This is a long overdue recap of the Boilermaker 15K – my first race of this distance and apparently one of only a few that exist. For those who aren’t good at math, a 15K is 9.3 miles. It’s less than a 5K short of a half marathon. You should really train for a race of this distance, but alas, my summer training has been virtually non-existent (until now, but more on that later).
For better or worse, it rained all day on Saturday, forcing us to stay indoors. I joined my dad for breakfast at the diner – coffee, French toast, bacon, and several glasses of water. When we got home, I got back into comfy, warm clothes and proceeded to chug water throughout the day. Had it not rained, we probably would’ve gone kayaking, which would’ve meant I wouldn’t be drinking as much water and might even get too much sun. So I guess it worked out. It feels like forever ago now, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t nap because I knew I wanted to go to bed early. Around noon, I made myself a burger on the grill and prepped the chicken for dinner. Basically, I put three chicken breasts into a Ziploc bag with Italian salad dressing and a full lemon’s worth of juice, and threw them in the fridge to marinate for the rest of the day. That was a good dinner – combined with my roasted potatoes and onions. I had one beer with lunch and one beer with dinner (this was vacation, after all), but otherwise stuck to LOTS of water and even a few glasses of lemonade. I knew the weather was calling for high temps the following morning, and a fellow DFMC runner warned me that there wouldn’t be much shade.
I ended up getting into bed around 9, but it took me a few hours to fall asleep, so I watched Netflix until I passed out. My alarm went off at FOUR IN THE MORNING, and only allowed myself to snooze for 15 extra minutes. I got up, washed my face, ate my standard English muffin with peanut butter and drank a cup of iced coffee, tried to go to the bathroom but could not (TMI, I know – but I never have trouble going before races). At 5am on the dot, we were out the door and on our way to Utica.
I drove to ensure I would stay awake. The drive was beautiful with the sun coming up in the rearview mirror as we headed west on I-90 toward Utica. There weren’t many other cars on the road, but I convinced myself that the other drivers heading east were in running gear. A few even had 13.1 or other running-related stickers on their car, so I wasn’t totally delusional.
When we got to Utica, every car was going the same way as us. We ended getting one of the last parking spots in a lot right near the finish line, where school buses were dropping off runners who had parked in Syracuse, an hour away. Much the same as the BAA busing runners from Boston Common to Hopkinton on marathon morning, that’s such a nice thing to offer but the thought of being a school bus for an hour does not appeal to me AT ALL.
Anyway, we followed the herd of runners to the start area. Most people had picked up their bib during the days leading up to the race, but I had no interest in doing this drive twice, so I opted for morning-of packet pick-up. The lines were maybe 10-12 people deep, but they were sorted alphabetically, and there was no one in the O-P line so I grabbed my bib, did the portapotty thing before the lines got insane, and then we walked back to the car so I could apply sunscreen and grab my water bottle. We slowly made our way back to the start line, where I needlessly got back into a now 20-minute line for the portapotties, but I knew if I didn’t go then, I would regret it by Mile 2. We stood around for quite a while, and it was a full 10 minutes after the gun went off before I even crossed the start line. I waved bye to my dad, not really sure where/when I’d see him again, and started my watch.
The first 2 miles were a straight shot on a fairly main road but with lots of houses on it. There were SO many people outside cheering, blasting music, DRINKING (it was just after 8am), and looking like they were having a grand ol’ time. I’m not kidding you – it reminded me SO much of the Boston Marathon spectators. And they did not let up, except through the golf course. In fact, it only got louder and more crowded throughout the race. I also did not have bronchitis and I was much more accustomed to running in the heat than I was on April 17, so I honestly had a much better time than I did during the marathon.
Just before the Mile 3 marker, we entered the golf course that we would stay in until about Mile 4.5. This was the worst part. A. there weren’t many spectators at all. Maybe 25 total? B. It was mostly uphill. C. We were running on a path only wide enough for a golf cart – this presents a problem for a race of nearly 12,000 runners. I had to REALLY slow down here and it messed up my plan to break the race up into 3 5Ks and run negative segments. I was planning to do 10:30 for Miles 1-3.1, 10:00 for Miles 3.1-6.2, and 9:30 for Miles 6.2-9.3. My Mile 4 split was a 10:59. Horrible. I kinda felt like an a-hole trying to pass people and squeeze in between them. I made sure not to bump people but I was really struggling to actually run this slowly.
After emerging from the golf course, we were on a main road that passed the Utica Zoo. I saw a spectator holding a sign for Kelly’s Popsicles and I thought how cute, and turns out he is a legend on this race course. There were zookeepers with animals that you could actually touch as you ran by. One guy had an enormous boa constrictor wrapped around him and I think I actually shrieked – I do not like snakes.
For Miles 4.5-7, I let the crowd carry me as I was starting to lose a little steam. Seeing the start of the 5K race – meaning I still had 3.1 miles to go – took a toll on me mentally. I was hot and tired and my knee was starting to bother me (right knee – the one that’s hurt ever since the downhill start of the Boston Marathon). I took Gu at Miles 4 and 8, and there were literally 20 water stops so I took water a lot more often than I normally would, and I even took ice about 5 times and shoved it down my sports bra and the back of my tank top each time. I even chewed it once, just to try and cool myself down. I’m sure my face was purple.
I think the McDonald’s was somewhere around Mile 7 or 8 and I thought I might puke. There was also a big uphill, and I really slowed down. But I tried to focus on the crowd. At this point, just like Boston, there were random kids and spectators handing out ice and water and popsicles
, and even a few people handing out beers. Right around the end of Mile 8, there was a downhill, and my knee kept buckling. It was excruciating. I thought I might have to walk the final mile. I tried to limp and favor it but that didn’t help. Eventually, I figured out that if I really picked up my foot and did more of a “high knee” versus a stride, the pain was basically gone. But I just could not pick up my pace. Instead of finishing fast like I almost always do in races, my Mile 9 pace was a 10:20, although I kicked it up to a 9:21 for the last 0.3 miles. The spectators were SO loud and I just channeled their energy. When I finally finished, 3 minutes and 25 seconds slower than my goal time of 1 hour and 33 minutes, I felt amazing.
They funnel the finish line into two separate chutes, so apparently my dad was close but he never saw me cross the finish line and I never saw him until the post-race party. I took my finisher’s pin and a water and a Gatorade and most importantly, a chocolate milk. Then I got in the food line where I didn’t actually want anything they had to offer – it was only snacks – and set out on a mission to find the free beer.
Now, the whole point of me signing up for this race in March was because the post-race party is at my favorite brewery – Saranac. I knew you got free beer, but I though it would be like Harpoon where you get a few drink tickets, can buy more, and can choose from several of their beers. Sadly, the only beer they had was their Haus Lager, and it wasn’t that cold. But, it was free and unlimited. There was a very drunk lady who clearly was a local, who brought her daughter, and just kept getting free beer. I guess with no drink tickets or wristbands or anything, this will happen. I grabbed two beers and texted my dad, waiting in the sun and sipping my cold-ish beer until he found me a few minutes later. We walked over to the merchandise area where I finally found the finisher’s bags – mostly coupons and junk but the all-important pint glass. I really love this year’s logo and was hoping for a T-shirt, so I purchased one myself. It was only $20, which was so refreshing for someone who’s used to the ridiculous BAA prices.
The merch line took forever – literally 25 minutes – but I was right behind a woman who had also run Boston and so we talked about that experience to pass the time. I grabbed one more beer for the road and then my dad and I walked for what felt like a mile to pick up the shuttle that would take us back to the start area. About 30 minutes later, we were finally back in my car with the AC blasting. I changed into dry clothes and handed him the keys – I really wasn’t even buzzed despite no food and 3 beers, but I was pooped.
On the drive home, we stopped at the only rest stop along the way. They had a Roy Rogers. People, does anyone even remember Roy Rogers? I literally did not know they still existed. The last time I ate at one was my sophomore year in college, on the backroad to campus before they torn it down. Apparently there are now only 54 left in 6 states. It was not good but it was the only food I’d had all day besides the English muffin, so my chicken fingers & fries tasted delicious.
I don’t know if it the Roy Rogers or the 3 beers or the 9.3 miles or the lack of sleep, but I felt AWFUL for the rest of the day. I was tired but couldn’t sleep. My head hurt but huge amounts of water and ibuprofen didn’t help. I was pretty useless. We eventually went out to dinner and had our first and only campfire of the whole vacation before I went to bed at an insanely early hour.
Turns out I came in 7,199th place out of 11,711 finishers, with an overall 10:21 pace. I was 467th of 869 in my age group, so just barely out of the top half. I would definitely do this race again, but I should train better for it and maybe try to check out the weekend festivities next time.