First of all, I look happy don’t I? I was incredibly relieved I had survived my 9th half marathon after not having trained or ran for that matter since…..Ragnar Jan 5…..and hell not much before that either. Oops. Plus these girls are a hoot. The leg lifting turned out to be an issue for those that had run
like gods out there their hearts out so the picture was snapped just in the nick of time before the legs came down on their own.
Ok so let me just say that I was Stunned with a capital S. I was in awe of the beauty hidden along the Amelia Island Zooma Course. Who knew?! There were no course preview videos or pictures to prepare me for the onslaught of reverie as I ran. Instead, the scenic route unraveled itself slowly for me mile by mile, the best way to explore if you ask any runner, and I did my best to capture it all on the go. I hope you enjoy the following pictures and my recap of the Inaugural half marathon event.
Amanda and I parked at a lot designated by the race organizers on the pre-race instructions flyer. It ended up being an unexpected warm-up because it was about a mile away from the start. I admit, this made me a little cranky. Most things do early in the morning if I’m honest, but I kept wondering if we would ever reach the starting line and I completely believe I would have turned around if it weren’t for 3 girls walking up ahead. We just followed them for what seemed like a millenia and finally happened upon a congregation of runners milling about.
I was a little anxious at first when I didn’t see that a lot of people. We arrived 20 minutes before the race start but there weren’t nearly as many runners as I had expected. It turns out that only 377 completed the half marathon.Woah. I think this goes down as the smallest race field I’ve experienced for a 13.1 mile race. Looking back, it was nice since I never experienced crowding on the course and there were still enough runners out there to make you feel like you were racing. If you’re looking for a course to PR and place in this is it.
The start was by a marina with lots of boats lined up in their slips.
I took off my sweater jacket that had kept me warm during the windy and crazy long walk to the start leaving my Oiselle Pink Arm Warmers on. I never feel restricted or too hot while wearing them because of the light material and I absolutely love the thumb holes. I think I want to start a Thumb Holes Clothing company. That little novelty is fantastic!
My favorite picture of the day. Seeing all the runners lined up in front of this gleaming orange train as the sun is rising makes my inner hippie smile. So peaceful man.
Before we knew it we were off! The pacers all wore rainbow tutus and carried a white balloon to help runners spot them. I didn’t have a single time goal for this race and in fact ran the first 3 miles without looking down at my watch.My goal instead was to run by feel and take in my surroundings. My biggest worry was that I would injure myself since my longest run was 6.9 miles 3 weeks ago. Meantime, I stayed between the 2:10 pacer and the 2:20 pacer for the first few miles.
The beginning of the course had us briefly running through downtown Fernandina (which is absolutely adorable with its shop fronts but smells faintly of fish) and quickly turned into some rolling hills when we veered left. It wasn’t altogether terrible going up an down because they weren’t steep and I looked forward to the downhills that inevitable followed.
After maybe 5 or 6 of those we headed straight for a bridge over water. After climbing 75% of it, I decided to save my energy, walk the incline, and snap some pictures. As I took my mini break, a woman near me said “I guess this is a good a time as any to walk” as she did the same.
It was beautiful on top of that bridge. My mindset was now set to treat this as a long training run on a glorious Saturday morning with my 300+ new friends.
We then entered my favorite part of the course. I felt like we were being hugged on both sides by the trees lining the narrow road.I started thinking about doing a trail run in the future. It just felt so intimate as if it was just us and nature out there until a car would show up. Sad Panda. I guess they couldn’t close the road off completely so there were many times when a car would force us to move to the other side of the street. Not ideal and it kind of messed with the whole zen feeling out there but what can you do?
I’m going to make this next part as much of a reduced TMI as possible. I had to go to the bathroom bad. Like really really bad and I don’t mean number 1. I first noticed after mile 3 and just kept telling myself I could ignore it and keep running. I ran to mile 5 and the feeling went away. I couldn’t believe how good my legs felt and how strong my lungs were being. Was it that very long spin class two days before? I pushed my pace and hit the 9s for a while and noticed that holy crap, maybe I don’t push myself enough during races. The pace was faster but felt manageable and I was ecstatic. I passed a few people here and thought I was going to finish strong.
The feeling came back. What the hell stomach!? I began to question and curse my meal choices from the day before. Was it the fried shrimp taco? the salsa? The turkey burger? All of it!?! probably. Aah, why wasn’t I more careful?
I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to stop. Mile 6 became my last hurrah and from then on, all I wanted on god’s green earth was to sight one of those cringe worthy blue plastic porta-potties. I hate them with a passion, but I needed it like a celebrity needs a pre-nup; it’s not a romantic experience but completely necessary if you want to survive the fall out. <~~~I failed didn’t I? TMI TMI.
I finally found one at mile 8 behind some volunteers handing out water cups. It was worse than I thought. My stomach was having a world war 3 battle inside. I took 5 1/2 minutes of precious time but didn’t care at this point. Some girls knocked on the door and I felt like saying “You’re SOL” like literally. But that would’ve been TMI so I just groaned out some quick answer.
The rest of the race was interesting. My mojo was gone and I held an average pace that kept slipping now. My stomach still wasn’t ok and wouldn’t be for a couple of days after it turns out. I did what I could when I could and took pictures and just focused on finishing.
It was now a straight shot to the finish line at the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton. We ran along this bike path for miles 8-12 while cars drove by on the right.
Around this point I was getting dehydrated because the water stops weren’t happening at every mile. I was parched, the sun was beating down, and I just wanted to be done. With the later 8 am start time, this race had us finishing just as the sun was getting strongest.
When I finally reached a water stop, I grabbed two cups and downed them. I immediately wished I had an extra arm to have grabbed 2 more. I was so very thirsty and two cups didn’t do it for me. I saw a runner up ahead throw one of her cups that was still half full to the side of the road and almost cried.
It was the last water stop we’d end up seeing. Mile 12 couldn’t come soon enough as we turned left and got ready to finish. But then I spotted it. Sand. What the?!
Surely the finish line would be just around the corner right? right!? So I let my mind wander, thinking in full confidence that we’d be reaching the end momentarily. We’d turn right and turn upwards to finish on the street or something.
I was so very wrong. We turned onto the sand and dear baby jesus I did not see the finish line at all. Like in any direction. All I saw was mushy sand, the kind that sinks you down and doesn’t let go easily. So I snapped pictures of the water to ease my psycho thoughts at this point.
The sand was harder along this section which made me thankful and stop cursing so loudly.
I forgot to mention that my bangs were now flailing wildly all over my face and in my eyes because the wind was mocking my hairspray use from this morning. I completely forgot to wear a sparkly band or my lululemon headband so by mile 4 I was having to tuck my bangs behind my ears every few steps. Fun. Rule #1, pin back your hair like it’s a criminal trying to escape jail. Because it will find a way to bug the shit out of you during a run otherwise.
I finally saw the finish line but was too busy with the now very soft sand to notice. Runners around me were all cursing, people stopped to walk, a photographer was stationed right there to capture it all. I mean really dude!?!?
I was smiling real hard in classic Southern “Bless Your Heart” style and kept it up until I passed him. Photog, you suck for the record. Meanwhile, the sand was really becoming a workout now but I was NOT walking even if my knees felt like they were coming up to my chest from the crazy effort it took to keep running through the sludgy mass.
The wind towards the end was strong and by the end I looked like a crazy person. See?
But I was done. I went over and collected my necklace and sat down for a bit. 13.1 miles done with over half a mile of sand. Sheesh.
We walked up some steep stairs (SMH I know fun right?) and happened upon the most gorgeous scene. Alright course, I forgive you. This was so pretty.
There was ice tea, water, muscle milk, and some small muffins and fruit. With a ticket on our bib labeled lunch, I was expecting more food and was a little disappointed when I realized that this was all they had. I heard a lot of other runners saying the same thing. But there was plenty of wine and champagne as promised. I wasn’t in the mood so I just grabbed a Banana Muscle Milk and heading inside the Ritz.
It was nice of the Ritz to let a bunch of sweaty runners take over this section of their hotel. A bunch of us sat down, strewn around the room and just rested.
I met up with Amanda and the other ambassadors for some group pictures before we decided to head out.
Amanda found this awesome cafe on her phone that was a 2 minute drive away. We sat at the bar and proceeded to fall in love with the down to earth bartender. He was really knowledgeable about vegetarian food, hiking, and just was an all around cool guy that took the time to explain the menu and make suggestions. We wanted to try everything and almost had the falafel before changing the order to their famous Veggie burger.
Best decision ever.
It was fresh and crumbly, had guacamole layered under spring mix lettuce, and just tasted like perfection. It felt so good to eat hot food and replenish the salt we lost out there while running.
We drove back home and I found my Erica Sara Goals bracelet waiting for me on the porch. YAY!!
I ordered it to help remind me every day what my goals this year are. It says:
1. 125 lbs
Simple and general but still grand. I have three goals to accomplish this year and I just want to complete them all healthy and strong. I’m cross training like I never have before and look forward to realizing my potential. We all have the potential to be better, stronger, and happier so why not strive for it this year?
Final Thoughts: Amelia Island Zooma half was a scenic course that I would definitely do again. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a low key race with a small field. I’m sure the numbers will be higher next year, but this will probably never be a crowded race and that’s a great thing.
- There were little to no spectators on the course so be warned. You’ll have to draw energy and motivation from your music or find it inside. The scenery makes up for it in my opinion, especially the section that feels like an intimate trail.
- Great race to do with your girlfriends because the energy out there was awesome! Perfect to make a weekend out of it since the race is on a Saturday. You could run the race, eat at one of the many incredible restaurants on the island, enjoy the beach, and just pamper yourselves in general until Sunday night.
- The sand at the end isn’t pleasant but at least you know to expect it now. I didn’t have that luxury since I missed the course preview the day before at the expo.
- You can PR here if you train for it. The course was relatively flat and the weather was phenomenal.
In short, get ready to sign up for next year. I’m sure the kinks will be worked out by then (and there really weren’t many) and this race will be a memorable experience you won’t want to miss
I’m in the middle of base training for a triathlon in May right now, so the only race I have planned at this moment is the Disney Princess Half at the end of Feb.
Anyone else doing this 5 year anniversary race?!?
What races do you have planned?0 Click to Like this Post!