Disclaimer: As a ZOOMA Ambassador I received a complimentary race entry. As always, all opinions are my own.
Even before I was cleared to start running and working out after little man was born, I had my eye on my first post-baby goal race – the ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon. This was my first year running this race, but after such a positive race experience this year, it definitely won’t be my last.
My race weekend started off Friday afternoon, when we packed up the car for a mini-getaway to Annapolis. Since we brought little man with us, Preston and I opted to stay at the official race hotel for ease and convenience. I’m so glad that we made this choice. Not only was packet pickup downstairs in the ballroom, but the hotel was about a mile from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where the start and finish lines for the race were.
After checking into the hotel Friday afternoon, I immediately headed downstairs to packet pickup. This was a no frills race “expo”, as there were only a couple of vendors there. After picking up my packet, I headed back upstairs to drop my things off and then Preston and I decided to grab dinner at the hotel restaurant. After dinner, I headed back to the ballroom for an ambassador meetup with the other ZOOMA Ambassadors, at which I finally meet Chelsea after connecting on social media awhile back.
After feeding and putting little man to bed I met back up with several ladies on the patio of the restaurant for a girls evening, which included getting to know several ambassadors better, a lot of wine for some (only a small glass for me), and a lot of fun for everybody. I decided to call it a night around 10:00 so that I could rest up in preparation for the next morning’s race.
My alarm went off at 5:00, so that I had ample time to shower, eat, and pump before leaving for the race. At least that was the plan, until I went to pump and realized that I had forgotten the power cord for my pump. Oops! My only solution was to wake little man up and feed him, which delayed me since he was half asleep and didn’t eat efficiently. Thankfully, I still made it down to the lobby at 6:15 to meet up with Chelsea, who graciously offered to drive me to the stadium so that I could leave the car at the hotel for Preston. At the stadium, we meet up with other ZOOMA ambassadors for a pre-race photo.
After the photo, Chelsea and I made a quick stop at the porta potties before heading to the start line. Runners self-seeded themselves, and we decided to line up in the 11:00 minute pace area.
I had mentally prepared myself for the hilly course in advance of the race, but I didn’t expect the rolling hills to start immediately. After running the first part of the race through the parking lot of the stadium, we immediately went through a series of rolling hills on the streets surrounding the stadium. By the time we finished the first mile, we were running through the heart of downtown Annapolis, towards the waterfront. One of my favorite views from the entire race was running towards the water. I could have run with that view for the entire race and it would have taken my mind off of all of the hills.
After leaving the waterfront area just past the mile 3 marker, we ran through the campus of St. John’s College and past some of the state government buildings. Just past the mile 5 marker, we started one the steepest hills of the entire course, crossing the Naval Academy Bridge for the first time during the race.
Up until this point in the race, the 10k and half marathon runners had pretty much run the same course, with only a couple of exceptions. The turn around point for the 10k runners was partway up the bridge, and as I passed the turnaround point I began to question my decision to run the half marathon. I still had more than half the race to run, and although it wasn’t overly hot or sunny, the humidity was over 90%. Thank goodness the temperature stayed in the low to mid 70s during the entire race, and that the sun didn’t come out from behind the clouds until the very end of the race.
After crossing the bridge, the course was essentially an out and back for miles 6-11. As I neared the mile 7 marker, I saw the first place finishers making their way back towards the stadium. When I saw them, all I thought to myself was, “Wow, these ladies are speedy!” Seeing how fast they were running pushed me to want to run as fast as I could, even though the hills up to this point in the race had started to get to me and had slowed me down slightly.
The further that I ran, and the more hills that I encountered, the more that I thought that a PR was unlikely. Throughout my 18 weeks of training, I knew that I needed to prepare myself for a hilly course, and I did just that. However, the further along in the race that I got the more that I questioned my ability to secure a PR for myself since with each mile my average pace slowed down slightly. It wasn’t until the last mile of the race, and the closer that I got back to the stadium, that I realized that a PR was in fact possible.
I crossed the finish line at 2:19:08 (10:37 pace), which was a 31 second PR. To say I was in shock is an understatement. I never expected to PR on a hilly course, nonetheless PR only five months after having a baby. I was so excited to celebrate post race with Preston and little man. Even though little man was asleep in his stroller when I crossed the finish line, I very much enjoyed a celebratory afternoon in Downtown Annapolis with my boys after we returned to the hotel so that I could shower and we could check out.
I’m so glad that I chose to run my first postpartum goal race at ZOOMA Annapolis. The race was extremely well organized and there were more than enough water stations and volunteers along the course. And since I’m one of those crazy people who doesn’t mind running in the heat and humidity, the race day weather didn’t bother me one bit.
QOTD: When was your last unexpected PR?