Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boilermaker 2012 and Gunga Din

Veni, vedi, veci...  I came to Utica, I saw Utica, and I conquered Utica, I think.

The Boilermaker is over.  I finished the race among the thousands who finished.  However, Dr. Barry finally beat me.  He ran the course a minute and a half faster than I. 

This morning was a tough run for all runners because of the high level of humidity which I believed to be the worst among the 4 Boilermakers I have run.  I was sweating like a hot hog waiting for the boss to add water to my sty.  The overcast had to have a hand in keeping the humidity level up while the sun burned through the clouds by the time I made it through Valley View Golf Course.  Then the sun did its usual job...

This was also the largest crowd of runners I remember battling with runners all the way to Burrstone Road.  The herky-jerky, stop and go running hurts. Being injured, as usual, before the race even started.  I completed my last long run the week prior to the Boilermaker, and followed that run up by extreme muscle tension in my neck which forced me out of work for two days and still offers me moments of striking pain.  I was quite concerned that I may not be in shape to run.  Thank God for 800 Motrin and Skelaxin.  These pills got me through the week and became a pre-race cocktail the morning of the Boilermaker.

Now with all that being said, I love the Boilermaker, its the best.  Large crowds of spectators, thousands of runners, and hundreds of (annoying) walkers, who wouldn't love this race.  Its is better and more fun than the San Diego RnR Marathon and the Disney Marathon.  Its better than the Mountain Goat (sorry Syracuse, Utica has the best runs).  The Boilermaker also has the best post race party, beer, and snack selection.  The volunteers are fantastic.  Without them there is no way the Boilermaker could ever be a success story.  However, there are problems.  I have to mention three that truly annoy me, and  hope the Boilermaker organizers can make a few improvements.

The first problem is the number of runners.  Although I consider the large number of runners as a strength, there must be a limit; otherwise, its a drawback to a fine race.  Each year I have run this fabulous race, the number of runners always increase year over year.  I registered early to make sure I got in, but it didn't matter.   The pool of runners expanded by a thousand, give or take a couple 100.  That means there either will be too much congestion at the start, at the Valley View Golf Course, and/or too many runners for the water stops that line both sides of the running route.  Too many runners can ruin the most popular 15K in the nation.  Please reduce the cutoff!  Ten thousand runners plus a couple hundred "elites" are perfect.

The second problem are the number of water stops.  Yup, its hot, and runners need water, ice, and electrolyte refreshments, but is it necessary to have a water stop every mile, on both sides of the road, and in the most narrow parts of the course?  No way!  Its insane.  I collided with a runner who decided to stop after getting water and turned around for to fetch a second cup.  That's simply ridiculous.  I cursed and glared at the guy who ruined a comfortable stride. Too many water stops tcan truly be painful.  The stop and go pace increased the pain in my left leg which has lingered since Disney 2010. Moreover, the inconsistent pace caused my right side to flare up. 

Disney, funny that marathon comes to mind for causing some everlasting injuries, was another race that had horrible water stop placements which caused similar congestion throughout the course. What made Disney 2010 worse was the cold.  Temperatures didn't rise above twenty-five degrees.  Water stops were not only congested, but were covered in black ice creating slippery, leg breaking possibilities.   The Boilermaker did not have black ice.  No, it had too many cups on the road causing many runners to slip as if they were running on ice.  So, too many water stops, in summary, create unnecessary congestion and leg breaking waste hazards.

The third problem, and most annoying to me, occurs at the finish line-- zero water, only lapel pins.  If you're not a runner, imagine running nine point three miles in high humidity, and ninety degree heat hoping to finish the run with a smile while  gulping down an icy cold bottle of water (Powerade would be better), but instead your pushed along by the unfriendly words of "Keep Moving" (reminiscent of the Japanese Death March) and handed a pin. No refreshment awaits you until you complete the trek to Varrick Street.  You would think that Gunga Din would be standing at the finish line pouring cold water into your parched mouth rather than a volunteer handing you a pin and telling you to "keep moving."  The pin can wait.  That's truly annoying.  No other race makes runners wait so long to get water.  None!  Most of the races a sports drink like Powerade, or at least give you a bottle of cold water.  Not the Boilermaker.  Its water only.  But first take the pin then go crawl and find the water.

In the words of the great philosopher Forest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

My after race ritual was the same as usual:  a beer at the post race party followed by a quick bite at McDonald's.  However, my wife asked me to take her to an Italian Bakery too.  I directed her to drive up Bleeker St to pick up a variety of cookies for the ride home from Florentine's.  Wow, what a bakery.  The cookies "are real and they are spectacular."  Florentine's is well worth the stop.  It shall be our new post Boilermaker tradition.

Until next year,  I'll see you on the road.
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