Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2017 Bolder Boulder 10K


38:31 in my first race longer than 5K in over 10 years, not that there have been many races of any kind choose from in that span. 3rd in my age group of 385, and 354th overall out of 43,752 (or so). I'm as displeased with this as I should be, which means I have to keep training, or more to the point need to resume serious training and ramp up my effort to make this whole quest worth it.

Now add bullshit and stir vigorously:

38-ish is about what I expected to run heading into the event, slower than I expected to run about a third of the way through the race, faster than I expected to run about 6K into it, and marginally slower than I expected to run with 0.214 miles to go. This midstream see-sawing of goals and expectations is chiefly because I ran the last 3.5 miles or so with to significant lower GI urgency (that is, I thought I might shit myself), a distressing development I have only myself to blame for, but not really, because whoever thought that starting this thing at 6:55 a.m. is a good idea should have ignored the logistical necessity of scheduling things this way and instead accounted for my personal biorhythms.

After a few hours of sleep -- I can't get to bed before 1 a.m. most of the time, but going mostly without Z's the night before a race has never hurt me as long as I've been well-rested in general -- I followed my friends Shannon and Carl Kinney into town; my sweetie was home recuperating from serious surgery while my friend and occasional training buddy Victor was sitting this out, and I needed a couple of serious but good-humored fellow racers in my orbit. I had less coffee than I usually do but in a more concentrated form -- Carl gave me a few ounces of some kind of dark slurry that's supposed to be diluted by anywhere from half to two-thirds with water, but of course I just choked it down.

I did two miles or so of jogging, then headed to the start on 30th at Walnut. Conditions were great, at least for late May (I suppose "perfect" would have been more like 50 degrees than 60, but really now). I lined up toward the back of the "A" wave because that's exactly where I belonged and I didn't want to go out any faster than six minutes. The first four miles are a gentle uphill grind with the exception of a couple of nice downgrades at about 4.5K and 6K, and I thought I might be able to run 6:05s to 6:10s in solid, but not perfect, scenario for the first two-thirds of the course, setting me up for a shot at a sub-38:00. Instead, I hit the first mile in 6:00 even (chip/watch time) and the second in 6:01. I was actually feeling good at this point, like I was doing a tempo run, and mostly moving up through the field.

Right near the left turn off Folsom onto Hawthorn, however, I stated getting that not-so-fresh feeling that normally heralds a trip to the nearest available biological waste receptacle, and I slowed down. I've been running for over 30 years and have periodically dealt with the mid-race shits just like everyone else in this "sport," but I've yet to figure out if easing off the throttle when the urge hits actually accomplishes anything. It does seem necessary from a psychological standpoint, like speeding out to outrun a pack of horse flies even though this is clearly futile. In this instance it made me marginally more confident that I wouldn't have an unfortunate "accident." But I was pissed off as I started losing ground to most of the swarms of people around me, and for a few moments was actually hoping I'd need to stop so I could put paid to the whole charade of continuing to run races as a slow, cynical old fucker with a variety of more preferable ways to spend his disposable time and income.

Mile three is maybe the slowest on the course in an evenly distributed effort (it's that one or the sixth) so I would have expected a slow split no matter what. But having scaled back my pace thanks to what my gut was literally telling me, it was slow enough (6:24) to have me thinking, "OK, fuck it, I'll just waddle in without caring about my time." But the GI stuff didn't get any worse and was periodically abating, and I really didn't want to throw in the towel in another race, even if I am never going to be anything besides a high-end jogger for the rest of my life. So I found some people to run with and kept up a pace that felt respectable as we wandered south on 19th street and then right onto Balsam toward the course's westernmost point.

After a fourth mile in 6:20, I decided things were unlikely to get worse and I went from half-hoping I would need to stop at a portable toilet to being upset that this might happen. Right after the collective goofy train of the "A" wave wound its way through downtown, a cluster of runners including what looked like a small gang of teenage girls went by, and I almost laughed out loud. I was feeling pleased that I was likely to break 39:00. I went though five miles in 30:55 (6:09 split) and was comforted by notions of this winding up to be a positive experience overall.

Most of the last mile is flat and fast, if not slightly downhill. The course as a whole would only gain about 20 feet from start to finish if it ended at 5.9 miles, but instead there's a 60-foot climb from there to the finish. I went through six miles in 37:08, still climbing and still mostly scornful but somehow enjoying having gotten to this point, not just in the race but with my running and my life in general. I tend to balk at blather about one's running being an apotheosis of one's life and so on, but this has been a great year for me and cause for much happy reflection. And yeah, I really was thinking all of this as I emerged from the stadium tunnel onto Folsom Field itself. I crossed the finish line and headed for the nearest restroom, which meant climbing a bunch of stadium stairs.

I will never, ever get used to the idea of 38:31 being a remotely respectable 10K time, even if I
manage to do it at age 50 or 60 or 95 and even factoring in how dismally slow the course is. As I noted above, I was third in my age "group" of 47-year-olds out of 385 finishers. I used to think that the Bolder Boulder awarding prizes single-age groups was hokey and overly generous, but with close to 50,000 entrants every year I suppose it makes sense, at least mathematically. 1-year groups in a race that size is like having 5-year groups in a field of 10,000 and 10-year groups in a field of 5,000, right? The good news is that my time is probably worth about 36:30 at sea level on a fast course. The bad news is that my time is probably worth about 36:30 at sea level on a fast course.

I'm writing this on Tuesday morning, and I'm not nearly as sore as I "should" be. I'm glad for this, not only because being sore is no fun but because, as I suspected, I wasn't limited primarily by fitness yesterday, I doubt I would have held 6:00 pace the whole way without the intestinal woes but I think I would have been in the high 37's. I wasn't breathing any harder toward the end than I was a couple kilometers in. Of course, I also need to get mentally used to keeping the hammer down for extended stretches, someone no amount of basic easy-to-moderate mileage can help much with.

Carl, a former 14:47 5K guy who has gotten into serious strength training in his mid-thirties, ran a solid 36:57 off about 40 miles a week, while Shannon, a 2:46 marathoner coming back from radical food surgery in mid-February, obliterated her goal of sub-42:00 by running 39:36 with pronounced negative split. The three of us hopped into what can only be described as a roving booze wave for a partial second tour of the course, then headed back to the finish area to watch the pros take off after 11:00.

This video encapsulates the way the rank and file of any massive running event treat it. I would never pay $65 for the privilege of acting this way, but I can see why people do it. I like how the red-headed kid ambling past this scene about 30 seconds into the video tactfully pretends he hasn't been scarred for life by the sight of a seven-foot-tall, mostly naked, mostly shaved dancer/runner.


  1. See you at BRR track stuff soon?

    1. I'll be there tomorrow to hobnob, chew the fat, rub elbows, shoot the breeze, and engage in some raconteuring. I'll probably race one or two of the events starting in the July meets.

  2. It's not bad for 6.2. You upped your mileage high right from the beginning. Your body's still adjusting. I look for pretty fast times come late Summer/Fall if you keep this up and not let disappointment mess with your mind. Your friend Shannon must have a really good Doctor! Hey Kevin, when you get a chance and I will be very patient,but a post about your approach to nutrition would be cool. Thanks!

    1. Those are kind words and appreciated. Let;'s face it, though, even if you give me the 36:30 on an idealized sea-level course, that's still pretty shitty for someone who was once five minutes faster. I'm old, but not decrepit. And I'm early in my training in the grad scheme, but it's not like I started running in March.

      What sustains me at this point are two things I have good reasons to believe are true: One, without the GI issues I could have banged out a 37:45 at worst, and two, I'm still on a considerable, steady upward trajectory despite not doing "the work" outside of raw high-end jogging.

      I don't think I will have a problem running under 16:30 at sea level by early fall. Not that 5K is anything like a fun distance for me, it's just a convenient frame of reference since I can pretty much go out and run one whenever.

      I just read an interesting article in Time Magazine about nutrition and I will offer thoughts on that topic soon. Keep ideas coming!