Run Your Race, Find Your Strength

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15k San Fran 2020

One of my favorite races is the San Francisco Hot Chocolate 15k race. The opportunity to pace runners to the finish line, the course through Golden Gate Park, the race swag, and of course all the chocolate are some of the reasons why I love this race!

This was my fourth year to pace the Hot Chocolate race with Beast Pacing. In 2017, I ran the race with Kelly. In 2018, I ran the race with Vanessa. In 2019, I ran the race solo, but traveled to San Francisco with my mom and baby who at the time was less than two months old! As for this year, I ran the race with Biz who is pictured below on the left. The runner in the middle is Catherine who I first met at the Hot Chocolate race a couple of years ago.

This year was my first year to drive down to the race the morning of the race. San Francisco is about 2.5 hours from my house, so if someone else is able to pick up my bib at the expo, I try to just drive to the bay area the morning of the race. Fortunately, one of my Beast Pacing team members picked up my bib for me and I met up with them on race morning.

A large portion of the Hot Chocolate San Fran course takes place in Golden Gate Park. There’s limited parking within the park, so many runners catch a shuttle to the race. One of the things I like about HC San Fran is that there are several shuttles offered and they are well organized. I’ve caught the Union Square shuttle twice, the Millbrae shuttle once, and this year I caught the shuttle in Emeryville. Yes, there is a cost to riding the shuttles, but I’d much rather pay for the shutte than have to try to navigate parking in or near Golden Gate Park!

The night before the race, I carefully laid out my clothes for my #flatrunner pic. I was excited to wear my newest pair of ProCompression socks!

As for the morning of the race, I woke up at 3am, picked up Biz at 4:15, stopped for coffee along the way at about 5:15, and boarded the shuttle at 6:30am. We arrived to Golden Gate Park, I checked in with my Beast Packing crew, and then took some pictures with friends.

Before long, it was time to make our way to the starting corral. As the 15 minute per mile pacer, I was lined up in the last corral with the 15 minute per mile sweeper. The only difference between the two of us is that the sweeper is the last person to cross the starting line. If runners fall back behind the sweeper, they are at risk for being swept up by the swag vehicle. I love motivating the runners around me to keep going and telling them, “You can do it!”

The HC San Fran course is one of my favorite courses. With views of the water, bison, a windmill, and the gorgeous Golden Gate Park, it really makes the miles go by quickly!

As a pacer, we are to be as close to our goal time as possible without going over. Normally pacers are given finish times such as a 3 hour half marathon or a 4 hour full marathon. With the Hot Chocolate run series, however, we are given mile times.

At one mile, I am suppose to be as close to 15 minutes as possible without going over. The tricky part about this is that we can not go solely on what our wrist GPS device says. We must go based upon the mile markers the race has set up. Sometimes the GPS wrist device, like my Garmin Forerunner 235, and the race mile markers don’t match up, as in this race.

At each mile, I seemed to be gaining another .01 of a mile. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re trying to get to each mile marker at a particular pace, it does become a big deal. At the first mile I thought the difference between my Garmin and the mile marker was just a fluke. When it happened, however, again at miles two and three, I knew that it was more than just a fluke.

The problem then became that I needed to pick up my pace. Each mile was no longer a mile, but was a little bit more than a mile. I, therefore, couldn’t keep my 15 minute per mile pace. I had to maintain more like a 14:40 pace. The runners around me noticed and asked if I was going faster (I walk the entire race). At one of the turnarounds, the sweeper also noticed the long course and asked, “Is your Garmin also registering a long course?”

Eventually, we made it to the finish line and it was all worth it! I took my jump picture (as I have done every year after finishing the race), picked up my gear check bag, and then grabbed my biodegradable mug complete with a Honey Stinger waffle, rice krispie treat, banana, marshmallow, chocolate wafer cookie, pretzels, chocolate sauce dip, and hot chocolate of course. It was SO delicious!

Once we arrived back to our car from the shuttle, we drove to Panera for lunch, changed our clothes, and made the 2.5 hour drive back home. After dropping Biz off at her house , I stopped at the grocery store to do my family’s weekly grocery visit. I wanted to take full advantage of the baby being at home with daddy. (Anyone who has ever tried to go grocery shopping with little ones totally knows what I mean.)

Once I got home and put away the groceries, I grabbed the baby, put her in our BOB, and we went for a walk. Overall, a productive, fun day, the last day of winter break (the three weeks I had off of work, from being a 5th grade teacher).

Have you run a Hot Chocolate 15k race before? Where did you run and how did you like it? If not, sign up for a Hot Chocolate race today! There are races all across the US! Check out my discount page for a code to get you a FREE hat at your next Hot Chocolate race.

Until next time,


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Christian, wife, mom/stepmom, no meat athlete, runner, teacher

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