About a week before it crashed Boulder traffic (oh you sorry, sorry drivers) I started hearing rumblings about the Boulder Creek Festival. And, about the same time – this vague thing called the Bolder Boulder. Not being a local, I had no clue as to the importance or magnitude of either.
At first thinking the Bolder Boulder was just an ad campaign for the festival, I quickly learned it was some sort of monstrous 10K road race, weaving its way through the streets of Boulder on Memorial Day. At two days before the race, seeing as how I had obviously trained hard for the event at altitude (/nix), I signed up.
Even after I gagged through the $52 entry fee (woo t-shirt!) and had my race number in hand, I hadn’t quite fathomed the monstrous size of the race. The several dozen “waves” of people running the race at different times during Monday morning should have clued me in, but I stayed rather oblivious to all signals, honing in only on how I was going to finish the race with any dignity, not having run a timed race for going on 7 years.
Fast forward 36 hours to the Sunday eve before Memorial Day, and my logical attemps at getting 8+ hours of sleep are foiled by my flat mates (blind move-in) investing several hours over a bong.
Waking up at 7ish to make my 8:09 start time, the bong-ee on my living room couch woke startled to someone crashing his 1pm breakfast plans.
I quickly found my way outside to finally understand just how massive the race I had entered was. Hundreds upon hundreds of runners surged their way from the start line, which actually made it very easy to find. Locating my “wave” was rather easy as well, as alphabetically ordered signs lined their way up to the start line. Wave HA was apparently my ticket. After bumming a second safety pin to hold my number (my packet didn’t come with any), it was quickly time to be off, gunshot and all.
I quickly found the pace of other participants to be rather slow, and understood why other participants would want to actually know beforehand how fast they were going to finish the race. Aided by a bad rendition of the Blues Brother’s “Someone to Love,” I made my way through the first mile in 8:13, which promised to be my average mile time for the rest of the race. Mile 2 was 8:16, and much the same as mile 1 – more people dodging, shoddy but entertaining cover bands, and more people dodging.
At this point in the race, there were quite a few twists and turns through the residential districts of north-central Boulder, which had me going uphill for a goodly portion of it, and dodging the outside tracks of walkers and joggers by the hundreds more. (Mile times 8:47 and 8:32) Gladly though, the good people of Boulder came out by the droves to cheer us all on, as well as chuck marshmallows, donuts, tator tots and beer (yes, beer) at us as we ran by. I elected none of this, seeking rather to have some sort of respectable time. Next time however, I might be tempted for an 8oz IPA at 8:15 in the morning. Why not?
Finally cresting what I thought to be the last of the steady climbs through residential Boulder, I poured a little heat on through the downhill stretches which had us go through the downtown segment of Boulder. (Mile times 7:59 and 7:53) More cover bands, one or two which actually were rocking out pretty hard, along with my one sober roommate, cheered me on through the last stretch of the race.
At last, I was greeted with a final straightaway which took me up Folsom Street into CU Boulder’s sizeable football stadium. (quite the finish locale) My height got me a noticeable 15 seconds of fame on the jumbotron as I trotted with hundreds others into the stadium up the last climb of the course.
Final time, 51.29 and a 8:17 mile average, finishing 5959th out of 50,000+ runners, joggers and walkers. Since I had been oblivious to the sheer number of people running the race, looking at the site stats finally let it sink in.
A fully fledged fair greeted me on CU boulder campus, as well as a beer (after a race, really?). So I opened by Michelob Ultra and promptly wondered just how much Lance Armstrong gets paid to choke that stuff down on commercials. Were I actually serious about running, I’m sure I would have gotten a kick out of the festival. Rather I just picked up some free ice cream and a hat to shield myself on the walk home, where I promptly crashed for the duration of the morning.
And the bongees? Probably still on the couch.