In most American towns, outdoor-sports aficionados are part of an elite counterculture minority. Mountain bikers and climbers have cachet. Not so in Boulder. Recreating outdoors is the norm here, and it's in your face. There's always some horse-toothed mountain-town equivalent of Laird Hamilton ready to kick your athletic pride through the dirt. Remember the 2005 Tour, when T-Mobile kept attacking Discovery, trying to break Lance? That's what a casual bike ride is like in Boulder. Strangers attack. Old guys with gray beards and steel bikes attack. Reach for a shot of Gu and even your friends attack. And women: Women always attack—they're the worst.
Even slow guys like me attack. The other day I was reeling in a pro cyclist on a brutal local climb. My heart rate was near its max, but I was feeling good. I was in the zone. Maybe four years of living in Boulder have paid some fitness dividends, I thought.
Then I figured it out: He's between intervals, and once his heart rate drops below 65 bpm, he's gone. At least he said "No offense" before he accelerated.
It doesn't matter what sport you do; you will suffer similar humiliation. Go nordic skiing in North Boulder Park and two Olympians shout "Track!" from a meter back. Climb the Flatirons only to learn that someone once ascended in Rollerblades. Get Maytagged in a hole while paddling Boulder Creek and a World Cup champion slalom kayaker will toss you a rope bag. Running? Not me, not in Boulder. Boulderites run like gazelles. Fancy yourself a mountaineer? The waiters at Sherpa's have summited Everest. But at least those guys are nice. If Reinhold Messner himself walked into south Boulder's mountaineering shop to buy a carabiner, the sales staff would give him attitude. It's enough to make you revolt against the blue sky (300 sunny days a year), pull down the blinds, and watch NASCAR.
I’m here to report that it just isn’t Boulder where this phenomenon occurs. It happens in the sleepy School Lane Hills area on Lancaster, Pa., too. Trust me, I know. Just when you are cruising along without a care in the world on an easy day, satisfied to barely break a sweat with a string of 7-minute miles with no other goals other than to get some work in, some jackass ruins it.
It’s such a pain.
During today’s recovery run after yesterday’s hard 21-miler, a woman with thighs like Erma Bombeck and a stride like Oprah as well as a college kid with Kobe shorts made runs at me. Whenever I came within sight on my loops around Baker Field, these folks lifted the knees a little higher, and pumped the arms a little faster all with the hope of taking a shot at me.
Needless to say I didn’t let it happen, which makes me wonder if I’m the one with the problem. Why can’t I just let those people go? Who cares if they run with me for a little while until they get tired and fall back? Who cares if they pass me?
Obviously, it’s me.
Simply looking to get some miles in at whatever pace felt good, I ended up running solid 6:15 pace for seven miles.
Because I didn’t want a housewife to get the idea that she was in my league? Because I wanted to teach some college punk that he needed to do some more work?
Tuesday was not the first time this has happened. In fact, it’s quite routine. During runs on the Kelly and West River drive loops in Philadelphia with my friend Tom, invariably people would take runs at us and pass by. And invariably, I would always say – in a tone loud for everyone to hear – “So Tom, how long will it be when we streak by that dude when he’s sucking air.”
This summer it got to the point where I started calling people on it. Once, while finishing a 16-miler with a series of hills a woman struggling simply to draw oxygen reached the intersection of where a hill began at the same time as me. I gave her a friendly hello nod as I was about to go by her and never gave a second thought until I caught a glimpse of her in my peripheral vision. There she was huffing, puffing and going red-faced crazy trying to take me down on the hill.
I couldn’t believe it and asked her what the deal was: “Lady, are you kidding me?”
She opened her mouth to respond and all that came out was half a breath that was barely audible. That’s when I dialed up the pace, told her I’d catch her around and took off for home.
Yeah, really tough.
And yeah, there is something wrong with me.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with teasing college kids with a 6-minute surge, easing it back to 6:30 to let them close in before dropping them with a 5:45. That’s just too fun.
Anyway, I was in no mood for other runners today and got off the field and onto the roads where I could take it easy. The 14.3 miles in 1:37:28 shows that the last half of the run was done in cruise control.
Now it’s time to dial it back and rest up. Based on my morning heart rate and feeling after the past two runs, I may be toying with over-training syndrome.
Yesterday’s acquisition of the Pegasus Racers got me thinking about shoes that are no longer made but should be. For instance:
* Nike Air Talaria
* Nike Zoom LWP
* The “original” adidas Ozweego with the quilted toe box
* adidas Response Trail, but not for running.
The Talaria might have been the most perfect shoe for my foot. Sadly, the folks at Nike or the running/consumer public probably saw it as not so fashionable.
The New York Times is piling it on. Maybe an American could win the big race this year? They seem to think it could be Meb Keflezighi is the one to break through.