Race report from May 27, 2019
I signed up for the Bolder Boulder several months ago, as has become tradition. (I love having a Memorial Day running tradition – it used to be Vermont City Marathon, now it’s Bolder Boulder!) However, I really haven’t been running much, and expected I’d be much slower this year than in years past. Which is fine – if I haven’t been training, I can’t expect much, right?
I had a blast running a lot of miles at Ragnar Virginia, which helped me realize that maybe my endurance is better than I expected. But then I totally shocked myself running 7:32 miles at the 10 mile Colorado Women’s Classic… which got me wondering if I was perhaps in better shape for Bolder Boulder than I thought. In that race, I had set a goal of breaking 45 minutes for the 10K, and I had managed to do it. Now, Bolder Boulder is shorter, but hillier – did I have it in me to do it for real?
I got a ton of rest the two nights leading up to the race, and I woke up feeling pretty well rested. I didn’t feel exceptional and on fire, but I wasn’t at all tired either. I got ready quickly, had some caffeinated coffee to give me some extra oomph for the race, and headed out the door around 6:00am. My mom was with me – she had originally thought she’d do the race (I planned to run my own race and then go back to the start and walk with her), but now had decided just to spectate rather than walk. I was fine either way, but it was nice to know I’d only have to go 6.2 miles rather than 12.4 🙂
We parked at our usual spot at Fate Brewery – which was closing forever that day! Such a bummer. My mom and I planned to meet up again at the finish, walk over to Snooze on Pearl Street for pancakes, and then walk back to our car and get drinks at Fate with some friends for one last hurrah. I also wanted to make sure I got a growler of the watermelon kolsch before it was gone forever. Turns out, we weren’t the only one with this idea – as we pulled into the parking lot, my friend Heather pulled up right next to us!
The three of us walked up Arapahoe to the start, getting thrown off about halfway up by a volunteer insisting that the course changed and we wouldn’t get to the start if we went straight. But… we did. This was the same routine I’ve always had for Bolder Boulder, but it definitely scared me for a minute that maybe the course had changed, since I had spent a little bit of time looking at my paces in previous years and mapping out a general gameplan for myself.
Speaking of which – looking at my times on Strava last year, I had gotten slower in the later half of the race, whereas this time I hoped to be more steady. I memorized the approximate times (7:30, 7:20, 7:50, 7:30, 7:10, 7:30) and hoped to be just ahead of them as long as possible.
As we started walking down 29th Street toward Orangetheory (which is always open on race day for members to use the bathrooms and warm up on the treadmills), we ran into a friend from Chuze Team Training, and invited him to join us. It was fun to have a little gang of people all getting ready to run! I hit the bathroom at OTF, then hopped on the treadmill for a quick warm up – two rounds of 1 min @ 9.0mph, 30 secs walking. That was it – I didn’t want to tire my legs out; I just wanted to remind them what a solid pace felt like, so that I could hopefully go out at that pace instead of wayyyy too fast like I always do. After that warmup, I was only five minutes away from the start, so I quickly hurried out of OTF and made my way up through the corrals. This year I was starting in the B wave – a little bit further back from where I’ve started in previous years, but hopefully that would provide more of an ego boost since people would (hopefully) not be passing me throughout. I only had a minute or so at the start to get my music set and my Strava ready, and then we were off!
I started out toward the front of my wave, but while in years past I’ve basked in being one of the actual front runners (it is so fun to have that few seconds of leading a race, even if it’s a wave start so you know you’re not actually in the lead), this year I stayed back and tried to keep my pace even. My Garmin hadn’t found satellites when I started, but I knew I could at least look to it every time I crossed a mile marker to see if I was on pace. Last year I had run 7:30 in this mile (despite doing the first half mile at a blistering 6:20 pace); this year, I was hoping for 7:20. Well, I ended up being far faster than that – I clocked in at 6:50 for the first mile! I had run that mile steadily, though, so I hoped that this extra 30 seconds would just give me some extra time banked, rather than tiring me out so I’d fade fast.
For the second mile, I knew there was the little steep uphill where the “you cartwheel, we drink” people are, as well as a steady uphill throughout. I knew last year I had run a 7:20, for this mile, so that was my goal – and I nailed it, clocking a 7:22. That meant I was still 30 seconds ahead of where I was last year, and I wanted to try to keep that lead as long as I could, knowing I’d get tired as the race went on.
The second mile was also where I formulated my kilometer strategy. Bolder Boulder is a unique American race in that they mark all the kilometers on the course as well as the miles. I’m not very good at converting kilometers to miles (I know it’s roughly 0.6, but I suck at converting the pace time on the run), but I estimated that I wanted to try to do each kilometer in about 4:00, and I kept an eye on how closely I was hewing to that guideline. Well, my retroactive math now indicates that 4:00/km is actually 6:26/mile – way faster than I needed! – and that 4:20/km would have been a nice 7:00/mile. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was coming pretty close to 4:00/km throughout, so I was happy with that pacing.
I hit the third mile in 7:23 – well ahead of the 7:50 I had run the year before – and started feeling confident in how well I was doing. Plus, I hit the 5K mark in 22:10! That meant I was squarely on pace to go sub-45, something I had never thought was likely, even with a few seconds of slowdown. This halfway point was where I started to realized I might actually be able to do well in this race… and I was thrilled 🙂
But buried in this fourth mile was one of the biggest hills, and the summit (5384 feet), of the race… and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Throughout all the water stations thus far, I had grabbed a cup and tried to take a sip without slowing my pace, and this one was no exception. The day wasn’t very hot, so I didn’t feel dehydrated, but I was tired. It was a relief to make it up the hill and know I finally had some downhill ahead! Mile 4 was done, in 7:11… twenty seconds faster than last year.
Just because I made it to a downhill didn’t mean I could let up, though. Last year I had made that fatal mistake of thinking I could coast for the next mile, since it loses 46 feet (the biggest net downhill of any mile in the course). But 46 feet over the course of a mile really isn’t a ton, and after the first initial tenth of a mile from the summit, it feels pretty flat rather than downhill. With this in mind, I kept pushing forward hard, trying not to let up and catch my breath. I knew that if I wanted to stay ahead of last year, I needed to be (somewhat) breathless throughout, and not have any easy moments.
Turning down Pearl Street, I knew I had just about a mile and a half to go – which meant just over ten minutes if I could keep the pace up. That seemed doable! However, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t see the Orangetheory crew on Folsom Street when there was a half mile to go – I always like reminding myself that it’s a “2.5 minute push, 1 minute all-out” from there. This year, though, they had been all the way back at mile 2.5, where it was a lot less reassuring to think about what I had left to run 🙂
I was thrilled to complete mile 5 in 7:04. It was only two seconds faster than last year, but I had banked a lot of time in the previous miles and two seconds faster meant I was maintaining my bank. One mile and a sprint around the stadium to go… you’d better believe I was counting down.
We took a right turn from the residential side street onto Folsom, and I knew that as tired as I was getting, it was not time to slack off. I was disappointed not to have the Orangetheory cheering squad where they usually are for a mental boost, but there were still lots of crowds along the way. Meanwhile, I found myself getting closer and closer to the stadium, without getting to the actual hill. I had remembered it as a gradual incline from mile 5.5 to 6, but it turns out it’s just one really steep incline from 5.9 to 6.0.
I tried to power up the steep hill (40 feet in about a tenth of a mile) as hard as I could, knowing there were only a few minutes left in my race. While some years I’ve remembered feeling like I was going to throw up at the top of the hill (and have seen others doing just that), this year I didn’t feel sick; just tired. Ninety seconds left in the race, but I couldn’t find it in me to go hard.
We turned into the stadium, where I usually remind myself that it’s just a victory lap to the finish. Today, though, I found that the plastic cover they put over the turf was really slippery. The inside lane where I wanted to run was on an angle, so I hugged the outside instead, to try to keep from falling. I was frustrated to not be able to stick to the inside and really sprint, and I know my face wasn’t happy as a result! I heard my mom cheering my name, but I couldn’t even acknowledge her; I was just focused on running as fast as I could without falling. And as I turned the corner and got on the straightaway to the finish, I did try to give it all I had – would it be enough??
I knew I crossed the finish line over 45 minutes, but I also knew that I had beaten my paces from last year in every single mile. Despite not feeling confident going into it, I had managed to PR! And when I looked up my results online, I discovered that I had PRed by a lot – my official time this year was 45:37, compared to 46:26 when I ran it last year. Nearly a full minute faster! I couldn’t believe how much stronger I was, even with a lot less running! I guess all that skiing this winter has made my legs much stronger, even if I haven’t been doing the cardio to match.
I found my mom in the stands, and we headed over to the expo to score some free samples before the crowds got in. This year, the expo seemed to have a lot fewer giveaways than previous years, so we didn’t stick around too long… though I did stop at the Orangetheory booth to try my hand at their challenge of rowing as many watts as possible. (I was just shy of 350 watts but couldn’t quite get there.) And from there, we walked all the way back to Pearl Street, cheering for people all the way.
Although we didn’t make it to Snooze until about 9am, we were surprisingly lucky and got a table almost immediately. I was psyched to dive into the Makin’ It Grain bowl (one of their healthier options), and also even more psyched that I convinced my mom to get the pancake flight so I could steal some bites of hers 😉 Meanwhile, I used the race app to track friends, and ran outside to cheer them on every time I knew they were coming past. This was a great way to celebrate my own race but also get to continue the Bolder Boulder experience! I definitely want to start following this plan every year.
And it’s a good thing I liked going to Snooze, because my old favorite post-race destination of Fate Brewing was closing literally that day 🙁 My friend Heather joined us at Snooze for a coffee and a final bit of people-watching / cheering, and then we all walked over to Fate to meet our friends Mike and Cindy for one final beer before Fate closed for good. I loved my watermelon kolsch, and also picked up a growler of it to take home and extend the experience.
In all, I couldn’t believe how well I had done in this race. I have managed to improve my time every single year! Last year I ran so well that I thought this would be the year I finally got slower, but I managed to pull it out once again. I do think next year I’ll need to train to get faster though…
But the really (r)unbelievable part, though, is that for the first year ever, I won an age group award! Because of how big the field is, Bolder Boulder gives awards to the top 15 in each age group. Two years ago, I was showing up as 15th for a full day after the race, but then they adjusted the results and bumped me to 16th and I lost out by a few seconds. This year, I saw that I was in 12th place, but I didn’t want to count my chickens just yet. Well, it’s two weeks post race, and that 12th place has held – so I will officially be getting a medal in the mail and my name on the race website for posterity!!!
I have always suffered from a bit of imposter syndrome, in many aspects of my life, and running is certainly no exception. When I was younger, I tried to cover it up on my blog with a lot of bravado, but the truth is that I’ve always felt like I’m “not a real runner”. (Yes, despite running 100+ marathons. Also – I should point out that I’ve applied my “real runner” logic only to myself; I think everyone else who’s ever run even one step of one mile is a “real runner”. Makes no sense, I know.) But winning an age group award in a race of more than 40,000 people? Man, that feels awesome… and I think I am finally starting to accept that I am a “real” runner and faster than I think.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Overall place: 1704/41,316
Gender place: 308/21,739
Age group place: 12/449