ZOOMA Women’s Race Series currently offers races in six different vacation-destination areas in the US: Austin, Chicago, Napa, Amelia Island, Cape Cod, Annapolis. My college friend, Alison, and I decided to get together for a weekend of running and relaxation. ZOOMA promotes its races as girls’ weekend getaways, with a sponsored hotel and weekend events. And it was so nice to be able to walk to the start line from our hotel room and not have to get in a car after the race, just to be able to relax for the day. We noticed many groups of women of all fitness levels, typically a bit older than us, getting together for the race weekend. ZOOMA Cape Cod offers both a Half Marathon and a 10K option.
Getting a good night’s sleep two nights before a race is very important, so I was a little concerned about waking up at 4:30 am in order to get an early flight to Boston. But, I had gotten plenty of sleep earlier in the week and felt rested. I ate a Potbelly egg and cheese sandwich in the airport and landed in Boston at 7:30 am. My steady consumption of coffee during the morning helped keep me going throughout the day.
My college friend Alison, her two friends from Boston and I headed for Cape Cod around noon, about a 90 minute drive from Boston. All ZOOMA races have a hotel sponsor and offer a runner rate, encouraging women to make a girls’ weekend out of it. The Sea Crest Beach hotel was a picture-perfect beach hotel, bigger and more sprawling than we realized. Rather than getting a room in the main building with a seaside view, runners were given rooms in other hotel buildings. It makes sense to keep runners together as we’d all likely want to go to bed early on Friday and would be waking up early on Saturday; however, we were disappointed not to have a beach view. But there were two weddings going on at the Sea Crest that weekend, one on Friday and the other on Saturday, so many wedding guests were staying in the main building hotel rooms. Our room was in a drive-up motel style annex building. We did enjoy have a “front porch” area right outside our door. We also had a good sized mini fridge in our room.
We ate a late lunch at the restaurant at the hotel, Red’s, and had a great table overlooking the ocean! The menu was fairly limited, at least for the outdoor dining area, but the food was very good. Being careful about what I was eating the day before the race, I asked for a grilled, rather than fried, chicken sandwich but stuck with the sweet potato fries as a side. Definitely worth it – the fries were delicious!
After lunch, we headed over to the expo in one of the conference rooms off the main lobby. It was very female-focused and pretty small but not crowded, maybe because we were there on the earlier side. We were greeted by Muscle Milk Light, a major sponsor, as soon as we entered the room, with reps giving out free t-shirts and Headsweats brand hats, the IronMan and US Triathlon brand. Other booths included running jewelry and charms, Marathon Sports from Boston offering a great selection of discounted women’s running clothes, Bani Bands head bands, ZOOMA branded clothes, etc. I picked up my race packet (the other girls had picked theirs up earlier at Marathon Sports in Boston) which came with a pair of pink FEETures socks, a Zooma running hat, the cute race tech t-shirt and bib. It all came in a bag that very closely resembles the signature Lululemon bag – cute and reusable!
We relaxed on our front porch for awhile before heading to downtown Falmouth, about a 10-15 minute drive, for dinner at La Cucina Sul Mare, an Italian restaurant in town. The downtown area was hopping so we had about a 30 minute wait for a table. We decided to have one glass of wine at the bar while we waited. The food was delicious but very different from my typical chicken breast and pasta pre-race meal. I decided on grilled swordfish (avoided sautéed, anything with cream/cheese/milk, anything with too much fiber), thinking it’d be easy on my stomach. It was absolutely delicious! We were all big fans of the homemade bread and our waitress was generous with the basket refills.
We stopped at a nearby Stop & Shop after dinner for snacks, water, etc. You know you are in Cape Cod when you see Cape Cod chip flavors you never knew existed and that literally line an entire aisle!
I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, and was relieved when the alarm went off at 5:30 am so that I could finally get up. We all had different pre-race routines. Around 6 am, I got up, made a cup of Keurig coffee (in every room!), ate my Picky Bar, braided my hair and got dressed.
It was very nice to literally walk across the parking lot to the starting line! The 10K runners (about half of all runners) started 5 minutes before the Half Marathoners (7:30, 7:35) and a little up the road from the Half Marathon start line. Once they were off, we lined up at the Zooma inflatable arch. Alison and I were hoping to run sub 1:45 so we stood pretty close to the front. There weren’t any corrals but there were pacers holding up balloons with the goal finish time on them. The pacers actually ran the whole race holding the balloons. I was surprised they didn’t lose the balloons once they started running, as in other races, and just have runners identify them by a sign on their shirts.
The race started off pretty flat, right along the water. It was a gorgeous start to the race! Alison and I went out pretty hard and fast, debating whether or not to slow our pace down. After mile 2, we slowed down a bit, trying to keep our pace around 7:45 and hoping to bank some time since we knew the route was going to get pretty hilly.
We soon lost the ocean views as we turned onto the bike trail. Since this race is pretty small, with only about 500 people running the half marathon, roads aren’t closed to traffic. There’s not a lot of traffic on the side roads in Cape Cod at 7:30 am on a Saturday in September anyway, so it wasn’t much of an issue. The bike trail wasn’t closed for runners either so we shared the paved path with recreational bikers and walkers. We also were passing some of the 10K runners/walkers. Miles 5-7 on the bike trail felt like a steady, slight uphill. We ran through a cranberry bog, which was so quintessentially picture-perfect Cape Cod.
A little after mile 7, when we got off the bike trail onto roads through neighborhoods, the hills really began. Although the elevation change overall wasn’t major, the non-stop rolling hills really took a toll on my body. It didn’t help my confidence for the hilly Richmond Marathon course. At the same time, Alison and I were still running together and keeping our pace up despite the hilly terrain. I took my Accel gel at mile 6 and appreciated the bump in energy.
I was struggling around mile 10, wishing this was just a 10 miler and unsure if I’d be able to keep my pace below 8:00 for the rest of the race. At this point, I told Alison to go ahead of me, not wanting to hold her back. She stayed just a little bit in front of me and I could only see two other girls in front of her. The runners had really thinned out! It was unlike any race I’d experienced. I did miss having runners around me, pushing me to go faster, but appreciated being able to run with Alison for most of the race to help push me. Also, there aren’t many spectators for this course except for around the water stops and at the end of the course. The last few miles required me to get in the right spot, mentally, telling myself that I just had a 5K left to go. It’s amazing how just changing the perspective can help you finish the last few miles strong.
The race finished with a much-welcomed downhill. It was really exciting to be running toward a big group of cheering spectators. I realized that, despite slowing down the last few miles, I was going to get below 1:45 and PR! On a hilly course!
At the finish line, there were bottles of water, bananas and also volunteers handing out medals. The half marathon medals have a little sailboat hanging off the bottom that can be removed and used as a charm – cute idea! Alison and I wondered where the rest of the food was. Up ahead, we saw a stake sign that said “FOOD” with an arrow, and remembered that the post-race food and events were planned for the beach. Alison waited for Carrie and Anne, while I went back to the hotel room to get pretzels since eating immediately usually helps my stomach. I did my usual ritual – Imodium, Nuun, pretzels and laid on my stomach, hoping the cramping would subside. I haven’t experienced GI issues after races like I used to. I’m being more careful with what I eat before, during and after running and also think the Imodium right afterwards helps a lot. However, my stomach was pretty bad after this race, probably due to running very fast, eating differently the day before and anxiety. After about an hour of resting, I felt much better.
The girls had come back to the room to check in on me before heading to the beach for food. ZOOMA gives out lunch boxes with either hummus or chicken salad wraps. Kind of random, I think, since it was just 9:30 am. ZOOMA definitely goes for the boutique experience but I think could do better with post race food. I’ve very glad that we had bought snacks for the hotel room. The girls came back with the snacks and we checked the results online, realizing that Alison and I came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in our age group! We didn’t know what time the award ceremony was but, after searching online, saw it was at 10 am. We had just missed it. Alison and the girls went out to try to find a ZOOMA rep to get our awards. My stomach felt significantly better so I went out to meet them at the beach. Some of the vendors from the expo had set up in the courtyard area at the Sea Crest and Honest was handing out full bottles of their teas and ades. Alison and I won coffee mugs for being age group winners!
Rest of Day:
We all relaxed on our front porch for awhile before heading to Red’s again for lunch. We were able to get the same table from the day before but this time enjoyed celebratory margaritas with our lunches. I opted for the fried chicken sandwich rather than the grilled.
We got ready for dinner and then watched the sunset from the beach before heading to downtown Falmouth for dinner.
Lululemon Pace shorts (discontinued)
Nike Pro Hypercool tank
Brooks Arm Warmers
Moving Comfort JustRight Racer sports bra
CEP compression sleeves
Garmin Forerunner 10
Nathan QuickDraw Plus handheld water bottle
Overall, a great and unique race experience! Some pros and cons:
+ Love the idea of women-only races, promoting girls’ weekend getaways – nice having the race start right at hotel
+ Cute tech tee, free hat, Feetures socks
– Food afterwards could be better
– Could use more water stops and spread out large number of volunteers
– Missed the energy from spectators and having runners closer together – runners were very spread out where we were running