Review: Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k Race – Charlotte

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 to review find and write race reviews!


Race Prep & Signup

In a previous post I’d talked about signing up for the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte, and how I had to upload “proof” of previous race times to get assigned a corral on race day.

I received an email after a couple of weeks to say I had been assigned to corral “D”. I had no idea at the time what that would look like except that they started the corrals off 4 mins apart from each other.

Training for the race consisted of my regular weekday runs with slightly longer runs at the weekend. The two weeks before Christmas that I was out with Vertigo set me back both mentally and physically, and I got a little concerned that my target of a 8.30/mi would be hard to achieve.


Race Information

The Hot Chocolate website very informative and well laid out. The participant guide had all the information I needed to know — like course details, expo details, race day experience, gear check, after party, etc. I felt well prepared heading into the race weekend.


The race shirts! Amazing. I had my bib and shirt mailed to me about a week before the race. I wasn’t sure at the time I registered that I would be able to get to the Expo or not, so this was a very convenient option.

The medals look good — good enough to eat. They look like a big bar of chocolate. My kids were very impressed with it. All the Hot Chocolate races use the same medal and attach an additional little emblem to represent the city in which you’re racing.

Hotel & Expo

This was my first time travelling and staying in a hotel to race. The hotel we stayed in was the only hotel recommended by the Hot Chocolate website. They offered a discounted rate for race participants.

It was really convenient staying at the same location as the Expo. I covered more about the hotel in my pre-race update.

I do wish that breakfast was available just a little earlier. They didn’t open until 7am, so I had to skip breakfast since I needed to get to the starting line. I believe it was possible to order breakfast to your room from 6am.

Race Day

I probably got up too early on race day. I hate being late for things. I crept around the family in our hotel room, got ready and went downstairs to check the weather. It was supposed to be raining all morning but thankfully the rain was nothing more than a slight drizzle. Yes!

It was a nice 50°F outside as well. Close to perfect running weather really.


The start line was about a 15 min walk from the hotel. There was a runners staying at the hotel, but I didn’t really notice too many people walking. Again, probably because I was a little early.

When I got to the start line, there was only a few of the 5K participants hanging around. The 5K race was due to start at 7.45 am. It was at this time I realized how the Corrals were going to work. They were basically just markers along the road that divided it into sections. The 5K had 3 Corrals – A, B and C.

I couldn’t help thinking if they started the 5K just a little earlier they could offer a double challenge like a lot of races are starting to do these days. 🙂

After the 5K race got on their way, it was time for the 15K participants to get into position. To my surprise the A, B, and C Corrals were removed and Corral D was at the very front. I’d never started at the front of a race before. I was pretty pumped about that!


The countdown started, it was time, 5…4…3…2…1!

Mile-by-Mile Walkthrough

Starting Line: Yeah! I get to start the front! Plenty of room up here! Let’s do this. I’ll just tuck in here behind the 8:30/mi pacer.

Mile 1: Hey, I’ve left the 8.30/mi crowd behind in the dust. Yeah, baby! This half-mile downhill is awesome! Hang on — what goes down…


Mile 2: Oh oh. Here’s some up hill. This freaking hill is over a mile long. I’m dying. 8 miles to go!

Mile 3:  That was tough. Looks like the course is starting to level out now. Time to eat some Honey Stingers to see if I can get some pep back in my step. I think I need to pee. Dang it.

Mile 4: Well, the 8.30/mi crowd has caught back up with me. I have to stay with these guys now for the duration. Have to…. COME ON!

Mile 5: Should I stop to pee? No. Oh, there’s a guy using a porta-potty on that building site. Maybe I should stop. No, I can’t!

Mile 6: Asking random people if they know of any more hills. I already know the answer to this, but I still gotta ask. I’m running up a hill right now.

Mile 7: Now this is feeling good. Finally, getting in the groove. Let’s do this.


Mile 8: Oh my legs are soooo heavy. How far is 15k anyway? Is that a little granny racing ahead of me? How does she do that?! I’m taking you down, granny!

Mile 9: The pacer is getting away from me. Wait, he’s running back. Says we’re nearly there! Time to spend all I’ve got!!!

Finish Line: Oh man, check out my stride. I’m flying here… straight through the finish line!! I did it!



I crossed the finish line with 1:18:26 on the clock, 8.25/mi pace. I was really happy with that. I set an aggressive goal and beat it. I immediately began reassessing my goals for future races (particularly the Half Marathon I have in March).

I loved how they called everyone’s name out as they passed the finish line. That was a really nice touch that I’ve not seen done before. As I watched other participants come through you could see the smile it brought to their faces.


Post-Race Party

I made my way to the post race party area to claim my finishers mug. I’m not a big hot chocolate drink fan, but the actual real melted chocolate that was in the mug was soooooo good. There was also a number of items to dip in the chocolate — banana, pretzel, cookies and more.


It had been raining all night, so the grass area where the party was held got muddy very quickly. This is where my family met up with me after the race. My daughter was plugging her nose because of the 2000 sweaty individuals that surrounded her. 😉

Another runner was kind enough to offer her a spare finishers mug token that he had, so that cheered her up a bit!

Live Tracking

This was a great service. My wife was able to sign up to this free service prior to the race. During the race it sent her text messages on my progress. Very cool feature. It sent updates on 5K, 10K and finishing paces.


Race Photos

I noticed quite a few photographers on course and the race photos were completely free. I’d probably never buy a race photo because I look dead in most of them, but I love it when they’re free to download and keep.

As soon as the race had finished, race photos were being updated to the results page. New photos continued to appear on there throughout the day.

BibRave Pros

It was good to meet some of my fellow BibRave pros at the race. I bumped into Teddy before the race started, and then met Lissa afterward. It was not hard to find the bright orange BibRave gear against the grey backdrop.


Hot Chocolate 15k Charlotte Pre-Race Update

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 to review find and write race reviews!

I’ve been both excited and nervous about this race. Excited because I love the atmosphere of race day, and nervous because I’ve set a target that at times I’m not sure I can achieve.

I took the day off work today and drove down to Charlotte early (after a short run of course) so I could visit the Expo and chill out a little before tomorrow.

My wife Liz, daughter Katie, and youngest son Xander came with me to cheer me on and take advantage of a wee weekend break in Charlotte.

We booked the Sheraton, the same hotel as the Expo, which had a special rate for race participants.

The hotel is very nice and convenient to downtown and the race start line of the Hot Chocolate 15k. We arranged a late checkout so we have plenty of time after the race to come back, shower and change.

Before we actually checked in we had a walk around the Expo.

I was really hoping we could buy an additional race shirt (the race shirts are so good), but they weren’t selling them. They did have a swap stand though, if the top you received was not the right size.

Later we wandered into downtown Charlotte for something to eat, then came back and spent some time in the hotel pool. They have a nice gym here too which Liz and Katie plan to use in the morning.

The weather is not looking great for tomorrow. Supposed to be raining all day. I’m really hoping it’s not all that bad. It’s hard believe rain is coming at all after the weather we have today.

Review: Cupcake Race 5k Photos

We completed the Cupcake Race at Brier Creek back on October 14th. I was hoping to have the whole family involved, but our oldest had a band competition and was unable to take part.

The race itself is very good value. We paid $15 each and that covered the race, time-chips, t-shirt, medal, water bottles, and of course a cupcake at the end. The course starts in the Brier Creek shopping center area and runs out and down the road at the back, toward Lumley Rd and then back.

I pushed Xander in the stroller for the duration. He was very well behaved and loved watching all the people running around him.

It was a nice family day out. I never imagined us running races together as a family. How things change! Our next family race (with Nathan included) is the Krispy Kreme Challenge in February. We’re all signed up and ready to eat some doughnuts!

Review: Running Of The Bulls 8K Photos

I ran the Running Of The Bulls 8K race on Saturday morning. Loved it. It was a 5 mile route around downtown Durham, NC. We got a really good day for it as well. Mid 60s at 7.15am.

Unexpectedly, I got to run with race with my second oldest kid, Noah. One of our friends had to drop out so Noah ran in her place. Really proud of him keeping up with me the whole way.

I finished the race in 39:56 minutes, averaging 7:58/mi. Overall position 292/1318, and in my age group, 36/86. Very pleased with that.

Bull City Running Company hosted the race and did a great job. Also, thanks to James Scott Farin Attorneys for sponsoring the event and providing some free race photos. 🙂

I loved how the race day coincided with the weekly Durham Farmer’s market, so after the race we were able to grab food from the food trucks. Liz, Xander and Katie came down to hang out with us afterward. We will definitely be signing up for next year.

Noah and me at the start line.
I think this was around mile 4.
Kandy, Jeremy, me and Noah after the race.

Route: Running Of The Bulls 8K

Next Friday at this time, I’ll be picking up my race bib for Bull City Running Company’s Running Of The Bulls 8K (website).

The race starts on Saturday morning, June 3rd at 7.15am. It’s the first time I’ve ran this particular race, but I have ran very similar routes in Durham before so I have an idea of what to expect (i.e. HILLS).

I enjoy running through cities. You get to see things you easily miss when driving through. You also get a better feel for where everything is. I’m looking forward to it!

2017-05-26 16_05_34-Running Of The Bulls 8K _ Strava Route