Hot Chocolate 15K: I didn’t crash and burn! (though the race itself did … )

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!

Photo credit: Florida Times-Union.

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)?


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11 responses to “Hot Chocolate 15K: I didn’t crash and burn! (though the race itself did … )

  1. Yay for a PR – probably because you chilled out and relaxed.

    My other logistical complaint is that they put the 5k split mat on the WRONG SIDE OF THE OUT AND BACK. So I have a 20:xx 5k split. Um, right.

  2. Oh, RIGHT! I forgot about that! We passed the mat, turned to each other and said: “Ummm … ” I should note that this is a PR only for untrained me. Trained 26-year-old me ran a few minutes faster in 2007. I don’t want to anger the PR gods … I’m sure I’ll be calling on them at the end of some race I actually trained for in the future. 🙂

  3. Ann

    Amy, I ran the inaugural Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego and it was very much the same. We started really late, there was no water for several miles, and because of the late start a train came right through he middle of the race stopping us for well over 7 minutes. People think I am a brat because I refuse to sign up for first year races but once you are just screwed in a race, you tend to be fun shy. Glad you made the most of it and really glad to hear that the Hot Chocolate was delicious.

  4. Congrats on the new PR! I’m glad you were able to run like a metronome and have a pretty good time despite all of the race organization chaos!

  5. katekirk

    I knew that you’d be the one to make something positive out of what sounded like a beyond-bad situation. Chocolate really can make many things better.

  6. Your cheery attitude of appreciating all that is good in even a fairly rotten situation is refreshing!
    I’ve gotten to a point where I can almost instantly tell if I’m going to want to run a race or not based on the marketing/audience/gimmicks. But, it’s all part of the experience I guess. But the fact that the jackets are crappy is a real FAIL.

  7. The race it self was disorganized!!! But I actually had a good time hanging out with friends while I was there.

    great job on beating your young self 🙂

  8. I wish I could have been running this one with you! So much more cussing than the hilly 5 miles, I am sure.

  9. Heather C

    HUGE PR! Dang, girl. Short race or not, a 15K is no easy victory. 🙂

    The jackets are sort of a joke, but I still love anything besides another short-sleeve tech-Tee. The chocolate? You are spot on with that – not a joke, and definitely delicious!

  10. Nice pacing! It’s great that you were able to focus on the positive elements of the race and have a fun time with your friends. Congrats!

  11. i’m glad the chocolate was worthwhile 🙂 have heard nothing but bad things about this event/racing company though! i actually heard on another blog that some of the jackets said “chicago” on them – leftovers from a previous race? yikes.

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