Several months ago when I became a ZOOMA Florida Ambassador, the race felt so far away. But with football season, the holidays, and a packed race schedule, race weekend was here before I knew it.
We made it just in time to pick up our bibs and head over to the Mocktail Party to meet up with the other ambassadors and runners.
But let’s be honest – we were really concerned about dinner. Carb loading is the best part of running, am I right? Immediately after the party, we headed over to Eight, a small sports bar located in the Ritz-Carlton for some grub.
Naturally, I chose a cheeseburger with fries and an Intuition Ale Jon Boat (bonus points to the Ritz-Carlton for featuring locally brewed beers!). After dinner, a couple of beers, and a lot of good laughs, Michelle and I went back up to our room and hit the hay.
I know I said I was going to run the 1/2m but after the really trying Jax Bank 1/2 that left me feeling terrible for days, I made the decision to drop down the the 12k… and I don’t regret that at all. I’m not Superwoman. I’m not trained for running and running and running. I’m a hobby runner, and I’m okay with that. I knew I didn’t have another 1/2 in me, and I really wanted to enjoy this race and it’s afterparty.
When our alarm went off, I immediately groaned and begged Michelle to hit the snooze. Ritz-Carlton beds are warm and comfy, and I was already dreading being cold. Am I brat? Totally. But after a cup of coffee (or 3), I was ready to go.
We met up with our fellow ambassadors downstairs:
While ZOOMA has shuttles to get participants from the Ritz to the start line, Kristin was kind enough to load us all into her car and let us wait in warmth before the start of the race. Thanks, Kristin!
And then we were off. It took me a couple of miles to get into a groove on this one. I wonder if it’s because I forgot to take my ADD meds until the starting gun was going off… Whoops! I can absolutely tell a difference in my mind-set during runs when I’m on them and when I’m not. It’s incredible, but that’s another story.
The course is really lovely! It starts out in the super cute Fernandina Beach Downtown. About a mile in, the 1/2 splits off from the 12k to go through Fort Clinch Park while the 12k heads straight to Amelia Island.
The weather was perfect! Beautiful, brisk… I was cold for the first mile or so, and by the third, I was shedding my thin long-sleeve top. I really enjoyed seeing all the great houses on the beach and ended up with several House Crushes along the way. One thing I didn’t like – the course is open and most of it you’re running on the bike lane with just a few cones here and there separating you from traffic. Granted there wasn’t a lot of traffic, and there was police assistance, runners really need to pay attention to on-coming traffic.
Also, everyone lied to me and said the course was flat. I beg to differ. It felt like a majority of it was on a slight uphill grade, which gets tiring very quickly. There wasn’t a lot of downhill to recover. But ZOOMA had fun signs sprinkled throughout the course to inspire and help ease the pain.
It ends on the beach at the Ritz-Carlton, which I’d heard the beach portion was on the unpacked sand. Thankfully, they guided us out to the packed sand this year (yay for tides cooperating!). I was surprised at how good running on packed sand felt after 7 miles of pavement. Might have to make a trek to the beach once in a while to run on it.
By the time I crossed the finish line, I was very ready to stop running and hit the afterparty.
I really wanted a sub-11 minute per mile average, but I took a super quick portapotty break at mile 2 that probably dragged me down a little bit. Oh well. It’s a PR anyway, since I’ve never run a 12k before. I got my medal, and immediately ran up to the room to grab a heavier sweater before going to the party.
Once I made it downstairs, the wine started flowing – it was fantastic.
Overall, ZOOMA was a really fun race experience, and I look forward to doing it next year and/or in another one of their locations! If I do it again, I plan on making an entire weekend out of it and staying at the Ritz-Carlton the entire weekend.
And now I’m headed for a massage. Clearly I have a rough life.