The girls decided to run the Bolder Boulder this year.  They signed up for a run/walk wave and drove down with Wendy and Chase.  I not only finished before the start of their 9:30 wave, I changed into dry gear and quaffed a couple of beers.  Waiting for them in Folsom Stadium with my running buddies was as fun a part of the day as anything else.  It’s been a great Memorial Day weekend overall.

At 5:45am I drive down to Boulder alone and park in the CU Engineering Center parking lot for $20.  This parking location makes for a quick escape after the run, and will allow me to change into a dry shirt while waiting for the girls.  I jog the mile to the race start which serves as a good warmup.  I get in at least another mile of jogging and plenty of stretching before my wave starts at 7:03am.  Probably the most effective warmup I’ve done in decades.  I’m still not confident that I can run within my wave time of 44:30, but jogging and stretching leaves me feeling ready.

We start running north up 30th St.  This slope isn’t difficult but still, any grade at altitude is noticeable.  Per plan, I start in the back of my wave, but these early waves aren’t very deep so I don’t know that it matters much.  I feel like I’m hanging in there but slow down after my arms begin to feel heavy.  That’s a sure sign of oxygen debt.  I maintain a strong pace though as we turn west on Valmont for a couple of blocks.  We then turn south on 28th St. which takes us back down the same slope we just ran up.  Maybe I started out too fast because this doesn’t feel downhill.  It’s like some Micheal C. Escher wood carved print.  My Garmin would later reveal that we started at 5278 feet and only returned to 5279.  I must be the Princess and the Pea when it comes to elevation.  My Garmin buzzes the completion of the first mile a bit before I reach the actual mile marker.

This is typical in road races.  I’ll end up running at least 6.3 miles and the distance will increase between my Garmin and each mile marker as I near the finish.  This is partly why it was important to me to qualify for as fast a wave as I could.  I want to run a good time this year and the less people I have to run around – the less distance and time.  My Garmin displays 6:59 at mile one.  I should maybe be worried that this is too fast but at the same time it’s a confidence builder.  This pace is hard but I’m not tired and believe I can hold it.  Per plan, I wanted to run closer to 7:30, but 7:00 to 8:00 is an acceptable range for the first mile.

elvisHow I feel on mile two will tell me if 7:00 was too fast.  The second mile starts out easy enough with a right hand turn onto Pine, but after three blocks we turn right again to head up Folsom.  I don’t feel obligated to match my first mile pace considering my 7 minute start.  This hill generally separates the pack but the runners around me aren’t slowing down like I’m used to seeing.  Must be more experienced athletes in these faster waves.  There’s quite a bit of gratuitous entertainment on Folsom.  Still, it feels like the longest mile.  I feel like I might be slowing down a bit but I’m not getting passed much.  My Garmin beeps and I see I’ve run a 7:09 pace.  I’ve only slowed down by 10 seconds.

Shortly after the two mile marker I pass a young runner vomiting loads of dark brown fluid in the gutter.  Boulder offers a plethora of quality brew pubs as this guy no doubt knows.  Other than him, my wave is hanging strong.  I’m impressed by their experienced running and happy to be among them.  I suspect their smart running is helping me to maintain a consistent pace.  Nice.  My Garmin gives me a 7:02 for my 3rd mile and I’m surprised.  Per plan and per experience I expect mile 2 to be the slowest of the course but I didn’t feel that I sped up any on this mile.  I guess 7 seconds is not a huge difference.  I’m elated to be running under a 7:10 pace.  The official race clock will be slower than my Garmin but not by much.

pharoI don’t feel pressured now to push myself too hard through mile 4.  I initially expected my first two miles to be slower, but they weren’t so shoot – I just need to maintain.  And I sort of think I can.  I’m not winded.  My legs don’t burn on the small hills.  Well, not until I reach Casey Hill near the end of the 4th mile.  I slow down for this one.  I’m not overly fatigued which is good but the force of gravity feels to have doubled. I focus on form and my Garmin tells me it’s been 4 full miles about ten seconds before I reach the mile marker.  That’s okay.  This mile is in 6:58.  I rub the sweat from my eyes to reread that and it’s correct.  I know official clock time will be slower but still – I’m stoked.

Not stoked enough though to charge down the hill into mile 5 per my race strategy.  Instead, I use the top of the hill to recover.  Once my thighs stop burning, I open up my stride somewhat.  It feels good to change up my form.  I want to run this 5th mile strong but there’s less need now that I’ve been maintaining such a good pace.  Besides, being the only downhill mile of the course, it’ll take care of itself.  At least that’s the rationale I feed myself to avoid running any faster.  I change up my plans to begin my kick in mile 6.  My Garmin gives me a 6:48 at mile 5 which I then use to justify planning a cool down for mile 6.

I do the math though and remember that the official race time will be slower than my Garmin.  I’m so close to breaking 45 minutes, I need to push it in.  Or at least hold on to this pace.  I’m not hurting at all.  I can’t see myself running any faster, but I can hold this pace.  Until I get to Folsom that is.  Uphill again.  I feel my heart rate rising with this climb.  This is going to be work.  I let myself slow down but focus on good running form.  When you can’t speed up, focus on form.

The final half mile in this race is just brutal.  Someone should talk to the race director.  I’m fearful of last year’s finish when I had to stop at the top of the hill for dry heaves.  I want to climb the hill slow to maintain composure but at the same time I’m racing the clock to beat 45 minutes.  I run the final hill hard.  I run past the point I heaved last year but it hits me after I enter the stadium.  It’s not as debilitating as last year and I run through it.  I know I can afford to slow down but not to stop.  Thankfully the finish line is closer this year for some reason and I cross it before getting sick.  Garmin says 44:23.  Nice.  My Garmin gives me a 7:01 pace while the official clock gives me a 7:09.  I met the expected time of my wave which qualifies me to repeat wave B next year.

IMG_2209I wait in section 120 while my running buddies pile in.  I see Brittany and Ellie enter the stadium and sprint to the finish.  They look like they enjoyed themselves.  The race pictures above are from Brit.  They started with Ellie’s buddy Chase and some other friends – all in this festive pic.  This is Ellie’s very first 10K.  Hopefully the first of many.