Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K
This morning, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in Atlanta. It was the first race on my 2013 race schedule, and my goal was to run for fun with good friends. No super-fast time goals. No serious pre-race routine. Just 3 good running buddies looking to enjoy the experience and the miles we’d find ourselves in.
I was in such a relaxed, “fun” racing state of mind; I left the house this morning without even wearing my Garmin. *Gasp!*
I would definitely use the word “fun” to describe today’s race. But I’d also use the word “ironic.” There were several reasons I signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15K last fall: 1) I knew it would be cold on race day (I love running races that are 45 degrees or colder) and 2) I loved the unique post-race party concept of serving hot chocolate and chocolate fondue to all the runners. Little did I know a crazy warm-front would come through and give us 65 degrees F and lots of humidity, or that I’d be participating in a 28-Day Transformation Challenge that doesn’t allow me to eat any sugar, dairy or grains during the same time period as the race. Run the Hot Chocolate 15K and eat no chocolate? That’s exactly how it went down.
But let’s start at the beginning …
I headed to the race expo on Saturday afternoon. The expo was really well organized with a fun and high energy vibe.
Volunteers were handing out free hot chocolate …
The race schwag we received was some of the best I’ve gotten from any race I’ve done (especially for a race less than $70). Hooded, fitted sweatshirt? Yes, please!
Food and Fuel: The Paleo Dilemna
I’ve found carb-loading to be quite difficult since I started my paleo diet, and fueling mid-run is tough due to all the restrictions of my 28-day challenge. While I plan to add oatmeal/steel-cut oats, brown rice, and honey back into my diet after the challenge ends in early February, I’m staying true to the rules this month. Which made preparing for today’s race a little trickier than normal.
The night before a race, I typically eat a chicken breast, baked or roasted white potatoes with a ton of salt, a garden salad (with no high fiber veggies) and bread. I drink a lot of water in the days leading up to a race, including Nuun the day before for electrolytes. Last night, the potatoes and bread weren’t an option, so I made some faux spaghetti and meatballs using spaghetti squash, a homemade tomato sauce and beef meatballs (looking back, I probably should have used chicken).
For breakfast, I would normally have eaten a Clif Bar (and maybe a banana too depending on the length of the race). This morning, I ate a homemade paleo banana muffin (gluten and sugar-free), a half of a banana and a handful of raisins. I would learn that my stomach didn’t love this new routine, and that it didn’t provide me enough of the right carbs to keep a lot of gas in the tank during the race.
I’m going to be reading Paleo for Athletes this month to see if I can learn any secrets for this.
Mr. rUnladylike kindly volunteered to be our race day chauffer and dropped my friends and me off at the race start, just steps away from the start line. (Thank you, Mr. rUnladylike!)
At 8:15 a.m., we were off! We had planned to maintain a comfortable 8:30 pace during the race, which we did successfully.
Mr. rUnladylike found us at the beginning of mile 3 and ran miles 3, 4 and 5 with us before breaking off to run back home.
At mile 6, we stopped briefly for some comedic relief as our friend Melissa’s GU (chocolate flavor, how appropriate!) splattered all over her face as she tried to open it with her teeth. Nothing my friend Tammy and I couldn’t help her fix by dumping a few cups of water on her face. (Running friends are the best friends, right?) I stuffed a bunch of raisins in my mouth (paleo fueling, ugh!), and we were off again.
The entire race was hill after hill after hill. Having not been training for hills and not logging nearly as many miles as usual during November and December, my legs were feeling it. Our pace felt harder than it was because of all the hills. But we made it.
We crossed the line – each within seconds of each other:
Garmin data (my friend was wearing hers): 9.34 miles: 1:19:15 (8:28 average pace)
My official race time: 9.32 miles: 1:20:14 (8:37 average pace)
I was 81st out of 948 women in my age group, 454 out of 5,673 total women and 876th out of 7,348 total runners. Not too shabby for a fun run.
Now for the most torturous part. All race finishers received a mug with hot chocolate in the center and all sorts of goodies surrounding it, including chocolate fondue with marshmallows, a banana, pretzels and a rice krispie treat as dippers.
When I walked up to get my goodies and told the volunteers I could only have the banana, they looked at me as if I was a deranged psychopath. I know. I know. I’m sad too. Ha!
Now for the serious shot …
Overall, it was a great morning and a great race. Here’s how I would break it down for any of you considering running one of the 8 Hot Chocolate 15K (or 5K) races across the country:
The “sweetest” things about the Hot Chocolate 15K:
- The race expo was super organized and easy to navigate. There was lots of great gear to purchase, like “will run for chocolate” tech tops, headbands, etc. Volunteers were handing out hot chocolate, and the atmosphere was fun and upbeat.
- The schwag was awesome. We received a hooded sweatshirt and hat, along with the finisher’s mug at the race.
- The race-day experience was seamless. There were adequate porta-potties, the corals were easy to find, the volunteers were fabulous (and easy to identify in their bright orange shirts) and the race started exactly on time.
- The post-race atmosphere was great. Even though I couldn’t partake in the goodies, I thought the idea was awesome and my fellow running buddies enjoyed it.
- The race was super close to my house which made navigating in and out incredibly easy and seamless … no traffic, no waiting around, etc.
The “not-so-sweet” things about the Hot Chocolate 15K:
- The course is one of the hilliest I’ve ever run in a race. All the half marathons and marathons in Atlanta tend to be very hilly … it comes with our city. However, it seemed that turn after turn we were facing another hill. I know some of you live for the hills, but I’d rather rock out a flat course any day.
- There were almost no spectators. The course was very quiet. No bands or music were on the course, and the spectators were very few and far between until the last 100 yards or so.
- If I had been racing this, the crowds may have made it tough to keep your momentum without dodging people. The course was pretty crowded the entire way, but that didn’t affect our experience.
Have you ever run one of the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K races? What did you like best and least about it? What races are coming up on your schedule in the next month or so?