Tag Archives: north boulder

Race Report: Boulder Distance Classic 5K, Boulder CO., April 26, 2014

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 Ramola, husband 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.


My support team cheering me on at the start.

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.


Simon finishing strong.

This race proved to be one of the most uncomfortable I have ever run. Psychologically, since I was resigned to running for second masters 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.


Feeling the altitude at the start of the race.

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.


Getting a long over-due massage.

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 beat me on the race back to the car.


Eloise was ready to race with the 12-year olds but she might have to wait a few years.


Hidden Valley and Leaving Boulder

by Paul Thompson and Shamala Kandiah Thompson
This was our last morning in Boulder and we had planned an early run so that we’d be back in time for the sofa delivery.

Paul’s Run
After two hard days training today was a recovery run, if there is such a thing at altitude. I ran six miles in around 42 minutes on familiar ground – up North Broadway, then Hidden Valley, a loop around Mesa Reservoir, down to Eagle Trail and up the long, grinding ascent of Cobalt Trail.

View from Eagle Trail

This time I took Shamala’s iPhone and mapped the route on Runmeter. Being a work day it was quiet: not a single runner or cyclist and just one walker. There were, however, many marmots hard at work excavating. While it was dry, the skies were a little overcast, not the brilliant crisp blue that we have come to associate with Boulder.

As I headed home Shamala’s phone rang.  I considered not answering since it seemed to break the protocol of training in Boulder – getting away from it all. However, curiosity got the better of me, as it usually does. I saw it was a local number and figured it was the sofa deliverymen. It was. As my gloved fingers fought with the iPhone I was just able to take the call. They were on their way. Imagine delivermen early. I told them I was a 15 minute run away but that Shamala should be back to receive them. Shamala had headed out earlier to try and get back just in case they came early – just as well.

Testing out the new sofa

Sofa Delivery and Flight Home
The delivery went smoothly and we even had time to test the sofa before heading to the airport.

We ended up spending most of the afternoon in Denver International Airport (fortunately one of the best US airports for hanging around when you have time to kill) due to a flight delay – wet weather in Newark had caused flights to backup. This was the third time we’d experienced a lengthy delay on this exact same Southwest flight. And for the third time we succumbed to a consolation prize of burger and fries. Touching down in Newark at 11pm we finally got to bed at 3am in Peekskill.

On this trip we got in some great runs, added the first piece of furniture to the lounge, and renewed our determination to find a way to spend more time in Boulder.

North Boulder Trails and Sofa Search

by Paul Thompson and Shamala Kandiah Thompson
We’d chosen a good weekend to come here. While Boulder was a balmy 50 degrees farenheit, New York was experiencing its first real snowfall of the year. Snow and ice underfoot make for hard work, especially when running off-road.

Paul on the North Foothills trail

When we bought our apartment in North Boulder the big draw was ease of access to a network of off-road trails. Some, such as the North Foothills and Wonderland Lake, are a stone’s throw from the front door. These are great for shorter runs but after a while we started looking around for something that would work for longer, more challenging runs.

We found a great network of trails just north of us. You can run for miles with just the view of the Flatirons, Foothills and the plain stretching east for company. The trails are designated multi-use, gently undulating but rocky in parts. And this is where we headed for our run today.

Paul’s Run
I started right from the front door of the apartment while Shamala drove to the trailhead. I like this type of straight-out-the-door kind of running. The weather was perfect: light breeze and a cloudless blue sky. As this was day one at altitude (North Boulder is about 5500 feet above sea level) I was planning a relatively easy 90 minute run.

North Broadway was already a busy thoroughfare of cyclists heading north. I left the city limits behind me as I crossed Route 36 and went from tarmac to mud pack road and then finally off-road trail.

A marmot on the look-out for runners

The Cobalt Trail starts just north of the North Foothills Trailhead, which is where I caught up with Shamala. It starts rocky but as it descends towards the Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead it gives over to softer ground – soft enough for marmots who pock mark the trail with their burrows and squeak incessantly, presumably to alert family and friends of my trespassing through their backyard.

A cowboy on his horse

Reaching the  Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead, a parking lot filled with vehicles of runners, cyclists, walkers and horse riders, I ran due north along Left Hand of the North Boulder Valley Trail. It’s a dusty, rugged and undulating trail and makes a number of small dips and switchbacks as it navigates small creaks, and two lakes. I had the trail to myself bar a few mountain bikers and a horserider who looked like he was straight off the set of Brokeback Mountain.

On the way out the Foothill views to the left slowly unfold. For Shamala they unfolded more slowly (her words not mine) and she turned back after the second lake, while I kept going until the trail ended. At the trailhead a sign indicated that this was once Arapahoe land. I ran another two miles on the packed mud roads common to the area. These roads make for fast running – the Kenyan group  featured in the blogumentary, Chasing Kimbia, trained on them a lot.

I retraced my steps back to North Boulder, taking a short detour, trading a long relentless climb up the Cobalt Trail for a short steep over-in-a minute climb. As I crested the climb and Boulder came into view I was greeted by a warm headwind. I’d been out for 98 minutes and logged 14 miles. So much for an easy run.

Paul heading back on the Valley Trail

Our after-run treat was coffee and pastries at Spruce Confections, our favorite North Boulder coffee haunt, as the frequent coffee points testify. It does great scones with fillings like pecan and blueberry. They actually bake their stuff on site. Plus there’s free wifi which enabled us to write this post.

We got there just ahead of a MAMIL cycling group (middle-aged men in lycra) who had just finished their long Sunday morning ride. Boulder is a magnet to those seeking an active lifestyle, regardless of age. It was recently rated the 4th Best US Town in 2011 by Outside Magazine and is home to some of the world’s top runners, cyclists, triathletes, mountain bikers, and rock climbers.

Another reason for coming to Boulder this weekend was to continue furnishing our apartment. On our last trip in October 2011 we got a bed and bedding: we are too old for the floor and in any case we are not students anymore. This time we were hoping to find a sofa, and maybe even a dining table and chairs. We checked out Concepts Furniture, and shortlisted a sleeper sofa. Unconvinced by the chocolate brown color, we headed to their sister store in nearby Longmont where we found exactly the same for less in burgundy. It was a tie break so we resolved to sleep on it, metaphorically at least.

For dinner we decided to check out the neighborhood pizza joint – Proto’s Pizza. We’d just missed Happy Hour, something Boulder has a reputation for. We shared a large Pontiff Pie pizza which, with the help of a pint of wheat and amber beer, we managed to reduce to a few crumbs. It was, of course, divine. No doggy-bag needed. It’s a good thing we’d done a long run earlier in the day.