Utica Boilermaker 15k – July 9th, 2011

My time?  2:01: 53 – I was hoping to hit it right at 2 hours, but I am thrilled with this.  Why? I was so nervous leading up to this race, my long runs (more than an hour) haven’t been as consistent since the Mountain Goat, leading up to the Boilermaker.  I realize, that I am no speed demon, but I was seriously worried that I would be leaving this race as a DNF.  Looking back on it, there was no reason I shouldn’t finish, so long as I took it easy and walked when I needed too.

I drove over to Rome, NY and met up with my close friend Betsy. A few of our college friends were also doing the Boilermaker (we had a great pre race dinner the night before.  Betsy – you put out a great spread!).  We made sure to hit a local McDonalds for a potty stop before arriving – apparently, this gem of a potty stop is no longer a secret – that or all its patrons normally dress in running gear.

Thankfully, I had a friend, who had similar concerns as I did. Both of us, are dealing with injuries and physical issues, that make being speedy, impossible.  Both of us rode to the event separately and after some frantic searching, managed to find each other as we queued in line for the port-0-pots  not too long before the race started) .  I won’t even go into that, suffice to say the port-0-pots were NASTY.  We barely finished our business, when we were called to get into our respective start positions.

We were supposed to all line up in groups, in a long row,  according to our estimated time.  However, there were so many participants this year, we were forced to overflow into a side street.  Nerves competed with excitement, but having done The Mountain Goat,  I wasn’t feeling as nervous as I did at that event (no intestinal emergencies either, thankfully).  I think my friend Kristine was more nervous than I was.

Finally, the gun start sounded and we were off.  Then we stopped.  Then we started again.  And stopped. And finally started and kept going.  It took us just over 11 minutes to cross the timing mat at the official start point.  Passing under this enormous American flag, as blood pumping music played and spectators cheered, was hands down the most amazing race start I’ve yet experienced.  I couldn’t stop smiling!

It was mind-boggling, seeing all the runners that were ahead of us.  Almost as much, were how many were still behind us.  Kristine and I had to laugh at all the runners who didn’t make the port-0-pots and were dashing off into the first available wood line to answer nature’s call.  Gross, but still pretty funny.  We both commented what an awesome shot that would have been if we could have taken a picture.  The “other” side to the Boilermaker, LOL!!

We were told, by Boilermaker veterans, that it’s the spectators and volunteers that make this run so special.  They weren’t lying.  There were people from a variety of cultures lining the route – one group that stood out (my favorite memory of the run by far), were  group of immigrant women from Africa.  A few of them bore terrible scars of violence on their faces, but they were beautiful in their joy as they cheered us on.  Oh how I wish I had my phone to take a pictures along the route!

We also were treated to live music and handmade signs from the motivational to the downright funny.  We made sure to applaud all the military service people who were lining the route and shouting out our thanks and appreciation. I told Kristine, to be on the lookout for the popsicles.  My husband, who has run 5 Boilermakers, clued me in on this and I had my eye out…especially for a red one (my favorite).  Just about the three-mile mark, we spotted them.  I remember to saying to Kristine, “I hope I get a red one!” and I did!  It still wasn’t as hot as it was toward the end of the run, but it was  pretty warm – my popsicle was melting as fast as I could eat it.  Never has a popsicle tasted so good!

The hardest part of the race, was right around the halfway point.  There, we started up a gradual hill that switched backed along the golf course.  It was starting to get pretty hot then and I made sure to take a couple of electrolyte Shot Bloks.  I also made sure to hit almost every water station and always took two cups – one to drink and one to pour down the back of my neck (I was dripping by the end, as my other friend Kristen can attest).

Around the 7 mile mark and with a lot of assurances I was ok, I had my friend Kristine go on ahead.  She felt that she could finish under two hours and I really wanted her to realize that last-minute goal and I’m proud to say she did! I wasn’t too far behind her, those last three miles.  I was hoping to finish in two hours and I nearly made it, just one minute over.  Still, very happy with that!

I was getting pretty warm out by then and I was definitely looking forward to the finish line.  My knees were tired and I was fighting to keep my right foot from dragging as I ran (tendonitis issues in my right knee).  One man, sitting in the shade, in the last mile and a half shouted his encouragement “Honey, you’re almost done! You’re in the home stretch!!” I hollered back “This is a cakewalk! I’m on my second loop!”  No matter how tired I feel, being able to take a moment to have fun and be a little silly is so important to me.  It’s really worth it, taking that time to enjoy all aspects of a race.

Once I saw that finish line, I began to sprint.  As slow as I am as a runner, there is something very satisfying about running as hard as I can across the finish line.  I got my much appreciated bottle of cold water and my finisher’s pin, which I immediately attached to my race shirt.  Then I started looking for my friend Kristine.  It took a few minutes, but she found me – the first thing she did was give me a big hug and ask how I was feeling.

We made our way to the after party and got in this huge ass line for our free Saranac beer.  We got two beers each and walked over to meet up with friends a few yards away.  I set my beers down and texted my husband I had finished (he was away at his Army National Guard drill weekend – HOOAH!), then I proceeded to knock one of my two un-drunk beers over…dammit.   A tip – skip the main line and head over towards the massage tent/family reunion area.  There’s another beer tent there and its a lot shorter.  Kristine saved the day and came back with a fresh beer for me.  I stuck to my two beer limit – and I can tell you, never has a beer tasted so good!  I made sure to drink a lot of water after the race and nibble my way through my post race meal.  Some people get really stupid at the Boilermaker, I was not about to be one of them.

High on post-Boilermaker accomplishment, my friend Kristine turned to me at some point before I had to head home and  said “Lets do the Turning Stone Half Marathon at the end of August!”  I immediately agreed…did we do it?  What do you think!!!  Stay tuned!

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