Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K Chicago

This past weekend I completed my first 15K race!  As soon as I heard about the Hot Chocolate race early this year I knew it was a race I wanted to do.  

My mom came to visit me in Chicago this weekend and run this race with me.  Friday we headed to Union Station for the small expo.  The place was pretty busy, but we got our packets quickly.  RAM Racing, the organization that puts on the race, is known for having good goodie bags and well organized events.  All we really got in the goodie bag was a running jacket.  I thought we should have gotten a few squares of chocolate in the bag though too.  The sizes ran way small so we, and everyone else, had to wait in line to switch out the sizes.  I wore the jacket on my windy run this morning and it was perfect!   

The morning started with an early alarm and chilly weather outside.  After getting dressed and making sure we had everything we headed out to catch the El to downtown.  We both wore capris and long sleeve shirts with two jackets to get to the race, but were still cold.  The Hot Chocolate race is pretty big and the train slowly filled with runners as we made our way downtown.  I ate half of a blueberry crisp Clif bar and had some water while riding there.  When we arrived at our stop it felt colder than before, but we were closer to the lake so the wind probably contributed to that.  We followed the crowds and made our way to Grant Park.  The 5K runners were in the starting corrals getting ready to head off.  The race announcer said that there was a slight delay because a semi-truck got stuck under one of the underpasses on the course route, so the course had to be rerouted.  Soon the 5Kers were out and mom and I made our way over to gear check.  
After a quick port- 0-potty stop (they make a nice background for a picture, right?) we found our way to the corrals and after ten minutes started walking to start.  They were playing a funny little song that was essentially "Hot Chocolate, Hot Chocolate" repeated over and over; it made me laugh.  As we got closer we could see the thousands of people ahead of us filling the streets of Chicago.  This was a big race with over 13,000 people running the 15K!
Walking to the start.
Usually when my mom and I have run races in the past we go our separate ways and meet at the finish because we have different paces.  This time we decided to run together so my mom ran with me at my pace.  As we crossed the start line and began running, my legs felt really strange.  They felt wobbly and kind of tight at the same time.  They were so cold that it was strange to move them.  My toes also were a bit numb the first few miles.  In the first mile we went under a big overpass where I lost my Garmin signal for a bit.  I thought we were starting out at a relatively easy pace, but we finished the first mile around 11:50.  We slowed down a little for the next few and kept going.  It was neat to run through the streets of the city.  I had heard that in previous years the course was rather tight, but this year whole streets were closed, so there was plenty of room to run.  There were a few people spectating for their family members, but it was a pretty quiet course.  
The aid stations and volunteers were great.  They mixed the gatorade well, cheered on all the runners, and were placed well along the course. We took about one walk break every two or three miles along the course and walked through the water stops.  I ate about seven Honey Stinger Chews every few miles and sipped on my water bottle several times throughout the race.  

Once we passed the 10K mark I tried to increase my pace a bit.  Initially on my training plan I was working for a 12 minute pace, but wasn't sure I could maintain that for 9.3 miles.  Since it was my first 15K though there was no real time goal - no matter what it would be a PR.  That 12 minute pace was still in the back of my mind though, so I tried to push myself some more. 

The last mile was really tough.  We were running down Michigan Avenue right by Grant Park.  I knew the finish was close, but my legs felt so tired, I just wanted to walk.  My mom told me not to walk because we only had a half mile left and could walk when we finished.  If she wasn't there motivating me I definitely would have taken a short walking break.
My mom looks so happy and I look like I'm in pain.
When we saw the finish line I began to sprint and my mom and I crossed the finish line together!  We finished in 1:54:31 which is an average 12:17 pace!  I am always amazed out how much you can actually do if you train and you put your mind to it in running.  When I started running I was averaging 14-15 minute miles and I had just finished 9.3 miles around a 12 minute mile pace!  Besides tired legs, I felt great and really proud of my time! 
I love this one!  We were just crossing the finish!
Down the finish line chute we took a finisher's photo and grabbed two squares of Ghirardelli chocolate.   After getting our bags from gear check and stretching a little, we walked over to the after party.  The field was full of people and tents.  

We headed over to the fondue tent first and got an awesome post race treat.  Everything was delicious dipped in the chocolate!  It was still kind of chilly out so the edges of the fondue began to harden a little, but that didn't stop me from eating it.  I could eat that after every race!  We then grabbed a cup of hot chocolate - it was after all the Hot Chocolate race.  The cocoa was good, but honestly nothing really compares to the cup at Mindy's Hot Chocolate here in Chicago.   

I really enjoyed the Hot Chocolate 15K!  It was fun to run a race with my mom and I am proud of my race time.  I enjoyed the 15K distance too and would definitely do one again.  

Have you ever complete a 15K race?  What is your favorite post race treat?