In preparation for that vacation, I had emailed my friend Mike (our host for Quad Rock a couple of weeks ago) and asked him for some running route suggestions in Denver. He clued me in on some good routes and also casually mentioned Bolder Boulder. I checked out the race website and was surprised to find that registration was still open (and, actually, they took registrations race day morning, which is just insane to me for a race that big). Really, Bolder Boulder is the antithesis of everything I like about trail and ultra running, but it is a well known event and Boulder is a cool town. After some deliberation, I decided I wouldn't mind seeing what the whole thing was like first-hand, so I went ahead and registered.
To handle the masses of people, you are placed in one of 92 waves with staggered start times. The idea is that you'll end up running with a group of people of similar speed, which will avoid massive traffic jams, throwing of elbows, cussing and general malcontent as always happens when large numbers of runners attempt to self-seed. For the most part, it seemed to work very well. Based on my time from the Missoula Marathon last year (the only non-ultra qualifying time I had), I was placed in the BA wave, which is the 5th wave to start. This was good, since it meant I would start at about 7:04 AM, be done running before 8:00 and we could hit the road back to SoDak fairly early in the morning (the later waves didn't start until after 9:00 AM).
In order to hopefully make the race day go a bit smoother, I opted to drive up to Boulder from Denver on Sunday afternoon to pick up my race packet rather than braving huge lines on race morning. This may or may not have been a good choice. As soon as I hit Boulder, traffic was bumper to bumper and it took me longer to drive around downtown and find a parking spot than it had to drive the 30 miles from Denver. The downtown area was absolutely stuffed to the gills with people in town for the race and I found myself wondering why in the hell I had decided to do this. I did eventually get my race packet and made a quick escape back to the relative calm of Denver.
After that experience, my biggest concern for race day wasn't the race itself, but finding a decent parking spot for Shannon and the kids. With that in mind, we got up at the buttcrack of dawn and drove into Boulder and paid a fairly ridiculous $20 to park on the University of Colorado campus, within easy walking distance to the finish line at Folsom Field. The start line was about a mile walk from there, which was fine with me. I was just glad to have a good parking spot at that point.
As for the race, I had absolutely no expectations going into it. I hadn't even thought about running it until less than a week ago and I was primarily there for the experience. Not to mention that I have done absolutely zero speed training this spring. Basically, the plan was to just start running and see how things felt and go from there. At precisely 7:00, the first wave took off and like clockwork they kept herding us forward until my wave was at the front and on our way just past 7:04. Immediately, I felt like crap. My legs felt heavy and tired and my stomach didn't feel all that agreeable. I immediately began wondering how many porta-potties were located along the course and where they might be (luckily, I never had to answer that question). Overall, I felt tired and suddenly "just a 10K" felt like a very long ways. I spent the better part of the first 5K just trying to get into some kind of rhythm, and I would for short stretches, but then I would have stretches where I felt like crap again. It was like a microcosm of an ultra playing out on a much smaller scale. I ran between 7:20 and 7:40 pace for those first few miles, which is not spectacular at all considering I had run a trail 10K, with many more hills and less smooth footing, at around the same pace the week before.
After hitting the halfway point, I finally found a groove and was able to stay in it for the remainder of the race. I dropped my pace to sub-7:00 for the last couple of miles and started passing a bunch of people in the process, which is always fun. I still didn't feel great, but I felt tolerable. Up a couple of short hills and we were in Folsom Field for a final half lap to the finish. I ended up running a 45:15, a solid 6 minutes slower than my 10K PR, but I was totally fine with that. After getting herded like cattle through the finish line, past the chip removal and into the indoor track where I got a free Michelob Ultra (not my beer of choice, but I'm not one to turn down a free beer), I finally emerged back outside where I was able to locate Shannon and the kids fairly easily. Back to the car and back on the road for a 6 hour drive home.
So, would I do it again? Probably not. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with Bolder Boulder. In fact, the level of organization is mind boggling and, from my perspective, things seemed to flow very smoothly. The course is fairly nice, Boulder is a beautiful town and the race seems to be the focal point of the weekend. It was a cool thing to experience, but once is probably enough for me. Like I said before, road 10Ks with masses of people just aren't really my thing. I'm glad I did it this once, though, just to see what it was all about.
Now, back to the trails.