Last fall I was putting together a fitness bucket list on Pinterest as part of the Fitfluential team and one of my to-do items is to go home to Chicago for a race. I thought about the Hot Chocolate 15K, since I really enjoyed running that distance in May at the Seattle's Best 15K which has nothing to do with the coffee, a real missed opportunity there... Anyhow, when I went to check out the Hot Chocolate website, Seattle had been added to the list of cities and there was info on how to become an ambassador. I applied and was accepted, probably because I do love the 15K distance, all things chocolate and all things that originate in Chicago. I had a great rapport and support from my contact at RAM racing; I even got to meet the crew and the founder of RAM a few weeks ago for a really nice meet and greet. All were really friendly and passionate about their job to put on a fantastic race.
Race day finally arrived, starting nice and early. Teammate Dawn was scheduled to pick me up at 6:45 for a 7:40 start time. At least it wasn't the 5K start time: at 6:45! This is my only complaint, and it's one that seemed to resonate throughout the Seattle running community. That's a crazy early start time for a race and seems odd for the 5K to start prior to the 15K. I'm sure RAM racing has their reasons for crowd control, street closures, etc. But, it made things difficult for many groups that had friends/family running different distances or for those of us that were contemplating switching down to the 5K. We had a number of our 5K brunch compatriots drop out because it was just too long to wait around for us to finish the 15K.
Once we found parking (easily) and walked over to the start at the Seattle Center, corrals were very well organized and enforced. They had very friendly volunteers stationed at every gap in the temporary fence along the start to check bibs for corral assignments - you could enter yours or those that were slower. There was 3 minutes between the start of each one and this was really great - it made for smooth sailing the whole 9.3 miles, no real dodging or weaving that I experience in most every race, let alone one of this size. Jenny, who I was so glad to finally meet, came up from Portland and decided to slum it with me in my corral that was at least one or two behind hers.
|Jenny, me, Dawn - photo courtesy of Dawn's Instagram|
Before long we were off and running. The weather was rather cold for Seattle, in the upper 30s/low 40s, but achingly gorgeous with crystal clear skies and sun, sun, sun. The hilly start certainly got me warmed up as we headed down Elliott Avenue toward Western behind the market; there were a couple of nice rolling 100 ft hills as we did the 5K loop downtown and then we headed for the big guns along Aurora Avenue.
Now, this was quite a looooong uphill slog. However, it was the most fun and distracting section of the course. There were beautiful views of the mountains along the bridge and views of the runners: I love it in big races when the course opens up (or goes straight up, as the case may be) and you can see thousands of people running. And as we were working our way up the hills, the top finishers were speeding past the other way and we would all cheer as they went by. It was great seeing familiar faces among the crowd like Susan (who came in 3rd in 59:30!) and Nolana; this race really had such a festive atmosphere. Last but not least, since it was an out and back, we knew we'd have a nice looooong downhill cruise on our way back to the finish. That was super fun with pretty views of the city.
I tried to cruise when I could, but since this was my first long run in awhile, I kept things nice and easy at about a 10 minute pace and finished in 1:36:48 - more than 10 minutes slower than the aforementioned Seattle's Best 15K, blargh. Still, I felt really good since it boosted my confidence in my endurance and solidified the fact that my hamstring issue was on the mend (I pretty sure it's 100% mended now, woohoo!) since I was pain free that day and the next. So, obviously I didn't 'race' it, but I did run the whole thing with the exception of walking the water stations. I appreciated that every station had both Gatorade and water and were clearly marked/organized. If I'm going to have to choke that stuff down, I like to have a water chaser. I forgot my handheld filled with Nuun in Dawn's car, so I had a couple sips of Gatorade and a cup of water at every station and this worked out well.
The finish line runs right through the Seattle Center and I was running in just as the monorail was leaving the station, giving me quite the iconic Seattle moment with EMP in the background and the Space Needle towering overhead.
Another nice thing about a pretty early race? You finish in time for brunch, my favorite post race meal. Hats off to Tasha and Lindsay for getting up so early to run the 5K and then joining us much, much later for bloody marys.
|Bloody Marys with SHRIMP!|
|Jenny, Me, Jon, Becky, Lindsay, Tasha, Nicole, Robyn, Dawn and her hubs Irwin trying to hide|