I’ve never done more than a few miles on a trail – but I’ve always wanted to. For me, if I have an open weekend on my calendar I am hunting for a race. It seemed like fate when inaugural ZOOMA trail race dubbed “Dirty Damsel” popped up on my Facebook newsfeed the day I found out I’d been selected as a ZOOMA ambassador for next year’s Annapolis half marathon. The race was advertised as an accessible introduction to trail running for women and an opportunity participate in a “fun” trail race as a beginner. I can do a fun, accessible intro! So I registered.
Let me cut to the chase. This race was absolutely fabulous and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea to sign up for a half marathon as my intro to trail running. But I did anyway, and it worked out perfectly.
As always, ZOOMA was fabulous at responding to questions via their Facebook page. Good thing, I had plenty of questions.
The whole thing, as well as the 10K and 5K options took place at Rosaryville State Park in Maryland. It’s a beautiful (out of the way) park (that I wish was a bit closer to D.C. so I could run in it all the time).
ZOOMA said to arrive at least an hour before your scheduled event. I did and wish I hadn’t. Registration was quick and easy and then I found myself with 55 minutes to spare and no food or water in the area. I hopped back in my car to hunt for some pre-race snacks and found them about a mile up the road.
Ten minutes prior to race time the runners gathered for a course briefing. Half marathoners started at 8 a.m. and 10K and 5K runners started at 9 a.m. I thought this was unnecessary until I got on the course and realized how much harder it is to pass on a trail. The race was capped at 500 and I can’t imagine if there had been many more people out there.
The race started and we had about a quarter mile in a field and wide trail to figure out where we all should be seeded before heading into the smaller wooded trail. By that point, if you were behind someone slower than you, it was a bit of an ordeal to pass – especially if the person was slower than a handful of runners who all needed to pass. This has nothing to do with ZOOMA’s organization – more with trail running in general. It’s always important to seed yourself appropriately – but on a trail run it really, really matters. It all sorted itself out within the first two miles and likely ended up being a blessing that kept me from going out too hard.
It was a beautiful course with a fabulous mix of uphills and downhills. The course was marked very clearly with different color arrows and markers for each of the three race distances. I ran the first four miles close to a group but everyone spread out and most of miles 5-8 I ran completely solo, with no one to be seen. Both were wonderful. It was great to chat with other women along the way but I loved the moments alone as the sun rose and broke through the orange and yellow trees. For the last miles of the race I was running with a group of three other women. In that time three of us fell – including me. Lesson learned: Watch out for tree roots. Luckily we all landed in soft dirt or leaves and hopped right back up to continue with a little mud to show for it.
The 5K and 10K courses were both a few tenths of a mile long but the half was right on. We all finished through the same chute and were given wooden finisher’s “medals” on a string. The finisher’s area was right next to the finish line with lots of food – pizza and even burritos. Unfortunately, my go-to is chocolate milk or some drinkable protein after a run over 10 miles. There wasn’t much available but I did find a gogurt! (What a flashback to elementary school.)
The race was a little out of the way from D.C. but totally worth it for the fabulous course. I will absolutely run this one again next year. Until then – I am hunting for trail races!