Monday, May 25, 2015

Bolder Boulder Number Thirty-seven

 The thirty-seventh running of the Bolder Boulder came off without a hitch, at least from the vantage point of this runner. I wish I knew exactly how many times I’ve done this, my favorite race of all time, but I don’t. What I do know is that I’ve done it more than 30 times and it’s become a tradition for me.

This year the timing was a little tight as I arrived home from Maine late the night before and was on the road from Fort Collins to Boulder before 5 a.m. on race day. The night before a race is not my best sleeping time, so it really didn’t make a whole lot of difference.

A last minute decision to use a porta-potty resulted in a dash to catch up with my “wave,” the group of 1,000 or so runners that take off at closely-timed intervals and keep the runners spread out over the course. My wave was off and away when I arrived at the start. I jumped in behind them and for a few unique moments found myself alone on the road. I worked hard to catch up with them but I didn’t get the job done before runners from the following wave caught up with me. No matter, the chip system makes it possible for everyone to get an accurate time regardless of where in the wave they start. It was a kick to have a few moments alone on the course!

After a week of dismal rain, Memorial Day dawned with perfect running weather. The predicted rain never showed up and the temperature remained cool enough to make for the most pleasant kind of running. A newly-designed course featured more gradual downhill stretches—most welcome.

All the elements that make the Bolder Boulder special were there, from the belly dancers to bystanders offering jello shots, donuts and stacks of bacon. Encouraging live music spurred runners on at nearly every corner. The Bolder Boulder can’t claim to be the fastest course around, but it is, in so many ways, the most beloved. Otherwise, why would 58,000 souls sign up to do it?

I gave it all I had and it wasn’t enough to come close to last year’s time. I was more than two minutes off. One of these days I’m going to have to admit that I’m not likely to see another 10k in the 40’s. My strategy is always pretty simple: to run as fast as I can. I pretty much did that today. What a treat to have that opportunity.

Monday, May 18, 2015

So you think your'e too old to...?

Melitta Czerwenka-Nagel appreciated the festivities and visitors around her 85th birthday celebration but was happy to have an empty house and a chance to get back to her training. She runs six miles three times a week and does a weekly gym regime that works out every muscle group in her body.

In August she’ll participate in the World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France. She’s aiming for world age-group records in 800m, 1500m and 5,000m events and has times that indicate she’ll be successful.

She didn’t start running until she was 48 and a single school teacher. “I was a very anxious person and only ever tested myself mentally. I needed a balance,” she said.

She began with short distances and soon became addicted. At age 56 she met her husband through running and at the same time joined a running club in Saarbrucken, Germany and was encouraged to try competing. To date she has earned 46 gold medals and world records in most distances between 800 meters and the half marathon.

She endured a knee injury caused by a bicycle accident in 2008. Her doctor advised her to quit running but two years later she was competing again.

Czerwenka-Nagel says running helped her get through her husband’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. “At my age you’re normally either dead or in an old person’s home. Running has allowed me to escape from that. I’m very happy with my quality of life.”

She credits regular running and eating carefully with her extraordinary fitness. “There’s nothing more to it,” she says. “That’s the secret.”

It doesn’t matter whether you run, walk, swim, bike, do yoga or Pilates, the trick is to do SOMETHING. Start slow. Be kind to yourself. Missing a day is not the end of the world. Get right back to it.

(The above story was reported by Local de and can be fully accessed via


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Double your fun

Just in case you haven’t heard, there’s something new out there in the world of running. It’s called a “Double” and consists of a 10k followed by a half-time or intermission and then a 5k. It is an interesting challenge because of the down time between the segments of the race.

It takes a while to figure out what works best for among the choices offered during the down time. You can get a massage, roll around on a foam roller, ride a stationary bike, use a stretchy band, nibble on a variety of snacks, gulp down water or an energy drink, walk around, sit down and/or get social with your fellow runners.

Bob Anderson, founder of Runners World magazine started Double Road Races a few years ago and today there’s an established series in this country and overseas. Anderson recently published the third issue of Double Runner magazine filled with interesting stories and insights about the races.  I had the privilege of writing a couple of stories in the current issue and look forward to doing more in the future.

I’ve done a couple of Doubles, one in Denver and another in Manhattan, Kansas. I’m in the process of deciding where to Double next.

Take a moment and check out or pickup a copy of the magazine at your local newsstand.

Here’s where the races will take place for the rest of 2015.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 17
Indianapolis, Indiana, May 31
Chicago, Illinois June 14
San Francisco, California, June 21
Overland Park, Kansas, June 28
Arusha City, Tanzania, July 4
Nyahururu, Kenya, July 11
Pal Alto, California, July 19
San Francisco, California, August 2
San Jose, California, August 22
Omaha, Nebraska, August 29
Thessaloniki, Greece, September 13
Lincoln, Nebraska. September 20,
Juan Batista, California, September 26
Tulsa, Oklahoma, October 11
Cabo, Mexico, October 24
Tokyo, Japan, December 5

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What is age-grade scoring anyway?


Have you heard? Time takes its toll. There’s no arguing with the fact that runners peak at a certain age and then get slower. No one can peg an exact age. Several factors are involved: fitness level, the number of years one has been running and training regularly, nutrition, gender, state of mind. And at any given event there are altitude, terrain, temperature, and other weather factors such as wind and rain to contend with. It is generally conceded that runners between the ages of 19 and 29 are at the top of their game. If they are ever going to win a race, chances are they’ll do it when they are somewhere between these ages.

It is often said that runners tend to improve their times for seven years after they begin regular participation and training. But it’s hard to imagine that this holds true at whatever age one starts to run. If you start when you’re 65, it might be tough to continue to improve for seven years.

Who cares about times anyway? Lots of people do. While the speed at which they run matters not one whit to many runners, arguably the wisest ones, there are plenty of runners of all ages out there in search of ways to cut a few seconds from their 5k or 10k time to achieve a PR “personal record.” And it is important to them.

In order to level the playing field for runners of all ages, something called the age-graded scale has been established. First conceived of as early as 1989, it officially came into being in 2002 and has been gaining in visibility and credibility ever since. It has been revised and adjusted in 2010 and most recently in 2015.

I must have had my head in the sand. I’d never heard of it in 2011 when I went to Seattle to participate in the National Cross Country Club Championships, fondly referred to as “The Battle in Seattle.” It was new to me in lots of ways. It took place on a golf course. I’d never run cross-country before and dutifully inserted spikes into my racing flats—and then I couldn’t get them out again.

The awards ceremony in a downtown Seattle hotel was a blur. I had a little trouble finding the place and arrived late but in time to get this array of medals that had me more than a little puzzled. Seems the women’s 70 and over team I was on had won the team event. (I suspect we were the only team in that category, but I’m not sure.)  Then I won my age group and I won the age-graded scale for the event. I had no idea what that was. I’d never heard the term age-graded, but who was I to argue about heading home with three big medals clunking around my neck? I thought it was pretty cool!

Four years later I’m doing some serious research into the age-graded scale for an article for Double Runner Magazine. It seems that in the 21 Double Road Races that have been run during the last two-plus years, women over the age of 57 have won the Victory Cup 12 times. Twelve times they have bested every man and woman in the race when their score is measured by an age-graded scale. Why?
Is the scale out of whack? Are older women running faster than ever before? Are there more older women participating in Double Road Races? Is there an outlier running these races? Christine Kennedy who turned 60 in 2014 has claimed nine Victory Cups and currently holds the women’s 60 and over age group record in the 10k with a time of 39.24 could well be considered an outlier.

I’m still pondering why. Anyone out there with some ideas?