It was this weekend two years ago today that the infamous Hot Chocolate 15K came to the DC area. Running and chocolate… two of favorite things; so how could I not sign up for this race? We had seven Cruisers sign up, so we decided to spend the night before in Alexandria, just across the Potomac River from the race start at National Harbor in Maryland. We watched a beautiful sunset reflecting off the Potomac River as we made the short trip across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and exited to National Harbor. Remember that phrase, “made the short trip across the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge and exited to National Harbor,” because I’ll be referencing back to it later.
Our first stop was the race expo where we stopped by the Potomac River Running booth to get our picture taken with the giant chocolate bar and check out their running apparel. Have I mentioned before that I love their stores?
I was thrilled with the race swag because we got a running shell rather than the typical race shirt. Later I read where a lot of people were complaining about the jacket being so thin, but I loved it! I always get too hot in most jackets and always search for running jackets without a lining (shells). Now that I’ve pretty much worn mine out (I’ve worn it every day during the winter for the last two years), you’ll see me wearing my new Brooks Lite Shell (affiliate link – see lower right sidebar for details on what that means) more often!
After we picked up our race packets, we walked to Bond 45 for dinner. Lolly and I couldn’t help but strike our strongest looking poses next to this guy out in front of the restaurant.
I’m not sure which was better… the dinner, the wine, or the company!
Somehow the Cruisers almost always get lucky and get a private room when we meet for a pre-race dinner, and this night was no different! Here we are after dinner, before we took a walk around National Harbor…
First stop on our self-guided walking tour was the Gaylord Hotel. The Christmas decorations were beautiful!
Next we took our walk outside so we could see one of my favorite sculptures ever, The Awakening. For years it was located on Hains Point in DC and we ran by it at about mile 20 in the Marine Corps Marathon. You can’t see it from my picture, but one of his knees and a foot are starting to come out of the ground, too.
After a delightful evening, we headed back to Alexandria to our hotel so we could get a good night’s sleep before our first ever 15K race.
We woke up to a beautiful morning and after grabbing bagels and bananas for breakfast, we all piled into my Cruisermobile for the four mile ride across the Potomac River to the race. We got on the beltway and as soon as we got on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, we came. to. a. halt. We waited and waited, along with tons of other cars sporting 26.2, 13.1, Runner Girl, and Runner Dude magnets. The radio announcer said that traffic was snarled because so many cars were trying to exit to National Harbor for a race. Yep, that would be us. We sat there for an hour and twenty minutes going nowhere! We saw multiple runners get out of their cars to run across the bridge to get to the race on time. People running on the beltway… Unbelievable! We decided that since we had a timing chip and so many other runners were sitting on the bridge with us, we wouldn’t sweat it and would stay in our warm SUV.
Eventually we got across the bridge, parked our vehicle, and found our way to the starting line of the 15K. BUT FIRST, we had to pick our way through the 5K runners that had been accidentally started in the wrong direction and were running toward us instead of away from us!
We eventually made it to the starting line and waited yet another hour because the the 8 AM start time had been moved to at 9 AM to accommodate the rest of the runners who were still stuck in traffic. At this point we were very glad that we’d waited on the bridge in our warm vehicle.
Once we started running we decided to make the most of our run. As I mentioned earlier, we weren’t racing so we weren’t freaked out that things weren’t running all that smoothly. Lolly and I decided to stay together the whole race. Parts were pretty open and enjoyable (like this portion along the Potomac River), but earlier we had run on a crowded single open lane on a busy highway right next to traffic, breathing in the exhaust fumes from the dump trucks idling by us.
We ran between the Gaylord Hotel and the Potomac River, and as you can see, it had turned into a beautiful day.
After the race, we made our way up the hill to chocolate heaven. Our first stop was at the fondue station.
Volunteers kept the marshmallows, pretzel sticks, sliced bananas, apple slices, and Rice Krispie treats well stocked for us to fill our trays.
Once we filled our tray with edible chocolate dipping utensils, we made a quick stop to have Ghirardelli chocolate fondue poured onto our tray. I quickly went into a sugar induced stupor, and forgot all about the previous blunders of the day.
After we got our fondue tray, we walked to the hot cocoa tent and got delicious hot treats. The cups weren’t filled very full, but a lady working where we got ours made sure to fill my cup full for me!
After we pigged out on chocolate, we walked back to where our car was parked (over a mile away) for the ride back to our hotel. We stopped along the Potomac for a quick picture with the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge in the background. By now the backup was long gone and we expected a quick ride out of the National Harbor.
Well, we almost made it… Just as we left, we got caught behind the truck picking up race cones and watched as traffic was snarled for a few more minutes.
Driving home, we talked about the various things that had gone wrong (and right), and had no idea of what was to come on social media. By the time we got home, Facebook and twitter were ablaze with nasty comments from unhappy runners. I don’t want to go into the details here because as I mentioned before, I wasn’t racing it, so as annoying as the various problems might have been, they weren’t as concerning as if I’d hoped to PR at this event. Let’s just say that there hasn’t been a Hot Chocolate race in the DC area since…
- Have you ever run in a Hot Chocolate race?
- Have you ever run a 15K race?
- What’s your favorite chocolate treat?