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Nov 17, 2014

Kona Chocolate Double race review

Short Version
Finished 10k in 52:12(official time); no new PR
Overall place:  385/2,192
Overall men:  247/771
Men 45-49:  33/91

Finished 5k in 24:35(official time); no new PR
Overall place:  164/2,489
Overall men:  122/779
Men 45-49:  10/79

Race #85

Overall, a great improvement from last years inaugural race.  The biggest issue was the chocolate line and, since I did the double, I got to see how this was both times and the lines were very small, quick to get through and well organized.  Another excellent event for Kona and really happy to see they listened to their runners.


Long Version
Registration/Packet pickup
Because I'm an ambassador this year for the race, I mailed in my race entry but have also used their race registration on their website as well which is very easy to use.  I also like their websites because they have all the important information in regards to the race.

In Kona's usual fashion, they offered packet pickup on both Saturday all day as well as Sunday before the race.  I couldn't volunteer this time so I decided I would head over the morning of the race.  I walked in, looked up my bib number and got my packet.  I was in and out in a matter of minutes and they were well organized.  It gave me plenty of time to get a parking spot right next to the finish line.  While I usually park in the paid lot behind the farmer's market, I decided to try the street this time and got a great spot.  Of course, I'm an early guy so I was in my parking spot by 6:50am.

Volunteer check in and race day registration
Race bib numbers
Race information
Runners hanging out
Liz organizes the packet pickup and always does an awesome job with it.  As you can see, I was there pretty early as there are barely any runners here getting their packet.
Packet pickup - volunteers ready!
Start Area
While it's light when we start running, it's not that bright, so this time I didn't take any pictures of the start area except while in line to race because they wouldn't come out good.  You will see that I got pictures of everything in the start/finish area while waiting between the 10k and the 5k.  One advantage of doing the double race.
Alan Whitehead, race director
The race played the National Anthem and we were ready to go.
Runners in front of me
Runners behind me
I didn't really have a plan for racing except that I knew I would take the 10k slower than the 5k and I didn't want to build up a huge sweat so I wouldn't get too cold waiting for the next race.  My pace for the 10k seemed to work perfect as I finished feeling good but not sweaty.
10k official time
I did happen to run a negative split in the 10k which is always nice to see.  Once again, this is the same course as the Kona St. Patrick's Day race as well as the Wicked Halloween run.  As you can see, it's flat as a pancake and makes for a very fast race.  An excellent PR course.
Splits/Map/Elevation per Strava
Of course, the pace for the 5k would be expected to be faster than the 10k so I did what I could to push my pace.  I was pretty happy with my placing for the 5k given all the fast runners at this race.  It's always nice to place in the top 10% overall.  This is still over two minutes slower than my PR but I'm still happy with it.  You can't PR them all.
5k official time
5k splits/map/elevation per Strava
Note:  When I take pictures during the race, I typically don't change my pace or stop in the interest of safety.  If I do stop, I always move to the side.  I just keep running and I get what I can get from the pictures.  Some come out better than others but they give you a great idea of what the course is like.

The 10k was off to a quick start.  As you can see, there were some that were dressed up in costume.  This race also tends to attract more women(double the amount of women than men) because of the chocolate theme and it's also the first weekend in deer hunting season.  Unfortunately, because the race starts at 7:30am, I really have a hard time getting any decent pictures until I'm half way through the 10k race.
And we are off!

Before I knew it, I was at the one mile marker.  I did stop at each of the mile markers in the 10k only to get some decent pictures.  Even with that, I think my pace remained pretty good.
Mile 1
Plymouth in Winter
While it was chilly out, there was still some hints of fall colors with some of the trees in the neighborhood.

Mile 2
As with all the Kona races, the Plymouth police were always out and directing traffic and keeping runners safe.
Police support
Mile 3

Mile 4

The first 5 miles seemed to fly by and, while chilly, it really was perfect weather to run a race.  We could have easily had snow but we lucked out again.
Mile 5
Some fall color left
I always love running around the six mile mark since you are getting back into downtown plymouth.  The area is so nice and I love seeing all the different homes even after running this course so many times.
Mile 6
Brina from RWB with the flag
 We come around that corner shown above and then it's a quick push to the finish back in downtown.  Always a great venue for a race in my opinion.
Home stretch
I always love that they announce your name as you cross over a timing mat.  It makes it feel personalized.
I saw Larry after the race and asked to get a quick picture with him.  He grabbed a runner to give her a hug for finishing.  Haha!  Larry's a very personable guy and the perfect person to be at the finish line keeping people happy but also keeping them moving.
Larry working the finish line
I grabbed a cup of Nuun and went to get some pictures of the start/finish area that I missed before the race.
There were a ton of volunteers in the finish area directing people to the chocolate tents.  I didn't want to go into the tent until after the 5k race but got a quick picture.
Well organized
The race had two tents with four lines.  This was more than adequate and kept the line moving smoothly.  They learned from their mistake and make this process so much easier for runners.  I realize that I was with the front runners of the race but this was true throughout the entire race as I came back around after the 5k finish and was still very little lines.
Two tents of chocolate - 4 lines
As you can see below, the volunteers were ready for the over 5,000 runners that were going to be coming through the lines.
Ready for runners
No lines
After this, I went to the warming tent to stay warm before the race.  It was nice and cozy in the warming tent.  At first, I thought it might not be large enough, however, runners kept coming in and out of the tent so it worked out just fine for the 20 minutes I was waiting there.
Warming tent
Runners keeping warm
Kona always has the area broken off in tents and they had a similar set up this time around too.
First aid
After the wait in the warming tent, it was time to get lined back up for the 5k race.  Once again they did the National Anthem and we were ready to go.
Runners in front of me
This time around, I lined up closer to the front as the 5k tends to get some people that don't typically run near the front and I wanted to be ahead of them.  I always recommend that if you are trying to avoid running around other runners to slightly move up.  It worked out well for me today and just had to do a little weaving but overall, I placed myself where I should have been.
Runners behind me
Ready to go!
This time around it was much lighter outside so my pictures came out better while running.  The 5k was also more crowded at the start but very manageable since they had three waves.
And we are off

I came across the 8 minute pacer and thought, ok, I'll keep ahead of him.  I managed to move pretty far up in front of him.  I wasn't sure my legs would let me after running the 10k.
Passing the 8 minute pacer

Mile 1
We got treated to some more fall colors on the 5k route as well which was nice.  It kind of broke up the trees with no leaves on them anymore.  After the one mile mark, we also started to pass some of the walkers for the 10k but most were staying to the right of runners so we could get by easily.

More Fall color still
We were already at mile 2!  Woohoo!  I was having a great time running quickly AND feeling good as well.
Mile 2

The volunteers were at every turn as they are for all of Kona's races and they did an excellent job directing people as usual.
Well marked course
 With that, we were back in downtown again and ready to finish strong.
Mile 3
Back again
 Another successful 5k finish!
Aid Stations
The volunteers did a great job at the aid stations.  There was Nuun and water at the aid station below with clearly marked signs for which way you needed to be on to get what you wanted to drink.  The picture below is looking back.  The race also had a port-o-potty out on both the 10k course and the 5k course too if anyone needed it.  I only actually stopped for water at the mid point of the 10k course.

Finish Area
After we finished, the race had the medals all lined up for the 10k runners and volunteers were handing them out.  If you ran the double, you got your 10k and double medal after you ran both races.  They had them completely separate from the rest of the medals so they could easily be distributed to the double runners and it worked out fantastic once again.
Medals and double medals
Before I went to get my chocolate, I went to get my Grand Slam medal for running all four of their races in the series including the St. Patrick's Day race, the Kona run, the Wicked Halloween run and todays run.  Once again, the volunteers did a great job as the race provided a list of all runners that qualified for the Grand Slam medal.  It was great to get this and more than a few miles went into earning this additional medal.
Medal #3 this race
Now I made my way back to the chocolate tents for the after race festivities.  As you can see, even after I ran both races, the lines were not huge.  I made a special point to take pictures of several lines at the tents so you could see how smooth it went.
Small lines
Small lines at the other tent too
The race also changed up how they served the chocolate this year.  For the most part, except for the dipping chocolate, everything was ready for you in an easy to carry tray.  The volunteers were putting the dipping chocolate into little cups for you to take.  This worked out much better and kept lines moving.
The race also offered not only hot chocolate, which was great tasting, but Chocolate milk, one of my favorites after race recovery drinks.
Hot Cocoa and Chocolate Milk
 As you can see below, you got plenty to eat.  This was more than enough after the race.
The chocolate packet
Many of the runners stood around by the fountain in Kellogg park as they ate their chocolate and socialized.
Eating by the fountain
For your race entry fee for the double race, $72, you received a certified, chip timed course which was partially closed and staffed with race volunteers.  There were aid stations about every 1.5 miles on the 10k and one also on the 5k.  You received a custom bib with a QR code, although I didn't use it this time to look up my results.  By the time I got home, results were posted online.
Custom bib
You also received a nice embroidered quarter zip race shirt and there were only two sponsors on the back of the shirt.  I really like that compared to Kona's other shirts that have lots of sponsors on the back.
High quality shirt
Shirt back
 You received a Kona Chocolate Run beanie as shown below.
Kona hat
Of course, Kona does do their bling well so you received a medal for finishing the 10k race.
Chocolate 10k medal
You also received a medal for finishing the second race, hence, the double.  I still feel that Kona misses the boat on these double medals.  They look very similar and just not that exciting to get another medal that's so similar as the first one.  I know they sold out the double race but it sure would generate even more interest if the second medal was completely different.
Chocolate Double medal
Medal close up
Double medal close up
Both medals
If you ran the Kona St. Patrick's Day run, the Kona Run, the Wicked Halloween Run and the Chocolate run, you also earned the Kona Grand Slam medal.  That IS a different medal and one I was happy to earn.  It also offered a different ribbon on this and was a nice design showing off each of the races you ran.  A great idea!
Kona Grand Slam medal
Grand Slam close up
I also thought I would share the shirts, medals and bibs for each of the races if you ran the Grand Slam.  A great variety of shirts both long sleeve and short sleeve.
Grand Slam shirts/bibs/medals
This year was the first year that Kona offered double races with double medals and you can see all of them below since I ran the double for every race offered.  That's a total of eight medals for these four races.
Kona Grand Slam medals with 3 double medals
In addition, Kona offered their first half marathon which added another medal to the pile and you can see the shirts and medals below.
2014 Kona shirts/medals/bibs
2014 Kona medals
Kona did a great job with the race this year.  It really was a disaster for many last year and I'm happy to see that they listened to the runners last year and followed through on their promise to make the organization better at the finish line.  As usual, they are a race company of their word.  The start/finish area was well planned, the course was very well marked, the volunteers knew what to do, the race started on time.  Well done.

Overall, this was a great race to finish off the race series.  The bling you get for running these races are incredible.  I love that the race company has always stood by their word to improve their races each year.  Once again, there were large improvements to this race and all of them.  The double races was a nice touch too.  Probably the only thing I can say that would make it difficult to run this series every year is the fact that three of the four races are on the same course making it a little redundant.  I would welcome them looking at changing up the courses to give it some different viewpoints.

Overall, though, this is a race series that you will enjoy completing with a nice theme for every race they put out.  The Kona 10 mile still remains one of my favorite races I've run since I started.  Another exciting year in the Kona organization when it comes to racing.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Note:  I received a complimentary race entry into the Kona Chocolate Double in exchange for this race review.  All my opinions are my own and I'm not required to give a particular opinion except for an honest one.  I also received entry into the Grand Slam series for the year.


  1. Much improved over last year! I actually got chocolate this time around!

  2. I would run fast to be first in line for the zchocolate...

    Love looking at your picture of runners as you can see the different styles of them... Overstriding, hip dropping and then the ones who run well...