Boilermaker 2006, Let the Good Times Roll

After a fairly restless night, its finally Boilermaker morning. I set my alarm for 4:45, but snapped wide awake at 4:30. Oh well, a few more minutes to make sure I don’t do something stupid like leave my number or chip behind. A quick run through the shower, then its load up time. I was out the door about 5:15, heading to the Thruway exist to hook up with Larry.

Soon after I’m the road, the cell rings and its Larry. He says he’s running a little behind and says he’ll give me a ring as he approaches the exit where I’m getting on. I suggest we just try to meet up on the road, since there was no real reason for him to stop. He agreed. So a few minutes later he calls back and I gun it to try to catch him. Surprisingly it took about 10 miles for me catch up with him doing 60 and me doing 80. Ha!

Another 40 minutes later and we’re in Utica. There’s a bunch of other runners waiting to meet up with folks at the Thruway exit. It also nice to see the parking lots of all the hotels in North Utica jammed. Funny that the sign at the Motel 6 that normally says “$49.99 Double” now says “$81.99 Single.” Guess those hotels gotta make their money some time…

We parked in the same lot (State Street, just north of Columbia Street) where we’ve had good luck in the past. I’m not sure if we were significantly earlier than we’ve been in past years, but there seemed be a lot more available spaces in the area than in previous years. Time to gear up. I switched to my race shoes, put on the timer chip, and pinned on my number. A few last minute checks to make sure I’m ready and its off to the starting line bus.

Ok, now I’m pretty sure we’re a lot earlier than last year; there’s almost no lines for the porta potties and people haven’t started using the green room alternatives yet. Its about 6:55 and things are just starting to ramp up as bus load after busload begin to pour in. Soon enough, its a sea of people scurrying between the packet pickup, water tables, and potty options. We’re keeping an eye out for perennial boilermaker standouts and some Syracuse running friends. I was watching for a running friend from the Y but wasn’t optimisitic in a potential crowd of 11,000. Eagle eyed Larry spotted and I was able to track him down for a quick hello and good luck (it was his first Boilermaker!)

About 7:30, we start the walk over to the starting corrals. Most of the crowd is heading in that direction, so there’s no need to fight your way through. Its setup kinda the same as last year with colored corrals by time. When we first got to our area it looked a little sparse compared to previous years. But as the race time drew near, it filled up to normal capacity.

Right on schedule, 7:45, the wheel chair racers are off and running. Then its time for the elite runners to make their way to the starting line from their special corral (la dee da) with the familiar Call to the Races trumpet trill. Then crowd noise abates completely during a live rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on trumpet. I’m not sure if it was the same musician as in previous years, but it seemed especially well done this year. A quick invocation by a local priest and a few words from the Utica mayor (who’s a runner!) and BOOM! Its time to go!

Tried something new this year. I didn’t try to run at all before the starting line. A few times I broke into a fast walk, but its the same ole, go stop, go stop, go stop. This year it was a fairly bearable 8 minutes to make it to the line. And now the race really begins.

The mile by mile analysis:

  • Mile 1
    Split: 8:54

    I’m pretty excited to try to gun it out of the gate instead of really holding back as I have in previous years. I figure that I should be able to get by a lot of folks and settle into my comfort pace. Unfortunately, traffic isn’t letting that happen. Congestion of slow folks frustrates me enough to jump on the grass a few times to get around them.

    I’m quickly reminded why the Boilermaker is such a great race. The crowd! They’re truly just as exicited as the runners! Shouts of encouragement, banging on pots and pans, cow bells! The energy is awesome.

    Near the end of the first mile begins the on course entertainment. A couple of back to back radio stations blaring some good time rock and roll. I clicked the split button on watch and was a little depressed by the slow time, but was optimistic I’d make it up.

  • Mile 2
    Split: 8:49

    The leprechaun guy was back to welcome mile 2, doling out his Irish luck. New to the race this year is the International Mile, where they have regional bands from around the world. The African band had awesome energy. I also enjoyed what I think was a middle eastern band. I think there was also a Polish troup of some sort, but they were between songs when I made my way buy, so it was little hard to tell.

    Man, its hot. The sweat is really pouring off me at this point. I think its directly related to the fact that the crowd is still pretty bunched up at this point, and its hard to catch any breeze. I’m still passing a lot of people and getting closer to my comfort pace; but, still a lot of speeding up and slowing down.

    Hmm, the mile 2 split is a little longer than it felt.

  • Mile 3
    Split: 8:30

    Some nice shade welcomes the start of mile 3. Its very welcome after the long open stretch by MVCC. Ah, some live rock and roll. That’s what I’m talking about.

    Soon enough, the shade is gone and the climb begins. At first its just a bit, then we turn on to Valley View Road. The perennial live band hear is always kicking out some good tunes. Nice way to start the hilly section.

    Caught up a wheel chair racer. Surprisingly he was going up the hill backwards. I don’t know if he was doing the whole race backward (people do some crazy stuff at the Boilermaker), or if for some reason it was easier to go backward on the steeper inclines. Regardless all the runners going by were making sure he was OK and asking him if he needed a hand.

  • Mile 4
    Split: 9:08

    After the turn into the golf course, there’s a water stop with tables
    on both sides of the road. Unfortunately, I can never seem to find a
    good line through this section. I carry my own water (to save a few
    seconds and because its too hard for me to get enough water trying to
    drink from the little cups while moving), so I try to stick near the
    middle to avoid folks slowing/stopping to drink. Even on that line,
    there are still people slowing down to get a cup or slowing down while
    they’re drinking that end up being in my way. Outta my way people, I’m running a race here. At least I didn’t catch any flying half full cups, like I did last year.

    My other pet peeve are the folks who are running along just fine, then
    decide they wanna start walking and just stop out of the blue,
    regardless of who’s around them. I’m so scared I’m gonna flatten
    somebody who does that right in front of me. Please, if you’re one of these people, try to move as
    far to the side before hitting the brakes! The other runners will
    really appreciate it.

    The hill crests soon enough. Unfortunately due to traffic issues, its a pretty crappy split at 9:08. Hmm, breaking 80 minutes seems less and less likely now.

  • Mile 5
    Split: 7:43

    Ah, the big downhill. I try to gun it as much as possible to make up for time lost up to now. I’m moving pretty good, but a few folks are still sailing by. Oh well, I’m running my own race. My body revolts from the speed by cramping a bit. It only lasts a few moments, so I keep on trucking.

    I’m feeling a little better when I see the decent split. Maybe 80 minutes even might happen…

  • Mile 6
    Split: 8:23

    On to my old stomping grounds. This mile parallels the street I grew up on and where my Mom and brothers still live. I move myself over to the right side of the road, slow up just a teency bit and start scanning the crowd for my Mom. A big smile and high five help get me back in high gear to finish out the mile strong.

    As the mile draws to a close the course winds down a little side street. I think to myself how cool it would be live on this street and be able to sit on your front porch and watch the whole race.

    I’m happy to the decent split time and think that things are getting back on track.

  • Mile 7
    Split: 8:42

    Heart break hill. Maybe for other folks. This is where things thin out nicely and I get to work. Even though the crowd thins out for a bit and there’s no shade, I try to kick it up a notch while the chips are down for some of the other racers. Every year I’m surprised at how long the climb is. Its not really steep, just kinda drawn out.

    Split time feels good, so I try to get ready for the upcoming downhill. Hmm, the official race time clock says 1:07 and I’ve got about 2.3 miles go. Guess that 80 minute dream gone. Wait a sec, that’s 1:07 gun time, not chip time. So, its really only 69 minutes. Sweet.

  • Mile 8
    Split: 8:03

    This mile begins with a radio DJ reving up both the crowd and the runners by having everyone get their hands in the air. I feel pretty good, because he doesn’t sound like he’s done the same routine for hours before I got there. I think I heard something for the Village People starting up as I was leaving earshot.

    I gun it again on the downhill hoping to make up more time. Wait a sec, something is missing… No polka? Man, that hurts. In previous years there have been live polka bands or a least a live remote from a radio station that plays polka. Man, what’s this world coming too? I don’t wanna live in a world without polka. Especially on Boilermaker morning.

    The consolation prize was band of young guys playing some Beatles. I forget which song it was specifically (geez, I gotta do these write ups day of, memory is shot), but I was impressed they were playing it more in the style of Beatallica (worth a quick visit if you haven’t heard them before) than the real Beatles.

    Energized by the downhill and knowledge 80 minute goal is still possible, I click the split in and grin.

  • Mile 9
    Split: 8:07

    Man, mile 9 already. I’m just getting started. The crowd at the turn onto Whitesboro Street is a lot bigger this year. Some good time rock and roll is blaring off a flat bead trailer. I’m feeling pretty good. Feet are a little sore (should probably replace these shoes, they’re on Boilermaker #2 and countless road miles).

    There’s a crunchy metal looking band just wrapping up a song as they come into view. Come on guys, start up something that’ll bring me home. Just as get in front their PA rack, out rumbles Rob Zombies’ Thunderkiss ’65. I knew it was gonna be good when other runners near me started to cover their ears. As Jesse James’ once said, “It was so loud, it makes your brain itch.” That’s just what I needed.

    Some folks are fading a bit. Some are finding that second, or third, or forth wind. Geez, there’s someone down in the road. The paramedics are already there; she looks like she wants to get up but the paramedics don’t think that’s a good idea. I’ll thank my lucky stars once again that its not me on the pavement. Its really gotta hurt to have a problem that far into the race.

  • The Final .3
    Split: 2:17

    The crowd on both sides of the street begins to thicken again as the I chug into the final 3 tenths. The crowd noise is beginning to ramp up too. Almost there; a short downhill then the final stretch.

    Somehow, I timed it so there was a bunch of slower moving racers in the last 100 yards. So I was able to blow past ’em right before the line and make it look like I was a a real runner. I happily clicked the stop button my watch.

I’ll save you the suspense of adding up the split times yourself, the total race time was 78:40! Awesome! Even with the shaky start, I was still able to break my goal of 80 minutes. Hopefully, with more training and a little luck, I’ll be able to break 70 minutes next year.

After returning my chip, catching my breath, and getting a quick sip of cold water, I doubled back to the finish line to try to hook up with Larry again. Fortunately, I found a spot right in front of the brewery in the shade where I could comfortably scan the finishers. A few minutes later, he clocked in and we were off to the party.

The party was jammed as usual. Unfortunately, its about the worst place to be right after running 15k. Lots of body heat, no breeze, and little to no shade. But, nobody seems to care, especially with the free beer. We grabbed the our runners’ lunch (a banana, a turkey sammich, and bag of chips) and found a tiny patch of shade to recover in. I was pretty happy to not be in the mile long goodie bag line this year; heading out early for the expo worked well. Probably do that again next year.

After sampling some of the other food treats, we made our way back in front of the main stage where they were giving out the mens’ awards. All of the top 10 were African, but there were a few more non-Kenyans this year. Then on to my favorite part, the Star Spangled Banner again. This year, the singer was male and very good. As the final stanzas were belted out the fireworks started and the F-14s did their flyby. They didn’t seem to be as low (or loud) this year; I’m wondering if they stayed a little higher due to complaints from previous years. We didn’t think much about being significantly closer to the stage than we had been in previous years, but this time we were close enough to be showered with paper and ash from the fireworks.

Looking back on the run itself, I think I might have lost a little bit of the spirit of the race. For most it, I was kinda hell bent on running and blowing off everything else. As much as you might think the Boilermaker is about running, its just as much about the people; both the runners, the awesome Boilermaker organizers, and the 6,000 volunteers. To that end, I’d like to thank everyone involved to putting together another awesome race.

I can hardly wait for next year. Its gonna be off the hook! Its gonna mark 5 years of racing for me and 30 years of the Boilermaker. I’ll be signing up soon ($5 off if you register before 7/14/2006) My brother also said they’re suspending the sign up limit. Though it will take some serious planning by the Boilermaker officials, it will be amazing to see the race with even more runners!

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