This was my first time running a Hot Chocolate race and it was definetly a fun experience!
I did not make it to the expo, but sent my husband to go pick up my packet. As a non-runner he wasn't the best source of information, but he thinks there might have been hot chocolate samples lol. He did say that it was super easy to get in, get my stuff, and get going. So that is always a plus in my book! It is worth noting that there was no race morning packet pick up so you either had to go to the expo or pay to have your packet mailed to you (the packet includes a sweatshirt so the shipping cost is understandable!)
There was plenty of information on the race website regarding parking and the fact that parking would be a bit crazy if you didn't get there early. There were also directions on how to get there via DART, but having never used that system I wasn't sure this was the best time to try. I had a bit of a drive so I left super early and luckily didn't hit traffic so I ended up getting to the fairgrounds (where the race started) around 5:30. The website recommended being there by 6:00, and the 15k didn't start until 8:15. I had no trouble parking, got a relatively close parking spot, and got to take an hour nap in my car. Win win.
Now I say relatively close regarding parking because even being in the closest possbile parking lot (as far as I could tell) it was still quite a trek to get to the bag check/starting line. Probably half a mile or more? After the race I realized how lucky I was because some people who arrived later had to park all the way across the street which was quite a hike.
The bag check area was very well organized and easy to drop your stuff off. The building was also heated! And there was plenty of room for everyone to hang out while we waited for it to get closer to race time. For those living further north it may seem silly, but a 40 degree morning in Texas is no joke (especially when it had been 80 three days prior!) so pretty much everyone seemed to be inside taking advantage of the heat!
When we went outside the starting area was very easy to find and the corrals were well labeled....we thought. They actually came in with ropes to divide between the sections because they staggered the corral starts by about 3 minutes. Somehow I ended up a corral ahead of where I was supposed to be. I had lined up with my letter group but it moved at some point. Looking at the bibs around me I was far from the only one so I didn't really fight it to get back to the correct corral. Sorry faster runners for butting into your space!!
The course was a little disappointing. If you are familiar with Dallas, you know that the fairgrounds are in a not so great part of town and the first mile took us under a bridge with a whole homeless encampments. There were police there and hundreds of other runners so I never felt like safety was really an issue, but at the same time it's not particularly scenic. There was a section along a bike trail that went through nicer neighborhoods, but the vast majority of the race didn't really provide a whole lot to look at. One other pet peeve was that the police were letting cars through when there was a small gap between runners. While I absolutely understand this from a practical perspective and keeping traffic moving in a large city, it makes me very anxious because you never know when a second car might be a little too determined to make it through. As runners I think we are all pretty aware that drivers don't often have a lot of patience for runners holding up their drive.
Overall the course was pretty smooth, there were some minor hills here and there, the biggest incline was an overpass though, so nothing was too crazy.
The finish line was exciting and they had big medals for all the runners. There were also bottles of water. But then it was a pretty long walk through the finish chute to get to the post race festivity area and the bowls of chocolate/snacks everyone was excited for. It might have been partially the cold, but the walk was a little bit of a downer before getting to the festival area. I think there might have been more excitement in the festival area if it was closer to the finish or there was more hype while you were walking. As it was, I was pretty surprised how quiet the festival area really was. Again, Texans don't really do cold weather so that could have been a major factor!
Bag check at the end was also super easy. They saw my bib number as I was walking up and had my bag before I made it to the station.
Overall it was a very fun experience and I enjoyed my first race in Dallas. I think the concept behind the race is great and it was very well organized. If the course was a little more scenic I would run it again in a heartbeat! If you have never run a Hot Chocolate race in the past I think it is a fun one to experience :)