This weekend combined two things that I dearly love – chocolate and running! A group of friends and I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in Columbus, and despite the rain, it was a blast!
I kicked off race weekend with a solo trip to Cbus. My cheering section (Raymond) had grad school, and we wouldn’t have made it down in time to go to packet pick-up if I waited for him. No biggie, though, because I was going to hang with my brother who graciously lets me crash at his house when I race down there. I made it down around 2:00pm, kinda watched a little Buckeye football (my brother is a super fan), and then we went to packet pick-up at Columbus Convention Center.
I usually don’t like getting to packet pick-up toward the end, but it was a great decision. There was no line, and I was able to get my stuff quickly. Stevie and I scoped out the expo, and I was happy to stuff my face with the complimentary chocolate squares and chocolate dipped marshmallows. I didn’t buy anything, although I wanted to, because I had to save my money for the kids’ Christmas. I know, priorities.
After the expo, we hit up a great place for dinner called the Japanese Steak House (super original name). The place looked a little sketchy to me from the outside, but Stevie assured me it was the best one around. He was right; the food was delicious and just what I needed to fuel up for the race. After some shopping at Costco (seriously, I LOVE the Costco at Easton!) and Easton Town Center and a trip to Starbucks for frou-frou coffee, we called it a day.
My alarm went off at 4:45am the next morning, and I have to admit, it was the first race of the season where I wanted to just pull the covers over my head instead of leap out ready to run. I’ve said time and time again that I am a complete wuss when it comes to running in bad weather, and I woke up to the sound of rain pounding the siding. I cursed a little as a dragged myself out of bed, got ready, and was out the door to meet Susie and Bee at their hotel. The drive was horrible! Between the pounding rain and lack of street lights, it was amazing that I made it there without a cop stopping me for a DUI. Thankfully, the rain subsided as we drove into downtown.
Susie was smart and purchased a parking pass for the garage near the finish. We got there with plenty of time to spare and sat in the car until about 7:00am. Bee’s friend, Julie, joined us shortly before leaving the garage, and the four of us, clad in plastic bags, made our way to the start line. As we were walking, I was texting with Emily, a friend and fellow Hot Chocolate blogger ambassador, so we could meet up. We found her in our corral, chatted a bit, and then got ready to race. Emily was running the 5K, but it worked out well because both races run together until the 5K splits for the finish.
We had a little trouble getting started, mostly because of the number of people, but then we settled in to a comfortable pace. The goal for this race wasn’t to run a certain time; it was all about having fun. We talked and enjoyed the run, and I stopped to take pics along the way (yes, I was THAT girl taking pics on the course). I was surprised that even in the rain, there were supporters, and I was thrilled when I saw my co-worker and friend, Joyce, and her husband on the course. Their daughters were running the 15K, so they came down to cheer for them. I gave Joyce a hug as I ran past.
Before I knew it, it was time for the 5K to finish. Emily split off, and we wished her well. I had to laugh because it was the first time we really talked in person, but I felt like I already knew her (thanks, Twitter!). Susie, Bee, Julie, and I kept moving along at a steady pace. Julie and Bee got ahead of Susie and me, but we would catch up at the water stops. The temperature had increased and the rain stopped, and we were complaining about it being too hot. Obviously, Mother Nature heard us and decided to make fools of us later.
I was so excited when we got to mile 5 because instead of a gel station, the volunteers were passing out chocolate squares! I went down the line, plucking squares from their hands and loving every second of it. If you thought I was bad at hoarding gels from the stops at races, you should have seen this because I actually had a bag to carry them. Delicious!
Susie and I dropped back a little, and Bee and Julie went ahead. Susie had some issues at the Towpath half, and they started to come back at around the same distance in this race, about mile 6-7. Based on the pain she was feeling, it sounded like IT band issues (which it ended up being). We walked a little to see if that made the pain go away, but it didn’t. At this point, the rain and cold also made a comeback, and we were getting soaked. Susie and I kept running along, and although I knew she was in serious pain, she kept a smile on her face and pressed on. I was so proud of her.
We finished miles 8 and 9 and were in the home stretch. We rounded the corner and saw the finish line, and then I heard someone cheering for me. It was my friend Bonnie, who ran the 5K. I was happy to see her and thought it was pretty awesome that, just by chance, she saw me. We ran through the finish and were done! Thankfully, Bee and Julie were waiting there for us and said they only finished a little before us.
We all had completed the race; now on to the good part – the chocolate feast! We walked to the area where they were passing out finisher mugs, and I was fully expecting to wait. I was thrilled to see only about 5 people ahead of us in line! We grabbed our mugs and smiled for the camera.
Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, RAM Racing, the company that coordinates the Hot Chocolate runs, did a great job! This was my second year participating in the race, and I really enjoyed myself. You can tell that they put a lot of thought and effort into making the race an entire experience for people, not just a run, and it’s easy to tell why they call it America’s Sweetest Race. I also give a lot of credit to the many volunteers who stood in the rain to help direct race traffic, pass out water and Gatorade, and assist around the start and finish areas. I know that had to be no fun, so thanks for that! Lastly, thanks to RAM Racing and the Hot Chocolate 15K Columbus for allowing me to be a blogger ambassador. I loved being able to promote the run and share my experiences with readers.