BolderBoulder 10K Race Report
May 27, 2019
10K (6.2 mi) Run
Banana, bagel, peanut butter, coffee, bottle of Nuun… “Why are you bouncing around?” Dani asked as I finished my 5 AM breakfast while my legs, arms, mouth and body in general were all in constant motion.
“Race day jitters,” I said.
No matter the race or distance there’s always a little extra jitter on race morning. 5K, Ironman, or ITU Sprint… Doesn’t matter, a race is a race. And BolderBoulder was one of those races where I was both excited to break the monotony of training as well as burn off nervous anxiety regarding whether I’d get into my next ITU race in Montreal.
From High to Low
The first week of training back at the OTC after my best performance in an ITU race looked like I was ready to catapult to a whole new level. I was swimming faster with far less effort, my cycling power continued to rise, and holding a sub 7 min per mile pace was suddenly easy. At least for the first few times. Then throw in some unscheduled travel for my grandfather’s funeral, beginning a new strength training block, increasing the volume of swim/bike/run and a little—ok maybe a lot—of anxiety of whether I’d be racing in Montreal at the end of June and the last couple of weeks have not been as positive despite my attempt at a positive attitude toward my training.
Swims where only a couple of weeks before I was averaging 1:30/100m I was now struggling to swim 1:45/100m. Run paces that seemed easy are now almost impossible. And my heart rate is WAY too high for the amount of watts I’m producing. Am I distracted? Or am I thinking too much about ITU and triathlon in general? I needed something to get me away from the OTC and focus my energies toward a race. Fortunately, just such an event existed right up the road in Boulder.
I hadn’t done a stand alone road race in more than a year. My last road race was the 2018 Boston Marathon, and prior to that I hadn’t done a stand alone road race since the Sopris Runoff 4 Miler in Carbondale in July 2017. So I was long overdo to test my pure running legs. So I texted my buddy and Ironman Arizona 2018 guide Alan asking for a guide recommendation. He put me in touch with one of his athletes who was a very solid runner and who had guided my buddy Michael Stone on some runs before. Dan drove down from Boulder just four days before we were scheduled to race BolderBoulder. We weren’t about to jump into a massive crowd without running together first. We cruised on some of the running trails in Colorado Springs while Dan and I got used to each other’s running styles and what type of communication we could use. I run very differently depending on with whom I’m running. There are a certain few select people that have guided me who are so flawless that I don’t have to run with them for months or years and we can pick up right where we left off. Other guides want to give too much information, others don’t give enough. Some give information that seems important but that is really quite trivial. Guiding a totally blind runner is also a very physically and mentally taxing ordeal. Your running gait changes and your stress levels go through the roof without you noticing it.
My coach wanted me to really “race” BolderBoulder and was worried that I couldn’t find a guide fast enough to keep up with me. However I know myself too well and knew that even if I found someone who could easily run a sub 35 min 10K that wasn’t necessarily going to translate into them being a good guide for me. I wanted to do well, but I wasn’t trying to qualify for the 10K in the Paralympics—I don’t even know if there is a 10K event that I could participate in at the Paralympic level. I was a triathlete looking to have fun and push myself a little in a fun event. I set myself a goal time of 40-42 min just to have something to shoot for. And when I ran with Dan for the first time I knew we’d make that goal easily. More than that though we were both easygoing and laughed freely and got along. Sure we talked about primarily running, triathlon, making fun of Alan… but I tried to impress upon Dan that I wasn’t very concerned with setting any records. All I had to do for a personal best in the 10K was break 48 minutes. Yes, I wanted to shoot for sub 40 minutes but it wasn’t going to crush me if I didn’t meet that. This race really was just fun for me. Plus I felt I needed to get out of Colorado Springs for a couple days.
A Mental Break
Saturday morning dawned just like any other, except that I’d be bound for Boulder that afternoon to spend time with one of my newest friends, Danielle (or Dani) and her family. Dani also happened to be pushing me in my writing, especially of the book that I perpetually keep picking up and putting down since I never think my story is truly good enough to tell in book form.
So I cranked out my bike and run work out first thing in the morning and then Dani drove down to both give me a ride to her house as well as do a little work in discussing scope, theme and target audience for my book. Then from that time until Monday after the race I hardly thought about triathlon unless I was directly asked about it. I just had fun being in the moment, getting to know Dani and her family better. It was a blast trying to best Dani’s kids in games of Uno and trying to explain the concept of Texas Hold’em to them. We had many great games of Uno over the next couple of days…. Texas Hold’em? Not so much. It was also great fun watching Skye, my guide dog, attempt to make friends with Dani’s mom’s dog—a 15 year old, blind dog about the quarter of the size of Skye. Skye would go up to sniff Corky and Corky would whirl around and bark like crazy, but because he couldn’t see where Skye was he often wound up turned around barking in the complete opposite direction. We laughed hysterically imagining Corky as some grumpy old “get off my lawn” kind of guy, whereas Skye was the mischievous/fun loving punk.
On Sunday I accompanied Dani and her daughter to a horseback riding lesson. Fun fact that not many people know about me, I love horses and most farm/ranch animals. My first horseback riding experience came on a dude ranch in Montana only a month before I lost my right eye. I loved riding through the brilliantly colored trees, seeing the vivid blue sky overhead with fluffy white clouds, and the vibrant colors of a triple rainbow after a rainstorm. I remember the green snowcapped mountains rising to meet the sky and those images all have stuck with me the past 21 years or so.
After going blind I didn’t have many opportunities to ride horses or hang out with ranch animals but when I did I enjoyed every second of it and my memories of just before I lost my sight came back to me. Those thoughts and feelings were really reinvigorated when I worked as a summer camp counselor at Sanborn Western Camps in 2011. I’d become friendly with our ranch manager and all of the ranglers and they thought it was crazy that no one had ever let me just ride on account that the horse would run away or accidentally throw me. (Every time I’d ridden before it had been in extremely controlled safe conditions in an arena or while someone else was holding my horses reigns. So it wasn’t as fulfilling as when I’d been six years old riding an appaloosa through the mountains of Montana.) So several days throughout the course of that summer the ranglers invited me to just come ride with them. I learned how to lope and how to just work with the horse. I also spent a bit of time feeding the horses and just spending time with them.
So it was great to hang out with Dani while we watched her daughter learn some of the same things I’d learned while riding horses in the mountains of Montana and Colorado. The nervousness manifesting to joy once she got the hang of cantering was pretty special. But I was here to run a race and I still had to pick up my race packet. So Dani and I headed to the expo that Sunday afternoon to get my bib and T-shirt and to also meet up with Dan so he and I could get an easy 40 minute run in.
Dan and I were in the second wave of runners. Dani, who was also running, was in a later wave so she planned to just hang out at the start line until her start time. We parked at Dan’s town house which was conveniently just a little more than half a mile from the start line. Dan and I jogged over as a little warm up and got into our start corral. Just before getting into the corral I saw a couple friends from the Springs who’d come up to race as well, so that gave me a bit of a boost. My heart was thumping with excitement and I was just giddy to race. The gun went off and we started running.
The start area was crowded. It felt like we were running so slow as we tried to dart around people looking for a clear path. There was no real clear path though and we’d have to deal with a crowded race course virtually the entire 6.2 miles. I’d run numerous races ranging from 5Ks to Ironmans. I’d run the Boston Marathon twice, the Disney Marathon twice, and BolderBoulder was just as, or maybe even more, crowded as any race I’d done. Dan and I had to run tight, shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow and weave in and around as many people as we could.
A few times the crowd seemed to disperse a little and I cold drift away from Dan allowing the tether to become tight allowing me more room to relax my shoulders and get my arm swing and leg turn over back to race pace. We had a couple of close calls with fellow runners. One runner stopped and started walking directly in front of us causing Dan to react and quickly grab my wrist and pull me to the right to get around her so she wouldn’t become snared by the tether. Several other runners got the misfortune of getting their heels run on as we came up on them. Sorry folks, no hard feelings I hope.
It was exciting running with the crowd, despite it being stressful. The energy of a race is something that is incredibly infectious. Every mile or so there was a band or music playing. There were people cheering and urging runners on. As far as my physical ability? The first 5K seemed to pass by in a blur. It felt so easy and it wasn’t until mile four that I felt I was really working hard. From a physical standpoint my legs and lungs didn’t hurt nearly as much as other races, but I was mentally fatiguing as we wove around people and I had to concentrate extra hard when we ran through an area of loud noise. I could tell that Dan too was stressing a little about the crowds and a couple other little obstacles in the road. So I tried to keep the mood light and just smile. After all, I was genuinely enjoying myself. I honestly had no idea what pace we were running, but it felt maintainable and I was just happy to be running outside with a new friend and running guide.
With about a quarter mile left in the race we hit the biggest hill on the course. One of the really cool things about BolderBoulder is that it finishes inside Fulsom Field, home of the University of Colorado Buffaloes. It is a bit of a booger to get up into the stadium but the visual once you’re inside is pretty epic from what I’ve been told. The hill was longer and steeper than any I’d run up in quite a while so my breathing became labored and when I get tired I tend to run with my feet a bit closer to the ground. Dan was also working hard and focusing on getting us around a couple more people. So I don’t think I heard his mention of the timing mat part way up the hill. So I stumbled a bit killing my uphill momentum, but didn’t eat pavement so all’s well. We crested the hill shortly after my little stumble and then plunged downhill into the stadium and onto the field. The field was protected by this uneven and very slippery covering so I ran the last 300 meters or so cautiously thinking it would be a really bad look to slip and fall in sight of the finish line. We crossed the finish line 41 minutes and 57 seconds averaging 6 minutes and 46 seconds per mile. It was a new personal 10K best for me and physically I felt I could’ve run a whole lot longer. I turned to Dan and hugged him, thanking him for sacrificing his own race to guide me. “Next year, let’s break 40,” I said. Then it was off to celebrate with friends and fellow runners.
We tracked down Alan, who guided our buddy Michael Stone. Then we all headed to breakfast since the crowd inside the stadium was getting bigger and bigger and we all just wanted to hang out and shoot the shit. Dani also ran her best 10K time and joined us as soon as she could after finishing. Then it was back to Dani’s house for one more afternoon and evening of relaxing, playing with the dogs, a couple fierce games of Uno with the kids before it was time for me to head back to Colorado Springs the next day.
I woke up Tuesday morning feeling refreshed and not like I’d raced a 10K the day before. My mind felt clear and I was eager to get back to the training center and attack my next block of workouts. “What’ve you got for me Derick? Bring it on! I can’t wait to crush some hopes and dreams in Montreal as I climb the rankings.” Were just a few of my thoughts as Dani dropped me off at the bus that would take me back to the Springs. I got Skye settled under my feet, connected my phone to the bus’s WiFi network and opened up my e-mail…
What was in that e-mail? I guess you’ll have to come back to find out when I put up my next post. So stay tuned until then.