If I had to sum up my boilermaker experience with one word, it would be “wow.” It was seriously such a fun, challenging, humbling and amazing experience. I’ve never experienced a race with such great crowd support and aid stations. The directors of the Boilermaker sure know how to put on a great race! Let me start from the beginning…
I registered for the Boilermaker around the end of April. As soon as I registered I tried to reserve a hotel room. Everywhere I checked was already sold out. This did not deter me; I only live an hour and a half away so I figured I could make it work somehow. I kindly told asked my dad if he would be so nice as to drive me to the race in Utica. Being a sweet father, he agreed. However, I think he thought we were leaving around six in the morning rather than the 4:30 leavetime I had planned. He was saved when my friend Nicole told me that she and her husband (who were originally staying in Utica the night before) were going to be leaving from her mom’s house in Albany the morning of- they live in Long Island and had come to the capital district for the weekend with the plan of her mom watching their dog while they took off to Utica Saturday evening to spend the night with friends. Her mom ended up going out of town and they couldn’t leave the dog alone overnight so I now had a ride and someone to go to the race with (Nicole’s husband was running). Yippee!
I arrived at Nicole’s mom’s house on Saturday evening. This way I didn’t have to leave Saratoga at 3:45 in the morning to meet them. We left bright and early around 4:30 in the morning, relieved in the fact that their friends had picked up mine and Michael’s race packets the day before at the expo. That was seriously clutch and SO nice of them. Around 5 o’clock I fueled with half of a plain bagel and peanut butter. We arrived at their friends’ house in Utica around six in the morning and scoped out our goody bag and race numbers. There was a neat Boilermaker glass in the bag, along with clif gu packet of some sort and some other coupons. After gearing up, Michael and I took off to head to the race around 6:15, with Nicole telling us she would be around mile 5 to cheer us on.
Michael is from Long Island and I’m from Albany so we pretty much had no idea where we were going. His car had navigation and we had the address to the start line. This plan was foiled as we saw that a ton of roads were blocked off. We found a random parking lot and what looked like runners heading towards what looked like a registration table. That would have been way too easy- it was actually the 5k start we were at! Oops. We asked a guy in the parking lot where we should go and he told us to head to Route 12N. It was getting close to race time at this point and we were both nervous but the guy seemed like he knew what he was talking about. We made it to 12N and saw a bunch of cars just parked on the side of the highway. We stopped to ask some policemen where to go, and he again directed us to the 5k start. Thankfully, we said we were looking for the 15k and he said “oh, I have no idea- head towards Court street.” Hmm, okay. The clock read 7:15 A.M. at this point. We headed towards Court street and saw a HUGE line of people and school buses. Okay, now we were getting somewhere. We looked for parking and saw that there were some paid lots- but we both did not have our wallets or any money on us. FAIL. By the grace of God we went to the next unpaid lot and there was ONE parking spot available. I don’t know how we finagled this but it worked!
We headed over to the line for the shuttle bus, which was long but moving quickly. By the time we got on the bus it was 7:40. We were seriously pushing it! The bus dropped us off and it took us a few minutes to get near the start. At this point Michael and I separated as he went into the woods to take care of business and I searched out the porta potties. At this point there was seriously three minutes left to the gun. I used the porta potty and then squeezed myself into the crowd of 13,000+ runners. The gunshot sounded and we were off! Okay, not really- it took me about five minutes to cross the start line. The Governor was there waving to the runners, which I thought was nice. He ran the race two years ago and apparently was the first Governor to do so. Kudos to him!
Miles 1-3: As soon as I crossed the start line my heart rate was up, not from running but from nerves and excitement. There was seriously sooo many people and I couldn’t believe I was doing this! A year ago I couldn’t even run a half a mile without stopping and I felt so glad and happy to be at the race. The crowd was so fun and had all sorts of interesting signs- .1 down, 9.2 to go; 9 miles ‘til free beer; and You’re off to a great start were among the ones I remember. There were all sorts of people running, from girls dressed up in tutus to a guy in a white bodysuit. The first three miles flew by: there was a really tough hill at mile two that I thought was harder than the hill at mile four, but after that we ran down a residential street that was covered in glorious shade from the hills and had a ton of spectators and people handing out popsicles, freeze pops, water and ice cubes. I just remember smiling at all of the spectators pretty much the entire time; there were so many and they were so fun and supportive.
Miles 3-6: I crossed the 5k marker around 33 minutes, which is slower than normal for me but I wasn’t fazed- it was hot and the route was hilly! At mile four we started up a long, windy hill but I did great on it! It ran through a golf course and towards the top there were a bunch of golfers sitting on their golf cart drinking beers and watching everyone go along. I remember thinking only five more miles until that is me! I took a cliff shot black and grabbed water at the water stop at the top of the hill and poured it over my head, which was a bad idea since it got into my headphones. The right one stopped working and the left one was working but tinny. No matter, I thought, I’ve run without headphones lots of times. I took the right one out and headed down the hill. At this point I was really getting into a groove and maintaining my normal long run pace of about 10:15/mile. At the bottom of the hill my headphones worked again. Sweet! Shortly after this I heard someone yell “Katie!” and saw Nicole cheering me on. Yay! After that I saw a dude dressed as Santa Claus riding his bike on the sidewalk in the opposite direction. Too funny.
Miles 6-9.4- After mile six we started up a long, slow, gradual hill. The sun was beating down and my pace started to suffer but I was still in good spirits. From about mile 4 onward my hips were really tight for the rest of the race, likely due to all of the hills. I tried to catch the shade wherever I could and ran under one of the misting stations, headphones be damned. I really started struggling at one point and then I saw two gigantic American flags hanging from firetrucks. It was just what I needed at that point. I thought of Brian and how proud I am of him for serving in Afghanistan and just pushed through the hill. After the big hill I was relieved but exerted and starting to feel it. My pace stayed around the 11:30/mile mark but I didn’t care, as long as I finished and didn’t have to stop I would be proud of myself. Around mile 7.5 I saw a poor girl being attended to by medical personnel. I hope she is okay. A little after that there was a guy on stilts throwing out high fives and another misting station, which I took full advantage of. Music was blaring and the crowd was huge. My hips were killing me but I was still so happy and excited! Around mile 8.5 there was this awesome guy screaming encouragement at all of the runners- “NO PAIN, NO GAIN, you worked for this!!” and that sort of stuff. It was so fun. At mile 9 I could see the finish line so I sprinted towards the end. I forgot about my hip pain and just gunned it. I had a lot of gas left in the tank, as my garmin said I reached a pace of about 6:34/mile. Yeah, that would have been adrenaline- I only wish I was that fast! I crossed the finish line at the 1:50 mark, with my chip time reading 1:45. My goal was 1:40 but I am still very stoked. It was soo hilly and I was pleased that I didn’t have to stop at all. I crossed the finish line and all I could think was “Must. Stretch. Hips”. I met up with Michael and Nicole in front of a bar called O’Donnell’s and we set off to find beer. And water. It took a while to find water but we did and after that it was beer time. Holy crowd. It was so fun though! I had a Saranac summer ale and then half of a pomegranate wheat beer. Yum!
We listened to the winners being announced, which was nothing short of amazing. Both the male and female course records were shattered, with the male runner from Ethiopia winning it in something like 42 minutes. Insane.
After that, we headed back to the car (turns out we were parked close to the finish!) and drove home. I passed out at 7 PM after icing my hips and knees and am having a bit of trouble walking today but I feel great. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to run it again next year.