The Hot Chocolate packet pickup last year was a disaster as people were waiting for up to 3 hours in the bitter cold just to pick up there race bib and hoodie. This year, the packet pickup was indoors at McCormick Place, and it was spread out over three days instead of two. The result (on Friday):
|The 2013 Hot Chocolate 15k Packet Pickup at the Expo: More volunteers than runners!|
|I asked for my "A" corral here|
My across-the-street neighbor Tad and I left his house at about 5:45 and about 20 minutes later we were pulling into a $14 garage just north of Grant Park. We had to hike quite a ways to get to gear check, since it was located near the finish line at the very south end of Grant Park. Once we arrived, there was barely a line and soon we were heading back north to the A/B corrals. Did I mention that this race is massive? There were about 40,000 runners to weave through and around to get to the A corral. The race had setup miles of high metal fences to prevent people from jumping into corrals. This caused backups of runners trying to navigate the narrow sidewalks to get to the front of the race.
|Me and Tad at Bag Check|
My goal for this race was to PR, so I would need break 1:02:55 (6:45/mile) which means I would actually have to average about 6:37/mile with all of the turns and weaving. I have just started doing real speed training in the last two weeks, so I thought that the goal was lofty. However, I figured if I ran a smart race (i.e. negative splits) I would have an outside chance of snagging a shiny new PR.
Did I mention that one of the things that I love about the Hot Chocolate race (maybe the main thing) is that it's a chance to revisit parts of the Chicago Marathon course only three weeks after the marathon. So, while the memories of the race are still crisp, you get to line up at the same start line, run along the same 3 mile stretch of Michigan Ave. and then end up at the same finish line. For me that's a huge bonus. Anyway, the gun sounded and we headed north on Columbus Drive. Security did not prevent people from cheering us on the bridge over the road, unlike the marathon, so that was very nice. We scooted onto lower Wacker for most of the first mile. RAM had set up a light show in lower Wacker which was okay, but at least they made an effort on what is arguably the least exciting (and darkest) part of the course. My footpod was giving my watch display all sorts of wacky readings since my GPS was useless in Lower Wacker. In the end it nailed my mile pace pretty accurately, despite the intermittent false readings. During this mile, I repeated to myself my early race mantra "just hold back." 6:47/mile.
Finally, we reached daylight and ran down Clark St. right smack dab in the middle of the Loop. Very cool! Last year's race did not take us through downtown Chicago, so this is a HUGE bonus. Love it. However, I was forgetting to say my mantra, and I was speeding up too much: 6:34/mile.
We headed over to Michigan Avenue and started running along the west side of Grant Park. Runners that had not yet reached the starting line, were darting in front of us trying to make it to their corrals. At Roosevelt Rd., the 5kers left us 15kers and headed up Mt. Roosevelt. I was going way too fast. 6:22/mile.
The sun was coming out and we were headed down the Chicago Marathon stretch of Michigan Ave. which means one thing: goose bump time. I was in racing heaven, full of endorphins, on the Chicago Marathon course and so, I was letting my legs fly as if I were running a 10k instead of a 15k. Finally, my brain kicked near the end of this mile and I told myself to SLOW THE HELL DOWN - and I did (will miracles never cease?)! 6:52/mile.
This is was likely the turning point of my race, despite it being my slowest mile. This is due to the fact that I reeled in my emotions, got level headed and started to groove a comfortable pace. I needed to save myself for a surge over the last 5k which was my PR plan all along. We continued down beautiful south Michigan Avenue and turned east on 31st street over to the lake. 6:52/mile.
During this mile there was a "Chocolate Station" where kids were handing out small chocolate bars. However, I did not see any runners taking them up on it. Maybe a few people took them later? Anyway, we headed south on the eastern most northbound lane of Lake Shore Drive. We were separated by on-coming traffic by an extra layer of cones this year, so I guess it was a little safer than last year! 6:44/mile
We made the turn headed north on the access road that runs along LSD, and I did a quick mental calculation as to what I needed to run to get my PR. I figured a 6:35, 6:35, 6:20 would get me close, so that was my goal. We ran through the McCormick Place tunnel and there was a light show in there as well. I had to remove my sunglasses in the tunnel to watch for those pesky filled-in potholes. 6:35/mile
We rounded the corner just before Soldier Field. There was a "Triathlete Dude" running in front of me wearing a triathlon shirt and biker shorts. Suddenly, he turned around and beckoned me to keep pace with him as he accelerated. I think he must have thought I was someone else by the look on his face, but I still said "thanks man" and then of course, I accelerated and tried to keep up with him. 6:28/mile
As I tried to catch up with "Triathlete Dude" he kept pushing the pace and stayed about 15 yards ahead of me. I ran almost effortlessly as I was solely focused on keeping up with him. I also soon realized that I would be cutting my PR time close, so I had that as an incentive to run fast as well. 6:15/mile
After running down the hill from Soldier Field, we turned the corner and went up the hill leading back up to Columbus Drive. Once we reached Columbus Drive there was only the 200m of the downhill portion of the Chicago Marathon course left.
|Haulin' near the finish line|
PR accomplished by 17 seconds!
|Basking in the glow of a PR!|
Age Group: 6/243
Official Pace: 6:44/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:34/mile
Unofficial 5k Splits:
1st 5k: 21:21
2nd 5k: 21:20
3rd 5k: 19:57
Since I haven't gotten any PRs this year I am more than happy to take this one home. Despite the fact that I ran somewhat positive splits for the first half, I ended up pulling back nicely midway and ran negative splits for the second half. I guess slowing down during the first part of a race is something I still need to work on.
|Posing near the finish line|
Tad and I met up at bag check and made our way over to grab our fondue mug at the north side of Grant Park.
|Tad and me and the Hot Chocolate skyline|
|Me and my fondue mug|
Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite races of the year. The course is an eight out of 10, and it gets bonus points for including the key points of the Chicago Marathon (start, finish, Michigan Ave). Since it is held only three weeks post-marathon it is one more chance to get out and race on hallowed ground once more. Add to that the easy packet pickup, bag check, and plentiful porta potties this is slowly becoming a first class experience.
|See you next year Mr. Hot Chocolate!|