This was my third race in Boulder, after this February’s USATF 2014 Cross Country Champs and the Bolder Boulder 10K back in May 2012. These two races had proven that altitude is not conducive to fast times. This race would be no different. And I got beat by both a 2 and 48 year-old!
While not expecting a great time I had reasoned that the flat course – an out and back at Boulder Reservoir – would get me close to the 16:12 I recorded at the hilly Washington Heights 5K I ran in March. I was wrong. I ran 17:03 for fifth overall and second masters.
It’s not often I fail to win the masters age group, especially the M45-49. But this time I had to contend with fellow 48 year-old Simon Gutierrez. Simon won the USATF 2014 Cross Country M45-49, comfortably pushing me into second. On this occasion I was 30 seconds in arrears, running a time I last ran in my late teens. Still back then I’d never been as high as 5,400 feet above sea level let alone run at it.
I entered this race a few days after Sham and I arrived in Boulder to vacation with her sisters. I had been struggling with my ITB and hip flexors (I think). This time round I found the altitude, hills and trails particularly hard going – harder than I can ever remember. So I had modest expectations for the race and had acclimatized to the idea of running a slow time but hopefully pocketing the masters’ purse of $100. That would net me $70 after the race entry. Retirement as a full time runner is still some way off.
But as I warmed up with Sham, who had decided against doing the race after coming down with a cold, I spotted Simon. I deduced he must have made the trip from his home in Colorado Springs to run the 5K rather than the accompanying 15K. So I quickly re-acclimated to the idea of running a slow time and finishing second masters. At the start line Sham’s sister and her husband, Ramola and Kevin, and their toddler, Eloise, joined Sham to form my support team. Eloise had been in great voice so I expected to hear her throughout the race.
Soon after the gun went I settled into fifth place and that’s where I’d stay. The gap in front to Simon, in 4th until around half way, steadily widened. Just after the turn at 3K he moved into 3rd and that’s where he’d stay. I kept my eyes singularly focused on him, counting the deficit in seconds at various checkpoints.
This race proved to be one of the most uncomfortable I have ever run. Psychologically, since I was resigned to running for second place from the gun. And physically, since after barely a quarter of a mile I was getting that feeling one gets as you crank it up in the final quarter mile.
I breasted the tape and noticed Simon already headed off for a warm-down. I embraced my support team and took comfort in knowing my street credibility with Eloise was at a new PR. It would climb higher still. My race entry brought with it a smorgasbord of free breakfast goodies – yoghurt, chocolate milkshake, bratwurst, breakfast burritos, even Avery IPA.
I then went for a complimentary massage and had Eloise in close attendance trying to figure whether my expression spoke for pain or pleasure. The therapist, Kat Hearty, worked on my legs, especially the problem areas, and explained that certain muscles needed to be ‘fired up’ using special treatment. I guess the old body is overdue a full service or at least some TLC.
And finally I took the stage to collect the prize for first masters. Simon’s third place overall meant he took that prize rather than first masters. My retirement plan was back on track. But Eloise did beat me on the race back to the car.