Race Report: My Hot Chocolate 15k PR

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate 15k Minneapolis 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!

Travel Day: Friday, April 14

My family and I left on Friday morning for 5.5 hour drive to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The kids travelled well and, upon arriving to the city, we stopped by the Como Zoo for some fun.

Our biggest accomplishment by far was surviving the downtown traffic at 5 pm. We arrived at the Westin Hotel, found parking and were ready to call it a night (after eating at Five Guys' Burgers and swimming, of course).

The Westin was on the recommended list of hotels for the Hot Chocolate because of its close proximity to the race course - only a 1.5 mile walk. Upside: Close to the race. Downside: No continental breakfast.

Thankfully I took advantage of the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k packet mailing option for $15 to avoid battling the downtown traffic any further. This race did not allow packet pick up on race day, so I was really happy when mine arrived in the mail a week prior!

I laid out my gear the night before the race in preparation for a wet and rainy morning. With scattered thunderstorms in the forecast, the weather did not look promising.

My plan was to carry my phone and extra gear in my Camelbak to keep them dry at least and then just accept the fact that I was going to be soaked.

Race Day: Saturday, April 15

I threw on my race gear, ate a quick PB & J, and made a mad dash to the front desk in search of safety pins. I had everything organized... except for safety pins. Thankfully, the wonderful front desk worker had a few to spare. Total lifesaver!

After securing the safety pins, I found three 5k runners from our hotel who were walking to the race as well. They were an absolute answer to prayer because I was nervous about walking through downtown alone and my husband wasn't super excited about that either.

With the rain, it just wasn't worth dragging the kids to the race so early. They stayed back and drove Dad nuts in the hotel room instead.

The Walking Route

The tall downtown buildings threw our phone directions for a loop but we eventually made it to Boom Island Park, drenched, but in one piece. I will always trust old-school map reading over these smart phone directions. "Siri" gets crazy sometimes!

First things first. I had to take a picture of Marshall the marshmallow:

The gear check was very well organized and because we arrived so early, there were no waiting lines here or for the porta potties! I checked my somewhat dry extra bag and then found shelter from the rain.

The grass was saturated and there was no hope for keeping my feet dry. I lingered in the roofed buildings for a while and chatted with various other runners waiting for our race time to come. Oddly the 5k runners started at 8:10 and the 15k runners didn't start until 8:50.

I ran into fellow Bibrave Pro Casey while lining up in the race corrals and then ran into Catherine, also a Bibrave Pro, within the first mile of the race. Her and I ran together for the rest of the race and her company and conversation was wonderful!

We kept each other motivated throughout the damp run and kept an even pace in the 9's. I had planned on doing walk/run intervals but our pace was just perfect for this hilly course.

Mile 1 - 9:04
Mile 2 - 8:56
Mile 3 - 8:46
Mile 4 - 9:29
Mile 5 - 9:15

My only disappointment was the lack of chocolate at the aid stations! They did offer water and Nuun energy though I really could have used a handful of M&M's :)

Free Race Photo Courtesy Hot Chocolate 5k/15k
Mile 6 - 9:06
Mile 7 - 10:11
Mile 8 - 9:58
Mile 9 - 10:17
Mile .42 - 4:14

I crossed the finish line in 1:29:04 which counts as a 15k PR! It was so fun racing with a friend and putting a new distance under my belt.

At 11 weeks pregnant, chalk this up as our Baby #3's first and last race in utero. Maintaining mileage to train through morning sickness was a feat in itself!

Free Race Photos Courtesy Hot Chocolate 5k/15k

After receiving our medals, we headed to the post-race festivities. Casey, Catherine and I met up for a quick picture before we all went our own ways to seek out dry clothes and warmth.

BUT, before departure, we had to pick up our finisher's mugs! Each participant received a Hot Chocolate 15k/5k plastic "mug" full of delicious hot chocolate, apples, a banana, a Rice Krispie, marshmallows, pretzels and cookies all ready to dip in a rich chocolate sauce.

YUM. Let's just say by the time I got back to the hotel, I was a hot chocolatey mess. Of course I had to eat whatever I could before the kiddos saw the goodies I brought back. Don't worry, I saved them some apples ;) Talk about #pregnancycravings...

The Hot Chocolate 15k was a well-organized race with an energizing race atmosphere, despite the rainy day. I love that the Hot Chocolate 5k/15k provides free race photos for all participants. That is such an awesome perk!

Racing the 15k distance was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. Unlike the full marathon, I was ready to take on the rest of the day after running 9 miles in the morning. Though I will say my legs were super stiff the next day - I'm not used to running hilly routes.

And howabout that medal?! It's gorgeous!

After a warm shower, lunch and a quick nap for the kids, we were on to big city adventures on the light rail and at Mall of America (Lego Land!). This trip was an action-packed learning experience for our family and let's just say it felt good to return to small-town Minnesota.

There's no place like home!

Check out more Hot Chocolate 15k race details in my Bibrave.com review!

Hot Chocolate 15k Training Week 8:


(Treadmill) 3.1 mi, 00:31 @ 09:53 pace


Lots of outside time with kiddos, walking, stretching.


3.06 mi, 00:30 @ 09:48 pace with double stroller.


Almost all day spent outside!


Travel day and a visit to the Como Zoo.


Race Day: 9.42 mi, 01:29 @ 09:28 pace. Followed by a quick shower, Caribou Coffee, kiddos' quick nap and a ride on the light rail to Mall of America (for Lego Land!!!).


Breakfast at Perkins, Easter service at The Grove Church and the looooong drive home.

What has been your favorite post-race treat?

Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Runner Spotlight: Amanda

If you are reading this post, chances are that I survived the Hot Chocolate 15k and will tell you all about it next week. This week we've got some other exciting business to cover! 

While I'm all about the Cadbury Cream Eggs that come with the season, today is an extra special day to remember and celebrate the true hope and joy we have in Jesus. I hope you and your loved ones are having a blessed Easter!

And with Easter being late this year, Marathon Monday follows just on the horizon. I have been looking forward to sharing this Runner Spotlight interview with you from a runner competing in the Boston Marathon tomorrow!

Meet Amanda. 

She's a follower of Jesus, wife, RN and crazy fast runner of all distances - even two ultras. I have been so inspired by Amanda's commitment to glorifying God in all she does and her ability to balance life with training while hitting some really fast paces in the process.

Amanda has a bunch of running experience and wisdom that is sure to inspire so let's jump into her interview!

All About Running:

When did you start running? What sparked your interest?

I had wanted to join track since ninth grade but, because I went to a private school, I couldn't play public school sports. So I transferred to public school my senior year so I could join track and field. I desired to compete and I chose running because I loved the feeling of flying on my own two feet.

When did you run your first race?

My first race in track was the spring of 2007 and I ran the 800m, the 4x400 and the mile. After each event I was overwhelmed and exhausted, I remember thinking, "Wow this is a lot of work to push my body to the limit, but I like it!"

My first road race was a 5k in 2008 in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MN after I had just ran xc and track my freshman year of college. That year made me realize how much I enjoyed the longer distances and the endurance it took to finish well was an addicting challenge to obtain. However, it was also a difficult year due to the loss of my teammate and best friend unexpectedly after xc nationals. Our team was so close and we clung to each other like family as we sought peace from the Lord and tried to make sense of it. This shook me. How could someone so healthy with so much life and potential just pass away with no answer as to why?

I went to UND after that year to pursue nursing and walked on to the xc team. But after a couple weeks I realized I wasn't ready to be part of a new team. I never did run again at the collegiate level. Looking back now, it's hard not to wonder how it would have shaped me as a runner if I had.

Throughout my four years at UND I continued to run on my own and began to dabble in longer distances. I completed my first half marathon in 2009 and became fond of the distance. I worked to become a stronger runner and began working towards the goal of the full marathon. In 2011 I ran the Walker Marathon in Minnesota and decided there was no looking back, I had found the distance I love!

Do you work with a coach or are you self-coached?

I don't work with a coach but I read runner's blogs, what elites are eating, their workouts and strategies. I research the best exercises and have come up with a lot of workouts, training plans and routines that are working for me and my specific goals as an athlete. Although, I feel I am reaching a point in my running career where I could benefit from a coach assessing and guiding me on occasion.

What weekly mileage do you run during training on average?

My training for the full is usually a 16-18 week plan with average mileage per week at 35-45 and peak weeks are 55-65.

What do you think is the most important aspect of training for a long-distance race?

The most important aspect of training for a long distance race, for me, is pushing it hard on speed days and truly taking it EASY on recovery days. This combo is proving to be so beneficial for me and I know other runners have said this same thing. I feel it's sharpening my endurance and giving me the proper muscle recovery just in time to push my limits again. To see the benefits of this you have to be consistent in your training plan.

What are your PRs?

I have run 4 halfs, 9 fulls, and 2 ultras (30k and 50-miler) with a 1:25 half marathon PR and 2:53:30 full marathon PR.

What has been your favorite race experience?

My favorite race experience is a tie! Being a Disney girl, my first Walt Disney World Marathon in 2015 was the most magical experience! Running though the parks and posing for pictures along the course with my favorite characters was the most fun I've ever had running a marathon (and I even PR'd in it!)

Crossing the finish at the 2016 Walt Disney Half Marathon

Tied with Disney is my first Boston Marathon in 2016. It was such a big goal of mine that I had achieved (with God's grace). I was overwhelmed by the city and the excitement the morning of the race. I even cried after I crossed the start. I was just so thankful to be running this historic race. And never have I raced a marathon with a community that cheers you on from the start all the way to the finish. There's never a stretch of the course that's empty of spectators.

What is your favorite post-race treat?

My stomach tends to be uneasy for the first couple hours after a marathon, so I just focus on hydrating and replacing electrolytes. But as soon as I am feeling good and hungry I like to go out to eat and celebrate with a bacon cheeseburger and fries (preferably shoestring)!

What are your running-related goals for the future?

I am running Boston again this year and hope to break 3:00. I am also running The NYC Marathon, and plan to complete a couple local half marathons through the summer. My plan is to keep growing in strength and endurance and to continue to become the best runner I can be! It's exciting to know I haven't hit my peak and I hope I have a long ways to go before then!

Personal/Family Life Balance:

Is your family interested in running as well?

My family does not run but they are all very supportive of my running goals. My husband is my number one fan. He is always there, at every race to cheer me on. My parents even flew to Boston last minute last year to see me run the marathon for my first time. I am very blessed to have so much support.

Amanda's sister, Amanda and her husband at the 2016 WDW Marathon

How do you balance family time, daily responsibilities and training?

By the grace of God. My husband and I don't have children yet so I don't have to deal with that aspect just yet.

I am a full-time RN who works 12 hour night shifts and this can pose a challenge. It's hard to wake up in the afternoons and have motivation or the energy to run after a night shift and before going back to work. But I draw in Gods strength and force myself out the door on those tough days.

Most days it's not a struggle though. I love to run, it is a passion and a lifestyle for me. I plan out my runs weeks at a time and the time of day I will do them and try to fit the rest of life around that and it works well for me. Of course I remain flexible to life events that may make me reschedule or move my run from morning to evening.

When do you fit running/training into your day?

As I said it's usually the first thing I do in the morning or afternoon if I'm on night shift. I like to start my day with it! It gives me focus, motivation and energy to tackle other tasks!

What advice would you give to new runners?

Be patient with yourself. Fast race times, a strong body and mental endurance come with time and your being consistent and committed to the sport. Practice positive self talk.

When it come to pain, listen to your body! I made the mistake in my early years of thinking I was tough and pushing through the pain, only to end up with an injury.

And lastly, do it for the joy of it!

Good luck/congratulations to you, Amanda, on running your second Boston Marathon! Thank you for sharing your running experience with us!

Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Hot Chocolate 15k Taper & Race Goals

Hot Chocolate 15k taper week has arrived! This will be my first 15k race and my first race for BibRave.

The race packet showed up on my doorstep last week. How cool is that!? Considering we are driving 5 hours to the race and there is no packet pick up on race day, the packet mailing option saved us some hassle.

I used to consider it "bad luck" to wear a race shirt/jacket/etc before actually completing the race but I have been wearing my Hot Chocolate sweater. I had to make sure it fit... And then I just couldn't take it off.

My goal is to run this race at an easy effort around 9:00 to 10:00/mile pace. Walk through aid stations, visit with other runners, encourage someone who is struggling, just take it all in. Mentally, I've broken the race into 3 x 3-mile intervals.

Per the Hot Chocolate 15k website, the sweet stations will include marshmallows, chocolate chips, and M&Ms to enjoy along the way! YUM. Talk about motivation!

View Image Source

Sooo... I'm not actually going to "race" this 15k. Why? 

In case you haven't picked up hints in previous posts, I'm 10 weeks pregnant and running competitively while pregnant is not my thing. Mostly because the first trimester just wrecks me (energy probs, GI issues, nausea, the works) and pregnancy is the perfect time to take a step back from training.

Racing is about pushing the limits, pregnancy is not.

Though I didn't know I was pregnant upon signing up for this race, I'm going to make the best of it and I look forward to meeting up with some of the Bibrave Pro crew. We are going to make a fun family trip out of this Easter weekend and have extra time together to celebrate the rising of our Savior! We feel so blessed to have Baby 3 on the way and I will share with you more after our first appointment with our midwife in a couple weeks :)

Hot Chocolate 15k Training Week 7:


3.17 mi, 00:30 @ 09:31 pace.


Stretching time and walks with the kids.


4.5 mi, 00:43 @ 09:35 pace with double stroller.


Raking in the yard and walks with the kids.


3 mi, 00:28 @ 09:13 pace.


Long Run: 6.26 mi, 01:01 @ 09:46 pace with double stroller. Perfect morning for a long run. Just a light breeze made for a nice run with the stroller. I was pretty well exhausted by the end!


Rest day.

Are you racing these weekend?
Do you have any Easter family traditions?

Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.

Safety Tips for Early Bird Runners | Brilliant Reflective Review

Disclaimer: I received Brilliant Reflective strips 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!

As the warmer months are approaching, the sun is rising a little bit earlier each day - praise the Lord! The mornings of complete darkness had me feeling like a nocturnal creature.

Waking up to run in the dark morning hours isn't the most appealing choice (versus staying cozy in bed) but watching the sunrise and listening to the birds sing makes me glad that I did get up and running.

I am an early bird runner at heart. I can't promise it happens like that every day but I do enjoy running in the early AM. Getting outside before the kids are awake and the day has officially begun works best for my family.

The town feels so quiet and peaceful. It feels like I have the whole place to myself! (There really aren't many runners around here. Maybe 3.)

The only downside to running early is that it's usually dark. In the winter, it's really really dark. Thankfully in the spring it's only dark for 30 minutes or so of my run.

Running in the dark does seem scary to some but it doesn't have to be. With thought put into it and the right gear, it is possible to run in the dark safely!

Safety Tips for Early Bird Runners

1. Stick to Well-Lit Routes

Running by street lights will make it easier for vehicles to see you and you will be able to avoid any road obstructions like potholes, cones, or small dogs (seriously, they pop out of nowhere!). If you don't have a well lit route near by, carry a head lamp or handheld light such as Knuckle Lights with as you run.

2. Keep Someone in the Loop

Whether it's your spouse, friend, parent or coworker, let someone know when and where you will be running, your expected ETA and consider carrying your phone on the run too. Every morning that I go out, I poke my husband and tell him when I'll be back. I'm not sure he actually hears me, as he's a pretty sound sleeper, but I try at least :)

3. Be Seen

Wear bright, reflective clothing. The more reflective-neony goodness, the better! I wear a reflective vest when I run and some running gear has reflective strips built in. For my gear that doesn't have built in reflective strips, I have found a new handy tool.

As a BibRave Pro, I received Brilliant Reflective stick-on and iron-on reflective strips and have added them to my running jacket, my running shoes and tights. I need to get some more for my dog's collar and leash, too! These strips make my favorite gear reflective and save me from having to buy new equipment. Hang tight for more details on Brilliant Reflective strips!

4. Run Defensively

No matter how awesomely reflective your gear is, assume that the vehicles DO NOT see you. Even in our tiny town, people are in a hurry in the morning and aren't paying attention to anyone but themselves. Honestly, it drives me up a wall!

Keep your eyes peeled and always assume they won't stop for you or that stop sign. I've seen many mornings when cars don't stop because they think no one is around.

5. Please, No Audio!

Others may disagree with me on this point but I err on the side of caution. When running in the dark, I DO NOT listen to my iPod. I know there are super cool ear buds out there that enable you to hear your surroundings better but, personally, I want to hear everything. It's important to keep your eyes and ears open to hear vehicles or people approaching.

Are you an early bird runner or think you want to try it out?

I highly recommend checking out Brilliant Reflective's website. I used their purple strips in both stick-on and iron-on form. The stick-ons are semi-permanent meaning they can be applied and taken off in the future if needed. The iron-ons are permanent and will stay on even through the wash. Actually, my stick-on ones lived through the washing machine as well!

Brilliant Reflective's strips are made with retroflective 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material meaning the light bounces off the reflective and goes back to the light source. One pack is $9.95 with FREE SHIPPING and the strips are available in purple, red, black and blue. I used my two packs to cover my coat, tights and shoes.

These strips are quality, affordable and your safety is definitely worth it! Use the code "BIBRAVEPRO25" for 25% off your order until Tuesday (4/11/17) 11:59pm CT.

Join us for Brilliant Reflective #BibChat  on Twitter on APRIL 11 at 8 PM CST for a chance to win!

Hot Chocolate 15k Training Week 6:


3.25 mi, 00:30 @ 09:16 pace. Too foggy to run with the double stroller so I opted for the treadmill.


Stretching time and walks with the kids.


6.25 mi, 01:01 @ 09:45 pace. This counts as my long run for the week. I figured I should take advantage of the days when I feel good, plus the weather was absolutely gorgeous!


Stretching and basically a rest day. Bible study that morning and a late night after our MOPS meeting that evening. Late nights tire me out more than they used to.


3.25 mi, 00:31 @ 09:36 pace Early morning run before a busy day of homeschool co-op and a fun girls' night of Italian food and ballet!


Rest day. I woke up absolutely wiped after the past two busy days and slept in instead of running. We attended a funeral that afternoon and took it easy the rest of the day.


Rest day.

When is your prime time to run? Morning, afternoon, night? 

Linking up with Holly and Tricia's Weekly Wrap Up.