Bolder Boulder Experience

I wanted to update you on the race since your good thoughts were with me as I ran but I was absolutely exhausted all day yesterday. I could’ve dropped in to give you a short version of the events but so many thoughts/epiphanies kept bouncing around my head and I really wanted to do them justice which is what I hope to accomplish today. But in case you have a life to live and don’t want to invest the time in me deconstructing the race, here’s the short version:

  • I didn’t run a great race but I had a great race.
  • My official time was 90 seconds slower than my goal.
  • Despite my slow time, I placed 12th in my age group.
  • I will receive a medal.
  • For the first time running that race (yesterday was my fourth entry), I didn’t experience a moment of “This sucks. Why am I doing this?!”
  • I enjoyed myself throughout the race. Smiled. Laughed.
  • All the good thoughts carried me through.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

           

Okay, here’s ALL the minutiae of Tracy’s fourth running of the Bolder Boulder 10k:
I recovered from last Monday’s fall. I fought off upset stomach issues. I did visualization and mentally prepared for the race. I was confident all the hard work and training would carry me through so that I’d get my PR (personal record). There was no doubt in my mind I’d run my best race ever.

I shut off the light at 9:00 pm on Sunday night, alarm set for 4:30 am so Zippy and I could make the 5:30 shuttle bus to Boulder. Zippy, in his annoying fashion, fell asleep immediately. I drifted off about 9:30 only to wake at 11:30 to the sound of his snores. The rest of the night was one of those nightmarish experiences in which you desperately try to fall asleep but cannot and as you become more tired, your mind becomes more panicked. I ended up sleeping another 30 minutes before the alarm went off, for a grand total of two and a half hours of sleep. I seriously considered staying home.

But I went. And I’m so glad I did.

The Bolder Boulder is a massive road race (I think it’s the second largest in the nation). This year just under 49,000 people completed the race (wheelchairs, runners and walkers). You can’t help but get caught up in the excitement when you’re around that many people sharing the same goal. As I warmed up with Zippy I saw one of my coaches and she wished me well, and then another runner from my training group whom I hadn’t seen in a couple months since I’d started training alone called out to me with such enthusiasm that my chest swelled with pure happiness.

Every other year Zippy runs in an earlier wave since he’s a faster runner but this year he was two waves behind me (I got an automatic slot in the CC wave because I was in the Sub 50 training group but he used last year’s BB time in which he ran slow with me for his placement in this year’s DA wave.  Follow that?)  My wave started two minutes and 20 seconds earlier than Zippy’s. I love him dearly but knew I didn’t want to see him during that race; if he caught up with me it would mean I wasn’t running my pace. But if he met his goal and I met mine, we’d be together somewhere near the very end of the race.

I was at the back of my wave when the starting gun went off. I started my watch with the gun just as some guy next to me told his friend he wasn’t starting his watch until we actually crossed over the start line (tags on our shoes keep track of our official race times). I glanced at my watch as we crossed the start line and it said 33 seconds.

At the 1K mark I checked my watch and subtracted 30 seconds. Right on pace for the first mile that I wanted to run in 7:30. At the 1 mile mark, I checked my watch and subtracted 30 seconds from the total time. Right on pace. Why wasn’t I reading my mile splits? Because even though I’d thoroughly prepared for that race – handkerchief with peppermint oil in my pocket, DIG DEEP and 1-2-3-4 (tempo reminder) written on the back of my hand, all nineteen course turns and each downhill and uphill memorized, etc. – I’d forgotten to set my watch so that the mile splits would be in bold display while the total time would show in tiny, faint numbers at the top of the display. My splits were in tiny, faint numbers that were hard to see when I glanced. So instead of making an effort to read them, I got into the habit of looking at my total time and then subtracting 30 seconds.

I was running a great race. I felt good. I smiled and shouted thanks to the older man who shook a cowbell and cheered us on. I slapped the outstretched hand of Jake Blues singing “Soul Man” alongside the course. I grinned at the belly dancers and clapped along with the big-wigged band members performing The Cars’ “Best Friend’s Girl.” I felt a bond with all the men, women, and children running alongside me. I got tears in my eyes thinking how grateful I was to be out there running the best race I’d ever run after training so hard. I repeated 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 in my mind to keep on pace. At each mile mark, I checked my watch and subtracted 30 seconds. When one of the running group coaches came up beside me on the downhill headed into the fifth mile, he said I was looking good. I told him I felt great and was having so much fun. We chatted a bit more and then he pulled away. I realized then I shouldn’t have talked since it took away my lung capacity but he called back to me and said to keep my eye on him, that he’d pull me through. Instead, he kept getting farther ahead but still I kept on running. Digging deep.

The final mile is uphill with a steep incline into the stadium. I was pretty tired but not demoralized. I knew I was almost there and even though I was a bit off pace, I was still running a strong race. Just as I headed into the stadium, Zippy was next to me. He said, “Dig deep!” then ran ahead. For a moment I felt deflated because I’d wanted to run so fast he wouldn’t catch me at all but I kept going and as I ran into the stadium, I grinned up at the cameras mounted on the bridge over the track. I ran hard for the finish line and stopped my watch.  I stared at my time.

Somehow, the great race I’d run suddenly revealed itself as a fantasy. Even subtracting 30 seconds, it was not a good time. Not only hadn’t I broke 50 minutes (by my calculations, I ran it in about 50:06 and eventually discovered the official time was 50:31), I hadn’t come close to running the race in 49:00. Then I looked at my mile splits which I’d recorded on my watch but hadn’t bothered to read during the race, and felt like an idiot. I was clearly off pace on most every mile but hadn’t realized it. Math has never been my strong suit and it’s even harder for me when I’m sleep-deprived and trying to do calculations while running a race.

As we waited in line for our free post-race massages, I started to cry. Not only was my time slow, but the cool weather would make for fast times for all those other 45-year-old women who capitalized on that fact. There was no way I’d get a medal.

Why was I so hung up on medals? In 2004 I ran a strong Bolder Boulder (49:52) and placed 15th in my age group. However, only the top ten finishers in each age group got a medal. The very next year they started giving medals to the top 15 finishers.  I wanted my medal.

Were there other reasons I wanted so desperately to run a good race? For one, I’m not really a competitor in the sense that I get very nervous about races; I don’t enjoy the flutters and anxiety so wanted to make this the last time I had to really care about my time. Also, my knees have let me know they don’t enjoy lots of intensive training. But also caught up in all this is my writing life. I’ve mentioned the deterioration of my confidence and how my race goals were so important for me in that my own hard work and training would allow me to finally create my destiny; even though no editors had jumped on my books I could make myself stronger and kick some butt in a 10k. I wanted to shine in at least one aspect of my life. That felt especially important because just over a month ago, I broke up with my agent. It was the right thing to do but on some levels it felt like my writing journey was moving backward.

So I cried there in line. I silently berated myself for bad math skills and poor planning and all-around obliviousness. But I kept coming back to the fact that I’d had so much fun during the race. That I’d never had an urge to drop out and collapse on someone’s lawn. And after a while, I laughed. “No wonder I felt so good,” I told Zippy. “I wasn’t running very fast.”

Earlier I’d dreaded going home and telling Zebu and Wildebeest about the race. I’d wanted so much to prove my strength and make them proud after they’d suffered through those scary years filled with me in pajamas, heading off for yet another nap. But by the time we got home, I didn’t feel I’d let them or me down.  At first they felt bad for me but I honestly told them it was okay.  I was okay.   And when I explained my lack of sleep, Wildebeest sat up straight and said “Well, then you really kicked that race’s ass.”

Indeed.

So I was already in a peaceful frame of mind when several hours later Zippy came into the bedroom with his laptop. Earlier I’d soaked in epsom salts while consuming a quart of electrolytes and a bottle of beer, and then took a nap. I was barely awake when he showed me the screen display of my race results. Out of 452 45-year-old females, I’d come in 12th place. “Twelfth place!” he shouted. “You got twelfth!”

Just a few more thoughts (you’re kidding, she’s not done yet?!):

  • It turns out I was completely wrong about the 33 seconds and my official time shows only about eight seconds between the gun and when I crossed the starting line.  I was doing fuzzy math right from the start.  Possibly hallucinating.
  • I think I appreciated the medal news even more because I’d come out of my funk and was already proud of myself.
  • When the hubbub died down, I had an epiphany about Zippy’s race and he confirmed that he’d held back on passing me until we were at the stadium because he knew I’d lose confidence and he didn’t want to cost me precious seconds that might put me out of the medal race. I love that Zippy.
  • While writing this opus, a friend from the spaghetti dinner called to congratulate me (the director told him my news). He said, “If I was picking players for my third-grade kickball team, you’d be at the top of my list.” Hearing that was nearly as cool as learning the medal news.
  • I’m so grateful I had the training to focus on while making the decision to part with my agent. I had my period of mourning but then pushed it aside until after the race. I now feel ready to wade back into that breach and (1) get my sub history from former agent and (2) decide where to go from here. My head is clear and my confidence is up, and I will move on.
  • I’ve rediscovered my inner strength and capacity for joy, and am eager to get back to my writing. All that hard training reminded me of what I’m capable of and I have confidence about pushing through a meandering middle. Two weeks ago I went back to Novel #4 and will work on it until the revisions are finished because I’ve got the guts, dammit!

This race reminded me again how important it is to have a support system. I thank you again for the good wishes that carried me along that course.  Some of you I’ve met in person and others I know only online but I’m grateful for all our friendships.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

        

35 thoughts on “Bolder Boulder Experience

      • Tracy, do you do any freelance writing? It was a thrill to read this, since I know you (at least through the blog world) and care about you but, objectively speaking, it runs the gamut of hope, exhaustion, physical and mental preparation, elation, camaraderie, goal setting, etc, and I can’t help thinking it would make a fabulous article for a runner’s magazine or a women’s magazine or … Add a bit more about the writing and it would be good for a writing magazine. Just a thought. But, anyway, congratulations and thanks for sharing it with us in such delicious detail!!

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      • Wow, I never thought of this. I don’t do freelance but in the past I wrote stuff and submitted but only sold a few essays so gave up on that endeavor. Maybe I’ll look into markets for this and see if it can go anywhere.
        Thanks so much for the suggestion. Another possibility on the horizon!

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  1. Aw, Tracy! I’m all teary-eyed — filled with pride for my strong friend and all she accomplished, and yet wishing I’d known about the challenges last month. Either way, here’s two huge HUGS — one for doing such an awesome job (attitude-wise and race-wise) yesterday (((HUG!))); and another for doing what’s best for your writing, no matter how hard at the time (((HUG!))).
    What an inspiration you are, Tracy — your kiddos are so lucky to have a mom like you 😀

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    • Thank you for those hugs, Robin. You’re making me all teary-eyed again. Last month’s challenges were best left alone but now that I’m ready to tackle them, it’s good knowing you’re on my side (and I’m on yours, too).
      I very much appreciate the support and kind words. I’d say your kids got a darn good mom, too.

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  2. Damn. That was a good story. Worth checking LJ every 10 minutes or so since yesterday to see if you made it through alive. (Of course, I knew you would never let the team down).
    I’m all a cryin’ and goose pimply. I can’t say anything else. Wildebeest said it best. Watch out writing world. She’s taking you on next.
    wow.

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    • You’re one of the main reasons I wanted to report in yesterday, Linda; I wanted you to know it was safe to take off the Team Vinca t-shirt. But I was afraid I’d be incoherent.
      Thank you ever so much for your support and kind words. I thought of you during the race and smiled. Truly.

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  3. You’re one of the main reasons I wanted to report in yesterday, Linda; I wanted you to know it was safe to take off the Team Vinca t-shirt. But I was afraid I’d be incoherent.

    Thank you ever so much for your support and kind words. I thought of you during the race and smiled. Truly.

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  4. No way, I’m not taking it off. (Heck, my son never changes HIS shirt).
    12th place. That’s a medal, baby. I’m wearing it proudly. And adding award winner on the back!

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    • Thank you, Lorraine. You’re pretty awesome yourself. I want you to know your earlier suggestion (during my training period) about being in the moment and enjoying the running itself echoed in my mind as I prepared for the race. Your peaceful calm was there with me yesterday. Thank you again.

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  5. I’m so proud of you! You did awesome!
    That sounds like such a fun race.
    I have often made mental a anology of writing a novel and trying to get it published to running a marathon.

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    • Aw, Lizzy. Thanks for being proud of me and making me feel so special. I wish we could’ve run it together.
      I think you’re spot-on about writing a novel and running a marathon. One step after another, and eventually you’ve reached the finish line.

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    • I am proud of myself, Janet. But I owe a huge debt of thanks to all you guys here who supported me along the way and sent good thoughts. I felt those good wishes and used them to power me along the route. Thanks for cheering me on.

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  6. Twelfth place in your age group on two and a half hours sleep!!! Zowy!
    Congrats, Tracy! I think your son said it best: “You really kicked that race’s ass.”

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    • Yep, sometimes that Wildebeest can be downright profound. It meant an awful lot coming from him, seeing as I’m not his favorite person right now. 🙂
      Thanks for the support and encouragement, C.K.!

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  7. We had to hop on a plane early Saturday a.m. but I didn’t forget to send you vibes! We got back late last night and today, as soon as I turned on my computer I came to your LJ.
    Aaaah, your post was very rewarding, on every level. What a beautiful experience you had and you shared it so well.
    Congratulations and big, huge hugs to you.

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    • You’re so kind, Jennifer. I’m humbled you remembered me even while traveling (with kids, no less!) I felt the good vibes and used them to propel me along the course.
      Thanks so much for coming along for the ride with me.

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  8. Congratulations Tracy! I’m doing my happy dance for you To have placed 12Th out of 425 on two and a half hours sleep is an amazing feat!! You should be very proud of yourself.

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