Hot Chocolate 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 11:41/mile
Around 5 or so months ago, a group of run friends I know started talking about doing the Hot Chocolate race together in 2015.
Ah - before I get too far in this recap - I have to admit, I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to do this race. You already know that I'm not a fan of chain races that advertise their AH-maze-ING swag, but offset that with enormous headcounts and packed courses. Not to mention, I am ... less than impressed ... with races that motivate you to burn *some* calories by enabling you to consume *a lot more than you burned* calories at the finish line. (I think races like this give people an unrealistic concept of what's appropriate post race fueling in comparison to how many calories you actually burn during a run; IE: an average runner burns 10 calories/min, and at a 30 minute 5K pace that's 300 calories ... which isn't much when you're trying to offset a post race chocolate feast.)
Hmmm ... now that I said the above, I'm realizing this race sounds very Bacon Chase, no?
Anyway, despite my reservations of this race being a "crammed course calorie fest", and the fact that I haven't been running much at all since my feet issues last fall, I let a few of my friends who ran this last year convince me to give this race a shot.
OK, ok. They didn't have to convince me that much to do it. It was scheduled to be on my birthday, after all. I mean, who can say no to chocolate fondue in your honor?!
Not that I'm a chocoholic or anything. But then again, I also don't exactly like to share my stash.
And so it begins.
Of course, since this is one of those mega we-are-soooo-awesome chain races, prior to race day I had to attend a packet pickup expo. Blech.
To be fair, I really don't mind attending an expo for a race that requires a bit of training for, IE a half or full marathon, duathlon, etc. To me, those expos make sense, since it's a great chance to peek at items that can assist you in your training for future events, etc. But, let's face it. An expo hosted for the average Joe showing up at a 5K/15K race that ends in chocolate fondue? Pure money grab. "Let me sell you this $20 headband, these 2 year old overstocked running shoes, or this running gadget you really don't need for a short distance run..."
Putting the above soap box aside, packet pickup was unexpectedly ... fun! It really was.
I'm sure all the chocolate helped sway my opinion, though. I think I had like 5 or 6 chances to consume chocolate while there: official staff greeted everyone with chocolate squares just prior to entry, there were two booths inside offering chocolate fondue and hot chocolate to drink, and several vendors along the way out were giving out little chocolate treats as well.
Plus, the organizers did a fantastic job of placing staff to help direct traffic flow. If you subtract out the amount of time I wasted noshing on chocolate and putzing around, I think I had bibs & swag within 10 minutes ... max. When you consider I was there over the lunch hour AND picked up packets for two friends as well, that's pretty impressive.
Oh. What was the putzing, you ask? Well...
And no, we didn't plan to match our outfits for packet pickup. It totally happened by accident. I blame the fact that our birthdays are one day apart, and therefore our brains must be wired to wear certain color pallets on certain days.
Race Day - 5:15 am wake up
Oh right. Now I remember how much it sucks to get up SO EARLY on a Saturday. Even more so on my birthday. Why do I do this again?! Ah, the downfall of living in Minnesota and not racing all winter - you forget the joys of a race weekend rise & shine.
At least my husband got me this new toy in celebration of the day. That helped with the rise and shine some.
Why yes, that IS an excellent European style coffee.
Instead of whining about early wakeups, I'll talk about something more fun: wardobing. Which was a no brainer for this race thanks to my new ambassadorship! You see ... about a month back, InkNBurn told all us ambassadors about a new design they were going to be offering in their spring/summer assortment:
Sexy lace, no?! As soon as I saw the announcement, I knew I had to get this for the Hot Chocolate race. I mean, the back to back birthdays justified it, right?!
And so, Lacy Birthday Racy was born:
Hm. Twinsies twice in this blog.
Being that this was a lacy BIRTHDAY racy, a group of us ladies kicked off our morning by carpooling to downtown Minneapolis and parking across the street from Hell's Kitchen. This put us about a mile from the race start, but since we had reservations to eat brunch at Hell's Kitchen post race, we figured it would just be easier to avoid the race morning traffic jam around Boom Island and park by Hell's Kitchen instead. Plus, we figured it wouldn't be a huge deal to take a short walk out and back.
As an added bonus, the walk down Nicolette was quite pleasant for 7 am. And, we only interacted with one drunk bum, so there's that! (Said in a very gravelly voice to someone else nearby "I call St. Cloud my liver rest spot." Hm, that's quite the conversation to be having, drunkenly, once the sun has fully risen.)
When we got to Boom Island park, it was just before 8 am. Perfect timing, as the race started at 8:10 am. After a quick hello with another friend, also wearing InkNBurn, three of us split off and lined up for the race start.
Despite my doubts about this race, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the start was organized, and how smoothly the gate rollouts were. By 8:20 we were easing up to the mat and getting ready to head out. Impressive.
Unfortunately though, despite the good organization, the first mile or so of the race was pretty rough. The roads were full of people, many who were clearly not able to keep a "no walkers" pace (per the signs in the corrals). My birthday buddy even lamented "Oh, now I remember why I hate these big races." Honestly, running in a crowd that dense just isn't fun.
At least we managed to see someone in their pajamas and bath robe cheering around the 1/2 mile point. That helped take our mind off the traffic jam, as we spent the next few minutes debating why they didn't just throw on some pants and a sweatshirt rather than appear in public ... in a fluffy white terry robe and pink striped drawstring pajama bottoms.
Since the road was still pretty clogged at the 1 mile mark, for the heck of it we stopped to walk and get water. When I saw they were also offering chocolate at the stop, I passed. The non-birthday buddy running with us decided she was going to go for it though, and grabbed a cup. That's how we learned that apparently the people organizing this race really don't understand how much one can eat on a run, as we discovered the paper cup was about 1/3 full of chocolate wafers. Wow, too much!! Even if the three of us had been willing to share it, we wouldn't have been able to finish it. And we weren't the only ones to agree it was too much ... there were lots of ditched chocolate cups along the 2nd mile of the run. (A note for future race organizers - 3-4 pcs of chocolate in the cup would have been plenty - no need to waste your money on chocolate that ends up in the trash anyway.)
Somewhere around the 1.5 mile mark, the race finally started to shake loose - as did our trio. My birthday buddy, since she's been running quite regularly this spring, shot off into the distance. I, on the other hand, dropped my pace from a "trying to keep up with someone who is too fast for me" down to the goal I had in mind pre race: 11 minute/mile. Our group fully separated and I was on my own.
Surprisingly, around the 2 mile mark, I caught back up to the non-birthday buddy of our trio and kept her company on another brief walk break. Then we picked up the pace again and went at a steady pace ... at least until we hit the corkscrew hill at the foot of the 1st Avenue bridge. Blech - walk break up that sucker for sure. I am in NO kind of hill running shape.
Whoops. Not in hill shape? This may prove to be a major issue in a few weeks. More on this in a future race recap, I suppose.
After we made it to the top of that hill, we decided to just commit to finishing the run at a steady pace, since there was only about 3/4 of a mile left. Amazingly, that little bit passed very quickly, because all the sudden we had crossed the mat. Whoop!
Of course, as soon as I crossed the mat and pressed stop on my watch, I couldn't help but check out my stats. And yeah, they weren't great. But they also weren't too shabby considering my feet issues that still haven't quite subsided and the fact that I have run basically twice in the last 5-6 months.
Eventually our trio met back up with each other, and we proceeded to the post race festivities. There, we had plenty of opportunities to take goofy photos. And we had our chocolate feast, of course.
I myself dove right in to the marshmallow option, dipping it into the rich chocolate fondue. And yes, I did so before we had even taken a photo or stat down. Whatever! I was hungry. Heh.
Finally, after a little roaming, the three of us found a sunny spot near the river and hunkered down. Once seated, I managed to eat the other marshmallow, a mini rice crispy treat and two wafer cookies (all dipped in chocolate and washed down with hot chocolate) before my stomach started to protest. I think it was all just too sweet and too rich for my empty stomach post run, as I ended up having a sour feeling for about 20-30 minutes after that. As a result, I gave away the pretzels in my treat bowl, pocketed my banana and dumped all but maybe 1/5 of my chocolate fondue in the trash.
Sacrilege, I know.
And yes, that WAS a banana in my pocket. But I would also have been happy to see you.
As we wound down with our chocolate feast, our last few peeps who kept a slightly slower pace in a coral a few back from us finished and met up with us, and then we said our goodbyes and packed out of Boom Island to head back to Hell's Kitchen.
Where I learned that I've finally gotten old enough for the vultures to start circling:
And that's the story of how race bib #53 joined my collection - on my birthday! Who would have thought 5 years ago that I would have chosen to run on my birthday, huh? Kind of funny when you think of it that way. But now here I am, doing this for fun ... well, sort of fun, until you realize the day after how much your body hurts when it's not in running shape and you run a 5K on a whim. Hmph.
Regardless, here's to another race soon ... in two weeks, actually!!
Whoops! Update! I forgot to include swag info. Here are photos of me wearing the zippered hoodie (with zippered pockets, too - whoop!) and the drop bag they gave us. Cheers!