Saturday night lights: First track race in 10 years

Zipping around the track, 1999

If there is such a thing, last year I may have run too much: 4,029 miles and 456,000 vertical feet of climbing, with two road marathons and two 100-mile trail ultras — Boston, Bighorn, UTMB, and Houston. That’s an average of 11 miles and 1,250 vertical feet of climbing per day. While I’m not as prolific as Walmsley, Krupicka, and a few dozen (hundred?) others, it was more running in a year than I’d ever done.

But the volume and intensity wore me out, mostly mentally. And running was increasingly feeling like work, not play. After I PR’d in Houston in 2:28:24, I felt like I could close the chapter and change course. I wasn’t ready to retire, or even to stop racing. But I was ready to no longer spend 15 hours per week on the roads and trails of Boulder.

Still under the oversight of my fantastic coach, David Roche, we reduced the training load to a more sustainable and enjoyable level — 50 to 60 miles per week — and we scheduled a few races that would be novel and unexpected.

Last week was the rust-buster, Dash & Dine, an after-work 5K at the Boulder Reservoir with a great community feel to it. I finished in 16:27 (5:17 minutes/mile pace), and set a new maximum heart rate record in my 37th year, 180 beats per minute. I last ran a 5K ten years ago, in a Duke alumni track race. My 16:08 converts to a 16:42 at a mile above sea level, not even accounting for the two miles of gravel, the 180-degree turnaround at the out-and-back, or the 50 vertical feet of rollers.

This Saturday is the first real effort: the inaugural Frank Shorter Classic, an open track meet at Boulder’s Fairview High School that is being organized by Olympian Lee Troop. Most races are a 1-mile, with separate heats for kindergartners through septuagenarians. There is also an elite 800m, mile, and 3000m (my race, at 8:10 pm).

If you would like to participate, registration closes tonight/Wednesday at midnight. If you would like to spectate, entry is free.

To prepare for the Classic I’ve been getting on the track twice per week, remembering every time how much fun it is to drop 30-second 200’s to finish a workout. I’m predicting a 9:10 to 9:20 finish (4:55 to 5:00 pace). The 9:10 would be only about 2 seconds off my 2-mile high school PR of 9:31, after adjusting for altitude.

Next up will be BolderBoulder, on Memorial Day. It’s one of the largest races in the country (50,000 runners!) and the starting line is 2 miles from my house, yet I’ve never done it. So this is the year. Due to the altitude and elevation gain, it’s a slow course, so I’m thinking mid- or high-33 minutes (34-flat is 5:28 pace). If I’m up for it, I was thinking I might take a second lap with a later and more fun wave.

So right now I’m fit and getting fitter, and more importantly having fun again.

Posted in on May 17, 2018


  1. Steve Sims on May 17, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Love following the man lighting it up! Speed vs 100 miles of wood’s slogging? Which is your fav?

  2. Varner on May 18, 2018 at 10:49 am

    This is great. So many people forget how fun it is to race fast shorter distances, not to mention training for them. Gears are completely underrated when it comes to ultrarunning and having more high end ones will serve you well. Can’t wait to read the report on the track races!

    • Andrew Skurka on May 18, 2018 at 11:03 am

      > Gears are completely underrated when it comes to ultrarunning and having more high end ones will serve you well.

      Yes, so true. Slowly ultra runners are realizing this. You’re not going to be your best if you run slow all the time — that just means you’ll race slow, too.

  3. Mark Turner on May 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    A second lap of the Bolder Boulder as a cool down is highly recommended, even at my slow pace my first lap takes to much concentration to enjoy the inverted parade like I can the second time around. Even with a second lap you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the pro race on the big screen as well as the fly over and paratroopers if you want.

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