Race Review: Hot Chocolate 15k, Columbus, OH

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate Run, Columbus, OH 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!

Over the past few years, I have heard some of my running friends, both locally and through Twitter talk about how much they liked the Hot Chocolate Run.  Up until this year, I had been hesitant to run it because to me, it seemed like another one of those themed races that I am just not a fan of.  My perception has changed on the Hot Chocolate run, more on that later.

Ideally, I would have ran in the Chicago Hot Chocolate Race but it didn’t workout well with my schedule as it ended up being 6 days before the Monumental Marathon.  While driving to Columbus is over doubled the distance from home than Chicago, my wife has family north of Columbus (Findlay) that we could visit and stay with, so that worked out very well for us.

We left our home in northern Indiana Friday evening and drove to Findlay.  When we left home, it was 70 degrees, when I woke up the next morning to go to the expo, it was in the 30s and it wasn’t going to get much warmer the whole weekend. I left the house roughly at around 8:30 to head to the expo. The expo opened at 9:00 and I arrived probably around 10:00.  The expo also opened on Friday from noon until 6:00. With not knowing the Columbus area at all, I made finding parking more difficult than it should have been but the construction to the convention center didn’t help any.

While there were other events going on at the convention center, the Hot Chocolate run did have appropriate signage pointing you in the right direction to the race expo.  And who could miss this???

Packet pickup was quick and easy.  You just needed to show them your confirmation email.  You actually didn’t have a bib number before arriving, they just printed your name on a label, stick the label on the bib, scan it all in and you have your bib. 

After getting your bib you made your way over to the tables to pick up your race hooded jacket.  This is a pretty sweet jacket, nice and thick.  Keeps you read warm.  If your jacket didn’t fit right, there was an area to exchange it.  The one thing about the jackets that was kind of disappointing is that they are not city specific.  But can’t blame them for that.  I imagine it’s a lot easier to sell later if it doesn’t have specific cities on the leftover jackets.

The rest of the expo did have some other vendors but honestly, not much I was too interested in.  I did make a stop to pick up some free chocolate treats as well as look at the Hot Chocolate Merchandise but managed to leave the expo without spending any extra money.

Following the expo, I went for a pre-race shake out run.  I wanted to make sure I knew where the start/finish line was and where I would be parking so I made it a point to run in that direction.  I was able to find that area and ran a little over 2 miles doing so and called it good. Decided at that point to get back in the car and head back to Findlay.

Race morning greeted us with cold temperatures as expected with wind gusts up to 40 miles an hour.  This caused the race to make some changes to the signage used on the course including the starting line. My understanding is that they have an inflatable arch thing that is typically at the start, but due to the winds, they weren’t able to use it.  They also stated that larger signs which are typically on the course would be replaced by smaller signs.  Even so, the course was very well marked as were every mile.

I arrived at the parking garage way earlier than I needed to, but from reading reviews from last years race on BibRave.com, I heard traffic can be a nightmare and could cause delays on race morning and I really didn’t want to deal with it.  So I just spent a lot of time in my car keeping warm until about 6:30 when I went out to do my warm up. I did a mile and really didn’t feel like I had warmed up any.

At about 7:00 I made my way down to gear check, which was located right. Y the start line.  At this point, I had already made up my mind that I would wear a long sleeve shirt under my singlet but was still somewhat second guessing the decision, but I went with it. I did though decide to wear shorts. Lucky for me, I brought along a heat sheet from a past marathon to help keep me warm in the corral up until the start of the race (I always keep my heat sheets for this reason).

My goal for this race was to originally run under 1 hour.  with a combination of just running a marathon 15 days earlier and the wind speeds, I knew this would be tough but would still go for it.  I would have to run around a 6:25 pace.  I just wanted to start off easy and go after it late with the wind to my back towards the end.

Following a few race announcements and the National Anthem, the race began at 7:30.  The A corral was started first, B corral started a couple minutes later, followed by Corral C, corral D and so on. The second wave started at 7:30. This is the system of starting that all RAM races use.

The course starts in down town Columbus by the Nationwide Center (I think a hockey team plays there, but I hate hockey so I really have no idea) and went along the river for about th first mile. On a better day, I would believe this would be a great view, but it was so overcast and with the race starting at 7:30, it was still not to bright out.  The first mile seemed to come to an end fairly quickly but accurately.  The first mile was in 6:34.  Not at the goal pace but that was about the start that I wanted.  After a couple of turns, we started to head north on High Street which we would run on until about 4.5 miles. While it was nice to run straight for a while, unfortunately it was against the wind.  This was also the section with quiet a few hills on it.  Mile 2 was a bit faster at 6:31.  Still not looking to panic, just keeping my pace, and ran a 6:34 mile for mile 3.  I crossed the 5K timing mat in 20:07, so just 7 seconds off my goal pace.  Not a bad way to start.  Mile 3 was also the point where we entered the Ohio State Campus.

Mile 4 was a long stretch of uphill running, but the times stayed consistent.  I was also starting to move my way up by passing runners. Mile 4 was a little faster than the one prior in 6:32. Mile At around mile 4.5 we took a left turn heading west, still into the North West wind.  But also at mile 4.5, we started heading down hill for the remainder of the 5th mile.  Mile 5 was run in 6:48.  This would end up being my slowest mile of the race.  Finally at about 5.25 miles, we were running south with the wind to our backs.  Sweet relief! At this point, looking to our left and a little up ahead, you could see the football stadium.  It was a little ways off from the road we were running on so we didn’t get a great view of it.

I could notice a huge difference right after the at left hand turn and starting to go south.  We were also running a slight down hill as well which helped me bounce back to running a 6:31 mile.  Not to be out done, I ran mile 7 in 6:21.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hang on to the 6:21 pace as my legs were starting to feel the effects of the marathon I ran 15 days before.  But remember, I had already ran my slowest mile on the day back on mile 5.  Mile 8 was ran in 6:31.Still not a bad mile.  Mile 8 is the only mile where I had runners pass me since probably mile 3.  I had 3 runners pass me during this mile. I did take a quick peek behind me to see if anyone else was coming. Looked like the next runner was well back.     

The only complaint about the course is that on the last mile there was a very short out and back section with a 180 degree turn.  I think it was just more of the placement on the course that bothered me.  At this point, your legs are tired and you really don’t want that kind of turn in the race. I was able to follow up with another steady mile with another 6:31 mile on Mile 9.  

The last .3 miles of the race I was able to pick it up for a decent kick but was not able to catch any of the 3 runners who passed me towards the end.  I knew that the 1 hour run was out but I still finished strong with a time of 1:00:51.  All things considered, I am very happy with my run.  I finished 22nd overall and 1st in the 35-39 age division.

https://results.chronotrack.com/athlete/index/e/25496281

 

After finishing we were given our finishers medals which was in the shape of a chocolate bar (naturally).  You were also given a bottle of water.  As much as I wanted to get my hot chocolate and my other food items, I needed to get warm first.  Unfortunately, the gear check and finish line are about 3 blocks away.  I used this as some what of a cool down and jogged to the gear check.  

After getting warm, I made my way over to redeem my mug ticket.  This is not your average mug, this mug includes hot chocolate (of course), melted chocolate, pretzels, rice crispy treat, marshmallows, a banana, and some fancy bread stick things with Chocolate inside of them.  Everything that we were given tasted great dipped in chocolate. The after party featured a DJ playing music, as well as Hot Chocolate merchandise being sold.

I was in a little bit of a hurry after the race because we needed to get back to Indiana for my sons 4th birthday party, but due to the cold temps, it was probably better for me to get into a warm car before getting sick.  But I did have a chance to meet a first time 5K runner.  Ready her story here.  Always cool to see someone accomplish something for the first time and hear their stories.

 

Over all, this was a fantastic race.  While it was a themed race, which I usually stay away from, this race is great for the experienced runner as well as the new runner.  For the experienced runners, there is chip timing, overall and age division awards. There was some good competition.   For the new runners, it is a great experience in that it is a fun atmosphere, chocolate on the course, and a pretty cool finishers medals.  I also like to judge the course by the tour of the town it takes you on and I think they did a great job of showing us parts of Columbus.  I don’t get to the Columbus area very often. It has been years since I had been there and this was a nice way of seeing the city. At the aid stations, you had the option of Nuun or water.  Also, aid stations had either chocolate chips, strawberry marshmallows, chocolate marshmallows, and I believe Tootsie Rolls.  I did not take any, but for a newer runner, it does add to the experience.

As I stated earlier, this race experience changed my perception of the Hot Chocolate Run.  I just always thought it was geared towards newer runners.  But this race is for everyone. And I also really like the 15k distance option as it is not a common race distance.  I have heard in the future they are trying to get a Hot Chocolate Run in Indianapolis and I really hope that happens.  That would be my first choice for a Hot Chocolate run for 2017-2018.  IF you are considering running a Hot Chocolate race near you this year, check out my discount page for a code and get a free visor when you register.

 

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