I talk a good deal about racing. Honestly though, my idea of racing is nowhere close to what a real, or at least younger, athlete does. I’m not referencing speed because that is obvious, but the willingness to push oneself beyond reasonable limits. As we age, most of us become comfortable. We add weight. I’m 10 pounds over the medical range for my height. Older athletes like myself still enjoy races, but we rarely push ourselves beyond our lactate threshold. We stay within our limits. We might even chat while racing, I do. Maybe we put on a good kick, knowing the end is near. I rarely even do that, afraid of pulling one of my delicate muscles. More often than not, I tend to cool down the last half mile, I slow down, to ensure I live to run another day. I maintain that’s what wise old runners should do. Although this isn’t my plan Monday morning for the 2016 Bolder Boulder.
While I’m not in race shape necessarily, I believe I’m in good enough condition to race sections of this course hard. Because I’m in decent overall aerobic shape, I should be able to surge for short sections and then recover, sort of like running a fartlek workout. I’ll take the first mile easy, because starting out in oxygen debt will ruin this entire plan. Although, I plan to start my first surge just before the one mile marker, and carry the surge around the corner down Pine Street to Folsom. It’s a short section, likely under a quarter mile. I’ll run steady up Folsom, there’s a small dip mid way into the second mile where I’ll try to surge again if I’ve fully recovered. Otherwise my next surge won’t be until Vista Hill, a little over half way into mile three. This is where the racing truly starts for the elites, Vista Hill is strategic. It’s followed by two more rolling hills, ending at Casey Hill just past the fourth mile, all three hills marking the top of the course elevation profile. I’ll attempt short quarter mile surges on the downhill sections here, and recover on the uphills. From here is a mile and a half downhill run through downtown Boulder, around Pearl Street. This is the fastest section of the course. Anyone racing runs their fastest pace in the fifth mile. The real trick is to hold this fast pace past the fifth mile onto Folsom. I couldn’t do that last year. I’ll try harder this time.
No point in saving anything for the final half mile after the bridge over Boulder Creek. It’s the steepest climb of the course and very few of the runners that I might have passed on Folsom will be able to pass me back here. Everyone slows down for the hill that enters the stadium. I’ll race for 5.75 miles with my surge tactics and cool down the final half mile. If I can recover at all atop the final hill, I won’t so much as kick to the finish line, but I’ll try to surge again with a strong enough stride that looks good for the cameras. Chances are though, I’ll just pretend that final hill isn’t there. I’ll block it from memory, even while running it. There is no spoon. It’s nice to finish in Folsom Stadium, but not at the cost of climbing that hill.
The risk in this plan is that I won’t be able to recover sufficiently after a surge and my overall time will be much slower than if I were to run an even pace. In fact, if I were in racing shape, I would of course run an even pace, because that’s what you do. So in a sense, this is a wildly stupid plan, but it will be brilliant if it helps me to break 45 minutes. Odds are, I won’t break 50 minutes and will be running in oxygen debt the entire second half of the course. But it might provide me some ephemeral moments of racing glory.
Signaling today that I’m going to run hard Monday certainly sets myself up for failure, but I like forecasting because it gives me that extra push. Running is like golf in the sense you are really just competing with yourself. Sort of like how betting on sports makes the game more interesting, there’s nothing like putting a little pressure on yourself with a pre-race prediction. See you at the finish line.