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Breaking Fifty

Started: 2010-06-01 20:36:00

Submitted: 2010-06-01 22:10:51

Visibility: World-readable

Last year, I discovered the results for most of the years I ran the Bolder Boulder posted online. While bored one afternoon, I looked up every year's results for my entire family, and compared my best time to my father's best time. His best time, from 1998, was 49:38. (My worst times are best left undiscovered; trying to run ten kilometers without having run at all in the past year is not an especially good idea.) I didn't think I could beat that time last year, but I took special note as my time to beat for 2010.

Having learned useful lessons about my running limits last summer, I laid out a reasonable spring training program, taking into account my week-long trip to India in early March. I ended up with a modest training program emphasizing endurance over speed, trying to stretch something approaching my 5k pace out to 10k. I ran lactate-threshold runs every week, building to a six-mile LT run at Torrey Pines State Beach two weeks ago, to learn my pace and build my endurance. I studied the mile splits recorded by my Garmin Forerunner 305, and struggled up the giant hill half-way through my standard 5.35-mile run during lunch. I realized my running shoes were wearing out when I discovered that I had no more tread on the balls of my feet, which suggested that I had at least been wearing the right shoes but sent me back to Boulder Running Company for a new pair. (I ran on the order of 750 miles in the same pair of shoes in one year, 50% more than the most liberal estimate of the lifetime of a pair of running shoes. I began to wonder about the merits of a running log that automatically orders new shoes when it sees me pass 500 miles on the last pair.)

I slacked off my training (even more than a normal pre-race "taper" would suggest) in the last week before the Bolder Boulder thanks to Megafest 9.0, managing a mere 12 miles in two runs, down from a peak of 24 miles. (I would have run more had I not gotten a nasty cold at the end of April.) Staying up past midnight most nights in the days before the race did not leave me especially well-rested, but I was confident in my training and knew I'd have a good race.

My alarm woke me up at 05:45 MDT on Monday morning. I ate a bowl of granola in the basement in an attempt to avoid waking Yanthor, sleeping on my couch, and headed off to Twin Peaks Mall to pick up a race-day bus to the start. Traffic bogged down on the last stretch of the Diagonal, as runners were being dropped off for the race. I arrived at the starting area with my gym bag over my shoulder and was dismayed when I saw the queue for the "mobile lockers" to take my gym bag (with a pair of pants and my mobile phone) to the finish. My schedule allowed fifteen minutes to drop off my bag before my assigned start in wave CA, but I wasn't especially concerned about making my wave start because the race was chip-timed; it didn't really matter when I crossed the starting line because my official results would count from the moment I stepped onto the field to the moment I crossed the finish.

I watched my assigned 07:07 wave start come and go and waited another fifteen minutes to drop my bag. I jogged to the start, past waves of slower runners queueing for their wave starts. As I approached the start, the waves grew more organized, until I reached wave F, waiting to start immediately behind the wave in front of it. Course officials stopped the small group of runners who had missed their wave start, clustered at the right side of the road, and we walked to the start. I remained calm, confident (if not over-confident) in my training and in the race.

At the starting gun, I quickly pulled ahead of most of the pack of slower runners, excluding the faster-wave runners who also missed their wave starts, and had an open, leisurely race for a quarter-mile until I caught up with the stragglers of the previous wave, one of which had the audacity to be running, backwards, in my path. He was the first of many runners I dodged for the next six miles.

I sailed down 30th on the gentle down-hill and didn't worry about my pace so long as I was running at a modest intensity. I cursed the cognitive load of having to find openings between the slower runners as I turned west on Pearl through the first mile marker and checked my split on my watch as I ran under the banner. I barely noticed the hill up Folsom and barely remembered to run in the middle of the road to avoid the water tables at the second-mile aid station. (I was not especially well-hydrated but my training did not include watering while running, so I thought it best to avoid the water.) The meandering run through north Boulder's neighborhoods was cool and calm (albeit still crowded, as I once again cursed the chain of decisions that led me to this point), and the leisurely hill down 19th brought me to the five-kilometer mark at a few seconds under 24 minutes elapsed. I was a bit ahead of pace and feeling great.

As I ran up the fourth-mile hill at Casey Middle School on 13th, I could feel myself start to lag but resolved to run harder, having completed two-thirds of the race. I sailed down the south side of the hill, past downtown, and headed east towards Folsom. At the fifth mile marker, I stepped up my pace. I checked my watch and knew I was in good shape. By the time I was half-way down Folsom, with a kilometer to go, next to nothing could keep me from my personal record. The course narrowed as Folsom crossed Arapaho and headed toward the final hill; just as I was stepping up my pace, finding and tapping my emergency energy reserves, I had to spend more effort overtaking slower runners. I crossed Boulder Creek and started up the final hill into Folsom Field. Halfway up the hill didn't feel so bad, but as soon as that thought entered my mind the hill seemed to grow steeper. I passed a bagpipe band, barely hearing them as I wound down the stadium access road, finally descending into the plastic decking covering the stadium's natural turf for the final half-loop around the stadium to the finish. I sprinted the last few hundred meters and crossed the finish as my watch read 48:49. I had my PR, I had taken four minutes off my previous best time, I had broken fifty minutes, and I was the fastest runner in my family.

I picked up lunch and found a small group of running coworkers; the fastest started in AA and finished in 39:03. I hung out for a bit before picking up my gym bag and visiting the expo for free coffee and a free frozen-fruit bar. (These two food items were apparently the two most sought-after items; as I was queueing for a frozen-fruit bar a guy asked where I found the coffee.) I caught a bus back to Longmont, which managed to get lost turning from Broadway to Canyon, not realizing that we couldn't cross Folsom because the race was still underway. I returned home victorious, with just one question remaining: Can I keep taking four minutes off my time each year?