This Memorial Day, I decided to join about fifty two thousand other people and participate in my hometown race, the Bolder Boulder 10K. I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and grew up around this race but had never seen it in action. The entry makes this event the largest 10k in the country, and it is the largest Memorial Day party in the USA. I knew neither of these facts when I registered. Nor did I know that Runner’s World Named it “America’s Best 10k”, or that it draws elite runners from all over the world. The only thing I did know was that it was a 10K, the race motto is “sea level is for sissies,” and that I really wanted that on a t-shirt. Like, I wanted it yesterday. So I signed up, and lemme tell you, it was amazing!
One of my very favorite things about this race (which is saying a lot because there were many favorite things) was the packet pick-up. It was pre-race, and by pre-race, I mean weeks in advance. The Bolder Boulder rents a storefront at the 29th Street mall which opens weeks before the race. It’s brilliant! I was able to swing by on my lunch break and pick up my packet as well as do a little shopping. Usually, the packet pick-up location is an hour and a half drive from me and requires me to take off work early to manage the traffic. This option was the best thing ever, and an example of why this race has a reputation for running like a well-oiled machine. When I picked up my packet, I found the tribute bib which I was super excited about. My family has a rich military history and I was honored to run for these brave men in my family on Memorial Day.
Race festivities begin the Saturday before the race and go through the weekend. Saturday and Sunday the Expo takes over Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, a trendy pedestrian street lined with boutique shops, pubs, and restaurants. It’s beloved by locals and packed with buskers in the summertime. I made it to Pearl Street late Sunday afternoon, scored some energy gels, and picked up a great headband for the race. There were tons of deals on awesome running gear, but somehow I managed to refrain from purchasing the neon pink Brooks Pure Flow shoes. After the expo, my husband and I stopped at The Gondolier for a pre-race carb load.
The traffic in Boulder is annoying on a normal day. On race day, it’s uberdiculous. We devised a plan to drive to my office on the east side of Boulder and then ride our bikes along the Boulder Creek bike path to the starting line. This plan worked out perfectly. The weather was beautiful! It was in the low sixties and calm, perfect for riding and running! I got a bit of a warm-up riding my bike for about a mile and a half, and we didn’t have to deal with any stress of parking and maneuvering through the crowds. It worked out so well, this will be our plan every year! After we parked our bikes near the starting line, I found the porta-potties. There were so many there was no wait at all to get in. My husband Rick walked with me to my corral, which I’m always grateful for because his 6’ 3 sees over heads much better than my 5’2. I waited about 10 minutes before my start at 8:58.
I admit I was nervous about the crowds at this race. I was worrying about it in emails to Mer, and she, being the best cheerleader ever, assured me to just relax, let it happen, and most of all, to enjoy it. Race day was pleasant surprise. Although it was busy I wouldn’t have guessed that there were fifty-two thousand participants. The BB is so organized and the waves are so well spaced that it didn’t feel like a big production race.
There was plenty of breathing room in the coral, and once we set off it didn’t take long for the pack to break up as everyone found their pace.
The course takes runners through the streets of Boulder, both commercial and residential. I loved the residential sections as it made the Bolder Boulder feel like a hometown race. People who live along the route are wonderfully supportive. I saw two girls holding a “free hugs” sign, and I had to take them up on their offer. They assured me I deserved lots of hugs. Awesome spectators bust out their garden hoses to spray heated runners as they pass. Some stood with huge bowls of Doritos, offering the salty snack to runners who need it. The Garage bands open their garage doors and play “We Are the Champions” and “Eye of the Tiger” to keep runners motivated. They even build slip-and-slides in their front lawns for added amusement and refreshment. Because really, who doesn’t want to slip-and-slide when given the opportunity? There was a drum circle drumming a rhythm for a troupe of belly dancers, who encouraged us with their sauciness (seriously, only in Boulder would you see this). I tried to get video of these beautiful ladies, but I utterly failed at correctly operating my iPhone that day. Plus my battery was quickly dying, and I needed to save some juice for my finish line pic and calling Rick afterward.
At the four-mile mark, I was feeling pretty good. That is also the Casey hill, named because it’s next to Casey Middle School (my alma mater), and it happens to be the highest elevation point on the course at 5.391 feet. By cresting this hill, I earned my “sea level is for sissies” t-shirt!
Not long after, a sharp pain in my right hip forced me to slow down and walk more than jog. I had registered as a “jogger/walker, mostly jogger” (yes, that is the actual category name) and I stuck to that until my hip acted up. The hip opening yoga sequence I had done before the race hadn’t kept this annoying pain at bay, but I was so close to the 5 mile mark that I pushed myself to run as much as I could the rest of the race. Someone held a sign that said “not all pain is significant” and that sharpened my mental focus. I relied on the encouragement of the crowd and volunteers as I jogged up the last not-so-little hill toward the finish line at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.
Running into a stadium full of cheering people was exciting. I got tons of high-fives from the people in the first row as I ran through and that helped me go a little faster those last few yards. I felt strong despite the pain and I was so proud of myself for this accomplishment. This was the longest distance I had ever run! I crossed the finish line in 1:29:28. I was not as fast as I would have liked, but I wanted come in under 1:30. 1:10 would have been better. That’s what goals are for though, right? I managed to snap a finish line selfie before my phone died.
Feeling hungry, and more importantly, thirsty (for beer), I made my way to timing tag return then grabbed my snack bag and Michelob. FYI, trying to find your husband in a crowd of thousands without your phone is really, really hard. So I did what any girl would do, I went to the expo! It was great until I realized that I didn’t have any funds with me, they were with missing husband. So was the real camera. Making my way back to my bike would be the best plan as he would wait for me there. As I
hobbled walked back down the hill, I spied him sitting near the course not far from the stadium. Reunited at last! After the short bike ride back to the car, my legs were done.
It was well worth it, though, and I will be signing up for the 37th Annual BolderBOULDER 10K on Memorial 2015 in case any of you want to join me! Come on, don’t be a sissy!
Jenn is an asthmatic former smoker who never in her life thought she’d run by choice. She enjoys surprising herself with new accomplishments, as well as quilting, writing fiction, working on her blog, sci-fi, and pugs. She can be found in her sewing room plotting costume ideas for the Disney Star Wars Rebel Challenge.