I had a fantastic time at the Hot Chocolate 15K in Dallas. This was my first time racing a 15K distance, and it was the shortest distance I've done. This 15K would be a great one to tackle if you're trying to move up to longer distances from a 10K or 5K.
Signing up was easy, and I found Ram Racing to be pretty good about communicating via social media and email. You can opt in to a training plan, which I thought was reasonable (even though I was using the 15K as part of a different training plan).
The morning of the race, we got there at about 7:15 and made it to the start line by about 7:45, which included a porta potty break. The porta potties were plentiful, by the way, and the lines moved very fast. We moved on to the corral area, which was not super strict, but it was pretty easy to find my corral and appropriate pacer.
Overall, the race was a blast. Aid stations with enthusiastic volunteers were spaced out every 2 miles or so, and the chocolate was delicious (let's be honest, chocolate on the course was a huge reason why I signed up, haha). I enjoyed the nuun on the course; usually, Gatorade is offered, but this can be a bit too sweet for me when I'm already using Gu, so the nuun was PERFECT. The course scenery was not bad. Not overly scenic for about 6 of 9 of the miles, but the middle of the race runs through some beautiful neighborhoods, and there is a nice view of the skyline and Fair Park near the end. I will say that it isn't totally flat... there are some small rolling hills in the middle of the course, and a couple of larger ones toward the end. I live in Austin, so I didn't have issues with these, but people who are used to flatter courses might find them challenging.
The post-race party was fun! The finisher mug was delicious and the hot cocoa was actually really good; trust me, I am a hot chocolate aficionado. Vendors were spaced out around the finisher area. I recommend taking your snacks to the bag check area, which is warm and toasty, so you can enjoy your fondue without worrying about it solidifying in the cold.
The issues I ran into were pre-race, mainly resulting from the expo times. Long story short, I had to travel the night before the race. Because the expo wasn't open late, I had to pay $15 to have my packet shipped to me. The jacket I received was too big, and I did not have a reasonable way to switch it out. My options were to either ship it to a friend who could make it to the expo to switch it out (since I didn't have any friends attending from my area), or pay for shipping back to Ram Racing and then pay another fee to have the new jacked shipped to me. The quality of the jacket was not worth the expense to me, but really the whole situation could be avoided with more reasonable expo times. So, not a problem if you are not traveling, but a could be bit inconvenient if you are.
Traffic was also kinda difficult to get to the parking lots. Then, from the parking lots, there was a long walk to the starting line... I would recommend aiming to park at least an hour before your start time. Again, this wouldn't be a reason not to sign up, but it should be something to keep in mind.
Overall, I would highly recommend this race to friends. I shattered my goal of 1:42:00 with a time of 1:37:18, and had a great time doing so. The race had a great vibe and met almost all of my expectations, even though the parts I mentioned above could use some tweaking, in my opinion. I will definitely make a point to make it back next year if I can!
Check out the extended review on my blog here: http://freetorunblog.com/hot-chocolate-15k-recap-and-review/