Sunday, December 4, 2011

Race Report: DC Hot Chocolate 15k

Yeah, I haven't posted in a while.  Mostly because I've been pretty lazy in terms of running since the Philadelphia half marathon...

Thanksgiving morning: short easy run.
Monday: boot camp
Tuesday: 3.2 mi 10-ish min/mile pace
Wednesday 4.6 mi easy run

But Friday I headed south to meet up with some lovely ladies including Alyssa, Kara, Kari, and Emily for the DC Hot Chocolate 15k Saturday morning.  I had no goals for this race, other than to participate in the event with the above-mentioned bloggers.

I will now try to objectively review that race.

Let's start with the pros.
  • Port-a-potties were plentiful!
    • First time I've seen NO wait at a race. 
    • With ~20k registered, this is impressive
  • Volunteers at the last water stop were calling out "water" or "Gatorade" (helpful)
  • Race photographers were everywhere offering to take group photos before and after
  • It was surprisingly easy to get my plastic tray for chocolate fondue
    I had already eaten the marshmallow that was also provided
  • Hot chocolate was decent
  • Received several Ghirardelli chocolate squares 

  • Volunteers were friendly and some were very animated and cheering along the course
  • Jackets came in women's sizing
  • Chip timing (I'm trying to be positive here)

Now for the cons.
  • Despite following parking directions per the race website, with a National Harbor parking pass (which was required and cost $10 per car), we were directed to park in a parking garage that ended up being 1.1 miles from the start line.
    • The other car carrying members of our group, that also had a National Harbor parking pass, was allowed to park in a parking lot pretty much right next to the staging area/finish line.
    • Garage was open to anyone, was free, and parking passes were in fact not checked as we were told in each and every one of the 5 "fun fact Friday" emails I received since registering.
  • We needed to walk along what was apparently part of the race course to get to the race start.
Blue X = us.  Purple X = other car. Blue Dots = our 1.1 mi walk along race course.

  • While walking to the start, we heard that the starting time had been delayed by 15 minutes.
  • From the website, "Start line water will be provided" --> did not see it.
  • A-D Corral/Open Corral pace guideline confusion. Was not in order of fastest to slowest.
  • While corrals were lined up (oddly), all runners were released at the same time; no wave start.  A wave start might have alleviated some congestion.
  • 15k course described by announcer at the start as "5 mile out and back followed by 5k course" (5 + 3.1 9.3)
    • Was actually 6 mi. out and back, followed by 3.1.  Still not equal to 9.3 miles.
  •  At about half an hour past the 15k start time, we were told to line up.  It was another 43 minutes before I crossed the start line.
  • Course & elevation maps were released ~2 weeks before the race
    • hairpin turn at mile .15 seems like an odd decision with 10,000+ 15k runners.
    • it was said that portions of the course would be on roads not be entirely closed to traffic.  I did not realize this would mean a highway.
    • out and back along 2/3 lanes of a highway seemed like a poor choice
  • Not enough volunteers handing out cups at the water stop near mile 7.  Water in Gatorade cups.  Unclear where to get water/where to get Gatorade. 
  • Course ran along a narrow walking path near the harbor. 
  • This was the path...but while we were walking to the start line
    • Could maybe fit 5 people across
    • Steep drop off to the left of path, several feet down to the water. Hope no one fell.
    • Outdoor tent stakes to the right of path at one point; hopefully no one tripped on one while trying to pass other runners.
  • Upon crossing finish, I hit a wall of people.
    • Not enough was done to encourage people to keep moving after finishing
    • Tables with water bottles should have been placed farther past the finish line
    • Volunteers could have handed out the bottles to expedite the process.  
    • I had to stop and pull a water bottle out of a plastic-wrapped case of bottles
  • Post-race "party" up hill from finish line
    • Volunteers could have directed people up hill.
    • I wouldn't describe it as the "amazing post race party" the race organizers did
  • Course was short.
    • 15k = 9.3 miles
    • Garmin = 9.11 miles
    • I know GPS devices are not always correct, but I never have had GPS-based mileage lower than the distance of a course, especially with the amount of weaving I did.
    • The actual finish line is not where it was indicated on the course map.  Maybe this is why?


My watch agrees with the final time, but as I ran .19 miles less, that means I actually ran a slower pace (by about 11-12 seconds per mile?)

Now, the jacket. 
 As I pointed out before, I was mostly happy that this came in women's sizing. 

I have seen a lot of complaints online about the jacket, but to be fair, I was not expecting an amazing Brooks or Nike jacket.  It is a very lightweight zip-up jacket with elastic cuffs, two front zip pockets, a back vent, two cinch-cords at the sides of the waist.


It looks like it could be wind resistant.  I sprayed water on it and it appears to be water resistant.  The reflectivity is limited to the two pieces at the shoulders.

The website claim that "this jacket is perfect for winter weather running" might be a little exaggerated.  Perhaps if you wear it over a mid weight top or fleece.

They did provide a size chart for the jackets which I found to be pretty accurate.  I went with a size small, after reading complaints on the event's facebook page from an earlier Hot Chocolate race that the jackets "ran small."  Additionally, my own chest measurement falls between the XS (31) and the S (36).  So I rounded up.

For a size small, here are the size chart numbers, followed by (my own tape measure measurements of the jacket).

Sleeve length - 28.25" (28.5")
Front length- 24 (24.5" from shoulder to hem)
Chest- 36 (18" across from underarm to underarm, about 17" across if you measure a little lower at the top of the bust darts)
Waist- 38 (19" across at the bottom)

 See Molly Waffles, lurking in the background

To sum up the DC Hot Chocolate 15k/5k Debacle of 2011:

The jacket fits and shall serve as proof that I survived the worst ever planned/organized race of the 13 events in which I have participated.  This includes my first race: a local 3k put on by a 12 year old boy to raise funds for an animal rescue group.  SERIOUSLY.

I would not recommend a race put on by Ram Racing and would not run in one of their races again. If it weren't for meeting 4 blogger friends, the race weekend would have been a huge let down and not at all worth the drive from central NJ.

If you don't want to take my word for it, you can Google the race for yourself to see what other people thought.  Most seem to be of the same opinion and the negative comments are overwhelming...  On facebook, on the Hot Chocolate Epic Fail facebook page (because Ram Racing was deleting comments from its own page), this petition, and on

You can also click here for Kara's, Alyssa's, Emily's and Kari's recaps.


  1. Haha, the race put on by a 12 year old was better....I'm adding this to my favorite comments. At least you remembered to take a picture of the chocolate tray.

  2. Oh man, reading all your recaps of this race sounds TERRIBLE. Sorry you had to make such a long drive to only have this!

  3. Sounds like really the worst organized race ever, but I'm sure they made their $$ on it, and looking at their website they have so many others still planned, awful! Glad you got to have a fun meet up at least.

  4. I wore my jacket today and I got a medium and I was shocked at how snug it fit. I got a medium because I assumed I'd wear a fleece under, but, that won't fit. I hope those "chocolate loving" women I passed knew to order a bigger size.

  5. can't believe there is already a FB page dedicated to slamming this race! and a petition?!?! sounds just terrible!

  6. I think I ordered the biggest size jacket they had and I'm guessing the chances of ever getting it closed over my boobs is 0. It looks good on you, but you definitely look unimpressed.

  7. Oh my goodness...Thanks for the report, I'll cross this one off my "maybe someday" list!

  8. Such an epic fail! I'd say you were being generous with the pros and this still came across as a horrendous race!

  9. I also ran this mess of a race, though I did the 5k. I traveled from out of state for the race (not just for the race thank goodness!) so my blog post isn't up yet. I agree with all of your comments but when I went to get my jacket at the expo, I was told they didn't have my size anymore and gave me the "men's equivalent." Horrible race from start to finish.

  10. You found more pros than I did!

    If the jacket fits you and you're shorter than me, I have a feeling it'll be small on me. No I haven't even tried it on yet :-P

    Funny that the race put on by a 12-year old was better. I believe it!

  11. All I can think of is that it makes me happy to run small races. I just ran a small 5k this week-end. I'm pretty sure the course was short (at least it is according to mapping tools) and the shirt wasn't pre-shrunk so it dosen't fit anymore. But jeez at least I had fun, didn't have parking issues, didn't feel endengered on the course. Etc.
    I hope you get a refund.

  12. oh i love this recap and experienced many of the same positives/negatives as you. never, ever again! : )


  13. Hmmm, I hope they've worked out the kinks! I'm running it in a few weeks and am a bit worried. Also, thanks for all of the details about the race jacket. Do you actually use it?

    1. I hope they've worked out some kinks too! I'll be curious to hear how the SD version goes. As for the jacket, I wish I could say I've worn it more, but I haven't. I wore it to walk the dog a couple times in NJ. I might actually have more use for a wind breaker now because where I am in CA it seems it can get pretty gusty once or twice a week (at least based on the last 3 weeks).


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