Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My FIRST 15K: Hot Chocolate 15K Chicago 2015 Race Recap

I did it! I completed my first 15K. It was a VERY emotional experience and I wouldn't trade my first 15K experience with anyone else's. November 8th was such a special day. The day before the race, I found out that I had hit my 100 lb weight loss. I surpassed it by 2 lbs. I think that is when I knew the following day would be a very emotional day for me. It really didn't hit me emotionally until the next day. I had a lot to do the day before the big race, so I didn't have time to think about it all that much.

Saturday night, hubby and I were still out and about with running last minute errands and getting last minute things for the race. I didn't go to sleep until a little after 11:30 PM. I was having painful muscle spasms and cramps in my calves that night, so I thought that it could become a problem the next day during the race. It was like my legs already knew what I was getting ready to put them through the following morning. I woke up at 2:20 AM and I was tired, but I was too excited to feel any exhaustion like I usually do when I get little sleep before a race. 

And I thought that completing my first 10K in August on 4 hours of sleep was something!

After dropping little miss Harlie Jade off at the in-laws, we left from there around 4:30ish to head to Chicago. She was a dream that morning!! She was so good and so cooperative! She woke up on her own. She was content and sat on the floor playing with her toys until it was time to get her dressed. Everything was already packed to go and laid out so I didn't have to worry about it. She went right back to sleep not too long after we left, but she was pretty upset for a bit when she saw us leaving. Had she not been so tired, she would not have reacted that way.

We didn't encounter one lick of traffic on the way up there like we were expecting. I guess all the traffic was on I-55 and other areas entering the city. We arrived in Chicago from the opposite side that we usually arrive in the city from. I bet that was the side with all the heavy traffic if there was any.

We actually arrived ON TIME and EARLY! Say what?! Yup! We couldn't even enter the parking garage until 5:30 because that's the time we reserved. We had 20 minutes to kill, which seemed like a lifetime because I had to pee REALLY BAD! We drove around for a bit admiring the city with empty streets before they started blocking off roads. We had to be near our parking garage before 5:45 because that's when they were going to start blocking off streets nearby.

5:30 in the morning, nervous, tired, gotta pee really badly.... I felt the need to be goofy to keep my sanity.

After we parked, we chilled for a bit and we got our gear ready to go and we left to make our way to the corrals by 7 am.

Things are getting real!! Entering the 15K corrals.

After entering the 15K corrals, I met with a Huff 'n Puff to Buff 'n Tough follower and new friend, Melissa, who was also doing her first 15K and was very eager to meet me and vice versa. :)

There were about 44,000 runners and it was a huge race. In fact, it was one of the biggest national races I've attended this year. It took forever for our corral to finally reach the starting line. It took 45 minutes for our corral to finally make it up there. While we kept inching up, we all had small talk, lots of encouraging words and photos.

We finally make it to the starting line and everyone is off! Melissa takes off! Hubby takes off! I'm all alone! HA! Hubby claims that I took off from him.

I'm feeling good during the first 3 miles, but when I came to the first split, I did not meet my last 5K time. I reached the 5K split in 47:22. Not that I was trying to beat that time, but the course was crowded until the 5K and 15K course split off and went separate ways. My only goal for this race was to finish. 

Mile 4, I contact hubby to see where he was. He somehow thought he was behind me and that wasn't the case at all!!! For 2 miles, I thought he was behind me and tried to slow down a bit for him to catch up. When I told him I was coming up on an aid station, he told me he was past that. So, I finally found out that he was ahead of me this whole time. I tried catching up to him because I wanted to join him for the rest of the race. That didn't happen though, but I did run into him on course when he was on the other side after the turnaround point. We slapped hands and kept going opposite ways. By that time, my calves started cramping up and I didn't want to injure myself, so I had to slow down my pace and take it easy. I ran when I could and when my calves started cramping up, I stopped the running and walked until it went away. 

I had to stop on the side NUMEROUS times to stretch out my legs. Others had the same idea, as I passed a woman who was stretching on the curb and she fell and I stopped to ask if she was okay. She was fine. 

At mile 6, I was getting ready to pass the 10K split. I had noticed that I BEAT my last 10K time. The official time came out to 1:38:41!! Say what?!?! I was shocked! I beat it by 7 minutes!!!! This is when all the emotions started setting in. At mile 6!!!

That is when I kept getting emotional and kept crying and sobbing off and on for the last 3 miles of the race. I had a ton of emotions. Mixed emotions. I was sobbing because I was happy and proud of all my accomplishments this year and learning of my 100 lb loss. Then, I was crying and sobbing because I was sad and I knew I wouldn't be catching up to hubby in the condition I was in and I wanted to finish with someone and right then and there.... I really needed support and encouragement. Then, I would cry and sob because I missed my sassy little girl, and because the pain really started getting to me and I knew I still had a ways to go. People who know me personally will know that I have a HIGH pain tolerance and I don't cry very easily when it comes to pain. I'm a tough cookie. So, that will tell you a few things right there.....

  • I was VERY emotional.
  • I was panicking. I was having mini panic and anxiety attacks. Knowing that I was still very far from where the finish line was, I was scared that I wouldn't be able to get to the finish line on my own.
  • My body was under stress and wanted to quit. I was scared that it would just shut down on me and I wouldn't know what to do if it did. That really scared me.

There was no one next to me, so nobody knew I was crying. There were people in front of me, people behind me, but nobody beside me and nobody passing me unless I stopped to stretch my legs out. There were numerous times I almost fell on the course because while running, a leg would cramp up out of nowhere and then lock up on me and those moments were really scary. It was scary when it happened for the first time. I eventually got used to it and was able to handle it with a little more confidence when it happened or felt one coming on and I was able to stop running and start walking or to stop and stretch all together, especially if it happened while I was walking. That was another thing that was causing the panic and anxiety attacks.

Miles 8 and 9, I was no longer running. I was only walking because by that time, I was really struggling and limping. The hills before the finish line were horrid! UGH! 

I was in tears again because I was happy. I was proud. I wanted to do this. I was in pain. I was limping. I was celebrating a 100+ lb weight loss. I was determined. 

And I kept going even when my body wanted to stop.

During the last mile as I was nearing the finish line, Melissa saw me up ahead and limping and ran up behind me. She came to me at just the right time!! I thought she was also ahead of me during the race, so I was shocked to see her. I was so happy to see her. I put my arm around her because I glad to see her and I needed the extra support because my right leg kept cramping and locking up and I was literally dragging the damn thing. I started sobbing AGAIN because I was happy to be finishing with her, to be finishing period, and I was struggling to the finish line. Again, MIXED EMOTIONS and they were EVERYWHERE!!

A photographer caught me sobbing like a child to the finish line! At first I didn't like the photo, but then I think about everything behind the emotions I was feeling and that moment in time and it happens to be one of my favorite photos that I will probably frame with my medal and bibs sometime in the future. 


I finished in 2:32:15. The experience was full of joy, celebration, determination, pain, sweat and tears... Instead of running across the finish line, I limped across that sucker. As I was approaching the finish line, I could hear the announcer say my name and my city as I finished and grabbed my medal... I saw hubby standing on the side watching me finish. I have never been more happy to see my hubby, LOL! When I saw him, I started crying yet again and as he was asking me what was wrong, all I could say in that moment in time was that I was in pain and I fell into his arms as he hugged me.

Yep, crying AGAIN! Ugh! I haven't cried this much in years!!

Afterwards, we saw the medical tent and Melissa asked if I wanted to stop. I thought about it and I probably should have, but I didn't. Hubby thought I should have stopped in as well. I kept saying that I'd be fine. Next time though, I will not think twice about stopping by a medical tent for massaging, ice, whatever it is that I may need.

What I didn't like about this race is that we had to walk a freaking mile to the post race party to get our finisher mugs. On the way to the post race party, Melissa ran into her friends she came with. They ran the 5K and she was eager to introduce me to them. Afterwards, Melissa and I said our goodbyes and parted ways. She is an amazing chick and we will see each other again and we will run together again... soon. :)

I enjoyed some chocolate and treats and sat for about 15 minutes to stretch my legs. I loved almost everything about this race. The expo was awesome! The swag is awesome!! When I got my jacket, I didn't think I would wear it often, but I've been wearing the crap out of it since I got it! The medals were amazing and very unique!! I loved taking chocolate bar bite photos with it. I must have taken a ton! LOL! I really can't wait to do this race again next year. Planning for it was a ton of fun, but stressful. I am sooooo looking forward to next years Hot Chocolate 15K.

Question: How do you deal with muscle cramps during your runs and races? What preventative measures do you take to try and avoid that happening and if it does happen, what do you do about it?


  1. Oh my goodness - I felt like I was running along side you - such a fantastic recap. And you got some AMAZING photos!! Sounds like this race was MUCH better than the last one!!

    1. Thank you!! It was A LOT better than the last one. Very organized! One of my newest favorites!

  2. All the feels!!! Congrats. All the emotions are so earned & warranted. I love your finishers picture - its pure emotion shining through - perfect!

    I try to keep water going & eat bananas immediately after for cramps. My husband gets them bad.

    1. Thank you!! For some reason... my body hates bananas after a race and I can't stomach them. I can't eat them afterwards. When I do, I get soooo nauseous, so I stopped eating them after races and opt for something else like a granola bar.

  3. Hi Katie ,
    do you take Magnesium ?
    Did you tried compressionsocks before?
    Before Running do some Stretching and a warming up .

    1. I stretch and warm up before every training run and race. I haven't tried magnesium, but I will look into it. I also have not tried compression socks, but I recently bought some compression sleeves, so I will see how that helps with everything.

  4. Major congrats! What an awesome feeling it is to cross that finish line!
    As far as cramping goes, I use Salt Sticks on longer runs as well as wear compression calf sleeves. You likely needed more salt.

    1. I didn't have a solid plan for fuel and hydration other than water for the first few aid stations and gatorade for the rest. I also ate a few salted pretzels during the last 3 miles, which helped a tiny bit. I will definitely have a solid plan in place next time. It's trial and error, right?! :) I will have to continue learning what works for my body and what doesn't. I will look into the salt sticks.

  5. CONGRATULATIONS! On finishing the race, on beating your 10K record, on the 100 lb weight loss. It's awesome what you've done. You're a real inspiration.

  6. I was there but in the 5K. I hope to one day do the 15K.