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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K

The chocolate-tastic medal
The 2014 Hot Chocolate 15K/5K took place Sunday, November 16 in Columbus, Ohio. Sunday morning was cold: 30 degrees, overcast, and gray.

Trying to stay warm before the race.
Before the race / Logistics / Boring stuff
The event organizers advised participants to arrive by 6:30am to avoid road closures and secure parking in the garage ($5! What a steal!), so we woke up at 5:15. Correction: Alex woke up at 5:15 while I stayed in bed for another 10 minutes. We both had our goodies lined up the night before, so getting ready didn’t take too long. I had my toast and peanut butter and we left the house at 6:15. I thank the Columbus Gods that we live so close to downtown.

Traffic was a little backed up when we arrived to the Arena District, but we were able to get into a garage within 5 to 10 minutes. Alex’s wave started at 7:30 (he was in Group A of Wave 1: aka the fast people), so we stayed in the car until 7:00. It was so cold we both added another layer while waiting in line for a porta-potty. There were so many bathrooms to choose from, we waited only 5 minutes.

Our original plan included checking one bag at gear check (under his number), walking to the start line, watching him take off, and then I’d wander around for 30 minutes until my wave began. What really happened: we shivered and hunkered down, I walked him to the start line so he could keep his fleece on for just a bit longer, I took his fleece and shoved it in the gear check bag, we said goodbye and good luck, he walked away… and I lost him. I could NOT find him! I stood on a wall and searched the A corral to no avail. At this point I was still freezing and had to go to the bathroom. Pro tip: if you run a Hot Chocolate 15k/5k and there are tons of bathrooms, wait until Wave 1 is lined up and you’ll have the pick of the litter! No lines!

A post race photo with different head gear.
His wave started and I began the countdown to my own (8:05). I waited in front of the gear check until 7:50 to strip off my fleece, check our gear, and head to the start line. It spit snow for a bit, but mellowed out. The weather was overcast, it was still hella cold, and I knew it would all be okay once I started running!

What I wore
Even though the temperature was 30, with the clouds it felt cooler so I dressed for 20 degrees. My gear: knee-high socks, running tights, sports bra, double layer tank top (tucked in the bottom layer), long sleeve shirt, 3/4 zip up with thumb holes, gloves, light ear warmer, and a free fleece ear warmer I planned to chuck, but never did because it was so freaking cold. I removed the gloves around mile 4.5 and pushed up my sleeves a bit later.

The race
I was in the H corral, the first group in Wave 2. I was pretty pissed when I first saw Alex and I were in separate waves. After all, the whole point of signing up for the same event was that he wouldn’t have to stand around for 90 minutes waiting for me; he’d be running and collecting swag for at least part of that time. In the end, being in the front of Wave 2 was pretty awesome. Everyone was moderately paced so I didn’t feel rushed.

We set off, weaving through downtown on a gradual 100 ft incline. I couldn’t feel my feet. Seriously, they were numb. I didn’t regain feeling until mile 2. And it felt like there was something stuck to the bottom of my left shoe, so I scraped it along the ground a few times. I knew if I stopped I’d lose my mojo and get cold again, so I kept running. I remember thinking I might trip with my jelly legs, but I didn’t. (Oh yeah! Alex had already finished his race and came to watch me take off. He’s so fast. He finished 49th out of 6,600+ people, 7th in his age group, and he didn't train.)

Mile 1 went pretty fast and we came up to a treat stop around 1.5. A volunteer handed me a heaping handful of giant chocolate chips. I guess I didn’t read the course summary, because I looked at her and said “what is that?!” and she, of course, responded, “chocolate!” Duh! I ate a few, but it was early so I had to toss the others on the ground.

The course and elevation.
I wasn’t surprised when people walked. Wave 1 was out of the way for the first mile or two, but I knew my corral contained at least 50% 5K participants and a lot of 5K people tend to walk after the first mile (at large races like this one). I didn’t have to dodge as much as normal, so again I was thankful for the wave start. When the 5K people split off, I still found myself dodging 15K walkers. To be fair, some of them signed up as walkers and were placed at the tail end of Wave 1, but others were from my corral (or behind) and had sprinted the first two miles, only to walk the rest. It sounds like I’m judging, but really I was thinking, “dang, they have to walk 7 more miles. That's so faaaarrr.”

Official photo!
Running down High Street is a nice overview of Columbus, but meeehhhhh— I’ve lived here for years and downtown to campus runs are played out. Around mile 4 we turned into the Ohio State campus. I think that was after a strawberry marshmallow pit stop. (I didn’t take any other snacks during the run as I had a gel planned for the 10k mark.) There were also plenty of water / Gatorade stops, but I had my water bottle.    

This part of the run was boring. Alex and I participated in a bunch of runs around OSU last year and we live pretty close to campus, so I’m over it. The longest stretch was after the water stop on John Herrick Drive until Fifth Avenue. It was during this concretey / windy stretch I lost a little steam and decided to eat my gel. It was a flavor/brand I’d never had before (Honey Stinger Acai Pomegranate), but it was fine. Everything was fine.

Partial whomp whomp
Here’s the part that was not fine: My GPS. I turned on mile and pace alerts. My miles were off, but that usually happens in a race, so I got over it. By the end it said I’d run 9.6 miles instead of 9.3. I didn’t swing wide and didn’t have to dodge too many people, and according to a few others, the course was long (I wish they’d take that into account in official results, but whatever). The problem was my pace alerts. Apparently, I'd it set to read my overall pace and not split pace. It must have been set like this for the Loveland Half, but because I was so consistent with my speed I didn’t notice. Unfortunately, I ran a few slow miles near the end of this race. I could tell they were slow and easy, but when my pace was announced as 9:47 I was content. HAD I KNOWN I was really running 10:01, 9:59, and 9:58 – dragging down my overall pace – I would have picked it up a bit. So, this is my one regret: setting my pace alerts incorrectly. My goal time was 1:35… but deep down 1:30. I think I could have shaved off at least a minute with accurate pace alerts. C’est la vie!

Back to the run: I texted Alex at mile 8 to prep him for my arrival… then felt like it took a really long time to get to mile marker 9. (It did. I just checked my text message time stamps and there was a twelve minute gap between my messages for miles 8 and 9. Noooope.) I chugged into the final uphill and when it shifted into a downhill towards the finish, I picked up my pace a teeny tiny bit. Alex said I need to work on sprinting in. Well, if I had a ton of energy to sprint in I would consider my run a failure. At this stage in my training, I don’t have that much extra energy to spare. Maybe next year, dude!
Not sprinting into the finish. (Spoiler alert)
I crossed the finish line, collected my medal, and met up with Alex before going to the other side of the park for the chocolate.

Truth bomb: Alex and I signed up for the race for the swag. He ran the 5K, so he didn’t get a medal, but the fleece-lined zip-up (lady version modeled below) and gear bag more than made up for it. In the end, we didn’t feel like there was much swag after the race. Sure, you got a “fondue pot” (plastic, non microwavable), snacks, and hot chocolate, but I suppose we’re spoiled and accustomed to grabbing useful items at the end of a race (head wrap, pens, granola bars, bagels…)– basically not sugar, sugar, sugar. I realize Alex and I are probably in a minority here. We’re not big sugary dessert people.

A selfie with my hoodie (& PJs) the night before
[HEY I just realized we both got shafted out of a hat! I had a promo code for a free hat and the expo girl didn't grab it for us even though our bibs were clearly marked!]

After I ate a portion of my sugar, we headed back to the car… and then went to Panera for soup and HEAT. I took a hot bath when we arrived home and it was luxurious. A little later in the day we went to a bar and got a late brunch (breakfast tacos). A nice little Sunday!

Stats and final thoughts
While I achieved my goal of finishing under 1:35, this was my first 15K and I ran it at my best half marathon pace. I was not as tired as I should have been at the end and I'm sad that my official time online claims my pace was 10:05. In retrospect, I could have trimmed 10 seconds off my goal mile pace. A sign of positive progress: I did much better in this race vs. the Scioto Miles 10 Miler. And let's be real, I'm complaining about my time, but 3-4 months ago I was running 10-11 minute miles during long races and stopping to walk.

Things I've learned: The Loveland Half was my running aha moment. Now that I know I can run 13.1 at a moderate pace, I can't let myself walk. I'm allowed to back off my speed, but as long as I keep running, I'm good to go. Another thing: I may ditch my water bottle on large organized runs. It could be nice to run without the weight, but I do like having control of my water supply, and avoiding pile-ups... we'll see what happens next year.

Final time: 1:34:06
I’m going to use Map My Run here and claim my pace was 9:47/mile. Again, a few friends confirmed the course ran long, but I'm still upset with myself for allowing miles over 9:50.

Mile splits 
1 mi 09:36 min/mi
2 mi 09:48 min/mi
3 mi 09:33 min/mi
4 mi 09:48 min/mi
5 mi 09:44 min/mi
6 mi 10:01 min/mi (booooooo)
7 mi 09:51 min/mi
8 mi 09:59 min/mi (nooooo)
9 mi 09:58 min/mi (whyyyyy)
9.6 mi  09:16 min/mi

Overall:  2,235 / 5,426 (41%)
Female:  1,408/4,063 (34%)
F 30-34:  224/626   (35%)

Up Next
Powell Turkey Trot 4 Miler on Thanksgiving and the Santa Race in Gahanna on December 6. Alex could probably win an overall or age group award in both runs!

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