Ah, the BolderBOULDER, where to begin? Let’s start with a little background…
I got to Colorado on Tuesday the 25th, almost a week before the race, so that I could acclimatize to the high altitude. It was a very relaxed week. Thankfully the family I was staying with was a family of runners and former runners, all of whom had done the race many times before so they were very helpful. They made sure I got in a good run every day and that there was plenty of healthy food too! The whole week, whenever we went anywhere my friend would introduce me by saying, “This is my friend Dave; he’s here to run the BolderBOULDER.”
On Thursday I did my test run of the course. This race is a pretty big deal (it has nearly 55,000 participants and brings in $10 million to Boulder each year!) so I wanted to do the test run before the weekend crowds descended on the scenic foothill town. They have directional signs for the course up year-round so it was easy to find my way. On Sunday, for my shakeout, I ran the middle two miles again since that’s where the race’s highest point is. That night, my friend had to go to a wedding so her parents ordered homemade pasta from an Italian place (it’s so great staying with experienced runners who understand carbs!) and by 8:30 I was in bed (though I kept the light on until I had finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
At 4:45 my alarm went off. Because this race is so big, the first wave (my wave) starts at 7 am, with the last wave going around 9:20. There are 88 waves!!! I had my usual bagel with peanut butter, sat around nervously, and then jogged (yes, I’m using the verb jog) to the start with my friend’s dad who was also running, though he was a few waves behind me. The start was crazy! It was extremely well organized (you have to be with so many people) but it seemed to stretch on forever. I made my way to the front and passed people who looked like they were in amazing shape—I decided to start at the back of my corral. A few minutes before the gun security people swept through to make sure our bibs actually said “A.” The bugle sounded, letting us know there were 30 seconds to go, and then suddenly the gun went off and the flood gates opened.
The first mile is almost entirely downhill (about -1%) so things started fast. I wanted to be conservative at the beginning. I’d been told that this was not a PR course and that most people did about 2 minutes slower than their PR so I wanted to save my energy and my breath (literally—the air is thinner). I heard a guy with a Garmin say we were going 5:40 pace so I slowed down a little and did the first mile in 6:06 (definitely too fast since my PR average had been 6:11).
As we turned shortly after Mile 1, we entered a more residential neighorhood. There were some bands playing along the street and some spectators, but it was clear that most people were either in the race or still in bed. Mile 2 is a bit more uphill so I slowed to 6:20. My goal pace was around 6:25, so this was fine by me. I could feel myself breathing harder than usual though my legs still felt great.
Mile 3 was probably the most residential of all and it has some serious turns and backtracks clearly thrown in just to make the proper distance. As such, it was the slowest mile at 6:38. When we passed the mile marker, people were shouting “You’re halfway there!!!” I guess they didn’t realize that the .2 miles can actually make or break you. As the course turned at the real halfway point, it brought me within a few blocks of my friends house. I could certainly see why her mom used to joke about pulling off the course there!
Mile 4 ended just before the Casey Hill, the highest point of the course. It had taken 6:29.
As I crested the hill, I found myself wishing there was a flat stretch of road. I needed a moment to recoup my energy and hated wasting the downhill when I was feeling so sluggish. As the course moved downhill, it entered “downtown” Boulder. I passed the office of my friend’s parents, but missed here mom who was trying to cheer me on. As we turned onto Pearl, the main commercial drag, we passed a large stage with a band that was still tuning up. No love for the early runners! My friend was out there, however, to cheer me on! The course began snaking towards the finish as I passed Mile 5 (6:23).
With the second to last turn, the race continued on a normally busy commercial strip leading to CU. Here there were some spectators cheering and you could feel the fact that you were in the home stretch. We passed km 9 and I knew with just 1k to go, I would meet my goal but that didn’t make the final hill any easier. The race ends in Folsom field, home of the CU Buffs, but to get there you have to climb a steep hill. I passed mile 6 (6:33) and wondered if I had any breath left to give. Finally we turned into the stadium and all the sudden, the adrenalin seriously kicked in. I hauled some butt as I saw the finish approaching and crossed in 39:53.
Definitely not a PR, but it felt like one.
After I picked up my water, snack bag, and free beer, I met my friend in the stands. The way they had it set up, you could watch runners crossing on the field and on the Jumbotron so we waited and watched for her dad. This had to be one of the coolest set-ups. You could see just how many people had come out to race. Once her dad found us, we set off back to their house walking along the course. There were still thousands of runners on the streets of Boulder so we cheered along the way. This is another cool part about the wave start—we even saw a mom who had clearly run in an earlier wave and was now running with her kids.
After watching the elites (their race starts at 11:20) and having a big breakfast, my friend and I went to Avery Brewing for a tour and some serious samples—the perfect way to follow a race.