Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K San Francisco

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

This weekend, I found myself in San Francisco for the Hot Chocolate 15K. Last year, I was in SF for the race and weather made it interesting. Interesting enough to where it was only a 5.9 mile race, instead of 15K.

I flew into SF Friday afternoon after adulting Friday morning. I got in around 530 PM and took a Lyft to the South San Francisco Conference Center, the same place where the expo was held last year. It was easy enough to get in, get my bib assigned, pick up my pull over and to search the expo. It was on the smaller side, same as last year. Plenty of local Bay Area races were there, as were supplements, etc. RxBars were there with free (full sized) samples and discount codes (score!). There was an area to try on spare HC15K pull overs and if you wanted to exchange sizes. I ended up going from a medium to a small. I spent 30 min total in the expo before heading off to the hotel.

I spent time at the hotel, got dinner and caught an early night. Saturday morning, I was up bright and early at 630 with no alarm and ended up going for a quick breakfast a small (think 5-10 table) restaurant across from the hotel I had found last year in SF. I ended up going to an Orangetheory Fitness class, coming back to shower and then going down to the Piers. I went around Fisherman’s Warf, The Ferry Building, Ghirardelli Square and watching some street shows while I was at it. After going to church and having dinner, I went and watched some good basketball. I also checked out Athlinks to see who else was running the race and what their goal times were to see if I’d be able to beat them (not competitive at all!).

Sunday morning, I woke up and got ready fairly quickly. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to wear since it was suppose to be 40s-50s, but I opted for long tights and a long sleeved base shirt underneath my Bibrave Tech shirt. I walked over to Union Square and the Westin, where there was a line at 620 for shuttles to Golden Gate Park. I probably waited 20 minutes total to board the bus. At one point, they were calling any 5k runners to get on (since their race started at 720 AM) so they could get to the start in time. My thoughts are it’s not my fault if you can’t time manage. It took 15-20 min to get to the start. After unloading I walked over to gear check and ended up meeting fellow Bibrave Pros Barb and Steph. Steph happened to be pacing the 15 min mile runners

I ended up adding some arm warmers, stopping for a bathroom pitstop and checking my gear before heading to the start. I was in the first corral so it wasn’t that bad of a wait. The 15K had corrals H-N (A-G was the 5K) and were let out ever 30-60 seconds to space things out. Pacers were in each corral, though got confusing because you could get pacers of the same time in different corrals (9 min/miles in H and I corrals for example). Race got started on time and off we went. The first 5K or so was in Golden Gate Park and on paved trails. A little bit of hill, but not anything terrible. after 5K, we headed out along some of the neighborhood roads with the outer portion being the ocean. Only in a coastal city can you say you have to watch for surfers crossing. It was a straight shot out before we U Turned and came back towards the park. After the 10K mark, we had a little bit more along the ocean before cutting back into Golden Gate Park for the last 2 miles and change. I can see why the course got shorten last year, because the winds at minimum would have been rough. The last 5K, my legs were tired and done. Not enough pasta the night before is what I’ll blame it on. Regardless, I ended up finishing in 1:25:51, which was a 4.5 minute PR for me. Too bad my trainer didn’t bet burpees with me.

On course, aid stations were every 1.5-2 miles. Water and Nuun were at every station. Not going to lie, not a nuun fan and wish it were a gatorade or Powerade. Also some sort of chocolate (chips, M&Ms, Marshmallows). Downside to aid station set up was they were only offered on one side of the road. I missed the first two chocolate stations because I couldn’t get over to get them.

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Post race, you were directed from the chutes back to the initial gathering area. Some vendors like Rx Bars, Make A Wish and some other tents. The only down side of the expo was the Gear Check and the Finisher Mugs were completely opposite ends of each other. I feel like I should have done the finisher mug first and then gear check, since gear check was closer to the exits toward the shuttles. Lines were quick for the finisher mugs. Be prepared for bananas, Rice Krispies, pretzels, hot chocolate and chocolate sauce.

Swag: Everyone got a pull over from the expo and then a HC medal post race. Not a fan of the medal this year. Last year, the city was incorporated more on the medal. This year, it was a generic HC medal with a key chain attached. Almost felt like a way to ‘save money’ without personalizing the medals. I’ve done HC races in Minneapolis, Columbus, Seattle and San Francisco and medals were more city specific in years past comparatively speaking

Overall, glad the weather behaved this year.  Had a good time getting a new PR and meeting up with some Bibrave Pros. I was able to compare my time from prior 15ks (whether it be Hot Chocolate Series or other 15Ks) on Athlinks based off what I knew my time from this year to be. I could add my own time, but I’m still waiting for my results from this year to post (hang tight, sometimes it takes a bit for results to show up!). I really wish you’d get a good tour of San Francisco with this race. All I feel like we got was Golden Gate Park and the Ocean. There’s a lot to see in SF that you don’t get to see on this race if you’re coming from out of town. Also wish they’d have Powerade on course and go back to fun medals for each city like they have in the past.

 

Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15K Minneapolis

Disclaimer: I received entry to the Hot Chocolate 15K Minneapolis to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! 

**If you ran the Hot Chocolate 15K Minneapolis, head over here on BiBrave to review it!

This weekend was my first race I ran with entry from BibRave and I couldn’t have asked for better weather! I had the opportunity to run the Hot Chocolate 15K Minneapolis on Saturday. I’ve run 2 previous Hot Chocolate 15Ks (DC in 2011, Columbus last November) and heading into yesterday was batting .500 with good/bad experiences (oh DC).

I flew out from Cleveland Friday morning after presenting Grand Rounds for work. I had a lay over in Chicago and was able to get some food prior to making the trip out to Minneapolis. I headed out and caught my Super Shuttle, which took me to my hotel downtown ($16 compared to a $40 cab). The bonus was that the hotel was right next to the convention center where packet pick up was. I walked over and easily found my way up packet pick up.

Something I like about Hot Chocolate 15Ks is that they send you a link with your registration that brings up your QVC. You save it on your phone (in my case, it was saved in my Passbook since I have an iPhone) and when arrive for bib pick up, they scan it and it pulls up your information. They take a bib and the sticker that is spit out from their computer with your distance (15k vs 5k) and your corral. They send you into the expo to pick up your sweatshirt jacket. Pink for women, green for men (unless your me who isn’t a pink fan, then you order a men’s jacket). I do wish they would come up with another color for the women. Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I like pink.  The expo was small. It had some national vendors (Lara Bars, Bondi Bands i think) and one of the local running stores and a few other stations. They also gave a small hint of what to expect treat wise on course.

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I did some exploration afterwards and found some dinner. Ultimately, I called it a night and set a bajillion alarms on my phone. I did appreciate that the 15K started at 850 AM (which was 950 AM on my Eastern Standard Time body). I woke up around 7 and put on my gear and headed out. I was going to use one of the public bike shares, but I was stopped by another runner who thought I looked like I was doing the race. We ultimately decided to split a cab and were joined by 2 college volunteers. The start was at Boom Island Park, a good 2 miles from where I was staying. We got there with plenty of time to spare, and time to use the bathrooms more than once. Most people who drove in parked on the other side of the river and walked over, others used the bike valet the race had set up.

The 5K runners were sent off first at 810, followed by the 15K runners 40 minutes later. I personally would have done it the other way around just to get the 15K runners enough time to be done. Corrals were sent off every 2 minutes or so. The first little bit was in an industrial park or something along those lines. We got out to the street and had some turns before getting on Marshall Ave. About 1.5 miles in, we had our first water stop with chocolate marshmallows. I should really start carrying those for my long runs, because they do work. We kept chugging along passing mile 2, eventually heading across the Mississippi River. It reminded me of going over the bridges during the NYC Marathon in 2011 and the hills that came with it. After the 5K, more hydration and this time, tootsie rolls (which I passed on). We kept on down Washington Street and really didn’t get to see Minneapolis downtown until 5-6 miles in. I was moving slow for me (my own fault for too much walking the day before, and I have 3 half marathons coming up). Somewhere along the 3rd water stop after mile 5, I had water dumped on me, which was a shock to the system. I definitely enjoyed the view of the city, though I wish I would have been able to run through it. We passed the 10K mark and went out and back along another bridge before heading through some of the park and finally across the bridge back towards the start. We headed down Main St. towards Boom Island park, only to deal with what felt like a ramp with a ginormous hill on dead legs right before mile 8. We did get some fans, especially towards the end. We finally hit Booms Park and the finish, which was appreciated.

After the finish, the 15K runners were met with medals and then had about a 1/4 mile walk to the post race area where people could meet families, Ronald McDonald House had a kid zone, some vendors, and of course, chocolate.

After sitting for a bit, I ended up trucking 2 miles back to my hotel and enjoying a $1 million shower. I took the afternoon to enjoy some baseball (and forgot to translate the start time into CST, meaning I missed the first 2.5 innings). After church and dinner, I chilled out in the hotel before waking up for a 7:25 flight back home.

Overall, it was a decent race, however, I think a few things could be different. I think the big thing is the course/location. With the race being in Boom Island Park, there’s no easy way to get there. For people who drove, they had to park across the Mississippi River and walk over. If you biked, you had a place to leave it at the race. If you had no idea where to go, you either cabbed it over or walked in.  I didn’t really get to see Minneapolis either. I would have opted for an earlier start time and more of a traffic diversion of downtown to see the city and have it easier to get to.  I thought the post race stuff was a bit far from the finish, but there was the space to spread out. More than enough port a potties, water stops and support staff, no issues with safety at all. If you get a chance, run it!

Please don’t forget to go to Bibrave to review the race yourself!

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