Threats of lightning and hail couldn’t keep me and 17,000 runners down this Sunday as I ran the 37th annual Utica Boilermaker 15K race. It was my second time running, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the experience. Maybe I’m just still reeling from my runner’s high, but I think it might go up there as my favorite race to date!
If you’ve never heard of The Boilermaker, let me give you a little history, taken from the race’s site. Even though I told my husband that it must be named the Boilermaker because it is in July and you get really hot, a man named Earle Reed whose family owned a company named Utica Boilers started the race in 1978. At that time, just over 800 runners participated. When compared to the over 17,000 that run it today, you can see that this race has become a Central New York phenomenon!
We picked up my race packet at the expo on our way into town on Friday. It was an easy 10 minutes from the NYS Thruway exit and exactly en route to my in-laws, so I was feeling good as I strolled into the gymnasium. The woman helping me asked if I was really 31 which might have been some identity verification thing, but I took it as a compliment.
Saturday I skipped my three miles since they were marked as optional on my training plan and I knew I would be running much harder than my usual slow Sunday pace the next day. Plus, I had been overwhelmed while packing the day before and didn’t want to worry about forgetting something integral (like my socks, which I forgot for my half marathon in April. Doh!)
While sipping a cold beverage on my in-laws’ deck, I checked my phone only to find news bulletins about the race threatening cancelation due to thunderstorms in the area right at the time of the race! No! How terrible would that be?! Race officials promised to send word by 5 am whether the race was on or not. Of course, I had terrible nightmares all night and even woke up at 3 am thinking that I’d already heard the bad news.
I shot straight up at 5 am and was very relieved to find that the race was on. Everything was going on as planned, but the post-race party would be cut short. I wasn’t too bummed since I had to meet my family and then head home. I gathered all my running goodies (hat, Nuun, Gu + Clif Bloks+ Stinger Waffle [wasn’t sure which I’d use], fuel belt, socks, running skirt, and singlet) and headed downstairs. My sneakers and my race number were in a bag waiting for me on the kitchen counter.
Right away, I downed an entire 32 ounce water bottle with one Nuun tablet. This race was hot and the last time I ran it, I was dying! Plus, I need to drink a good one to two hours before race time to ensure I won’t have to pee the entire way. I decided to eat a bowl of cereal at that time and bring a banana with me. I also had a cup of coffee because I can’t function normally without it.
My husband dropped me off at the starting line and I pinned my number on as I walked to my corral. Once I scouted that out, I waited in a LONG line for the port-a-potties. I was slated for 12 miles that day so I had hoped to have enough time to run at least one extra mile before gun time. I was, in fact, able to squeak in a mile and head back over to the corral while eating my banana. I had about two minutes in which I tied and retied my shoes. At least I wasn’t waiting forever because I always psych myself out.
When the crowd started pushing forward it was already 2 minutes after gun time (ah, the joys of being a slower runner). I never even saw the elite runners (which even included Olympians– cool!). My goals for this race were to test out a faster pace, get my fueling under control, and not have to stop to pee like I did back in 2009 (thanks to my crazy amount of water consumed). I did not have any specific time goal, except to beat my last time which was 1:36 so I didn’t think I’d have a problem there.
After about a mile and a half, the crowd started to thin out. My goal was to stay as close to 9:00/mi as I could and try to push it when possible. The reality of running a race in July is that it’s hot and humid and there’s little you can do except drink and run under every hose possible.
For this race, I really wanted to get more serious about fueling. I have a tendency to drink and eat too much since I’m nervous about not getting enough. Then I end up with a bloated tummy. I also decided that with it being so hot, I really needed to bring a Nuun tablet with me. My friend said that during her marathon she just would bite off a piece and swish it in her mouth. I decided to try that and shoved one in a plastic baggy. At the first water station, I bit off a piece and drank. It didn’t make me want to vomit! Score!
I continued on switching Nuun-swish and plain water all the way up and down the BIG hill. I was feeling great, passing people left and right especially as I came flying down into mile 6. Since it had been ~45 minutes, (my usual time for eating if going long) I took three Clif Bloks. I probably should have just done two but I had three left in the package and I didn’t want the extra floating around in my fuel belt. I did feel full, but it went away after one more mile.
Thankfully, my family was waiting around mile 7, cheering me on. My husband said that my son had been saying that he wanted to run in the race, too. Unbeknownst to me, he was yelling after me, “Mom can I run, too? Moooooommmmm!” He’s a funny kid and I love that I’m showing him that running and fitness is super cool.
As I made my way toward the finish line, I had a huge smile on my face. There were bands and dancers and fans with bells all along the route, and especially from miles 7-9.3. I loved the participation and I think the fact that it wasn’t too sunny helped keep people along the sidelines. I crossed in 1:25:09, which was not breaking any current records for me, but it was an improvement of over 11 minutes since the last time I ran! Who says you have to get slower when you become a mom? Not me!
The post-race party was much less crowded than the last time I ran with friends. I remember that being absolutely insane, but this was pretty chill. I grabbed a chocolate milk, a sno-cone, and a Saranac beer and relaxed for a bit. I also saw a friend from school which was a lovely surprise. After I guzzled all that goodness, I ran the two miles back to my husband, telling all the people who wondered why I was going the opposite direction that I was not crazy or lost. In fact, I thought, I was a pretty bad*ss runner now!