Latest reviews by Jen Kelley

(2017)
"America's Sweetest Race - Always fun!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Pros: Easy Course, great scenery, chocolate, well-placed aid stations, free race photos, preferred corrals for your estimated race time (with proof of other race times)
Cons: Mandatory expo, early start time (especially for those of us from other time zones!)

This is my second Hot Chocolate race this year, my first being in Atlanta. Since I ran Atlanta only a few short weeks before this one, my expectations were pretty clear in my mind. With Atlanta, I purchased a parking pass for downtown. With Nashville, I didn't because I'm more familiar with the area. Parking downtown, if you're familiar, isn't nearly as much of a nightmare as you'd think! The fact that the expo is mandatory, however, does make it frustrating for those of us from out-of-town. The expo, as compared to other HC15K Expos I've seen, was definitely lacking. I liked the venue, because it was kind of cute and kitchy (like Nashville!), but there wasn't much to see in terms of vendors. This expo also only had stale marshmallows dipped in chocolate for a "treat". In Atlanta, they had a few types of snacks and also the famous hot chocolate for samples. Atlanta also had a slew of retailers whereas this one had maybe two and they were so crammed together that even though I went when the expo first opened at noon, you couldn't even look at the merchandise.

Race day came earlier (7 a.m.) than the Atlanta race, and the weather was about the same. It was breezy, warm (60's) and a bit sprinkly. I never mind an overcast day when I'm running though! The race started and ended downtown at Bicentennial Park and I really enjoyed taking in the scenery running the loop around Nashville - my favorite way to see a city is on foot! The course was also relatively easy (like Atlanta) with only about 350 feet in elevation gain throughout the 15K.

I love running Hot Chocolate Races and I think the race management team is top notch. They are ON IT when it comes to social media and keeping participants informed. I would recommend this race series to anyone who is looking for a "big name" race to practice running in larger crowds.

Disclaimer: I received a I received a free entry to review Hot Chocolate 15K - Nashville as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2017)
"A Great, Fun Run!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Getting ready to do HC ATL was a bit daunting. I haven't been to Atlanta since I was 15 years old, and I've never had to drive there. Prepping for a racecation in a town you've never really been to can be super stressful. Add to that the fact that during this race weekend the Falcons were in the playoffs and the Women's March was happening downtown and you've got even more traffic than usual to deal with. Thankfully, HC Race Organizers made this easy. When I was having trouble purchasing parking a few days before the race, a DM to the race on Twitter solved my problem nearly instantly. When severe thunderstorms canceled other events in town the day before and the day of the race, HC was on social media letting participants know the race was still taking place. They answered questions and were generally on top of things. What could have been even more stressful was easy to deal with thanks to the professionalism of their management team. Now, on to the race!

For me, Hot Chocolate is what I would consider a "fun run" race series. I didn't go into it taking the race too seriously. When a race offers marshmallows and chocolate at aid stations, you know you're in for a good time! I was definitely not feeling the stress of trying to run a PR with this course. Atlanta is in the southeast - therefore, there are hills all over town. For the 15K race, you're only looking at 380 feet of elevation gain over the entire course. There was even more downhill than uphill, so I wouldn't consider this a difficult course at all. I was on cruise control and sight-seeing the entire time.

The race began at Centennial Park (and corrals were easy to find and separated/signed well). From here, you run downtown, under the Olympic Rings, past Turner field, past Grant Park and Oakland Cemetery. You make your way through neighborhoods and back downtown through the college Fraternity district before making your way back into Centennial Park to finish the race. While this was the biggest race I've ever personally run, the course never felt crowded due to the staggered start times in the corrals. I also started in the first corral, so I feel like this really enhanced my experience.

The course was easy, scenic, and the volunteers were amazing. Atlanta Police were at every single intersection to watch traffic and assist runners across. Water stops were stocked with water, Nuun hydration, and candies. The after party at Centennial Park was easy to navigate.

I also really appreciated the free race photos from HC15K. The day of the race I was already getting email alerts about the photos. It's always a bonus. I would highly recommend this race if you're looking to do a great fun run with a cool finisher's hoodie and delicious chocolate!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry for this race to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"Racing in the Biggest Little Town in Maine"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This year was the second annual Millinocket Marathon and Half Marathon - and it was my first chance to get up to run it. Unlike traditional races that are BQ's, this race is completely free with the stipulation you'd spend an equal amount in town. This was the first time I've ever enjoyed packet pick up at a race - it took place during the local craft fair and I was able to shop for everyone on my list. I almost forgot to get my packet it was so much fun! I liked that this race gave you the option to purchase your medal instead of just getting it as part of a swag bag. I have so many race shirts that I originally opted out, but there were a couple designs to chose from at Moose Drop In and at the Craft Fair. I was actually surprised to see we DID get a little swag from Vitamin World and some complimentary Gu packs from Bangor Savings Bank. I wasn't expecting to get anything - especially for a free race!

The race was definitely the coldest, toughest race I've run. Windchills were below zero this year, but everyone participating seemed to be in good spirits and tolerating the cold weather well. I mean, this race is in MAINE in DECEMBER! The course begins in downtown Millinocket at the park and immediately begins uphill. In fact, the first SIX MILES of the race are on an incline. Immediately as you head south on Route 11 you're heading out onto the Golden Road. This scenic, private logging road afforded us gorgeous views of Katahdin covered in snow about four miles in. These views were definitely a huge motivator. Many locals drove out to watch the race and even drove along the course honking their horns and cheering us on!

The finish line this year consisted of two logging trucks loaded up with logs and a few bonfires to warm up. Local area businesses had lunch specials mere feet from the finish line. One local bar even served bloody mary's before the race! I don't think I've ever seen a race with so much local charm.

This race is going to be a new Christmas tradition for us. It gives us a chance to get up into our favorite little town in Maine and incorporate our favorite hobby while we're there. I'll be back every year they do this race and I'm already registered for next year!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"Well-organized and lots of fun!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This race was my first ever marathon and I was so super nervous leading into it. I ran the 5K years ago and I remember it being such a packed race and constantly being in "battle" for position with other runners. I was so pleasantly suprised this wasn't the case this year. They've recently changed the 5K to another night completely to help ease congestion of both parking and the race course. After the half marathon split, the course was pretty much wide open with very few runners around me. I really enjoyed the aid stations and the enthusiasm of the crowds in the neighborhoods.

The only con to this race (for me) was that you have to attend the expo to pick up your packet and there is no "day of" pickup. I live an hour and a half from the race site and it took me 4 hours total with downtown traffic to pick up my packet. I was in the expo for five minutes. It was a total waste of my time on a hot afternoon.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.
(2016)
"A Great Ultra for Your First!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first ever ultra. I decided to tackle it for two reasons 1) It was local; 2) A many-time finisher told me it would be an amazing one to try out the distance. My friend was not wrong! Taking place on the Alcoa/Maryville Greenway system, this race is a mostly easy elevation run. Granted, once you're 20 miles in I don't think any hills feel easy!

The weather was good for the morning of my race considering I was finished before the rain came in. One thing to note is that this course is prone to flooding if there have been heavy rains near the race day. The good news is Pistol Creek recedes as quickly as it rises! Otherwise, running a race the last weekend of December/first weekend in January in TN will more than likely be great temps for running during the daylight hours.

At nighttime, especially since it's technically winter, they do a great job with warming stations for the runners both inside the school and out on the course. There are bikers monitoring the course throughout the night to keep the longer distance folk motivated and safe.

The aid stations CANNOT be beat! Woody's is the most amazing aid tent I've ever seen. Every time I ran past someone would immediately ask if I needed my bottles filled. While I was eating food, the volunteers would ask if I was warm enough and if I'd like some warm soup or a warm drink. They take their "aid" status very seriously!

As for the race director I cannot say enough amazing things about him. This race is one of the smallest I've ever run and it truly feels like a giant family. You'll see Will out and running around the entire weekend of the event, taking pictures with participants, lending a hand wherever someone needs him. I have to say that you can definitely tell this event is being headed by someone who is truly passionate about running.

All in all this race was an amazing place for me to dip my toes into the ultra distance. Only a few days after the event I'm already itching for them to post the dates for next years' event. I can't wait to run again!

Lastly, I gave this event a 3/5 for the expo for the reason that I just personally don't like expos. I never have, so it's nothing personal against this particular race. Bib pick up was easy and volunteers were well-informed and helped you through the swag lines. Also, when I discovered my T-shirt had a hole in it, I easily was able to exchange it. Since the bib pickup was an hour from home each way and I wanted to go to the 'almost mandatory' prerace meeting I had to go. Hence, the 3/5 review.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.