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startToday is Brit’s 23rd birthday.  I celebrate by running the Colder Bolder 5K across the CU campus.  I invite Brit of course but she has to teach voice lessons this morning at Wildflower School of Voice.  Ellie was going to run with me but she’s been down and out all week with a brutal virus.  All my other running buddies are up in Fort Collins running the Jingle Bell run.  Just me and 1000 co-eds.

The race is nothing like last year, when only 1000 runners braved the negative temperatures.  This morning is a balmy 39° and there are 2000 of us.  I race in shorts.  I carry all my gear with me by wrapping my blue North Face jacket around my waist.

My initial race strategy was to run/walk with Ellie.  I employed the ellie strategy earlier this year at the Bolder Boulder, where we mostly walked.  Subsequently, I did not get an invitation to run in a specific wave for this event.  I am running in the Open division.  This turns out to be a plus and I intend to run in the Open division ongoing.  More runners make for more fun, even though they stagger waves by 90 seconds.  As a gentleman runner, I appreciate the later start.  With Ellie DNR, at home sick, I change up my strategy and decide to start out slow and see if I can’t run either mile two or three (ideally both) under a 7 minute pace.  I’ve run all three miles under 7 minutes per mile in a 5K last year.  That was a flatter course and I had better weather that day.  The CU campus is noticeably hillier than that course.

I can’t tell really if I start in the 7 minute per mile wave or 8 minute.  Feels like a good fit as we start running.  I let the initial surge pass me, running slow and steady the first half mile down Colorado.  As soon as we leave the street for the campus bike paths, it becomes obvious the 90 second waves are smart.  Bottlenecks would have been brutal otherwise.  My slow start strategy would have stayed slow if there wasn’t room to pass.  I put on my first surge after a half mile.  This is the lowest elevation of the entire course at 5325 feet.  This is also the steepest hill of the course, but relatively short.  From this point on, I mostly pass other runners, although in spurts.  I’m surprised to run my first mile in 7:08, because despite the varied strategy this is nearly the same time I ran last week for my first mile in the Prospect Turkey Trot.

Many of the runners I pass are college kids.  Passing them isn’t easy.  Oftentimes they match my surges, but eventually they yield.  Somewhere in the middle of the race, I get passed by an athlete running super smooth.  He’s decked out in CU gear and looks like he might be on their cross country team.  I follow after him.  For about ten seconds, then I fade.  Chasing him might hurt my overall time but racing him felt so good, it was worth it.

Alex LeslieI’m certain I run my second mile faster and I do marginally in 7:02.  I actually expected to run under 7 minutes.  I felt so fast at times but I wasn’t maintaining a steady pace.  The constant slopes on this course make holding a steady pace difficult.  I simply go with it and enjoy passing groups of runners when I feel like surging.  For some reason, breaking 7 minutes is important to me and I start my kick early, with a half mile to go.  From this point on, I run under a 7 minute pace.  I’m nearly sprinting as I enter the field house.  Sonofagun if a 19 year old doesn’t immediately pass me on a surge of his own.  I surged passed him earlier in the race and apparently he followed after me.

Alex Leslie, a student from Redmond Washington, passes me with just enough distance left in the run for me to chase after him.  Or perhaps he is leaving me just enough rope to hang myself.  As soon as I catch him, he surges again.  Doh!  We’re running out of runway but somehow I find another gear and catch back up to him yet again.  Alex seamlessly shifts into yet another gear of his own and surges across the finish line ahead of me.  This was maybe over a 100 yard stretch inside the field house.  I don’t mind Alex beating me, racing him was so much fun.  I of course gave him grief afterward for beating up on a 52 year old.  I feel even better now after having seen the race results.  I beat him (chip time) by 1 second.  We finish just under 22 minutes.  I learn in a text that my buddy Keith ran almost the exact same time for his Jingle Bell 5K in Fort Collins.

BritOn the way home, I stop off at Whole Foods to buy some KBCO CDs as Christmas gifts for my Texas relatives.  And I pick the girls up some mobile gear at Car Toys for the drive down to Austin.  The rest of the day is spent celebrating Brit’s birthday for reals.  Cake from the Romana Cake House.  Tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.  And finally a movie at Flatirons – Penguins of Madagascar.

Tomorrow, I start training again for another marathon in February.  I hope to run twenty miles.  I may have pulled a muscle sprinting after Alex.  I’ll see how it feels on tomorrow’s run.