The four of you who read this blog may remember that last year I ended my streak of running the Utica Boilermaker 15K in under an hour by logging a 1:01:24. This marked the first time in 17 years that I hadn’t gone under 60 minutes, but was not unexpected given my lack of training in the nine months leading up to the race.
This year, I have actually been able to train fairly well, although still not at the level I used to ten years ago. But April was my highest mileage month in years, and then I leveled out for a while, consistently running 30-40mpw. Two tune-up races (Apple Blossom 5K in 18:53 and Lilac 10K in 39:11) showed that while I’m still not in tip-top shape, I was rounding into decent fitness.
I felt like I was probably in 58-minute shape, based on those races and a few workouts. We went on vacation in Maine the week before Boilermaker, which was fun but definitely not relaxing, but I still calculated that I could break 60 minutes barring disaster.
Race day was overcast and muggy. As usual, I spent the time before the start jogging around and seeing how many old friends I found. I was hoping to run with Ryan Sullivan, who was also shooting for his first official sub-60, but I couldn’t find him in the corrals. AJ Hameline, who started next to me, quickly shot out of sight, so I spent the first few miles in the crowd, trying to focus on keeping a steady effort and not getting out too fast. Luckily, Ryan Fisher, who I had first met at the Apple Blossom 5K, found me and ran with me for a few miles.
The hill into the golf course didn’t seem too terrible this year; thanks to my slowly developing fitness and the cloud cover. I was pleased to see that I was once again able to clock a sub-6:00 mile down the hill for mile five, and somehow also logged a 5:59 for the sixth mile as well!
Those of you who have done this race know that the hill from mile 6 to 7 is the worst. You’re tired and hurting by this point, there is no relief from the sun, and the climb seems interminable. I could feel myself slowing down here, but also found myself running next to a woman who was running a similar pace. We pushed the climb together, and I exhorted her to stay with me on the downhill. Once the road leveled out, though, my legs threw in the towel. I gave them everything I had, but could only muster 6:30 pace for the last stretch. People were passing me left and right, and I had nothing left in the tank. Last year, however, I could barely run 7:00 pace, so running 30 seconds faster while completely spent was a nice feeling.
Then, with about 300m remaining, a guy passed me and yelled something about sprinting. I momentarily grappled with the decision of whether I wanted to kick or not, then said screw it and shifted into high gear. Finding some reserves I didn’t even know I had, I managed to actually kick and flew by him shortly before the finish line, noting that the clock still had a 59 for the first two digits.
To be honest, I was a little surprised, because I thought that I would have been faster, given how hard I was racing. But my fitness isn’t quite back to where it was before, and while the clouds helped, the humidity was challenging. And besides, how can I complain about a 59 when last year I couldn’t even break 61 minutes? I was happy to restart my streak, no matter what.
After the race, I did my usual routine of hanging out with old and new friends and wishing that drinking beer after a race didn’t make me feel awful (I did have one small beer, though, which was fine). Now I just need to recover so I can start training for the Atlantic City marathon in October!