My fellow runners have probably heard of the Hot Chocolate race series. Held in different cities around the US each year, this race has the reputation for the best race swag and post race treats of them all. I follow them on facebook thinking one day I’ll do a race-cation to one of their destinations. As fate would have it, 2018 would be the first year Hot Chocolate comes to Houston! Training for princess, this race would be another great training run which seemed fun and hello post race hot chocolate and chocolate fondue! I signed up and tried to get some ladies in my neighborhood to join in. They had other plans but of course my running buddy Amy couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a race with chocolate!
The longest race distance for this event was the 15k which is 9.3 miles. For our training we needed to do 10 miles that weekend but 9.3 would work just fine. We decided to use this run for a pacers for the half. As I’ve mentioned in previous race recaps, Amy is faster than me but this time she’s pregnant! Doctor’s orders are for her to take running at an easy pace, enter me 🙂 I get to be her pacer bunny to make sure she doesn’t over exert herself. No problem there, I can take things nice an easy!
Its the Friday before the race and time to pick up packets and goodie bags. I work downtown so I offered to pick up our items since the expo was going to be at Minute Maid Park (about 10 blocks from my office). I headed to the expo opening day and the process could not have been easier. You are sent a QRC code which volunteers scan once you enter. There they give you a bib and your corral is assigned. Amy and I didn’t submit a proof of time with our estimated finish time and were assigned corral C. Once I got my bib I headed to the back of the expo to pick up the swag. Compared to a runDisney expo this thing is TINY. There were maybe 10 vendors there, the only one I stopped to check out was Nuun and that was because they had samples and I was thirsty. At the end of the vendors was where you picked up your quarter zip jacket, hat and safety pins. All of it is given to you in a pretty thick plastic drawstring bag and you are all done. There was hardly anyone else there so getting in and out took less than 10 minutes and I was so happy!
Saturday, Amy and I decided to have another craft day / running sleep-over to finish our costumes for the Princess 5k where the 3 of us (Amy, Ali, and I) would be the fairies from Sleeping Beauty. Putting the finishing touches on the costumes and matching skirts for the day we then took a decent bedtime and prepared for a 5:00am wake-up call. Out the door by 5:30am we made it to the holding area by 6:45am. The logistics of parking were a little weird since I was driving my car and JP (Amy’s husband) was dropping Amy and I off closer to the start line. It all worked out just fine though and we had plenty of time to go the port-a-potties and get a good position in our corral. 7:15am was the start of the 5k and 7:50 was the start of the 15k. Since this was the first year for the race there weren’t a crazy amount of people and we were maybe 75 people away from the front even though we were in corral C. Let’s get this hot chocolate party started!
There are a few logistics issues I need to address and we have come to the first two. #1 – why start the shorter distance first? The 5k started before the 15k and shared a course. All other races I’ve done the longest distance goes first so you spend the least amount of time with road closures. This seemed really backwards to Amy and me. #2 – the port-a-potties ran out of toilet paper. Yup, that’s right, the race has not even started yet and almost every single port-a-potty had no toilet paper. Now, look, there really is no excuse to not have enough toilet paper. My bigger problem with this is, the race HASN’T EVEN STARTED. No one had finished yet. Can you imagine the pissed off runners when they find out post race there is no toilet paper! The good news is Amy said the port-a-potty she used on the course had toilet paper, but that really doesn’t excuse the issue at the start/finish line.
After the potty debacle we are in the corral and right on time the race starts at 7:50am. We set off at a nice and easy pace and made our way through the course. For the most part this is the same course as almost every other Houston race uses. Its pretty boring, relatively hilly for Houston but pretty easy. It was humid that morning due to heavy rain the day before and the temps were climbing into the 70’s. We both are feeling sluggish, me due to jet-lag from being in Iceland the week before and Amy due to pregnancy. JP planned to see us several spots on the course as the route made it easy for him to hop across the street and see us at least 4 times. That was a great energy boost for Amy and convenient for me as the second time we saw him I passed on my water bottle. I had brought my water bottle with me because Houston races in the past have not had hydration at intervals that worked for me in the humidity. Unfortunately this water bottle decided to leak all over my had and was driving me insane. I made the poor choice to give away the bottle too early in the race and definitely paid for it later.
real life moment, we clearly didn’t know there was a photographer and you can clearly see just how exhausted we both really are…well mostly me and my bright red face.
We now come to the final issue of the race. Not enough water stops. In Houston, this is a big deal. For January it was hot and the humidity was high. Total there were 4 water stops on the course and for 9 miles that should technically be enough but it really wasn’t. The first two water stops were about 2.5 miles apart, which on a day like we had was too far apart. Amy and I both were feeling the effects of dehydration by the second water stop. Luckily the on-course beverage was Nuun and that does a great job of hydration. We both took two cups of that at the first stop and every stop after.
One of the things I really liked about the course was at each aide station they had treats! If I remember correctly
- 1st stop – chocolate pieces (skipped)
- 2nd stop – Gummy bears (enjoyed)
- 3rd stop – M&M’s (Amy enjoyed I skipped)
- 4th stop – chocolate marshmallows (skipped)
While we didn’t take part in all of the treats, it was a nice change from most races to be sure. I did enjoy those gummy bears! Around mile 6 we both were feeling the effects of lack of nutrition and hydration. we started slowing down and my foot started to really hurt. I had been having issues with my foot for about a week now and was worried it was a stress fracture. Once we got to mile almost 8 I had to stop my foot was hurting so bad. Amy was having issues with her hamstring and couldn’t really stop because of her pain. We were a hot mess let me tell you! By this time we were close enough to the finish I knew we were going to power through but it was not pretty. Pain and heat were our friends today and there was nothing we would have liked more than a quick break up! Across the finish line we were given bottles of water and Nuun tablets. We both took them and Amy made the smart move to ask for extra Nuun. Once we got our amazing medals we were off to get our hot chocolate. Our final clock time was 1:50:18 for an overall pace of 11:50. Not bad but definitely not our best.
O…M…G…that hot chocolate cup! It had a cup of hot chocolate in the middle, a banana, chocolate fondue, biscoff cookie, oreos, pretzels, and a rice krispy treat!!! Some post race pictures of our swag and the cute little marshmallow blow up they had. After that Amy and I drank our hot chocolate as we made our way over to where JP was picking us up. In the car I had my banana and chocolate fondue and it was divine. This melted away all the problems I had with the race it was so good. Ok, maybe not the toilet paper issue but all the other ones 😉
Post race, I got back to my car and we had brunch at weights and measures. Its a cute little spot in Midtown that I knew the gang would love. I had the breakfast pizza and it was a thing of beauty! I also asked them to make me a special brunch drink, elderflower + champagne + lemon juice. It was delicious. Im on a big elderflower kick right now and it was just what I needed after a hard run. Post brunch we parted ways so we could all go home, shower, and take nice long naps!
Overall I did enjoy this race. Knowing it was the first year there are bound to be logistical issues. Luckily they did send out a survey which I did complete. I think I will do this race again since its local, in January, a good distance and overall a fun race. Oh and its not too expensive either, definitely less than $80 which for me is super cheap. Looking back at this race compared to the Walt Disney World half marathon its extremely apparent to me that weather and humidity play a huge part in my racing. I personally don’t know how to combat these issues yet but you can bet 2018 I will be working on helping my body deal with heat exhaustion.
CHIME IN!!! Have you participated in a Hot Chocolate weekend? What are your tricks to deal with heat/humidity? Do you run races just for the swag?