Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 Hot Chocolate 15K Race Recap

This past weekend I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K race in Atlanta, which is my second time running this race, after a 1 year hiatus. Last year during the weekend that this race was in Atlanta, I was in Miami with friends running the Miami Half Marathon! I was excited to do this race again and eat the delicious chocolate at the end, and even more excited when it turned out that the race weekend also overlapped something else I was so excited for.  My friends Jenna and Dave were coming down to Atlanta for the weekend to visit, and Jenna, my super fast runner friend slash triathlete inspiration decided to run too.

Jenna and Dave are two of my best friends from Albany, who were individually each best friends of mine before they started dating over 4 years ago. I have so much fun with them and value each of their individual friendships so much. Jenna was there for me the day I ran my first 5K and her first 70.3 distance race I went to spectate was my first exposure into long distance triathlon. Dave has saved me from many a disasters and been a person I rely on for straight forward advice, lots of laughing, and any handywork I need done around the house or my car. I was very excited to have them in town!

The expo for the race is on Saturday and they have no race day packet pickup. It was downpouring rain all day on Saturday so we trudged through the disgusting weather to the Georgia World Congress Center, picked up packets and race sweatshirts, drank some hot chocolate samples, and checked out the expo - which turned out to be a little bit lame. But oh well, all is good when with friends!

Sunday morning, Jenna and I got up and took an Uber over from my apartment to the race. The race was set to start at 7:40 so we left my apartment around 7:00 and arrived about a half hour before the race. We tried to meet up with some of my friends but were unsuccessful and ended up ducking into Corral B about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I was placed in Corral A and Jenna was placed in Corral C for some reason. Knowing she is way faster than me, I figured, let's just call it even and we got into B.

Weather was perfect for running and when the gun started for our 2nd corral, we were off. Jenna was off way faster than me and was out of sight within a minute and I didn't see her until she was waiting for me at the finish. My plan for the race was not to "race" it but just to run strong and push the pace a bit beyond my normal long run pace, but not all out race it or have a plan beyond that.

The course was different that the last time that I did this race as it started and ended at Centennial Olympic Park. The last time it started and ended at Turner Field, so I wasn't entirely sure what the course was going to entail. I've obviously run the streets of Atlanta and races around this area plenty of times at this point but I don't know the roads well enough to fully know what to expect when looking at a map. I did know that the beginning of the race had a bit of downhill and I started out with some quick first couple of miles before the real hills of Atlanta started.

I actually really enjoyed this run from start to finish. Despite the fact that I was starting to feel really tired towards the end of the week... I'd come right back from Europe on Monday and gone immediately into workout mode, I felt good when running. It was one of those great days of running where your legs seem to be turning over smoothly, the pace feels comfortable, and although its tough, you feel strong and like you can just keep going.

The hills were harder, but I did my best to just find a pace that I liked and effort level that I liked and locked it in throughout the whole time. I broke the 15K into three 5Ks mentally and just worked through each one.

I also knew that at around the halfway point I would have Dave to look for, as the course ran right by my apartment and he planned to be outside there cheering. The course really did not have a lot of spectators on it whatsoever so it made me feel extra special to have one lone fan on the corner waiting and cheering just for me (and Jenna, who passed by earlier.)  When I saw Dave, I waved to him and smiled for his pictures, then he jogged along me for a bit - which surprised me - and then sprinted ahead (up a hill!) to stop and turn and take more pictures. Thank you Dave!!

This was the first race I have done downtown and through my neighborhood since I have lived in this part of town so it was really fun to see the streets of my new neighborhood in this atmosphere. I know the area so much better and am more familiar with the streets and turns, which made this really enjoyable.

Throughout the race there were clocks with the time every mile or so. Now, I don't run 15Ks all that often, but I knew that my 15K personal best time was about 1:35 - which is a time I knew I was quite easily capable of beating. I figured that a "15K Personal Best" was a pretty likely goal but kept eyeing the clock to see if I was somewhere around there. I used the method I did in Chicago Marathon, and just hoped that every time I saw the clock, the minute numbers were decreasing so I knew I was under 10-minute miles.

The hills at mile 7 started to wear on my legs a bit but at that point I knew it was close to the end - I was happy it was a 15K race and not a Half Marathon! Per usual, the last mile was a struggle, and like every other Atlanta race, the route did not let up on the hills until the very end.  The finish line was really uneventful and I actually wasn't even sure exactly where it was until I crossed the mat. I saw Jenna and Dave to the side taking pictures and waving, which was a great way to finish!

I finished the race in 1:25:08 which is an average pace of 9:08, which if I maintained that and it were a half marathon, would put me right at a 2 hour finish. This weekend last year I ran Miami in 1:57, so slightly faster than this race - and I was actually trying to race that and had rested/tapered for the race. Whereas for this race, I was definitely carrying fatigue from the week. This leaves me feeling pretty good about where I am for this time of year I think.  My 5K times also got progressively faster, which is nice to see in a race as well. My mile splits were all over the place, even though I felt like I was running a consistent pace!

My mile splits for the race were: 8:25, 8:48, 9:27, 9:35, 8:56, 9:11, 9:16, 8:49, 9:26, 9:13

Jenna and Dave met me at the finish and we proceeded to the muddy field area where the post race party was. It had been raining the night before and all throughout the day on Saturday. And not just a little rain, but torrential downpours. We were all really happy that the race held off on Sunday for the race! Having some muddy ground to walk around was nothing with the great running conditions we had.

We snagged our hot chocolate, medals, etc. and ate everything in about 10 minutes while waiting and finding my friends to meet up with.

We were able to connect with a bunch of my friends at the end of the race, which was really fun to have Jenna and Dave get to meet them. I was really proud to all my friends throughout the race... Brick did an amazing job and Jenna ended up 6th in our age group! They're both rockstars.

Eventually we all got cold and head back to shower and get out of our sweaty gear and get warm for brunch. It was a really fun race morning filled with strong legs, sweet chocolate, and awesome friends - both running and cheering! Hot Chocolate has amazing schwag with it, so I've got another great medal for the collection and sweatshirt to rock throughout Atlanta. Awesome day all around!

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