10 teams of elite level runners from around the world competed for top podium spots at the 2016 Bolder Boulder International Team Challenge on Memorial Day. A hallmark of the race since 1998, teams of 3 athletes are invited to represent their country for country pride and one of the largest non-marathon prize purse in the country. Teams are scored cross-country style with points awarded on the basis of finishing place. The team with the lowest score for all three runners is the winner. The contest is always heated between Kenya and Ethiopia, last year being interrupted by Team Eritrea, and by Team USA in 2004 led by Alan Culpepper and Meb Keflezighi.
This year’s start line moved to the south end of Folsom Street adjacent to Folsom Field, the finish, to make for a more energetic start with crowds of runners still completing the course and those who have already finished. The field took off up Folsom for the first 1k before making several quick turns on Pearl, then 26th, Spruce, to 27th, Mapleton, and 26th before joining the existing course. But it wasn’t just the turns that made the begining miles interesting, it was the blazing 4:26 opening mile thrown down by MacDonard Ondara of Kenya. The field tried to follow most coming through the mile around 4:30-4:35.
Andy Wacker commented was probably the biggest change of the race compared to his experience in the 2014 Citizen’s race where he was 2nd overall,
“It was great to have fast people to run with, but I wasn’t expecting that fast of an opening mile. Plus there were these little surges through the first few miles. By the time we got to two, it felt like we had been through 3 with all the moves being thrown in.”
He wasn’t the only one surprised, it took some adjustment from fellow Americans Diego Estrada and Scott Fauble, the top Americans who finished 3rd and 6th overall respectively. Despite the early moves, Diego played a conservative hand going through the first 3 miles in 4:36, 4:52 and 4:59 only to start working his way up through the field after that. Estrada, a dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S., did his homework as it was his first time at the race.
First he talked to local coaches and athletes about the course and knew his plan was to be conservative in the first miles then work hard on the second half when the rest of the field would be struggling. Scott Fauble commented on his tactic,
“We were running together through Casey, (mile 4) then he put in a move on the downhill and got about 15 seconds on me. It was a gutsy move by Diego, I wish I could have gone with at the time.”
Estrada’s split for mile 4-5 was 4:37 and was the fastest of the field for that mile.
Estrada also worked out his hydration needs after a tough race at the Olympic Marathon Trials in LA this February. He ended up changing brands to SOS Hydration (he mentioned that he is not sponsored and just likes the product), and found he was no longer cramping on hot days. It paid off on the warm afternoon which topped out at 79° F.
Diego Estrada ran 29:40 finishing 3rd overall in the race and lead the Team USA Red to a Second Place finish followed by Scott Fauble in 6th and Abdi Abdirahman who finished 8th overall.
Bobby Curtis and Jared Ward, the two top American’s from last year finished further back in the field but helping Team USA White to a 4th place finish. Jared Ward who is on his way to the Olympics in Rio this summer and was using the race as a tune up as part of his preparation. “Some days you have a good race, sometimes you don’t,” he remarked with a short smile after the race.
Patrick Smyth (10), Brian Schrader (13), Bobby Curtis (15) made up Team USA White and Team USA Blue was made up of Jared Ward (16), Andy Wacker (19) and Noah Droddy (27).
Team results below.
Photos of the 2016 Bolder Boulder International Team Challenge
Bolder Boulder International Team Results – Men
- KENYA 1 4 9 = 14
- USA RED 3 6 8 = 17
- ERITREA 5 11 17 = 33
- USA WHITE 10 13 15 = 38
- EHTIOPIA 2 7 30 = 39
- MOROCCO 14 20 23 = 57
- ECUADOR 12 21 26 = 59
- USA BLUE 16 19 25 = 60
- JAPAN 18 24 29 = 71
- MEXICO 22 27 28 = 77