Tag Archives: Kona

Cocoa Power: Kona Chocolate Run Recap

Just how powerful is chocolate? Witness the following.

Chocolate Run - 10K start

7:00 a.m. in downtown Plymouth, MI. 26 degrees and dull gray sky. Sensible people are still in bed or enjoying breakfast and coffee in a warm location. And yet over 5,200 people are standing outside, shivering in Spandex, gloves, and beanies, waiting to begin a 10K or 5K run.

Yes, today was the Chocolate Run, the final race in the series put on by the Kona Running Company every year. Along with some pretty snazzy gear, runners got a trip to the chocolate tent after their race, where they refueled with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bread, and pretzels with dipping chocolate, and, of course, a nice cup of hot chocolate.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it's cat-approved.

The half-zip is a nice upgrade over the standard race shirt. And it’s cat-approved.

As usual, I volunteered my services as a pacer, which got me the same snazzy gear and chocolate tent visit without feeling like I needed to run my butt off. I was joined by  fellow PR Fitness runners Ray and Melissa for the 10K 50:00 pace. Our group was well represented, including the 6th place overall finishers in both the 10K and 5K, and many of our runners achieving personal best times (a.k.a. PRs). That’s the spirit!

She's run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was "too hard". Hmm....

She’s run six Ironman triathlons but claimed holding the sign for a couple of miles was “too hard”. Hmm….

The course is mainly flat, which makes it good for first-time and casual runners and made sticking to pace easy. It took about a mile and a half to fully warm up, but we had a good time chatting about Melissa’s Ironman experiences.

After the 10K and some chocolate, I took the 8 minute/mile pace sign and went off to the 5K. Thanks to the cold and a half hour wait before the start, I was a bit stiff at the outset, but I was grateful to be running relatively fast. And it was fun yelling at people to pass me in the final few hundred yards.

Chocolate Run - the goodiesA couple of logistical issues from last year were much improved this year. To cut down on crowding during the first mile, the runners were sent out in waves at ten-minute intervals. But the best improvement was the flow through the chocolate tent. Last year there was just a single line, and it got so long that many people gave up and went to the nearby coffee shops for their hot chocolate. This year there were two lines and the goodies were more pre-arranged so people spent less time getting their goodies.

Finally, a trip to Plymouth to pace a race isn’t complete without a good cup of coffee. Plymouth has many choices near Kellogg Park but my favorite is the Plymouth Coffee Bean, where in addition to a good latte they make sweet and savory crepes to order. Life isn’t just about chocolate, you know.

This is all that's left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

This is all that was left of my crepe when I remembered to take a photo. Yes, it was very good.

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Running Cold and Hot (Chocolate)

IT’S GETTING A BIT NIPPY OUT THERE, as they say. Seems like we went from warm sunny evenings to cold and dark just like that. Even had our first snow on Monday. But that doesn’t stop the PR Fitness club. As we’re fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just insufficient gear. Tuesday and Wednesday nights were business as usual.

Wednesday night's group at Lululemon. Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Wednesday night’s group at Lululemon. 34 degrees and dark? Zip up the warm tech shirts, put on the headlamps and hit the road!

Cold weather running actually has a few advantages; for example, hard training like tempo runs and hillwork can be easier. I did both Tuesday night, and I was in no danger of overheating. But I overdressed a bit and got sweaty – not good, since as soon as I slowed down, I was wet and cold. Nothing for it but to keep up the pace to the end.

Wednesday night, by contrast, was a real pleasure from start to finish. We went out for a steady run at a smooth, casual pace. After a hectic day at work, it felt really good to switch off the mind and put the body into cruise control. During the run I talked with Coach Marie about last weekend’s 10K race at the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot. I’d run a good time – not a PR, but decent – and crossed the finish line feeling I’d given it my best. Knowing a friend was a few minutes behind me, I went to get my camera from the car, and found that I was able to run there and back. This actually bothered me. Had I ‘left something on the course’ after all? Not run as hard as I could?

All right, it's not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

All right, it’s not easy to take this race seriously. But I tried.

She told me not to worry. Bouncing back quickly after a short race is normal, as the heart rate gets down. For me to keep improving, I need to train the body to maintain a faster pace. In other words, the only way to run faster is to run faster. She said she’ll get to work on more tempo runs and intervals for me. Me and my big mouth.

Here’s another way to deal with the cold weather:

800px-Truffles_with_nuts_and_chocolate_dusting_in_detail

David Leggett | Wikimedia Commons

Chocolate has a longstanding association with runners, and chocolate milk is often touted as the perfect ‘recovery food’ following a race. If so, then the people at the Kona Chocolate Run this Sunday in Plymouth will be in fabulous condition. Runners will get in some healthy morning exercise and celebrate with hot chocolate during and after the run! Sorry, online registration is closed, but a limited number of new slots will become available on Saturday. See the website for details.

If you can’t make it to Plymouth, then go running anyway. And have some chocolate. For anyone in and around Ann Arbor, I can recommend Zingerman’s hot chocolate, which is sans doute the best chocolate I’ve had outside Paris. Take that, winter!

Would You Run a Litter-Free Race?

This morning I ran the Wicked Halloween 10K in Plymouth, one of the Kona series of races that I volunteer for as a pacer. It’s a nice change to enjoy being part of a race without busting a$$ trying for a PR. And at the end you’re encouraging people to pass you. How fun is that?

Wicked pacers.

Wicked pacers.

Despite a chilly start, I enjoyed the event. My regular pace partner, Mike, and I breezed through our 52-minute assignment, and everyone there seemed to have a good time. A typical well-run local race, and I wouldn’t have anything to contribute by way of improvement – except for the cups scattered along the roadside at the water stations.

Races generate large amount of trash from cups and disposable water bottles. Most is handled through numerous trash cans and boxes throughout the area, and runners by and large are good at putting trash where it belongs, with one exception.

On the race course itself, runners typically grab offered cups of water and Gatorade without stopping, gulp them down on the run, and then throw the cups on the road, or off to the side. This is standard behavior, and if not ideal, is accepted and is dealt with through lots of volunteers. During the Chicago Marathon I even saw people standing at the aid stations with brooms, sweeping the trash off the road whenever they could. But I still had to step carefully at many stations to avoid slipping on cups, sponges, and other debris that 35,000 runners discard over the course of 26.2 miles.

Water stop at the Berlin Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Water stop at the Berlin Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

Two recent experiences changed my perspective. At Run Woodstock, some runners left cups and other trash by the flags on the trails, where there were no volunteers to see it and pick it up. Then a recent post of the French Word-a-Day blog covered the subject. Kristin Espinasse, the author, writes about her experiences as an American married to a Frenchman and raising a family in France. Her husband recently completed his first triathlon, and look what happened: (excerpt edited)

Nearing [the finish line], Jean-Marc needed to dispose of one of those energy gel packs. Approaching one of the race volunteers, he flashed a winning smile and pitched the plastic tube to the side of the road. [A] race official, standing nearby and seeing the tail end of the exchange, held out a yellow card. Jean-Marc was sanctioned for littering!

(Read the entire article here to see the outcome.)

This is the first time I’ve heard about penalizing runners for littering during a race. But a little online research turned up a few efforts to minimize and/or eliminate race litter. For example, check out this article from the Mother Nature Network that describes what some marathons are doing to address the amount of waste associated with their events. And here is a video of a zero-trash water station at the Circular Logic Marathon, where every runner uses a refillable water bottle.

Circular Logic Marathon video

Have any readers been part of a “no-littering” race? What do you think of the idea? Would you support it? Please try the poll below, and/or comment – I’d like to know your thoughts.

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P.S. The next race in the Kona series is the Chocolate Run on November 17. Hot chocolate, scones, chocolate chip cookies and premium Chocolate Fountain Fondues along with music in historic downtown Plymouth!

P.P.S. In addition to her posts, Kristin takes amazing photographs of French life and the other places in Europe she visits. Consider signing up for her email newsletter.