Ran Boilermaker 15k on post Ironman Syracuse legs and loving it!

Posted: July 9, 2012 in Running, Syracuse Ironman 70.3, Training, Utica Boilermaker
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2012 Boilermaker in the books!

Just a few months back, I really questioned how smart I was in signing up for this race. Not that it would be a big deal for an elite or pro runner/triathlete. For an old slogger like myself, it is a concern. I had these doubts this spring, as I learned very quickly that it was taking longer to recover from big training weeks, even more so the events that I would race. With the Utica Boilermaker selling out months before the event, the commitment comes long before the date rolls around. Of course, I signed up the day registration went live early in 2012. Despite any doubts or misgivings on my sense of practicality, it is an easy choice. Hands down, the Utica Boilermaker is my absolute favorite race. Here’s my laundry list of why I have that opinion:

  • Well ran, well supported race.
  • Fantastic volunteers, good as it gets.
  • 15K is an endurance event, long enough that you need to train/prepare for. You have to earn it.
  • City course, keeps your eyes always looking at something.
  • This would be my 12th time running in the event. I know and love the course.
  • With a few moderate hills, it switches up your running, and the last 5K segment is forgiving on tired legs.
  • Water, water, and yes there is water on the course. Swim goggles optional. If the day is a scorcher, no better race on the planet to do it in. 20 water stops, plus countless families with tables set out to hand out everything from donuts, popsicles, ice, and our favorite- beer ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Crowd support- best in the world. The people of Utica come out in mass, and they let you know it. We’re talking rows deep of spectators in many places. If you feed off their energy, and cheering, youโ€™re in for race experience you will never forget.

With a week of rest after Ironman Syracuse, I got back to a few light workouts. This was encouraging as my post recovery of 1994 Firmman 70.3 was much longer. In fact my 5K & 10K running paces were way off for several months after that. I could run distance, but anything approaching 5k pacing was not happening. I account the months of actually training and following a plan to a much better recovery now.

With a VDOT hovering close to 41, my best predicted pace for a 15k would be 8:20- 8:27 per mile. As it turns out, heat would not be a factor this past Sunday, so I will skip mentioning adding a little time to compensate for it. On fresh legs I thought I could hold something close to that, or at least in the 8:30-8:45 range. Post Ironman Syracuse, I had a hunch it would be an unrealistic expectation. Rather than guess, I headed out on a midday run from work to get a bead on where my recovery was at. I picked the same route (mostly flat) I use to do my VDOT test, and decided to run two mile repeats with a mile rest in between. Conditions were bright and sunny, little to no wind, and a moderate 76 degrees out. Not too warm, but warm enough.

After an easy warm up for the first mile, I stepped it up to an 8:33 per mile pace. I felt like I was working hard, and my heart rate shot up to 175-176 bpm. My calculated max is 179 bpm. The next mile was at recovery pace, and got my heart rate back to 152-154 bpm. I did the next repeat at 8:50 per mile. Heart rate shot up again to 174-175 bpm, although it hovered around 172 for the first half of it. Happy that I could get some work out of my legs, but trying to run a 15K @ 8:20 a mile was not a good goal. I knew that I would suffer miserably should I try to push that hard over the distance. The other mental game that I fight on the Boilermaker course: is having run it much faster in 1:04:29. That was many years ago, but just the same, it plays on you at times.

Since this is my favorite race, and that I am rather insistent on having a great time doing it, I regrouped and set out a new plan:

  • The first mile is always chaotic,and either too fast or too slow if you get caught up in it. I would ease into it, avoid dodging in and out around slower runners. Get to smooth form as quickly as I can. Main goal is to keep heart rate in 160-165 bpm range, except for hills. Take in the race and enjoy the sights.
  • Miles 2-3, be settled in, keeping heart rate 160-165. With my Timex GPS run trainer, I should be able to get an idea of what my pace would be.
  • Golf course up to mile 4, back off a little, keep it steady and smooth. Try not to peak out heart rate past 172-174 bpm.
  • Downhill to mile 5. take advantage of not overdoing it up to mile 4. Should be able to gain up to a minute off pace.
  • Miles 5-6, steady and smooth, back off slightly going up to mile 7. Keep heart rate under 170 bpm going up the grade.
  • Miles 7 to finish, lots of downhill, pick it up, and even let heart rate approach 170 bpm in later miles. Lot of time to be gained here. After mile 9, whatever is left in the tank.

Race day- lucky break in the weather today! 69-70 at the start, mid 70’s as the day progressed. Happy that it was not going to be a scorcher. Mostly overcast during the race, another plus. When the sun did come out, you could feel it heat up. For the most part the sun held off until after most people crossed the finish, or within the final miles. On this trip, I took the bus with Lake Effect Run Club. Fun group of runners, and I enjoyed both the trip out and back. Much less stress letting the hassle of getting to and from the race be handled is worth every penny. They also seem to like beer. Work hard, play hard, we get along just fine.

The start went off without a hitch, and I had no problems getting into a place where I could settle in. No tripping, no stepping on my heels. Lots of people with headphones. You have to be alert as they were less aware of those around them. In the end, I really had little issue with that. I crossed the start a full 3 minutes after the cannon. The first mile came and went at 9:45, heart rate was good. My hamstrings were a little tight, and I decided that if it got worse or started to cramp, I would walk a water stop every mile if I needed. A solution was at hand should it become a problem. Never became one, Yeah! The next two miles I was clicking off a 9:15-9:25 pace, and was enjoying the constant company of runners and cheering spectators. One of the things I love about the race.

The hill up the golf course came and went without issue. Heart rate peaked at 174 bpm only briefly. I felt good cresting the hill, and took full advantage of the following downhill. Even though I could feel the fatigue in my legs, the downhill felt great, and it felt smooth. Working the hill is where I felt post Ironman Syracuse the most. Mile 5- laid down an 8:40 mile. Lot of spectators on the hill, good fun. Volunteers are just phenomenal!

Miles 6 & 7 were solid. At this point in the race, I felt that I planned out my race to suite my tired legs appropriately. Had I pushed sub 9’s, I would have been regretting it at this point. I was pleased with myself at not doing something stupid. It happens sometimes ๐Ÿ™‚ Race day nutrition was working well today. No GI issues, and only needed one GU gel at mile 5. One of the things I noticed was that the race miles were passing by so much faster mentally. I felt immersed in the event, and was taking it all in.

The final miles- I call it that, as once you pass the 7 mile sign and round the bend, you see a very long downhill. It actually takes you past mile 8. Mentally this is the best spot on the course. You know you have only a few miles left, and the downhill grade is a gift. From here on out, the spectators get louder, and rows of people deeper. The mile splits here get faster, clicking off a 9:05 & 9:10. I have some gas in the tank at mile nine and began to surge. Heart rate is climbing, so not an all-out sprint. Have to have that FTD man sprint thing going on for the pictures. I crossed the finish in 1:26:59 (chip timing), my watch had me at 1:27:04. Yep I’ll take the 5 seconds. Overall pace of 9:20.

Post race was great, I got to where I needed to go, and chowed down. Plenty of choices. the orange slices and banana popsicles went over real well. Got my lunch bag, and finish that off with a beer. A big thank you to the sponsors. Good stuff.

Was I happy with my time? You bet! I won’t bore you with the numerous times at other events were I had big ideas, and either blew up on the course, hanging on for dear life to the finish, or suffered to the point on not enjoying the race. As much as I like to push my body from time to time, I am much more social, and want o enjoy the experience of the event. I did not leave much out on the course this year. Today, I am sore, and depleted. Last evening I felt trashed. Going the last 5-10% harder probably would have meant for a much less enjoyable race. Looking back, my updated race plan took me up to the fine line of enjoyment verses what I had in my legs on race day. All good here.

No doubt, I’ll be back again to do more Boilermakers. If things line up, I may give it a go as an ‘A’ race in the next few years. As a fifty something weekend warrior, I have much to learn about training adaptation, recovery, and what I can get away with and what I cannot. The list of cannot’s seem longer than I may like. While training for Ironman Syracuse, especially since joining Team EN, I have learned a great deal about training with a heart rate monitor, pacing, race execution, and it pays off in running events as well as triathlons. Us older guys need to be much smarter ๐Ÿ™‚ Being in control of your race, and knowing how to execute a good plan makes the race experience much more enjoyable.

From here I transition into Endurance Nation’s short course plan with an added marathon hack. NYC Marathon is the big event for this fall. There will be a few half marathons and a tri or two along the way. There will be a bigger effort on weight lost, as that will pay off big in the marathon, and in doing a full ironman. 2013 will bring bigger things to come. Syracuse 70.3 (whether it will be as a team or solo,) will be part of my road to a full ironman. Lots to learn, lots of training to do.

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Comments
  1. Ryan Orilio says:

    Great recap Mike! I too love the Boilermaker and wouldn’t miss it! I don’t seem to do the traveling to races that you do, but I definitely think it is one of the best races in the country!

  2. […] Mike Joyner (photo above) finished the Utica Boilermaker 15k in 1:26:59 and said “Kudos to EN for helping me be well trained for Ironman Syracuse. Despite a salt/electrolyte snafu, I had a great and memorable race. Post recovery was much better than I had years ago at my first half ironman. I recovered well enough to really enjoy the 2012 Boilermaker 15k, which is a favorite race of mine. All the things I learned about pacing, and listening to your body’s feedback really paid off in a quality experience in Utica!”ย  You can read a full race recap here. […]

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