Zoo Zoom was yesterday and for some reason I was SO FREAKING ANTSY during the week leading up to it. I am finding that I am much more chilled out going into a race that I’ve never run before. Less pressure I guess. Where it was nice having an idea of the course (HILLS HILLS HILLS) that lay ahead of me, I was very happy with my performance in last year’s race. It was my goal to do better this year. Hence…nerves.
It was also my goal to wear the pants that I bought for the event last year, but wasn’t able to because it was like -11 degrees outside. No really, it was apparently the coldest Zoo Zoom on record. This year it was somewhere in the upper 30’s. The leggings are thin and I was definitely feeling the chill, but I knew I would warm up quickly as I ran. I packed a pair of sweatpants to throw on over them just in case. As I got ready I held my eyeliner pencil in my hand and on a whim drew some cat features onto my face. After the great kilt debacle of 2014 I swore I would never theme myself out for a race again, but eyeliner is so unobstrusive and how many other times during the year do I get to run through the zoo dressed as an animal?
When I arrived to the parking lot I quickly texted Mar…Yes THE Mar! This race was a last minute decision on her part and we would finally get to meet! Anyway she was still on her way. Then I texted Sara who was parked practically next to me and I was so out of it that it took me 10 minutes to spot her. We hung out in her car to stay warm and ran down our checklists of things we needed before heading over to the race village area. The start time was set for 8:30; nice because I didn’t have to wake up too terribly early to get down there and actually managed to get a solid 8 hours of sleep the night before which like never happens.
Right around 8:15 I ate my new favorite caramel macchiato GU (totally YUM and 40mg of caffeine…how nice to be able to eat my pre-race coffee) and ran into one of my run club friends. I had been wanting to warm up at least a little bit so we jogged together to the top of the hill. Then Mar was texting me and telling me she was there! I informed her of what I was wearing…in cheetah pants and lime green calf sleeves I was pretty hard to miss and as I suspected she was able to locate me about 30 seconds later.
There was precious little selfie-time so we all got into position for the start. The thing about Zoo Zoom: it’s chip timed, but awards are based on gun time. Or at least they were last year and I wasn’t taking any chances that they might have changed it. I staked out a spot near the front and with an airhorn blast we were off!
And guess what? I DIDN’T GET TRIPPED OR FALL DOWN. So already this race was going better than last year!
Mile 1: Downhill to flat. I found a comfortable pace and cruised along. Some people passed me and that’s okay. I wasn’t trying to kill myself in that first mile. Still as I was nearing the first mile marker, my watch was telling me I was running at around a 6:20 pace. Awesome, but woah there, Salt, slow down.
Mile 2 & 3: The Dreaded Druid Hills. These two miles loop around the outside of the zoo and are all rolling hills. I felt a little crummy during mile 2 for some reason (maybe mile 1 catching up to me?), but mile 3 I was able to pull myself together just before the nice downhill past the Buffalo Yard into the zoo itself.
Mile 4: The steepest downhill followed by the rudest uphill of the whole race. I’m glad I knew what was coming, but it still looked so ugly from the bottom. Someone had taken the time to write “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE” in chalk at the midpoint of the hill and I wanted to find that person and shake them and call them a dirty liar.
As I got to the top I laughed-screamed in triumph at a smiling volunteer, then continued on my way past the lemur enclosures and monkey house and up the boardwalk. I love running on the boardwalk and felt like I got a lot of my speed back there.
I was hoping the cheetah would be out like he was last year, but sadly he was not. Boo. Maybe he heard we were dressed alike.
Mile 5 (or rather .97): Past the giraffes and elephants and not an animal to be seen. Last year at this time I was definitely riding the struggle bus. This time around I felt AMAZING. Unfortunately I knew this was a feeling that would not last because I still had the mansion house hill in front of me. It was still rough, but the knowledge that the finish line was just over the other side made the climb a lot easier than last time. Man do I love a downhill finish!
At this point I knew I had a PR in the bag, but I didn’ t know by how much. I saw a “35:” as I rounded the bend and would have screamed out loud as soon as I saw the next number was a “1” if I wasn’t so winded. I finished much stronger than I ever thought I could and stopped my watch. Official time:
7:06 pace!! My gun time was 2 seconds slower. Thank goodness for that front of the pack start! This time would be good for a second place medal in my AG. And my splits:
Mile 1: 6:27
Mile 2: 7:23
Mile 3: 7:15
Mile 4: 7:33 – I looked back on my post from last year and my mile 4 was the exact same! Weird!
Mile 5: 6:36 – Even with that awful mansion house hill! Last year I was slower by a minute! I guess it paid to know that the end was right on the other side of the hill. One of my club friends was right behind me at the end of the race so I waited for him to finish and then a short time later we were cheering on another friend who had gotten briefly lost due to some poor course mark-age. Luckily a bike volunteer was able to get her — and a few others — back on track fairly quickly.
The Corner Bakery was catering the event again and had a yummy-looking spread of treats for the runners. I have a really hard time eating directly after I run so I didn’t try any of it, but later on I was kicking myself for not taking a brownie to go. Instead I chugged a bottle of water with pink lemonade Nuun and soon met up with Mar again who had a great time despite the rude hills and the fact that she hasn’t been running much since the Marine Corps Marathon. I saw Stacey from Run to Be Free finish (she was running this thing with a stroller…holy beastmode) and then Sara soon after. We headed over the race village to hang out, chat, and FINALLY get a photo! One of my favorite things in the whole world is races with friends. So once again Zoo Zoom impresses (aside from the missing cone that threw off my friend!) The premium this year is an excellent gray long sleeved tech shirt. That slogan makes me giggle. The volunteers were great, the course is one of my favorites EVER (I have a love/hate relationship with those hills I guess), and the post-race food was top notch. Or so I heard from everyone eating it. Mar later posted a picture of pumpkin muffins that looked so good I could have licked my phone.
Also…and maybe my most favorite part…all the proceeds go to zoo conservation and animal care. The best kind of do-gooding! I will most definitely be zooming again next November!
In other news: Zoo Zoom was my final race of the year! I set out to run 14 races as part of the 14 in 2014 challenge. Zoo Zoom was number EIGHTEEN. Despite some obnoxious injuries I’ve put in so many more miles than I ever thought I could. I was actually considering a Turkey Trot, but looking at our weather forecast for the next several days I’m pretty glad I didn’t commit to one. This is the perfect high note to go out on and I’m looking forward to so much more fun in 2015. How many more races do you have in front of you this year? Have you ever run through the zoo? Do you love my pants?
I hope you are all having a great start to your holiday weeks! Turkey awaits! If you’re into that sort of thing. Be sure to check out Zoo Zoom recaps on Mar and Sara‘s blogs too! (I totally snort-laughed when I read Sara’s blog title.) Xo, Salt