearly positive that what I was feeling just attributable to plain, ol-fashioned fatigue, with maybe some boredom and BH contractions thrown in for good measure, I needed to err on the side of caution and just take things down a notch — and importantly, critically, vitally,  be okay with that.

I tend to be pretty competitive with myself, and I won’t fabricate things here: acknowledging that I needed to take things down a notch for a little bit just to be on the safe side, regardless of how “certain” I was that I was feeling the way I was due to some pretty innocuous reasons, was tough. I felt like I was giving up, like I was giving in to the same hopeless mental trash that showed up last year between miles 7-12, even though the context in 2014 was light-years different than it was in 2015 (not pregnant versus pregnant). I even went so far as to mentally scold myself here and remind myself that if I can’t get my head outta my ass, that if I can’t truly be ok with taking things down a notch, that I need to stop running for the remainder of this pregnancy. I’m not trying to prove anything to myself or to anyone else; truly, I’m running while pregnant only because it’s good for my body and my developing fetus; it makes me feel good; and because I enjoy it. I’m not out there to set any records or anything.

Eventually, this mental scolding and recentering worked, and before I knew it, I had just a 5k to go, I was coming up on the 1:50 group, and hell, I even began passing some people in the final miles.  From the turnaround-onward, I had gotten a barrage of support from the other runners/walkers/spectators who would generically cheer for me and then realize that I was pregnant and even more enthusiastically holler at me, which was both very cool/sweet and somewhat embarassing.   🙂 Truth be told, though, it’s one of the reasons why I like the ZNV atmosphere; it’s so awesomely supportive and empowering. With a slight downhill on the final 2 miles, and with my head fully out of my ass, I was able to finish with a solid and comfortable pace (further irritating me that I unnecessarily slogged miles 7-12 bc of bad mental real estate, but whatever) and came just shy of 1:50, with a 1:51:01. I dualled with a dude in front of me for the final 800m or so before he ultimately passed me — again, fuuuuuuuuuck — but he (and many other runners) so sweetly came up to me after the race and told me how “badass” or “inspiring” I was to be running “so fast” and “so pregnant.” Again — very sweet, very nice, very unexpected, and for someone who is doing this (running) simply for health and to feel good at this point, somewhat embarassing. 🙂

happy to finish the thing. PC: Linh/RA
happy to finish the thing. PC: Linh/RA


Meredith and I reconnected post-race and learned that she was in the top 5 finishers and also cinched an AG award. We stuck around for the awards ceremony, chatted with Amanda (who went on to win her AG in the 10k just as she had envisioned- you go!), got a post-race massage, and slogged some super easy, almost arthritic-granny-like CD miles on a trail we found near the host hotel. Things had really warmed up by the time we got off our asses to post our CDs, so we were lucky to have dodged that bullet during the race. All in all, though, a really good morning in Napa, one that I’m really grateful for and one that I’ll remember for a long time.

yay, birthday girl, Meredith!
yay, birthday girl, Meredith!


yay, Amanda!
yay, Amanda!


Even for it being just its second year, I think ZNV is doing a good job with this race. The 10k and HM courses are flat and fast, which can be conducive to a PR, yet it can also be challenging because the race is small (capped at 1k runners), which might mean that you’re running by yourself — or nearly by yourself — for part or all of your run. When you’re running for time, there are inherent advantages and disadvantages to running a smallish race (which is also the case when you run larger races, too). And sure, it’s June in Napa, which more often than not means heat and sun, but c’mon, gang … it’s the weather; it’s a variable that no race can ever control. If you care about swag items, I think their stuff is nice — gender-specific socks, tech shirts, hats (last year), or this year, a little journal, along with a nice medal — but more importantly, I think this race is well-organized and doesn’t let on that it’s a newbie in the northern CA racing scene. What I probably like *most* about this race, though, is that it’s simply a good race that just *happens* to be women’s-focused; I don’t feel like the race is dumbing itself down or being unnecessarily and obnoxiously pink-pink-pink or heteronormative or just kinda, dare I say, stupid or obnoxious like some of the other women’s races out there. There’s nothing about this race that leaves me with that sinking feeling in my stomach like I get when I see other women’s races (or their advertising); seriously, I think it’s a good race that just happens to be women’s-focused. Even with the high price tag, I think it’s worth doing at least once.

Suffice it to say that I’m looking forward to next year’s HM wherein I plan to destroy any memories of those “where hope goes to die” miles. The first iteration of this race, I had a flurry of hopeless miles and finished the thing alright; the second iteration of this race, I ran it while nearly 8 months pregnant, still had some hopeless miles, and finished pretty ok still (27/379 OA; 19/351 female; 8/71 AG); the third iteration of this race, in 2016, will be my best yet. Mark my words. That gauntlet is THROWN, my friends!

Many thanks to ZOOMA for another fun race and the opportunity to be a social media ambassador for the past year. Obvs the views expressed herein are mine.