Bolder Boulder 2011

Another one. Perfect weather: cool, slight intermittent breeze. 50K+ runners. Memorable highlights:

1. A couple blogs ago I talked about some TOJs training. They all did what they set out to do. Mike did take enough seconds off his time to break his previous personal best. Fat Bob's mom, who, until Mile 5, felt she was running too slow, ended up taking more than two minutes off her personal best. She ran free of split times, following how she felt, and it worked. Jack, who had a serious stroke not that long ago, walked the whole race, as hoped, archived his goal, and felt great the entire time.

2. There was a new Elvis impersonator who's bound for impersonator glory. He's young and lean like the early Elvis, has a really good voice, and gets that perfect Elvis sneer on his upper lip, like: am I cool or what?

3. In these races, due to the sheer number of participants, you can't help but marvel at all the shapes, sizes, and running styles. Many were passing us, others we were passing. It's depressing when somebody waddles by you, it's exhilarating when you pass somebody who's going at a good clip.

4. Many of the people we passed, especially if they were young, were overweight. But they won't be for long if they keep doing 10Ks, and next year we won't see them at all because they'll finish ahead of us.

5. Just over 2 km into the race, you come to the belly dancers at the top of a small hill. This year I didn't stop due to a pulled calf, but slowed long enough to see that none of the women were dancing (maybe they were taking a break), just one guy, who seemed in ecstasy.

6. There were lots of TOJs of all ages. They all seemed to be doing fine and enjoying the event, whatever their speeds. There were very, very few persons who were overweight and older.

7. The elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia have similar physiques and run with almost identical technique. It's beautiful and efficient. They lift their knees and open the angle between their thighs more than all the amateurs, so they seem to have their feet on the asphalt for minimal time. They almost fly.

8. Although the elite runners are truly amazing and certainly suffer as they fatigue, I was more impressed by some of the obese and physically handicapped who trickled into the stadium late in the race, drenched with sweat, teeth gritted. They may be slower, but endure levels of pain elite athletes will never know. These last really are first. 

9. The minimalist/near barefoot craze is catching on, and maybe will stay (not what I originally predicted). There were more than ever, even a barefoot wave.

10. I was amazed by how many people were in Folsom Stadium waiting to cheer my entrance. (Oh, I just found out that the huge crowd was there were there because they ALL finished ahead of me.)

11. Every year I say this: The Bolder Boulder is run like a precision Swiss watch, even though it's all digital.

Hope to see you next year! For truly, heaven and earth will pass away, but the Bolder Boulder will abideth forever.

Killing Sacred Carb-Cows

The more I study the Paleo movement's negative view of carbohydrates, the more I think they're on to something important for any competitive athlete or average person, like this TOJ, just trying to stay fit.

When I first learned about the Paleo diet, I was skeptical because it sounded like unrealistic romantic yearnings for the days of yore when we ran half-naked across the African Savannah, free of commutes and 8-to-5 routines. However, it's backed up by sound biochemistry.

Here's the short-course on Paleo: While we think we're modern because we fly on airplanes and have cell phones, our bodies are, in fact, virtually identical to humans 100,000 years ago. For the vast amount of time that humans have existed, we were hunter-gatherers, eating wild meat and harvesting edible plants. Our physiology is adapted to these foods, because over a vast stretch of human existence, we co-evolved with them.

However, both the agricultural revolution that occurred 10,000 years ago, in which humans learned how to harvest grains and raise domesticated animals, and the industrial revolution, just 200 years ago, lead to radical changes from which we've never recovered. We eat too much, a exercise too little. Although life in many ways is more comfortable and safer, we may be less healthy and weaker as a result. Read Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, or Arthur De Vany if you want to learn more of the details.

So here we are in 2011 with a growing percentage of our population who's obese, rising rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The Paleo movement challenges the entire food pyramid promulgated by our government. They especially target all carbohydrates, in particular grains like wheat and rice. Why? Because when they get in your body they all turn into glucose, which causes insulin resistance and turns to fat. For a TOJ, of special concern, is that carbs disrupt anabolic processes that build muscle.

The Paleo Diet is simple, yet very radical: eat mainly meat/fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. Period.

This is easier said than done because we've been conditioned by our culture to eat lots of refined carbohydrates. Fortified breakfast cereals. Baked potatoes (starch = glucose/sugar). Bagels. Donuts. The  white rice in the Chinese takeout. Whole wheat bread. Tortillas. Beer. Corn on the cob. Hamburger buns. Pizza dough. Carbs and fat are the cheap, basic ingredients of the huge fast food industry, and a multi-times a day habit for many of us in one form or another. Many of these carbs are associated with mother's good cooking, holidays, celebrations, having a good time.

In fact, refined carbs are so sacred in our traditions that for many people it is anti-American to let them go. And cutting carbs is a real challenge because carbs tap the same addictive dopamine-rewarded neural patjhways as cocaine.

Real People, Real Training Stories

Note: All names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Last week, it seemed everyone, TOJs and someday-TOJs, was training for something or setting a new goal. All were excited, intense, full of anticipation, focused, enthusiastic. Sometimes there was some fear of failure.

Mike, in his 60s, wants to break his last best Bolder-Boulder time set three years ago - a little under 43 minutes. He's been doing 1000 meter intervals at a track. Has some of those new minimalist running shoes with a lower heel, and is surprised how good they feel. He feeling fast and thinks he can do it. If his body and the weather cooperate.

Jill, in her 40s, has been training for a marathon for only three months. It's one I've never heard of, but that makes no difference because to her its the Olympics. It's her first. She ran 18 miles last week and felt pretty good. She was tapering down because her race is this weekend. She said it's something she's always wanted to do, and may never do another one.

Fred, in his 50s, has a physical disability caused by a bone disease and job-related accident. He trains at the gym several days a week, mostly upper body work. But he also does sets of leg presses with 160 pounds at high speed to try to maintain power in his leg muscles. He thinks it's working.

Jill, Fred's wife, is a hardcore bicyclist in her 50s. She's do several multi-day road rides this summer in Colorado that cover hundreds of miles and tens of thousands of vertical feet. Her training has been delayed because of all the late snows this spring and worries she won't be ready for her first event in a few weeks. She's been watching the weather forecast, and plans to pedaling five sunny days in a row.

Fat Bob, a lovely woman in her 30s, will compete in a few weeks on a CrossFit team that has advanced to the Northwest regionals. She knows the competition will be stiff, but looks forward to it. She cares, but doesn't care, how she does. It helps her put some pressure on herself, but not too much. No matter what happens, she wins.

Fat Bob's mom, a lovely woman in her 60s, is getting ready for the Bolder-Boulder. She wants to ran as fast as she did last year, but she hasn't been running as much as she was then because it was a long, tough winter. She's been doing lots of other exercise to keep fit like kettlebell and other resistance routines. She'll do fine because she's done some training runs at about the same pace she was a year ago. On Memorial Day, she'll be in her wave and find out.

Liam, a very fit athlete in his late 20s, just ran a sub-20 minute 5K in Kentucky. He was delighted to break the 20 minute mark. He figures he got an advantage from training at 6,000 plus feet then dropping down to almost sea level. But though his cardio held up well, his quadriceps killed him in the last half mile because he punished his legs as he ran faster. He felt really happy, but said he needed to recover and get back to training so "I can break 19." He laughed, understanding the madness of goals measured in time that are always just out of reach.

Jack, a man in his early 60s, is a diabetic who's been in the hospital a half dozen times in the past year. A retired Army officer who had two tours in Vietnam as a medi-vac pilot, he was recently declared legally blind. He's not just a TOJ, but a tough SOB. Right now his blood sugar is under control. He's been walking 4.5 miles several days a week, a even running a half mile with his dog on a deserted stretch of asphalt near his home in Denver. He wants to walk the Bolder-Boulder and just be part of the event. His physical therapist will walk it with him as his guide. His doctor, a distance runner, has given him the green light. Jack told me how much he enjoys walking and how being in the Bolder-Boulder gives him a goal. "I need that," he said. "You know what I mean?"

"Yes," I answered, "I do know what you mean."