Race Roundup: Hot Chocolate 15K


Race bib, CTA fun pass & chocolate. Photo courtesy of Shila 🙂

I’m thankful for crazy friends who do ridiculous things with me – like drive to Chicago only to stay there for twenty-four hours so we can run a race…and not just any race, but a 15K.  Oh, they have a 5K option, but we figure that if we are going to drive all the way to Chicago for a race, we might as well make it worth it and be out on the long course.

This was my second time running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago.  Last year we had a blast and decided we were gluttons for punishment and we had to do it again.  Except this time we both failed miserably in training for it – me, for mostly legit reasons (see last post), my friend…well, she at least did more than me.

I registered for the race in August in the middle of a health roller-coaster, during a moment of feeling well.  When I started to feel not as well again, I didn’t train.  Leading up to yesterday’s race I had done three (maybe four) 2 to 2.5 mile runs and one 5k – within the last six months.  Really, that is it.  I’ll have the race roundup post for the 5k I ran two weeks ago in a coming post…I ran it because I thought that I should probably run more than 2 miles in the lastsix months before going to run a 9.3 mile race.

Note to self and others: Do NOT, and I repeat do NOT, just go run a 9.3 mile race when you have run less than half a dozen times in the last six months.   I have run about 10 TOTAL miles in the last six month.  This is not me making excuses, because I am just fine with my time, this is me painting you a picture of reality.  I just figured I would ride off from my past running successes.  It was only 9.3 miles…no biggie.

Off to Chicago we went.

We got an email Friday night or Saturday morning that said the lines to pick up race packets on Friday were unacceptably long and that people were waiting 90+ minutes in line to get their packets…so they tripled the number of stations to pick up race packets. We arrived in Chicago at the home of my awesome friend who agreed to host us and jumped on the train to downtown.  We had to pick up our race packets at the south lot of Soldier Field.  We didn’t realize how far away that was from the closest train stop.  We walked, and walked…and couldn’t find the packet pickup.  We had to ask a couple of people because there wasn’t any signage to direct you to the packet pickup  only a sign or two near the lot to direct cars to park…nothing to direct people walking in from city center.  Not being Chicago residents, it was confusing.

We arrived at the big tent for packet pickup and that’s when we saw it.  The line.  It was HUGE!!  We waited 75 minutes in line OUTSIDE…when the sun was going down (last year…10 minutes, inside).  I was grateful I wore my ski jacket.

It took just a couple minutes to pick up our packet and be out of there once we got inside.  We made the trek back to the train stop, headed to my friend’s house where we ate, hung out (they were lovely hosts!) and went to sleep.

We got up crazy early, thankful for the end of daylight savings and for the extra hour of sleep, hopped on the train and headed to the starting line which was much closer to public transport.  We checked our gear easily and went to our starting corrals.  I was in “D” and my friend in “F.”  We now just had to wait…they spaced the corrals out by waiting 3 minutes and 30 seconds between each to reduce some congestion…probably a good idea because the start was still slow.

Finally it was go time for corral D.  The course was significantly changed from last year…and I wasn’t a fan of it.  The first 5k was alright but then the rest was not at all awesome.  It seemed we went through industrial Chicago and then we went up the lakeshore path – which was okay, but not very scenic at this time of year.  Last year the course went through the city.  I understand that it requires more road closures…but its no fun running a 15K when there is almost no one out there to cheer you on for over half the course when you are out in the middle of nowhere.  Last year running through the city and by homes and apartments people came out and were cheering for the runners…which is so. much. better.

Personally – I felt pretty decent for the first 10K.  The first mile was slow with the start, but then I started clicking off pretty consistent 8:45 miles…until I was in the middle of the wilderness it seemed, and I couldn’t find a new song to replace the one chorus that has been running through my head for four miles.  And then, I had to go.  You know…I had to go.  So just before mile 7 there were port-a-johns…I didn’t really care about my time all that much and I certainly wasn’t going to play chicken with my body – so I stopped for 2 minutes and 43 seconds.

I should also mention that over the past 8 or so months I have had problems with my left bum and upper hamstring….sciatic problems when I run and particularly when I run up an incline.  I could feel it nagging at me the whole race…but after my little pit stop the course started to pick up a few more rolling hills from pedestrian walk ways and such…and my problem area began to scream at me.  My last two and a quarter or so miles were really awful…I hurt a lot.  I had to take the uphills slowly to minimize the pain…if only I could have stopped at the 10K mark.  That would have been the perfect distance.  I finished anyway.  My overall time of an hour twenty-seven plus change was actually an hour and twenty four minutes and thirty seconds when I take out my bathroom break.  Overall pace was 9:22 but when you take out the bathroom break time I have an overall pace of 9:04.  I can’t complain…I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in six months.  I’ll take it.

Then came the post race food…the whole reason we even make the trek to Chicago.  It was delicious as expected BUT two things hampered a great review from this gal.  One: while they gave us a good amount of fondue I don’t think they gave us enough stuff to dip in our chocolate.  Last year they gave more, and even let us take a few extra pieces if we wanted.  The second was that we didn’t get whipped cream in our hot chocolate like last year.  I felt jipped.  Oh, and at the end of the race last year they were giving out chocolate squares left and right.  They gave me one this time.  And it was smaller.

Did I still have fun?  Yes.  And the sweatshirt we got in our goodie bag fits great and is nice – definitely a score.  I like that we get decent stuff for the price we pay.  Will we do the race again next year? It’s still up in the air.  It is still a fun race, but it wasn’t quite as awesome as I expected based on last year’s experience.  It seemed last year was more chill…I missed that vibe this year from the race.  Maybe we’ll try to find another Chicago race with an awesome goodie bag…any suggestions?


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