Race Review: Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte (Virtual Race)

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the 2021 Allstate Hot Chocolate Charlotte race to review 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!

The Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte virtual race was the best run of my life. #hc15k #hccharbr #hcvirtualbr #bibchat @hotchocolate15k @bibrave

The story begins around twelve weeks ago, when I embarked on a new training plan in preparation for some spring races. I started following a sixteen week plan half marathon plan, known as the “Run Less Run Faster” program.

It just so happened that in week twelve of the plan, the same weekend as the Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte race, the scheduled long run was 10 miles! This race was the perfect fit for my training schedule!

TRAINING: wearing Hot Chocolate race swag from a previous year!

The training plan has been going really well. I’ve been seeing lots of personal improvement and numerous PRs, so I knew I would at least beat my previous Hot Chocolate 15K race times.

2018 Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte — 1:18 — 8:23/mi
2019 Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte — 1:21 — 8:45/mi

When I signed up for the 2021 race, it was planned to be held in Charlotte. However, it is no surprise that the race decided to move to a virtual event, due to our lingering pandemic.

TRAINING: BibRave Pro Nilesh and I at the “track”.

Most people find themselves running alone for virtual events, but I have been fortunate. I trained with fellow BibRave Pro, Nilesh, and a few of our friends signed up to run the race with us. It was like a mini race day event here in Morrisville, NC!

We planned to start the race at 7:30am on the Saturday. However, there was really cold weather predicted and we feared the greenway and bridges would be too icy to run safely. In the end, the start time was moved to 11:30am, which turned out to be a great decision.

PRE-RACE: Ready to Rock the Orange!

While still a little chilly, the conditions were excellent for a race. The sky was blue, and the sun was out. I even managed to scald my bald head when I removed my hat for a section of the route.

The route we picked was fairly flat, and wound through trees and alongside lake Crabtree. There was a little headwind at times, but nothing to complain about.

I think, due to the tree cover, the GPS signal on my Garmin was sporadic, so at times it reported I was running much slower than I needed to be! This made me work that little bit harder, and all I could think was, “how do I maintain this pace for the next x miles?!”

TRAINING: through ALL the weather — wearing 2021 Hot Chocolate Race Jacket.

To my surprise, I ended up running at an average pace of 8:00/mi, giving me a new 15K PR of 1:14:34. Also wrapped in that is a new 10K PR of 49:22!

There was definitely an extra boost provided from just running with other people — so a big thank you to Nilesh, Steve, Thelma and Purvi for that!

I’m also thankful we all still have virtual races to participate in, motivating me to keep running and training, while we wait for things to re-open in the future.

You can sign up for any of the future Hot Chocolate races and run virtually with some friends or solo. They will mail you possibly the best swag of any race. You’ll get a really, warm race jacket, a great medal and lots of hot chocolate.

If you use code BRHC20 when registering you’ll receive a free Hot Chocolate branded hat!

POST-RACE: One happy fella.

Virtual Hot Chocolate 15k (Charlotte) – 20 Feb 2021

Disclaimer: I received an entry into Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K (Charlotte) to review 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!

Well… Saturday is the big day! It’ll be my first race of 2021. The weather has not great this week — rain, freezing rain, followed by more rain. I ran tonight for the last time before race day. It was an easy paced 6 miles, in the rain.

I was wearing my new Hot Chocolate Jacket, so the cold was not an issue. My shoes got wet through to my socks, but I won’t be wearing those shoes on Saturday, thank goodness!

The purpose of this post was to share the course details.

Nilesh (fellow BibRave Pro) and I have been training together consistently since November, and we’ve managed to get a few of our friends to sign up as well.

We will be using a section of local greenway to cover the 15K (9.3 miles). We’ll run out and back, and finish where we started. There will be a single road crossing (each way) unfortunately, that could slow us down a little, especially now that we changed the time to 11:30am.

Isn’t that the beauty of virtual races? We can start when we want, where we want. The original plan was to start at 7:30am, but we would likely face temperatures of less than 24F and lots of ice on the wooden bridges.

My daughter, Katie, will be out on her bike to grab some photos and videos of us all. It should be a good day. Training has been very successful this season. I’ve seen vast improvements and I’m running faster now than I ever have.

I’m following the Run Less Run Faster program by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss. Last training season I was running 5-6 days a week. It eventually got too much and put too much strain on my body. This training season I run 3 days a week and I’m seeing better results.

Look out for a recap when the race is done.

Don’t forget you can sign up and run any Hot Chocolate city virtually. If you use code BRHC20 when registering, they will throw in a free Hot Chocolate branded hat.

Race Added: Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte, NC

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k Charlotte race 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!

Guess who signed up for more chocolate? This guy πŸ‘†

YES, I’m going back to Charlotte, North Carolina to run the Hot Chocolate 15K race on the 20th February 2021.

I’ve ran this race twice now – and had I known how 2020 was going to turn out I wouldn’t have skipped it last January. I was thinking I had enough races in my calendar. Anyway

As usual, I opted to have my race swag mailed to me for an extra fee. This saves me having to stress about getting down to the EXPO on time (since it’s usually on the Friday). I’ll still plan to visit it if I can, but since I’ll have my bib already, it’s not a big deal if I can’t.

I can’t wait to visit Amelies French Bakery again for some lovely pastries and buns.

To sign up, check out the Allstate Hot Chocolate web site.

2020 Krispy Kreme Challenge – Race Review

Who runs 2.5 miles, eats one dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and then runs another 2.5 miles to the finish β€” all within an hour? Not this guy…

You see, I already learnt my lesson. I just can’t eat that many doughnuts. I tried the challenge a few years ago and could only manage nine doughnuts before I’d had enough.

So this year I grabbed my box, ate two, then pushed through the crowds and ran on. In the same period, my daughter consumed five doughnuts. I’m saying nothing.

I run this race for the buzzing atmosphere, for the people in ridiculous costumes, and for the puddles-of-puke obstacle course. It’s also for a great cause, with the proceeds going to North Carolina Children’s hospital.

There was one guy, back on the course after the doughnut stop, still trying to swallow multiple doughnuts that he’d crammed in his mouth. He was running with a group of friends. I heard his friend encourage him, “Think about the kids!”, as he continued to gag.

There was two lads in a horse costume, the guy at the back running completely in the dark. I heard someone shout, “any chance of a ride?”. I bet they’d heard this a dozen times throughout the race, but they replied in good humor, “Sure, hop on! It can’t get any worse!”

One other memory is of a poor guy in a Care Bear suit. I was actually worried about him. His face was pained, red faced and he was breathing real loud and heavy. I had doubts he’d make it, but he survived. I saw him at the end.

Is really is an event for everyone!

Added: 2019 World Refugee Day 5k

Disclaimer: I’m promoting the 2019 World Refugee Day 5K Virtual Run as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

This race is so special. When I heard about the World Refugee Day 5K and the story behind it I really wanted to be involved.

The World Refugee Day 5k virtual run is inspired by the World Refugee Day 5k run that has taken place in Uganda’s Nakivale Refugee Settlement for three years.

The only requirement to enter that race is to submit an idea – any idea to better their community and lift each other up.

Due to lack of funding, the Nakivale Refugee Settlement race was at risk of being dropped. That’s where Soul Focus comes in. They felt they could not let this race fade away. The youth of the Nakivale Refugee Settlement had reported that the race helps them to feel alive, to stay fit, active and positive amidst the daily challenges they face.

So, our good friends at Soul Focus have helped to create a virtual run, where YOU can join in on the fun and help support this very real and life-changing event.

This June 20th, the third annual World Refugee Day 5k in Nakivale Refugee Settlement will unite over 1,000 runners, from 13 different nations all headed for the finish line. Refugees, Ugandans and friends from all over the world come together to celebrate what’s possible. This one of a kind run shines a light on an often forgotten place, telling a story of hope and ideas, optimism and peace.

It’s not too late to register and run your 5K (use code BR5 for $5 OFF registration). I will be running my 5K on Wednesday, June 19th.

Added: The Tar Heel 10 Miler & Fleet Feet Sports 4 Mile Run (2019)

Disclaimer: I received free entry to The Tar Heel 10 Miler & Fleet Feet Sports 4 Mile Run 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!

Last year I volunteered at this race. This year I’m running it for the first time. I’ve heard so much about the Tar Heel 10 Miler and I know people who have ran it, and all they talk about Laurel Hill. More about that later. πŸ‘‡

There is two races on the same day — a 10 mile run and a 4 mile run, but there’s three options when registering. You can sign up for either race OR you can sign up for both, which is known as the “Double Down 14 Mile Challenge”.

Those selecting the Double Down challenge will need to complete the 4 mile race before the 10 mile race starts, to stay in the challenge. 😲

I have signed up for the 10 mile race and I’m looking forward to running around and exploring Chapel Hill, a thriving student city in North Carolina.

I’ve been to Chapel Hill many times as my oldest son goes to University there, but I’m still not familiar with the layout of downtown. There’s nothing like a run to fix that.

The course looks amazing and there’s a good mix of downtown streets, parks and neighborhoods. I’m looking forward to this one. Hopefully I actually still enjoy running, after my marathon in March. 🀣

Laurel Hill Challenge

At mile 8.5 of the Tar Heel 10 miler is Laurel Hill. You’ll ascend 175 feet in just under one mile. Runners are encouraged to race UP the hill, as separate awards are given for the fastest times to the top!

I really hope to get out to Chapel Hill and make peace with this hill before race day. I think I can get a couple of my running buddies to sign up and train with me.

Represent Your School

If you’re local you can even represent your school and help get it to the top of the scoreboard! The top 3 schools registered (you select a school when registering if applicable) will get a t-shirt in their school colors. That is pretty neat!

Register and Save

So, don’t delay! Sign up now before the next fee increase and get 10% Off with code TARHEELBR10

Race Recap: 2019 Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k – Charlotte, NC

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k race 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!

This was my second year running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte (read about first year here). What better way to kick off this review with a big picture of the hot chocolate bowl packed with goodies for dipping. It ain’t called the Hot Chocolate 15k for nothing!

Liz and I after the race

As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I couldn’t get out of work on time to reach the Expo, so I had Liz’s and my pack mailed out to us – this is such an excellent service. The packs arrived a couple of weeks before the race, and just like last year, the race shirts are amazing.

The post-race party venue was changed to First Ward Park this year, which also moved the start and finish lines. The new party location was much better. It was much more accessible, and better laid out.

Another improvement this year was the addition of some hot food. And it was so delicious. Liz and I grabbed some and stood under a toasty gas heater and chatted to some other runners for a while.

The race course changed this year. We ran outside the city (much like last year), except we used some greenway (paved trails) this time to move between neighborhoods. The Charlotte neighborhoods reminded very much of Durham, North Carolina.

I felt like the new course was also hillier than last year. When I compared the elevation gain to last years on Strava, it was indeed hillier, but not by a crazy amount.

There were plenty of aid stations on course, serving water, sports drink and chocolate! Thankfully there were porta-johns near each station, as I had to make a stop at mile 2 — and that is when I lost my 8:30/mi pacer. 😦

I came in around 3 minutes later than last year. I was hoping to see an improvement, but it wasn’t to be.

The medals were different this year. Previously every Hot Chocolate medal was the same, regardless of the city that hosted it. There was an additional “charm” added to the medal to identify the city. This year they incorporated the city name into the medal itself.

No, it’s not edible.

Race photos again this year were free — which is super! Who doesn’t love free race photos. I didn’t see many photographers on the course except near the finish. I don’t always look my best at the finish line. πŸ˜‰

While it was free to download low-res versions of the photos, there was a $2.99 charge to download high-res copies. That is still good bang for your buck if you consider what other races charge for photos.

Liz and I stayed at the AC Hotel Charlotte City Center. It was a lovely hotel, with a fantastic rooftop bar and was only a couple of blocks from First Ward Park. I’d definitely stay there again, whether I’m racing Hot Chocolate, or just want a short city break.

There were a few other BibRave Pros racing Hot Chocolate Charlotte this year, so we all got together before the race to catch-up and take a group photo. Just look at all that Orange!

Slurp Slurp Ahhhhh! Tomorrow is Race Day!

Disclaimer: I received free entry to Hot Chocolate 15k 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!

I can’t believe this race has come around so quickly again. I remember running this in February last year like it was yesterday. It was my first race away from home, and I didn’t know the landscape at all, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in the form of hills, etc.

This year, my wife Liz is not only coming with me, but she will be running the 5k race, which starts 15 mins before I line up for the 15k. I think Liz loved the race swag I received so much last year she had to sign up. πŸ˜‰

We were unable to get to the Expo this year because of work responsibilities, but fortunately we were able to have our bibs and race shirts shipped to us in advance. While it costs a few dollars more, it’s worth it for us being far away.

The race course and starting location have changed for 2019, so we’re staying in a different hotel, fairly close to the starting line in First Ward Park. It shouldn’t be anything more than a short walk in the morning to reach it.

The temperature is a little chilly at 46f, and some rain is expected. I’m just hoping it’s not heavy rain. Last year rain was also forecast, but by the time the race started the rain stopped.

15k is a nice distance (just under 10 miles). The last time I ran this race I had not yet raced a half marathon, so I was a little anxious. This time I have lots more experience and feel more confident. Also, my training for the race has gone well, especially since it’s in the middle of my training for a full marathon.

What I’m not sure about is if I can beat last years PR! πŸ˜‰

I am looking forward to catching up with all the other bibrave pros as well.

Look out for the guys in Orange!

Race Recap: Bull City Race Fest, October 21st, 2018

On a cold, crisp October morning, a few friends and I headed into Durham, NC for the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon.

Me, Arun, Niles, Zach, AJ and Ashita at the start line

It was my fourth half marathon (1-Tobacco Road; 2-Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh; 3-Umstead Half) this year and to be honest, I wasn’t feeling in good shape for it — not compared to my fitness levels back in March. Training through the summer in North Carolina was not easy with the constant humidity.

My running buddy, Zach, had ran the course a couple of years back, his first half marathon in fact, and confirmed all the reports I’d been hearing of its hills. I’d only ran the 5 mile course before and was looking forward to the half.

I’ve never really been deterred from entering a race because of hills. I simply adjust my expectations based on it. 

Zach had yet to run a half marathon in under two hours, so my plan was to run a steady pace together and push him to a PR. After our hilly half marathon at Umstead, back in June, I knew this may not be easy (for me!).

Me and Zach ready to go!

The race started according to our plan. For the first mile we hovered in around 9:00/mi. If we kept this up and we’ll rock in just under the goal time.

I checked my watch at Mile 2 — 8:40/mi. We probably need to slow down a little bit, we thought. Nope, miles 3-6 flew by easy at the same pace. Yikes! We were going too fast! We were too concerned about catching up with AJ, who shot off like a rocket at the start.

At mile 6 we eventually caught up with AJ. That’s when the first of the hills started rolling in. Mile 7, while not the toughest hill-wise, was our slowest at 9:04/mi, but all was still good. Runners are always doing the math in their heads. We had time to spare.

My fueling plan was the usual, Gatorade Endurance gel pack every 45 mins, and a drink of water at every other aid station. This didn’t go exactly to plan.

I waited a little too long for the first gel pack which maybe explains mile 7. There were some hills during the last third of the course, so I took another one around mile 9.

Mile 9 is when I usually start to suffer in a half marathon, but this time I didn’t feel that. I felt much stronger than normal. The last third of the course hardly slowed our efforts at all. Maybe all that training in North Carolina’s humidity prepared me for this after all?

Again, doing the math, we rocked into mile 10 with big grins on our faces. We knew we had this race in the bag. It would take a really bad 5K now to miss our goal time.

In a final what the heck moment, I consumed an additional gel at mile 12 for the last stretch!

The course kept throwing hills at us in the last couple of miles, but my last two miles were my fastest on the course. I kept my eyes on the prize — the cold beverages at the end.

A lot of our team walked away with HUGE PRs — #breaking2 baby! πŸ˜‰ Did Zach and I smash our goal? Of course we did! We came in well under the 2 hour goal. Turned out to be my 2nd fastest half marathon after Tobacco Road.

Me, AJ, Ashita, Niles, Zach, Shravan

I’m so happy about that. It definitely helped me overcome my summer training slump and restored some confidence as I reach for bigger goals next year.

We’ll be back again, Bull City Race Fest.

Race Recap: The Cupcake Race At Brier Creek, Oct 20th, 2018

Liz and I enjoying a cupcake after the race

This race was supposed to be on Oct 13th, but they had to move it due to Hurricane Florence. I was a little concerned as this new date was the day before a half marathon race I was running!

I love this 5K race though. It’s local and we always try to get the family involved. In fact this year I managed to get free entries in exchange for a photo of our family from last year. The race directors used it to promote this year’s race — much to my daughter’s embarrassment. πŸ˜‰

We’ve ran this race twice before, but this was the first year I ran without pushing Xander in a stroller! With this new-found freedom, I probably ran this race a little harder than I should have and I was worried it would affect my race the following day.

(It didn’t though, as you can read later in another post).

The Cupcake Race At Brier Creek is an out-and-back course, and has a few hills to keep it interesting. Lots of kids from local elementary schools use this race to close out their running programs, so it’s very family oriented.

After the race, everyone gets a big tasty cupcake from Gigi’s cupcakes. Unfortunately, the actual Brier Creek store didn’t open until 10am otherwise I would have bought a load more to bring home as well.

I got to test out my bibboards for the first time on this race. They remove the need for safety pins and securely attach your bib to your shirt without damaging your clothing. Check them out!

Bibboards Rock!
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