My first Bolder Boulder

I did my first Bolder Boulder using a wheelchair today, and everything went well!

Race prep:

My husband changed my caster bearings out, and they really were rolling smoothly – no caster flutter on the downhills. I took the bare minimum with me – cell phone in a velcro pouch on the rigidizer bar on the back of the chair, a little pump taped under the seat, and my driver’s license (you never know, they might card you for beer) under my cushion.

My husband has a 10K time of 48-50 minutes, but he decided to hang out with me in the duffer wave this time, which was really sweet. Our daughter dropped us off. With over 50,000 participants, just getting to the right place at the right time is a challenge. We were none too early – by the time we found our wave it was starting to move towards the start line.

The race starts downhill, which was frustrating as the runners/joggers/walkers were so tightly packed that it was hard to get any kind of speed on. Within the next kilometer or so the people spread out some, but there was hardly ever a clear space in front of me. It was tough to pass on the left both because there were people there and because the cross slope was so challenging at the edge of the road.

Uphills were ok – if I was annoying people by being slow, I wasn’t aware of it, they just flowed around me. On one uphill, a woman ran up to me and asked, really nicely, if she could push me for a little while. “Nope!” I said, thanking her, “Then it wouldn’t be my time, would it?” She took rejection well. For the downhills I just tried to stay on the left and find the holes (which sometimes meant a lot of dodging and weaving – sorry, people behind me!). Sometimes I hollered out, “Coming up fast, make a hole!” but it didn’t usually work. Once I got to the bottom of a hill to find a guy had been drafting off me – that was pretty funny.

At Kilometer 8, I actually ran into a guy’s shoe – he was ok, and when I told him he was the only person I had hit so far, he said, “I’m honored!” I figure I’d done pretty well not running into anybody for 4/5ths of the race. I got some nice encouragement both from runners and spectators – sometimes people would call out my number, and I always tried to give them a thumbs up.

Other disabled people – I saw one woman in a manual chair being pushed by a runner right at the start. She had a National MS Society bag hanging off the back of her chair. Another woman was being pushed by her child, who had the Green Card (except that hers was pink) pinned to her back. There was a guy with two below the knee prosthetics. After the finish I saw another guy in a chair being pushed. I didn’t see anyone else doing the race in a chair independently, but in that large a field, that doesn’t mean anything.

I was really happy with how it turned out. My time was 1:20:44 (I was hoping for under 1:30). I smashed my thumb into my wheel lock lever a couple of times (definitely going to be moving that thing) and it was bleeding pretty good by the end, but I got it doctored up. I was surprised to find that I had blisters on my ring fingers (thumb, index and middle fingers grab the tire, ring fingers slide against the handrims). Other than that, no damage!



  1. Ruth

    Congrats, Katja! Sounds exciting. I always loved how people cheered me on when there were spectators for long wheelchair tennis matches- it really did help!

  2. weeble

    Wow Katja. I’m glad I found the report. You avoided my questions about a time goal but I see you did have one and I’m so glad you met it (beat it!)

    Very sweet of your husband to stay with you. I imagine watching you sweat up some of those hills must have been trying for him too.

    Very impressed you only hit 1 guy :) I’m also amazed at your weaving prowess on the downhill sections.

    I see on the race website that you can watch the live finishes in 10 min sections later tonight. I’ll be watching. Likely with a tissue in hand. I’m so happy for you. Job well done.

  3. Katja (Post author)

    My actual finish time was about 10:18 am – it’s not there yet, but I’m sure it will be later (

  4. weeble

    Gaah! I see your arms and wheels! Nest year, tell those others to get out of your shot, lol.

    Congratulations again. That many people would be overwhelming for me in a chair, let alone in a race. Perhaps if you had the Wheelchair Kamikaze in front to part the sea of runners it would be better?

  5. fridawrites

    Congratulations on your great time and making it through all the crowds/people traffic. Sounds exciting!

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  7. Elizabeth

    Congrats on your first race. Welcome to the joys and frustrations of racing – it is a real high to finish though! I think you probably beat my first one in time. Now you know why they put the wheelchairs in front (or if not, why wheelies demand it – because you are a ball bearing and that is a hill, and do they really want all those hamstrings in front of you?). I do find it frustrating to have to slow down so much for runners on the downhill because I know that the uphill is going to be SO SLOW. But yeah, it sounds like a good race overall. I ALWAYS have someone offer to push me, and I can’t get it, I mean, I don’t offer people to “Hey, jump in my lap!” because it is their race, right? But I guess wheelchair=push is ingrained or something. Still people take rejection well. Congrats again, it sounds like by the way you talk that this is just the beginning, so I wish you well on your racing season!

  8. Susan

    Hey… I “did” Bolder Boulder in a wheelchair too! (r/r MS for 10 years, limited mobility but don’t usually use a chair)

    I’ve always dropped off friends, met up at the end, carbo-load before, drinks after. A girls-weekend out (we’re from Nebraska), This year they wanted me to race. I trained for months, but didn’t make it clear to my friends that I actually wanted to do the race myself. The one gal took it upon herself to push me almost the entire way.

    Finished in 1:28, but I wasn’t in it for the time, I was in it for the accomplishment. Next year, I’m actually going to DO the BB.

  9. Katja (Post author)

    Susan – you did? What wave were you in? Did I see you? Did you see me? We should meet up next year! (PS – did you sign the horrible pusher form? And get the green card?)

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