Bolder Indeed

Happy National Running Day!

So, I have to admit. . . I am a runner but will not be running today, as Wednesday just happens to be my typical day off during the week. Instead, I will talk about running, and more specifically, my last race – the 2014 Bolder Boulder.

I had been contemplating whether or not to run the race this year and had decided that I would only register if I felt confident that I could PR for the course. Having felt strong – well, maybe for the first loop at least – at the Greenland 25K Trail Race in early May, and having felt pretty good about my marathon training thus far, I finally registered one day shy of three weeks before the race and hoped for the best come Memorial Day.

Despite feeling good the last time I ran the race – Memorial Day 2012 – I missed a PR by fifteen seconds. That may not sound like much to you, but it can mean a world of hurt when your rib cage aches while heaving with desperate gasps for air, every muscle in your legs aflame, all while realizing in the last two hundred meters that you are going to fall just short of a goal. Drat! Still, that was a beautiful day and a great race. I mean, really, it’s the Bolder Boulder; and the Bolder Boulder is always a great race!

This year, though, was going to be different. Of all four times I had previously run the race, I never trained specifically for it. I either ran it because it was a fun race or used it as a marathon training run – just another ‘check’ off of my running regimen for the week. Nope, not this year. This year, I had prepared specifically for it, even voluntarily subjecting myself to the gut wrenching horror that is – gulp – speed work.

I know I’ve mentioned it previously, but even my most religious of readers may not remember just how much I hate speed work. I down right ABHOR it. It’s hard. It hurts. And, most of all, it scares the Buh-Jesus out of me. What if I don’t run at a fast enough pace? What if I start out strong but then fade by the last 800? and What if I don’t feel good about my workout afterward? are all fun questions that dart through my head like a game of pin ball, each shiny sphere of negativity’s impact with the inside of my skull sending self-doubt flying at warp speed to infect another region of my brain.

This year, though, I was not only doing speed work for weeks prior to the race. I was. . .beginning to, uh, uuummm. . .enjoy it. HUH?! Whaaaah thaaaa. . .@%$#?! Believe me, no one is more surprised to hear those words from my own lips more than me. Marathon training had been going well, speed work had been going surprisingly well. Now there was nothing to do but have a great race.

Memorial Day morning was gorgeous and sunny in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Conditions were just about perfect for running besides being just a tad too warm. More importantly, conditions were perfect for a PR. We were all smiles at the starting line:

Say, 'PR!'

Say, ‘PR!’

I did my typical pre-race warm up – jogging back and forth paired with a knee high-butt kick combo. Then, feeling just warm enough to join my fellow ‘CA’ wave mates at the start, I did my last-minute ‘stay warm’ routine before the gun – jumping up and down and quickly shifting body weight from one leg to the other.

Race co-founder and running legend Frank Shorter – whom you may remember I had an opportunity to meet recently – was on the megaphone at the start. “Today is what I call a ‘no excuses’ day. If you have a bad race, you can’t use weather as an excuse!” No excuses, Mel. No excuses. Just get it.

Mile one went by fast. I looked at my watch as it beeped at me to signify the beginning of mile two. Ooh, OK, a little fast. Slow it down just a tad. You’ve still got a long way to go. I expected the second mile to hurt. Maybe it was the weeks of training leading up to the race, maybe it was my wanting so badly to PR – and to break my own PR set when I was twenty-one years old, more than a handful of years ago. Or, maybe it was the male belly dancer dead center of bright, two-piece costumes and steady drum beat on my left. Whatever it was, mile two was also gone in a flash.

I looked down at my watch. OK, good, still maybe a little fast. Don’t know if I can maintain this pace for the next four point two. Still, all systems were ‘go,’ and I was well on track for a PR. And so, I went.

Live bands, an Elvis impersonator – only one this year that I noted, disappointingly – a Slip’N Slide on someone’s front lawn for fun-loving runners to fly across, spectators handing out beer and bacon slices, constant cheering and home-made signs offering runners encouragement all along the course, the banner marking the beginning of mile four. Half way there!

At this point, runners “climb” up 13th Street to the highest point in the race – Casey Hill, 5,391 feet above sea level. I say that with finger quotes because it’s hardly a climb at all. Well, actually, I remember this hurting in previous bouts along the course. This year, though, I had a bit of a different perspective. Really? That’s it? Mile four, done. One point two to go. Mmm hmm!

I sped up in mile five and felt good. Just go with it! Aaaaaand then, it hit. Not quite a ‘wall,’ per se, but the slight bit of incline in the last quarter mile or so leading up to Folsom Field and the Bolder Boulder finish. UGH! I DON’T remember this much ‘up’! Aaaalmost there, stick with it. . . And suddenly, I entered the field, and, more importantly, again found myself on a flat running surface. One more quick, short curve to the right, and I was home free.

I hugged the curve as I opened my stride and pumped my arms as hard as I could to push to the finish line while playing a quick game of ‘Frogger’ in and out of fellow competitors, then finally hit ‘stop’ on my watch once the finish line banner was out of my line of vision. I looked down at my watch. A new PR! And not just any PR, but a PR by just over two minutes. YES.

There are few things that could have made that day better, but, I managed to find just those – free beer at the finish line; watching Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, and Ryan Hall – among a field of elite runners – cross the finish line; and, of course, running into some fellow Irish Snug Running Club peeps, including a few of my fellow speed workers:

ISRC representin'!

The ISRC representin’ at the BB!

This year so far has brought with it two PRs and the beginning of some pretty sweet tan lines. I’m looking forward to the rest of what 2014 holds, not to mention hopes of another 10K PR at next year’s Bolder Boulder. I’m already registered. . .wink wink.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

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