Friday, February 28, 2020

Hot Chocolate, Cold Day

received entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate Charlotte15K as a part of being a BibRave Pro. Check out to read and write race reviews. 

This past weekend I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte for my 3rd year, which means, I am a LEGACY, baby! What's that mean? It means even more CHOCOLATE! Plus some other goodies! Here's the whole awesome race weekend story- 

The race weekend started off on Friday. To make things a bit easier on myself, I took the day off work so I could not only spend as much time at the Expo as I wanted and not have to rush in and out on a lunch break, but also to have a relaxing morning brunching with Kim, my ride or die race bestie and fellow BibRave Pro. (You can check out her HC15K coverage here:

So we met at Panera for a quick brunch and hang out before driving up to the Expo at the Charlotte Convention Center. I'm not a huge fan of driving in Charlotte, but it is pretty quick and easy to get in and out of the Convention Center, especailly if you park in the NASCAR Hall of Fame garage like we did. I had some other friends that went up on the Light Rail which is also super convenient as there is a station right at the Convention Center.

The Expo was a bit smaller in past years, but I feel that this is common for all races. It was really efficient. You bring in a QR code that they scan and print a sticker and attach to your bib. Easy peasy. In fact I picked up 4 other packets and was done right away with no hassle. 

Since this was my 3rd year running the HC15K Charlotte, my bib said that I was a Legacy so a stop to the next table and I picked up my Legacy gift - a branded mug with an amazing sprinkled chocolate bar and bronze medal. Such a cool perk. Several people stopped to ask us where we got them and how. 

Then it was on to pick up our jackets. They scan your bib and hand you a bag with your correct size. You can try on your jacket and switch out if necessary. I always love the HC15K jackets. They are always amazing and this year was no exception. It's not even been a week since the race and I've worn it to run twice and just as a jacket a few other times (yes I've washed it!)
Kim thought she was funny by taking a pic of me taking as selfie, but it just shows off the jacket better! 
After getting the jackets, we wandered around looking at the few set ups there. In the middle was my favorite, the chocolate sampling. They had hot chocolate to try and also fondue chocolate with a cookie and marshmallow and mini chocolate squares. Yum! And they have some fun facts about the amount of goodies they use and allergy information.

There was also a small merchandise area where I bought a super cute HC15K knit hat. I immediately put it on and got lots of compliments. I even wore it for the race the next day! (See it in the jacket pic above). 

We hung out a bit and talked to and took pictures with several people we knew including fellow BibRave Pro Christine  (You can check out her HC15K coverage here:

After we had seen and done everything, Kim and I headed outside to take a quick walk around uptown Charlotte as we are both doing the Run For Your Life Frozen Feet Challenge where you have to put in at least a mile of outdoor activity per day. With that out of the way, it was time to head home and rest up for race day.

Race Day

Okay y'all, I am not going to mince words... Race day was COLD. Like really cold. It was the 2nd coldest race I've run in fact. It was 23 degrees F at the start line and this warm-weather loving girl was not having it. I will fully admit, I was sulking. See this picture that Kim took of me when I was waiting for the 5K runners to start? I am NOT thrilled. I cannot feel my feet. I have on so many layers I feel lumpy and barely able to move. But you know what? I still had a great race because that is the power of Hot Chocolate races. 

I parked close by to the start in the 7th Street Station garage which had plenty of spots and was adjacent to First Ward Park where the race started and finished. I had made arrangements to meet with my various running crews - BibRave, Burn Sisters, random running friends and so on at landmark and we took some quick pictures and mostly were cold. There were a ton of potties which I used 2x (race day nerves, yo) and never even waited in line there were so many. Just walked right in! 

Team BibRave Ready to Run
The 5K started at 8:00 so I went down to cheer them on (see pic above). This year the number of 5K runners was much higher than in past (actually for all runners I think) as in the past the 5K waves were A, B, and C, but this year it was A-F! After the F wave went out, the banners were flipped for the 15K runners to line up. I was in Wave G which was the first 15K wave. When you register you put in your anticipated finish time and if it under a certain pace, they ask you to submit proof of a previous race and will place you in the preferred corral if you are under their threshold. They also put signs up requesting no walkers in the first 3 waves, which I think is a safe choice. I totally don't mind walkers in races, I encourage them, but walkers lining up in front is a good way to get congested starts. There were also pacers for each wave which could be a bit confusing later in the race when say the 9:00 pace from later waves passes the 9:30 pacer from an earlier wave, which I saw happen, but they were color coded so that helped a bit. 

Another time I will not mince words... This course is HILLY! Most uptown Charlotte races are, but I believe that this course takes the (chocolate) cake as one of the hilliest, at least that I have run, and I've done a lot of Charlotte races now. There is an uphill around mile 4-5 that just does not quit. It's the area around the Country Club and man is it rough. I tell myself every year that when I get out of the Country Club area the hardest part is now over. I mean, not the last of the hills, just the worst of them. But the course is very well marked and there are aid stations stocked with water, Nuun and goodies like marshmallows and M&Ms spaced throughout. There are several cheer stations scattered throughout the course as well so it is interesting and fun to run. There was this guy who was WAY excited to be cheering on the runners around mile 7 that I swear his exuberant high 5 gave me renewed vigor. Around 8.5 there was a sorority that a brightly colored "Hit Here For Speed Boost" Sign that I swear worked. And the last half mile there are tons of inspirational signs to guide you in. 

A friend of mine does GoPro videos of his races and was right behind me for a bit
You can check out the whole video here:
The finish line was located on 7th Street and as usual for a Charlotte race, it was uphill. I was prepared for this and saved a bit of energy for the end. Lots of cheering in the chute and the announcer welcomed every single runner in by name. Overall, I was pleased with my time, I had cut a minute off of last year's finish on the same course, but can't help but feel had it been warmer (and had I had like 10 lbs less of clothes on) I could have done better. I was handed my medal by a super cheerful volunteer and made my way to the Nuun station and then a water bottle. I hung out a bit at the finish area to wait for some friends who I knew were not too far behind me. We all met up, took a bunch of pictures and then headed over to get out goodies. 

The goodie pick up is super efficient, lots of volunteers on hand to assist you. You tear off the bottom of your bib and you are handed a bowl of yummies! This year, the bowls were made of biodegradable heavy cardboard which was awesome. I ran into Christine who had also just gotten her goodies and we took a quick pic together with Marshall. I met up with some of my run crew and we found a place to sit on the steps and enjoyed our chocolate in the park. It was a bit warmer, but sunny, which I super appreciated as this was my first HC15K that I've run where it didn't rain. Overall, it was a really nice race. But, I couldn't stick around for too long, I had plans with my BibRave Pro Posse!

After eating my fill of chocolate and stashing everything else in my pockets, I met up with Kim and we made a quick detour to my car to pick up a bag of warm/dry clothes to change into and walked about 3/4 a mile down to Amelies Bakery, This is a Charlotte chain, and y'all if you've never been and are in the area, you need to go. We got some yummy pastries, brunch food and coffee and hung out and reminisced about the race for awhile. So much fun! Love my Orange family! 

After that, it was just another quick walk back to the garage and that was a wrap for the Hot Chocolate Charlotte 2020. Loved it even if it could have been a bit (a lot) warmer. 

Oh yeah, one last thing. Did I mention that HC15K races give you FREE photos! In fact, I got an email before I even got home telling me that my photos were available. I thought there was no way that was right, but yup, clicked the link and there were 3 finish line photos waiting for me. So cool! 

Got this email before I even made it home! And they are FREE!
I will for sure be back in 2021 and I hope to see you there too! 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Twas the Night Before the Hot Chocolate 15K

received entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate Charlotte15K as a part of being a BibRave Pro. Check out to read and write race reviews. 

I'll be honest, this morning started off a bit rough. I had a few bad race day dreams overnight. Silly stuff like not being about to find someone to hold my bags and bags of gear I for some reason was carrying around with me at the race, not being able to find the start line and realizing that I had forgotten my Bib. Crazy stuff like that, but it all seemed super vivid. I guess I was more nervous about my race than I realized.

So how do you combat this and have a refreshing night sleep before race day? Prepare, prepare, PREPARE!! 

After having an awesome day at the Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte Expo (I'll be posting about it as a part of my Race Recap, but my girl Barking Mad About Running, who I spent the day with, wrote a post about it here:, I set out all of my gear in a Flat Me. 

Doing this gives a great opportunity to make sure that you have absolutely everything that you need for race day. I even will lay out my water bottle and gels to make double sure that I have EVERYTHING! Maybe tonight I won't suffer from bad pre-race panic dreams. Speaking of which... I should probably hit the bed. After all, tomorrow is race day!!

What about you, how do you avoid last minute race stress? Got any tips, tricks to share with me? Drop them in the comments below. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Running Horror Story- The Tale of Ultra Chafing 😱

Disclaimer: I received Handful’s The Closer Bra to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Gather round close kids, for I am about to tell you a horror story. But don't worry, this one has a happy ending. It's about one of the most scariest things that can happen to a female runner... CHAFING FROM YOUR SPORTS BRA!!!! /cue dramatic scream 😱😱

Let's go back to the beginning shall we. Once upon a time (like 3 months ago actually), I had a super crazy idea that I was going to run an Ultra. I wrote a blog post about it here: It's a long, sad story, but I will summarize - I trained a lot, in the cold of winter, for lots and lots of hard trail miles, and ultimately, the Ultra was cancelled due to a massive storm. /cue sad noises 😢😢

Here I am about 6 miles in, all layered up with
the race's namesake Millstone
So before the cancelling happened, however, came the story that I came to tell you today. I'll set the scene for you. I'm planning to spend long hours in the woods, in the cold, running hard technical trails. I need water for my run. I need warmth for my run. Meeting this will require many, many layers (did I mention, I'm a Southern girl who HATES being cold?). So I'm all geared up - on top I've got a sports bra, base layer, jacket, vest and hydration pack on. And I do my 21 mile run. And it is long and sweaty (I do end up tying the jacket around my waist at one point). 

And as I'm running, I start to feel, something. Something on my shoulders isn't quite right. It feels pinchy. And itchy. And just wrong. You ladies know what I am talking about I bet. I adjust as I run, but I suspect that I am in for a world of hurt later. 

Smiling cause I'm done with 21 miles
Gritting my teeth a bit, cause OW!
So I finish my LOOOOOOONG run. And I'm feeling accomplished. But by now, I know that I am chafed. And not just a little. But I'm completely sweaty and starting to cool down in the cold and need to get into a hot shower before I start to loose feeling in my fingers. There is no delaying the SHOWER OF PAIN!!

I remove my clothes. Yup, there are large red welts on my shoulders, one much worst than the other. I turn on the hot water. I take a deep breath knowing what is about to happen, and step into the shower...

So yeah, on January 29th around 1 pm, if you heard a strange high pitched noise that you couldn't identify, but made every dog in the neighborhood stop for a moment, that was probably my scream of the shower water hitting my sweaty, chafed shoulders. The pain was the worst chafing I had ever had in my time as a runner. It was insane. I cursed the entire shower. There was some sobbing. My shoulders were not just red, they were welted and bloodied. Afterwards, I took that sports bra from out of the laundry and threw it into the trash. I am not even kidding.

This was taken 2 days later. 😭

Luckily... I had just ordered a brand new Handful Closer Bra which boasts having - "Smooth, non-chafing, quick-dry fabric"- from the Handful website. And even luckier it arrived the next day, because I'll be honest, I was a bit terrified to run again with my shoulders, and since I'm doing a daily running challenge, I couldn't wait it out to heal up. So on went my Handful bra and off I went on the road.

Same gear, same trails, different result!
No chafing AT ALL
And like I said, HAPPY ENDING, it worked like a charm! It was supportive, comfortable and not only no chafing, but no pain on my already pained shoulders. I've worn it for every long run I've had since (plus a few other activities like Boot Camp classes and a 2 hour Self Defense Class).

So if you do not want to end up like poor me and take the world's most painful shower, you should try out a Handful Closer Bra for yourself. Or any of their other bras, all of which have the chafe-free bands. Some of my other BibRave Pro Sisters have tried out the Y-Backs and have all reported good things. I've even have a 20% off discount code to share for a bit of added incentive, if not fearing the shower isn't quite enough. Use code BIBRAVE20 on the website.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

It's Race Week: Time to Run for Chocolate!!

received entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate Charlotte15K as a part of being a BibRave Pro. Check out 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. This will be my 4th Hot Chocolate 15K (one in Atlanta and this will be my 3rd in Charlotte). 

You may recall my previous blog about my Top 5 Reasons I LOVE to Run for Chocolate (if not, just click the link to go there). 

You may also recall, that I am not a huge fan of running in the cold (which I may have mentioned a time or a million). Anyway, I bring this up because right now the temperature is supposed to be 24 degrees for race morning!! 24!!! Not cool! Or actually TOO COOL. 

So to prepare, I am busting out my Top Tips for Running in the Cold.

  • Layer, Layer, LAYER! Especially when it comes to race day, you end up standing outside for longer than a regular run getting into corrals and waiting for the start and hanging out, cheering on finishing friends at the finish. You may want to consider something you can remove and tie around your waist easily or something disposable if you feel you'll warm up a bunch when you start running. Here's a handy guide on how to layer for certain conditions:

  • Make sure that you cover your head and your hands. Hats and gloves are LIFE, people!! If you do manage to heat up, they can be easily removed and stowed, but trust me, you are going to want hats and gloves. I recommend convertible items like gloves that can turn fingerless like these Turtle Gloves or Buff Multifunctional Headwear that you can fold in lots of different ways to cover your head. 

  • Hydrate like it's the Summer. Sometimes it is easy to forget to drink enough water in the colder months since it doesn't seem like you are sweating as much, but you are. It is easy to get dehydrated quickly in the winter. Take extra steps to hydrate to make sure that doesn't happen.

  • Bring a Post-Race Change of Clothes. When you finish your run, your body temperature will start to rapidly drop and all of that sweat on your clothes and body will quickly start to make you even colder. Bring a bag with you to gear check, if available, or stow in your car for a quick post-race change. And I mean everything. There is nothing worse than standing around in a cold, wet sports bra.  

  • Give your Pace some Grace. Running in the cold is hard for a number or reasons. Added gear that is bulky and weighs more, harder to breathe, stiff joints, frozen roads, less daylight and so on. You may be slower with the same amount of effort. It's hard to, but try to remind yourself that in the Spring, you'll be faster again and that is ok. 

But, I will say, as much as I HATE running in the cold, I cannot think of a better race to do it for than one that gives you a warm hooded jacket and a piping hot cup of Hot Chocolate and chocolate fondue at the finish line!

And be sure to tune in on my Instagram and Twitter on Friday too check out the Hot Chocolate 15K Expo with me. If you'll be there yourself, I plan to be at the packet pick up around Noon 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! 

And it's not too late to register if you want to join me still. Register here:

Additionally, you can typically score some extra swag when you register with a BibRave coupon code. This year, with coupon code BRHCCharlotte20 you receive a free Hot Chocolate branded Running Hat (above). 

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Ultra that Wasn't

I've been putting off this post for just over a week now. Well, to be totally honest, I've been putting it off for a lot longer really. See, I had registered for a race, that I hadn't talked about it much. Part of it was it was a bit of a crazy goal that I was trying to wrap my own head around. Part of it was that if  didn't talk about it, then I couldn't get talked out of it. Instead I mainly just vaguely referenced a crazy race I was preparing for. If I did happen to mention what it was, most everyone, with the exception of my craziest running friends reacted the same way - WHY?!

See I registered for a Trail Ultra... in February. Cause apparently it wasn't enough for me to be running a crazy distance, but I had to do it the worst part of the year as well. In the woods. On a very technical trail. Go big or go home, right?

Well, if you haven't guessed from the title, the Ultra didn't end up happening for me. I trained, I was ready, I still think I could have done it, but alas, the universe decided otherwise. So here's the short, disappointing story of my first Ultra attempt. 

I honestly cannot remember how it came up in conversation. Two of my friends signed up for the Millstone 50K, an Ultra that was held each February at Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill. I am very well acquainted with the ASC Greenway, I ran the Ragnar Relay there in the Fall. But I had no interest in the Millstone. First of all, I had strongly proclaimed I'd never do another marathon even, and this, this was 6 more miles. On trails. Technical trails. Plus, if you know me, you know that I HATE HATE HATE being cold. Like really hate it. And I still had pretty awful memories of last winter when I was marathon training and doing long runs in the cold and rain. No thank you, not interested,

And then... I started thinking. Could I? Maybe... I mean, why not? 

First I floated the idea past a few of my regular running/Burn crew. "You're crazy." I heard and expected. I didn't even bother with my family, I knew what that reaction would be. So for the ultimate test, I ran the idea past my craziest running friend. You know that guy who is game for anything? Who will say yes to any dumb idea you come up with and have a few of his own even? Well I asked him and his response was... a bit lukewarm to be honest - up to you if that's what you want. Then, about an hour later I got a message from him - You know what, go do it. Sounds crazy but you can totally do anything and I fully support you. So with the blessing of my craziest friend, I registered.

... and was put on the wait list. Apparently, the Millstone 50K was chosen as the SC State Ultra Championship race so there were more registrants than in past years. So I decided that it were up to the fates if I'd run it. If I made it off the wait list, I'd do it, if not, it wasn't meant to be. Either way to help prepare, I changed my annual New Years Day Trail 5K race to the 20K distance thinking the extra distance would be good training. 

My Friend pointing out we are
on the Most Difficult Trails
And train I did. First couple of weeks I ran the Baxter Trails that the 20K would be on. I've run these before, but not 20K on them (12 miles) and not some of the sections the race covered. They were hard. Really hard. Way more technical than the Anne Springs Trails even. The average climb was about 100 ft for each mile. And the first/last 3 miles were the hardest. I met up with some friends and did a preview run of the course and we promptly got lost. A few times. In fact everyone who ran the preview run that day got lost. But surely race day they would be well marked. 
Cheers to an Extra K

So yeah, on race day, I was doing really well actually. I've found I am more comfortable on trails when I am not in a group so I didn't mind running alone. I felt pretty great actually. Until... in the last mile I came to an intersection that had multiple signs. I chose poorly and my 20K became a 21K (luckily, the way I choose looped back so I didn't get too lost). But I was pissed. And I'll admit, I cried a bit. But I drank some beer, had some BBQ and sucked it up. After all, Anne Springs Trails were much easier to run than these. 
This became a common sighting

Shortly after this race, I got an email. I was off the wait list. I had an official registration for Millstone 50K if I wanted it. With only a little hesitation, I confirmed. I had just over a month to train. That mean every weekend until Feb. 8th, I got to spend hours in the woods training the Millstone Loop. See the race consisted of three 10.5 mile loops. I didn't yet know the route very well, so I was meeting more experienced runners to help me figure them out. Unfortunately we had the added challenge of part of the loop being closed when started training, so we had to be creative with putting in the miles. One day we'd start on the Lake Hagler side and run that portion, plus some add on and visit the Horse Farm. 
Horse Break!
Then we'd go to the Adventure Center side and run over there, plus add on Paradise (ugh) and some other trails. One day, we ventured over by the closed section and low and behold, it was open! We had already run some add on miles so we didn't do the full loop, but we did run new portions and upped our mileage. 

This happened a lot. Map break to find some add on miles 
It was now 3 weeks before the race and I had not run a full unbroken loop yet. I made arrangements to meet up with 2 friends who knew the loop really well, both who were doing the race and we were going to run not 1, but 2 loops full through. 

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned much about the weather. Well, part of my "official training" was that I couldn't complain about the cold. But it was. And wet. For the last month of training, there was a steady weather pattern. During the week, it would rain and get the trails all sloppy wet. On the weekend, the temperatures would drop below freezing for the days I would train. This day was no exception. I believe it was 31 degrees when we started. There was frost on the ground for sure. 

You can see the frost on the tall grass of the Prairie Loop

We started slow, but steady with the me and another girl waiting at trail change overs for the girl in the rear to catch up. She seemed to be struggling a bit, but we were doing pretty good I thought. The lead girl, who knew the trails best and I kept steady pace and conversation. On the Prairie Loop there is a place to take a bathroom break. We took it. We passed the Millstone around mile 5.5. You gotta touch it, or else. At mile 7, the worst part of the loop starts, 3 trails back to back that climb up and have the roughest terrain - Trestle, Billy's Walk and then Wild Azalea. I always joke that one day, I am just going to quit trails all together and it will be because of Wild Azalea. I'll just stop randomly on it, sit down and wait for a horse to pass by to take me back in (it's a horse trail as well). We got past those rough 3 miles and just had a bit of flat around the lake before the climb back out to the Rush Pavilion and loop 1 would be done. 

Finally made it out to the Grist Mill!!
Taken near the end of my 2nd, solo loop
We we finished the first loop, one of the other girls told me she was done. As in DONE. Not just not doing another loop, she wasn't going to do the 50K any more. She had decided to drop down to the 8K. The other girl said she was quitting the race as well, but completely. I tried not to take it as an ominous sign that both my partners decided to quit the race during my first ever completed loop, so I pressed on and did a second one alone. Again, I actually enjoy trails alone so it seemed to go by fairly fast. 21 miles done, 2 loops and I was feeling good.

It was now the week before the race. I met a friend who was still actually running it, but hadn't put in a full loop yet and another friend who was volunteering for the race and just along for the run. The plan was 1 loop. I was lead since by now, I knew it. We stopped a lot, a bit to play around and a bit due to my friend having some hip issues, but it was a good loop. Time had run out, next weekend was the race so we were as prepared as we could be.

Last visit to the Millstone before race day... so we thought...
Except... That Thursday, a massive storm system swept through the area. Schools were cancelled for 2 days. It POURED rain nonstop for 24 hours. There was thunder and lightening, and tornadoes! On Friday, when the storm had moved on and the trail was evaluated... the call was made to postpone the race. Millstone 50K was cancelled. 
Mood like... 

Fingers crossed I anxiously awaited a decision on a new date. They picked March 7th, the day that I was registered to run the Myrtle Beach Marathon, out of town, with me providing lodging for some other runners. Long story short, I couldn't run the new date. My Ultra adventure had come to a crashing halt. 

Let me say real quick, while I was DEVASTATED that I couldn't run the race I had trained for, it was the right call to cancel. The trails were a MESS of flooding and downed trees and were in no way safe. Not to mention, it SNOWED on the actual day the race would have taken place. Rock Hill Striders did the right thing. They gave us a chance to transfer our entries (which luckily my one friend who trained with us who was going to volunteer did take my entry so it didn't go to waste) or defer till the next year at a discounted rate.  

And with a few more weeks before the new date, this weekend, I was back on the trail with my friends to help them train for their race, no longer mine. Ironically, the trails were in amazing shape yesterday, just a week after the race-cancelling storm. In fact, with a few exceptions, there were better than they have been in months. Less mud for sure. (Though we did have to remove a small downed tree from across the trail on Billy's Walk). 

So, here's the big question for me know I suppose. Will I try again. I honestly do not know. Training was hard. It took a lot out of me and was super time consuming. Trails are MUCH harder than road. The elevation changes and switchbacks and running over rock and root hit your body in a different way. I was cold, and wet a lot and hated that. But there is part of me that still thinks I need to prove that I could have done it. Maybe, when the weather is nicer and I am through my insane Spring racing calendar, I'll pick a day and do my own Ultra. 

Until then, I wish those still doing the Millstone 50K good luck. I can honestly say I now know the trails out there really well and I will for sure be back on them again, even if it's not for 31.5 miles!