Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicago's 2012 Hot Chocolate 5K/15K

On November 4th, Dave and Holly participated in Chicago's 2nd running of the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K. Dave walked the 5K with our friend Laura and Holly ran the 15K. Based on the way the packet pickup and corralling went this is likely the last time they will participate in the event.

RAM runs several smaller races in the Chicago area that are relatively popular. The Hot Chocolate series is really popular, mainly because it features chocolate treats at the finish. This year's race brought in 40,000 people. That's 5,000 less than The Chicago Marathon. The difference - the marathon spreads folks all over the city for 7+ hours. Hot Chocolate concentrates everyone in a couple mile sliver of Chicago's shoreline.

Holly went to pick up the packet on Friday. Packet pickup was in a tent in a parking lot of Soldier Field - which is near the shore of Lake Michigan. Holly encountered a line of about 1,000 waiting outside the tent. It was around 40 degrees and windy. Her wait time outside was over an hour and the line was much longer when she left. This was a disaster of a pickup process. Their Facebook Page is full of negative comments form irate runners and apologies from RAM (check screen shot atend of this post). A lady at lunch yesterday said she was brought to the front of the line because she brought her toddler with her - and it still took 2 hours.

Corralling was another mess. Corrals were lettered A-T and are usually assembled based on runners' pace per mile. Holly and Laura were placed in Corral R and Dave in Corral Q. Holly's pace should have pushed her up further in the letters. Dave was able to enter Corral R with them because no one was checking. Each corral would cross the start 3 minutes apart. We were in Q....We crossed the start line at gun time +1:07. Yes, we crossed the start line an hour after the race started. Laura and Dave were quickly walking/jogging and ended up isolated on the course within the first half mile. Then we got trampled by the waves behind us. The bibs passing us were alphabet soup - proving the corralling system just did not work, nor was it enforced.

Oh yeah, it was cold out too. Standing that long in the cold is not that much fun and not really too good for the muscles.

The course had it's pluses and minuses. Both distances ran together until about 2.6 miles. There were some nice views of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, and the skyline. Unfortunately about a mile of the 5K was in a tunnel system. Holly also got to experience the McCormack Place Tunnel on the 15K course - twice. At least another mile of tunnel. She also stated there were two places where she was on grass - a no-no for a race course. We did notice that volunteers did a great job pointing out potential course hazards along the way. Water and Gatorade stops were well-manned and efficient. In the finish shoot we received water, Gatoade, but no chocolate. There was a sign for it, but no one handing any out.

The swag for this race wasa sweatshirt and a plastic cup. The shirt was a nice hooded tech shirt. The complaints we were hearing in the corrals were that shirt sizes did not correspond with your usual sizing. Dave's XL shirt fit like a Large.

We waited about ten minutes for our other swag item: a large plastic bowl. You received this bowl at the after-party and it was filled with your treats. In the center was a place that held a paper cup of hot chocolate - which was branded Ghiradelli. If anyone from that company tried this hot chocolate they'd be embarrasses for their brand. It was way watered-down and tasted like the plastic urn it was held in. Another compartment held chocolate fondue while another portion held our dipping items: a banana, marshmallow, pretzels, apples, and Rice Crispy Treat. The hole was awkward for dipping in and made a mess. When you were done you still had to hold this thing filled with liquid chocolate. Many of these items ended up in the trash. A plastic / rubber medallion would have made a better keepsake.

The piles of Ghiradelli squares we received last year were nowhere to be found. Major disappointment. The band at the party was a decent local band and the port-a-potties were plentiful.

Here's our video covering pre-race, 5k portion of the course, and post-race.

Overall not a good event. The high registration fees ($48 5k and $68 15K) were partly justified by the quality of the shirt, but not for the food and bowl. Last year's post-race treats were way better and we didn't have to lug around some stupid bowl filled with liquid chocolate. we still had fun hanging out with Laura and enjoying lunch at Bar Louie.

Be sure to follow the action on their Facebook Page. It can be entertaining.


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