Magnp;ia RoadKeith picked me up at 8:30am this morning to run Magnolia Road.  Our goal was to find suitable terrain to prep for our upcoming mountain trail relay race in Snowmass.  By suitable, I mean not flooded or overly muddy.  It has rained nearly every day this May and many trails are impassable.

I’ve never run Magnolia Road.  I don’t generally run roads.  This is packed dirt and not pavement, so like a really wide trail.  I would not call it pedestrian though.  At over 8000 feet and popularized in the local running book, Running with the Buffaloes, I was a bit intimidated.

Driving west out of Boulder on Canyon Road, headed up to Nederland, the turn onto Magnolia lies to the left just past the tunnel.  We drove four miles down until the pavement turned to dirt and parked on the side of the road.  This saved us probably 2000 feet of steep climbs.  The road began downhill for over a half mile, which meant we would finish uphill.  The trees thinned out and presented us with gorgeous views of mountaintop valleys.  There are quite a few homes up here but the traffic was light.  We were able to average a 9 minute pace, faster than I expected.  The terrain consists of rolling hills, each a good half mile or more long.  At this elevation, it’s a tough slog.  My Garmin captured 800 feet of elevation gain over the 8 mile out-and-back run.  We escaped the rain but heavy clouds rolled in from the east on our return, dropping the temperature and making it impossible to tell the time of day.

This was my last big workout before Memorial Day’s Bolder Boulder 10K.  We didn’t push our pace but the hills gave us a good aerobic workout regardless, and I still feel them in my glutes.  I’ll maybe run an easy 3 tomorrow, in the morning to prep for running early.  I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that I intend to run hard Monday.  Not sure why I commit like that and put myself out there.  But honestly, my pace predictions are generally fairly accurate.  My fastest 10K, since I started running again 6 years ago, is a 7:08 pace at the 2013 Bolder Boulder.  Which is also the last time I ran it.  I know I can run under a 7 minute pace this year and really expect to hit 6:50 per mile.  My stretch goal is 6:40 per mile.

I rarely hit my stretch goals, but they’re good to have when I discover early in a race that I’ve underestimated myself.  I’ve demonstrated this year I can run a 6:40 pace 5K.  The trick to running nearly that fast for a 10K will be in how I manage the first mile.  First half mile really.  If I can avoid oxygen debt early on, and I’m mentally prepared to race, I feel like the 6:50 pace is doable.  My plan is to shoot for that pace consistently each mile.  Then hopefully run the 5th mile in 6:40, saving little to nothing for the final mile up Folsom.

The Bolder Boulder is an uphill course with three notable downhills.  There is a 4th, albeit slight, downhill leading into the end of the first mile, down 28th Street and across Pine.  After Pine Street, mile two is entirely uphill on Folsom.  The 3rd mile ends on a decent down slope that bleeds into the 4th mile.  Mile four contains a second downhill, but finishes up at the highest point of the course on Casey Hill.  And the 5th mile is totally downhill.  It might look flat after Casey Hill but it’s not, and it provides motivational crowds as it zig-zags through downtown.  Conversely, mile six is entirely uphill after turning back onto Folsom.

My strategy is to pick up my pace on each of the four downhills I just described – including the slight slope at the end of mile one.  Still, I’m looking to run an even mile pace for the first four miles.  I’ll recover a bit running down Casey Hill, and then run the 5th mile as if it’s my last.  My experience suggests there is little reason to save a kick for the end.  The hill is too long and too steep leading into the stadium.  I think this plan of action will give me the best possible time.  I’m not racing against other runners, just time.  Not that tactics won’t matter on some of the turns, but I believe maximizing the downhills will provide the optimal overall time.  I’ll let you know Monday.