The 2010 Bolder Boulder. What's to say? It was the best of races, it was the worst of races.
At 6:45 I joined thousands of other runners making their way to the start. The weather was perfect -- already in the 50's, forecast to get in the low 80's. Perfect running weather. I had parked about a mile and jogged slowly to warm up and test my left calf. There was a little pain, but not too bad. It was weird to be headed to the start of a running race when I had only run four times in the past three weeks since pulling my left calf. I didn't know what to expect.
Waiting in a long line for one of the zillion porta-potties, I had a conversation with an almost barefoot runner (he had Vibram Five Fingers) wearing a "Born to Run" T-shirt. I asked him how he liked it, and he told me that he'd been running that way for almost a year and would never go back to shoes, except maybe on trail runs. He said he had to relearn how to run because with barefoot running your weight stays over your forefeet and your calves hurt until your body adjusts. But once you get used to it, your legs feel great. He thinks it's not a fad, but a trend.
My timing was good because I arrived at the start when there were only a few minutes before my wave took off. I took a place towards the rear because I planned to go out slow and see how my leg felt. I turned on my iPod, loaded with 60s classics like the Doors, Lovin Spoonful, Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, the Who and the Byrds. When our wave was next to go, a nice race official checking bibs asked me to remove one of the ear pieces so I wouldn't miss the starting gun. I thought that was pretty funny because the booming sound of the PA system dwarfed my iPod.
The starting gun fired and off went EC wave, carrying me along with it. In the first few strides, I started my stop watch and plugged the earpiece in to hear Jim Morrison singing "Light My Fire" then built steadily to a good pace. I could feel a little pain in my left leg, but nothing too bad, and my breathing was even and relaxed. All good signs. I passed some people in my wave and crossed the first mile marker slightly faster than I planned.
But a half mile later, as the racecourse starts a modest climb, I felt a familiar pain. At first it was just a little twinge with each push off of my foot just above the narrow part of the Achilles tendon. I slowed a little to see if it would go away. But it didn't. Within a couple hundred yards, the pain radiated through my entire calf. It felt just like the first time I injured it three weeks earlier.
I stepped off the side of the course to find myself right next to the belly dancers. What luck! Ahead was a water table, and just beyond it, the excellent Elvis impersonator who's there every year. I watched the belly dancers undulate (which this year included some cross-dressing guy -- hey, this is Boulder!) as I tried to gently stretch the calf and see if the pain would subside. No luck. I limped up to Elvis to watch him sing as he high-fived runners passing by, then went back and got a cup of water.
I sat down on the curb by the belly dancers and thought about my options. I figured my race was over and took off my bib, folded it up, and jammed it in my shorts pocket. I got up and for over twenty minutes walked back and forth between Elvis and the belly dancers, trying to figure out if I'd should walk back to the stadium right then or wait for my wife's wave to come by. While doing this, the pain backed off a little. I paused to watch all the people going by -- all ages, some serious, some laughing, some in costumes, every manner of running style.
I trail run alone in the middle of nowhere most days where I live. I thought about what a unique experience it is to be part of an event like the Bolder Boulder. It was such a beautiful day with the sun beaming down, blue sky. For those runners, there were still five miles of sights, sounds and sensations to enjoy. I concluded it was too much fun to pass up. I took my bib out of my pocket and pinned it back on.
I started jogging slowly at the edge of the passing throng of people, then slowly picked up speed as best I could and moved into the middle of the road where the crown was flattest and pulled least on my calf. I found a running pattern where the pain was tolerable. Within a mile, I found I was even passing people.
The Bolder Boulder ends with a short, steep climb into Folsom Stadium. By then my right hip was hurting, too, because I had compensated with the rest of my body for the stiff peg-leg, flat footed posture I had to use to protect the calf. That hill hurt pretty good, but once my feet got on the rubber surface of the track in the stadium, it was smooth sailing to the finish.
When I looked down at my watch, I had to smile: it was the slowest I had ever run the Bolder Boulder. 1 hr, 23 minutes, 48 seconds. Later that day, my splits were texted to my wife's cell phone: Mile 1: 8:56, Mile 2: 33:28!!!, Mile 3: 9:58, Mile 4: 9:29, Mile 6: 9:55. The second mile was a time killer, and my pain-altered running style cost an average of about a minute per mile.
My wife ran a Personal Best, faster than me. I was elated for her. I ran my Personal Worst, but was still elated. This TOJ made it. Some days that's good enough.