Monday, May 30, 2011

Race Report -2011 BolderBoulder

For the first time in its 33 year history, the BolderBoulder began with runners heading north on 30th street, rather than south. With this change also came a change of the starting line. Formerly at the old Bank of Boulder location near 30th and Iris, the new start is just south of 30th and Pearl on the east side of the 29th Street Mall. Probably the best thing about this is that you're now able to park there at the mall and in just a few minutes be in your starting group. Previously, it was over a mile to get from the mall to the start. Not that I mind a warm up, but that always felt too long. Plus, a couple of years I barely made it on time to my start!

A near perfect summer afternoon and evening yesterday gave way to more overcast and even a few thick banks of fog this morning. It's what I'm coining as "BolderBoulder weather." In January, the Denver area has what is referred to as "Stock Show weather" which is to say its often cold and snowy the week the National Western Stock Show is in town. Although we have seen many sunny days, I still associate more races than not with wet or at least cool weather. Today was no exception.

There were still a lot of people in the start area, but clearly they had more room than years past so it was easier to get into position and ready to race.

A few thousand wait for their wave to start.

I went out a what is my typical 8:30 pace as I have been doing on a lot of training runs. Despite all of the advice of coaches and running experts everywhere, I knew that I would have my best shot to show a good time buy getting ahead of my overall goal pace early. No telling if it was actually the case, but I think the usually crowded field was less congested during that opening mile along 30th Street. It was also a bit more challenging as running northward means a slight incline. However, it was nothing too significant.

After the left turn onto Valmont, we continued into previously un-run territory on 28th Street. For those of you not familiar with Boulder, 28th is one of the major thoroughfares so I thought closing a section of it down for the race was actually a pretty big deal.

Running south on 28th Street

Then again, this is a premier event in that city and they pretty much shut down anything they need to so that the event goes smoothly.

After another new section of course down Pine Street, the pack made the right turn onto Folsom and back onto the old course route. Boulder is a race that draws a lot of its strength from traditions. In the first mile, you can count on seeing a the Blues Brothers performing for the crowd, as you approach the second mile, you'll see Elvis at the corner of Folsom and Valmont. Tutu's, belly dancers, a slip and slide, they're all part of the festivities as you make your way.

Two miles were down for me in about 17 minutes. I still felt pretty good, but I had no illusions about keeping up that pace so I eased back to around the 9:00 minute mark. Fortunately, the first four miles or so contain a couple of good down hills whereas the up hill climb is more gradual. This allowed me to run a sub 9:00 pace along sections and keep the overall time about where I wanted it to be.

The approach to mile four can always be a little daunting in this race. It's one of the highest hill on the course though not the steepest--they save that for the end! I definitely felt and saw my heart rate climb as I went up the hill, but it was over quickly and you do enjoy the benefit of a recovery on the downhill side.

It's at this point that the route takes you through part of the downtown area and then back east. There were a few sprinkles along this section, but they never turned into all-out rain.

Feeling tired but still keeping up a decent pace and came through mile 5 under 45:00 which is pretty much ahead of where I hoped to be. The turn back onto Folsom, now heading south was easy enough and that stretch of the course is reasonably flat, even a little bit down hill. That is, until you cross over Boulder Creek. Then the steepest hill on the whole course begins. At this point, you're just shy of six miles and you can hear the music from inside the stadium.

As I mentioned, Boulder is so beloved for its traditions and perhaps the greatest of all of these is the finish into Folsom Stadium. The music is playing on the big PA system, thousands of people are in the stands, and you get to do an Olympic-style finish. I've done it 14 times now and it's still a thrill.

I ended the day at 55:48 which is better than my soft goal of 56:00. It's an improvement of almost 55:40 over my time at the Spring Runoff and that's especially pleasing because that was a much flatter and faster course.

After making my way through the field house I stopped to take in this view of the finish area:

Finishing the BolderBoulder means a 3/4 Olympic-style lap around Folsom Stadium

And when it's all over, you get to enjoy a beer at 8:30 in the morning!

The bad:

I don't have much of a list here. Thirty-three years of doing this tends to make race directors pretty good at what they are doing. I would instead consider these not as good as opposed to bad.

Getting out of the mall, post race - It's entirely possible we missed it, but there probably should be a sign that indicates the easiest way out of Boulder as you leave the mall. We did a little driving around trying to figure that one out.

Expo Exhibitors - There were definitely some running and fitness appropriate vendors. I also get it that sponsors are a big part of what makes a race happen and you have to give a few of them space to hawk their wares. However, in lieu of cell phone and satellite TV providers, it would be cool to see some folks in the sports technology business. Garmin and Polar are two that come to mind. I know there are others.

The good:

It's very good. This may be about the most well-run race I've ever seen.

Course - The new course is a winner! Less congestion at the start, easier parking, more access to restrooms. It all works and since the Bank of Boulder no longer even exists under that name, moving the start away from their location makes sense.

Pre-race Logistics - Distributing packets through the key sponsor, Dick's Sporting Goods, makes a lot of sense. I got mine weeks ago and didn't have to worry about it. Additionally, I used my Spring Runoff time and was placed in a corresponding starting group quickly. No muss, no fuss!

On-course entertainment - It's the BolderBoulder! Need I say more?

Remembering it's still Memorial Day - I still get a chill every time this happens. A squad of Marines dressed in BDU pants, boots and black T-shirts come marching in at a steady trot, bearing colors. Just before the finish, they veer off to the side, form up and then drop and do-push-ups. Then they reform, and march the rest of the way in. It's met with applause and cheers that are as loud as it gets at any football game. It does much to restore my faith in the goodness of the American people and the respect they have for the armed forces. Semper Fi, Marines, and truly, thank you for your service!

Post-race swag - Keeping with the Memorial Day theme, they hand out small American flags and you also get a lunch bag which, in my case, will be going to work with me just about everyday:

It was another great year. I can't recommend this race enough. If you live in the area, if you live near the area, if you are hundreds of miles away but want a race vacation, check this one out. You'll have some of the most fun you can at a 10K!

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