Hey everyone! I’m pleased to announce that I am typing this blog which means I didn’t lose all my fingers to frostbite! BUT along with a bad ass new long sleeved tech shirt, I do have a lovely head cold and some bruises as souvenirs.
Yesterday was Zoo Zoom Baltimore and as anticipated it was FREEZING.
Scratch that. It was below freezing. 25 degrees at race time with the wind chill felt more like 12. Restoration Run felt tropical by comparison.
As with all the other races I’ve run, I dug around online for elevation maps and to see if I could find recaps from previous years. I found a great one on a blog called Running Moron (I’d link to him, but he doesn’t know me and I don’t want to seem stalky and/or weird) that I think prepared me really well. The general consensus from his blog, word-of-mouth, and a bunch of very cold people on race day is that Zoo Zoom is NOT a PR course. It winds through Druid Hill Park – and with a name like that you would have to assume there would be at least one hill – and through the zoo which I am familiar enough with as a member to know that there are some steep areas through there too. Recently I have been running 5 miles in 37:30 – 38 minutes and based on my research that would be a lofty goal. So I went in with no real time in mind and planned to do my best and not die of hypothermia.
Zoo Zoom was pretty big this year. According to the results 1,089 insane people braved the cold yesterday to come out for it. We all lined up in front of the Mansion House for the start and I inadvertently found myself right near the front, which was good because the road is pretty narrow and it would probably be a slow start if you were near the back. They started us off with an air horn, I started my Garmin and I was off…
…for about 10 feet when some girl next to me who must have been running like Phoebe from Friends kicked me hard in the shin and I went down. I couldn’t believe it. She just kept on with no apologies like nothing happened as I laid on the ground. Luckily I recovered quickly and without taking anyone else down with me in the process. My left knee and hip had taken the brunt of the impact, but they felt okay so I pushed the incident out of my mind and got going. Fueled by adrenaline and blind rage at being tripped up, I ran my first mile in 6:41 without even really trying.
With 4 more miles to go, the course would be a gradual uphill until we got into the zoo portion where there would be a nice little break as it ran past the old Buffalo Yard. So far I was feeling really awesome, but I knew the worst was yet to come. Thanks to that blog I found, I knew there would be a gnarly hill at the tail end of mile 3 and that as soon as I got to a steep downhill portion I could expect it right around the next bend. It was really nice to be able to mentally prepare myself for it because as terrible as that hill looked from the bottom, I made it up without any issues.
From there we wound past the Chimpanzee Forest (where we did not see any monkeys because they were all inside), and then through the Africa section where I was surprised to see a cheetah pacing next to the fence, watching us run by. That was by far my favorite part of the race. Other people reported seeing the elephants and lions out and about, but I missed them. How you miss an elephant…I have no idea.
Anyway, I knew there was one more hill coming before the finish and that one ended up being THE. WORST. I was a little worn out and had to fight a pretty intense mental battle with myself as I made my way up. The voices in my head telling me to walk were drowned out by the voices of the people at the top yelling that it was “all downhill from here!” I was so grateful to them in that moment! It’s amazing how spectators can really pick you up when you are feeling like you can’t go any farther. I turned on my afterburners and cruised through the finish, knowing in that moment that I HAD set a PR on very difficult course and feeling elated, proud, and really not too cold anymore.
My chip time:
My ugly splits:
I finished 12/760 women (and 7/330 in my age group – the best represented age group there!) and 45/1089 overall making this my best finish so far in a larger race. If I had had a real goal besides not dying, I definitely would have exceeded it.
Despite the cold and a few hiccups at the beginning, Zoo Zoom was a fun, challenging, well marked, well thought out race. I’m counting myself in again for next year, sub-freezing temps be damned!
I hope everyone had a great weekend and is all geared up for Thanksgiving on Thursday! I’ll be Turkey Trotting before stuffing my face!
Are you doing a Turkey Trot this year? Have you ever done one?