Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15K Review

Remember on Friday when I said I was worried about the race logistics for a 20,000 person race at such a small venue?

too many people
Hordes of people at the start

Well, everything that could have gone wrong logistically did.

1. The race premiums were sized really wrong. I got a small (my normal size) and ended up having to go up two sizes to a large to get the jacket to fit in the shoulders.

2. Traffic getting to the expo was a nightmare, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the traffic on race morning. My friends and I left really early and got to the site two hours before the race was supposed to start and still sat in traffic for a solid 30 minutes get to the parking lot.

3. The start of the 15K was delayed an hour because of the traffic issues. Not OK, when the directors told us to line up in the corrals and left us waiting there forever, shivering and getting cold and tight.

4. The course was definitely too narrow for all those people.

5. The course was short by at least .15 miles. Not only did Garmin tell me this, but the 5K and the 15K finished at the same point, yet you passed the 9 mile marker very close to the same time as the 3 mile marker. So it was definitely only .1 to the finish after you hit the markers instead of .3.

Despite all the mess with the logistics, I really enjoyed running this race. I have never run a 15K before, so I knew it was going to be an automatic PR. I went into the race with a super laid back attitude and no pressure on myself to run a certain pace.

Hot Chocolate 15K

My friends Meredith and Hannah picked me up bright and early in hopes of avoiding most of the traffic. We got the race site with plenty of time to kill and spent it hanging out in the car and using the porta-potties and finding water.

Hannah, Meredith, Jess

water
Meredith finding some water

Porta-potties were one thing the race did right. There were tons of them. The three times we used them, we didn't have to wait in lines once.

POrta-potties

Once the race eventually started, the beginning of the course was crowded, but not too bad.

beginning of the race

Things started to get a little dicey when I hit the first out and back turn around just past mile 2. We were running on a really busy road/highway that had two lanes blocked off for runners but cars still driving in the far lane. Heading back, both of the runners' lanes were crowded and it made it very tough to find open room to run.

I've done plenty of races where roads haven't been totally closed, so the cars didn't bother me that much, I just wish there had been fewer people so it had been easier to get around.

Once we got to mile five, I knew we were heading into National Harbor, part of the course I was very familiar with since I've run several races there before. I knew where to expect hills and I knew when that crappy gravel path was going to happen. Because of that, I wasn't as caught off guard as other runners heading through these areas.

running

Things got tight again on the gravel path near the water. The path wasn't very wide and with all the people, I thought someone might take an accidental swim. But I still really loved that part of the course because I love running by water. So I tried to stay to away from the edge and enjoy the views as best as I could while watching my footing at the same time.

finishing

I finished with a time of 1:22:46, which works out to slightly more than 9 minute miles (if you assume the course was 9.15 instead of 9.3).

After finishing, I reunited with my friends and we all chowed down on some chocolate.

with our chocolate
Me, Hannah and Meredith

DSC_0099
Me and Stacey

I have to say the chocolate fondue was delicious.

DSC_0105

I just wish we'd been given more apple slices to dip in it.

I highly doubt this race will come back to DC next year. After all the complaints from the runners (check out the comments on the official Facebook page, and once they shut that down, the unofficial group), I can't imagine RAM Racing will bring this back. But if they do, I hope they hold it at a Metro-accessible location, which would definitely alleviate the bulk of their traffic problems.

The race organizers have issued an official apology for the massive fail in race logistics, but it didn't say much, and they didn't do much to fix the situation for the dozens of runners who never even made it to the race because they were stuck in traffic for hours.

I enjoyed the actual running part of this race and of course, the eating chocolate part. But I was so annoyed at the horrible organization and logistics. This wasn't a cheap race to run and I definitely feel like for the money we paid, we all deserved a better experience.

A big thanks to my friend Zach for coming with me, Hannah and Meredith to the race to hold all our stuff and take all the awesome pictures I used in this post!

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