Hot Chocolate 15K
Finish Time: 1:12:44
Overall Place: 87th Place / 1,007
Division Place: 4th Place / 48
Race Recap By Scott Orlando:
This was my 2nd year in a row running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Columbus, Ohio. Last year the race day weather was miserable with temperatures in the 30’s, strong winds, and relentless rain. This year’s weather was a different kind of miserable with extremely cold temperatures, steady winds of 15 MPH and wind gusts at over 30 MPH. The wind chill had it feeling like 5 degrees at race time. Over 5,100 runners and walkers hit the streets of downtown Columbus to take on the 5K, 10K, and 15K courses. The 5K was by far the most popular distance with over 3,400 participants. The 10K was a new distance added this year that included 700 participants. The 15K race field featured over 1,00 brave runners.
My race started with a decent first few miles as the excitement of such a large race boosted my energy levels. After the field started to spread out a bit I quickly started feeling the effects of the extreme cold and strong winds. My goal was to settle in at a pace around 7:40 per mile which is what I averaged last year. As each mile went on I found myself gradually slowing a few seconds and losing ground. I actually felt fine but I think the gusting winds and extreme cold was taking its toll on my running efficiency.
I know one of the golden rules of racing is not to try anything new during a race, but I did something out of necessity that I have never done before at a race. For the pre race walk from my hotel to the start I placed emergency hand warmers in my gloves. I had planned to remove them just before the start of the race, but it was so cold I kept them in my gloves during the race. Each one was small enough that they added little weight or bulk. They really worked well and I think gave me a false sense of overall body warmth that kept my mind from focusing on the cold.
The wind was probably a bigger factor in slowing me down and making running conditions tough than the actual cold. At times was actually blown sideways from wind gusts if that gives you any indication how strong they really were. It was so cold that the fluid at the hydration stops was freezing. To reduce the fluids from completely freezing aid station workers filled each cup completely. The top of the cups of fluid were iced up but the fluid under the ice was not. Several aid stations on the course featured “Sweet Stops” compete with M & M’s, Swedish Fish, chocolate, marshmallows, and hot chocolate. The race is known well for these delicious little treats along the course.
Knowing I was off my pace and wanting to get back on the age group podium like last year I tried to increase my speed the last mile. This plan didn’t work all that well as this part of the course saw some of the strongest wind gusts. Here the 15K course merged back with the 5K and 10K course so everyone could finish at the same location. As I dug deep and tried to kick hard the last mile I found myself in a sea of walkers from the 5K that were spread out all over the road. There was little pavement to operate and I ended up losing time weaving between them. In the end I finished a little over a minute slower than last year and just off the podium in 4th pace in my division with a time of 1:12:44. The top 3 in my division all finished with times faster than my finish time from last year so based on that I am happy with my efforts. The 2nd and 3rd place finish times were certainly within my grasps being just a minute behind so that will give me motivation to do better next year.
Post race was short lived for me because of the extreme cold. I quickly got to the gear check and changed into warm dry clothes, took a few pictures, received my bowl of chocolate goodies with hot chocolate, and headed back to my hotel for a long hot shower.
This race is offered in several cities around the country each year and seems to really provide a great experience and value to runners. The expo is filled with free chocolate snacks, vendors, and picture opportunities. The swag is always amazing. I actually registered with a promo code for bonus swag which included a cooler bag, magnet, hot chocolate, chocolate bar, and running hat. Everything was very well organized. This year they added a swag swap booth which was much needed last year. They also utilize Enmotive race timing which provided instant results and pictures.
If you are looking for an amazing race experience and like chocolate this might be the event for you!