Before the ZOOMA Annapolis 10K on Sunday, we eased our friend Alexis’
fears about her first race by telling her to forget about what the hilly course would mean for her time. We told her to think about the 6.2-mile race as a really great hour-long workout. We told her the whole point of running this all-women’s race with her two oldest and best friends was the post-race wine and girlie bonding, not her performance in it.
Alexis kicked butt, running about 85 percent of the race by her estimation, grinning and barely winded as she crossed the finish line. We sort of expected that would happen.
What I didn’t expect: that I’d need to take my own advice.
Jen, Alexis and I left Washington around 5:30 a.m. for the 7 a.m. start. We got to the starting line at about 7:10 a.m. after waiting for almost 30 minutes in a long backup at the entrance to the Naval Academy stadium, where the race started.
That was one of many things that didn’t go according to plan. I’m the type of runner who, if I truly want to perform well, needs to start taking good care of my body a good three days before a race. By “taking good care of,” I do not mean “staying up til 1:30 a.m. and eating late-night Taco Bell two nights before a race.” Note to self: Just because it’s a relatively healthy bean burrito fresco doesn’t mean you won’t get the dreaded Taco Belly for days after the meal.
Also, we’d been super-excited about the zero-percent chance of rain for race day. In reality, we ran in a one-hour downpour sandwiched between two of the most gorgeous days DC has seen this year.
So I started the race wearing a garbage bag, tired, stomach-achy and desperately needing a porta-potty, feeling more frazzled than fast.
I managed two miles at about 7:30-minute-mile pace. Every time I saw a race official, I tearfully asked if they knew whether there were porta-potties on the course. No one could say for sure.
To the people living in the home at mile 3 with the USNA flag and the gigantic, gorgeous shrubbery big enough to hide an entire human from the road: You may notice that your landscaping grows fast and thick thanks to some special fertilizer. You’re welcome.
I emerged from the shrubbery feeling refreshed, having only lost about a minute. I came upon a porta-potty about a minute later. Awesome.
Still, I steadily slowed down on the course’s rolling hills each mile after that, my stomach feeling gurgly and my legs feeling tired, growing increasingly angry at myself for not taking the race more seriously in the days leading up to it. But then, I reminded myself about the pep talk I gave Alexis earlier in the week.
I decided to have a good time rather than care about running one. I didn’t jog or anything, but I ran at a pace that let me take in the crowd of pink ZOOMA shirts, and to enjoy the girlie-bonding inherent to this race. An example: When I passed a girl on the steep bridge in the middle of the course, she looked at me, smiled approvingly and said, “Good job!” Awww!
I finished the race in 52:28 — 8:27-minute miles. This is about the pace I run for my bi-weekly “fun runs.” Any other day, I might be disappointed with that realization. But “fun run” is actually a pretty great description of the ZOOMA 10K, and its truly amazing post-race expo. For more about the race course and the expo, read my race review for examiner.com.