Here’s what I will say about the BB10k. It should be on everyone’s running bucket list. Every kilometer of this race has entertainment, crowd support, and all the fun you could cram into 6.2 miles. You have trampolines, Elvis, Bands, DJs, Slip & Slides, Marshmallow pop guns, bacon stations, the Dorito stop, Donuts, Cheerleaders, Belly Dancers, Beer, Jell-o Shots, American Flags, and Drumlines. When you run the BolderBoulder, it’s worth taking your time to enjoy it.
Because it is not a fast course.
The BolderBoulder 10k averages a 90 degree turn every quarter mile — 23 turns. You spend the first four miles going steadily up in elevation, loose all that elevation again in mile 5, then regain it all again and then some for the final mile. Add to that the race organization doesn’t cap the race, so 50,000 runners, joggers, walkers, wheelchairs, Waldos, Dinosaurs, and Wrestlers all crowd on to the course.
While I know many people who do indeed get their PRs at this race, all those factors listed above make it difficult to do so. And that got in my head.
I had this race circled on my calendar as a target race this season, but for a strange sequence of events. I had run Boulder’s sister race, the Fortitude 10k up in Fort Collins last September where I achieved an all time 10k PR. Boulder (masters of marketing) had then reached out to me and said, “hey you did so great in FoCo, we’ll give you this awesome wave start time in Boulder!” I had to kick it around a little bit, ultimately deciding to take advantage of what would be my best BB10k Corral placement yet. I wasn’t really looking forward to the race itself, though. My husband has run it twice, and said that was enough for him. I couldn’t begrudge him the sentiment.
My training for Boulder included much harder workouts than I was used to: lots of hills and reps and speed thrown in a blender. I feared those tougher workouts, but was always happy when I finished them. I nailed my training. I hit paces on all of my speed work, I ran almost every mile in spite of challenging Spring weather conditions for the 2 months leading up to Boulder.
Like I said, I nailed it.
But it wasn’t until 2 days prior to the race that I started thinking about my Race Day plan, what I would wear, or how we would manage the day. I had been avoiding thinking about the race itself. I believed my goals were tough, and I was afraid to think of how hard it would be.
So I thought about what I wanted: to course PR the Bolder Boulder (fastest time on that course specifically) — that was what I had been training for. The specificity of training was fast hills. My fastest time was set in 2017 with a 1:04:26. So I thought hitting 10:00-10:15 paces throughout was a good plan. Coach Christine and I broke it down further, though: Miles 1-2 10:10-10:15; Miles 3-4 10:05-10:10; Last two miles 10:10 or faster to the finish.
Race day conditions could not have been more perfect: 50 degrees at race start partly cloudy, light breeze. As I hit the start line, I wasn’t really focused on the race. It wasn’t until I was high-fiving the security team that I thought, “I should probably get set up.” I found my run program in my watch, turned on my playlist, and the gun went off.
I took the first mile too fast: 9:37. I’m pretty sure that set me up for the rest of the race. My average paces were still on track and the first four miles I kept pace. Even in the early waves, it felt like wall to wall people. Runners converged on every turn to run the tangent, slowing pace, and some would even stop to walk in the middle of the turn. Dodging and weaving around all those people became tedious very early. I made a note of all the times there was an uphill section…let’s just say it would have been easier to count the downhill sections. Many times during the race, I thought, “I really don’t like this course…”
Then a turn to the south, a downhill stretch, a water station, then the “hill.” The course summit hill by the fire station — this hill is in my head. When I approached it, it didn’t seem as steep or as long as I keep imagining it, and I’ve run this course 3 times before. The Course Summit sign was only 5,391 feet, when I could swear I remember it being 12,000 feet (yes, an exaggeration, but that is what I imagined). I muscled as hard as I could, but by this time, my legs were noodling, my heart rate was off the chart, and I had to slow to a walk. I took a quick selfie with the Course Summit in the background.
In the 3 miles previous, I hadn’t been thinking about my goal. It just wasn’t in my mind. I wasn’t driving toward that goal, just fixated on the process of running fast and dodging people. So on the downhill side of mile 4 I started pushing to make up for that lost time. I let my legs turn over quicker and pushed down Pearl Street before turning back down Folsom to the final stretch. I had hit the 7k mark and thought, okay, 15 more minutes or so. After the 8k mark, I knew I would be close, so I switched my watch to show total time: 58 minutes and change. I couldn’t do runners math at that point, but I knew I couldn’t let off the gas. 9k mark began the last and hardest uphill stretch — past the CU Buffalo inflatable, past the bagpipers, and the final 90 degree turn to the toughest hill on the course before turning into the stadium.
I really tried.
I wanted so badly to push up that hill…I had to walk it. My heart rate had redlined, I’m gasping for air, I had nothing more to throw down. I had turned off my music, and as I turned into the stadium, I ran as hard as I could to the last turn, then one more kick the last 100 yards. I crossed the finish line barely remembering to thrust my arms overhead. There was no smile, no victory scream, I was done.
I emptied the tank out there. I had nothing left when I crossed the finish line, while I was hoping for better, I can say I did the best I could given the challenging course.
But did I Course PR? I looked at my finish time, but couldn’t remember what my 2017 time was. I knew I was within seconds, but I’m not sure which side of 2017 I landed on. Hours later, I looked it up…
2017 finish 1:04:26; 2019 finish 1:04:30.
In the words of Agent Smart, “missed it by that much.” It’s the selfie stop. It’s the short walk at mile 4. It’s the uphill walk at mile 6. Any one of those made that 4-second difference. But it could also have been the 5 people who stopped to walk right in front of me throughout the race. It was a choice to run tangents instead of avoiding the crowd and going wide. It was a fast first mile. It was that guy who cut me off, the breeze was a bit strong…
Am I kicking myself how I ran this race? No, not really. I knew going in the course and the crowd are the biggest obstacles, which is why I wasn’t setting an All-Time PR goal. My training for this race was spot on. Coach Christine calls this a PR in spite of the time difference, and I’ll take that. If this race were for an all-time PR, I would have been more aggressive with it and smarter early on.
I’m not really disappointed with my performance. I gave it all I had. I think it’s the course. I don’t like it — between the net uphills, the massive amounts of people, and the number of turns, it’s a really hard course to run fast.
That being said, the Bolder Boulder 10k is one of the best organized and executed races I’ve ever experienced. The sheer number of volunteers, the on-course support, the number and quality of port-o-potties, the sponsors all make this massive community event go off with no discernible issues. I can see why so many runners make their way to Boulder, Colorado each year to run it, and if you haven’t run it yet, I strongly suggest putting it on your Bucket List.
For me, though, after the 4th running, I’m done with it for a while. The takeaway for me is that I know I can do better on a more favorable course. I will go back to Fort Collins in September to see what I can do there (FoCo is a net downhill, with only 10,000 runners). And then maybe try for a late summer/early fall 10k somewhere at lower elevation to see if I can go sub-60. I know I’m close…