Hot Chocolate 5K 2012 Chicago Race Review…..

Where to start?  So much to say.  So much I shouldn’t say.  Let’s just start at the beginning.  Great trip into the city with my friends.  Traffic was non-existent, we parked and had plenty of time to meet up with some F’N Runners pre-race.  From back left:  John, Dawn, Melissa, Me, Nicki, Pam.  Bottom left:  Kathy, Cathie, Sue, & Melanie. 

Hot Choc_2012_group

We had a great group who managed to make it to the race early enough for a photo!  We took the pic then headed to gear check.  Everything went smoothly, gear check was well marked and easy to find, the volunteers were cold but very cheerful and welcoming.  Then we said our goodbyes and headed for our corrals.  Nicki, Myself & Pam outside of gear check.

Hot Choc_2012_Nicki Me Pam

I was assigned to Corral A after a decent run at last year’s 15K race but it was looking a little “intense” up there and well, I’m not even close to 100% so I opted to slide back into Corral B with Kelly (Running Kellometers) and Sierra (Posh Meets Pavement).  It was good because we shivered together chatted and awaited the start.  Corral A went off at 7am, then each of the subsequent corrals went off 3 minutes and 30 seconds later.  There were 20 corrals.  Therefore it took over 70 minutes (possibly longer) to get all the corrals thru the start.  Then they had a walking event.

When Corral B took off, it was a good start.  I was in a good spot, not running too fast or slow.  The course was not the full downtown tour that we experienced last year but the 5K did stick to the streets.  However, the course led us down by the lake and onto a narrow entrance ramp. Traffic was tight even up in Corral B and there were several points where I was jammed up and not able to get around  slower runners as the course turned and/or narrowed.  I didn’t experience this on last year’s course so was a bit surprised but not upset.  It happens although not very often in Corral B.  Plus, we had walkers.  Yes, walkers.  The walkers who managed to somehow start in front of us.  Where did these walkers start, in Corral A?  Maybe they ran the first half mile then decided to walk the rest?  I’m not really sure and don’t want to waste any energy trying to figure that one out but that too was a bit of a surprise. 

Other than a few tight turns and the one narrow entrance ramp, I actually liked the course.  The 5K course was always in close proximity to the start/finish area.  We saw other runners at a few points on course.  Then we looped back past the start line and we were able to see all the runners who were still awaiting the start of their race.  This 5K course (below in blue) was spectator friendly too!


I finished in 24:25.  I was thinking I might be able to pull off a sub 24 but Mount Roosevelt, as some affectionately call the Roosevelt Bridge, did a number on me and took some of the wind from my sails.  So I was happy with the result and I felt strong most of the way.   

As soon as I hit the finish I could still see all the runners who were still waiting to start.  My friend Nicki was in Corral P, so I just kept running thru the finish area, back to the start to see if I could get a glimpse of her and waive her off.  However, once I got up there, I realized that many of my fast 5K friends were back in line for another run of the course.  In fact, I was even cajoled by a group of 6 of them telling me to get back in line and run it again!  Now, I know this is not very ethical and normally something I wouldn’t even consider but the whole entire process was such a sham that it seemed like a good idea at the time.   I thought I was being “slick” by pulling a timing strip off the back of my bib, so as not to confuse the timing system, but alas this bib had 2 timing strips!  As I got back in line with Nicki and subsequently ran the race again with her, I overwrote my first 5K time……even though I only had one timing strip.  Oooops! 

But the race with Nicki was absolutely worth it!  I had so much fun and loved experiencing the race from her point of view.  I didn’t use any water on the course the first time, or the second time.  I swear I didn’t hold anyone up in Corral P who wanted to run faster.  I really didn’t affect anyone else’s race by running a second time other than Nicki’s.  It was fun but dang was it crowded by that point!  There were a ton of walkers.  We were constantly weaving in and out of run/walkers.  Plus the course was so congested because of said walkers that the little exit ramp that had previously slowed me down was now at an absolute standstill.  Several people around us just stopped running while commenting that they could walk faster.  Funny!  But everyone was in good spirits and Nicki and I just plugged along with me burning her ear with stories and non-stop chatter.  SO.MUCH.FUN. 

Interesting stats – My 5K from Corral B – 3.17 miles.  Nicki’s 5K from Corral P – 3.4 miles.  Same course, more weaving in the later corral. 

Once we finished, we mingled with the other runners and were waiting for a few friends.  One man I know ran the 5K, then removed BOTH of his timing strips and proceeded to run the 15K.  He did all this as RAM Racing was meticulously starting corrals at 3 min and 30 second intervals.  Good theory which turned poor in practice and resulted in a lot of people waiting out in the cold for a very long time. Some of us could have ran the race 2 or three times, and we did.  Ethical?  Absolutely not but it was just about fun and/or running our training miles.  Plus we were waiting for friends for so long that we had to do something besides just stand around in the cold. We are RUNNERS.  So we ran.  The roads were open, we took advantage of the situation.

The after race party was packed but fun.

Hot Choc_2012_choc tent

The chocolate was way up in that white tent.  The lines were a bit crazy but it went fast and the mug of goodies was amazing.  This  photo was posted to the Hot Chocolate Facebook page.  Thankfully, someone managed to get a photo of the goodies!  Banana, Apple Slices, pretzels, marshmallow, rice crispy treat & a full cup of hot chocolate.  Yum!


So I had fun!  I’ve never seen so many adults walking around with chocolate smeared on their faces, clothes and hands.  I loved the experience of running the race (x2).  I would love for Ram Racing to get it together so I can do this race again, at some point in the future.  However, I won’t be running the Hot Chocolate in 2013 and honestly, quite possibly never again.  There are so many really great races and I’m going to go to the most well ran, easiest, fun race around.  Races that support and respect my run friends and myself.  Races that fully acknowledge that we have choices and then proceed accordingly.  Races that know that its a PITA for the runners to pick up packets and then make it as easy as possible for us to slide in an out of a packet-up pick up location with our kids in tow.  Races that know how many people they can safely accommodate and limit the registration numbers to what THEY can manage. 

All in all, I had fun but I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have fun, it’s your own fault.  We came, we ran, we ate chocolate.  Now onto the next thing…..

** Happy Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Chicago 2012 Expo Debacle…


I’d like to preface this post with the fact that I honestly don’t like complainers.  I also don’t like to read blog postings constantly slamming events and race management.  The idea of managing and executing a big race is not easy and I fully acknowledge such and give them the appropriate amount of respect slack.  However, as a blogger, I believe I have a bit of a responsibility to tell “the reader” what’s up in the race arena. If we want to “go there”, I run more races in a year than some will ever run in a lifetime. So I know races, I know expos, I know that the only thing to expect is the UNEXPECTED but I too have limits.   So…..

How often does an expo get a post of its very own?  Not often unless one doesn’t have much else to do or say its really amazing or its really, REALLY bad.   Well, congratulations to RAM Racing for pulling a 2nd expo post out of me (I posted on last year’s expo HERE) …… and it wasn’t cuz it was amazing.  In fact, I wouldn’t even know if the 2012 expo were amazing because after I waited in line for 1 hour and 57 minutes OUTSIDE IN THE COLD, on my lunch “hour”, I was no longer amused by the chocolaty theme and just needed to leave.  

The 2012 Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Chicago race called for some changes.  To be honest, I’m not sure I would have registered but my girl, Nicky and I ran last year, we loved it, then spent the afternoon post race downtown bar hopping shopping.  So we she wanted a repeat.  Done.  Let’s do it!  Right? 

WRONG!  Things have gotten off to a bit of a rough start and I’m not even to the race yet.  Pam and I thought we’d pop over to the “new and improved” expo site in a Soldier Field parking lot at LUNCH to grab our packets.  Now, I go ALL THE TIME at lunch to pick up packets and while I won’t necessarily say I manage it all within my lunch “hour”, its usually close enough to make it happen.  Pam and I were excited as we stepped out of the cab:

Hot Choc_2012 w Pam at packet PU

Until we notice this massive line and about 40 port-o-potties lined up on the “other” side of the line.  Say what?  How far does that go down?  Are we really going to need those port-o-potties?

Hot Choc_2012 line 1 How much time do we have?  How long do you think that line will take?  Let’s see what Twitter is saying about this…..


That BLANK white box would be where I was going to paste in all of our tweets to Ram Racing while waiting in line for our packets.  The tweets we composed while we were bored standing in line, freezing, in a parking lot.  However, they deleted “our” tweets off their Twitter account.   But they can’t delete the tweets from MY page…..

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 1:17 pm

@RAMRacing ….. In the horrid line for #HotChocolateRace packet pickup. Word is that Willy Wonka must be inside. Fact or Fiction?

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 1:25 pm

Thanks @RAMRacing for fueling us while we wait to get our #HotChocolateRace packets.

Hot Choc_2012 Aid Station 1

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 2:01 pm

Just reached aid station #2 at the @RAMRacing#HotChocolateRace packet pickup. 73 min in & long way to go.

Hot Choc_2012 Aid Station 2Oh, and now we can see that the line is double deep.

Hot Choc_2012 Line 2  

TooTallFritz@TooTallFritz – Nov 2 – 2:47 pm

@michughes @RAMRacing I was 1 hr 57 min for packet pickup.

Wow, that was fun.  I waited.  I was cold.  I got “irritated”.  Pam had to go back to work. I was shocked that I had NEVER been to a more poorly ran packet pick-up.  I couldn’t get the phrase “time is money” out of my head.  I was irritated that somehow my time meant nothing to RAM Racing.  I considered sending them a bill at my hourly rate.  I considered sending them a bill at the hourly rate of the IronWOman surgeon standing next to me.  I considered leaving.  I decided to run the NYC Marathon NEXT year.  I finally got to the port-o-potties that provided a much needed wind break.  I was close.  I was FINALLY inside …… only to realize that there was another line to wait more.  AND THEN I picked up the packets.  One hour and fifty seven minutes.  Not even ONE minute was exaggerated and then I needed to wait in the cab line to head back to work so I could leave for my awesome commute home to get Toddler Man before his school closed up and/or called CPS on me.

Was it worth the wait?  Hmmmm ……. you have to be the judge of that.  This year the swag was a technical, gender specific hoodie.  I don’t like hoodies at all but this fits well and I think looks good.  It’s so much better than I anticipated.

Hot Choc_2012 sweatshirt

And they got my corral right, so that’s a major WIN in their column.  Cool bag too. 

Hot Choc_2012 swag

However, I’ve already decided that on principal alone, I personally need to sit out the 2013 Hot Chocolate Chicago race.  I hope they get their shit together cuz I really like this race.  Or I should say that I liked last year’s race.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring but I have to believe for my own personal sanity that the worse is over.

I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early RAM Racing.  I’m counting on you to bring me an amazing race experience.  Don’t let me down.  Screw up packet pick-up as badly as you did and that’s one thing, screw up the race that’s a whole ‘nother thing. 

I’m watching you.

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Hot Chocolate 15K (2011) – Race Review

I find it difficult to take a race seriously which is focused on promoting chocolate or beer, or music for that fact.  However, the RAM racing series made a real effort this year to make this a serious race.  The updates for this year included a new course thru the city streets and a corral system to put the faster runners in a better position to well, run fast.  If you want to run fast then you don’t want to be on an overcrowded lake front path with 500 other people who are all attempting to squeeze thru two water-stop tables “together”.  As soon as I saw the updated course map, I knew this would be a great race for me and a few friends because 1) it would be serious enough for me and  2) it would be fun enough for them.  This was a win/win situation in my opinion:  chocolate, fun and good racing!

The pre-race is all about getting a few photos into position so that you can check your gear and get into the corrals on time.  Most races I run are very formal and I’ve learned the hard lesson that if you aren’t there early, you may be starting at the back!  Here are the ladies who were available for the pre-race group photo….Me, Gail R., Michelle N., Marti, Trisha D., and Nicki T.

After the group photo, we separated and dashed over to Grant Park.   I was immediately impressed with the number of volunteers standing around asking runners if they needed help.  In fact, one of these nice people pointed us toward gear check.  I had two 5K runners with me and their gear check was in a different location than the 15K but they also started the race before me so it wasn’t a problem to get their gear checked and get them to the start before I even had to think about my race.  My only complaint for the pre-race has nothing to do with RAM Racing or the Hot Chocolate Race itself but the poor conditions of Grant Park, which is still recovering from the destruction caused during the Lollapalooza Festival in early August.  Many areas of the park have been closed off since Lollapalooza but it appears they are trying to reopen it.  I would bet my ass hazard a guess that this was the first event, in this area of Grant Park since Lollapalooza.  The grassy areas were very SATURATED with water and mud.  There was “some” grass but definitely more mud and water.  In fact, people kept asking if it had rained the previous night.  RAM Racing did  attempt to combat the problem by putting down plywood to walk to/from 5K gear check but short of covering the entire field, it was useless.  I have gotten less muddy on soggy trail runs than I did just getting these ladies thru the 5K gear check.  Oh well, not the fault of race officials.  So we are off to the 5K start!  Photo Op for Nicki T. and I at the drop off. 

Gear check and the start were in close proximity, there were loads of volunteers to direct us, the port-o-pots where plentiful and things were seemingly organized and running on schedule.  However, due to unforseen circumstances, the race start had to be delayed due to a semi truck getting stuck under one of the overpasses on the race route.  The delay was approximately 15-20 minutes while emergency personnel attempted to clear the situation.  When they did start the 5K runners it was with a revised route to avoid the problem area and that also elongated their race.  In my opinion, there aren’t many good reasons to delay the start of a race while I am out there freezing my ass off on the start line but this was beyond their control.

The 15K gear check was not nearly as muddy, I dropped my gear and left to figure out where I needed to be for my corral.   The volunteers were a little confused at this point as to where I should be going since the 5K was still in staging, and they sent me in a general direction to search out a green sign.   I apparently messed it up but instead found my way close to the start and a “green sign” with my corral letter.  Then I saw the 15K runners start to move up and realized I wasn’t in the correct spot but fortunately, since it was loosely organized at this point, I was able to just jump in with the “B” corral, or what was supposed to be the “B” corral.  I noticed that we had a few extras as I saw several “O” people, a few “A”s, and lots of “C”s.    I was told by other runners that things were confusing and nobody really knew where they were supposed to be, so some just jumped in line like I did when they saw the runners start to move into staging.  I wasn’t real concerned at this point though as I was so close to the start, I knew it wasn’t going to make much of a difference. 

Once the gun went off, we all had to squeeze thru the start banner to cross the timing mat, which only covered half of the street.  I initially thought oh, crap! it would be a problem but it went smoothly and we were off and running very quickly.  Even though I saw walkers as soon as I passed the start line, they never really interfered with the majority of runners and everyone around me seemed to be running a good pace, regardless of the letter on their bib.  It wasn’t overcrowed and I really was able to run as fast as I wanted without too much traffic interference for most of the race.  Of course, it was busy thru the aid stations and on turns but other than that it went well.  Although I didn’t use any of the aid stations, it appeared that there was both water and Gatorade on both sides of the street in multiple places throughout the course.  I saw several spots for port-o-pots but was fortunate enough not to need one!  I did hear the potty lines were long but other than the marathon, I have always had an issue with lines at the on course potty locations.  All in all, I think it was a good race!  I think they did a good job with the updated course and am sure they will continue to improve the race in future years.  My impossible goal was to run 1:15 and I was on target all the way thru, even toward the end until I hit the Roosevelt Bridge, which EVERY race in Chicago runs so I was expecting it.  Well, I basically clawed my way up that bridge on my hands and knees… wasn’t pretty….can’t wait for those photos!  So the bridge took me out.  Congratulations Roosevelt Bridge, you claimed another victim.  I finished in 1:16:40 but was happy with the effort although angry with the bridge.

Post-Race, big thumbs up to the Ghirardelli Chocolate!  Very tasty!  They gave us hot chocolate and a chocolate fondue plate with a 1/2 banana, pretzel rod, 3 apple slices, 1 medium marshmallow and I may be missing something but not much.  It was very good but thankfully I had already ingested my AdvoCare Post Workout Recovery drink and a bagel that I had brought from home or I would have been starved and probably getting the shakes from not taking in enough calories.  I always bring what I need for my own recovery because I don’t want to be shaking and vomiting trust anyone to have what I need to recover properly.  After a hard run/workout  you need a  4:1 carb to protein ratio to properly recover and since I don’t like to count calories or numbers at all, I always do the Advocare Post Workout Recovery drink so I am sure to get what I need without worrying about how to make it happen.  I strongly encourage you to always take what you need to a race in terms of your own fuel and recovery products.  Don’t count on the race to have it for you.  You need to get in the recovery product within one hour of when you finish, faster if you can, then you can have some fun……which is exactly what Nicki T, myself and Kristina H. did after the race!

Note to self……avoid the port-o-pot back drop for the next photo.

Blue Moon!

I’d definitely run this race again.  It was fun, I thought the course was good, the corrals worked for me and I think it will just keep getting better.  And any day that I can get away from the kids out of the house and spend some time with my girls, plus run a good race is a WIN for me.  So I guess I’m in and I WILL RUN FOR CHOCOLATE!

“Run”way Fashion….let’s just say I had a whole lot of wardrobe malfunction going on during the race….Brooks Glycerin Diva Running Jacket was super cute and I’ve worn it for non-running purposes multiple times and love it but it kept riding up while I was running!  I also had on my Alo shirt that did for me and the jacket basically kept  grabbing the shirt and pulling that up too!  Then on the bottom, I stupidly opted out of wearing the CW-X Compression 3/4 tights because they were dirty and instead chose the SkirtSports Under the Skirt Capri Pants because they are soft, awesome feeling, and have pockets but apparently I need to downsize because they kept slipping and felt like they were falling down until I was about half way  thru the race and apparently my sweat kicked in to hold them in place.  These are really awesome pants, just don’t think I will race in them again unless I get a smaller size.

Did you race this weekend?  How was it?  Would you run a theme race like the Hot Chocolate, the Monster, or the Rock N Roll races, or do you avoid them like the plague for being too commercial?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Running,                                                                                                            Amanda –

Hot Chocolate 15K/5K (2011) Expo

I went over to Union Station on Thursday to pick up the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K packets for myself and two friends.

This is a stolen stock photo from the net, and let’s just say that things aren’t quite as clean and neat serene in real life as they are in this photo.  I feel bad for those who drove down specifically to pick up the packets because half the streets in the CHI are tore up with “road construction” and the other half are overly congested due to detours and well, uh, road construction.  In fact, just walking there was hell a challenge.  Once I finally got inside Union Station, there was even more confusion as to where I needed to go to get the packets.  There weren’t any signs until I was further inside and headed in the right direction, thanks to a flower vendor.  If you had your bib number(s), then things looked to be very smooth but if you needed them to look up a bib then the process was lengthy and tedious as you waited in line for one of two gentlemen to look up the number on an iPad.  However, I was there at lunch so this was a high volume time and I’m sure was probably better before and after the lunch rush. 

Apparently they messed up all the majority of the Corral Assignments but the volunteers were readily available to take care of the situation and it actually went very well, seeing as I didn’t have a spreadsheet of previous race times in my purse like they expected.

The jackets look awesome, fit well and are flattering.  The sleeves are a bit short on Ms. TooTall but not obnoxious and nothing that would prevent me from wearing it.  Possibly the best event swag that I’ve ever received with a close second going to the 2008 Pleasant Prairie Triathlon in Pleasant Prairie (Kenosha), WI where I received a super soft pullover fleece.  Plus there was a jacket exchange in case you ordered the wrong size.  Other than that, the expo was very small with few vendors and only one lady handing out Ghirardelli Chocolate squares.  I was able to get one square for each of my girls! 

Once I was able to review the packet, I realized it was empty included only our bib, a Chicago Athlete magazine, a coupon for Ghirardelli Chocolate, a coupon for Run Away Multisport and a map of the race day set-up.  I am certainly glad I grabbed the chocolate squares!  That being said, usually 98% of the contents of a large packet/goodie bag is garbage advertisements so I would rather get a good freebie, like this jacket, then a bunch of stuff to haul home and throw out I didn’t need.

Which race do you think has the best expo and more importantly, what is the best race SWAG (Stuff We All Get) you have ever received? 

More later on the actual race!

Good Luck to all of you who are racing/running this weekend!  Get out there and Make IT Happen.

Cheers,                                                                                                                         Amanda – TooTallFritz