Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | November 20, 2011

It’s a Fine Line Between Optimist and Idiot

Race-wise, I’m blogging a little out of sequence, because I did the Monster Dash at the end of October and probably should post a race report about that (quick synopsis: nice race, beautiful day, a PR, although I was beaten by a guy dressed as a banana), but the real story these days is what I did the first weekend in November. Please direct your attention to the top of the page, where is says “Hi, my name is Sue and I’m a signupaholic…” Yes, it’s an ongoing problem. But never has it been more evident than when (I’m almost ashamed to admit it) I signed up for the 2011 Hot Chocolate Race.

You might recall last year I said I’d never do the race again. What’s more, in 2009, I vowed I’d never do the race again. And yet, there I was, for the third consecutive year, ignoring my own declarations, lining up at the start. Are you sensing a pattern? What the heck is wrong with me? Am I a total idiot?

I did the 15k Hot Chocolate race in 2009 and was irritated beyond belief. The event had far more participants than the organizers could handle, and the race route was downright dangerous in places. To top it off, after a harrowing, crowded run on the much-too-narrow lakefront path, there was no chocolate left by the time most of us 15k-ers finished. Not a morsel to be found. Of course, I didn’t do the race just to get hot chocolate (after all, it’s easy enough to make it myself), but to do a race with “Hot Chocolate” in the name and then have no hot chocolate, well, really, what’s the point? The race was disorganized, understaffed and generally a mess. I swore, never again.

Then along came 2010. A friend of mine wanted to do the 5k, but I didn’t want to after my terrible experience the year before. And then came the emails from the race organizers saying the race was in a new location! With a new course! And more chocolate! I’m either an idiot or an optimist, because I fell for it and signed up. Alas, the race was again too crowded and disorganized. Race officials were few and far between. So few, in fact, that a bunch of us were sent in the wrong direction to find gear check, spent 20 minutes searching for it, and then arrived to find a line so long that we ended up missing the start.

As for that “new course,” it was a nightmare. At one point, we were running on Lake Shore Drive, with cars narrowly passing us. It’s remarkable no one died. Yes, it was a new route, but they’d somehow managed to make it even more dangerous than the old one. What’s more, the hot chocolate was watered down and lousy. Never again, I said. And this time I meant it.

Then 2011 rolled around. When the emails touting the race started to appear, I declared on Twitter and Facebook that I would not do it. No, I said, NO! A new course, the emails assured me. Sure, sure, I’d heard it all before and I wasn’t going to get fooled again.

But then they offered me a 20% off and a free hat, as well as a seeded start. I caved. I was like the betrayed wife who falls for the flowers and candy.  Apparently I’m a sucker for a discount.

And so, on bright November Saturday morning, there I was. But this time, it was like a whole new race. The place was crawling with volunteers in bright orange sweatshirts. A sea of orange, as far as the eye could see. And they were making announcements and providing information. Useful information. And accurate directions. Could it be? Were things really different?

Yes, yes they were. When I went to find gear check, an orange-clad helper pointed towards a large tent shimmering in the distance, easily spotted from miles away. “You can’t miss it,” the volunteer said. And she was right. What’s more, it was staffed to the hilt. I walked up and dropped my bag, no problem. It was a whole new race! It had changed its wayward ways!

There were spacious, seeded start corrals, staffed with real people – people who knew what they were doing. The race start was delayed, and the course had to be rerouted, but the announcements were frequent and informative. When we started, just 15 minutes late, the course was roomy enough for everyone. The route was on the city streets, and other than the fact that the first mile marker was substantially past the first mile (presumably it moved during the re-routing) it was perfect.

Some people said the 5k course was too long, as much as 3.4 miles total, and as it turned out, race officials confirmed it measured out at 3.25 – a tad long. Still it was a PR for me, in spite of the extra .15. The post-race party was well-organized and well-staffed, and get this, the hot chocolate was delicious. All in all, it was a great morning.

So, there you have it, a race that was worth doing (although the registration fee was still a little steep). On this particular count, I’m glad my signupaholic disease kicked in. The race really has improved. So, am I an optimist or an idiot? Well, that question is still up for debate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: