Bittersweet-Virtual Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte Review

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to run the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming a Bibrave Pro(ambassador), and check out Bibrave.com to review, find and write race reviews.”

As most of you know, over the past year, Virtual has become the new now. Virtual meetings through Zoom and Google Meet, virtual races to somewhat fulfill the void left with the lack of IRL races. The AllState Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Charlotte was not any different as most if not all the Hot Chocolate series has decided to go virtual. I have run the Charlotte installment of the series since it’s inception, so although it pains me not to be able to travel to Charlotte to run, I was happy to have the opportunity to knock it out locally and keep my streak going for the 4th year in a row.

SWAG
To start, I am always impressed about how thorough the race organizers are about getting your race packets out to you in a timely fashion. I received an email about 2 weeks before the race, letting me know my packet had been mailed and included tracking information. I received my package about a week before raceday. I personally treated it like a IRL race and refused to open my package until I had earned it. I took the package with me the morning I planned to do the race and tore it open as soon as I was finished.

And can we talk about swag…SWAG. I have lone said that Hot Chocolate is one of the best races as far as swag goes. Let’s take a look at what I found when I popped open my package.

Jacket
Good quality, full zip black jacket. Hot Chocolate emblem on the chest and removable hood.

Medal
Cool medal in the shape of a chocolate bar, that opens up to reveal a little piece of chocolate.

BIB
2 Packs of dark chocolate hot chocolate
2 pieces of chocolate

Honey Stinger

Nuun
A sample of CBD ointment

The Run 

I couldn’t have picked a better day to run this virtual race, although some would say it was too cold. I think the temps were low 30s but felt like 26 with the wind chill. PERFECT! I picked a route that I was familiar with and only had a couple spots that required me to cross over a 2 lane street. I admit, I am totally not big on virtual races because I find it harder to push myself and I always liked to feed off the race spectators. Regardless, I set out and just let my legs do what they wanted. When I finally reached my 9.3 mile mark, I had finished with a 2 minute PR for 15K distance. Couldn’t wait to go to the website and upload my time. So that’s it, another Hot Chocolate in the books and looking forward to racing it IRL in 2022.

Back again…. for the Chocolate

“Disclaimer: I received a race entry to Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

For the 4th year in a row, I will be toeing the line in 2021 for the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k Charlotte. I’ve been privileged enough to run this race every year since it started in Charlotte and became legacy this year. Before the pandemic took over life as we know it, this race was the last in-person race I was able to complete in 2020. All my other races of 2020 were either cancelled or converted to virtual events.

I, like many others, hope we can look forward to live races again in 2021. Consider joining and meeting me in Charlotte 2021!

2018 Race Year in Review; Preparation for Hot Chocolate

Looking back at my 2018 race year, it definitely had it’s ups and downs. As I am ramping up my training for my first race of 2019, Hot Chocolate 15k Charlotte, I can’t help but reflect back on 2018. The first half of the year started well enough, I ran my first ever Hot Chocolate race(Charlotte) as well as knocked out a few half marathons. I was within seconds of running a new half marathon PR at Tobacco Road Half Marathon, and I ran Oak Island half marathon for the first time. The first half of the year was also bittersweet, because I ran Rock and Roll Raleigh for the last time. This was my home city’s Rock and Roll and I had run it every year since it began 5 years ago. All the complaints from downtown churches, finally took it’s toll because the Rock and Roll series decided it would not be coming back to Raleigh.
In June I traveled to kansas city to run the Hospital Hill Half Marathon. This was my 2nd year running it as a part of the Bibrave family. By far the hillest race, with its constant up and down. Unfortunately, I also think this race is where I injured myself. I was due to began my marathon training in July and my lower legs were just constantly giving me trouble after Hospital Hill. I admit I began to worry heading into the start of training. I had a goal to accomplish in my marathon…I wanted a sub 4. Since I only run 1 marathon a year, I had been waiting a year to try to redeem myself from 2017. In 2017 I ran the Chicago Marathon and was on pace to break sub 4 easily until mile 23. At 23 I caught cramps in both calves, I hobbled to the finish with a time of 4:01. I was mad and upset, and it bothered me like nothing else.
Training started and I decided to go with a new training program, I was going to do the 3 x 2 training.(run 3 days, bike 2 days) Needless to say, training did not start well, I couldn’t hit my pace marks and my legs were not getting any better. Regardless of the pace, I was still doing the set miles needed and hoping that would pay off when it counted. I finally gave in and seeked help from a physical therapist. Kari at Run Raleigh was amazing, and after 4-5 sessions I began to feel like I was turning a corner with my injury. My pace began to drop back down to normal range and the pain was not as severe. Richmond Marathon was in sight and I felt like I was ready, although I didn’t know if I had done enough in training to get that sub 4. Race weekend comes around and I do all my normal routines, which include carb loading at local italian restaurant. I won’t mention the restaurant we chose by name, but they had 5 stars and made their own pasta in-house. Everything was good the night before the race but when I woke up on race morning…..trouble was waiting. Serious GI issues, and I suspected that I could have food poisoning. I couldn’t stay out of the bathroom, but I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least still try.(crazy I know) I was drinking gatorade and ginger ale hoping to rehydrate. I made it to the start line and felt like I was going to go for it. I started out, and things were not too bad and I was running around 9 min pace. At mile 8 I began to feel some uneasiness in my stomach but tried to keep going. I made it all the way to mile 14 before, my body said no more. I was dehydrated and could barely walk. I sat down on the curb, securing my first DNF ever. My runners stopped and asked if I needed anything and someone since the cops back to check on me. Ended up having to be picked up by the ambulance and taken to the emergency room to get pumped up with fluids. I was still determined to run a marathon and luckily I found Kiawah Island marathon that was taking place 3 weeks after Richmond. I signed up.
In between richmond and Kiawah Island, I attended The Running Event in Austin Texas. If you don’t know about TRE, you should go back and read my previous blog posts about The Running Event. I returned home, ready to give the marathon one my try. My last chance before the end of 2018.
Kiawah Island is in South Carolina, which was about a 4 hour drive. Race day it was in the low 40s, almost perfect running weather. I started the race strong and was feeling good. I tried to keep my mind on the mile I was in, but I admit my mind would drift off at moments and I would think about Chicago Marathon. I couldn’t have a repeat performance. Other times I would get excited and think I am going to do it, before I again had to bring myself back to the mile I was in. Once I hit mile 23, there was no cramping but things got tough. My legs began to hurt but I didn’t want to stop, I could taste my goal. I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:57, a new marathon PR and MY SUB 4 Marathon. I was super excited but didn’t really show it as I limped around the post race festivities.
And that’s it, that is how my 2018 race year ended. It ended on the highest of notes and I couldn’t be happier. Now, what awaits me in 2019, I don’t know. I know it will start with Hot Chocolate 15k Charlotte. I will be running Cherry Blossom 10 miler in April and I still hope to run New York City Marathon, after being denied the past 3 years. If I can’t get into NYC, I will either to Marin Corps Marathon or try to redeem myself in Richmond. It will be my 5th marathon so I feel like it should either by NYC or back where it all began with Marine Corps(my first marathon). I don’t know but stay tuned for race year 2019, I think it will be an exciting one.

My Chocolate Dream-Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte

“Disclaimer: I received an entry to  Allstate Hot Chocolate 5K/15K as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming Bibrave Pro(ambassador), and check out Bibrave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!”

I literally could hardly wait for this race. Not only was it my first race of 2018, but it was also my first time running a AllState Hot Chocolate series race. I had seen several running friends post about running the hot chocolate races, but I never had the opportunity since there was not one held in the state of NC. When I learned they were holding their inaugural one in Charlotte, NC, I jumped at the chance.

EXPO

I was sweating trying to get to the expo. I had about a 2.5 hour drive and due to things beyond my control, we left later than I planned. Due to the fact there was no race-day packet pickup, I had to make it in time.  In the end, all worked out fine, we arrived at the expo right before 5:30(expo closed at 6) The expo itself, wasn’t as large as many others I have attended in the past, but it served it’s purpose. Checking in was a breeze since all you had to do was pull up the barcode from your email, they just scanned right from your phone. Added perk was the little samples of hot chocolate you got on your way out.

Race-Day

Rain was in the forecast all week leading up to the race, but I was happy when the percentage dropped the night before. There was still some drizzle but I decided to walk to the starting line rather than driving.(about 1.5 miles from my hotel). At the start you are welcomed by giant inflatable marshmellow people and music. Since there was a 5k and 15k, the 5k folks were sent off at 7:45 with the 15k getting started at 8:05. Having a race began on time is always a huge plus.

The course itself was surprisly  HILLY. I had friends tell me that Charlotte was not that hilly, and they clearly lied. We encountered our first hill a mile in, and the fun just keep coming throughout the remaining 8 miles. There seem to be water stops about every 2 miles, which was plenty for a cloudy, rainy day in the 50s. The police presence was amazing throughout the course. Every intersection had a cop, which helped make it a safe experience for all the runners. Upon crossing the finish line, you are meet with some sweet looking medals in the shape of once-bitten chocolate bars. After you receive your medal it was a short walk to the post-race festivities. There we were greeted with a huge chocolate mug, and inside the mug was: cup of hot chocolate, rice krispy treat, marshmallow, pretzels, cookies and a warm section of melted dark chocolate for dipping everything in. It was AMAZING.

SWAG

The race has got to have the best swag I’ve received in a while. No regular t-shirts here, at the Allstate Hot chocolate 5k/15k you get a very nice fleece pullover to rock. I don’t know if the swag is the same during the hot months but a fleece pullover during the winter months is a definite welcomed sight.

RECOMMENDATION

No doubt about it, if you have the opportunity…RUN one of the Allstate Hot Chocolate races. It is a good distance, especially for runners that don’t want to take on a half marathon distance.  I promise, you will not be disappointed. I’ll be checking my results on Athlinks and seeing how my rivals performed.