Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15k – February 13, 2016

Hot Chocolate is the only race I’ve run consistently every year since I started running. (Links to the 2014 Nashville Hot Chocolate 15k and 2015 Nashville Hot Chocolate 15k.) It’s usually a fairly good predictor of how well I will do at whatever end-of-April half marathon I’m running (in 2014, my half pace was a little faster, and last year my pace was a little slower, but they were close). So it’s kind of like a goal pace long run.

However, I haven’t quite figured out what my half goal pace is this year, so my plan for this race was as follows: I wanted to average about a 10:30 pace, which is faster than I’ve been doing my long runs. I wanted to accomplish this by doing the first 5k at a fairly comfortable pace (11:00ish pace), the next 5k around 10:30, and the final 5k with everything I had left (aiming for around 10:00 pace).

The weather was forecast to be pretty similar to how it was in 2014: high teens with a wind chill in the low teens and sunny. Brr!

Race Day

I arrived downtown around 6:30am, but I didn’t head up to the race site until 6:45 or so. I was supposed to meet my cousin Gillian in Corral D (I had been placed in B, but was moving back to run with her), but it was chaotic, everyone looked the same (like ninjas), and she had put her phone in her bag at bag check, so I wasn’t able to find her before we started.

I had worn one of my old ballet warmup sweaters over my race stuff that I was going to throw away anyway because it had a huge rip down the side seam. It did its job to keep me warm and I threw it to the side right before the start.

Mile 1: 10:59
Mile 2: 10:59
Mile 3: 10:21
The race started off okay. I was slightly annoyed at the start because there were already walkers in the way (the first few corrals clearly say NO WALKERS!) that didn’t know race etiquette and you had to weave around. This is probably why my watch distance ran so long in the end.

The second mile has the giant hill that I hate every year. I made it up, but it seemed like a lot of people were struggling already.

The 5k people split from the 15k people during the third mile, so the course got much less congested and it was easier to run. Hence my little pick up in pace.

Mile 4: 10:28
Mile 5: 10:28
Mile 6: 10:03
I made my first water stop during the fourth mile. The water was so cold I could barely down it.

And I finally saw Gillian! The sixth mile is comprised of two out and back sections within Centennial Park, so I kept an eye out for her, figuring she was ahead of me. And she was! We waved to each other, and I never saw her again after that; she finished about three minutes before me.

nashville hot chocolate 15k 2016

Mile 7: 9:55
Mile 8: 10:14
Mile 9: 9:34
These miles were the worst. We were running from the park back to downtown and the wind was blowing against us, and it was SO cold. I actually got colder these last three miles than I felt at the start.

My time on mile eight was a little more than I would have liked because I was fumbling with my phone trying to get my music going for the last bit of the race. Hard to do when you are wearing three layers of fabric over your hands.

2016 hot chocolate 15k nashville

Final 0.3 (0.44 to my watch): 4:14 (9:42 pace)
I took a short walk break just after the nine mile marker to prepare myself for the finish. I know that makes no sense logically, but it helped me so much mentally. I pushed super hard across the finish line until I had the feeling I was going throw up. I actually thought I might do it this time, but I didn’t. I got my medal and my hot chocolate. I was done.

2016 nashville hot chocolate 15k

Official Time: 1:37:16

Race Review

The race was well done, as always. On the Thursday before the race, they announced they would be implementing their cold weather plan. This meant they would be diverting people slower than 13 min/mi to the 5k so the volunteers standing out in the cold could go home sooner, which I think is smart. It was super cold.

It’s not something the race directors can control (without changing the date), but I do wish that it wasn’t 20 degrees on this weekend every single year. The weekend before it was in the 50s and the weekend after is supposed to be in the 60s, but we didn’t get above freezing the weekend of the race. I would love to stick around and enjoy my chocolate and cheer on my friends and wait for people, but I’m always frozen solid five minutes after finishing. I was so cold this year, I started to have a panic attack because it was so painful. Note to self: If you run this next year, bring Hot Hands for after the race!!

The swag was great, as usual. This year my jacket had “2016 Finisher Nashville” stitched onto it for being one of the first 10% to sign up. I feel like the mug had more dipping options in it, including three heart shaped marshmallows, which were yummy!

Race Analysis

I completed my goal! My official average pace was 10:27 per mile (my unofficial pace was 10:18 with the extra distance). Here’s my 5k splits:
pace for the 2016 hot chocolate 15k

The average pace for these in miles instead of kilometers is 10:42 min/mi for the first 5k, 10:20 min/mi for the second, 9:55 min/mi for the third, and 8:19 min/mi for the last little 0.22 km that my watch went over due to weaving or whatever.

Based on this pace, I’m looking at about a 2:20 half. I’d like to be closer to 2:15, so we will see what speed work can do.

Fueling

Night Before: a fantastic dinner of Thin Mints, Oreos, and potato chips
Pre-Race: 75% of a Nutrigrain bar
During Race: just water
Post-Race: hot chocolate plus marshmallows and wafers dipped in chocolate

Gear

Sports Bra: Champion Shape T-Back
Top: Lululemon Face the Frost 1/2 Zip
Bottom: Brooks Utopia Thermal Tights
Socks: ProCompression Socks
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Sayonara 2 (my second pair)

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Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15k – February 14, 2015

I had initially planned for this run to be a goal pace run to prep me for Tom King three weeks later. This meant a finishing time of 1:36:00. In the weeks leading up to the race, I felt pretty good about this. I had run 1:37:37 in training, which wasn’t too far off.

And then the Cedars Frostbite Half happened, and I had no idea what to do with my goals for the rest of the year.

I ran the 15k distance in that race in 1:34:09.

Since I had run so hard just a week earlier, should I even attempt a goal pace run? I finally decided I would just run it and not be concerned. I threw all goal times out, except that I did want a PR because I figured that would be fairly easy to do.

Race Day

I got up bright and early at 5am. My cousin Gillian was running the 5k and we were carpooling downtown, so she met me a little before 6am to head down there. Unlike last year, Amanda actually remembered to sign up for the race this year! We met up with her in the parking garage and all walked over to the park together.

hot chocolate 15k pre-race

Freezing before the start.

We were all assigned to different corrals but decided to start together, so we chose to begin from my corral, E. It took about 15-16 minutes to reach the start but soon we were off.

Mile 1: 10:00
Mile 2: 10:04
Mile 3: 8:49
For the first two miles, I ran with Gillian. She was aiming for a sub-30 5k, so we were going about the same pace. It was a little congested at the start, so there was a bit of weaving around people. The second mile also brought the massive Rosa Parks hill that we ran up last year as well. So these miles were a little slower than she was planning.

The 15k runners and 5k runners split off during mile 3. I wished Gillian good luck and made my way down Church Street.

I think my watch had a few snafus during mile 2 and decided to even them out in mile 3; I’m not convinced I was actually running a sub-9 minute pace, but I about panicked when my watch beeped and showed that pace. Way too fast!

Mile 4: 9:37
Mile 5: 10:13
Mile 6: 10:08
I stopped at a water station on mile 4. They were offering marshmallows as well, but I opted for just the water.

Soon after, we entered Centennial Park for a couple miles. I enjoyed the out-and-back sections through the park as they allowed me to look at the oncoming runners and see if I could spot anyone I knew. I never did, but it was distracting nonetheless.

Mile 7: 9:29
Mile 8: 10:01
Mile 9: 9:39
Once we left the park, there were less than three miles left. I was pretty exhausted by this point and ready to be done, but I pressed on. I had forgotten to eat something that morning and my stomach was growling. I tried to take a chocolate marshmallow at the last water station, but ended up dropping it. On the last mile, I took one non-water station walk break. I just needed a little more energy to finish strong.

Final 0.3 (0.37 to my Garmin): 3:20 (9:00 pace)
As you can tell, I had no real final push in my step. I did, however, manage to pose for my finish photo.

Finishing the hot chocolate 15k

Official Time: 1:31:16

You can watch me cross the finish line around 14 seconds in here:

I was extremely happy with my time for this race, especially considering I had just PR’d the half last weekend. I took 15 minutes off my time from last year!

I met up with Gillian after crossing the finish line. She had gotten her sub-30 goal and finished in 29:45!

After downing my hot chocolate and fondue, we began our trek back to the car with frozen fingers.

Race Review

This race continues to be one of my favorites despite the weather always being dreadfully cold. It is so well-organized for a race its size. Smaller races could learn a lot.

The swag was great this year, just like last. We got zip-up hoodies, which are super warm and comfy. The race name is stitched onto the front. The bonus this year was that all 15k finishers got a medal! I also managed to get a “will run for chocolate” running hat in my bag.

hot chocolate 15k swag

I should have thrown some makeup on before taking this. Sorry.

And the post-race food is amazing! It was the same as last year’s, but that is in no way a complaint. I didn’t keep my mug this year, since I already have one that is collecting dust.

hot chocolate 15k finisher's mug

Race Analysis

This was my third race in a row of running by feel instead of by watch. I continue to amaze myself at what I can do when I’m not entirely trying. I even bested my 10k time from last November, and you remember how amazed I was at that time! Overall, this was my best race to date, time-wise. I wish I could have finished a little stronger, but without really tapering or anything, I am still pleased with my performance.

hot chocolate 15k splits

Here’s what McMillan thinks I can do now:
estimated times for other races

Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15k – February 15, 2014

The race started out with some bad news.

Amanda texted me on the Wednesday before the race to ask what day we had signed up because she couldn’t find her confirmation email for packet pickup on Thursday. I searched my email and told her it was July 19th, but they had sent out an email last Friday with a link to use. She said she didn’t receive that. I started joking around with her that she had never actually signed up. But when she tried to log into their website to view her confirmation it soon became clear that she had never actually signed up. I teased her about it and figured she would just go ahead and sign up since registration was still open.

On Thursday, I texted her to ask about meeting her for dinner after packet pickup. She said she wasn’t coming up because she wasn’t running. Say what? She said she couldn’t afford it and refused my attempts to pay for it. So, I sadly lost my race buddy, which super bummed me out since running a race and having no one to share it with at the finish line is not really fun at all.

This really diminished the excitement I felt for the race, and I almost didn’t want to do it anymore. But I had paid for it and the fleece tech shirt they give you is really nice, and I wanted to be able to wear it, so I forged on, despite this warning that was posted to their Facebook page the night before:

hot chocolate 15k weather alert

The weather was forecasted to be in the 20s on Saturday morning with a windchill of around 12. (Whyyyy?) So I opted to wear running tights with compression sleeves under them, my long-sleeved half-zip with thumb holes, my new Brooks jacket, mittens, and my earwarmer headband. I also decided last minute to wear my Skechers; the tread is running a little low on them, but it’s not completely flat and the midsole seemed fine. I knew they wouldn’t give me blisters, and that’s all I cared about.

I went to bed the night before with a bit of a stomach ache. I don’t know why it was hurting. Jonathan and I had decided to postpone most of our Valentine’s celebration until after the race, so we had just ordered pizza. No alcohol. Nothing unusual. I woke up the next morning still in pain, although it wasn’t as bad as the night before. I downed some Pepto-Bismol and hoped that it would subside. I was imagining having to write a blog post on having to quit the race halfway through due to stomach issues.

Race Day

I arrived in downtown Nashville around 7:30 am for the scheduled 7:55 start. It was so cold and starting to snow. I spent about 10 minutes lightly jogging and trying to warm up, but the entire time I was standing in my corral, I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I thought to myself, “Never ever ever let yourself sign up for a winter race again!” I was in K corral, which was two corrals back from the start (A-H were for the 5k). We were sent on our way a little after 8am.

My goals for this race were pretty simple. I knew that I could easily do it in under two hours. I would be greatly disappointed if I went over that time. But I was really aiming for about 1:50, which would tell me that I was on track with my half marathon training (with the goal for that to finish in 2:45). I decided not to do structured intervals, but just planned on walking through water stops and on uphills.

The way the course is laid out, the first two miles are fairly flat. Then you get four(ish) miles of mostly uphill, then four(ish) miles of mostly downhill. Really good training for the Country Music Half, since it’s kind of similar and along some of the same route. The first two miles were pretty uneventful, although sucky in the way the first two miles always are. I warmed up pretty quick after we got going, so the cold stopped being an issue. Just before the first mile marker, I got something stuck to the bottom of my shoe that was causing a big bump under the toes of my left foot. I thought I was going to have to stop and remove it, but it worked itself out after a few minutes. The first water stop was just after mile 2. It was so cold, all the water cups were filled with slushy ice. I dumped some in my mouth to let it melt and started running again.

Soon after was the first big hill, which was the ramp on Rosa Parks. It was steep. It was so steep that I literally only saw two people attempting to run up the thing. Everyone was walking it. About a half mile after that was another hill. This one wasn’t as steep; it was just long. So I ran up part of it and then walked the rest. About a quarter mile after that, right before the fourth mile marker, was the second water stop. This is why you will notice that miles 3 and 4 were my slowest; this was most of the walking that I did.

hot chocolate 15k

This look on my face clearly says, “I just went up a hill.”

It was pretty steady for a while after that. Most of miles 5-7 were through Centennial Park, which is fairly flat. There was a turn around point just before the sixth mile marker that was on a hill, but I ran all of it. The third water station was just after that and they were also handing out chocolate candy. I hadn’t eaten at all and my stomach had been growling, so I took one. I unwrapped it and stuck it my mouth before I realized my mistake. It was 20 degrees outside and the chocolate was rock hard. I chewed it up as quickly as I could and then dumped some ice from the water station in after it to try to wash it down. Luckily, the discomfort of having chocolate stuck in my mouth didn’t last long, and I was soon running through the 10k point. I hadn’t been checking my watch very much, but I did look at it around 6.2 miles and realized that I had just ran my fastest 10k. “Huh,” I thought. I was feeling really good, so I decided to pick up the pace a little.

hot chocolate 15k

More in my groove at this point!

There were no stops from miles 6 to 8. There was the occasional rolling hill, but it was mostly a downhill trajectory, and I managed to average under an 11 min/mi pace with mile 8 being my fastest of the whole race at 10:28. The fourth and final water stop was just after mile 8 at the base of a hill. I took my last gulps of ice, walked part of the way up the hill, and then started my final mile to the finish. I ran mile nine in 10:38, with that mile marker telling me to pick up the pace even further because there was only 0.3 left. I pushed harder until I saw the mile 3 marker for the 5k, signalling there was only 0.1 left. I started passing people left and right, sprinting across at a 9 min/mi pace.

hot chocolate 15k

Again, I did not run the whole race with my hands up. I promise.

I hit the stop button on my watch and looked at my time. One hour and 46 minutes. Fourteen minutes faster than my I-can-definitely-do-this time, and four minutes faster than my it-would-be-awesome time. I was incredibly happy. Later, I plugged that time into the McMillan calculator and saw that if I kept up my training, that meant I could potentially run the Country Music Half in 2:33. *jaw drops*

hot chocolate 15k

Am I staring at the ground again? Maybe I’m just blinking. I have got to perfect these finish line photos.

I picked up my souvenir race mug, which had hot chocolate, a banana, and chocolate fondue with wafers, marshmallows, pretzels, and a rice krispie treat to dip. I sat down and ate my banana, but I was soon becoming very, very cold again. So I downed my hot chocolate and hightailed it back to my car, saving the fondue for when I got home.

hot chocolate 15k finisher

Race Review

It was one of the most well-organized races I’ve run, especially for its size. (There were an estimated 6000 people running that day.) Packet pick-up was a breeze. They let you exchange hoodies if you got one that didn’t fit. (Mine fit perfectly.) Speaking of the hoodies, BEST RACE SHIRT EVER. They are long-sleeved tech fleeces with thumb holes. (You know I love thumb holes.) Very warm and comfortable. I haven’t run in mine yet, but it will definitely go in my winter rotation. Corrals were clearly marked, as was the entire course. There were parts of the course that had ice on it, but they set up barriers so you wouldn’t run over it. The volunteers were fantastic. Names were announced as you crossed the finish line and you were immediately handed Gatorade or water. (Gatorade has never tasted better.) The finisher’s mug was great. The hot chocolate was some of the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t eat the fondue till I got home, but it was easy to heat up in the microwave. All-in-all, an amazing race that I will definitely do again next year. (They’ve already announced the date!)

hot chocolate 15k souvenir race mug

I chose the perfect outfit to run this in. My hands got sweaty occasionally, but I would just take my mittens off and put them in my jacket pocket until my hands got cold again. The zippers on both my jacket and shirt allowed me to use them as a kind of thermostat. I felt completely comfortable despite the 20 degree temperature throughout the entire race.

Race Analysis

So now it’s time for all the charts and graphs and analysis! You know, the part I love that’s probably also boring to read about. So I won’t say anything and just post the screenshots. First up, my mile splits:
hot chocolate 15k mile splits

By the way, my official time agreed with my watch time down to the second, so apparently I did a good job hitting buttons:

hot chocolate 15k official results

For the timed splits, the first one was at 3 miles (not quite to the 5k mark for some reason) and the second was at the 10k point.

Here’s my race analysis from Strava:
hot chocolate 15k strava race analysis

Also, according to Strava:

hot chocolate 15k estimates efforts

Even if that 5k time was recorded on a downhill, I have to be able to run a 5k at that speed if I can do it at the end of a 15k, right?

And, finally, my quarter mile splits:
hot chocolate 15k quarter mile splits

Shoes: Skechers GoRun 2

All on-course photos by Souvenir Photography.