I received entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate Charlotte15K as a part of being a BibRave Pro. Check out BibRave.com to read and write race reviews.
This past weekend I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte and let me tell you, this is an awesome race that got even more awesome for 2019. This is the 2nd year that the Hot Chocolate race series has held a Charlotte event, and you can tell that they worked hard to improve an already great event. (To read about the 2018 Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte 2018, check out my previous blog post here: https://runnerdgirl.blogspot.com/2018/02/hot-chocolate-15k-charlotte-second.html). The event Expo and Start/Finish were moved into Uptown Charlotte, both of which were massive improvements over the 2018 race.
The Expo was on Friday and held at the Charlotte Convention Center, which was super easy to get in and out of. There is a light rail station right outside of the Convention Center, so I just parked at a station with free parking down the line and picked up a round trip ticket and was on my way. There were lots of parking options for those who wanted to drive in and didn't mind the price of a parking deck. I met my running besty (check out her blog here: ) and we took a few pics, picked up our bibs - a super easy process - grabbed our amazing jackets which we were able to try on and switch out if necessary - I did, the sizing was big last year, so I sized up, but this year it was spot on, so I traded for my regular size - and explored a bit. I picked up some Nuun and grabbed some Jelly Belly jelly beans before having a Hot Chocolate and chocolate goodies samples. I also ran into several of my local running buddies including several from my Burn Boot Camp group that I had strongly encouraged to do the race and even provided them custom training plans. Overall, I really enjoyed this year's Expo and thought the new location was MUCH better than last year's.
|Scenes from the Expo|
Also, I want to take a quick minute to talk about the Hot Chocolate 15K Jackets. This year, they really outdid themselves. They are always nice, but this year, the jackets are not only super attractive, they are SO SOFT, it's like sliding on butter. The lady at the Try-On area actually laughed at us when we tried on our jackets because of the face of utter joy that we made when we slid them on. I am not one to wear race gear before the race, but I will admit I wore that jacket the rest of that day. In fact, I am wearing it right now while writing this review. I love this jacket. I am actually tempted to run the Atlanta race just to get a 2nd one in black.
The morning of the race, I met up pre-race with my Burn Boot Camp ladies so we could carpool into the city. We could have taken the train, but decided if we loaded up cars, by the time we split the cost of parking, it would actually be cheaper, plus we'd have a place to stash stuff. There is a lot of available parking around First Ward Park, where the race started and finished, another big and positive change from the previous year where I almost panicked over not being able to find a spot. So far, the changes for 2019 were on point.
We made our way to the park and took pictures of our group, hit the ample port-a-potties and did some last minute pep-talking. There were several ladies in the group that this was their first race and were super nervous. Out of the group, 3 of us were doing the 15K and the rest the 5K. Since I had a bit more time for my start (the 15K started at 7:45 and the 5K at 7:30)
|Burn Boot Camp Rock Hill Squad in the house! So proud of these ladies!!|
I wandered around the park a bit saying hi to lots of local runners I knew. I met up with the BibRave crew for a quick picture and the Official Hot Chocolate 15K Photographer even snapped a few pics of us. Heck yeah to free Race Photos!
|BibRave Pros Representing!|
Right before 7:30 I made my way over to the start area to send off the 5K runners. There were 3 very well organized Corrals and the first started right on time. The 2nd and 3rd Waves were sent off in about 2 min intervals after. Then it was time for the 15K runners to get into position. I was let into my Corral and quickly found the 9:30 pacer, which was to be my goal for the race. There were multiple pacers, and even redundant pacers in different Corrals, which was pretty neat I though. The 9:30 pacer in my Corral (D) was super kind and we chatted while waiting to start. Right at 7:45, we were off!
Since the Start and Finish were in a different place this year, obviously the course was a bit different as well. First Ward Park is kind of on the edge of Uptown and we quickly made our way out of the Center City area, over the 277 overpass and into NoDa area and towards Villa Heights. From there, we circled around Country Club Heights and then wove around a bit through Plaza Midwood before heading back into Uptown and finishing on 7th Street. I've run a few races in this area, including a 10K that finishes on 7th Street so I was fully aware of the amount of Hills that I would be encountering, which is to say... Several. Charlotte is not a flat city, if you are going to race there, you are gonna race on Hills, that's just a fact that I've learned to embrace over the years. Compared to last year's course, though, even though it was a slight bit hillier, I enjoyed the scenery much more this year. Unfortunately, it sprinkled off and on during the race so I was pretty wet throughout, but it wasn't really what I would consider raining. Let's put it this way, had this been a warmer race, the sprinkles would have been welcome. Not hard enough to drag you down or soak your shoes, just, you know, enough to keep you kinda wet throughout. An unfortunate thing about the wet weather was that the race photographers I saw on course had their gear bagged up to keep it dry, so no on-course photography, which was a bit of a bummer, but understandable.
As far as the actual running of the race, it went really well for me. Knowing I would stop at the 4 aid stations on the course, I tried to keep a bit ahead of the 9:30 pacer to account for when I'd slow/stop for water or Nuun, both of which were about every 2 miles. Also, at the aid station were some treats. I didn't partake (goals, yo) but saw gummy bears, marshmallows and chocolate on course. I managed to keep pretty close to the pacer who was cheerful throughout and would give helpful heads up like upcoming turns and Hills. The course also had lots of police and volunteers around the route and mile markers with timing at each mile interval, plus at the 5K and 10K marks.
I crossed the finish light at 1:28 (EXACTLY a 9:30 pace which gave me a NEW PR) and was met by cheers of my friends that ran the 5K. There were multiple finish line photographers snapping pics as volunteers handed out medals and gave out bottles of water and Nuun, but in cups and samples for later in the finisher chute. The medals were really cute and as usual, specific to the City. The bottom of the medal had a Charlotte Skyline and a Cardinal, which is the NC State Bird.
I made my way back to my friends on the side line to wait for the other two 15K runners that were with us to finish. When they crossed, we made the short walk (about 2 blocks) to First Ward Park for the Finisher Party Area. Finishing in Uptown was SUCH an improvement over last year. The post-race party being in First Ward Park was amazing and there was lots of room for the runners to mill around and check out the several tents that were up, including, of course THE POST RACE GOODIE TENT where you picked up your Hot Chocolate and Finisher Bowl of yummy goodness!
The Finisher Bowl contained of course, a big steaming cup of Hot Chocolate, chocolate fondue, banana, cookies, Rice Krispie Treat, marshmallow, pretzels and new this year, a Honey Stinger Waffle. I grabbed my goodies, drank my Hot Chocolate, and ran into a bunch of my friends who had run the race, all smiling, laughing and eating their goodies. In addition to the race goodies, there was also a tent giving out Jelly Belly jelly beans and even a Taco Truck giving out free tacos! I then made my way back to the finish line to cheer on the runners who were finishing, including Kim who, as always, I snapped a few finish line pictures of. She had PRed on this course too so the new course must have been good luck!
After everyone I knew had come off the course, I met back up with my ride at the parking deck and we made our way out of Uptown. Overall, it was a pretty awesome race. I really really enjoyed the changes that they made from the 2018 race. I can't wait for next year, which will be Hot Chocolate Charlotte 15K number 3 which means LEGACY status and extra bling! Here's hoping one of these years it will be a dry one!