July 19, 2013

Race Report: Boilermaker 15K

I woke up on Sunday morning absolutely exhausted from not enough sleep – though this week, “not enough sleep” has meant anything under 11 hours. These drugs have been knocking me out cold every single night! But while I was sleepy, my neck/back weren’t hurting at all – so I figured I was probably okay to run.

My mom was driving, since I can’t drive while on Percocet, which meant that I could spend the whole way sleeping if I wanted to. But once I was in the car, despite yawning constantly, I was actually decently wide awake and didn’t go back to sleep. The drive wasn’t too bad – about 1.5 hours – and while I started to worry when the exit that the race directors had instructed us to take was closed, I saw tons of cars dropping runners off at the bottom of the exit ramp and then driving away. Plus, there were tons of runners doing warm up jogs on the closed exit ramp. A quick Google Maps search revealed that the start line was less than half a mile from the exit ramp, so it actually worked out really well for my mom to drop me off and then continue on to find parking at the finish. (She later remarked what a novelty it was to only have to wait 90 minutes for me to finish – she’s used to bopping around town, grabbing food, etc, but the 15K distance didn’t even allow her to find coffee! Short races were definitely new for both of us.)


At the start area, I hung out in the orange corral – which, as far as I could tell, was the last corral and meant for anyone who hadn’t submitted a time to move them up further. Once there, an older woman immediately came up to me to ask if I knew all the colors of the corrals. She told me that she was from Utica, and she couldn’t believe that she didn’t see a single person she knew! I guess the race has grown quite a bit (to 18,000 runners!) since the early days when it was a hometown race.

I had, in fact, decided to wear my Mizuno Wave Sayonaras for the race, and they felt really good on my feet. And since I always have to match my shoes to my outfit, I decided to wear some cute black Mizuno running shorts with hot pink accents, and then a purple Athleta Intention tank top. The Intention tank is marked as low support for C-D cup sizes, but I actually find it to be plenty supportive (at least, when I wear a sports bra under it, but I would never dream of wearing a tank with no separate sports bra). The shorts were a little shorter than I’d normally wear (in fact, I almost always run in skorts rather than shorts), but turned out to be super lightweight and comfortable – I’d definitely wear them again on a hot day.


It wasn’t too long before the race started, and after a short walk, we headed under a firetruck boom with an American flag hanging down – and we were off! The first mile had a lot of little ups and downs – nothing long, but the deep valleys definitely gave you a 20 seconds interval workout on the way back up! It was completely packed, and I ended up following some intrepid runners who headed to the sidewalk/grass trail on the left of the road instead of staying in the middle. I kept looking around wondering if I’d see my friend Lindsey’s family. While Lindsey lives in Virginia now, and grew up in Albany with me, her parents’ families all live in Utica, and when I first ran the Boilermaker in 2007, they accidentally got some photos of me! Check out this blast from the past.

2007-07-08 Running for beer in the Boilermaker 10K
Running in 2007 wearing my high-tech Abercrombie cotton shorts, Walmart cotton t-shirt, and Hanes Her Way cotton sports bra. Obviously experienced!

The first few miles went by pretty quickly – about an 8:10 pace – but already I could feel the humidity getting to me. I was glad it was fairly cool to start (mid 70s), but the humidity of 80% made it feel a lot hotter. It had been a cloudy day when I first arrived at the race, but literally the second the starting gun went off, the sun came out behind the clouds (gun’s out, sun’s out?) – so it was quickly heating up. I hoped I could keep up this pace despite the humidity – it would be really fun to PR (though I didn’t actually know what my PR was until I checked it after the race).

I think the expression on my face compared to everyone around me is a good visual of just how humid it was, plus how freakishly excited I was to be running 🙂

One thing that’s so wonderful about the Boilermaker is the crowds – the streets are literally lined almost the whole way with people. Every community is competing in the much-vaunted contest to be the most spirited, and while I’ve seen many races use this approach to encourage the town to come out and cheer, it seems like in Utica, it’s a huge honor to win the award – so they go all-out to try to get it. The race already offers water stations every half mile (unheard of! Though they have only water and ice, not any kind of sports drink), but the community puts out all kinds of impromptu stations as well, offering water, ice, and even popsicles. I remembered from my previous Boilermaker experiences one station in particular, Kelly’s Popsicle Stand, which actually has several incarnations along the course (Kelly’s Popsicle Stand I, Kelly’s Popsicle Stand II, etc). The Boilermaker has absolutely the best atmosphere around, and I was so excited that I got to run it this year.

But before I could get too excited, we were coming into mile 3 – which featured the bigggggg uphill. The course circles along one side of a park, but if you look across the field, you can see runners ascending up, up, and away on the other side – and I started gearing up for it. To distract myself, I looked the other way – and found some very brazen male runners peeing out in the open. I don’t mean back-to-the-race-aiming-into-the-bushes, I mean I actually saw some very private parts as people didn’t even bother to face away. Hello, boys! This kind of cracked me up 🙂

Another thing that cracked me up: before the race, Fritz’s Polka Band had been tweeting about looking for them on the course, and I was tweeting back that I couldn’t wait to see them. Well, here they were! I decided to stop for a quick pic, which also gave me some extra breath to conquer the hill.


Just beyond Fritz and the boys, I passed a radio station tent that was giving out free Hawaiian leis. I grabbed a yellow one – the last accent color in my Mizunos that I needed to complete my outfit – and proudly wore it the rest of the race. It was surprisingly lightweight and not annoying from a heat perspective, but it did have a tendency to flop around, so I spent some of the race with it choking me like a noose (not actually pulling, but definitely hanging more in the back than in the front),and some of the race with the ends tucked into my sports bra to keep it from blowing around. I didn’t mind – it definitely put me more in the party atmosphere, and I had so much fun!

Boilermaker Lei


The hill ended up being steep but not too long, and before I knew it, it was time for a screaming downhill! I tried to go as fast as I could despite the crowds (around a 6:50 pace!), but then I got rather intrigued by a very exciting (and dangerous) spectator. The local zoo had brought some of their animals out, including a huge boa constrictor, and I decided to stop and ask for a picture. He said I couldn’t hold it myself, but I still thought it was so cool to get a pic with a snake midway through a race! (Please ignore my headphone cord still going from my ears to my phone camera, and apologies to the zookeeper for cutting your face out as a result of it.)


The pic didn’t take long and I was soon at mile 5, having clocked a sub-8 minute mile even with my snake stop. Only 4 miles and change left! This race was flying by, and I was loving every second of it. Here, though, the race started getting tough. It was pretty hot, and we had been out there for almost 45 minutes already. I tried some different mental tricks to help me focus (less than a Flywheel class left! Eep, Flywheel classes are tough), and basically discovered that I probably should have thought about preparing differently mentally for this than for a marathon. I was going faster than my marathon pace (well, at least faster than my marathon pace would be in this kind of heat; my overall pace was actually slower than my marathon PR pace, but that was done in cool conditions), and the high intensity was making even four miles seem like a long way to go. And hey – weren’t those flags at the race start??

Nope, different fire trucks – apparently they are just really patriotic in Utica. Thanks, firefighters!

To boost my spirits, I employed one of my favorite mental tricks: fake it till you make it. That is, I smiled huge at every spectator like I was having the time of my life (and I was!), and feeling like I was doing well made me actually start to do well. I felt strong as I powered down the streets, and now that we were past the halfway, I was even passing some people. While I never did see Lindsey’s family (not surprising, since I haven’t met them!), I did see a girl I went to high school with, Cecelia, cheering around mile 6. If I remember correctly, Cecelia was on the cross country team in grade school, so it felt really neat for me (the non-jock who tried to avoid the gym and got a note to have my ballet classes count for phys ed) to be running. The tables had turned! Inspired, I called out her name to say hi, and she in turn cheered me on right as I got to a huge bank of other spectators cheering. Thank you, Utica!

We had only two miles to go at this point, and I was very hot and sweaty. I was really disappointed that the water stations had only water and not sports drink, because I definitely needed some calories. Stupid Laura had skipped breakfast because I was so full from the delicious goodies at the wedding reception the night before, but now I was hungry. Thank goodness for spectators – I gratefully accepted a cherry freeze pop, and while the flavor was almost sickeningly sweet, it definitely gave me a little bit of an energy boost. I got a further energy boost from the group of college students chanting, “What do we want? BEER! When do we want it? NOW!” The Boilermaker is sponsored by Saranac Beer, and finishes right at the brewery with free beer for all. Because of my medicine, I wouldn’t be drinking, but I was still pretty psyched about getting to the finish and getting a cold (non-alcoholic) drink 🙂

I sped up a lot as I came to the final mile, despite the fact that we hit an uphill just after the 8 mile mark. Boo! But I did love that one of the streets in this stretch was called “Winner Street”, and I gleefully took a picture of that too. I didn’t know if I was actually going to PR, but I certainly felt like a winner for making it this far so fast and feeling so good!


At last, I was on the home stretch – and I was thrilled to find that it was all downhill. I had texted my mom a few miles back to let her know my estimated finish time, because I knew the race would still be crazy packed even then – not like a full marathon where it’s all spread out! Meanwhile, the crowds in the final 0.3 were at least five deep, so I didn’t have any hope that she’d have fought her way through and actually see me – but then I heard her calling my name from the right side! I was so thrilled that I got to see her, and it was just the pick-me-up I needed to gun it into the finish, passing a few more runners as I did so. I did it!

Thank you to the kind volunteer who got this awesome shot of me a few seconds after crossing the finish line!

After making my way to the finish chute, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to catch up with my mom (hooray for cell phones!), and I found a very special surprise waiting for me at the brewery. While I couldn’t drink the beer, the ChoTruck was there with all kinds of delicious Chobani yogurts! My favorite regular flavor is pear, and I was very lucky that they had plenty of that – plus, they also had the Key Lime Flips and the Pineapple Caramel Bites. Yum yum yum! I also found out that I had PRed by about 20 seconds from the last time I had run this – so that was extra reason to celebrate 🙂


Race stats:
Distance: 9.3 miles
Time: 1:22:01
Pace: 8:48
Overall place: 2791/11370
Age group place: 155/994



12 thoughts on “Race Report: Boilermaker 15K”

  1. I’m so glad that you were able to run! I can’t believe I forgot to tell you where to find my family – those who aren’t running are always, ALWAYS in the same spot – in my uncle’s yard, right at the 0.2 mark. Usually someone is there with a really obnoxious sign that says “only 9 miles to go!” but I am not related to that a-hole. That spot is also where the picture of you from 2007 was taken.

    One quick note: the “park” you go around after you turn off the Parkway up Valley View Road is actually a golf course. My least favorite part of the race is making that turn up the steep hill. It’s only a quarter of a mile, but it gets very crowded at that bottleneck and it messes with my head every single year when I turn my gaze to the right and see all the people ahead of me at the top of the hill. My favorite part of the race, however, is the part where you get to the top of that hill! I love when the tree line opens up and you can see the city below.

    I hope you’ll go back next year! I’m definitely planning to run again – I missed it so much this year! In the more immediate future, do you have any plans to come down for the Richmond half/full marathon in November? As soon as the heat breaks, I’m about to start training for the half. I’d love to host you again this year if you decide to make the trip.

    1. I remember that bottleneck from past years, but for whatever reason, it didn’t seem terrible this year. I am so excited to run it with you next year!!! And will definitely keep you posted on Richmond – I’m trying to slowly figure out my fall marathon schedule as my neck heals, but I’m really focused on early fall right now, since I’ll be doing my 100th marathon by end of October / early November and am building up to that 🙂

  2. Congrats on an awesome race, I have never heard anything but wonderful things about Boilermaker! I love how happy you look in your pictures, ALWAYS. 🙂

    As for the blast from the past, I think we ALL have old race photos from when we were “newbies” that show some serious clothing problems lOL

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