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.

Race Review: 2020 Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run 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!

I ran my virtual race today, not in Savannah, Georgia, but in Morrisville, North Carolina. Due to COVID-19, the Savannah Bridge Run was converted to a virtual event.

I didn’t have to get up super early and get ready. I didn’t have to drive anywhere and find a parking lot. I didn’t have to line up for the porta-potty three times. I didn’t have to freeze my butt off standing around for an hour waiting for the race to start.

Instead I slept in. Cut my hair. I had breakfast. I practiced some Christmas music. I had some lunch. Then I got ready to go run. I asked my daughter Katie to be my official race photographer – she agreed. I walked out the front door, stood on my driveway and started my watch.

And we were off!

Katie raced ahead on her bicycle and stopped every so often to snap photos. I didn’t have to wait long after to see my race photos. Nor did I have to pay for them. Katie simply air-dropped them to my phone.

The race itself went very well. I picked an out and back course with plenty of bridges – nothing as high or as scenic as the Talmadge Bridge in Savannah.

The weather was perfect – early 50s. I wore my BibRave long sleeve, shorts and my Buff lightweight hat, and HOKA Clifton 6 shoes.

Oh, and I PR’d on this race. That was totally unexpected. It’s funny how the mind works. I know for sure, if I was running a normal 10K I would have unlikely come home with a PR. However, tell your head that it’s a race and the body automatically works harder. Right?!

Whether my science checks out or not, I’m really happy with today’s result. Days like this keep me encouraged and provide the motivation needed to stick to the plan.

I’ve been dealing with a fear of never reaching pre-injury speeds again. This result has helped me realize that that fear is unfounded, and I can be even faster yet.

Just earlier this evening I uploaded the proof to the race website (a screenshot of my activity tracker). My race shirt and medal will be mailed out this week! I’ll post a photo when they come in.

I hope by next December I will be looking at running this race in Savannah, and across the Talmadge bridge. In the meantime, let’s all keep safe!

Treadmill Intervals and Progression Runs with Zwift!

Disclaimer: I received a Zwift RunPod (to assist me in my review of Zwift 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!

I tested the Zwift platform back in December of last year. I declared it was the greatest thing to happen to treadmills, and I still stand by that statement.

This time I have jumped deeper into the Zwift virtual world and have come away with even more appreciation for this form of training. In fact, I am considering buying a treadmill just so I have easy access to Zwift at home.

When testing last year, we had arranged some vitual 5Ks together, and that was fun, but it was only when we started running intervals and progression runs this time around, did I fully realize how effective this training platform could be.

We have been taking part in weekly training sessions on Zwift, called “Turn It Up Tuesdays” (Tuesdays at 7am EST), and these have been amazing.

Instead of just a steady treadmill run, these are interval runs (short intervals were you run faster, sandwiched by recovery periods) or progression runs (starting off slow and ending fast).

Within the virtual world, your route has “check-points” that you run through to complete each part of the training. It will then instruct you what speed to change your treadmill to for the next section. It could not be more straight-forward.

The last Turn It Up Tuesday workout we did was called “6×800 Hill Repeats”. I didn’t think anything of it until the first interval started and I was prompted to adjust treadmill to 2% incline, then 3%, then 4%, and so on.

I saw where this was going and was hoping the gym treadmill would not incline more than 5%. Unfortunately it did, and the final interval was at 7%. It nearly killed me.

I always have that “WHAT a great work-out” feeling after we’ve finished and I’m totally energized and ready for work! I’ve never really had the motivation to work that hard on a treadmill before. It feels more like an interval work-out that I’d have outdoors.

Zwift (@gozwiftrun) really is an effective training platform. I have no doubt about that.

Instead of struggling to view my iPhone screen, I’m using an iPad this time. The bigger screen definitely improves the experience. If I ever get a treadmill at home I plan to run Zwift on an Apple TV and put it up on a big screen in front of me.

The treadmill speed at the gym seemed to align very well with the speeds reported by the Zwift RunPod ($29.99 on the Zwift store) attached to my shoe. So much so, it made sense to use Zwift exclusively to update Garmin and Strava and not use my watch at all (you can connect apps to sync with using the Zwift Companion app).

This approach uploads a map of the virtual area in which you ran. I was able to fool many of my friends into believing I was in New York, running in Central Park. You can check out how the run looks on my Strava profile by clicking the map below.

Click on map to see run on Strava.

Zwift will not control your treadmill. Instead, directions appear on the screen, “Increase treadmill speed to 6.2mph”, “Increase incline to 5%”, etc. You have plenty of time to make the adjustments for each part of the workout.

Free To Run

Zwift is still free for runners, so the RunPod (or some alternative footpod) will be your only cost — provided you have access to a treadmill already. If you have a bluetooth enabled treadmill, you may not need a footpod at all.

It does appear at some stage Zwift will introduce a subscription service for running, similar to the model used for cycling. There is no pricing or time-frame information at the moment that I can find.

Zwift Apps

There are two apps (both available on iOS and Android) that you need to run on Zwift. One is “Zwift Companion”, and the other is “Zwift”. Search for the on your app store of choice. They are free to download.

The companion app is for account/device management and also for signing up to available events — like “Turn It Up Tuesdays!”. You can also give “Ride On”‘s to other Zwifters (the platform’s phrase for passing on encouragement).

The Zwift app is the actual “game” itself. It pairs with Zwift companion when apps share the same network/wifi connection.

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

While there are ample options for customizing your avatar, I wish there were more options to make you more unique and easily identifiable to your friends online.

Or what about allowing users to take their photo and super-impose it on the avatar’s face — see first photo above. 😉

Instead of “Ride On” — something more specific for runners would be very cool.

I was trying to follow along with someone and they took a different path and I lost them. So what about a way of indicating which direction someone else is going so you can follow!

What would you add here?

I think the Zwift (@gozwiftrun) platform is amazing, but wouldn’t it be cool if <insert your idea here>!

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.

Zwift Run is the greatest thing to happen to Treadmills

Disclaimer: I received a Zwift runpod 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!

Even though I get to travel to London every 2-3 years, I’ve never actually ran in the city itself, around all the great sights. I’ve wanted to, even planned some routes along the Thames, but it has never worked out.

That is, until last week, when I virtually ran there with Zwift!

Zwift started out as a cycling platform, allowing cyclists to meet in virtual environments to train and compete.

This same concept has recently been extended to runners. All you need to get started is a free Zwift account, a treadmill and a compatible foot pod (unless you have a fancy-smancy Bluetooth enabled treadmill).

Get 15% off a Zwift runpod with code BIBCHAT15 (first 1000 orders).

I’m not a treadmill fan at all, and rarely log any miles on one, except for a warm-up mile before working out at the gym. I find treadmill running very mundane, and struggle to run long distances on them.

After trying Zwift, my treadmill warm-up runs increased from one mile, to 3-4 miles. The Zwift environments, even though I’m using it on my small iPhone screen, are quite immersive and take your mind off the treadmill.

Unfortunately I was not able to test using a larger screen (computer or large-screen TV, etc.). If I had a home treadmill I would put together a set-up with a larger screen because I think that would be amazing.

BibRave Virtual Run

It was really fun to meet up with all my BibRave people across the globe and run together in Watopia — a fantasy island created by the people at Zwift. I was able to see everyone who had joined and send messages via a chat screen.

Again, this is where a computer or larger computer would really come into play. You need good eyesight to read the messages on a tiny iPhone screen — especially when running!

We ran 5K together in a number of different pace groups. I signed up for my chosen pace group in advance using the Zwift companion app. When I got to the gym early, I started a normal run, and when it was time it automatically switched me over to the BibRave run.

Running Through London

One of my favorite Zwift runs was when I was able to run around some of the streets in London. While I’m not from London, and didn’t recognize where I was at times, the feel is still very London, with red phone boxes and double-decker buses, etc.

Another thing I noticed on this run is that some routes have options to turn one direction or another, or if you like, turn a complete 180 and run back the way you came.

Syncing With Running Apps

When you’re finished, your run will upload to Zwift by default. You can check your past run history using the Zwift Companion app. It is also possible to upload your run to other running apps like Garmin and Strava.

This is a really great feature as it will send the GPS coordinates and map details to your favorite running app. I chose not to use this as my pace differs quite a lot on a treadmill, and I’m so used to using my watch to track my runs anyway.

Conclusion

Now, every time I visit the gym, I don’t leave the house without my runpod attached to my shoe. If I owned a treadmill at home I would be using Zwift way more frequently, and on a bigger screen.

Zwift also have several training programs built-in to the app as well which guide you through your runs.

The running platform is still relatively new, and I recommend you try it out while it’s free to run (the cycling accounts require a subscription).

If you bump into me — say hello!