Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15k San Francisco

The first race of 2017 was the Hot Chocolate 15k in San Francisco!  This was my first Hot Chocolate run and I had the privilege of pacing this race with Beast Pacing.  My 4:50am running partner, Kelly, joined me in San Fran for this weekend of fun! Our first stop after a 2.5 hour drive to the City by the Bay was the expo at the South San Francisco Convention Center.

Some of the highlights of the expo included getting our picture with a giant inflatable marshmallow man, checking out the awesome Beast Pacing area, and snapping a picture with one of my favorite exhibitors… Pro Compression!

After the expo, we checked into our hotel near Union Square, and headed to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  We were told there’d be a 50 minute wait for a table for two, so headed to the bar to grab a drink.  While at the bar, a gentleman who was sitting at the bar saw us standing off to the side and came over to let us know that he and his friend were leaving.  We decided to forgo the 50 minute wait and sit at the bar to order our drink, meal, and cheesecake.  (We ended up eating only a few bites of our cheesecake and taking the rest to go since we were too full to finish.)

Did you know that the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square is on the top floor of Macy’s and conveniently located above the furniture department?  After feeling quite full and content, we stopped to test out the comfy Macy’s couches in our twinning Hot Chocolate zip-up jackets.

Once back to the hotel, we took our #flatrunner pics, put in our ear plugs since there was a club right next to our hotel, and tried to get some sleep before our 4:30am alarm.

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I’ve written about this before, but something unique about me is that I like to take a shower every race morning.  So, when my 4:30am alarm went off,  I hopped in the shower, got dressed, grabbed my Go Pro, and headed out the door.

Kelly and I were out of the hotel by 5:15am which gave us time to stop by the nearby Starbucks before walking the few blocks to catch the shuttle to the starting line.

We arrived to Golden Gate State Park by 6:00am which gave us a little over two overs before the 8:20am 15k start time.  When we unloaded the bus, we were greeted by a bucket of chocolates.  It’s perfectly normal to eat chocolate at 6am, right?

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After leaving the bus, we followed the racers in front of us, and ended up in the volunteer registration area.  It was dark outside, raining, and as I already stated, we still had one hour before I needed to meet up with the fellow Beast Pacers and two hours before the race start time.  Being the adventurous soles that we are, we decided to brave the elements and walk up to the start line to try to get a pic with the giant inflatable start banner.  We walked nearly half a mile to the start line to find that there was no giant inflatable start banner, so we decided to turn back around and return to the volunteer area.

On the walk back the rain started really coming down.  We, therefore, became drenched from head to toe!  Once back to the volunteer area, we tried finding solace under a pillared area, but the rain/wind was coming in sideways!  I had remembered seeing a “real” bathroom previously next to the porta-potties so I whispered to Kelly, “Quick, come here!”

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We went in the “real” bathroom with flushing toilets and there was no one in there! We had our own dry waiting area!  It was amazing!

Before long it was time to leave our dry oasis, drop off our drop bags, and meet up with the other Beast Pacers.  The Hot Chocolate race directors were kind enough to allow us pacers to gather under the gear check tent for our meet up time. Kelly was a little apprehensive to sneak in  with me, but I reassured her that no one would notice.

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Part of the 26 total Beast Pacers at the Hot Chocolate 15k.

Kelly snapped a picture of me with my 15 minute per mile sign and then headed off to the start line.  I, on the other hand, stayed in the gear check with the other pacers until the very last minute.

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“Fifteen minute mile?” some of you may be thinking.  Yes, I am willing to pace pretty much any pace that is slower that my normal pace.  To prepare for this pace, I tried out a 15 minute per mile pace on my treadmill.  I figured that I’d follow a jog / walk interval or a fast walk.  Why am I willing to pace a time that is so much slower than my usual pace?  Because I love meeting new people, encouraging others, and joining forces with my fellow Beast Pacers!

While hanging out in the gear check tent we received word that the race officials shortened the course due to road closures on course from the rain / wind.  Now, instead of running a 15k, we’d be running a 9k.  I won’t lie… I was quite relieved to hear that the course was shortened.  At a 15 minute per mile pace, I would have been on course for almost 2.5 hours if it were a 15k.  It was raining, there were wind gusts, and I was already wet from head to toe.  I was relieved to find out that I’d be on course for only about 1.5 hours.  It might be fun to run in the rain for a little while, but at some point I enjoy getting into warm, dry clothes & shoes.

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Before I knew it, I was lined up in the last coral, talked with the runners around me, and even danced with a few.  I was the second to last pacer.  There was one more pacer behind me who was the 15:00/mile pacer & sweeper.  I was suppose to be towards the front of the 15:00/mile group and she was to be the last one to cross the starting line.

After hearing all the corrals in front of us start, it was now our turn.  No matter how many races I do, I still find myself wanting to sprint out of the starting chute.  I knew, however, that with this pace there would be no sprinting today.  At first I tried a walk / jog interval, but that was too fast.  I ended up sticking to a fast walk.

There were a few inclines including one towards the beginning.  We successfully made it up and were rewarded by the sight of a few small waterfalls.

The aid station volunteers are the true heroes of the day!  Despite the wind gusts and rain, they were out there to give us water, Nuun, chocolate, and marshmallows.  They cheered for us with enthusiasm and joy.  Thank you volunteers!

It always surprises me how quickly the miles seem to pass!  Although it may seem difficult and tiring while you’re in it, afterwards you think, “It’s done, already?”  I ended up finishing with an average pace / mile of 14:47.  It still was a little fast even with walking the whole way.  I had a few people comment on course, “Wow!  You sure walk fast!”

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Oh!  I almost forgot to mention that we saw buffalo on course too!  🙂  Overall, I had an amazing experience pacing the Hot Chocolate 15k in San Francisco.  I hope that I’m able to pace it again in 2017.  Yes, I’ll even do it if it’s raining again!

The finisher’s mug at the finish line was perfect!  I was so hungry at this point that I practically inhaled my hot chocolate, Rice Krispie, and cookie.  The melted dipping chocolate was perfect!  I didn’t care if it was raining because by this point there was no part of my body that was dry.  My fingers looked like prunes, I’m sure my toes looked like prunes, and my shoes went “squish, squash” every time I took a step!

Kelly and I took our finisher pics, grabbed our drop bags, and made our way to the shuttles.  We, fortunately, were able to get late checkout at our hotel which allowed us to go back, take a hot shower, and change into dry clothes.  Warm, dry clothes have never felt so good!

Have you ever raced, paced, and/or trained in the rain?  What are your tips for making the most out of rainy / windy / cold weather?

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