Running the 33rd Bolder Boulder
“Todd was right,” I thought, “they do have the logistics pretty well wired.”
There was a lot of milling-about on 30th Street. Whether or not it was pre-dawn was hard to say, but it was definitely early. But it was a very well organized milling despite the thousands of people. They’ve been running the BolderBoulder for 33 years now and manage to get 50,000+ people across the starting line, the finish line and all the mile and kilometer marks in between with clocklike precision. Everything is split into starting waves of a few hundred people launched at 1-2 minute intervals between 7am and 9:20 comprising a total of over 50,000 people. The faster people go first. I’d qualified for the seventh wave (47-48 minute finish) and this seemed a little optimistic, but here I was toeing the line anyway, anxious to get started.
My Master Plan was simple: go out like a bat-outa-hell and see if I could hold on for 6.2 miles. Having an optimistic pace group would certainly help, but I was relying on race-day adrenaline and the novelty of running a road race to make up for lack of fitness and speed work. After six other waves of certifiably fast people (waves A through BB) hit the road, our trumpeter played and our gun went off at precisely 7:06:30 and it was on. Behind us, the CA wave had another 70 seconds before they’d be released to breath down our necks. Motivation enough.
The first mile felt fast. We pounded up 30th Street past the first couple of warm-up musical acts and a few smatterings of spectators. The first mile banner passed at 7:48; not bad. I was hoping to maintain a sub-8 minute pace for a sub-50 minute finish. “50% off gym membership” advertised a booth on the left. Really? Right turn onto Pine and past people sitting on their lawns with coffee mugs in hand, looking sleepy. Right onto Folsom and immediately up a surprisingly tough hill. Belly dancers on the left, Elvis coming up on the right. 2-mile mark at 7:55, feeling pretty drained. Crap.
Left turn into one of the North Boulder neighborhoods. Lots of people on their lawns watching, some cheering. A slip-n-slide on the left is set up, but not getting any business yet. A few more quick turns. This is *way* faster than my pre-run the course on Friday. Left onto 19th street. 3-mile mark on a slight down-hill. 8:09. Dammit! This is not looking good. 5 km. Half way in 24-something minutes… it’s seriously weird to be half-way done a race in less than half an hour. It’s also seriously weird to be trying to maintain this level of aerobic output.
Waves are fully integrated now. I’m passing some straggling B-wavers and being passed by some from the CA and CB waves. So far, it seems like I’m still in the midst of my fellow C’s. There’s an AA-wave runner (wow, the wheels must have really come off for him!).
Long cruise down 19th, then a short jog over to 13th street. Crowds picking up now. The heavy-metal polka band is getting into it near Ideal Market and the ground is slippery with spilled water and crushed cups just past the huge water station. Grab a cup of Gatorade. Uggg! Full strength! Toss it. Next water’s only a mile away. Short, steep hill at the four-mile mark. Not bad. 7:52. Okay, that’s better. Downhill from here.
Past the parochial middle school where two different bands of 12 year olds are rocking out. The lead guitarist is only 4 feet tall, but he’s pretty good. Left onto Pine and then over to Spruce. Good band playing near the Boulder Theater. Big turn onto Pearl and loads of people. Okay, can I hold this pace for the rest of the race? It’s only another two miles. Maybe.
Right-left onto Walnut and the 5 mile point. 7:36 pace. Okay! That’s more like it! Flying out onto Folsom Street already? More spectators now including a lot of people with late-wave bibs walking over to the starting line. Passing more people. Through the Arapaho intersection and there’s Amy and Joe hiking up toward the stadium but I’m gone too fast to do more than yell their names. A 50 minute finish seems pretty easy now but can I make my 48 minute private goal? Muscles are complaining. Keep pushing it.
The fearsome Folsom hill turns out to be pretty much of a non-event and I power past people who are apparently finding it otherwise. 6 mile mark in the shadow of the stadium; 7:37 pace. Awesome! Time to put the hammer down. Squeal around the corner and onto the white plastic mats lining the stadium. Lots of traffic as people slow dramatically to look around. What are you saving it for people! Go! Nearly trip over another runner who is dodging traffic. Around the final turn and through the finish arch with nothing left in the tank. 48:22. Time to enjoy being done.
So was it fun? The first words out of my mouth as I stumbled into the post-race loading pens were “Wow, that sucked!” but I wasn’t talking about the race experience as a whole. I’ve rarely been that out of breath or sustained that level of aerobic output in my life. Trail races are different; more strategic and mental and much more about the legs than the feet and hip muscles.
It was definitely fun to be part of the huge festival atmosphere of the whole thing. I met up with Amy and Joe in the stands and we ended up spending the rest of the morning watching the river of people flowing into stadium… for hours. I knew a lot of people running this race, but never saw any of them before or after the race. But it’s hardly surprising in such a crowd. I was one of those spoil-sport people who took the race seriously, ran for time, and didn’t wear a silly outfit or take advantage of the on-course tom-foolery. Maybe next time.
If nothing else, it was a new experience for me to be done with a race in less than an hour.