About a month before the Bolder Boulder, I wasn’t super excited about the race. I had so much fun running in costume with Adam the last two years, and I didn’t have any great ideas to run in a costume this year. But then a week before the race, I did a tired training run on the treadmill and ended up besting my 10K PR by 3.5 minutes, finishing in 45:00. Sure, it was at sea-level, but I was running it while exhausted after next to no sleep, and I hadn’t been putting forth all-out race effort. So I got it in my head that on race day, I was capable of going sub-45, and I set my goal on that hard.
I didn’t work out for several days before the race, trying to rest up as much as possible. The day before the race, my mom (who was visiting me for a week) got really sick with a cold, so I barely did anything – mostly just read books on the couch while checking on her. I thought that was perfect race prep, since I was off my feet. By midday Sunday, I was itching to run / exercise / sweat, but I kept reminding myself that it was all going to pay off in the form of an awesome race.
Monday morning, though, I woke up not really feeling all that great. I had a tickle in my throat, and couldn’t tell if I was catching the bug from my mom or if I was just nervously imagining it… but I was also really tired and not feeling very energetic. I normally drink decaf coffee, so I hoped that a cup of caffeinated coffee on the way to the race start would get me going. Bolder Boulder, here I come!
My wave was really early, with a planned start time of 6:58am. (Bolder Boulder has about a hundred waves, which start the race between 6:45am and 10:00am.) As a result, I hit basically no traffic getting into Boulder and parking at Fate Brewing – about a 3/4 mile walk from the start, and they also offer a free beer if you show your bib after the race. Every year, I worry that I’m going to miss out on that awesome parking, but this year I was one of the first cars in the lot. Perfect! I parked my car, shed my jacket, and headed over to the start.
As I walked down 30th Street to the start, I was struck by just how many people were running. At one point, I felt like I was the only one walking toward the start line; everyone else was skipping, sashaying sideways, doing toe touches, or otherwise warming up! And as I got closer to the start, I realized why: my corral was really close to the front. Out of about a hundred corrals, I was in corral number 3… wow! I was definitely somewhat intimidated by all the serious runners around me.
With 20 minutes before my start, I decided to take advantage of Orangetheory Boulder’s “lounge”. Since the store was only a two minute walk from the start, they were providing coffee and bagels and allowing people to hang out there before, or even get a few warmup miles in on the treadmill. I didn’t care about warming up (I probably should?), but I headed over for another cup of coffee and to use the bathroom before it was time to run. Such a treat to get to use a real bathroom rather than a porta potty! And that killed enough time where the race was just about to start when I got back to the corrals.
Emma Coburn was the official starter of the race, and as my corral moved up to the line, I got to see her right next to the bugler that heralds the start of each corral. A group of high school girls was next to me, and they got really excited to see her – so they called out to her and she looked over to us and waved. I’m sure there’s no way she confused me with the high school girls, but as I was standing next to them, I waved back anyway 🙂 And that was pretty much before it was time to go!
I took off with the pack, reminding myself that I didn’t want to go too fast and burn out early. My plan was to do the first mile around a 7:00 pace, then drop down to a 7:15 pace until the halfway point, and then hopefully pick it up to the end. As usual, though, I went out much faster – around a 6:00 pace according to my Garmin (though perhaps it was mistaken because of weird calibration when you first start running?). As soon as I noticed that, I started trying to slow down, and slow down more, even as most of the people around me were passing me. I settled into what felt like a pretty comfy pace around 7:00, and then stopped looking at my watch until I got to the first mile mark. 7:06 – pretty much right on target! Now that the first mile was done, the adrenaline settled quite a bit and I felt like I would be able to stick to my loose plan.
We turned the corner and started going up a small hill, and I vaguely remembered this from the last two years. I heard a bunch of cheers coming from the left side of the road, and remembered that there’s always a rowdy group there. Ah, that’s right – they have a big sign that says “You cartwheel, we drink!” Such a fun sign, but this year I didn’t want to stop and cartwheel; I was gunning for a PR and didn’t want to lose my stride. I focused on getting up the hill, even as I was already starting to get tired. Yikes, not good.
A water station appeared on the right side of the road, but I was on the left side and knew that there was a left turn up ahead. Should I cross to get a drink, or skip it? (In my defense, it’s a reasonably wide street.) I ended up going for it, and was glad to get some water. I walked for a few seconds to drink it, but got back in the game pretty quickly. Hopefully that would give me some energy! And then right after the water station were the 3K and 2M markers – and my Garmin beeped to note that I had done a 7:30 pace for that mile. Slower than I wanted, but I reminded myself that the first three miles were uphill so I was two-thirds of the way through the really tough part. Hopefully I could get faster after the halfway point?
The next mile, though, was pretty brutal – uphill almost all the way to the 3 mile mark. I didn’t feel like anything was wrong, per se, but I didn’t feel nearly as energetic as I would have liked at this point in the race, and it just seemed like everyone was passing me. On the bright side, I enjoyed the deja vu that came with this being my third year in a row running the Bolder Boulder. I was surprised how many of the spectators / sights I remembered, from the belly dancers at one point, to the kombucha keg, to the various people having nondescript house parties that I inexplicably remembered anyway. I love having my Memorial Day race tradition! It used to be the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington that I went to every year without fail, but I’m pretty happy to now have it be a hometown race in Boulder 🙂
There was a small downhill just before the three mile mark, and I tried to use it to catch my breath. Between 3 and 4 miles there were some ups and downs, but the four mile mark coincided with the steepest hill of the race – so it still wasn’t easy. The course was marked with a big banner at the “summit” of 5,391 feet, and I snapped a quick pic while I was running to mark the spot.
Unfortunately, the downhill wasn’t as glorious as I remembered – it seemed like it was way too quickly that we hit flat ground. According to the elevation map, it’s downhill all the way to the 5 mile mark, but I felt like I was running on flat ground and just not getting all that much speed. This was where I finally accepted the fact that it just wasn’t going to be my day, and I started focusing on my alternate time goals. My primary goal had been to go sub-45; my secondary goal was to PR (under 48:00, though I wasn’t sure of the second time if it came down to it because I had thought I’d easily be much faster); and my worst-case scenario goal was to beat my Bolder Boulder time from last year, which I thought was around 52:00. I knew that sub-45 was not happening, but with a little over two miles to go, I thought I could still probably PR.
Soon enough, the 7K banner was coming up. I usually only think about races in miles, but I appreciated that Bolder Boulder marks each kilometer too, which corresponds to what percent complete you are with the race (just me that thinks like that?). I thought about how I’d be running a 7K race the Saturday after Bolder Boulder, but that was kind of depressing since it hadn’t been that easy to get to this point. So instead, I focused on the fact that I had three kilometers left, and likely also only three to four songs before I’d be at the finish line. Surely I could keep going for three to four songs, right?
As I mentioned, this 5th mile was pretty much all downhill according to the elevation chart, and so I had planned/hoped for a fast split. Unfortunately, I was really struggling by the time I got to 5 miles / 8K. It was right in the midst of a fun neighborhood where I clearly remembered goofing around and having a blast with Adam the previous two years, but this year I wasn’t at all in that kind of mood. My split time was only 7:40 (7 seconds faster than mile 4, the up and down mile), while I had expected a much bigger drop in pace thanks to the downhill elevation. I was really frustrated with my inability to go faster, and felt like I was just totally blowing the race, but reminded myself that I was at least almost done. Just a right on Folsom and then straight on to the stadium, 1.2 miles away. I told myself that 1.2 miles was really close (and it is), but I was pretty tired at this point. I wanted to feel glorious; instead, I just felt tired and slow.
We turned right onto Folsom, and I mentally started gearing up for the tough end to the race: a big steep uphill that started just before the 6 mile mark, to get us into the stadium. I clearly remembered passing a pile of vomit on that hill last year, a testament to what a tough finish it is, and I didn’t want that to be me. I saw a big crowd of people from Orangetheory on the side of the road around mile 5.5, and I yelled “woo Orangetheory!” to try to get some extra energy – but even them cheering me on didn’t really help. Nothing left to do but just keep going to the end…
I did get a little excited to pass the 9K mark (only 0.6 miles to go!), but that was tempered by the uphill that started shortly thereafter. It felt like a big slog to get up the 80 feet to the stadium entrance, and by the time I entered the field, I was just spent and ready to be done. I pretty much matched the pace of those around me as I circled the stadium, but I tried to put forth one last burst of effort on the final straightaway toward the finish as I crossed the line… and then after finishing, I stopped my watch and collapsed into the familiar gave-it-my-all runners pose, with hands on thighs and breathing heavily. I must have looked pretty crappy, because a volunteer came over to offer me a water bottle – which I noticed was not being offered to anyone else. Oops! But at least she didn’t stay with me and seem concerned 🙂
Still breathing heavily, I checked out my Garmin: 48:00. How did that compare to my PR? I quickly looked up my last race result on my phone, and learned that my PR was 48:01. So had I PRed?! I knew that one second could vanish if I hadn’t stopped/started my watch right in line with where my chip started timing me, so I was pretty anxious for a little while. The organizers had sent out emails leading up to the race with instructions on a number to text to get your results, but I had remembered from last year that there were also signs everywhere at the finish explaining how to get result. This year, though, those signs were nowhere to be found, so I went through the food/beer line while asking those around me who looked knowledgeable. No one knew how to get the results, and finally it occurred to me that I could search my email trash to figure it out. Finally, I got my answer: official finish time was 48:00, so I had PRed by exactly one second! And I had also finished 5.5 minutes faster than last year, which is a pretty big drop.
While PRing by any amount should be exciting, and I did a lot better than last year, I was pretty bummed because I felt like I hadn’t lived up to my full potential. I really thought I should have been able to go sub-45, and so I felt lousy that I had been thirty seconds per mile slower than what I thought was a totally attainable goal. Even though I’ve run this course twice before, it wasn’t until this year that I actually realized how difficult and hilly it is. In looking at the elevation map prior to the race, I was really surprised to see that the first three miles were uphill, because it really hadn’t felt like that in years past; I just remembered the hill up to the “summit” and the hill up to the stadium. The rest felt flat to me in prior years, but this year, it felt like that nasty insidious kind of uphill where you can’t see the hill but it slows you down anyway. So demoralizing! And since my seeded corral had me with an estimated finish time of 43-44 minutes, finishing in 48 minutes meant that people were passing me the entire race… also not fun.
Post-race, as I looked more at the elevation profile, I started to realize that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew in thinking I could go sub-45 in this race; however, that didn’t make me feel any better about falling so short of my expectations. My old 10K PR was on a pancake flat course, so it really was no small feat to beat that in a hilly race, but I just had my heart set on sub-45 and was really unhappy to miss it by so much. I think if I had woken up feeling stellar and energetic, I could have done it, and so it just feels like a failure of effort on my part to miss it by so much.
It’s now been a few days post-race, though, and I got some good news that has made me feel at least a little better about my results. When I went to look for race photos on Wednesday, I discovered that the Bolder Boulder gives age group awards up to 15th place (because it’s such a big race). And guess who squeaked in at 15th in her age group?! I know 15th place doesn’t sound that exciting, but my age group had a field of 554 people, so I’m actually somewhat proud of that accomplishment. That means my name will be published on a sheet of age group winners, and I will get a medal for my accomplishment! I was beaming ear to ear when I heard this news. I know that running is all about competing against yourself, but I felt validated that the Bolder Boulder truly is a tough course, and that I ran well enough to win an age group award 🙂
So, I guess my sub-45 goal will have to wait for another, flatter race? At least for now… because in next year’s Bolder Boulder, I fully plan to get that elusive sub-45, no matter how hard the course is.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Overall place: 2541/43837 (top 6%)
Gender place: 497/23276 (top 2%)
Age group place: 15/554 (top 3%)