I've run my share of races: Some have been awesome experiences, some not so much. But the Bolder Boulder 10K was, hands down, the best race experience I've ever had. From registration to post-race ammenities, this race was organized, accomodating, and fun!
For some, a great race experience is defined by a PR or maybe by the swag -- the t-shirt or the medal -- and to an extent, that's how I used to define a good race experience too. But, anymore, I value more practical features of a race, and mostly, I just want to enjoy the opportunity to get out there with other runners and experience the joy of running.
Sorry. Too cheesy?
Well, pour yourself a glass of wine, because I'm likely to heavily layer the cheese in this post. What can I say? This race reminded me of all my ooey-gooey running/racing feelings!
Choices! That was the essence of BB's registration. Want to just register for the race, no shirt, nuthin'? Excellent! You can do that! Want a shirt too? Done! Want a tech tee or a long sleeved tee? Sure! Wanna really fork over the moola and get a jacket? You got it!
I loved such options. For years, I've often opted to not even take a tee at many races. Sometimes the sizes don't fit, the design isn't great, and/or I just know the shirt will languish in a drawer, so why waste my time and space by selecting one?
For me, I'd prefer, often times, to pay less for a race and have fewer extras. But for this race, I did indeed want a tee, but I went with the cheapest cotton tee + race registration package, and I was satisfied with my choice. Even more so, I was happy to get a choice.
The choices extended even further: Want your packet mailed to you? Sure! They can do that. Want to pick it up? Want someone else to pick it up? Done and done. Even though my brother picked up my race packet on my behalf, I luh-ved the mailing option.
My brother, SIL, and I knew we didn't want to drive into Bolder on race morning -- and, thankfully, we didn't have to. Denver's RTD bus system was working in conjunction with the race to provide transportation from a variety of park and ride locations. Buses were leaving every 10 minutes or so from designated locations in the greater Boulder area. We arrived at the closest park and ride to my bro's house, hopped on a bus, and 20 minutes later, bam! We were at the start!
SO worth the $8 fee!
Once we arrived, we each grabbed some water and a cup of coffee: Both were complimentary as runners milled around the start line. We also hit up the porta potties, and can I just pause and say that this was the best porta potty experience I've ever had? I went twice before the race and neither time did I have to wait in line -- there were THAT many! Every race should be equipped with that many facilities.
At 7 am, the race "began," but just the elites and the Speedy McSpeedsters started then. The rest of us waited for our own wave to start.
I can't say enough good things about BB's wave system. Why isn't every race in the world employing this method?
The Wave Start
To be honest, when I read about the "waves" on BB's website, I didn't fully understand it -- I figured it was parallel to corrals. So, hopefully, my explanation is sufficient for your understanding; if not, run it next year, then you'll understand AND love it!
Unlike corrals, which are just ways of grouping runners, who all start at the same time, the waves are designated start times for each group of runners. BB is one of the world's biggest 10Ks -- approximately 50K runners! -- and yet, with their wave system, it doesn't feel like there's 50,000 runners.
It works like this: When you register, you get assigned a wave -- this is assigned based on your predicted finish time and when you register; ie, the faster you are and the earlier you register, the earlier your wave. Each wave has a designated start time. So, the beginning of the race is 7 am, and from there, the waves are timed about 2 minutes apart, and because of the huge volume of participants, the race is "starting" all the way until about 9:30! My wave started at 7:25.
So, at about 7:10 or so, we got in our wave and slowly strolled with the others in our wave to the start line. There were multiple "check points," wherein volunteers scanned our bibs to double check that we were in the appropriate wave, and we were roped off from beginning too early and trying to sneak into an earlier wave. Once it was our turn, we were positioned at the start, we got our own music, and then...the gun! We were off!
The wave effect was magnificent. Each wave only has a couple hundred runners, so it didn't feel like a typical congested start like most big races; at no point did it ever feel like I was on a course with 50K of other runners. The waves are also accomodating: You can start in your assigned wave or in any wave that starts after your assigned wave. So, did you oversleep race morning? Late to your start? No probs. Just join another, later wave! Doesn't matter.
6.2 Miles of Smiles
Honestly, I smiled the whole time I ran this race. The course entertainment was varied and aplenty -- dozens of different kinds of bands, gymnasts, cheerleaders, belly dancers, you name it, they were there. Plus, the spectators are their own entertainment, providing a HUGE variety of both refreshment and interaction for, and with, the runners.
There was everything from the 2.2 "Marshmallow Mile," where I caught (boo-ya!) a Stay-Puff that was tossed my way, to plates of freshly sizzled bacon being handed out near the race's final mile, to the organic popscicles that were being distributed by the hippie college students.
But my favorite "attraction" was, of course, a slip 'n slide!
BB is famous for its spectators setting up slip 'n slides -- sometimes there are several, sometimes maybe only one, it's up to the whim of the spectators who create them -- but before I raced, I had promised myself that if I came across a slip 'n slide, I would definitely do it. Sure enough, somewhere between miles 3-4, I spotted one that was hosted in someone's front yard.
I took aim, and with no one waiting in line in front of me, I never broke my stride: I just ran at the sucker and dove!
Since it was only about 60 degrees at 8 am, the water, and the resulting mud puddle I slid through at the end, were frigid, but man alive, nuthin' wakes you up in the morning! It was exhilerating, and I thought it was so dang fun that I almost circled back and did it again, but figured I'd race on and if I came upon another, I'd do it again.
Turns out, that was the only one and I'm glad I did it. If there's one lesson I'd like to pass on to my kids, it's this: Always do the slip 'n slide!
The Big Finish
The elevation was a bit tough at first, but once I warmed up, I was fine. The climb, however, was a bit tougher on me. Considering that in FL, a crack in the sidewalk is a "hill," these Bolder hills were a challenge to me. But, they were all gradual inclines that were manageable...until that last cruel climb into the CU stadium at the finish.
It was a brutal climb and I think that's the only place I had to trasnfer my energy from my smile to my legs; it took all the gas I had left to scale that steep hill. But once up it, it was totally worth it. We circled into the stadium and were greeted by thousands of roaring spectators -- IT. WAS. AWESOME.
We circled once around the track, and ta-da! Finished! My time was 1:03.
Definitely not a 10K PR. Do I care? Not a bit!
Afterward, runners were funneled into the CU fieldhouse to collect our goody bags, water, and free beer (my ONE complaint: Michelob Ultra? Really? Blech, it doesn't even taste like beer!).
We meandered through the outdoor expo -- got some free, delicious Evol burritos and sampled other free foods and drinks -- and then hitched a ride back to the park 'n ride on an RTD bus. Smooth as buttah!
As you can tell from the length of this post, and all my gushing, I loved every aspect of this race, and after I finished, I told my brother I'd be back to run it again. For sure.
Anyone wanna join me?