Sunday, November 07, 2010

Race Report: Hot Chocolate 15K

On Saturday, I ran my final race of the 2010 season, the Hot Chocolate 15K.

So far, 2010 has been busiest year of my adult life. MM and I went through a maddening seven-month process to buy our first home, which we began renovating in September; several of our close friends and family married this year, including my sister, a close cousin in MM’s family, and my two Chicago BFs; and we traveled multiple times, including overseas to Spain and Romania. All of this has contributed to a particularly rough and somewhat light running season: two 10 mile races in the spring, a half marathon that didn’t live up to my expectations, and general apathy about training.

I did not want to run the Hot Chocolate 15K. But I begrudgingly agreed to sign up when running buddy Meg persisted.

FINE. I will run. Are you happy now?

Now granted I said yes, but I did not go quietly. I hinted for weeks that I was going to drop out of the nine mile race and instead run the 5K. But Saturday morning came, and there I was at the start line with Meg, bitching and moaning about the fact that I was about to run 9 more miles than I wanted to.

It started out rough. Meg and I don’t carry iPods on our runs together, we use the time to chat. But we were quiet at the start of the race. Eighteen minutes in I asked how long we’d been running (I’d forgotten my watch), and I considered the consequences of telling her that I was dropping out of the race less than two miles in.

Instead, I told Meg I was hungry, but had assumed that I wouldn’t need any nutrition for a nine-mile run. Meg, who was prepared, didn’t hesitate to hand me a package of Luna Sport Chews, which I had never tried. Now if there's any piece of advice a long distance runner will give you, it’s that you do not try something new on race day particularly when it comes to nutrition and hydration. I ignored this very sage advice—I was really hungry—and took the blocks. I lucked out, and I may have found my new go-to sport nutrition supplement. The Luna Sport Chews did not mess with my stomach, they tasted good, and they gave me the energy I desperately needed.

Somewhere between miles 2 and 3, we found our stride. We realized we were easily maintaining a solid 11:30 pace. Meg started catching me up on the events of her week, and we settled in for the long haul.

The weather ended up being lovely for a late fall run, sunny and around 40 degrees. While the course left something to be desired—the race organizers had the 15,000 participants running on a six-foot-wide gravel path for about a mile—we realized around mile 5 that we were having a great race. We felt good, we were moving at a nice clip, and we were confident about the next four-point-three miles.

Near the nine mile marker, I said to Meg, “I’m ready to be done now, but I just now feel that way.” She agreed. My thighs ached, but we had less than a half mile to go so I dug deep knowing we could finish strong.

We crossed the finish line at 1 hour, 45 minutes and some change, undeniably a fantastic race for both of us. We celebrated with some apple slices and pretzels dipped in chocolate (they don’t call the race “Hot Chocolate” for nothing).

So it was worth it. I’ve been pretty apathetic about training this year. I love a 30 to 45 minute run with friends, but the longer distances have been tough on my body lately. But this race proved that Meg and I have progressed from where we started together four years ago. And for the moment, I’m thrilled we finished the season strong with a race that helped me remember why I love to run.

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