Latest reviews by Denny

"Pour some Hot Chocolate on me!!!"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

The Hot Chocolate 15k back in 2014 was one of the best races I've ever ran despite the cold. Well, in 2016, "Cold" was taken to a whole new level. The thermostat said 18, but with the gusty winds and stinging cold, it felt more like -8. It was freezing!

Heading to corral "A", I could see that the crowd turnout wasn't affected, at least as far as I could tell. The crowds were huge and the corrals were packed. The DJ was spinning music, and the emcee was fired up. The energy at Hot Chocolate is always amazing. The announcer informed racers that a rumor that had been circulating was in fact true: If you signed up for the 15k but wanted to run the 5k due to the harsh conditions, you would still be awarded the 15k finisher medal.

I was racing with my 17 year old daughter who is working her butt off to prepare for her senior year of cross country competition. I thought briefly about just running the 5k with her, but wanted to run the full distance to get a sanity check on my overall fitness which isn't where it should be due to a rough second half of 2015.

My plan was to pace her the first 2.6 miles before parting ways with her at the split that took the 15k runners to West Nashville to loop through Centennial park. She struggled with the cold and wind the first 0.6 miles as we headed back toward Rosa Parks blvd. She pushed through as she always does, showing the mental toughness that makes me admire her so much.

The race organization was perfection. People were stationed at nearly every turn the first several miles to cheer on the runners, and that is always a huge boost to all of the participants.

The course layout was very well organized and took runners through the heart of downtown Nashville, giving athletes views of some of the most visited and easily recognizable places in Music City. As we neared the split for the 5k'ers to hit the homestretch, while the 15k runners to split off and head west, the huge Hot Chocolate inflatables made it easy to navigate the course for all of the athletes.

I didn't notice an aid station until I made the split, but saw as I ran past, that the volunteers and workers were very well organized and ensured all runners received hydration and nutrition. I wear an OrangeMud VP2 vest and carry my nutrition and hydration, but I always pay attention to the details of each race and Hot Chocolate delivered on every level to make the race as enjoyable and as competitive as possible.

Due to slowing so much running the first 2+ miles while pacing my daughter, I settled in to enjoy a nice pace the rest of the way. I checked my Garmin and clocked an easily manageable 8:20 pace and pretty much kept it there for most of the rest of the race. At mile marker 7, I noticed that the course at that point was a little long -- at least according to my Garmin -- but shrugged it off as I slowed a little to just enjoy watching the runners around me. Encouraging the ones struggling as I ran by, I remembered that running isn't just about PR's and racing. It's about community and seeing people really change their lives.

Cruising down the home stretch I could see and hear people cheering as they lined the streets leading to the finish line. I spotted my family wrapped in blankets, and took a second to really appreciate that at 43 years old, I'm just getting started. Crossing the line and finding my daughter was a great feeling, and knowing that my example of running has gotten her into competing is the best feeling of accomplishment I could possibly have.

I received my 15k finishers medal which was pretty insane looking. It's one of the best I've seen, and my favorite by far of the medals I have earned. Once again, the Hot Chocolate team put on a stellar event, and I look forward to racing again next year!

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