BolderBoulder 2018 – the 40th anniversary race. This is a race that has been on my bucket list for a few years and after running it I highly recommend it. Started as a small group of friends running in 1978, it has grown to be one of the largest 10K races in the USA. The organization is superb – everything from the sign up process through race day. With an estimated 50,000 participants and over 100,000 spectators this is no mean feat.
Coming from sea level Florida, which is predominantly flat, I was concerned about the altitude and elevation. During the lead up, my coach had told me that “heat is the poor man’s training for altitude”. He thought running in the heat of Florida over the last few months would serve me well. I also incorporated many runs over the local causeway bridge to simulate the changes in elevation in Boulder, CO.
I arrived a couple of days early to get settled in and drove around the course on the Sunday to scope out the elevation. The course was challenging with the first 3.5 miles being on an uphill climb. The remainder of the course was undulating until mile 6 which had a steep climb to the finish at Folsom Field – home of the University of Colorado Buffaloes.
My initial thoughts were to plan a steady speed during the first 3-4 miles and then turn it on as I started the downswing. Goal time was around 56 minutes.
My wife and I started the day by using the “park and ride” bus service instead of trying to find parking. This was a smart move. Our hotel was 5 minutes from the bus station and for $5.20 round trip we got dropped off at the start in plenty of time and were picked up close to the finish after the festivities. No parking headaches!
BolderBoulder prides themselves on their starting wave system which has 97 mini waves all 1 minute apart. This worked really well and I was definitely impressed. This meant that there was no jostling as you started and had plenty of room to get in your groove . Having done other big races like Disney with the nightmare of massive corrals, this was a pleasant experience.
A big part of BolderBoulder is the wacky costumes. This year we had a guy dressed in a work suit including oxford shoes, the Hoka One man which looked like a giant marshmallow to name a few. I also passed 2 girls dressed as donuts, some guys were a bunch of bananas and inflatable dinosaurs appeared to be very popular this year. My Mr Incredible outfit was extremely conservative by these standards.
The weather when the race started was a calm 59F and slightly overcast. This was perfect racing weather for me. As I took off and began activating my planned pace, I hit a snag. About a half a mile in to the run I was struggling to catch my breath. Was this the altitude kicking in? I focused on taking deep breaths similar to some of my practice runs which helped get me back on track.
Another highlight of BolderBoulder are the entertainment and festivities during the run. You have tons of music from bar bands to individual musicians. We even had a couple of opera singers! The kids loved the slip and slide that someone set up in their front grass early on in the race and as for food and drink – everything from beer to doritos – it was being handed out.
By the end of mile 3, I was hitting an 8:49 so I was right where I wanted to be. Hitting the down slopes I managed to push the pace to 8:27,8:15 and 8:12 and the next 3 miles. As I strode past the pipe band between miles 5 and 6 I was feeling pretty good. The plan so far was working. Then it hit!
As I mentioned earlier, some “sadist” decided to incorporate a steep climb in to the finish line inside Folsom Field. This almost broke me and took all my effort to keep going. My form was shot by this time and finishing was the goal.
Entering the stadium packed with people gave me a huge lift and got me through to the line. I wanted to throw up but kept moving and breathing to settle down.
My time ended up being 54:17, my best 10k time in 3 years and probably one of my most complete races in a long time. I conquered the altitude and can officially attest to one of the quote from the BolderBoulder t-shirts – “sea level is for slackers”
The refreshments afterwards were efficiently handed out in a neat lunch tote. This was a pleasant change from the medals you often get that just hang around your room. The tote is definitely something that is reusable. After sitting in the bleachers to recuperate, I met up with my wife and watch some of the other finishers. Then we headed over to the grassy area where the band was playing. Not sure what the band’s name was but they were extremely good. They gave us everything from the Beatles to A-Ha to Stevie Ray Vaughn to Hendrix and even threw in some Zeppelin.
After stretching and laying back for a while, we headed back to the stadium to catch the elite races. After the “Citizen Race” as it is called, BolderBoulder has a mens and womens elite race full of world class athletes from the USA, Ethiopia and beyond.
Much of the races were shown on the stadium screen and the final lap for each was greeted by cheers from the large crowd. Ethiopian runners dominated as expected, winning both races.
Rounding out the day was the Memorial Day celebration, dubbed by the organizers as the largest such event in America. It was impressive and was concluded with skydivers entering the stadium with flags representing all branches of the US military as well as the Stars and Stripes.
This was a great experience and I am so glad I took the time to enter this race. If you are ever looking for a race on Memorial Day this is for you.