Monday, October 31, 2016

Hot Chocolate 15k (Chicago) Recap

I know what you're thinking...a race recap the day after a race. The world must be ending. And it might be...World Series and election situations and all.

Or I'm just on it with this. So let's get to it. (Don't worry, the last two Europe posts are coming!)

The Hot Chocolate 15k Recap

I don't think I've ever been less prepared for a race than I was for this one! But that's okay because my friend Stef totally had my back.

Lots and lots and lots of people have done this race. When I told people I was doing this race there were many who said they'd done it before and/or were doing it this year...and yeah. This is a crowded race...!

Race "Review"
Overall, it was a good race and well organized, the course was well marked and staffed, etc. I can't speak to the expo or packet pick up because I didn't go - Steffi got my stuff for me but she said she didn't have any problems. Bless her though, it was a McCormick Place packet pick up and I loathe those!

The race itself benefits Ronald McDonald House (woot!) and since this was a fall race the swag was a really nice two-toned paneled hoodie. I was worried it wouldn't be great quality, but after getting it from Stef I was super excited to shower yesterday and put it on after the race. It is definitely warm and comfy! There were a lot of people who wore them for the race, and I'm not sure how because it would have been wayyyy too warm for me.

Logistically the race is pretty well organized for its size. RAM racing does a good job. Like I said up top, there are a ton of people (11,000 for the 15k), and this race has a 5k option which means there are even more people (another 20,000). Of note: only the 15k finishers get a medal! Aside from the start waves (always takes forever), lines were quick and there were tons of them available where necessary (gear pick up, porta potties, post race party) so you never had to wait long.

There are two waves and a ton of corrals (A-T), and rolling starts. Our wave started at 8:15, and we crossed the start 8:37 according to Chronotrack. Since we were in the back of the 15k corrals there were 5k runners and walkers who started with us, which made for a crowded 2.5 miles at the start. We all agreed that those 2.5 miles until the 5k/15k split were the worst because of how crowded it was, and because there were so many walkers taking up the middle of the road. Once the split came there were practically no obstacles.

Nuun is provided on course at the second, third, and fourth are chocolate and marshmallows! You can read more about that below though!

Overall: Good race. It was fun, the crowd was decent. I really gotta say though...I'm over these HUGE races and ready for a "small" half marathon in a couple of weeks! After the Marathon ...I was ready for a "fun" run. 9.3 miles is not a short run, but this was definitely more fun that some other runs I could have picked so I'm glad I did it. It helped get me out of my training funk, and I'm looking forward to my first OFFICIAL 13.1 on November 26th! race experience!

I don't have a ton to say about the day before except that it was busy. I killed my chest, triceps, and abs at the gym lifting weights, and then Anthony and I babysat for his sister's three (very energetic) kids in the evening. We made homemade pizza (my idea...I bet you're all super surprised lol) and I made sure to grab some salad too. Pizza and salad - the race tradition continues!

After that I did the dishes and we watched some of the World Series (GO TRIBE!!!!) and then I promptly fell asleep when we put Hotel Transylvania 2 on for the kiddos. At 11 I woke up and realized I needed to go sleep in a bed, so I told Anthony where to find me, checked to see that the Indians won, and crawled under the covers.

And I slept terribly. Just like I had the two nights before. Great. I woke up completely convinced that the race was going to be awful. I felt pretty tired, and I also felt under-prepared as far as training and logistics were concerned, and both of those things meant my confidence was shot. I told Anthony as we were getting ready, 'This is going to be a tough run. I dunno how it's gonna go.'

He told me that it was a lot shorter than the marathon, and I could do it. Bless him for always being confident for me when I'm not!

Also, bless him for getting up at 5:45 with me and driving downtown for this.

It was chilly and rainy when we left so I dressed in crop leggings and a tank top, and then pulled a light thermal over that since it was supposed to get into the 60s. I also wore my Cleveland Indians sweatshirt (GO TRIBE!!) until we entered our start corral. For hydration, I had my flipbelt with some salt sticks, and a 10oz waterbottle too...more than enough!

It took us around 45 minutes to get downtown, and we snagged $9(!!!!!!!!!!) parking in the Financial District, about 5 blocks from the race, using SpotHero. I cannot praise this app enough. It has been a gem this summer for all the stuff I've gone downtown for since it lets you find, reserve, and pay for parking in advance.

We walked to Buckingham Fountain to meet Steffi, and her sisters joined us shortly after.

Michelle was awesome and bought us all matching German flag headbands, which my ears appreciated (these three lovely ladies grew up in Germany!). See corral pictures below!

We wandered around for a bit before deciding we might as well head to our corral, and when we got there I pulled of my sweatshirt, told Anthony to have a fun few hours, and we lined up to race!
Me, Michelle, Maryann, Steffi
Ready to run!
Annnnnnd forty minutes later we finally started!

We paced as a group, and found something somewhat steady right away. Like I said up top though, the first 2.5 miles were chaos.  It was honestly hard to run in a straight line and we were dodging people all over. I mean, there were SO many people and we ran through Wacker drive which is a very confined area (don't believe me? Go watch that truck chase scene in The Dark Knight!). It got hot down there too, and after the first mile I peeled off my thermal shirt and ran in my tank top until the last mile. Of note: The 5k/15k split is VERY well marked and if you accidentally end up running the wrong race I'd be super surprised.

The split took the 15k group south, and it was really cool because we ended up running the last mile or so of the marathon backwards. It was cool to look down and see the blue line and reminisce on how I felt during that mile on October I could do anything! And it really helped make the third mile FLY by for me!

I also loved that they had hot chocolatey things at the aid stations for this race...after adhering to my nutrition plan so strictly for the marathon, I was ready for some fun food on course. I never thought I'd say something like that, but I was totally feeling it during the race. So at the first aid station I chomped down three oversized chocolate chips and gulped some water. At the second I ate a pink marshmallow (no idea on the flavor) and took the Nuun. At the third it was M&Ms and water, and at the fourth/last it was another (S'mores?) marshmallow and Nuun. It seemed to add to the race experience, so why not?

In all, I honestly felt way better during this run than I thought I would. I haven't done a run this long since the marathon and I thought it would be harder to "find my legs" but I settled into a good pace. Miles 4-6 were my favorite, which is a trend for me with runs this length. I don't know what it is, but I love those miles. Around mile 6.5 it got windy because we turned onto the lake front (which also made it chilly so I put my thermal shirt back on) and there were a few hilly incline parts. I'm happy to say I was able to power up the hills and through the wind with little extra effort...I felt like I was floating! My legs were tired at the end, but even during the hills they didn't burn.

When the finish came and it was pretty clear that we wouldn't all be crossing that line together, I powered up. Once we turned onto Columbus (for the fourth time this season!) I hit the gas and sprinted for the finish (12:00min/mi down to 7:00!). It was an amazing feeling, and my legs felt strong the whole way. Flyyyying! People commented! My lungs were burning, I thought for sure I would trip and sprawl across the course, but I didn't!

Happy finisher!
All done!

All happy to be done!
After the race we found some bottled water - normally there are tons of tables with water available and post race nutrition, but here there weren't, which was odd. So if you're expecting to get all your nomz on right after you finish, you'll be disappointed. We had to go into the post race party in Grant Park to get our finisher mugs which had melted chocolate, a banana, a marshmallow, pirouttes, a rice krispie treate, and pretzels (oh yeah...and hot chocolate!).
Note: not my picture.
We stood around and ate our stuff, then Anthony and I bid the others goodbye to begin the super extra long journey home. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the 1:30 hour+ drive back to my house, but whatever...that's what it is!

I got home, smashed some food, took a shower and planned to lay down on the couch but ended up doing stuff almost all night - including making chicken soup and spätzle for me sick mommy.

At this point it's fun to reflect on where I used to be with running (like back in the day when 12 miles almost killed me) and where I am now. I mean...this distance was actually easy for me yesterday, and aside from my feet hurting a bit - almost time for new shoes! - I didn't have any major struggles with this run. It's gotten me back on track for an 11/26 half and everything! And after a few "solo" races with no planned partners, it was very fun to do this while sticking with a group! Steffi, Michi, and Maryann made great running partners :)

If you ran the Hot Chocolate run yesterday (either the 5 or 15k!) I hope you had fun, and perhaps even an easy run like I had!


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