I have posted a review of this race on bibrave.com so if you would like to know more specifics about the race itself (expo, swag, course, would I do it again?, etc) you can check out my review here (It's ok but I gotta have more cowbell!).
I've never been one to run "themed" races, nevertheless, I have to admit, the swag that the Hot Chocolate race gives out (the nifty jacket and that chocolate bar medal) make it worth the registration price alone. That by itself doesn't mean I highly recommend this race but I think it's worth doing once for the swag...maybe in a different city? Lol. The swag is what initially attracted me to this race. That and the "irregular" 15K distance was on par where I should be on my marathon training. It's hard to recreate that race atmosphere so I believe you should strategically put a couple races throughout your training to see where you are at.
When I woke up this past Sunday morning, I was very nervous and excited for this race. It doesn't matter if I'm running a 5K or a Marathon, I always have trouble sleeping the night before because I think I get excited and nervous about all those little variables that you can't control in a race. I woke up feeling tired and was already questioning myself. My mind started working against me by asking myself questions like: "Am I right on schedule with my marathon training? Would me drinking the past two days to celebrate my buddy's birthday affect my race, today? Why does the scale say I'm 3 lbs. heavier?" . All these questions "weighed" heavily on my mind (3 lbs. really?! Haha). Well there wasn't anything I could do to change things, all I could is run my race and hope for the best.
It was a race full of firsts for me. It was the first race I was going to run without music and also the first race where I would not take anything to drink with me. In the past two months, as part of my marathon training, I have mixed it up in my runs by sometimes not running with music and also by not taking anything to drink with me on shorter runs. I figure this was a good test for when I run the Shiprock Marathon (New Mexico) in May.
The race started off going through the Linq Promenade which was blah because it caused a bottleneck of sorts and it's always hard to maintain your pace when you are trying to dodge people and objects in front of you. Luckily, after a quarter of a mile the bottleneck cleared up and I was just running with a handful of runners.
My goal for the first half of this race was to keep it at around a 7:30-8:00 pace but not go all out. I wanted to leave some in the tank so that I could really turn it on during the second half of the course. Running negative splits is a fairly new concept to me (why hadn't anyone told me about this?! Lol) so it's also something I wanted to test out during this race. A lot of experimenting going on here haha.
I ran the first 3 miles at around a 7:50 pace which was good because it wasn't going all out and I still felt like I had another gear or two in place for later one. Sure, some people passed me and I so wanted to stick with them or pass them however I kept reminding myself to run my own race. If I tried to keep up I, more than likely, would blow up later on. I did notice something interesting which I had never noticed before: the sound of people breathing. I started noticing which runners were breathing hard and which runners weren't. I never even thought about this before since I had always ran with music, I had never had the opportunity to pay attention to breathing. More importantly, I noticed that I wasn't breathing hard at all which I took as a good sign.
Right around mile 4, we started going over a "hill" of sorts (it's really an overpass) but I knew that I had to keep the same pace or even go a little slower because I did not want to use up a lot of energy on this hill. Some runners did the opposite and they paid the price once we reached the top. At this point in time around the halfway mark, I started to increase my speed and, yes, going down that hill helped. Unfortunately, we had to come back up the hill in order to retrace our steps for the second half of the course. My left glute started acting up a little but luckily it didn't make me stop. I've been having left glute issues because apparently it's weaker than my right and I also have to work on my core, so this was on my mind constantly during the race. I was just praying that it wouldn't act up enough to make me stop.
Once we came back up on the overpass over Desert Inn Road, I saw the mile 6 marker. I felt good and I knew I had another gear in me so I decided this is where I was going to drop the hammer! Or as my running buddy, Kim, told me the previous day when we were discussing race strategy, "Let the ponies out! Weee!" Haha (I'll have to tell you about my new training partner in a later entry. She has definitely made my long runs more enjoyable because, as she would say, I'm fairly certain we share a brain).
So with a 5K left, I let the ponies out! I felt strong and before I realized it, I was running close to a 7 minute mile and passing people left and right; people who had passed me initially were now slowing down. Some runners tried to keep up with me but I wasn't even breathing hard and just kept going. The strategy of holding back, had worked. I must have passed close to 15-20 people in the last 3 miles and I feel like I could maintain this pace for the remainder of the race. I ended finishing the 15K in 1:09:58. I actually could see the finish line when I was at around 1:09:30 and you know I had to sprint so that I could make a sub 1:10.
I'll admit, I had this feeling of disappointment at the end because of my left glute bothering me during the race but I soon realized that I had finished with a 7:30 pace which actually is fairly close to what my tempo pace should be. I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish with this race along with the experimentation of different variables in a race environment. Looks like I'm right where I should be in my marathon training.