Completing the Boilermaker 15k was a process and February of this year marked the beginning of the process for me. Prior to then I had not run more than 50 miles total over the last 8 years. It was an unseasonably warm Tuesday for February in North Carolina. I woke up, still depressed from recent events, and decided to go out and run. I did just that. I completed just over 3 miles in a walk/run fashion, it made me feel good. So good that when I woke up the next day I wanted to do it again. And I did.
Approximately 2 weeks later I had clocked in 30 total miles. Even though my times were well over 12 minutes per mile I did not care. My body was starting to feel better, energy levels were high and I had found something that allowed me to clear my head. I started thinking about having a goal to work towards. Remembering the Boilermaker from growing up it seemed to be the perfect first race, not only would I have the support of my family when I went home, it was an iconic race for central New York with over 13,000 participants.
I signed up and guesstimated that I would complete the race in approximately 1 hour 40 minutes. Fast forward 18 more weeks (20 weeks of total training) and I had spent more than 65 hours on the road training, completed 430 miles averaging 22 miles per week, burned 60,000 calories, and brought my overall average pace down to 9:18 a mile. I was ready. Two weeks prior to race day I completed a similar run in terms of elevation and just over the 9.3 miles required for the Boilermaker. I finished in 1:14:08, a far cry from the 1:40:00 I registered for the race at, but I was ready.
The morning of the race I woke up early, somewhere around 4 AM and after a hearty breakfast I arrived at the starting line just after 6 AM. Having two hours to kill before the start mentally challenged me and my need to relieve myself. Soon after the start of the race it would become a learning lesson for me in terms of my next competition. As I listened to the announcer explain the color bibs and where to line up, I quickly realized my gold/general colored bib was going to make the race that much more difficult for me. I lined up with at least 4000 people in front of me, most planning to run a slower pace than I was capable of. Even with the chip timer, I knew I was in trouble.
8 AM hit and the gun went off, people were overjoyed with excitement and ready to begin the race. I was nervous but ready to make my way to the finish. Approximately 4 minutes later I crossed the starting line and my chip timer began. For the first 1/2 mile everything was a blur, between the crowds lined up along the street to running underneath the enormous American flags draped from the Utica firetrucks. My Nike+ app announced I had hit the half mile mark and stated I was moving at a 9:10 pace, I realized immediately that even though I was moving faster than the people around me, I was disoriented to how fast I was actually going. I continued on and weaved my way through the crowds and as I approached the hairpin left turn to enter the golf course/zoo I knew we were headed into the toughest portion of the course, miles 2.5 – 4. At this point I had caught up with the majority of the blue bibs and some teal colored bibs, I knew I was getting close to the group that would offer the best pace for me throughout the rest of the course. I fought off some tough shin splints throughout the 300 feet of elevation we climbed in the zoo and pressed on. I knew I had lost some time at this point and was running a 9:15 pace, but I was okay with that as I had planned for the back four miles to begin my push.
Mile 5 hit and we continued down Memorial Parkway approaching Genesee Street, I began to up my pace and moved down towards 8:30 a mile. I was now starting to feel awful, my body needed a restroom bad, but being stubborn I kept going. Mile 6 hit and I tried to turn it up again, I gained a slight bit of pace dropping to a low 8 minute mile, a far cry from what I had trained for. The course temperature was starting to increase and I knew in front of Utica College on Burrstone Road that there was no way to hide from the sun. I began the downhill just past mile 7 and my energy level was gone. My paced slowed and for the first time in the race I began to maintain my position and no longer gain ground. I saw the clock and it showed the race time to be 67 minutes, I knew my chances of a personal record were gone. The only thing on my mind was to finish.
I pressed on and survived through the last 2+ miles. Crossing the finish line was a feeling of pure bliss. I had completed my first Boilermaker at 1:23:07 with a pace of 8:55 minutes per mile. Respectable but not exactly what I had hoped for. Everyone has said it is not about time but about finishing. Now I have work to do for next year.
A couple of the things I learned:
- Save my legs and don’t climb Mount Marcy 2 days before
- Run more in the mornings and rehearse how the morning of the race should go (what I eat, bathroom, etc)
- Register for the race with a more appropriate time
- Train more
Going forward from here I am starting marathon training, but I can’t wait to complete next years Boilermaker and hopefully obtain my goals.