Boilermaker Observations

The 31st Utica Boilermaker 15 road race went off this morning, almost without a hitch. Rain arrived about an hour before the 8 AM start but cleared out before the wheelchairs took off at 7:45. The streets were left wet and the air humid. Combined with a low 70's start temp, these were not ideal conditions for fast times. The major hitch for the average runner was that the start mat failed about 10 minutes before the start, and consequently no chip times are available, only gun times.

Complete race results may be found here.

(more below the fold)

I was side-lined with an injury this year so I made my way around the course on my bike to cheer on my wife and friends. A particularly good spot turned out to be the section around mile 4.5 (about half-way) across from the Utica Zoo entrance. At this point the runners have just come out of the golf course and are now on a wide, tree-lined parkway (aptly named "The Memorial Parkway") and heading downhill. I was, in fact, situated directly across from two zoo employees who had brought out one of the llamas. They do this every year and people really seem to love seeing the llama, shouting out and waving to it. In fact, one 20-something man ran over to it and asked "Can I pet it?" which they allowed him to do. Obviously this guy was not looking to set a PR this morning but he was in at least the top third of the racers.

Here are some other observations:

Some people in the middle and back of the pack are very, very nice to people they don't know. I stood there clapping the whole time and one person said to me "Thank you" while another said "Great job!" The second one really floored me. This guy's running the race but he's complimenting a spectator. Wow.

Some people like to dress funny while running. There was a woman wearing fake antlers and a guy dressed up as a can of Matt's beer (the Matt Brewery being a founding sponsor or the race). Lots of folks had slogans and statements on their shirts. One of my favorites was an obviously tired guy wearing a white shirt with large black letters that said "She made me do this". As he got closer I could see that he was running next to a young woman wearing a similar shirt which read "I made him to do this". She didn't look nearly as tired.

The Boilermaker post-race party is notable for both its size (I have seen estimates of between 20,000 to 40,000 people) and the free Saranac "runner's beer". Supposedly, the beer is for runner's only but there's little that can be done to prevent non-runners from getting free beer. Consequently, I always see people going to the post race party who probably shouldn't be there (typically, someone in their 20s to 30s, dressed in nice summer "bar clothes"). Granted, some of these folks may be meeting family members or friends, but I have little doubt that the promise of free beer can attract flies. When you see a group of such folks chatting away in the middle of the crowd with beers in their hands, no runners in their group, and no apparent interest in anything going on around them (except scoring more beer and listening to the band), gotta wonder. And what I wonder is, "Is free beer so attractive to you that you'll happily stand amidst 10,000 sweat-soaked runners on a hot Sunday morning to get it?"

Virtually all major road races in the USA discourage and/or prohibit the use of music earphones among the runners, and for good reason. While many people enjoy "tuning in" to their favorite music, they tend to "tune out" everything around them. When you have city streets jammed with 10,000 people, this can be a serious problem. Although the aforementioned wheelchair division starts 15 minutes before the main race, the mid and back pack wheelchair racers are soon swallowed up by the runners. Runners are generally very good about moving around the slower wheelchairs on the flats and are notably supportive on the uphills. The downhills are completely different and the Boilermaker has a few notable downhills. From my location at the zoo, the wheelchairs were beginning to pick up speed and overtake the runners. Much shouting from the wheelchair racers, nearby runners and spectators ensues, in the form of "Wheelchair passing on your left", "Wheelchair coming through" and the like. Well of course, if you've completely tuned in to your music, you probably don't hear those shouts. At one point I saw a wheelchair coming straight down the center while a young woman wearing headphones ran several yards ahead, also in the center. Much shouting directed at the woman did nothing (including shouts of "Take off your damn headphones" from fellow runners). The wheelchair racer has little option at this point as the streets are filled with runners. I was half expecting a collision when a runner near the young woman grabbed her by the arm and gave her a sideways tug at the last moment.

Take off the damn headphones people.

More like this

Although the prize money always draws a complement of genuine world-class road racers, I remain almost astounded at the times run on a course that climbs something like 250' from the start to mile 4, and in the heat of July. No wonder much of the enterprise revolves around drinking beer starting at midmorning.

Not just "beer", but Saranac ale. Pale Ale in the past but I believe it was Pomegranate Wheat this year.

Oddly (or perhaps not), I have no desire to drink beer after a race or hard workout (or even after mowing the lawn for that matter). Cold juice works much better. Even soda.

"Is free beer so attractive to you that you'll happily stand amidst 10,000 sweat-soaked runners on a hot Sunday morning to get it?"

BTW - anybody betting on how many athlete become mysteriously "injured" before Beijing now that there have been three separate positives for Mircera at the TdF?

By hopper3011 (not verified) on 17 Jul 2008 #permalink