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Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15k

This was without a doubt my strongest race and it was a 15k PR. The medal for this race is one of my favorites.

That is where the positives for this race end.  You have been warned.

This was a race on my list for a long time; they give a great jacket as their swag and it is billed as a chocolate filled race.  The concept is fun and tons of people from my running group were signed up.  At one point they ran an incentive of a free visor for sign ups, so I went for it!  The price, for a 15k, was steep (both of my 2017 half-marathons were cheaper, as were two of the three triathlons I am racing this summer) but considering I was going to get a jacket and a visor, I thought it was worth it.  You know what I got for $65?  Issues.  A lot of them.

Pre-race: I couldn’t attend the expo due to their hours.  I work an hour outside of Philly and the first night I couldn’t get there in time from work and I had a work event the next night.  I could have had it mailed to me, but that was another $15.  No thank you.  Luckily, I had a friend willing to grab my things Thursday night!

I had read on their athlete guide that the only bags you could bring were clear 12 x 18. The expo bag was white, definitely NOT clear, and I don’t have clear race bags laying around.  Again, luckily, I have friends who do and multiple people stepped up to let me borrow one.  Just to find out the next day that it didn’t matter and their bag was just fine. Small, but annoying detail.

A larger, more annoying detail, is that my jacket was ripped at the zipper.  At first, I thought it was just a few loose threads, but as I looked closer, I realized it was completely unthreaded down the entire zipper.  I was hoping to wear it work, but folded it up hoping to be able to send it back.  When I got to work, I emailed their support team.  They suggest…ready…I leave work and come to the expo to exchange it.  WHAT?  Ok, so that option didn’t work.  I emailed back with as much and acknowledged I would just be out the jacket.  The more I thought about it, the more it was making me angry.   I wrote them again, expressing my disappointment and asked them to mail me a new one.  They told me I could pay to mail my jacket back to them and suggested I write a note with the issue. Trust me, you won’t need a note, it is pretty friggen obvious.  I wrote them back, again, to tell them I was not interested in paying more money.  Again, I paid $65 for this race! They wrote me back, saying they would make a “one time exception” and I could bring it on race morning to the information station and leave it with them.  And then what?  They didn’t say.  But you can bet I didn’t trust that I would find a new one in my mailbox anytime soon.  Again, never mind.  So looks like I’ll need to have the zipper sewed if I want to wear the jacket.  That is terrible customer service, if you ask me.  And it colored the race for me before it even began. Spoiler alert: things did not get better from there.

Race: I went over in a carpool with some friends.  We scored awesome parking and headed to the steps for our group photo.  Going into the race, I knew there was a chance I could PR; my running has been so consistent and so strong lately.  I wasn’t nervous but I wanted to get going.

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The race started on time, but there was ZERO energy at the start line.  The announcer tried, but it was just lackluster.  The corrals were weird as there were two sets; one set was preferred, which meant you had to send in your time from a previous race, proving you could run under an 11:30m/m for at least a 5k.  That set was split into 5 groups.  Then, a second set made up of people who either didn’t enter a preferred time, or have a pace slower than 11:30m/m.  That meant that people who ran faster than me, started behind me.  And of course, people lie all the time, so within less than a half mile, I was weaving around walkers.  The whole thing was disorganized and unsafe, as those faster than us were cutting us off out of frustration.  I get it, but it sucked.  It felt congested for a solid 4 miles.

I started the race with my friend Amanda.  We have been running together for a few months and we really push each other.  We started off so strong and, although we kinda slogged through the first couple of miles, we were hitting our miles ahead of our goal time.  I wore my “positive mind” shirt and just kept reminding myself that I could do this and that I just had to tick off one mile at a time.  I ran with Amanda for about 6 miles, before taking off just a bit ahead.  Other than stopping to take my GU at mile 4, I didn’t walk until mile 8.  That is a win in itself for me, as I am usually walking within the first five.  I was feeling so strong, but starting to run out of steam in mile 8.  I really needed some fluids at that point (I did not think three stops were sufficient, but that could just be me) and was just waiting for the stop.  Finally, I saw it.  The first table was handing out cups of marshmallows.  Okay, I get the theme, but really, I needed water!  One volunteer was basically shoving a marshmallow at me, and I finally said, “I need water” and he said, “This is a marshmallow.” UGH! (Also, sidebar…can we acknowledge the amount of cups wasted on one marshmallow a piece?!?!)  Finally I found the nuun and water and put my hand out.  The girl dropped it. That caused me to stop to grab another, which cause a girl to slam into my back and me to slam into someone in front of me.  It really flustered me and I was having trouble getting back on track.  But I knew if I kept it up, even at a slower pace, I was going to PR.  I just kept that at the forefront of my mind and put one foot in front of another.  I knew the finish was coming, because of the crowd so I put it on…saw the photographer (the ONLY ONE on the course) and gave my best photo op  and then hauled it the inflatable which I thought was the finish.  But then it wasn’t the finish, so I picked it back up until I saw the strips in the road and suddenly it was the finish.  I was so confused.  But I was ecstatic.  I had over a 7 minute PR!!!!!

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I don’t know why this is so blurry, but I LOVE this photo! I took it about 10 seconds after I crossed the finish line! Purely ecstatic!

Post-race:  My friend Amanda came in a little over a minute behind me and we went over to get our bowl of goodies.  The bowl included a small package of two cookies, small bag of pretzels, one mini rice krispy treat, a marshmallow and a banana, with a small thing of dipping chocolate.  It also included a cup of hot chocolate. (Note: I am not saying it wasn’t there, because I wasn’t actually looking for it, but I never saw chocolate on the course.)  Turns out I completely missed the water at the finish, so I was out of luck with on that front.  The hot chocolate was good and I dipped the marshmallow and banana.  I gave away the rest because as cute as it all was, it wasn’t my kind of post-race food and I was struggling to hold the bowl and eat, all while shivering.  I was feeling dehydrated and I was beyond freezing cold at that point, so I was happy to meet up with my carpool for the ride home.  Got a cup of coffee, drank like five gallons of water and took a nice hot shower.  Followed it up with some pizza and a nap!

As of my writing this, I still don’t have a race finish photo.  This is a huge gripe, since it was the only photographer out there and I made the effort to look right at the camera.   Turns out, quite a few people are missing them.  They go on and on about free photos, which means nothing to me if you don’t get one.  They keep saying they are “working on it” but I don’t have my hopes up! (Edit: no race photo. They suggested I look through the 118 pages of “lost and found” photos.  No thanks.)

I very rarely post my splits, but I am super proud of how consistent I was throughout the entire race.  I also think it is funny that my last .3 is my slowest time…proof that I didn’t know I didn’t finish…and then didn’t know I did, haha!

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Overall, the race was redeemed by my PR.  The volunteers were plentiful and appreciated, but the race itself was overpriced and their customer service gets a solid F. Between the jacket issue and the lack of a finisher photo…I would NOT recommend this race to anyone.  Mostly because there is a major air of “I don’t care” when they message you back.  I have no interest in supporting a race that treats me like shit.

You want chocolate?  It costs about $2 for a bar at the store!  So not worth it for the price and the ensuing frustrations. But yeah, I got the PR, so there’s that :)\

Next up: Wildwood half-marathon

Have you ever had a really disappointing race?  Were you able to redeem it in any way?

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