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Aaron's Crazy Race Diary - 2009
Day 3
Monday, May 25th
Race Day for Bolder Boulder

Race Day! Well here we are. I decided to not eat much before the race on the assumption my fat reserves were sufficient to get me through an Ironman competition. I weighed in at a chubby 198 pounds - 13 pounds over my minimum goal of 185 and 18 pounds over my ultimate goal of returning to 180. Of course, at 6’5", no one would have said I was overweight.

My plan was to get up at 4:00 am, take care of the dogs, get ready for the Race, and leave by 5:30 am. If I did that, I would get to the University of Colorado campus before 6:00 am and would have plenty of time to walk to the Start Line. In other years I had to walk fast or even run to the Start Line and was exhausted before the Race started. This time I wanted to have a leisurely stroll instead.

Unfortunately, my ill dog, Wally, decided he needed to "go potty" at 1:11 am. I spent half an hour cleaning up the mess (the poor boy had terrible diarrhea). Then, after taking him and the other three dogs for a walk, it was already 2:15 am. I did a few chores and tried going back to sleep. That didn’t work at all so I decided to stay up and take my time doing some work and getting ready for the Race.

Wally ruined my shot at a good night’s sleep but I didn’t mind because I had known it was a likely possibility. Having low expectations does make life far more enjoyable.

As 5:30 am approached, I realized I did not have enough time to eat at home so I popped two aspirin to keep me alive during the Race and headed out to Boulder. I had a strawberry-lemonade Powerade and gulped down two slugs so I would be hydrated for the entire run (isn’t it amazing how easy I can deceive myself?).

For "breakfast," I had an ancient six-ounce container of yogurt (I think I missed the birthday celebration) sprinkled with two packets of chopped peanuts from McDonalds (I guess that yogurt was eaten "straight") and two fortune cookies from Lui’s Restaurant in Erie - which offered the best Chinese food in Colorado. What a healthy diet. So that was it for stoking up before the Race.

There were a few clouds in the sky but the cloud cover I had hoped for was not to be seen and it also was not raining. My desired starting temperature of 40oF was not a possibility. Instead it was 52oF - warm for me but better than 60oF or 70oF.

The drive into Boulder was uneventful. As I approached CU, I passed Boulder High School’s Recht Field and became nostalgic. That was the Finish Line of the second Bolder Boulder race. I had run it in an unofficial time of 49½ minutes - my best time ever. I had decided to run the Race with some friends at the last minute but had not formally entered the Race. Race organizers got wise to us teenagers and instituted policies that removed non-entrants from the racing field. I couldn’t blame them.

I parked near the CU Recreation Center thanks to Dave Plati’s largesse and began walking to the Start Line. It was a different experience because it was not yet 6:00 am and, except for a few people working on setting up the Race, everything was deserted. To walk past an empty Folsom Stadium, knowing 40,000 people would be in it within three hours, felt strange.

The quietude was calming. As I walked past the Stadium, I saw Cliff Bosley, the Race Director, and we chatted briefly. I was impressed to see him out here making certain everything was in order.

As I passed the City of Boulder’s softball fields on Mapleton, next to the Mapleton YMCA, I remembered how I had played there years ago and won city championships when I was on a team of almost exclusively City employees (primarily department heads) who averaged 20 years older than me and all of whom were great ballplayers.

I came across two gentlemen from South Dakota who were pleased with the weather (they had gotten tons of snow this winter) and a number of other runners with whom I exchanged pleasantries. I spoke with a woman who was from Washington, DC, and, as we walked together briefly, I asked her if she ran in Rock Creek Park. With obvious surprise at my familiarity with DC, she replied affirmatively and was pleased I knew the area. I told her to see "Night At The Museum: Battle At The Smithsonian" - a film anyone from Washington or familiar with the Smithsonians would enjoy. She said she would.

As I walked down the street, I was passed by an American Furniture Warehouse truck. The company was a sponsor of my television show and the driver shouted out my name. I couldn’t see who it was because he passed me so quickly but I assumed it was one of the drivers who had delivered furniture to my house last year.

Next I ran into Mike Bohn, the CU Athletic Director and one of the two official Race starters. The other was runner extraordinaire Jenny Barringer. Although Mike was a great guy, it was an easy choice between those two.

As I headed towards the Start Line, I saw the Race Waves forming. The Race organizers had changed the fencing arrangement this year and it provided a better flow of foot traffic. This made it easy for me to get to my E Wave location where I found photographer Eric Gruneisen (www.EricGruneisenPhotography.com). Eric was trying to get pictures of me today but the reality was, even with my height, red shirt, and bright blue shorts, it was difficult to find anyone in a crowd of +50,000 people.

As we walked around, the sun was coming out and I was worried it would get too warm for me. We went to the GB Wave to find my running partner, Angela, and her husband, Brett, but they and their other friends who were all running together were nowhere to be seen. I later found out they arrived after my Wave had started.

We ran into Dave Cunningham at the GA Wave and chatted a bit. Dave is from Summit County and had been involved in politics for years. I never figured out how such a nice guy survived in such a nasty arena.

Eric needed a ride to the Stadium after I started and we found a Race official, John Vansickle (I hope I have the name spelled correctly), who was very gracious and agreed to give Eric a lift. FEDEX was there so people could have their personal items transported to the Stadium but there weren’t any bags big enough in which we could put Eric so John saved the day.

As I joined my E Wave, I noticed the sun had retreated and it seemed to begin to get a little cloudy. I liked that. The temperature was about 56oF and did not feel too warm. The air was fresh from last night’s rain so everything smelled good - even me.

Before I knew it, the Race had started and our Wave began moving forward to the Start Line - our eagerness to get going restrained only by a think yellow rope held by some Race volunteers and those of us at the front of the Wave.

"Bang" went Jenny Barringer’s starter pistol and suddenly we were off. I remembered the advice I had been given by Bill Jones and intentionally started at an easy pace as we headed south on 30th Street. Even with such a pace, however, I felt tired and started breathing heavily after only 200 yards. This was not a good sign.

My breathing became so labored I think some runners around me became nervous. They probably were thinking, "Is this guy gonna die right in front of me? Will I have to stop running and help him? Won’t that ruin my time?" It was no wonder they all sped ahead of me.

Labored breathing, however, wasn’t new to me. I could run 15 miles but get tired going up a flight of steps. I kept on going and maintained a good pace, albeit not as fast as my usual start. People were streaming by me - giving me a sense I was going even slowed than I actually was.

I was OK with all of this because I knew I would get to a point where I felt fine and was running at a decent pace. Plus, I noticed the sky was getting even more overcast and that meant I would not have to contend with the sun. I liked that concept a lot because I knew that would help my time.

When I hit the 1 Kilometer marker, I felt good because I thought to myself, "1 down, only 9 to go." I then headed west on Pearl Street towards the 1 Mile Marker. Near the turn onto Folsom Street heading north and heard the clicking sounds of feet crossing the electronic mats which registered our time at each mile interval. I was curious what my time was but had no way of knowing because I didn’t wear a watch.

Next was a long stretch of Folsom, including the Race’s first hill, on top of which there usually was a contingent of belly dancers (yes, I applauded as I ran) and at the bottom of which was an Elvis impersonator who sounded better than the King himself. It was this kind of silliness which epitomized the Bolder Boulder and made it so much fun.

After surmounting the hill, I passed the water and Gatorade tables without imbibing. I ended up running the entire Race without stopping for a drink. I now was at the 3 Kilometer Marker followed closely by the 2 Mile Marker. I was almost one-third done with the Race! Yippee!!!

By now my endorphins had kicked in and I knew I would finish the Race. I just didn’t know what my time would be because there were no clocks along the route. There had been in past years but they hadn’t been included in over a decade. I longed for them right now.

As we wove our way through parts of North Boulder, I decided I would try to actually pick up the pace after completing half the Race. I was confident I was at least matching last year’s <76-minute pace and now had hopes of bettering it, even with this year’s slower start. I could tell I wasn’t as tired as usual so Bill’s advice was paying off.

A woman ran by me and shouted my name. We exchanged greetings and I wondered how she could recognize me from behind. She had some explanation but, at the time, I couldn’t figure it out. Although I was one of the taller runners, there were many who were my height or taller given the +50,000 people on the course.

Next I hit the Mile 3 Marker and then passed the 5 Kilometer Marker immediately afterwards. I now was over half done with the Race. That was a good feeling.

When I ran, I often walked for a minute or two now and then. It actually improved my time but today I didn’t want to stop. I feared that, if i did walk, I would not have the desire or willpower to run again. So I didn’t stop.

Another tradition for me was to get totally soaked by people standing on their lawns and sidewalks with hoses along the Race course. There were races when I made certain this would happen three or four times during the course of the Race. Wayne Oldham, the father of my friend from Fairview High School, Carl Oldham, had been posted in the past to hose me down. I loved getting soaked. It absolutely energized me. This day, however, I barely entertained the thought of making a "wet stop" and, instead, kept going.

Approaching the Mile 4 Marker, I decided it was time to pick up the pace. The next tough hill was on 13th Street passing Casey Junior High - or what was left of the almost completely demolished building. I climbed the hill along with a racer in a wheelchair. I was impressed with how strong he had to be because, going uphill, the wheelchair put him at a disadvantage. When he then went downhill, however, he more than made up for it and whizzed by everyone.

When I went downhill, I stretched out my legs and, for the first time, began passing people. I didn’t run as fast as I could have because I was concerned I might sprain a muscle or incur some other injury. I should not have been concerned about overdoing it because there were points on my regular trail run where I went all out.

We were now in downtown Boulder running down Pearl Street and I felt better at this point than I ever remembered feeling in recent years. As I hit the Mile 5 Marker on Walnut Street and headed towards Folsom Street, I kept a steady pace. I was content to stay in "cruise control." Even though several thousand people had passed me, I still was seeing enough "E" to "F" running bibs to feel I was doing OK. In fact, I now was confident I would tie or even beat last year’s time. The competitive part of me liked that possibility.

Towards the end of Walnut Street, I passed Carl Oldham’s house and was surprised to see Carl playing the drums in a band set up by the curb. He had traveled to England the week before and I had assumed he would not be back. (One year I used his home for a major emergency "potty break." Even though it killed both his place and my Race time that year, we remained good friends.) We exchanged surprised greetings and I kept on going. I had slightly less than a mile to go.

As I turned on to Folsom Street for the final part of the run, I went to the outside and picked up my pace a little. It felt good to not be so exhausted I wanted to die -as usually was the case - but I also knew that meant I had not run a hard race. That was OK today. Heck, I was happy to know I would finish without any injury.

I was tired and used the "scenery" to stay motivated. These days the Bolder Boulder was dominated by women - with almost 30,000 women and girls running compared to 22,000 men and boys. Many members of both sexes dressed minimally so there always was a lot to look at. I pitied those runners who saw me - not exactly inspirational.

One woman with a modicum of lycra was running at a great pace so I did my best to stay behind her. She kept me going at a good rate and, after finding some extra energy, I actually passed her and headed up the final hill to the turn into the road which led into Folsom Stadium. I wanted to thank her but never saw her bib number so I had to pass on that idea.

With less than an eighth of a mile left, I picked up the pace one last time. In past races, I had paid attention to where I was on the course and tried to stay on the inside of every turn. This time, throughout the entire Race, I did the opposite and stayed on the outside. It may have hurt my time but it made the Race less stressful and more enjoyable. I took the same approach going into the Stadium.

The reality was I wasn’t a good enough runner to need to care about cutting corners or shaving tenths of a second. My time was measured in minutes - not seconds - so I knew I wasn’t kidding anyone. I ended up running in the middle of the street for almost the entire course and often went to the outside to "be alone" (well, as "alone" as one can be when part of a ribbon of +50,000 fast-moving people).

As I entered the Stadium, I once more saw Race Director Cliff Bosley off to the side with a communications headset on. We quickly exchanged greetings. Cliff looked like he had everything under control. Then I saw Eric and he quickly took a few shots as I mustered my remaining strength for a sprint to the Finish Line.

Running in the Stadium was a thrill because, as soon as you enter, you hear tens of thousands of people cheering. While they’re not cheering for you, specifically, the thunderous applause and related noise is inspiring to even the weakest runner. I made a mad dash to the Finish Line knowing it would have no real effect on my time. That opportunity was long gone.

Your browser may not support display of this image.As I crossed the Finish Line, I looked up at the Stadium scoreboard and noticed the time was 8:17 am. That surprised me because our starting time was just before 7:16 am. This meant I ran the race somewhere between 61 and 62 minutes compared to last year’s time of almost 76 minutes. I was pleased, especially because I wasn’t exhausted at all.

Eric greeted me past the Finish Line and took some shots. I saw and visited briefly with Steve Bosley, the Chairman of the CU Board of Regents and the Founder of the Race. Matthew Applebaum, the Mayor of Boulder, finished the Race and joined me for a chat, too. I also met Carlton Hockada, who was in charge of security on the field. He originally wanted us to leave so we would not block any finishing runners but we were 200 feet from the Finish Line and everyone was streaming by us without any problem.

I saw a number of people finishing the Race, including my high school friend Steve Maly, who, with his wife, Alice Stanley, had finished the course in just 59 minutes. They now lived in Montana and had been there for three decades. They were renting a cabin in Chautauqua and had invited me to join them and some friends for a dinner party. At the last minute, I decided I would go.

Eric and I continued waiting for my running partner, Angela, and after about 20 minutes, I spotted her. She looked tired but had completed the course in just a little more than 57 minutes. That was very impressive. I knew I had to shave another 10 minutes off my time if we were going to run the Race together next year.

We walked out of the Stadium together and I got to meet one of the runners in her group who had finished the Race in something like 48 minutes. That was a time I would never see unless I pulled a Rosie Ruiz and took a bus to the Finish Line (something I would never do…).

Next Eric and I hit the Expo and ran into Kenny Garcia and his family. His uncle ran the Race in 48 minutes as well. I was beginning to feel I had not done as well as I thought. Everyone seemed to have a better time. Actually, I was fine with all of this and still amazed I had gone from almost 76 minutes to less than 62 minutes in one year. That’s what I call "progress."

Your browser may not support display of this image.After touring the Expo and getting a bag of goodies, I went home and got cleaned up. My daughter, Holly, decided not to return with me but I went back anyway to see the Memorial Day Tribute. As always, it was spectacular. Two Medal of Honor winners were honored, the "Star Spangled Banner" was brilliantly sung, the parachutists landed right in the Stadium to the roar of the packed-house crowd, and the military jet flyover was the best.

As soon as the ceremony ended, the skies erupted, as if on cue, and everyone scattered in the downpour. It had been a great day and I headed home content with the 31st Bolder Boulder Race.

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