Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15k Recap Part 1: Expo and Pre-Race Shenanigans

So, I'll be taking the next several posts to recap everything related to the race weekend for the Hot Chocolate 15k at the National Harbor on December 3, 2011.  If you have read anything about the race, you know a lot went wrong.  I'm definitely NOT trying to complain or have a negative attitude, but I am going to share my honest thoughts and opinions about the race weekend.

Friday afternoon, M and I headed north to the DC metro area for our weekend of fun.  We made a quick stop to pick up Susan and my other friend K and the four of us headed to the expo.  The traffic getting in to the National Harbor to park was horrendous!  It took us at least 45 minutes to go basically 3 miles.  Once we got to the expo, it was pretty standard - lots of vendors, pretty well organized, etc.  We got our race numbers, made sure our chips worked, figured out parking, and then got our jackets.  I have to say, the jacket was kind of a let down.  It looked SO nice on the race website, but really it's a lightweight windbreaker.  I guess I should have expected that.  The jackets also ran quite small, but luckily it was simple to switch sizes!

After we got our jackets, we looked around the expo.  K bought a few things, while Susan, M, and I just wandered around.  I looked longingly at the Garmins and checked to see if they had any Brooks Adrenaline on clearance in my size (they never do - but it's nice to check!).  It was getting late by then so we left the harbor to go to dinner.  I had originally to get reservations at a restaurant in the harbor, but when I checked ~5 days in advance there were no tables anywhere!  So, instead we went to Rustico in Alexandria - a good choice for our group because everyone likes pizza and they had gluten free crust for M!  After we filled up on pizza we went back to K's house where we determined we had to set the alarm for 4:30am if we wanted to get to the race on time.

Saturday morning the alarm went off at 4:30am - yikes!  Our plan was to leave by 5:00am, drop one car off at my future MIL's house that is only a few miles from the harbor, and then take one car over (since we had 4 people and 1 parking pass).  Of course, I left the parking pass on K's kitchen table so she had to go back and get it... oops.  By the time the four of us were in one car and on the way to the harbor it was 6:00am.  Not TOO bad, since my future MIL lives about 15 minutes from the harbor without traffic.  We had been told to arrive by 6:30 because there would be road closures starting at 6:30am, even though the 5k started 7:30am and the 15k started at 8:00am.  Obviously, the traffic was already backed up all the way across the bridge by 6:10, so we sat in traffic forever.  People started getting out of their cars and walking!  We got across the bridge and near the harbor around 7:10 and saw a mass of people walking from the water front area over to our left - apparently to the start line?  Not sure why the start was so far away from the harbor.  Since we were parking in the opposite direction and we were worried about K missing the start of the 5K, we told her to jump out of the car and start walking.  She texted us soon after to say the start was delayed.. whoops!  At least she didn't miss the start?

Finally we got to the parking area, and I was directed to park in a grassy field instead of one of the parking garages.  I was being directed to start a new row of cars all the way over to the right of the field when I heard a horrible scraping noise under my car.  Umm WHAT?  The parking people looked terrified.  Apparently, they directed me to drive over a huge metal pole that had then gotten caught underneath my car.  The parking attendant told me to back up to see if if would come out.  Then, when it didn't, she told me it must be part of my car that had fallen off.  I'm sorry, my car did not just spontaneously fall apart.  No.  Alas, it was around 7:30 and we realized we were at LEAST one mile from the start.  So, we decided to deal with my car after the race.
Susan, me, and M walking to the start

We still didn't know where the start line was, and it was about 35 degrees outside, so we took our first opportunity to use a public restroom.  Then we proceeded to walk down to the harbor, past the tents where the expo had been, and up a hill.  FINALLY we found the 5k start line, which was packed with people waiting to run.  We tried to look for some of our friends who were running the 5k, but no luck!  We walked up to the 15k area, but since the starts overlapped (but faced different directions) they weren't really lining up the 15k participants yet.  So we just kind of wandered around.  Finally they announced that the 5k was starting around 8:15am, so we went to get in our corrals.  It was funny because the guy was being strict about letting people in the correct entrances, but once you entered the corral, nothing was stopping you from walking forward to faster groups or backwards to the open/slower groups.  Oh well.

At this point, I was getting grumpy and kind of thirsty - I had finished my Gatorade around 7:30!  I also pondered whether or not to use the bathroom again.  However, no one was able to tell us what time the 15k was starting, so I had no clue if I had time to find water or anything.  People in the corrals were not happy.  It was cold.  Several people suggested we just start running... what was taking so long?  The first ~10k of the course was the opposite direction of the 5k, so it's not like we'd run into them any time soon?  I had no clue.  Finally someone announced that the path of the 15k crossed over the traffic trying to get in to the harbor, so they had to wait for all of those people to get in and park.  Course planning FAIL.

FINALLY, the race started - my watch read 9:04.  64 minutes late.  This by far is the worst organized race ever....

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