Running the Bolder Boulder 10K, Colorado

2011 Bolder Boulder

It is Monday afternoon on May 30th, and I just got home from the SPECTACLE of 56,000 runners sprinting, trotting, jogging, walking, gasping and sometimes crawling through downtown Boulder and into the football stadium to finish the 2011 Bolder Boulder 10K. It blew my mind seeing the nearly endless procession of wall-to-wall runners and walkers extending from curb to curb for several continuous HOURS this morning (as we backtracked on the course to get a brunch at a restaurant, then see the elite runners SPRINT by as if they are running 100 meters, rather than 10,000 meters).

I’m exhausted and dehydrated, but exhilarated by the sense of achievement. And the endorphins coursing through my body. The Bolder Boulder is one of the great events in the US each year.

In some ways, I dislike running. My body type is more suited to short, explosive bursts rather than endurance activity. However, I run Bolder Boulder because it is such an incredibly entertaining, invigorating spectacle of an event, and training for it keeps me in better shape (I lost 15 pounds as a result of my training since December to prepare for this event—largely to achieve my goal of running a time lower than my age).

My pre-race goal of maintaining a 5-minute-per-kilometer pace was nearly perfectly executed. At kilometer one, my time was 4:59! And I passed my neighborhood grocery store (about 6 km from the start) precisely when I expected to: about 30 minutes into the run (I had suggested a few friends watching the event at the grocery store to look for me about 30 minutes after my 7:19 a.m. start). My overall time was 50:23, which is 60 seconds faster than my target of running a time less than my age, and over 6 MINUTES faster than my time in 2010.

Overall, I finished at 4,502, which means I beat over 50,000 runners to the finish line. In my age and gender cohort, I placed 48th out of 386.

Next year’s goal: sub-50 minutes…

Another interesting factoid: My finish in the 2011 Bolder Boulder meant that I was the 984,523rd person to finish the Bolder Boulder since it started in 1979. If I had slowed down and run 8 minutes slower, I would have been the millionth runner to cross the finish line in Bolder Boulder history – that runner was awarded running shoes, a mountain bike, free season football tickets and running gear.

Unfortunately, I seemed to have peaked too early in my training, which started in December of last year. A few weeks ago, in a training run, I ran a time of 48 minutes…

As I waited for the starting gun this year, I had a disconcerting thought as my wave of runners was about to start: There are hundreds of people in my wave, and they all ran about my 56-minute time last year. Since I planned to run a time under 51 minutes this year, I realized that to do that, I’d have to beat all of these hundreds of runners in my wave by several minutes! (if they run the same time this year, that is)

Something shocking and completely unacceptable that Ann and I witnessed while watching the elite runners later in the day: We are watching the elite women running, and the goofy press truck (which looks like a giant wedge of red cheese made out of plywood) full of photographers and driving just ahead of the lead runners took a turn too slowly and actually GOT IN THE WAY AND SLOWED DOWN THE LEADERS!! If I were one of the lead runners, I’d pitch a royal fit with the Bolder Boulder organizers. Sheesh!

2012 Bolder Boulder

On a surprisingly chilly Monday morning, May 28, I set off for my fourth-ever Bolder Boulder 10K run. My goal, as I noted above, is to run a sub-50 minute time. I feel a bit worried at the start line as, like last year, I may have peaked a week or two before the run, as I ran a 47-minute training run earlier in the month.

But this year, I have a secret weapon that I had learned during training.

In all of my many prior road races, one consistent goal has always been to run the entire distance without walking. I had achieved that each time since college years, when I started to run road races, and even managed to do it for the NYC Marathon I ran in 2004.

But what I learned in training for the 2012 Bolder Boulder was a new, surprisingly, and somewhat unsettling discovery: I learned, accidentally, that brief walks during my run actually REDUCES my overall time compared to running the entire way. I learned this because on a few of my training runs, when I needed to climb a very steep hill near the end of my run, I would be so exhausted that I had to start walking. I walked for about 60 seconds. And when I checked my stopwatch at the end, I had run a time under 50 minutes!

How could that be?

As best I can tell (and I believe this has been confirmed in studies done for other runners), by walking briefly, I am able to “catch my second wind,” as they say. I am therefore able to run at a rather fast pace for the final stretch of the run. My “kick,” when combined with a short walk, gives me a lower overall time than when I run the entire distance – apparently because without the brief walk and second wind, my final distance is substantially slower than that same stretch of distance when I have rejuvenated myself by walking.

Admittedly, such a strategy is one that I find hard to swallow. For one thing, given my “no walking” goal in all past runs, I feel as if I’d be giving up or quitting. For another, it almost seems like I am cheating.

But I overcome these concerns as I have previously learned how EXHAUSTING it can be to run a 10K at the mountainous Boulder elevation of 5,430 feet (where there is little oxygen). The plan to briefly walk gives me the comforting feeling, while I am running, that I’ll have a way to catch my breath as I gasp my way to the finish line.

My plan for 2012 Bolder Boulder, then, is to walk for 60 seconds, as I had done in training a few times. But during the 2012 run, I am slightly disappointed to realize that I must refuel my legs and lungs well before my planned location of the final hill leading into the stadium finish line. Instead of one 60-second walk, then, I find myself doing three 20-second walks in the final few kilometers.

One woman running near me urges me on when she sees me walking. “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE! DON’T STOP! KEEP RUNNING!” While I appreciated her efforts to help me, she is unaware of the fact that my walks are pre-planned.

As it turns out, I believe I crossed the finish line in front of this supportive runner…

And not only did I achieve my sub-50 minute goal. I actually ran a sub-49 minute race!

Here are the detailed results from my previous Bolder Boulder 10Ks:

Overall Time:

1997 = 55:48

2010 = 56:33

2011 = 50:23

2012 = 48:55

Division Place:

50-Year Old Males in 2010 = 144 out of 404

51-Year Old Males in 2011 = 48 out of 387

52-Year Old Males in 2012 = 40 out of 361

Overall Place:

2010 = 11,082 out of 48,000

2011 = 4,511 out of 54,000

2012 = 3,570 out of 53,000

Not sure yet what my goal should be for the 2013 Bolder Boulder 10K. Perhaps FOUR brief walks?…

The Bolder Boulder is, as touted by many (including Runners World), the best 10-kilometer road race in America. I suggest you add it to your bucket list…

Categories: 2011-Present, Colorado, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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