Welcome to the second post of 50×4: Fifty Bagels, Fifty Dates, Fifty Races, Fifty States! That’s right, folks: we're attempting to race in all fifty states (and DC and maybe some other places)!
New York: Utica's Boilermaker 15K, July 14, 2019.
The State: New York (Specifically Utica)
As born-and-raised residents of New York State, we knew it'd probably be pretty hard to pick a race to represent our home state for this blog series. We've run a bunch of NY races already, and we know of others that we should (and would like to) run in the future. But when I took a moment to think of a race that represents everything I love—and hate—about running, I knew of one for certain that would hit the mark.
The Race: Boilermaker 15K
This July race in Utica, New York, is iconic. It's also always very hot and humid (except for that one year when we sold our bibs and race day was in the sixties, but we're not bitter at ALL). Despite the disgusting mugginess—which I loathe running in because it's like wading through molasses while breathing underwater—this race is one of my absolute favorites of all time. Hands down. No joke.
I realize this is quite a statement. I also realize I will probably run a lot more races (like, at least forty-eight more, as per the title of this blog series). But I stand by my choice. And I'm not just making this declaration because Tutu has been handing out water at mile 8 for over twenty years, or because oftentimes Jon's Utica relatives will come out to support us. It's because the whole city of Utica comes out to support everyone. I'm talkin' sweet signs; bumpin' tunes; hoses and sprinklers at the ready; and free ice, popsicles, wet paper towels, and Utica Club. It. Is. Epic. It's also very hard.
Not that I thought this race would be easy (it never has been for either of us), I was just hoping it wouldn't be as difficult as it was. We had two friends running with us, and at the start, I headed out with Ellen while Jon and Lauren ran together for a bit. By the time we hit the hill leading up to the golf course, my legs felt like lead. (Perhaps my pace out the gate was a bit ambitious.) I started walking, and that's when Jon and I reunited and Ellen kept pushing forward. I walked a lot of the golf course hill. Most of it, really. But after you crest the hill, that's when they get you. The shaded downhill is blissful. Then comes the parkway filled with all the chilled offerings I mentioned earlier. At this point, with a full-sized popsicle in hand, I turned to Jon and said something along the lines of this: "As hard as this race is, dammit, I f*cking love it." (Pardon my language; I was under duress.)
This love-hate thing we've got going with the Boilermaker carried on the whole race. Neither Jon nor I were feeling stellar, despite our best efforts, stretches, and medications (though I will never not take Imodium before longer races). The sun came out only a few times, so we really can't even blame the weather like in years past. At one point probably around the 10K mark, Jon said, "If we keep up this pace, we could hit a PR." A few minutes later, I naïvely asked, "Are we still on for that PR?" . . . Let's just say there's a reason Jon's nickname is "The Dreamcrusher."
So we didn't PR. We actually got our personal worst, so that's a different kind of record, I suppose. But we weren't necessarily there to set a record. My main goal was completing as many items on the to-do list I'd created, and I got all but one! I also wanted to make sure our friends had a good time and understood why I love this race so much. In the end, I think everyone had a blast, and there was the promise of bagels, so that always helps.
The Bagel: Bagel Grove
Utica is not known for their bagels, although we thought the same thing about Cleveland and that worked out pretty great. To our surprise, we found out that the Boilermaker has an official bagel shop! Bagel Grove, which is on the race course itself, has a special Saranac-infused black-and-tan bagel. We made the great decision to pick up our breakfast on the way home from the race—after finishing our free beer at the afterparty, of course. We enthusiastically bought three types of cream cheese and a dozen bagels, which our out-of-towner selves learned is actually fourteen at the Bagel Grove!
The showstopper was the spicy everything bagel. We cautiously bought only two, for fear of lighting our mouths on fire and dealing with that in the July heat. We had no idea what to expect, but this bready beauty was absolutely delicious with just the right amount of heat. It was the perfect post-race indulgence. Amazing work, Utica; Bagel Grove is legit, as far as we're concerned.
The Date: Saranac Brewery Tour
Now for the date. This was actually one of the first things we did when we got to Utica, after picking up our bibs and swag. The Saranac Brewery is a main attraction in beautiful downtown Utica. First opened in 1888 under the name West End Brewing Company, the brewery is perhaps best know for its Utica Club pilsner, which was the first beer sold in the US after prohibition ended.
The tour itself is fairly simple: visitors walk through the various fermentation rooms, cold lager chambers, and bottling facility (which, to this day, after going on this tour at least four times, Jon has never seen in operation because it runs Monday through Friday only, but we hear it's a sight to be seen). The best part of the tour is, obviously, the trip to the tap room upstairs, where you can sample limited-release and test-batch brews available only at the brewery itself.
We were in Utica for about twenty-four hours, but we packed in a lot of good food, good beer, and good memories with friends. A special shoutout goes to Tutu for letting all four of us stay with her, and for making us monkey bread! Maybe the monkey bread makes me a little biased, but the Boilermaker holds a special place in my heart. I look forward to running it again, and I encourage everyone to run this race at least once. While you're at it, tip your running visor to the gracious city of Utica and all the people who make the race great.