Most family and friends tend to look at eye color and facial structure to understand whether a baby gets a certain feature from each parent, my family measures adoration for chocolate in likeness to my grandmother’s side of the family. No one can compete with her love of double chocolate (don’t forget the chocolate syrup!) milkshakes and twelve king size bars she acquires each Christmas. While my grandmother is the Queen of all things chocolate I am a Princess. My sweet tooth however, still led me to the Hot Chocolate series and after not receiving my fill of chocolate in 2016, I decided to return for more in 2017!
Expo and Bib Pick-up:
Hot Chocolate sets up camp at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. This is a giant baseball stadium which hosts baseball teams such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies for spring training sessions. The covered promenade section was converted from pretzel and hot dog sellers, to all things chocolate for the weekend’s festivities.
Upon entering, bib pickup was located to the left. With a simple scan of one’s mobile ticket or a gander of an I.D. the runner was given their bib and sent to pickup the Hot Chocolate logo’d 1/4 zip included with registration. This year’s option was purple for female runners and blue for the men. This is a nice change from a typical race t-shirt.
There were chiropractors doing massages, as well as vendors selling socks, shirts, nutrition. Sole Sports Running Zone had a nice setup with a miscellany of discounted shoes. Hot Chocolate even had their own little section of branded shirts and jackets.
Having been to quite a few expos throughout my running career thus far, I now make a point of getting in and out. That being said, I may have stopped by the Hot Chocolate booth handing out samples of cocoa and fondue, however.
Many of the Scottsdale hotels will offer shuttles within a certain mile radius which is a nice bonus to look out for! I grabbed an Uber, as my hotel only had shuttles that ran during the week and set out to explore the town for the remainder of the afternoon.
The race starts on one of the roads within the Salt River Field facility. With 2 distances and many corrals, event staff slated the 5k for a 7:30 start and the 15k close behind at 8:15.
With about 40 Port o’ Johns there were still huge lines. I arrived at the start with about 30 minutes and spent all of that time waiting for my turn. Luckily the start was stalled a few minutes and before I knew it, I was off and running.
This course is nice and flat, allowing views of the McDowell and Phoenix Mountains. By the first mile, volunteers were handing out marshmallows. These were not average mallows however, but displayed a golden hue and tasted similar to caramel!
This station was followed by Nuun, an electrolyte beverage, and water cups.
After another mile or two, I came across another station handing out chocolate chips. These semi-sweet chocolate pieces proved to be a nice stimulant. With more hydration to follow, I ran onward, my gait feeling slightly clunky.
As I weaved my way through this small section of Scottsdale, the streets are lined with small businesses and offices and of course, enthusiastic volunteers.
I came upon another sweet station of Christmas colored candy corn but opted out of this sampling. With a few turns, I was running towards the aquarium. I had hit the 10k mark in 58 minutes, my first time receiving a sub hour time. With only three more miles to go, I focused on keeping my stride the same.
I turned up a slight incline, about a mile of road before I would U-Turn and make my way back to the baseball fields. The final sweet station was located at mile 8, passing out candy canes with Nuun and water following just behind.
Once again, I opted out of this one, being so close to the finish line. As I entered back onto another road leading into the Salt River Fields facility, families were stationed holding signs and cheering. Even runners who had already finished were urging runners on, calculating how many more seconds of running we would have to endure.
I crossed the finish line with an 8 minute P.R. from last year’s race. A volunteer placed a chocolate bar medal around my neck and I was off to the finish line area, ready to receive my chocolate finisher’s mug.
This giant plastic wonder is divided into sections. The middle holds a steaming cup of delicious hot chocolate. Perfectly rich without being too sugary. Next is a section of hot, chocolate fondue, perfect for dipping all of your goodies in. A mini krispy treat, pretzels, banana, cookies, marshmallow and mint are the perfect accompaniment.
I had saved some of the sweets from the course for extra dipping pleasure. (Perks to having a hydration pack!)
This area is perfect to celebrate post-run victories. With plenty of room to sit and enjoy the finisher mug, there are also games for the kids and young at heart. A DJ was playing music to keep the party alive.
If you enjoy chocolate this is the race for you! The expo is easy and fun while the race offers plentiful support. I hope to see you, chocolate covered fingers and all, in 2018!