Loco for Cocoa: Hot Chocolate Scottsdale Recap

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:

IMG_0397.jpeg
Free samples at the expo! Don’t mind if I do! 🙂

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.

Race:

IMG_6288
A chocolate bar big enough for my grandmother! 

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.54_1012569_enm3511285162ram

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.

IMG_0410.jpeg
Posing with some old friends

Post- Race: 

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.

IMG_0413.jpeg
Definitely worth a 9 mile run!

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.

IMG_0419.JPG

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!

The Runologist

That Time I Ran Between A Rockstar’s Legs: RNR 5k Recap

It was time to take RNR Las Vegas off my race bucket list and turn it into a reality for 2017. After registering for the half-marathon over the summer, I toyed with the idea of adding the 5k to my itinerary in order to receive the Remix Challenge medal.

Expo

IMG_0286
Entering the Expo

After a quick monorail ride from the MGM Grand, the expo was located just a few steps from the Convention Center station. Volunteers and a collection of signs pointed participants in a counter clockwise loop, the bib pickup being stop #1. Next, I was ushered towards a shirt table, where I was given my pre-selected size in a plastic drawstring backpack that contained some samplings of SmartyPants vitamins and a Black Forest Gummy packet.

IMG_0288
Countdown to Chocolate!

The next section of the expo was dedicated to Brooks gear allowing eager attendees to try on the latest in footwear or buy Las Vegas specific wear. The most popular item to be noted at the 2017 expo was the neon yellow, Vegas Strong shirt.

As I stood in the merchandise line, it took close to an hour. I felt as if I were waiting for one of Disney’s newest attractions! I wish I had been in possession of a Tourpass as one of the perks was an express checkout lane for holders.

Vendor booths took up the rest of the expo with retailers selling anything from clothes and shoes to nutrition. This would be my thirteenth half, and by now, I like to think I know what works for me, so I passed on through.

As I neared the exit, a small section was devoted to Rock n’ Roll event registration. Medals that screamed, “I would look really good around your neck or fastened on your wall one day,” glistened as they hung from their mounts right above the registration tables.

With computers open to the registration page and my debit card placed in my hand so conveniently, I headed to the desk and signed up for the evening’s 5k. Aren’t you supposed to go big or go home while in Vegas? With only a couple hours before the run, I headed back to my hotel in order to rest before a nice 3 mile shakeout.

Pre-Race

Taking the monorail back to the SLS Station proved to be an interesting ride. The cars were full, sardine cans on steroids full. When the monorail came to an abrupt stop, there was no need to hold onto anyone or thing because no one was going anywhere. What must have looked like the word’s largest parade of clowns exiting a car, I headed out of the station and through the hotel with my fellow runners.

Across the street, stood lines of runners trying to gain access into the Festival Grounds. While I appreciated added security checking bags, this process was slow. Only a few lanes were open to 7,000 runners. I did not even possess a bag but could not see an expedited way through.

I paid a quick trip to a huge row of indoor bathroom stalls. These were a nice touch and it was pretty funny to see fellow runners taking selfies and hear their commentary.

Once at the start, I noticed security attempting to keep runners honest but still I saw a few people surge ahead toward their desired corral. Since it was only a 5k and the road was wide enough, this did not cause any problems that I noticed during the run.

Race

The course took me out along Industrial road. This course leaves the eyes searching for a little bit more, but with a quick three miles, there is not too much time to overthink the lack of scenery. Since it was an out and back, I was able to cheer on the front runners which is always fun!

On a road littered with potholes, I focused on the handful of stations along the course, complete with music and flashing lights. While these were DJ’s rather than live bands, it was still nice to have some entertainment on course. Before I knew it I was already returning back into the festival grounds and even ran between a rockstar’s legs!

IMG_0295
Over the roads and through the legs… 😛

This impromptu decision turned out to be fun and the perfect shakeout before Sunday’s half! I collected my medal, finisher’s snacks and turned in for the evening. While the Goo Goo Dolls were scheduled to perform just after the 5k instead of at the start of the half, I was a tad too chilly to sit and enjoy.

IMG_0297
Concert Stage

With a little more entertainment, runner specific monorail trains and more security lanes, RNR is close to having a flawless 5k event. I enjoyed a chance to stretch the legs over some flat and fast road while adding some nice hardware to my collection. With tuned strings, I was ready to rock the remainder of the weekend.

IMG_0298
Selfie with my medal

The Runologist