The Boilermaker 15k was on July 13 in Utica, NY. I’d heard good things about this race (or maybe it was just the post race party) and when I heard a group was going from Durham I decided I would too. The race brings in 14,000 runners and sells out in a couple of hours so they must do something right. I didn’t have a specific goal, this race fell at the end of my second week of focused run training. I was going to give breaking 60:00 a shot, but would have been happy with 61:30 or better.
The night before the race the group got together at an Italian place for dinner. For some the party started early, but it was just water for me until the finish line tomorrow. I had spaghetti and meatballs (it worked pre-Syracuse). The portions were huge and I regretted eating it all. We were back at the hotel around 10:00PM and in bed by 10:30PM.
The morning of the race I was up before 6:00AM, I had an english muffin with almond butter and honey, and half a bottle of water. I didn’t drink any water after we left the hotel because I didn’t want to have to pee during the race. Martin and I made our way over to the hotel where everyone else was staying and we got a cab to the start from there (honourable mention to Dan and Ross for running to the start line!).
Where we arrived at the race site I realized what 14,000 runners looks like, it’s a lot of people! I split up from the group and made my way to the start line, my coral was near the front. When I got into the coral it seemed like everyone around me that was my age or younger was wearing a singlet representing a College. I don’t recall entering an expected finish time (how they determine your bib number/coral, but apparently I put down a fast time). I had a gel about 10mins before the start and then waited to go.
First 5k – 20:01
I was pretty close to the front so when the gun went off it wasn’t long before I was across the start line. Unlike most races I have done the pace right out of the blocks wasn’t very quick. I’ve found that most people sprint out the first 200m and then settle into a pace. If I wanted to go under 60:00 I had to average better than a 4:00/km pace. I looked down at my watch about 200m in and I noticed a 4:30/km pace. There must have been some slower runners towards the front that the pack had to filter around because by the 400-ish m mark we were down into the 3:50’s.
I knew the first 5k was a gradual uphill. From the previous night’s dinner I also knew that the only hill I really had to be concerned about was around the 6k mark near a golf course. As we began clicking off km’s I didn’t really notice the uphill. There was some good crowd support, and we passed by a section where it seemed like they had flags for all the different countries represented in the race, but at this point my concern was keeping my cadence up with good form, and didn’t really take in all the sights and sounds of Utica. As I was nearing the 5k mark I lost my focus for a few hundred meters. My cadence slipping, combined with a slight increase in the grade produced my slowest km of the race, a 4:14. I didn’t panic, but I knew if I had a change at breaking 60:00 I couldn’t let that happen again.
There were plenty of aid stations along the course serving water and ice. At the aid station before the 5k mark I took a small sip of water. This was more to wet my mouth than for hydration.
According to my Garmin my first 5 1k splits were:
Second 5k – 19:44 (39:45 through 10k)
The second 5k begins running parallel to the golf course. As I ran I could see the elites ahead of my finishing their ascent through the golf course. The hill wasn’t too intimidation, but it was going to be difficult to keep my pace while running up. I managed about a 4:10/km pace up to the top of the hill, and then from the 6.5k mark until the 10k mark I knew I had a big downhill to make it up. By the 7.5k mark I was back on pace to break 60:00 and still flying down the hill. About every other aid station I would take a small sip of water and a cup of ice. I’d pour the ice into my hands and hold it until it melted. It wasn’t a scorching hot day, but I felt like this helped me keep my temperature down. As I was running down the hill a couple of the athletes in the wheelchair division came flying by! I couldn’t guess their speed but they were really moving.
I crossed the 10k mark in 39:45, with a 19:44 second 5k. My 1k splits were:
Third 5k – 19:24 (59:09 overall)
The third 5k had a couple of gentle hills, but nothing of note. By this point my Garmin was slightly off so I didn’t know my exact pace but knew a 4:00/km average would get me in under 60:00. By this point my legs were really hurting and I needed to keep my focus to keep my foot speed up. The race had really thinned out and the crowds picked up again. I kept a close eye on my watch and managed to continue to click off sub 4:00km. At the 8mile marker (just under 13k) my quads were on fire and my lungs weren’t doing too much better. The final 1.3miles of the race felt like they took ages. My Garmin was out of sync by about 100m and I couldn’t do the math to calculate my current pace in my head (something I regularly do when I run to pass the time).
As I reached the final 400m the course was lined with spectators 4 and 5 deep. I usually try to look around and take in all the energy from the crowd in the finish chute, but not today. I was transfixed on the finish line and getting there so my legs could stop moving.
My third 5k was my fastest, at 19:24. Here are my splits:
I didn’t have the sense of jubilation you often hear about when people cross the finish line, my immediate feeling was one of relief that it was over. My calfs were a little tight, but I kept moving around so they didn’t seize up. I got some water for a little re-hydration before I searched around for everyone else to undo all our hard work at the post race party.
It wasn’t until I moved passed the finish area and began to feel something other than fire in my legs that I smile crept onto my face. I was really proud of my time. I’ve never run a 5k, 10k or 15k race, so technically I PB’ed all 3 of these distances.
Post Race Party
The real reason people show up in Utica on the second Sunday in July is the post race party. The race finishes at the Saranac brewery where there is free beer. Usually this lasts until noon, but because of severe weather that was approaching it was going to be cut off at 11AM. We opted to skip the post race food because of long lines and headed straight to one of the many beer trucks. Some of the more battle tested among us took on the km challenge, 1 beer per km of the race (15). I wanted to be alive to watch the World Cup final that afternoon so I opted for the mile challenge, a mere 9 beers. A lot of good times were had, you have to be there to experience it. Our 3km walk back to our hotel took almost 2.5 hours (approximately 50:00/km for those of you counting) and was one of the best parts of the weekend.
The Boilermaker is a great event that everybody should do at least once.