Oh Hot Chocolate 15k/5K ....where to begin....22,000 runners and the National Harbor = a really bad idea!!!
Spoiler Alert: The only good part of the race was hanging out with friends and running in cute outfits!
Ok, I will start off saying my co-worker and my favorite bad decision maker, Victoria, met at my house at 5:45 to carpool down to the National Harbor since the race sent out several emails stating that we had to carpool to the national harbor and they would be checking bib numbers/parking passes.
We all hopped into my car and made a pit stop at the gas station about 5 blocks from my house to fill up. After my car was all gassed up, Jason went to re-start the car and it just wasn't happening. I was so embarrassed and we tried for about 5 minutes and I decided that it would be best to leave Jason at the gas station with a car that wouldn't start while the three of us walked back to Victoria's car so we could make it to the race. I felt real bad leaving Jason, but if we wanted to run, I had no choice. I thought this would be the last big failure of the day!!! Maybe this was a sign of bad things to come or maybe it was a sign to scratch the race because things because things only rolled down hill from here....
Traffic: We left Capitol Hill at about 6:10 after the car mishap and began our journey down 295 to the National Harbor. Normally this is a 15 minute drive on a good day (9 whopping miles). Well we started to get backed up and were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Mind you we left at 6:10 for a 8am start time. We sat in traffic for awhile and made it to the Harbor around 7:00am I think. Now we didn't have it as bad as some people did, so I am thankful for that. Once there we had no clue where to go and there was no one there to direct us???? We made our way into a parking garage and no one checked our parking pass that we paid 10 bucks for or our bibs to make sure we were all runners.
Where are we suppose to go? We made our way to the harbor and had no clue where to go??? Where was the bag check, where was the start line??? We proceeded to play dumb and follow all the other runners even though we had no clue were they were going? After what seemed forever (1.5 miles I would later find out) we made our way to the start line. Actually I still wasn't sure where the start line was and no one could tell us and I still had no clue where the bag check was. There was so many people lined up which I was guessing was the 5k, but I looked at my watch and wondered why they hadn't started yet?
Bag Check/Finish Area: We continued to make our way to what we were guessing was the bag check area. Once there, this was actually well run! I think this may be the only area of the race that was well run. I dropped off my bag and my warm jacket then used the port-o-potties. I thought there was plenty of potties and didn't have to stand in line at all.
Corrals: My bib had Corral B on it, but I couldn't find corral B and there was no one to help point me in the right direction. A random runner said the faster corrals were in this direction, so I continued to walk. I found corral A and corral C, but no B. They forgot to put a corral B or forgot their ABC's? Plus there was thee different lines to go into? I had no clue were I was suppose to be standing and neither did anyone else. It was such a mess.
The race is delayed: I am looking at my watch and wondering why the 5k hadn't started yet??? I later find out that it was delayed because runners were stuck in traffic and RAM racing blamed it on a traffic accident that no one can find reports on. I blame it on the fact that they put on a race in a location that couldn't handle that amount of traffic! If they have been putting on races for 10 years than they should know how to research things like this. Anyhow, with the 5k being delayed the 15k race start was delayed as well. Once the 5k finally started the runners were lead in the wrong direction on the course which caused serious safety issues with narrow over crowded paths.
As we continue to wait: It had been over an hour and our 8am start time was now a little after 9am! I was freezing along with the rest of the runners. It was about 32 degrees out and when I checked my jacket I was only planning on standing around about 10 minutes in the cold before starting to run. My feet were numb and I couldn't feel my toes. The announcer would say 15 more minute, 5 more minutes and runners were booing!!!! I thought maybe we would all take the start line by storm and revolt against the delayed start!!! Plus I had eaten a bagel at 6:30 in the morning timing my nutrition perfectly for an 8am start time. I was actually hungry by the time 9am rolled around as this is the time I should almost be finished with the race. We finally started an hour later after standing in the cold forever which is seriously dangerous!
The course: Luckily I was near the start of the race, but it was still super crowded. I had decided to go out like a bat out of hell and see if I could hold onto the pace because all good race plans come while freezing your ass off. I was weaving back and forth and it was hard to get around the crowds of runners. I couldn't feel my feet at all as they were still numb and as they started to thaw out around mile 3 it felt like I was running on pins and needles. I actually wanted to stop because I thought I had stepped on a bottle cap and wanted to get it off my shoe, but if I stopped I would had gotten trampled so I continued. The first couple of miles were an out and back loop along Indian Head Highway! They only closed down on lane so cars were going 55mph with just small orange cones separating us! Umm.. I thought this was really bad and didn't understand why we were running on a highway with open traffic? The timing matt was also on the wrong side of the course and we got a split at mile 2.2 instead of a 5k split. My stomach was also growling and I was starving by the time I hit my 3 only and I didn't know how I was going to finish what should have been as easy fun 9 mile run. I'm not a big one to stop at water stops but the one I did want to stop at, it was self pour your own water. I thought the volunteers there were doing a great job, but obviously the race directors under estimated the amount of volunteers they needed. Once we got back from the 6 mile loop we ran the same course as the 5k (in the correct direction I think?) Up a really big hills then flying down hills was the theme. The we ran on what looked like a construction zone in gravel, weird once again. As we finished up we ran along a narrow gravel/crushed shell path that only had about 1 foot of grass before the water. I'm surprised no one fell into the water?? With this many people in a race we should not have been running on such narrow paths. The race finished up a nice up hill, which kicked my behind and I was glad to see the finish line!!! But wait .. the course wasn't even measured right my Garmin had 9.15 which is not a 15k. Now...I didn't really want to run those extra steps, but they didn't even measure the course correctly.
Overall my splits were all over the place: 7:16, 7:15, 7:38, 8:19, 8:42, 7:21, 8:40, 7:48, 8:35 thru 9... and the last .15 was 1:21 total time. finish 1:12:55, avg pace 7:58. Their official time has me at 1:12:50 with a 7:50 pace.
I'm actually happy with my time and glad I didn't die from being so hungry.
Post Race Party: Back up the big hill to get my chocolate that I was promised. The chocolate was good, but we barley got any food. One pretzel stick, one apple slice, one marsh mellow, one small rice crispy treat and 1/4 of a banana that's it. The hot chocolate was ok, but someone bumped into me and mine spilled all over the place. The chocolate squares were good, but I could have just bought them at the corner store instead of going through all this hassle!!!
Driving Home: Another 1.5 mile walk back to the car just to wait for a half hour to get out of the parking garage that was promised to be next to the start/finish line. Once out of the harbor we actually didn't have too much traffic which I was surprised by and we finally made it back to my house at 1pm! Yes 1pm for a 9 mile race that should have started at 8am!!
Overall: Do not ever do another event put on by RAM racing!!!! If you raced in the Hot Chocolate 15k or 5k spread the word!!! Within minutes of finishing the race social media sites were blowing up with angry runners complaints. In an effort to cover up their horrible race RAM started deleting negative comments off their facebook page. This is so wrong and dishonest on so many levels. They put out an apology email lastnight that more or less just put the blame on others, which is also not acceptable.
The race was not worth it at all and I should have just ran 9 miles with friends around dc and went and got some chocolate afterwards!!!