“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate Tampa 15K race 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!”
I have had my eye on the Hot Chocolate race series for a while now, so I was glad that I got the opportunity to try it out and see what all of the rave was about.
Pre-Race Communication was great. They emailed me to let me know that I forgot to pick a size for my pullover and they had a great training plan that you could choose to follow leading up to the 15K.
Packet Pickup was easy. It was at the convention center downtown, which I hate going to (mostly because you have to pay for parking). I had no trouble with lines, I was able to walk right up, show them my QR code and receive my bag. They even had an area for you to try on your shirt just in case you wanted to switch sizes, which I thought was very nice.
Parking was a breeze as there is ample parking in downtown Tampa. From parking garages to parking lots, I don’t believe that anyone would have had a problem finding somewhere to park their car.
The start line was right outside of the Tampa Convention Center and there were plenty of port-o-potties, bag check, and pre-race festivities going on. This is the first time that I have ever used bag check at a race, but I knew that I’d need my Oofos after running 9.3 miles. The bags were kept behind a fence, you had to place your bag check slip on it and they even had little zip ties to close your bag for you. That made me feel comfortable that my shoes would be safe.
I was able to meet up with my fellow Bib Rave Pros for a quick chat and a Pro Photo before the race. Kathy and I were even a bit matchy-matchy in our Bib Rave Pro gear as we both wore our Buff hats that day. Shout out to Michael’s wife for getting us the picture.
The course is gorgeous as you run along Bayshore Blvd. with great views of the Bay (aka Gulf of Mexico). The thing is, Tampa Bay gets pretty sunny and when the sun is beaming off of the water you can get pretty hot. Luckily for us, the weather was fairly cooperative, so it wasn’t ridiculously hot and there was an awesome breeze. It was a great day for running!
There was water and Nuun available at all of the aid stations AND they had sweet stations filled with M&Ms, marshmallows, and other sweet, chocolate goodness. I personally can’t run and eat snacks, but I know that those who can surely enjoyed it. They also had some awesome volunteers along the route telling people where to go and cheering us on, which was nice. There were first aid people bicycling along the course as well for those who may have needed help and I saw quite a few photographers out there.
The sweetest surprise for me? Was that photos were free! And were ready within HOURS of me crossing the finish line. That was amazing.
Upon crossing the finish line, you received your medal (which is awesome!), water, and WET TOWELS. I never knew how much I wanted or needed a cool, wet towel until I crossed that finish line. I am so happy that they had those available to us.
After picking up my bag, I head over to get my mug which included a cup of hot chocolate, biscuits, Rice Krispies Treats, a bag of pretzels, a marshmallow, and fudge. YUM! There was a DJ there playing music, plenty of photo opps with blow-ups, and stairs for you to have a seat on.
To me the swag was unbelievable. First of all, the mug was filled with goodness, but the medal was amazing! The medal this year had a keychain attached to it with the city name and year. AND? The pullover? I have never gotten a shirt like this in my very short running career.
I would absolutely do this race again, it was great fun.