Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Race Day Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte - Even Sweeter for 2019

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! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tip Tuesday - Race Ready with Flat Me

So this week for Tip Tuesday I have racing on my mind because this weekend I'm running the Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte (see this post for more details). 

Anyway, race day can be pretty crazy. No matter how many times I race (I ran 21 races in 2018) and no matter the distance, I always get super nervous right before. And when you are super nervous, it is easy to make mistakes and forget things. So, to combat this, I am a firm believe in a Flat Me

My Flat Me for last year's Hot Chcolate 15K
A Flat Me is basically where you set out all of the gear that you are going to wear and use during your race and lay it out flat, arranged how it would be worn on your body. This gives you a good physical representation of all of your gear so you can see if you are missing anything. 

And when I say everything, I mean everything including stuff that you will carry in your pack as well. You don't want to get to the start line of a race and realize you are missing something. For example, let's say you get to the start of your Half Marathon and realize you have no gels on you. Trust me, this happened to me last month and it was not a fabulous realization. Luckily, there was a Fleet Feet Sports right at the Start (very lucky) but had I set out a Flat Me, which I usually do, but didn't for some dumb reason, I would not have had that problem. 

What about you? Do you do a Flat Me before your race? If not, how do you make sure that you have everything you need for race day? 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Almost Time To Run For Chocolate!

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 coming Saturday I will be running one of my favorite fun races of the year, The Hot Chocolate 15K in Charlotte, NC. Why do I love it so? Here are the top 5 reasons.

1. It's a Great Race for All Levels.
Everything is better with friends! 
The Hot Chocolate races offer 2 distances, a 5K and a 15K which make it a great race for pretty much any level from beginners to more seasoned racers. And because the theme of the race is Hot Chocolate, something that everyone can get behind, it seems just less intimidating that a more traditional race. This year is particularly exciting one for me in that I organized a group from my gym to run the race this year, many of which will be running their first race ever. I helped them by making up 3 training plans**, a 5K plan for beginners (with run/walk intervals), a 5K plan a bit more advanced (all running) and a 15K plan. I cannot wait to see the excitement as these awesome ladies cross the finish line! There is so much excitement from my group that just this morning, we were talking about it and another lady asked us if it were too late to sign up. NOPE! Registration is still open here - https://www.hotchocolate15k.com/charlotte/ (just be sure to read this list all the way through for a coupon code for some extra SWAG if you decide to sign up!) 

2. Free Race Photos! 
FREE PHOTOS! Heck yeah! Free photos is almost unheard of for National Race events these days, but Hot Chocolate races will hook you up! Shortly after the event, you will be emailed a link where you can find and download High Resolution photography taken throughout the event, both on course and at the Start/Finish. So be sure that you bib is front and center, displayed proudly so you can get your FREE photos after the race. 

3. The SWAG is Amazing!
Hot Chocolate races have some of the nicest SWAG out there. Seriously, their participant jackets are worth the registration cost alone! This year, the jackets are a full zip tech in either Merlot or Black. They are pretty true to size, but you are also given the opportunity to try on and swap out if necessary, which is really nice. In 2018, I ran two different Hot Chocolate races just to get one of each color they were so awesome. Additionally, you can typically score some extra swag when you register with a BibRave coupon code. This year, with coupon code BRHCCharlotte you receive a free Hot Chocolate Phone Arm Band. 15K participants also get a super sweet medal that is specific to your city. This year's Charlotte medal has the Charlotte Skyline across the bottom. 

4. 9.3 Miles is a Perfect Distance.
I've run a lot of races over the years, and I've found that a 15K is probably my favorite distance to race. It is challenge, but not too much so. Right around 10 miles is where I start thinking to myself - Why am I still running? Well, a 15K ends right before that, so I feel super strong the entire distance. I wish there were more 15Ks out there. 

Just look at this deliciousness from last year!
You knew this was going to be the top reason, but it is so true. Once you finish the race, they hand you a big bowl full of absolute yumminess! In the center, a steaming cup of Hot Chocolate. Surrounding that, are several compartments packed with goodies including Chocolate Fondue, Banana, Marshmallows, Rice Krispie Treat, Pretzels, and Cookies. It's so freaking good! But, some people may not realize this, but the Finish Line Chocolate is not the only Chocolate to be had. There are yummy Chocolate stations throughout the race giving out M&Ms, Marshmallows and other yummy goodies to keep you going while on the course. It's a Chocolate Adventure from start to finish! 

Is it any wonder I'm excited for this weekend?! I will be at the packet pick up at the Charlotte Convention Center right when it opens at 10:00 am on Friday and will be wearing an Orange BibRave shirt, so, if you see me, be sure to say HI! I'll also be racing in BibRave Orange on race day, so feel free to flag me down there too if you see me! 

**If you are interested in checking out the custom training plans I made, let me know in the comments and I am happy to pass along to anyone. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#TipTuesday - Easy Speed Work

So on this blog, I mainly post about my own training experiences, how things are going and the occasional review of awesome races and gear. One of my 2019 goals is to mix it up a bit more here and start posting some quick training tips to help other runners out there. So, without further ado... Introducing my very first #TipTuesday! 

I run with several local groups and a question that I hear quite often is: How do I get faster? The irritating short answer is - You run faster by running faster. The slightly longer answer includes training your body to become used to faster speeds by incorporating various forms of speed work into your regular training. The faster you push your run, the more that your body will get used to going faster, and your speed will improve in time. 

There are several different types of speed workouts that can be incorporated into your training. These include intervals, fartleks (fun to say), tempo runs, track work, hills, progressive runs, sprints and I'm sure even more. Today, I wanted to share with you my favorite way to add a bit of speed work into an otherwise regular run. It's a fun trick that I recommend especially for beginners who may be intimidated by traditional speed work. 

First off, let me say, I run with music. Like every run, even those with other people (I wear Aftershokz Trekz Air bone conducting headphones so I can hear everything going on around me - safety first). I typically listen to very upbeat songs while running, either a playlist that I have specifically made, or I will turn to Spotify for running playlists. It's important to mention this because this speed tip requires the use of music. It's part of what makes it fun! I call it - Musical Sprints

Musical Sprints is where you run normally during the verse of a song, but during  the chorus, you run all out, 100% effort. Song choruses typically last between 15 and 30 seconds which is plenty of effort for beginner sprint work. Plus, the chorus is typically repeated 3 or 4 times per song during an average 3 minute song. By running with cues from the music, you are not having to discipline yourself as much as far as keeping track of distances, times or having to set your watch or phone app, which frankly can be complicated. Plus, song choruses can be naturally energizing, especially if you populate your playlists with songs that you love!

Music makes me smile!
Let's do the math. So during a 30 minute run, let's say your listen to 10 songs. Assuming that during the first song you are warming up and do not incorporate sprints, you will sprint along with 9 songs. This gives you about 27 sprint intervals during a 30 minute workout. Not to shabby! And running along to the music makes it way more fun! And anything to make speed work more fun is a big plus in my book.

So, what do you think?  Do Musical Sprints sound fun to you? Do you have any unique or fun things that you incorporate into your training to make it more bearable? Let me know in the comments!