I’ve run this 24 hour race at the Boulder Reservoir twice before. The last time I was here I was a few hours into it, big smile beaming on my face, running out in front with Ryan Cooper. Ryan turned to me and said “You know, we’re on a 148 mile pace.” I should have taken that as a warning and slowed down. Instead, I just kept smiling and running just as hard, and then a few more hours into it I was a fried heap, laying in a tent, making my 24 hour race into a two part stage race. I didn’t get 148 miles. Or 100 miles. The Boulder race just asks for you to make a mistake. It’s flat and fast. Sometimes it’s really hot. You get out there and start cruising, and sweating, and not saving yourself for running ALL night when it’s much cooler.
This year I returned, but not as a racer. I got to witness the insanity from the sidelines while I helped with timing and other odd jobs. It was far more fun… except I was jonesing to get out there and redeem my previous mistakes. I was jonesing to get out there and move, to run like the wind, and… wait… yeah, and make the same mistakes again. It really was fun.
With all of the different races going on simultaneously, there was a lot of action to watch. If I was a New York bookie, I’d have my job cut out for me. The teams started out with the action right away. Three teams kept it close through 93 miles! With solo runners you can somewhat accurately predict when everyone will come through the basecamp checkpoint. With teams it is much more difficult to predict. Each runner on the team runs at a different pace, and they run in varying combinations, and some dress as police officers and Indians and construction workers and bikers and cowgirls and no one has any idea how those costumes slow them down or speed them up. Far too many variables to predict! After hours of racing, only minutes separated the lead teams. Finally, the smoke cleared early in the morning and team Shoulda Trained proved that they didn’t need to, pulling ahead decisively and completing 164 miles in 24 hours. While the team race unfolded, the solo runners in the 12-hour, 24-hour and 100-mile categories pushed forward, step by step, inch by inch (slowly they turned?) My buddy Mike Enger dashed in after three loops, grabbed a cold Miller High Life from his cooler and took a well deserved break. He went on to win the 12-hour solo race. Hammer Nutrition, take note that Miller High Life may be one of your competitors, in a strange silly parallel universe.
Of all the race divisions, the 100-mile event had the most competitors. Ted Liao was on deck to be the first person to complete the Rocky Mountain Triple Crown. He had finished the beautiful but tough Utah course, covering miles of concrete-hard slickrock. He also finished the Laramie race, through gorgeous wooded trails with nearly as much elevation change as the Leadville Trail 100. I remember feeding him Starburst candies all night as it was the only thing his stomach could handle. Perhaps he should have tried a Miller High Life. But the Boulder race, the “easiest” of the three, was not to be had. It just goes to show how incredibly different these three courses are, and how each requires a slightly different strategy. Gabriel Helmlinger amazed us all as he cruised with what seemed like little effort to a 16:44 win. Glen Delman, a professional photographer and eventual 3rd place finisher, set up a camera station to take pictures of himself and others every few laps and created a record of progression, showing the states of joy, exhaustion, elation, despair, and vomit on the face that a 100-mile competitor transcends to reach the finish line.
Every so often through the late night and early morning, when most solo runners start to question their sanity, a runner named Ian would come into basecamp and be so upbeat and energetic that we knew he’d finish. That type of energy goes a long, long way in any endurance venture, or life for that matter. He even brought us sleepy staff members back online. Another race that was fun to watch was between Carolyn Holden and Monica Scholz. Both seemed very focused on the task at hand and traded leads multiple times. They never were more than 22 minutes apart throughout the 100 miles. Carolyn ended up finishing the last lap with a mere 10 minute lead.
Every race, every division, every competitor was so interesting to watch. Everyone had their own goals and strategies. Some opted for sleep, some for sleeplessness, some for Heed, some for Miller High Life, although really, when all was said and done, strategies meant little, as everyone seemed to have so much fun. Now if only I could keep that 148 mile pace…