It had been a couple weeks since I was on a road trip, and I was itching to get back on the road. This time I was headed on a short 4-5 hr trip to Minneapolis. I carpooled with some friends who were headed to MPLS for “record store day” (it’s a thing.) I would also get to see Kate again, from One City Marathon Road Trip Fame.
what’s a road trip without games
I met up with Kate, after departing from my friends, and we hit up a pizza place for some pre-race grub. Kate would be running the 5k with another friend, which just happened to be that friend’s first 5k.
The 2016 Hot Chocolate Minneapolis was held April 16, 2016, near the Boom Island Park Area. 5k start 8:10 am, 15k start 8:50 am. Race day starting temps 60 degrees, and pushed to 75+ at the finish.
This is my third Hot Chocolate race, and my first in MPLS. I have only ran the 15k distance. The race does a great job of sending informative emails about all deadlines, training plans, and important information.
Registration: Registration was available online, and increased as race day approached. The 15k topped out at $74. Included with registration was a gender specific, zip up sweatshirt; a drawstring bag; a personalized bib with timing chip; finisher’s medal; and finisher’s mug.
Expo/Packet Pick up: If you knew ahead of time you wouldn’t attend the expo, and before the deadline you could have your packet mailed to you. Otherwise you could pick up your race swag at the expo held in downtown MPLS at the Hyatt. The times to pick up weren’t very late into the evening, but a friend could pick up your things for you.
Kate grabbed my things for me, and she sent photos, and it looked like a smaller expo, but with all the Hot Chocolate features of inflatables and chocolate goodies to consume, in addition to some local running organizations. I just had to send her my confirmation email. She could have picked up 5 additional packets. The pick up was held until 6pm Thursday and only 5pm on Friday, which doesn’t seem suburb friendly.
Pre-race: It was suggested on the HC website to park in the downtown and walk one mile to Boom Island Park, as there was no great place to park near the start/finish. Each race started at different times and at different starting lines. There were what seemed to be a gazillion port-a-potties. Gear check using the tag on your bib. There were corrals, and these were assigned on your bibs, participants could submit a time to be put in the elite corral.
We had been alerted to the parking situation, and Kate got us an Uber, which was super easy and quick. I am not sure maybe you could have parked in the neighborhood near the finish area, but the parking situation was not ideal
A note on the corral system, for some reason I was in the preferred corral, which was the first corral and within that corral there were pacers from 8 minutes to 11:30 min/mile. For more confusion the last corral had “no walkers” on the signage.
The National Anthem was sung, and there was a countdown to start the first corral. I can not say how soon the second corral started, but by mile 1, I was getting passed by them.
Race/Course: The course was a loop style, running near the Mississippi River. (very similar to the Hot Dash Course)
- all paved, no major potholes, but a section of brick that had missing bricks
- Beast Pacing pacers
- each mile was marked with a tent style flag, there were clocks (can’t remember if it was each mile)
- timing splits at 5k & 10k – which worked with the runner tracking
- 4 “candy” stops. Strawberry marshmallow, m &m’s, chocolate marshmallow, and chocolate chip wafers
- Aid stations about every 2 miles or so, Nuun first and water second. Different paper cups, well marked with flag style banners
- a few spectators near start/finish area
- Photographers near the finish chute only – Free pictures
- Scenery: mixed parts of residential, industrial, parks….run across the stone arch bridge
- Elevation – relatively flat, biggest inclines were bridges
- Volunteers – there were lots along the course, and law enforcement at busy intersections.
- Bike course marshals
My race: I had been struggling with my shin the week before the race, so I had no overall expectations. I ran a good time, concentrating on keeping each mile under 10 minute pace. I was actually having a great race, making sure to stop at all water stops. That last mile though I hit 10:02, I knew the heat was a factor. I had been training in 40 degree weather, it was too hot – too soon. I was happy to finally get the finisher’s bottle of water. I knew I needed more fluids, but there wasn’t any, in fact was told each finisher gets one bottle of water. I even had a cup of Nuun, and it’s not my electrolyte drink of choice. I finished with a time of 1:32:25, then struggled with dehydration issues for the next day. Note to self always carry my own.
Finish: The finish chute had spectators, and there was an arch set up. The first thing participants received was the medal, then after a short walk there was Nuun in cups, and then finally a bottle of water. (Medals for 15k only, and had an image of the city)
Post Race: The post race area was huge. There was the gear check tent, merchandise tent, hot chocolate finisher’s mug tent, lots of inflatables with hot chocolate signage for photos, a kids area, lots of vendors/giveaways, and more samples of Nuun.
I stopped into the merchandise tent and scored an awesome pair of 2xu Compression Calf Sleeves!! (for only $15)
The tag on your bib redeemed the finisher’s mug. Included in the plastic mug; dipping chocolate, a banana, Rice Krispie treat, bag of pretzels, a marshmallow, wafer sticks and a wet nap. Once finished, there were plastic bags to put your mug into.
Boom Island is a great area for all these people, you can sit near the river and spread out. However on this hot day there was only one shelter with seating and shade. There was also no additional access to water, so the ONE bottle of water from the finish line is all you got. It was a hot day, the weather had gone from highs of 40’s to a high of 70. The race should plan ahead for additional fluids. Or I guess I should always carry my own.
Overall: This race can be pricey, but it’s always fun and you get lots of swag for the price. This course is nice and flat, and would be a great distance for a newer runner looking to tackle longer distance. I felt that, even though some hot chocolates are more laid back, you could totally set a PR and race this. The parking is a problem, but Uber can fix that, and if it’s hot the race needs to make accommodations.
It was nice to add to my growing Hot Chocolate Medal, chocolate bar collection.
Kate, and our friend had an excellent 5k too, finishing near 41 minutes. We all three enjoyed the remainder of the day exploring MPLS.
Even stopped at the sculpture featured on the medal.
We ended the day with a great backyard BBQ. Always a lot to see and do in MPLS. I hope to return and run another race, but perhaps on a different course. Twin Cities Marathon I am looking at you!
Sunday came and it was time to meet up with my friends and drive home, but first a stop for brunch. Yes, we ate our way through the weekend….it’s why I run.
Up next…The Quad Cities River Bandits 5k, and then my April Marathon – The RnR Country Music Marathon in Nashville…
Recaps to come…but always check out reviews at www.bibrave.com