I knew I’d see something crash and burn at National Harbor on Saturday morning. I just sort of assumed it would be me and my race performance, not the Hot Chocolate 15K itself.
I’m not going to spend much time talking about everything that went wrong at the race from an organizational perspective. Suffice it to say that I agree wholeheartedly with most of the points in this petition, and with the events as described in this DCist blurb. I also found the RAM Racing apology to be heavy on excuses (despite the disclaimer that these weren’t excuses, but “explanations”) and light on conciliatory gestures, such as comped or discounted registration fees for those brave runners willing to give RAM another shot next year.
But before I move on, I’d like to whine about one thing that hasn’t been mentioned much in other diatribes: The much-coveted jackets in the “premium goody bag” are horrid. They’re ill-fitting and cheap and are so lightweight, I can’t imagine the warm breeze that might provoke me to grab mine before a run. The jackets were a huge factor in my decision to sign up for this race in the first place, and I mention their crappiness in order to warn others who might be swayed.
Now. The race itself. I drove down to National Harbor with a runner-friend who also failed to train for the race. She thought my 10-minute-mile plan sounded just about her speed (har, har, har!), and when the starting gun finally (it really was a full hour late) went off, she and I set off together to do just that.
The course was crowded and boring from the start, with about six miles out and back on a highway. But what did we care? We were just there to jog across the finish line and get our chocolate! So we just chilled out, hung back, and passed people only when we really, really needed to. I wore my Garmin for the sole purpose of tracking our pace, and I grew more amazed at our consistency with every mile—I’m talking about perfectly even 10-minute miles the whole way.
Around mile 5, we both acknowledged that our hurt parts were hurting (the way hurt parts do when you haven’t properly built up mileage). At the 10K marker, we both acknowledged we were out of breath (10-minute-mile pace offers a grace period in the beginning during which you barely feel like you’re running. Whee!). At the 7-mile marker, we realized that we were already to the point where we figured we’d crash and burn thanks to that whole untrained-thing—meaning anything else was gravy! I looked at my Garmin: 1:10:00. No joke. “We’re like a (expletive) metronome!” I said loudly. “We should be leading the 10-minute-mile pace group!”
We actually did try to pick up the pace a bit as we approached the finish, but the gravel and sand the last couple miles kept us in check. No matter—we were thrilled to cross the finish line in 1:31 for 9:45-minute miles, making this perhaps the most perfectly I’ve ever executed a race plan. And I felt great upon finishing—my stomach was even settled enough to scarf down the delicious, not-at-all-overrated chocolate fondue and hot chocolate.
The bottom line: I had a great time at what amounted to a disorganized catered training run for me. The fun associated with running strong and happy, and the sense of accomplishment born of surprising myself by how much I could do, outweighed—well, all the rest. Plus, I got to eat chocolate and trade war stories post-race with all my running buddies.
As for my real goal—for untrained present-day me to beat the pants off untrained 25-year-old me—I nailed it, besting my previous untrained 15K time by more than 10 minutes. Eat it, SpongeBob!
Did you run the race on Saturday? Is there anything you’d like to rant about that hasn’t been covered already (or anything you’d like to rant about that *has* been covered, for that matter)?