Monday, April 13, 2015

Philly Hot Chocolate 15K

First of all I have to admit that the reason I even signed up for this event was the bling.  A zip up hoodie and an off the hook medal.  The event was over 2.5 hours from house, and there was no race day packet pick-up due to its size so that meant an extra trip up to Philly for the Expo.  Silly, right?

I mentioned the race to some friends/co-workers and before I knew it they had all been bitten by the bling bug too.  Some where coming down from Boston for the event with an overnight stay the Friday before.  The others and I decided to carpool to split the cost and try to keep each other awake since this meant leaving the Frederick, MD area at 3:30AM to make it in time.

As time passed I have to admit that I wanted to bail on the entire event.  Two trips to Philly was no longer appealing and work was a disaster.  Turns out my wife and daughter drove up on Thursday to the expo to pick up everyone's packet (5 in all, which is the limit in fact).  The expo is held at the Philly convention center and isn't in the best part of town.  Plans of hoping to see some sites all fell through due to crowds and so expect for packet pickup the trip was a bust and took all day.

Hot Chocolate Packets

Needless to say, my anxiety now over getting there in time, getting parking and drive time was all I could think about.  I was able to locate a convenient parking lot that allowed you to reserve a spot in advance and so this helped reduce the stress, now just had to worry about obnoxious traffic and getting to the starting area.  Reading up on how this event was cancelled after one time in DC due to traffic and participants not being able to run due to traffic congestion didn't help.

Anyway, race morning came and I was excited for the race as usual.  We met up at 3:30AM just outside Frederick and started the trek to Philly.  Turns out we left early enough that the drive in was flawless and we pulled right into the garage all alone.  As we got our gear together cars started stacking up behind us. By the time we walked away to head to the event area all the bays were full of runners trying to get a parking spot.  That could not have worked out better.

Was only a mile walk to the event starting area (Eakins Oval), and this part of Philly was really nice.  We walked by the Ben Franklin Science museum and several other nice buildings and park areas.  The event was very well run and had great signage.  We had about an hour to wait before things were to get started with the 5K so we walked around, used the porta-potties and tried to stay warm in the wind.  The 5K got under way at 7:15AM and by 8AM it was time for the 15K to start.  Fortunately I was in the first corral so I didn't have to wait longer to get moving and warm up.  The run is relatively flat with a slight down-slop on the wait out, and a slight up-slop on the way back (it is primarily an out and back run with the turn around at just over mile 5.

Strava Map of Run

The view along the run was spectacular.  Most of it is along the water Schuylkill River.  This provided great view of the water, an old water pumping station, and Boathouse Row.  See the college rowers out on the water was inspiring to keep moving since you could hear the rowing counts.

After the race, getting the medal was great.  It is very substantial and looks like an unwrapped chocolate bar with a bite taken out of it (see photo below).  You also get a large plastic cup, with hot chocolate in the middle, with melted chocolate and dipping supplies around the edges (banana, wafer cookies, pretzels, etc.).  While I didn't eat mine I was told it was all very good.

Hot Chocolate 15K Finishers Medal

After all the driving, getting up so early and the worry about logistics, I have to admit that I will most like run this race again in 2016.  In fact, you can register already on their main website.  It was a great event overall, and I highly recommend it.  If your schedule and finances supports the idea, I highly recommend staying the night before and taking advantage of the museums and sights in the immediate area.  I was also told that packet pickup on Friday was a nightmare, while we found Thursday afternoon to be completely dead.

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