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Running a new distance is always fun, because it's a guaranteed PR—and this race was no exception. Thanks to the Hot Chocolate 15k, I can put another PR in the books! :-) Here are a few other highlights of the day.
The Hot Chocolate 15k delivers on the chocolate theme, starting with the inflatables on the race site. I tried to take this mug of hot chocolate home with me, but as you can see it was a little too big to fit in my suitcase. ;-)
As you may notice in the picture, the park was a bit flooded from the rain, which did put a bit of a damper on the day. I gave up trying to keep my shoes dry pretty quickly—it was basically impossible to get around to bag check, etc. without walking through the muck. My shoes were a muddy mess after the event, but after a quick spin in the washing machine they were like new before I packed to head home. Thanks, Angie!
I was lucky to be joining local friends who have done this race many times and knew where to park, etc. so that took a fair bit of stress out of race morning. Once at the site, all of the tents were well marked and super-efficient:
One of the many nice things about the Hot Chocolate race series is the opportunity to apply for a preferred corral. I've not had this experience before, nor do I consider myself fast. However, I've gotten just fast enough to appreciate the opportunity to avoid the dodging and weaving that becomes a part of races where the seeding isn't very accurate (or formalized at all).
I was surprised to learn that my corral, "J", was the first corral. It turns out that the lettering scheme begins with the 5k which started earlier in the morning. The 15k lined up next. The line up is where things got confusing, because apparently the signs the pacers were using had two different times on them for the two different races. I didn't realize this, and happened to find the "wrong" group of 9 min. mile pacers. By the time I discovered my error and started working my way forward, the race was already starting. Oops!
I spent the first bit of the race catching up to my teammate, and after that the miles flew by. This was our first time meeting each other, and running a few miles together was a great way to get to know each other and forget about the drizzly day. Thanks for keeping me company, Amy!
The course was well designed to be a closed course and take in some local scenery. On a less gloomy day, I'm sure it's a beautiful course! Much of the race is along the Mississippi River, which should have been a clue to me that it wasn't going to be a truly flat course. (After several years of riding RAGBRAI, I've learned land gets "rolly" around the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.) The elevation map would have been a clue, too, if I had looked at it. ;-) Not that the course is hard—and according to the locals the course isn't hilly—just normal for around town. I'll let you be the judge based on the data and where you live:
After all of the pre-race chatter about treats on course like marshmallows and such, it was a disappointment not to experience that. I'm guessing that the rain may have been a factor in this. Though I'm not sure the rain explains why there also wasn't nuun at some stations? In a 15k, it's not a big deal, it was simply a surprise to be told there wasn't nuun at one of the later aid stations given their sponsorship and all. I've heard so many good things about the Hot Chocolate aid station experience, I'm sure this isn't typical.
If you're in to collecting medals, the Hot Chocolate medal is definitely one to add to your collection! The chocolate bar is a cool idea, and a serious piece of bling. Here are my friends Theresa and Angie showing off their new hardware.
After picking up the hardware, the next stop was the post race food—the true highlight of the Hot Chocolate 15k. I had as much chocolate as I could possibly want and still took home a huge mug full of treats! Fortunately, the teenagers back at Angie's place were happy to help us with the leftovers. ;-) Amy snapped this nice photo of the huge mug full of dipping chocolate and treats to dip in it:
The biggest thing I would change about this race is to have the water bottles near the food vs. at the finish (on the other side of the park)—or to at least have *some* water accessible near the food. It's a little hard to wash down chocolate treats with hot chocolate, especially after a long run.
All in all, it was a fun event with a cool medal, great treats, and good friends—both old and new. With a PR to boot! Highly recommend the Hot Chocolate 15k!