DC Hot Chocolate 15K: Run for Swag

The morning started off smoothly. We were awake, in the car and on our way at 5 a.m. – nice n’ early start to the day! With every warning and logistical detail sent via e-mail, we knew the possibility of disaster was unusually high. Leave early, arrive early, stand around in the cold? That plan usually works out great!

Except for the cold thing.

Hot Chocolate 15K Group Before

Hot Chocolate 15K group Shoes

The race was scheduled to start at 8 a.m. (5K start – 7:30), and we got there around 6:20. Note: bundling up your feet is a brilliant idea, just not one that we thought of.

One gal was walking around with plastic bags around her shoes, and we may  have colored her a little crazy. Well, we would soon find out that ventilated shoes (i.e. running shoes), one pair of socks and cold pavement does not do your circulation any favors!

As the 5K-ers started lining up, we noticed they seemed to be pretty lax about the start time and corrals. Um, doesn’t this thing start soon? Why are people just lingering? Why are all these 5K bibs still hanging out up here? Why are my feet so cold?!

Hot Chocolate 15K twenty thousand runners

Their start time kept getting pushed back, and eventually we thought it was time to line up in our own corral (15K was separate). Not quite, but we didn’t know this. Stuffed into the corral and oblivious to how long we’d be standing there, we just snapped a few pictures (see above: thank you, Ivan!), wondered if the 5K had started yet, why we signed up for this,  how much hot chocolate would be left by the time we were done, and what the heck these Race Directors were thinking when they decided to jam 20,000 people into the National Harbor.

Long story, short: we waited over an hour for our race to start. Some people could’ve been done running before we actually even crossed the starting line. Instead, we stood around in race attire, shivering, and had no idea what was going on. Thoughts of speed were dwindling, hunger was showing up to the party, and tense , cold muscles totally stole the show.

It was  past 9 a.m. before we finally shuffled into mile 1 – slowly, but surely.

Time to see what we’ve got left!

My plan was to “keep up with” Kate – keep her in sight, and try to hold on! That lasted for a little over 2 miles before I pulled the reigns a little bit. I held onto what I could do for this day, and reminded the muscles that we were warned of a few hills. Look at those drops, and you’ll know exactly where the ups and downs were hiding.

Hot chocolate 15K splits

There was more crowding here than there was at Marine Corps (which houses 35,000 runners). Some of us went around cones (i.e. into the road) to pass & weave – since the first mile came up .1 mi short, I didn’t care what the Garmin distance read. Just go – just run – just get this over with!

We had a long out and back to get things started, and it could not have been less entertaining. I sang songs in my head, tried to avoid compulsively checking the watch, and tried to do some arithmetic to adjust my goal and see where these splits would land me.

Math is always the best distraction – do something your brain can hardly comprehend while moving, it works every time!

Mile 5, already?! Sweet. Don’t kill me with hills, and we’ll be just fine.

Hot Chocolate 15K Map

The second “half” of the course offered a lot more in terms of scenery – we ran right through the harbor, along the water, and back towards the Start. People were out and supporting, race photographers were suddenly everywhere, and we were shoved onto a sidewalk (always a great plan, with thousands of runners).

On a side note, I have an “unofficial” 10K PR here, by almost three minutes.
Overdue for a 10K tune up? Hand raised…

There one last hill to tackle right before the finish, and stomping on that last timing mat was a sweet victory.

Give me that chocolate! And Gatorade! And a jacket, please.

Hot Chocolate 15K finish
Official Finish Time – 1:07:17, avg 7:14
Age Group (25-29): 30 / 999
We – me, the Garmin, and most of the racers -  think the course was short, though.

The perks? We were given chocolate fondue, hot chocolate with marshmellows & a black wind-breaker jacket. Today, we ran just for the swag. And mimosas.

Hot Chocolate 15K Fondue and DrinkHot Chocolate 15K Group After
Hot Chocolate 15K jackets 2 Hot Chocolate 15K Mimosas

So, what happened? Well other than the Race Directors & RAM Racing poorly planning at a venue that probably shouldn’t ever have 20,000 people in one place at the same time? We’re not totally sure. We’ve received an “apology” e-mail, which was actually just a list of excuses that try to explain the fact that there was “traffic” and supposedly an accident that backed things up (which no one has confirmed with police or traffic reports). Comments have been deleted off of their Facebook page, and people have been blocked. Apparently runners don’t like to be delayed or ignored – case in point: the “Epic Fail” Facebook  creation.

Updated to add: There is more information about the race in an article on the Washington Running Report. I’m not sure where they heard an “enthusiastic DJ”, or that many runners’ spirits stayed high – but they did get the “huddled and shivered and jumped and jiggled to stay warm” part right.

And that’s that. We ran; I beat my goal; I ate chocolate afterward and had a good time with my buddies. And I doubt any of us will do another RAM racing event.

{All photos courtesy of Ivan’s iPhone.}

31 Comments

Filed under DC, pictures, race report, running, weekends

31 Responses to DC Hot Chocolate 15K: Run for Swag

  1. Wow, what a nightmare. But awesome time!!!

  2. You didn’t want to use the butt shot? I’m shocked. :-)
    Also, yes: “And I doubt any of us will do another RAM racing event.”
    Though, the fondue was tasty before it hardened.

  3. This was possibly the most positive recap of the race I’ve read yet. Everyone has done a great job of bashing them over the past few days. Although from what I have gathered, it was a nightmare of an experience.

    Congrats on a speedy race Heather! Way to make the best of things :) Chocolate at the finish line? Yes please.

    • Heather C

      Ha well to be honest, I think it was just a *huge* traffic problem. Probably not entirely the Race Director’s fault, just annoying all around.

  4. Glad you had a good race despite all the craziness!

  5. Wow, you got a lot more marshmallows in your hot chocolate than I did!
    I actually FORGOT my Garmin! (I even got out of bed to charge it the night before) … so I had no idea how far I was behind the clock. I tried to figure the math between mile markers but my brain was failing me :)

    Anyway, I PR’d by over 3 minutes, so there’s that. Glad you seemed to have fun anyway. It was a lot nicer after those first five miles … and the chocolate was delicious!

  6. Jenna Leigh

    You are SO RIGHT about bundling your feet. My toes were numb for the first three miles!

  7. I agree that the course must’ve been short. I kept perfect 10-minute mile pace. It felt like 10-minute-mile pace. My Garmin confirmed that it was perfect 10-minute mile pace. And yet, when the race was done … 9:45-minute-miles? Um … I’ll take it, but not bloody likely! Congrats on a speedy race nonetheless!

  8. That’s is SO annoying!!!! Oh my gosh. I hate standing in the cold waiting for a race to begin. So not fun! It sounds like you had a good race though!! :)

  9. I wondered what the heck everyone was so up in arms about that race! Sorry you froze your tootsies off but it looks like you snagged quite the 10k PR!

  10. oh that is bad planning, but glad you were able to go with the flow and still enjoy it. Looks COLD!

  11. Wow. That is crazy how late the race started and how disorganized! I’d be FAR more grumpy over the whole thing than you were!! PS. holy speedy pants! NICE WORK!!

  12. I think the chocolate would make it all worthwhile – awesome time, too! :)

  13. I really appreciate your honest review. I am pumped you managed to nail it, but I feel bad for people that may have been racing for their first time.

    What fun swag and favors after, that is a def perk.

    Great review, sorry for the s’more of people.

    • This was my friend’s first race, which I encouraged her to do with me! I am really hoping it isn’t her last!! It was definitely the worst race I have ever participated in — it really was as miserable as people said it was. Such a bummer because the hot chocolate concept had so much potential.

      • Heather C

        Ha, yes it did! I actually wore the jacket over my Nike LS shirt today and it was the perfect extra layer – not too heavy, but a good cold/wind-breaker. :) So, at least we got that out of it!

  14. christmas caper 10K. it’s in 2 weeks and i think it costs $8. at haines point. pvtc.org. I’ll be there!

  15. I would have been so discouraged waiting out there in the freezing cold! Seriously, I’m not sure I would have made it. Congrats on achieving your goal, and at least there were some fabulous goodies afterward!

  16. You got marshmallows in your hot chocolate?? Dang, I missed out on those after not arriving to the start until after 9, and then heading back to the car (aka my makeshift gear check for the day) before going up to get chocolate! Sorry you were one of the many stuck outside in the cold. I was in the “fortunate” group of runners stranded on the bridge nervous I would totally miss the race and not be allowed to run. All worked out in the end though!

  17. Let’s hear about your training plans! What did you do to prepare for this race? What are your training tips to cross the finish line faster?

  18. Dang, speedy, nice work! Well, at least you had some hot chocolate and a great time to revel in. Poor race planning is never impressive or expected when that’s these peoples’ entire job/focus! Better luck next year, Ram racing!

  19. Pingback: The Training Plan of No-Plan | Dietitian on the Run

  20. Well I’m glad the swag (and speedy finish time!) were worth it… otherwise, doesn’t sound like the greatest race. :S

    Congrats on the ‘unofficial’ 10K PR and sweeeet 15K!

  21. Epic fail of a race. And I didn’t get marshmallows in my hot chocolate! What the heck! You’re a super fast rockstar though, and all’s well that ends well, right? Luckily I finished so slow that the crowds had definitely thinned out, hahaha. Still, not the best first long-race experience… ah well. I’m still proud! :)

  22. Pingback: RAM Racing Turns to Blogger Relations to Improve Reputation After “Epic Fail” in D.C. « Staying On Track

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