Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Hot Chocolate 15k...there was NOTHING hot about it...

Normally I go into most races with some level of anticipation or agitation (um, have you met me or have you read this blog?) but this was an event that came up that seemed to be one of those just "neat" things to do. I don't know of many 15k's, it was in DC (hello, I love DC) and it was sponsored by Ghirardelli (um, hello I love chocolate even MORE!). So, kind of a no brainer. Fly down, have a great race, take in some sights, easy right? Um, NO!

We can start with packet pickup. I had no idea where the National Harbor was. Its about a 30min cab ride from the airport is how far. Holy moly, in the middle of nowhere much?! J and I finally get into the packet pick up tent to get our numbers and jackets. Yes, instead of your run of the mill cotton tee or a performance tee, this race offered water/wind proof running jackets as your schwag. I have to admit...THAT is great race schwag. Now we were told if we registered early, we'd get our names on the race numbers and if you could provide proof of times from prior races you could actually qualify to be placed in specific corrals (which would also be on the race number). I submitted my time from the Army Ten Miler which qualified me to be in high corral AND I received an e-mail from the race that my time qualified me to be in placed in Corral A. Sweet! I pull my race number from the packet...no name and not the corral I was told I was in. Ugh. Okay, I head over to the "customer service" table with my number and I was greeted by a peppy young girl who before I could open my mouth asked "and what corral do you want to be in?". Really? We're just willy-nilly sticking anyone in corrals because they want to be now? Crapballs! Ok, well I figure most people won't be in A because they would be concerned about being up front and I had Coral O on my bib so slap that "A" on there lady. Quick walk through the "expo", and I say "expo" with the quotes because it was really 6 tables of discounted gear for sale and an area to buy Hot Chocolate branded clothing, and back to where we're staying. Time to focus on having a good carb load meal, getting off the legs and getting some rest.

The crew pre-race trying to stay warm
Race morning meant getting to Crystal City to hop on a bus out to the venue. You'd think the driver would know where to take us right? RIGHT? Wrong! The bus driver, driving a chartered bus the size of a city metro bus, didn't get lost once...but TWICE on the way to the race start! Ever seen a bus that big trying to make a u-turn? It is not pretty my friends, not fun either. It got to the point where the local area folks that were sitting up front were telling the driver how to get the race venue. Something in me should've thought this would foreshadowed the day's events but I sat and continued to sip water and stay hydrated and more importantly enjoy the warmth. Oh ya, I guess I forgot to mention that while it was a balmy low 50's day on Friday, it plunged down into the 30's on race day. Just outfreakingstanding! The bus finally arrives at the drop off point and we walk up to the staging area. Now, there are tents that are heated where people are setting up hot chocolate and the food for after...but nothing for the ten thousand people showing up to race. We're all just forced to stand in this open parking lot freezing out butts off. One highlight was finally getting to meet one of my fav Twitter buds Bo and in turn also met Mary and Elyssa. Misery loves company and we were providing each other ALOT of company.

For some reason the race decided it would be better to start and end the 5k before they STARTED the 15k. So, after sitting around all morning shivering in the cold...we got to do it for ANOTHER 30 minutes AFTER being put in our corrals, waiting for the 5k to finish. Honestly, by this point most of us were so mad we were warm from the anger! And the whole time the announcer keeps saying how we can bathe in chocolate when we're done because there's so much of it...so that's worth the wait (more on that little crock of crap later in the old blog).

Well, at least I look fast
Finally we hear the gun and we're off. Within the 1st 1/8th of a mile the course is already turning back on itself on our way to not one but 4 turns to retrace our run in order to get the 15k mileage. Look, long distance runs are boring by nature but when it's over the same run course over and over again...during a race no less..count me out. Oh and this race just gets better. My favorite part was coming up on the first water station to volunteers pointing to and yelling "water/Gatorade on the table" as they sat on the side of the road!

To be honest it didn't get much better for the rest of the race. Most of the race entailed running down hills to then turn around and run right back up them. The best part was the turn around that happened in a gravel parking lot in the middle of nowhere...ya, good times.

Ok, crossed the finish in 66:23 averaging a 7:08 pace. Not bad I guess. I would've liked to be faster but to be honest, at mile 3 or 4 I just wanted the race over so I bit down and pushed through. I mean this blog was gonna be named "fueled by anger" afterall.

Once again, I did not put together a "smooth race" bouncing around with 7:16, 6:54, 7:04, 7:19, 7:37, 7:02, 7:32, 7:12 and 7:36 for my mile splits which ended up giving me a 7:08 overall pace. I attribute most of that to the terrain. The course was just never flat long enough for me to get into any kind of rhythm. So, race done, linked up with the crew and headed to the much sought after chocolate. Another disappointment. Not only did we not get unlimited chocolate as promised (a small plate of a pretzel stick, a marshmallow, a little rice crispie square, 3 pieces of apple and a small cup of hot chocolate was all we got) but we were herded by megaphone wielding people telling us to "not stop and gather" and "keep moving". Really? We just got done running a poorly executed race while you stood around and now we can't even enjoy the after race party?!

Goodbyes said it was time to get back to where we're we staying. The shuttles to get back had a line with a 2 1/2 hour wait and DC suspended bus service to the area so the only way back was $40+ cab ride back to Georgetown. Just so you know it's not just me, you can find articles about the race here and here. It was so bad it made the D.C. press! As of yet the organizers haven't offered a refund or taken responsibility for a terrible event (oh ya, I forgot to mention that traffic and organization of the event were so bad that even starting an hour late some people were still stuck in traffic and unable to make it to the start!). I'm up to try another 15k race but it will never be by one sponsored by Running Away Multisport (ironic name I know).


  1. Ha! Fueled by Anger! Ha!

  2. We have a great 15k in Nashville at the end of September/beginning of October that I run every year. It's small, flat, cheap registration, run by a local running group, and has a great charity aspect. http://www.casa-nashville.org/ShelbyBottomsBoogieforCASA.htm So if you guys want to come down to visit, we've got one for you.

  3. Doug - That was gonna be the name of my blog but that name was taken!

    Kelly - I'm going to have to check that out now. I do love me some Nashville.

  4. never trust a race that is sponsored by people who make you fat

  5. Yikes! Great review of an apparently lousy race!