Hot Chocolate 15K – Columbus, OH (November 18, 2012)
Race: Hot Chocolate 15K/5K
Place: Columbus, Ohio
Date: November 18, 2012
There is just something about running for chocolate, I guess, that makes me move faster than I ever imagined possible. That seems to be my mojo when it comes to races that involve chocolate. Honestly. The last two races I have run that have involved some sort of chocolate at the end have turned out my fastest times yet. I think I see a pattern, yes?
But, once again, I am getting ahead of myself.
I was so excited to see a race on a weekend that I was going to be in Columbus, Ohio. Nevermind that I was going to be about two hours away the night before seeing a concert. Why take that into consideration? After all…this was the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K race. Hot chocolate. You get hot chocolate and chocolate fondu with goodies at the end. Seriously!! It came down to which distance I wanted to do that day. In the end…I chose the 15K.
Packet pick-up was held on Friday and Saturday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. We went down there Saturday morning…and after getting lost in a sea of ballroom gowns and dancers, we finally found the small expo where I could get my number and my goodie bag. The swag for this one was cool…a windbreaker. I was pretty excited to be getting a jacket instead of a shirt. However, in the end, Cathy purchased a long-sleeve tech shirt for me too. And I love it. After that…it was off to run a few errands, go back to Jenn’s, get ready to leave for Cleveland, meet up with friends for dinner, enjoy a concert…and drive back that night. The following morning…I would run. It occurred to me that choosing to do this race might not have been the best idea I ever had. But, I was committed to it now.
It was really early on Sunday morning and I was at my friend Jenn’s house. While I often wake up at 5:40 a.m. (or earlier) for races, this one was difficult to get up for. Why? Because I had been up in Cleveland, Ohio the night before at The Monkees concert. The drive back to Columbus got us back to Jenn’s by around 1:30 a.m. or so. We all immediately got ready for bed and it was near 2:00 a.m. when that happened. A couple hours of sleep and my cell phone blared my GO RUN! alarm. I was out of bed, shambling toward the bathroom with my race day clothes and talking myself into actually going. I love to race, but I was dead on my feet and I knew it was a cold morning. Sometimes it’s hard to get started when those are your conditions.
But…I managed. Made my way downstairs to eat the cereal I brought with me and get the race bag packed up and ready to go. I made sure that Cathy had a Luna Bar to eat while I ran. Just cereal for breakfast is not an option. I grabbed my Smart Water from the fridge and began to just get a few things together while sipping some water to make sure I was hydrated…without drinking too much. I am a princess…and the thought of having to use a port-a-pottie is not a pleasant one for me. Jenn made it downstairs…had a light breakfast as well and got a few things together. I went to brush my teeth then get my bib number pinned onto my front.
The big debate now came. Do I bring the hydration belt or not? This was actually my first 15K distance race. I have pretty much covered everything else under a half marathon distance. It would be 9.3 miles when all was said and done. I know I’ve run that far without my hydration belt before, but it was cold…and I still have yet to get that thing to sit right on my waist so it doesn’t bounce and try to move around to the front. In the end…I left it behind this time and said I’d just make use of the water stops. There were four of them along the course, so I wouldn’t have to worry about becoming dehydrated. When the weather turns cold, that can be a major problem as most runners won’t even realize that they are dehydrated.
With all that said and done…we shambled out into the cold morning to get in the car and make our way downtown to the Hot Chocolate 15K. We expected this to be an easy commute…and for the most part…it was. That is until we got near the race area. Then…then it got a little congested. Lights would change and lanes wouldn’t move. We knew where we wanted to park but it literally took forever to get there. It was 7:20 a.m. when we finally got to the parking garage and I was already eating my pre-race banana. Yes. In the car.
We parked and began to make our way up the stairs of the parking garage to the street level. We got there just in time to see a wave of runners take off. Ah…the 5K was off and running already. Sure enough…it was past 7:30 a.m. and their race was now starting. We stepped outside so Cathy could snap some pictures and we cheered for the last few waves to go through the start gate. We laughed at a couple of the costumes being worn by some of the runners. With the 5K off and running, RAM Racing (the peeps putting on the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K) began to get set up to send the 15K runners off.
I didn’t have much time to get accustomed to the chill of the air…or stretch. So as they began to put someone in place to hold the Corral G (my corral and the one that lead off the race) sign, I did a few important stretches to get my muscles a little warm. I gave Jenn a hug and she sent me off with the traditional (and lucky) blessing of “Don’t pants your poop! The power of Dean [Karnazes] compels you!” I love Jenn!! She always makes me laugh and can take the pressure and tension out of any situation with a simple phrase. Cathy and I went toward where they were loading runners into Corral G. She gave me a hug, took my warm fleece jacket from me, and told me to have fun and assured me that I was going to do great. Cathy is awesome like that. Even when I have doubts she makes it seem like this will be an easy run…just like training…just like a fun run. No pressure. Just go out and do what I love. I honestly have some of the best peeps cheering for me. Seriously.
The announcer at the start line was thankfully energetic and getting runners pumped up. I actually needed that. But as I hit the button on my Garmin to begin finding satellites, I was already starting to get excited for the run. It’s hard not to when you have the energy of other racers around you. Despite being chilly, it was a beautiful, sunny day in Columbus. So, it would be a good run. Actually, the temperature was a few degrees warmer than originally predicted. I felt a bit overdressed in my long sleeve tech shirt with my running jacket over it. In fact, I figured I was probably going to get too warm in it. But…too late to change any of that.
The 8:00 a.m. start time crept closer and we soon had a countdown to go-time. I started my iPod when it reached the 15 second mark. And then…the horn sounded and we were off. I passed Jenn and Cathy on the way through the Start gate, just after starting (and again, stopping…stupid gloves!) my Garmin. I flashed a smile and a peace sign…and I was off. And I restarted my Garmin a few steps down the way.
The first 5K of the race was spent running the length of North High Street. This was a great stretch to run. Only a few minor inclines…but mostly flat. I hit the first mile marker and noticed the clock time was showing a fantastic, but fast, pace for me. I thought to slow down, but my legs were feeling good and the cool weather was definitely assisting. The first mile marker also was where the 5K run turned off of High Street. The 15K runners were to continue on. And I did. Mile 2 flew by just as fast, again, the clock showing a better time than I was used to. Mile 3 was next…and at the 5K mark, I had managed to clock my fastest 5K time to date (which doesn’t count as this is not a 5K race…but hitting 5K in 24:07 was an awesome feeling). Yeah…I may have been tired and running on fatigued legs…but this race was agreeing with me. I only worried that perhaps I was going out too fast. I tend to do that at races and then I fade at the end. Soon after the 5K line we began to wind and twist through small roads near and around The Ohio State campus. Yeah. There were quite a few turns made coming into Mile 4.
Just after Mile 4, I decided to make use of the water stop. I ran past the Gatorade pushers and to where water was being handed out. I managed to work my way toward the back and snag a cup (no easy task in knit gloves). I sipped from it and then tossed the rest of it. I just needed a little and I was back on the path and running. The clock on Mile 5 was a bit screwed up, so I stopped paying attention to them after that. I tend to do better when I run and not pay attention to my time. Takes the pressure off. Miles 5 and 6 ticked off in no time and I hit the 10K marker with my fastest 10K time to date as well (again…it wasn’t in an official 10K race…so no points for it…but hitting 10K with a time of 48:25 was thrilling!). I made use of the water stop here as well, taking another few sips of water before continuing on.
All I had left ahead of me was a 5K race.
The last bit of the race always seems the longest. I don’t know why. But, I was going to make this happen. Mile 7 and Mile 8 were flat and easy. I bypassed the water stop there, but got caught up in the crowd. And then…somewhere just at the start of Mile 9…we get a hill. Yeah. That’s just evil. So, I push myself up the hill and just continue on. I know I’m getting close because I’m running past the convention center. I can hear announcements being made. I round another corner and there it is…the Finish. I can see runners going through and I pick up my pace as much as I can. We all know that I am not a sprinter…so my finishes are never with a flourish of speed…but I do try to push harder at the end. I passed by the DJ that was keeping the crowds going and the runners encouraged near the finish and blew on through, catching sight of Cathy and Jenn on the side, waving my sign and cheering.
It felt great. I paused my Garmin and walked over to where they were standing. Cathy told me to make my way through the recovery area and meet them near the booths where they were handing out the Finisher’s Mug (yes…mug). I managed to weave through other finishers and find them in the recovery area. I tore the tag off the bottom of my race bib and went to retrieve my Finisher’s Mug. I was handed a giant plastic mug that had hot chocolate in a cup in the middle, a well filled with fondu chocolate. A full banana, a marshmallow, two vanilla wafer cookies, a Rice Krispie treat, and a square of chocolate. Oh yes…I do love running for chocolate.
However, given my food allergies…I enjoyed the banana dipped in chocolate and the chocolate square. I let Cathy and Jenn split the rest, which they happily did. And they let me finish using the dipping chocolate first so there would be no cross-contamination. My friends are awesome. With our bellies happy and full of chocolate, we decided to call it a race well-run and return to Jenn’s so I could shower and we could think about heading out to grab a bite at P.F. Chang’s.
I would totally run in another Hot Chocolate 15K race in a heartbeat. SO much fun. If one comes to your area, I highly encourage you to sign up for it or the 5K and run for some chocolate goodness. It’s fun. I promise!
Official results of the Hot Chocolate 15K are that I finished it in 1:13:28! That is now my benchmark for a PR in a 15K. So when I run the Boilermaker in Utica, New York this coming July…I know what I’m aiming to beat. I was 312/3021 overall; 129/2234 women; 24/347 in my division. Do you even know how awesome those stats sound to me. I am still surprised I could run that fast and that much on so little sleep and very tired legs.
Running for chocolate is always a good incentive to run. I just seem to run faster when it’s involved. Really had a great time at this race and was so glad that I did choose to run in it, even with the logistical nightmare of everything that came before it. I hope Columbus hosts it again next year because I’d love to come out and do it again!