BOLDERBoulder: a very special day
By Tyler McCandless, Altra Elite Athlete
The Bolder Boulder is always a special day, and 2019 was no exception. After having snow even just 4-5 days before the race, we were treated by nearly a perfect weather day for racing. My wife, Kristin McCandless, and I stayed at the elite athlete host hotel close to the start line the night before the race because of the logistics of the race. The Bolder Boulder has approximately 50,000 runners, so the race utilized waves that go off about every 30 seconds starting with the fastest wave at 6:55AM. This "A" wave or "Citizen's Race" is a misnomer because there is plenty of elite athletes who compete for the distinction of being a bolder boulder champion. I train with a team called the Boulder Harriers, who meet most days of the week at around 6:30AM to work hard before going to our regular jobs for the rest of the day. This year, we had 5 guys and 1 girl in the A wave, which was broadcast live on the Bolder Boulder youtube channel. While drinking coffee, I watched the broadcast as my teammates ran near the front of the A wave and when they passed mile 4, I walked outside to the 5 mile mark and cheered them on. The Boulder Harriers ran incredibly well, taking 1st, 4th, 8th, 15th, and 44th place in the men's race, and 10th place in the women's race with everyone on the team running Bolder Boulder course PRs! I went back to the hotel room to track Kristin via the Bolder Boulder app. Kristin, who was nearly 33 weeks pregnant that day, wanted to walk/run the race as long as her body felt good. As I ate my pre-race breakfast 3 hours before my race's start, I followed each split as Kristin made steady and impressive progress - and I knew her body felt good. Again, I went outside after she hit mile 4 and cheered for her as well as jogged for a few seconds to grab a selfie. As I walked back to the hotel room I was inspired by Kristin and my teammates, and ready for my race to begin.
The international team competition (ITC) at the Bolder Boulder is one of the most impressive sights in road racing. Each country consists of 3 runners and the race is scored cross country style where each runner is assigned points by the order of their finish (i.e. 1st place is 1 point, 2nd place is 2 points...) and the lowest team score wins. The USA team runs with 9 runners and the first 3 finishers are the first USA team, and 2nd three finishers are the second USA team, and 3rd three finishers are the third USA team. This year brought the most international teams to the men's race since I've been racing the Bolder Boulder with 12 teams and 36 total athletes competing. With the confidence of knowing I was in the best shape of my life and the inspiration from my wife and teammates earlier in the day, I was much less nervous at the start line than in previous years.
The ITC at the Bolder Boulder starts on Folsom near the stadium and runs in the northbound lane of traffic while runners are coming towards the stadium in the southbound lane. After the gun went off, the crowd was so loud and the cheers for USA were distinct - truly an incredible moment in my racing racing. I got out right where I wanted and tucked in behind the main group of runners. Quickly, a few competitors separated with a mind-blowingly fast pace and I grouped up with several other Americans including Olympian Jared Ward, Diego Estrada and Reed Fischer. The crowds thinned around the mile and I looked down at my watch at the mile to see 4:39, which was way faster than the patient race I hoped to run early, so I could be stronger in the second half. A 4:39/mi pace is closer to a 28:50 10k, when I had a goal of getting under 30:40. That early fast pace always comes back to get you at the Bolder Boulder with sneaky uphill miles 2 and 3, and a big hill at the 4 mile mark. My pace slowed but I worked with a couple guys until we were fairly spread out by mile 4. I caught two members of the Kenya team during mile 4, worked really hard to separate myself from them before turning on Folsom for the 5th mile and then hearing the crazy loud cheering from the Altra Running cheer station during mile 5.
By the time I went up the hill at mile 6 to enter the stadium for the finish, I had no chance of catching the guy in front of me nor getting caught from behind. A race volunteer held out small American flags for us to take if we wanted, so I grabbed one and as soon as I came out the tunnel I raised it up to the roar of the crowd. I ran around the final curve and turned towards the finish, raising the flag once more to a distinct roar of the crowd. I feel there's no better finish in road racing, and crossing the finish line holding up the USA flag knowing I was on the 2nd USA team in 30:48 - less than 10 seconds off a fairly aggressive goal I set, was a gratifying feeling. I congratulated other competitors, jogged around the stadium to find my wife and give her a hug, and watched the Flyover provided by the Colorado Air National Guard and sky divers carrying flags from each branch of military highlighting the largest Memorial Day tribute in the USA.
The Bolder Boulder is a very special race that always remind you that the sport is bigger than the just the time you ran. It's about running together for something bigger, which on Memorial Day is about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. It's about bringing a community together for something healthy and positive. It's about setting goals and trying to achieve them. Competing on a USA team is very special, and I'm already strategizing how I can improve my training and mental toughness to go out quickly and stay strong to run faster than my goal next year. Although it was great to enter the stadium as a member of the second USA team, I'll let the vision of entering the stadium on the first USA team inspire my training next spring! Thank you Bolder Boulder for a spectacular 41st annual race, and thank you to the entire Boulder community for showing your support for road racing!