Two weeks ago, I ran my last race for 2014, The Hot Chocolate 15k, here in Phoenix or technically Scottsdale :). I debated a lot about even running this race mostly because while it does provide a lot of nice swag, it is an expensive race for the fact that it is a 5k & a 15k. Also, I ran this race 2 years ago and I did not enjoy the course. Fortunately they have made some course adjustments and this year things were a lot better course wise.
I finally signed up the Monday before the race. I saw that the Run Eat Tweet AZ group was doing a meet-up and I love meeting my social media friends so I bit the bullet and signed up. Really, twist my arm, a race, bling, chocolate? Even though, chocolate isn’t my fav dessert, it’s still yummy from time to time.
The expo was held at Salt River Fields, by the main baseball field where the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies play for spring training. It’s a really nice place, there is lots of parking and space for the expo. They had the expo open Friday afternoon and then all day Saturday, because it’s about a 30 min drive from my house, I decided to go to the expo after work on Friday so I didn’t have to worry about it on Sat.
It was very well organized, you go and pick up your bib and they just pick a bib number and then print out a barcode with your name, corral letter and city on it. After that you go pick up your swag/goodie bag. The Hot Chocolate race does have a very nice goodie bag, this year they did a zip up sweatshirt, with pink accents for the ladies and green for the men. I went up to try it on before picking up my bag, just in case, but I had picked the right size, so while they allow exchanges, I fortunately didn’t have to deal with that. In addition to the sweatshirt, they gave us a cute little pink bag to put it all in and to use for the gear check the next day.
After picking everything up, I took a look around the expo, they had a number of booths, although I really didn’t need anything so I only stopped by the Eat Good Food booth to get some sweet potato chips & a coupon and to try the new Larabar granola, which is really good. As I was leaving I had to stop by the Hot Chocolate sample station where they had hot chocolate and chocolate covered marshmallows – YUM!! They also had a really nice area with merchandise with race logo, name on it.
Jumping ahead to race day, as I said earlier, the race location is about 30 minutes from my house. They said that there would be road closures starting at 7am so I wanted to make sure I got there in plenty of time. I like to have lots of time to allow for anything that might happen and to not have to stress before the race, as we saw before the RnR Vegas Marathon, rushing around before the start totally stresses me out. This time around however, I got there crazy early, so early that I just hung out in the car for about 30 mins before venturing over to the start area.
The 5k started at 7:30a and the 15k and 8:15a and I got there around 6:45a I believe so that was a big gap. The nice thing was that I got their early enough that there weren’t any lines for the port-a-potties, lol. They had a very organized gear check, so after using the facilities one more time around 7:45a I dropped off my bag and headed over to the start line. I was in Corral G, the 2nd corral for the 15k. Unfortunately, I got mixed up and ended up in the third corral, they had signs with the letters on them and I thought that I needed to enter at the back of the corral, but instead I ended up in the H corral instead. Which wouldn’t be a huge issue, except that they had 10 minutes between waves so I ended up having to wait an extra 20 mins to get started.
By the time we started, the sun was up and while it was still chilly, for us ;), it was a great day for a run. It had been rainy, cloudy the day before and the following days as well. My last run a few days prior wasn’t great so I wasn’t sure how the race was going to go. I wore my Newton Distance U’s which I like better than my Fate’s so no calf pain today. I actually had decided before the race that I was just going to enjoy the race and whatever happened, happened. There was absolutely no pressure to run any specific time and while I wanted to PR the distance, I wasn’t going to stress about it.
They had a few treat stations during the race, as you ran thru, there were four treat stations, strawberry marshmallows, chocolate chips, chocolate marshmallows & tootsie rolls. I wasn’t brave enough to try any of that, I’m pretty particular about what I eat when I’m running, but it was a nice thought.
This year the race course didn’t have nearly as many out and backs, but the one that they did have was several miles long, I saw my “insta”friend, @cavecreeknic when I was on this stretch. It was so great to finally meet her after being instagram friends for a while. I was just cruising along and it was about mile 6 I decided that my goal for this race was just to run the whole thing. If you have been following along on my journey, you may remember that I was a Galloway runner for years and the habit is hard to break.
Side note: I fully embraced the Galloway method and I think it’s a great way to run, I have an issue with my low back/hamstring that makes Galloway more painful due to the start & stop, so I have been working on running straight as much as I can. I would recommend the Galloway method to anyone, especially if you are just starting out.
It was about mile 7 that this girl wearing yellow shorts passed me and I just kept her in my sights for the rest of the race while I ran my own race. About mile 8.7 I ended up passing her, I thought she looked familiar, and I wanted to be like, come on girl, you’ve got it, but it really was all I could do to keep going myself. I kept telling myself one step at a time. Afterwards at the Run, Eat, Tweet AZ meet-up I found out why she looked so familiar, it was @issamosely!!
In the end, I was so super proud of myself, not for the 10 min PR I achieved in this race distance, but more because I didn’t once stop and walk, I ran the entire race. It probably sounds silly, but it was such a huge achievement for me especially after having a not so great marathon experience and if nothing else, it gave me the confidence to know that I can do it!
I finished strong and felt a little sick afterwards, but walked it off, got my awesome medal and 2 bottles of water before heading over to get my Hot Chocolate bowl of goodness :). While I was heading that way, another instagram friend, @jenniferlynn612, said Hi! It was really cool finally meeting all the people I’ve been following.
So now back to the Hot Chocolate bowl of goodness, since I’m not a huge huge fan of chocolate I thought it was a good sized bowl. They gave us a reusable bowl that had a cup of hot cocoa, one of the sections had hot dipping chocolate in it and then there was a small banana, a mini rice krispie treat, pretzels and a few other snack items. It was a nice little treat.
After getting my chocolate bowl, I headed over to the stage area to meet up with the rest of the Run, Eat, Tweet AZ group, I had posted my outfit the night before and was wearing my Lululemon plaid skirt so everyone recognized me – LOL. We chatted for a while, took some photos and talked a little about the next meet-up. I know I said it before, but it was really nice to meet in person the people that I’ve been interacting with via instagram the last few months. The power of social media :). I also got to meet the amazing @cavecreeknic who I’ve been following for a while.
Thinking back on it, outside of my little corral snafu I can’t think of anything about this race that I didn’t enjoy. I ran for me, for fun, with no pressure to achieve any goals and I was very consistent in my splits – ranging from 8:44(last mile) to 9:22 for an average pace of 9:07. Now if only I could maintain that for another 17 miles and I’ll have close to a sub 4 marathon. I know it will come, but on my time.
Hot Chocolate has races around the country and I’d totally recommend running one, but I’d also recommend signing up early to get the best price :). They have some of the best race swag, sweatshirts, reusable bags, chocolate treats and one of the best things in racing, free race photos!!