Getting The Chance To Run the Hot Chocolate 15k

Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Virtual Denver Hot Chocolate 15k 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!

Since the Hot Chocolate race series started, I’ve had my eye on that jacket and medal! If you’re a runner, you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, literally, every year since the beginning (in Colorado), I have had to work on race day.

This year was finally my year… albeit it would have to be virtually!

It’s nobody’s first choice to choose a virtual race over an in-person event, not the race directors nor the runners. Ironically, it’s because of the current state of affairs that I did not have to work (timing) a 5k and I got to do the (virtual) Hot Chocolate.

It’s also ironic that literally as soon as I signed up for the race, my body started breaking down. Since having Layton, my running has been up and down, up and down, over and over. I’ve had really good periods of running and then really bad. I’ve had times where I’ve been able to resume a regular training program and other times where I haven’t even been able to squeeze in one day a week for a run.

Training with my running buddy.

When COVID first started and the quarantine hit, I was doing really well with training. As the pandemic went on and on and my home/work-life balance became wonky (it is still all wonky), my training plummeted again. Then, as cross country season was approved to resume, I started running with the kiddos again. I don’t know if I started too much, too fast (or maybe not enough stretching and recovery) but before I knew it everything was hurting. Between my hips, low back, knees, and plantar fasciitis, something is usually in pain during or after my run.

I digress… I still wanted to do the Virtual Hot Chocolate race – this was my chance. I wanted to earn that swag, so I came up with a plan. I was going to split my 15K into sections. I decided to do three 5ks, three days in a row.

Pre-Race
I really appreciated the communication from Hot Chocolate. We got a couple of emails about what to expect and “how-to” participate.

My packet arrived a few days before “race day” and I was so excited to unwrap the infamous jacket. I’ll wear that with pride now!

The only thing not picture is a CBD topical cream thing that came with my packet.

On the day of the race, they posted a video of the national anthem at an iconic location in Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheater. Nice touch.

Race Day(s)
Part 1 – Friday
I took my favorite running buddy, Layton, out in the stoller for an afternoon 5k. I walked for the first mile, ran for a mile and a half and walked the rest of the way home. This worked very well for me and I kept my pace slow as to not aggrevate any of my “injuries.” Even though there was a ton of smoke in the air and my stroller was broken, it actually turned out to be a good run. Afterwards, Layton and I stretched, as you can see, in the living room.

Part 2 – Saturday
Since we had a morning cross country practice, and I had a babysitter, I thought the trails would be a good place for part 2 of my virtual race. We’re getting closer and closer to the end of season, which means all the remaining athletes are super fast! That leaves me alone during the run. I walked for the first quarter of a mile and walked/jogged the rest! I actually ended up running 3.8 miles on the trails and felt pretty good.

Part 3 – Sunday, Done!
For my last section, Layton joined me again and we got the stroller fixed. The air quality was much better and we had a nice leisurely run around my town. There was actually more running than I expected and this was my fastest 5k out of the three! We celebrated in my driveway where we split our finisher’s medal chocolate!

Post Race
I uploaded my time, uploaded my photos and the joined the “after party!” On the Denver Hot Chocolate 15k Facebook event page, they hosted an after party with fun chocolate trivia, city of Denver highlights, music and giveaways! I thought it was a nice touch for a virtual event.

Overall
I think Hot Chocolate did the virtual race thing well. Like I said, no body that does in-person events wants to do a virtual event instead – believe me, I know first hand. But the crew at Hot Chocolate did all they could to make your virtual experience fun. From the national anthem, email communication, results, photos, and post race “party,” they made you feel like you were part of a real event, rather than just running on any regular day of the week.


Didn’t get into the Denver race? The beauty of the virtual series is that you can sign up for ANY hot chocolate and be a part of the action! Click here to pick a city! The next one is Chicago and it is a Virtual event as well!

Check out my BibRave.com review.

Keeping Hydrated During This Hot Colorado Summer

Disclaimer: I received SIS Hydro Tablets 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!


I don’t remember it being this hot last year! Here in Colorado, we have been blasted with a few close-to-100 days this summer already and we’re just now getting into the traditionally hottest time of the year.

Maybe I wasn’t outside as much last year, but I definitely wasn’t running this time last year. This time last year I was 8-9 months pregnant at the beginning of summer and home with a newborn at the end of the summer.

This year, I have been very aware of the summer heat, especially while running. We have been allowed to start practicing with our Cross Country team again (with regulations/restrictions in place due to COVID) and I had to get acclimated to the heat quickly. Right now we’re running in the morning, which is bearable, but soon, we’ll have to shift practices to the afternoon and I’ll need to be even more cognizant of my hydration.

When it comes to hydration for me, I try to be pretty good with drinking water all day long, especially on days BEFORE we have practice. When going out for a run, the water you drink right before is not what hydrates you during the run; it’s more about the day before’s water intake; ironically something we’re constantly trying to teach our cross country kiddos and has come up pretty recently!

running, summertime, science in sport hydro tablets

My go-to summer bag…sunscreen, water, sandals and now SiS Hydro Tablets

When it gets extra hot, my normal water intake is just not quick enough and I need a little extra oomph in the nutrient replenishment department. In the past, I’ve tried all sorts of hydration/electrolyte replacement beverages. I had not actually heard of Science In Sport (SiS) until now and I was very excited to try something new.

When it comes to hydration or electrolyte replacement drinks, there are two things the product for sure has to meet:

  1. Has to taste good!
  2. Does what it’s supposed to (re-hydrate me or keep my hydrated during a workout)

Yeah, I’m not high maintenance.

Sis Hydro tablets definitely meet my two qualifications.

I received a four-pack that included Pineapple/Mango, Lemon, and Cola flavors. The Cola tabs also have caffeine.  The first one I tried was the pineapple/mango and I was pleasantly surprised! They were really good! I used them after a run on a specifically hot day and felt pretty refreshed!  I then started making some and drinking half my water bottle per-run and saving the rest for after.

The Lemon is my favorite flavor. I don’t particularly like the taste of the Cola one but like that it contains caffeine which makes it perfect for before a long run. A lot of the other BibRace pros liked that they weren’t fizzy. When you first drop the tablets in, they fizz until they dissolve. I personally can go either way. I bet having fizz with the Cola one might make that one better!

If you’re looking for a new hydration/electrolyte sources, these are definitely worth a try! The taste good, do what they’re supposed to, and they are reasonably priced (a little bit cheaper compared to similar products).

I mean, they must be good, because Ben has used most of mine! 😉


Get Some For Yourself!

A pack of four (80 tablets) is $39.00 (or $11 for one tube of 20 tablets). Use coupon code BIBRAVE20 for 20% off the hydro tablets.


Check out what the other BibRave Pros are saying:
BluegrassBAMR |  The Swag MamaRun Nerd Girl | Run, Eat, Ralph | She Runs By The Seashore | Ken Stands on Things (youtube) |

The Racin’ Rams (Coaching During Covid and Our Virtual Fundraiser Race)

A little background info for those that are new to my blog: I am a Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track & Field Coach at a local high school. I have been coaching for over seven years. This post is merely to provide some information and observations during this unprecedented time. I will not open the floor for debates on the efficacy or rights of mask-wearing or the realness of COVID, because….well, there’s nothing to debate. This is my blog and I TRUST in science and the experts and think that a minor discomfort is worth the chance I could be saving a LIFE – anyone’s life. In the words of Colorado’s Governor, “wear a damn mask.”


Coaching in the time of COVID is, well, interesting. With regulations and requirements changing weekly, sometimes daily, it’s has been a challenge. Despite the stress it may cause myself and my fellow coaches, I do have to say that I truly believe it is extremely beneficial for the kids, as well as us coaches, to get out, run and see other people – as long as we can do so safely. Luckily, we can!

Kids (gosh, I would have hated being called a “kid” in high school) need to play and see their friends – all ages; I could see it on their faces when we played our first game of ultimate frisbee (albeit with some new social distancing rules). The laughter and joy that game was that first game was magical.

I know this time is tough right now, but I’m super grateful that the school district and local high sports association has allowed the kids to resume practices. By far, cross country is the easiest sport to implement the health protocols put into place by the local officials. It’s truly a blessing to be coaching this sport (in comparison to football, for example, where there are many more things to have to worry about, sanitize, and monitor).

With all the end of the world, zombie apocalypse, dystopian books I read and movies I watch, I never thought I would live through a time like this. It’s surreal seeing everyone in masks all over the place. Currently, when we all arrive, the coaches first, take a medical screening. Our temperature is taken and we’re asked if we have had any health concerns recently. We are required to wear masks when gathering and screening the kids. If we are not physically practicing with the kids, we, as the coaches, are required to wear a mask the whole time.

The kids have to show up wearing a mask and keep them on until we are actually running. It is weird looking, to put it simply.

As soon as we are running and practicing, we can remove our masks. Ultimate frisbee is allowed, with no contact, and keeping distance while “guarding” your opponent. We also have to regularly sanitize the frisbee itself. Some kiddos, about three out of the 24 that come to summer running practices, choose to wear their masks the whole time. Power to them! It’s not fun to run with a mask, doable, but definitely uncomfortable!

Most of the kids are great at following all the rules. They do need some reminders to keep their distance from each other because kids just naturally gravitate toward one another. We do have to keep on them because there are people from the district “spying” and taking pictures.

We still don’t know what the season will look like. We don’t know what competitions/meets will look like. They could say that all the participants need to wear masks in the races at the meets. They could limit the number of kids that can compete, even in the JV races. Who knows!

Truth be told, we could be practicing all summer, and “they” (the local high school sports association) could just say no. If one fall sport is deemed not safe, they would probably cancel all sports. Or, more likely, they push some sports to the winter season and some to the spring season. I hope that’s not the case. It’s actually kind of nerve-racking to think about.

But we are positive! And we push on!

Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.

But seriously. You do have to prepare like all will be well; it keeps the kids happy and in a positive mindset.


Since this year is a bit different, we have been looking at different ways to fundraise for our team. In the past, we’ve had a live 5k race that raised money for ALL the sports programs of the school. We’ve done financial presentations and Chipotle nights. Sold merchandise and candles.  But this year fundraising needed to be easy and less stressful.

So I suggested a VIRTUAL 5k! Introducing the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k Fundraiser!

racing rams virtual 5k race.

Yes, I am the “race director,” and here’s my shameless plug. If you’re looking for some virtual motivation and want to help out a local Colorado Cross Country team, sign up for our race and let us know Coach Vestal sent you! All funds raised go towards meet fees, transportation, food, safety and health equipment, uniforms and room and board plus transportation for our regional and state meets.

You’ll receive a Racin’ Rams t-shirt (gender-specific), sticker, and digital bib. Plus the cost (only $30) includes all fees and the mailing cost! You run anywhere you want before the end of August and you can report your time to see how you rank with all our athletes!

Walk, run, skip, hike…join the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k!

Sign up HERE!

Layton and I’s First Race – The Leap Day 5k

I’m still trying to process what’s going with all the COVID-19 stuff. The day the schools closed and governments shut down events, my life instantly changed. I have a lot of thoughts, fears, feelings, and things to say, but I’m still trying to process them all. Yes even over a week into this thing.

In particular, the running community and outdoor/travel industry are in a state of limbo. I know there are many worse things in the world than some races being canceled or people not being able to travel, but you see, my daily life and career ARE the running world and outdoor industry and I would like to share my thoughts on that eventually.

Right now, with the inundation of news like cities shutting down, or how long the quarantine will last, and the recession… it’s just too much right now for me. Not to mention the frustration when I see climbers being rescued, people still getting together and running in groups, people still venturing into the mountains to hike or ski….ugh.

I will organize my thoughts/feelings, but until then, I’m going to share this post I have been working on from Layton and I’s first race together. 


I love running with baby Layton! I couldn’t wait for the pediatrician to give the “go-ahead” that he was strong enough for the jogging stroller. We’ve only been on a dozen or so runs together so far but I love watching him look around at all the sights with a big smile on his face while I run!

Since his birth, I have been through some ups and downs with running as I get back into it. I did a few races without him postpartum but recently I finally got to race WITH him! I was really excited about this opportunity and declined all offers of babysitting because I wanted to run with him. On Leap Day this year, Layton and I ran our first race together!


With one extra day of the year, I knew I wanted to take advantage of it. Luckily, the company I work for decided to do a Leap Day 5k and I didn’t have to work it.

The Event:
Being Leap Day and the fact that it fell on a weekend, 3W Races decided to take the chance and host a one time race. They (we) even offered free entries to anyone born on leap day and it was also filled with a ton of LEAPING activities… like leaping over hay bales on the course, the standing long leap challenge, and the high leap challenge!

It was chip timed, had great sponsors, free photos, and really cute swag (one of the other reasons I wanted to do it!). And I didn’t have to work it!

Starting

The Course:
This event was at a new park for 3W Races, Carpenter park in Thornton, CO. This small, cute little park had fantastic views, tons of parking, and was in a great location. However, even though the park was small, the course was actually pretty challenging.

About half a mile into the race, you encountered a steep, packed-gravel hill! While this would still be challenging to the everyday runner, try pushing a stroller up it! There were two other hills on course, though concrete, were still a bear to push the stroller.

 

I did like the course, even if it was difficult. It was a ballon configuration and I liked the way it wound around the park. On the “balloon” part, you ran really close to the expo area and that’s where the leaping challenge was. Once you got back to the two-way traffic, the “string” part of the balloon configuration, you had to go back down the gravel hill and finish up another hill.

Layton and I’s Race:
It had been a while since I had run (probably since the 408k virtual race), so I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of my performance. I just wanted to run as much as I could (versus walking), finish with Layton and have fun.

We got to the event pretty early because I wanted to allow for extra time if diaper changes or pre-run feedings were needed – this was our first race together after all, and I didn’t know what to expect. Once we grabbed our packet, we headed back to the car to stay warm.

About 20 minutes before race time, we got out of the car and situated the stroller. It wasn’t too cold on race day, but it was windy! Because of this, I decided to keep Layton in his car seat instead of putting him forward-facing in the stroller to keep him warmer while I was running. This meant the stroller was a lot more heavy. I did a little bit of jogging around the parking lot to loosen up and get a feel for the stroller.

Then it was race time! I got in the crowd of runners, me and Layton in the stroller. This was a whole different experience for me. I was near the middle of the crowd and my spatial awareness was way off, as I bumped into a few different people, apologizing as I went.

Once the gun went off, Layton and started into a jog and within half a mile, he was asleep. I, on the other hand, was at the first hill, a steep, gravel, windy thing. I was right next to a friend of mine and she helped push the stroller as we, what felt like, sprinted up the hill.

I had to walk at the top of the hill and after that, I switched between jogging and walking through the rest of the race. When we got to the hay bale hop challenge, I carefully steered Layton between the hay bales while I hopped over and continued on!

leap day 5k

Skills.

It was a hard race for me. Between pushing the stroller and not having run in a while, I was struggling. I finished in 36:15.

leap day 5k finish

Finishing

Afterward, I hung around the expo and chatted with some friends and then went over to the after-party for my free beer at Periodic Brewing.

Although the Leap Day 5k is the slowest 5k I’ve ever run, it’s definitely one of my most memorable.