- 3 miles/5K, 9 miles/15K
- Road Race
Overall: This race had a couple of big pluses for me that helped carry the day even though the weather was less than stellar. I've never run a 15k before, so that meant a guaranteed PR. ;-) In addition, one of the many cities the Hot Chocolate Race is held in happens to be Minneapolis, where I've got an awesome group of triathlon friends, so it was the perfect "excuse" to go spend some together.
Swag: Best in class. LOVED the hoodie--completed with thumbholes and a soft, fuzzy, warm lining. Also love that the sizing ran small enough, which doesn't happen with all races when you're "fun size". As far as the medal goes, understand that it is highly coveted. I heard more than one person say they ran the race just to get the medal--a gold "chocolate bar" (and a hefty one!)
Aid Stations: As you'll see in #HC15K reviews from other cities, this race series is known for its chocolate goodies at aid stations. For some reason that didn't happen at this race (though the regulars said it ususally does), so it must have been rain related.(?) There was also some snafu that left some aid stations without nuun, which is a little harder to understand given nuun is a sponsor.
Course Scenery: The course was clearly chosen to be scenic and include a long stretch along the river with the ciy skyline in view, so I gave the scenery 5 stars. I imagine if I go back, it will be a stunning course at that point in the spring. (Also, if you count the inflatibles in the park as "scenery", this race gets top notches there as well. I've never seen so many huge infatibles at a race--they really did add to the theme/atmosphere.)
Expo Quality: I got my packet mailed to me (an awesome option this race offers!) so I didn't experience the expo. I did see they had a gift basket raffle that looked pretty awesome, and there was supposed to be chocolate for sampling there, too. :-)
Elevation Difficulty: Although the locals called the course "flat", I gave it 2 stars of difficulty instead of one. If you're from a truly flat area, you'll notice there are a couple of hills on the route. Nothing tough, but not flat either, IMHO. (There is an elevation map in the race guide on the Hot Chocolate website if you're looking for more detail.)
Parking/Access: Because I had the good forture of attending with locals, they knew eactly where to search for on street parking. I think it was as easy as it could have been given the area the race is held in. I heard people trading tips afterwards about taking public transportation back to the Mall of America where some people were staying, and they didn't know there was a light rail option in town. So the race might do more to promote that and perhaps ease congestion a little bit in the neighboorhoods aroud the race.
Race Management: I'm seriously impressed with the group that put on the #HC15k. There's some really fun swag available from their store for training in (who wouldn't "Run for Chocolate", after all?), and their team is super fast at shipping out and sending notfications, etc. I loved the option to have the packet mailed and wish more races would add that feature. Being a detail oriented person, I also loved the amount of information about the race on the website. Any question I could think of was answered on the site. Logisticially, everything was clearly professionally managed as well--tents well laid out and helpful staff available everywhere you turned.
Post-Race Food: I feel like this deserves its own rating, and I'd give it a 4. The gianourmous bowl of dipping chocolate and goodies along with hot chocolate is pretty hard to beat! I just wish there had been a water station near the chocolate goodies, but that's my bad for not realizing I had needed to pick it up on the other side of the park.
This is definetly a race I'd recommend to anyone--especialy to anyone who loves chocolate or is seeking a PR in a new distance. I'd also recommend staying tuned to BibRave for special offers when registering for the race! This year it was a great visor that I've already used in another race.
For more info, see the review on my website here: http://bit.ly/2pkUF7e