Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hot Chocolate Cluster Eff

I'm warning my readers (parents) now, this post contains cursing. Some things happened in this race that are impossible to describe without it.

My long awaited blogger slumber party weekend started off fantastically. Amanda was waiting for me with iced coffee at my apartment when I got home from work, and she hopped in my car to drive down to Kara's. We got there around 7pm, and commenced the love affair that had been brewing among the five of us for months.

We got down to business and got some pizzas (with Kara's delicious homemade dough) in the oven and started puffy painting.

Kari and Emily

Amanda was ready....Kara wasn't

Emily's birthday is this month, so Kara surprised her with a cake!

This buttercream changed my life
 Kara clearly remembered and took this blog post to heart, and informed everyone that no frosting was to be wasted, I would take care of any unwanted buttercream. She even protected it from Peanut, her dog. That's a true friend. Thanks to my new BFFs for not judging me (or judging me silently) when mere hours after meeting I am eating what you would normally scrape off your plate into the garbage.

Obviously, reading about an absolute and utter disaster is why you came here today, so I'll just say that the slumber party was everything I hoped for and more, and I am going to start my campaign to get everyone to move in across the street so every day for the rest of my life can be as wonderful as last night was.

Let's just get acquainted with the Hot Chocolate 15K. I had started to dread getting emails from them, because every single one had long winded, confusing logistical questions, demands, or directions. Despite the fact that the race was $65, Eric and I both had to pay an extra $10 to park at the National Harbor, where the race was held. They claimed they'd be checking parking passes "when you exit the interstate".

Friday night, I realized I hadn't clearly communicated with Amy, the woman who picked up our bibs. She hadn't realized that Eric had also needed a parking pass, so we had two, not three. No big deal, Kara's husband suggested meeting Eric at a shopping center near the National Harbor. We had plenty of room for him and his 3 passengers in our two cars.

Then the next morning came, and the shit started hitting the fan.

First of all, we were supposed to leave at 5am. Kari and Emily had an alarm fail, so Kara woke them up at 4:58, and we were off to a late start. Oh, how I wish this had been the extent of our problems.

Amanda and I headed out to meet Amy at a Wawa to get our bibs, race swag, and parking passes. As I walked in, Amy gave me a serious look and said "we need to talk about the parking passes". I told her Kara had already let me know that Eric didn't have one and that it was no big deal. She said, dramatically, "no, there's more", and informed me that she only had ONE for Kara and I, not two. Which left us with 9 runners,  and a parking pass for one of our three 4 door sedans. Since we'd been getting emails nonstop about the strictness of the parking, this didn't bode well. To top it all off, I hadn't even had a sip of coffee yet.

We didn't have many options - it was 5:30 am, Eric was on his way to meet us, and we'd also received 987 race emails about the importance of arriving early to deal with traffic. Amy offered three extra spots with her friend, so Kara, Emily, and Kari broke the first cardinal rule of safety that every child learns, and got in a random van with a total stranger. Amanda and I left to meet Eric, and I called Casi to inform her that all 6 of us were going to have to travel to the race in my Honda Civic.

We ended up taking Eric's Altima, which is slightly bigger, a decision that turned out to completely bite us in the ass later on.

We finally arrived at the National Harbor a little after 7am for the 8am race, and after having no one check our parking pass, we were directed to a garage. We left to meet Katylin at a local coffee shop, which was extremely important because she had Casi's bib.

We did get to see a few pretty sights at the harbor.

Amanda, Lily and I left to find the rest of Team Bitch at the start. After walking for 15 minutes or so, we still couldn't even see anything remotely resembling a starting line. Apparently our $10 parking fee got us a spot nearly 2 miles away. Oh, did I mention it was below freezing this entire time?

We found our blogging team and took some pics. Our t - shirts were super popular.

Left to right: Chocolate Loving Bitch (Me), Crazy (Ninja) Bitch (Kara), Notta Bitch (Amanda ), Nasty Bitch (Kari ), Sexy Bitch (Emily)

This guy made me happy
 We arrived at the starting area right at 8am, but the 5K, scheduled to start at 7:30, hadn't even begun, so we had plenty of time. The shuttles from another parking area were delayed, which we knew Katylin was taking, and Casi was still waiting for her at the coffee shop, frantically texting me because she had no bib and no way to find out where Katylin was.

We finally met up with everyone around 8:30, and headed to the start. Casi ended up having to run without her bib, but it was such pandemonium that no one even noticed.

Not sure what's up with the colors here
 We couldn't find our corral - the numbers seemed to be going backwards, with the slowest per mile times the closest to the start, and gradually growing faster as you walked further away. The point of corrals is to avoid runners getting trampled to death. So, it really doesn't make sense to have the 8 minute milers starting BEHIND the 14 minute milers. Most races (as in, every other run known to man) have the fastest runners at the front, so that everyone spreads out nicely. To make matters worse, this race had quite a few newer runners, who weren't aware of race etiquette, such as:"don't stop and WALK 7 abreast in the middle of the road" or "getting passed in a race is a normal turn of events, especially if you are super slow, don't whine and push and act like a little bitch about it".

Turns out we had plenty of time to get situated, because at 9am, the 8am race had not yet begun. Kari started to get more and more nervous, because she had a train to catch back to Connecticut in a few hours. We were nearing the time she had expected to be done with the race, and there was no sign of it beginning. She made the hard decision to head out - after paying $65, waking up at 5am, and going through all that drama, she couldn't even run the race. Tragic.

Here's where the problems really get interesting, so pay attention.

1. Her stuff was in Eric's car
2. Eric was not with us
3. Eric's keys were in his bag check
4. His car was 2 miles away

After some quick thinking, we got Eric's bib number, said a sad goodbye, and Kari went and got his keys, and headed to get her stuff from his car, then take a cab to the train station. Shortly after, we finally started running.

I knew that this race would be crowded, but the stupid way the "corrals" were set up led to a cluster f#@% of epic proportions. Although I started with Kara, Amanda, Emily, and Lily, we quickly separated in the overwhelming crowd. I was only able to stay with Kara, due to our mad weaving-while-sticking-together-like-glue skills, finely honed from running two large marathons together. Eric and I had recently been wondering what it would be like if I race were on a highway, and today I found out. Boring, crowded, nearly losing my life tripping on traffic cones or getting hit by oncoming trucks, and breathing exhaust fumes. That's what it was like. The only good thing was counting how many people wore camelbaks to a 9 mile race, and seeing Eric and Casi at the turnaround.

After we passed the start area around mile 5 and headed out for a second out and back, Kari appeared at the side of the road and started running with us. Since she was supposed to be long gone to the train station, clearly something had gone very wrong. Apparently, in our 6am massive confusion pitch black car switch, we hadn't moved all of her bags from my car to Eric's car, rendering her unable to actually go home. She said she was going to put Eric's keys back in his checked bag, get my car keys, take an extraordinarily expensive cab ride to my car, get her stuff, and waste the rest of her life savings on a cab ride to the train. Needless to say, I felt absolutely terrible, but she was off before I knew it and I was left to race with my guilt.

We ran the last few miles on some hills, some gravel roads, saw a brief, pretty view of the harbor, and finished on a long uphill where I did get to see Eric again. After the 9 mile mark, we should have had .3 miles, but we finished immediately, the course being a bit short - another mistake from this race, shocking, I know. We finished in 1:21:45 (official time) with an average pace of 8:56 (Garmin), which was slower than our Baltimore Marathon pace. Considering at one point the crowding was so bad I was forced to walk, I'm actually impressed with it.

I checked my phone when we finished, and saw a text from Kari - even though she'd had no problem getting Eric's keys earlier, now they were giving her a hard time about getting in some random guy's bag and taking his car keys (it says a lot for the security, that previously they had let her in). I headed up to "prove" that they were my husband's keys.

So, at this point, Kari could have just ran the entire race, since she was there at the finish. I was asked to describe what was in the bag, to prove I knew the owner. Eric hadn't planned on checking a bag, and had only used his bib to check Casi's stuff, since she never got her own bib, so I had no clue what was in it or even what bag it was. Now, I need to say, the volunteers at this race were absolutely wonderful, kind, hard working people, and I truly appreciate them standing in the cold for hours to make this race possible. Except one. I described my own car key, which I knew was on his key ring, but I was told by the guy in charge, essentially, that I was a liar and that no devoted wife wouldn't be able to describe her husband's keys. Um, it's 2011, not 1952, I have my own life and my own career and I don't exactly take precious time to memorize exactly what my husband's key chain looks like. He has no key chains with logos or anything, just a bunch of keys on a carabiner, but the guy told me I should have specified that there were "a lot of keys". Oh, ok, because that's a unique attribute. I certainly appreciate the security, and would have understood being told "I'm sorry, but we only give out bags to the person with that bib number". This man was just downright rude. So Kari was left with no way to get her stuff until Eric finished the race.
Best finish line photo ever
Finally, Kari took his car key, and the random van driver (who never even ended up running the race, and sat in her car the entire time, which meant Kara could have just used that parking pass, which would have avoided this whole baggage mess), took her to Eric's car, my car, and then the metro, which was very nice. Kara, Kari, and Emily never even got any chocolate - saddest thing ever.

One thing the race directors got right was no lines for the porto-potties, or chocolate, so Amanda, Casi and I got our trays and enjoyed our chocolate fondue, had some hot chocolate, then Amanda and I stocked up on chocolate squares. The fondue was good, but in no way worth the disaster we'd endured.

We didn't quite get $65 worth
 The wonderful volunteers loaded us up with second trays of treats and fondue before we left, and I got a bellyache trying to get my money's worth, but at this point it was 1pm and my 7am bagel wasn't really cutting it. The fondue was a race against the clock before it turned to chocolate concrete, but I did the best I could on the 2 mile walk back to the cars. 

Major bright spot - we found an entire store devoted to peeps

Peep artwork - genius
After waking up at 4:30 and leaving at 5, I got home at 3:30 pm, making a 9 mile race about 50 miles away a 10.5 hour extravanza. That's just traveling to and from the race, with about a 15 minute detour in the peep store.

Never again, Hot Chocolate 15K, never again. They now have an entire Facebook page devoted to anger at them, because they were deleting unhappy comments from their own Facebook page. My favorite was "If I had the choice of getting punched in the face, or running this race, I'd choose getting punched in the face." Me, too. Actually, I think I'd even run the Stone Mill 50 55 Miler again.
The jacket and chocolate were so not worth it.

Meeting my new BFFs was, though, but next time we can just go for a neighborhood run, eat chocolate, and watch TLC. 


  1. Omg im so glad you posted early so I had some entertainment on the train.

    I'm not going to lie, I'm blaming my entire awful day on the race. If it had been on time and actually organized, I could have run, would t have cared as much about my bags, wouldn't have cried in a parking garage, and would have been able to actually run with you guys. Never again ram racing, never again!

  2. The concept was so good and its a bummer it was an epic fail! Sounds like you guys had a great time hanging & the shirts look awesome!! That's the best part of the weekend, I am sure!

    BTW, I am jealous of your frosting favorite part of the cake too and I usually try to clean up other's plates too. Cake, I can take it or leave it but don't touch my frosting!!!!!!! That's all.

  3. We're already planning the 2012 Kingston Hot Chocolate 15K. There will be t-shirts, homemade chocolate goodies, and no parking passes. Naturally you should invite yourself to Kara's for another slumber party. If you'd like, we can drive you a couple miles down the road in a really crowded car so you can walk to the start. That way you'd get the full effect.

    Biggest disaster of a race I have run in my entire life.

    I had no idea April (random van driver) didn't even run. I knew she was injured, but I thought she was gonna try to run/walk it. Man, sucks to be her. That was a long-ass day for not even running.


  4. Thank you for posting. I appreciate your description of the race as it's good to know I was not alone in my misery. I feel badly for Kari. But congrats on your great time!

  5. You're the new love of my life. Thanks for the early post. I haven't even tried to wrap my brain around this day yet. Next year we need to plan a 10 mile run around Kara's house followed by the chocolate and TLC. So much cheaper and so much more awesome!

  6. Oh man, I can't imagine how bad this day was. How can a day full of racing, friends and chocolate so horribly wrong? At least the slumber party was fun. Next time just go for a run together and eat chocolate when you're done.

  7. Even though reading this was like reliving it, that picture of Eric made it all worthwhile. That is the whole race summed up in just one picture.

  8. Once again, one of your posts wanted to make me cry for you. Your parking pass issue was like a SAT word problem. I had to read it 3 times and I still don't know how you guys managed it. I am glad you had fun last night though. Make sure you guys keep me up to date with the races you are doing this Spring. My schedule so far is posted here:

  9. Wow, that sounds like one disaster after another...least you guys had a good slumber party. :-). I would've been really pissed about everything that went wrong.

  10. You did a great job of recapping a crazy day that I thought would be impossible to describe.

    Another detail: The Crystal City shuttle had actually deposited Katylin at the race start at 6am. So she got to sit around for THREE hours. And therefore, shuttle delays did not appear to be one of the causes of race delay, as announcers were claiming.

    Glad to see your jacket fit! You did a good job of trying to look so happy with your jacket and chocolate squares.

    Also, great picture of Eric finishing.

  11. Wow. Even worse than I imagined from other posts. I feel so much better now, cause I only seduced you into Stone Mill -- I had NOTHING AT ALL to do with this, and never would have. :)

    Glad you all had fun last night at least.

  12. Yes! We walked all the way back to where we were dropped off (a quarter of a mile compared to your 2) and were told we had been dropped off in the wrong place and had to go back to the festival for a ride. When we left we noticed that line was a little past the merch tent. When we got back, the line wound all the way across to the DJ booth and looped back around. My estimate was a 2 hour wait (3 hours would have SUCKED). Luckily one of the wonderful volunteers informed us that the Hilton Old Town shuttle line had like 6 people in it. So we only waited a half hour. We saw 3 shuttles come for the Hilton and NONE for Crystal City in the half hour we waited. Then we took a $20 cab ride back to our hotel. Cluster eff is right.

  13. So wait, her shirt actually said "crazy ninja bitch" and some lady still shoved her? Dumb. That's just dumb. I really hope RAM Racing pulls their heads out of their collective butts and hands out refunds for everything, including the parking. That's ridiculous.

  14. Wow, what a mess! Glad you got the great sleepover in before the huge cluster eff, imagine how much more pissed you would have been then!

  15. Ohhh that seriously sucks. I would have been letting someone have it.

  16. Oh my god, I probably would have killed the bag-check guy by the end of things. What a horrible, horrible race!! So sorry you had to go through that. I will definitely not be entering a RAM-organized race...EVER.

  17. Terrible, terrible race. And that email we just got from the president of RAM Racing? Totally blaming everybody else (including the POLICE? REALLY?).

    It's too bad you didn't go into corral B, they weren't checking and I finished in 1:22 so we could have been best friends the whole way.

  18. After reading Kara's recap of the race, I had to come to your blog and get your point of view. Ya, still sounds like the biggest FAIL of a race. I'm sorry anyone had to go through that mess.

  19. at least the pre-race festivities were fun! i love the shirts, btw!!!

  20. I agree! The race was a horrible experience. The highlight for me was catching a glimpse of you and Kara ;) Go Team Bitch!

  21. My favorite description of this whole thing was about the corral order. What a mess. Who would have thought that mixing chocolate and running (two of my favorite things) could go SO wrong?

    Glad the slumber party was awesome!

  22. WOW, that really is one clusterf*** of a race. I feel expecially bad for Kari! That is just unbelievable.

  23. I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K last year, and our biggest problems were course congestion and "tech jackets" that were actually zip-up hoodies (sweatshirts, not jackets) that ran super small. But that was enough to keep me away from the expensive race this year. Sounds like RAM Racing has learned absolutely zero about how to put on a good race. I wonder if they'll continue their planned races in other cities. Or if anyone will continue to sign up for them.

  24. Holy. Cow. I got irritated just reading about this! I'm glad you didn't murder anyone. Now off to find that Facebook page because it sounds hilarious...

  25. Wow, I cannot even imagine! If they cared about people running it EVER again they would at least do partial refunds for everyone at that race. How ridiculous!

  26. I think I need a flow chart to follow all those problems correctly!!

    But I loved the "team" shirts.


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