Hmm, before I forget the details, I think its time for a Boilermaker 2005 race update. For those outside of the running loop, the Boilermaker is the largest 15K road race in the US. Its held in my home town, Utica, NY. 2005 was the 28th running of the race and my 3rd.
The race begins at 8am, so that means an early 5:15 am start from my digs in North Syracuse. This year, we had a small caravan from the Syracuse running team meet up at the Thruway ramp to drive out together. I was rather surprised to see a couple of other carloads of folks meeting to drive out to the race also.
We parked at the finish line at about 6:35 am, and hiked up to the buses for a lift over to the starting line. Ironically, me being the only Utica native in the pack was the only one not to have their race packet yet. So I made a B-line over to the packet pick up (which I must compliment them is very well organized; no lines, no waiting).
Porta-potties on the other hand, were a different story. Even an hour before the race it took 5 minutes to get to one. Those lines only got worse as it got closer to race time. Fortunately, there’s a bit of forestry in the race staging area, for those folks without a modesty problem.
After schmoozing for a while and getting a few sips of water, it was time to line up. This year, they tried a new system to get folks to line up according to seed times (with <60 minutes seeds being verified). Based on your time, they gave you a colored coded bib number. The race organizers say it helped a lot with congestion, but it didn’t seem to change much back in the recreational runners section. I still passed a bunch of people that probably couldn’t run a 10 minute mile at their best inside the first mile on the course.
The weather was pretty nice. Sunny, low 70s, not humid, and a little breezy. I was a little worried that it would be too hot (I’m a heat pansy, I just wilt), but the breeze made it just about perfect. A few folks in our running crew were BM Neophytes (their term; BM still makes me giggle) and enjoyed seeing what 10,000 runners in the starting grid is like. They also enjoyed some of the folks who run the race in costume; we ran some of the race next to guys dressed as the Blues Brothers (they got a lot of “Good job, Elwood’s” throughout the race.) The Utica mayor gives a quick speech and then made his way down into the field (yep, he’s a runner!) and then a trumpet rendition of the National Anthem. Amazing to hear the crowd go absolutely quiet during the song, and let out an awesome cheer at the end!
Then, 5-4-3-2-1. BOOM! as they fire of the ceremonial cannon to kick things off. No great rush for our crew, we’re back in the 90 minute seeds. We’re not going anywhere for a while. After a minute or two, we start crawling a long. Then stop. Then crawl. Then stop. We’re all getting a big kick out of the fact that this might be the longest start to starting line time to date. Then we start to get a little depressed when at 4 minutes into the race we’re half way to the starting line and the announcer says that the leaders have just completed the first mile. Flash forward another 6 minutes, and we’re finally at the starting line. And another Boilermaker is underway!
- Mile 1
Always great crowd at the start! A perennial favorite of mine, is the guy holding the “Only 9.2 Miles to Go!” sign. Almost had an issue, somebody ahead of me dropped a shirt or something it almost tripped me up (its hard to keep an eye on the road with the street so jammed with runners.) When you make it to the top of the first little hill after the start, its amazing to see the river of humanity that stretches ahead as far as you can see.
- Mile 2
This mile starts with another perennial Boilermaker fixture, the leprechaun guy. He’s dressed up in full green suit and hat and doles out his invisible Irish luck as runs pass by. In this mile sites include, Proctor High School (formerly Utica Senior Academy) and Mohawk Valley Community College; two of my alma maters.
- Mile 3
Ah, a nice shady stretch. Good crowd support, love the cow bells! Another perenial is the guy pumping out the tunes on his baritone. The major hills begin.
- Mile 4
This mile is the major climb of the race. There’s a water stop right before the hill begins. I timed it just perfectly that all the folks handing out the cups were reloading when I arrived. I walked for about 3 steps and it was enough to get disconnected from my group. I could only watch them pull away as I was stuck in some slow traffic. This is the hill were a lot of the beginners take a walk (they just need to learn to move off to the side, and not stop running in the middle of the pack!). For some folks this hill is like Everest; they should try the Mountain Goat, where a hill like that is just a warm up!
- Mile 5
Zoom, the major downhill of the race. I’m always worried about going too fast at this point; can’t afford to shoot the proverbial wad this early in the race. Nice to see the golfers pulled off the sides of the course enjoying the runners flying by. The New Hartford (the next town over) Fire Department has their ladder truck hoisting a huge flag at the exit of the golf course. A quick high five from my mom and my first run through a sprinkler and its back to business.
- Mile 6
Geez, its another hill. This is the one they call heartbreak hill; many a racer who’s run out of steam chooses to hang it up at this point. Its not really steep, but its over a mile of steady climbing. Two memories for this mile: first there was a metal band playing (right before Utica College). They were dressed in the obligatory black and extra long hair. Man, their tune hit the spot and gave me enough energy to pound out the rest of the hill. Second, a saw a young woman with a very interesting shirt. It said, “Brain Surgery: $450,000, Boilermaker Entry: $30. Being able to run without seizures, priceless!”
- Mile 7
Polka Time! The West Utica crowd (Yorkville and New York Mills, too) break out the Polish pride and their especially cheery polka tunes. This year there were 3 different polka purveyors; but, unfortunately, there were no live polka bands, as there have been in previous years. Its fun to watch the other runners reactions to polka music, some cringe and some really get into it. I spotted another person in our crew and was able to catch up. Also in the same mile was a wedding dj, kicking out the Village People’s YMCA. Of course, the runners try their best to do the dance while running. I had to duck to avoid an elbow. I’m feeling pretty good at this point, so I pick it up a bit.
- Mile 8
The road narrows from a highway back down to a two lane street and cheering section really picks up, helping get the folks who might be struggling a bit press on. Another quick shower (a rather nice rig someone built that was affixed to a telephone pole) and I’m feeling good again. The mobile radio unit near the end of the mile is playing good time Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m really looking forward to the party at the end, but I feel like I could run another 10 miles as long as I had this kind of crowd support.
- Mile 9
Phew, there’s a stretch where there’s no shade for about a quarter mile where I realized just how hot it was. Almost seemed like the breeze dropped out too. Grabbed a quick sip of water and felt good to begin the final assault. Unfortunately, this is where some folks had some problems. I saw one runner being wheeled away on a stretcher and another passed out on some grass. I thank my lucky stars that its not me. Speaking of lucky stars, the leprechaun guy from mile 2 is back again, doling out more of his irish luck.
- The final .3
The crowd on the sides of the road is a couple of people deep as the final stretch begins. Loads of “Almost There…” At this point every runner is equal, no matter if they’re young or old, fast or slow. Everybody gets the same cheers from the crowd. One more quick downhill then its flat to the finish. Seeing the finish line kicks me into high gear. I sale past a few folks and through the gate. The Brightroom folks actually snapped a decent finish line picture of me this year, I may buy it.
So, what about my time? 88:18. Wow! For me, that’s pretty fast. It’s 16 minutes better than my effort last year, but I didn’t train at all for last year due to that whole wedding thing. But, its still my fastest Boilermaker by 9 minutes. I would have liked to train more in the month before to get better at handling the heat, but work and circumstances made it kinda impractical.
Post race, we had a little glitch in our plan to reassemble our crew, but we eventually found each other and began to slow march to the party area. A couple of waters (including some fruity flavored water that I’d never heard of before) and some orange wedges and I was feeling pretty good again. Man, it was pretty crowded. The UticaOD reported there where about 38,000 people there; sure felt like it. After a little wait they had the awards ceremony. As expected the Kenyans cleaned up in both the mens and womens open divisions. The annoucer has his perennial fun with the guess the nationality game as he’s reading off the names. On the men’s side, 9 of the top ten where Kenyan and the 10th was Tanzanian.
Finally, my favorite parts of the whole Boilermaker experience: 1. Nation Anthem at the Party. Similar to the rendition at the start, the crowd respectibly quiets to a hush and goes crazy at the end. 2. Fireworks. Yep, fireworks at 10:30 am. You can’t seem ’em too well, but you can definitely hear ’em. Low and loud! 3. Fly-bys. I was nervous that they weren’t gonna do the fly-bys this year because in the past they’ve timed it so the F-16’s (from Hancock AFB in Syracuse) fly right in the last part of the National Anthem. But as the fireworks were wrapping up you could hear the low rumble in the distance and they zoomed over (almost low enough to touch it seemed). They were loud, but not as loud as I remembered. On their two additional passes, they came in perpendicular to the ground and rolled right over the crowd and kicked in the afterburners; there’s the ear splitting boom that I remember! Pure awesome. Fitting end to an amazing race.
Shoutouts to Larry (my idol, who makes me a better runner by just trying to keep up with him) and Leanne and Steve who both did great for their first time out. Hope we can all get together again for next year!