As we head towards the mountains, we pay homage to a town (and its people) that are near and dear to our hearts.
From the jutting peaks of the Flatirons to the magic of Wonderland Lake and the twinkling lights above Pearl Street, Boulder is home to some of our best friends, our favorite restaurants, and preferred ways to suffer (South Boulder Peak, anyone?).
We called on one of our incredible Boulder-based athletes, ultrarunning champ Cat Bradley, to show us around town. Here’s what we got up to:
Trails + Home
I’m driving slowly down the street in a rental SUV, squinting towards house numbers and then back at my phone, slowing as I pull up to her address. The wind whips right through my clothes as I slide out of my seat and into the Colorado cold, and before I can contemplate getting back into my car, a figure appears, emerging from the trail and walking towards me tentatively. Tall and slight, she’s recognizable immediately to me as the same girl I saw cross the finish line at Placer High last summer, coming in at 19:31 to beat out every other woman and win the hallowed Western States Endurance Run . If I hadn’t been there that fateful night, I still would have recognized her from her subsequent fame, her visibility as one of Salomon’s global athlete team, and her colorful and aspirational Instagram feed.
The sun hasn’t been up for long, but Cat has already put in 12 miles before we meet her at her house. “I usually get up before 6, have a cup of coffee and ‘first breakfast’ before my run”. Now, done with her workout, Cat hangs with her boyfriend Ryan and their adorable puppy, Shirley, at their house as we chat about the day ahead. With a cup of coffee in her hand, Cat suggests more coffee (I knew we were going to get along) at her favorite spot in downtown Boulder, so we wrangle the puppy and head out.
Pearl Street + Trident Coffee
Cat leads me towards Pearl Street, the downtown area of Boulder. Even from the car, everywhere you look in Boulder is a view worthy of its own moment. From the juxtaposition of the old Victorian homes next to sleek glass and cement fortresses, the old blends seamlessly with the new. Trident Coffee is a cute brick building that opens up to a bookstore. It’s the perfect clash of classic and kitsch, with a few cozy places to sit indoors. We, however, order a variety of drinks and snacks and haul them outdoors so we can sit with Shirley the dog.
Cat opts for “second breakfast”, the post-run fuel that she’s earned by virtue of her training. “I tend to front-load my eating,” she explains, opting for a gluten-free brownie from the case. Hey, whatever she’s doing is clearly working, right?
Despite having clocked 12 miles earlier this morning, Cat is game for more time on her feet (what do you expect from the current R2R2R FKT holder?). She suggests Sanitas, a popular Boulder hike with sweeping views of the entire town. Ever the gracious hostess, Cat runs back into Trident and comes back out with a bottle of water for me (I’d forgotten one), and we hop in the car and towards the trailhead.
We park the car, pack road beers in our pockets (what?), and set out onto the trail. Shirley, Cat’s puppy, leads the way for the majority of the hike, greeting passing dogs and hikers and inciting play the entire way. Sanitas is a fairly steep hike – and I ask Cat how she accounts for this type of activity with her running schedule. “I definitely account for it as a stressor, but I don’t count the mileage, per se.” I’d imagine that Cat spends more of her time running on these types of steep mountainous trails, but she tells me that she actually spends a decent amount of time running on flat ground to maintain speed. I mentally jot that down so I can remind myself to work out exactly like Cat does when I get home. (Editor’s note: This writer still hasn’t done a flat workout as of the date of publication).
It’s only slightly past noon and Cat’s daily mileage is well into the double-digits, so we make our way to lunch at Fresh Thymes, a local eatery featuring food that would please even your pickiest eater. Cat is Celiac, so she has a great appreciation for restaurants with menus that go deep on gluten-free options; Fresh Thymes is that type of place. We’re joined by our friend Kelly, and between the three of us, we fill an entire table with our smorgasbord of bites and beverages, sampling kombuchas and bone broth and cider. Kelly has lived in Boulder for over 10 years and runs a catering business for athletes called RAD Boulder. She fuels Cat and Ryan from her kitchen, so she commiserates with Cat as they discuss Ryan’s preferences for meat over veggies. “He’d love this mac and cheese! I need to take him here!” exclaims Cat. While they both enjoy the occasional meal out, they’ve gotten in the habit of weekly grocery trips and home-cooked meals. “Ryan doesn’t love vegetables, so he’ll come back from the grocery store and entirely forget, like, the kale and brussels sprouts.”
Cat has an appointment with her PT, so we head over to Rally Sport so she can get worked on. She offers to let me use a guest pass to work out at the gym while she’s at her appointment, and with a little bit of nudging, I accept. “It’s where Olympic athletes work out!” she explains. She’s been seeing this PT consistently and explains that he’s fascinated by ultrarunners, “He was doing Graston [technique] on my plantar fascia and he was shocked that I wasn’t responding to the pain.” I ask if she’s always had a high pain tolerance, or if it’s something she developed after thousands of miles of running. “Probably a little bit of both.”
On our way out after her session, Cat runs into someone who recognizes her. While Boulder undoubtedly has a tight athlete community, Cat has become somewhat of a local celebrity since her Cinderella-esque victory at Western States (her larger-than-life photo graces the wall of the Salomon store downtown), and she gets recognized more often. Out of curiosity, I ask how she endured the crush of interest in her life after her big win. “It was hard because I was trying to do everything for everyone… I ended up working 60 hour weeks and then realizing that I needed to take a step back.” After culling the herd to a few choice sponsors and business relationships, Cat has more time to focus on training and writing (she’s a contributing writer at BTRtoday).
As we hop in the car to leave the gym, I catch a glimpse of myself in the car mirror and notice that I’m sunburnt from the day already (sorry mom). I whine about it to Cat. “Doesn’t it kind of feel good, though?” she teases. Yeah, it does — I guess I’m not in foggy San Francisco anymore.
Salomon Run Club
There’s more running to be done, folks, and in Boulder, you are not without options for group runs. As the sun sets over the mountains, a group of runners descends upon Boulder Chautauqua, buzzing with energy and chatting excitedly with one another. Cat attends this run nearly every Tuesday night, as Ryan coordinates this event, and it’s clear that this group is pretty tight-knit. Despite a host of very competitive runners in our midst — Boulder is home to a surprising number of world-class athletes — it feels just like a normal run club with a group of friends (if most of your friends had really cool Salomon gear).
It’s getting dark and the mountain trails are icy, so I borrow a pair of Salomon demo shoes with spikes — ice running is new to me. Cat is bundled up in multiple layers of down coats, content to watch the run from the shelter of the Salomon van. We throw some beer in the cooler (super unnecessary in this weather, but it’s a matter of habit) before the group takes off up into the mountains with me breathing heavily on their heels. After a labored climb to the peak of the trail, we all head down the mountain as a group, moving gingerly over the ice patches and making our way back down to the finish line (beer being a very compelling motivator).
Under the Sun
There’s one place that Cat wants to go for dinner, and that’s Under the Sun, a cozy establishment with food options that meet the needs of our group. While they’re getting our table ready, we order drinks by the fireplace, allowing our hands to defrost from the run earlier.
Cat and Ryan know the proprietor, and we’re greeted warmly as we sit. We order what I imagine would be an excessive amount of broccolini for any other group, but ours addresses it handily. The whole meal is delicious (I recommend the burger), and we finish it off with two slices of their famous vegan, gluten-free carrot cake (at Cat’s insistence). This carrot cake is outrageously good by any standards and is miles above other V/GF options I’ve had anywhere. Despite this, we don’t manage to finish it all, and so Cat packs it up to take home. “Late night snack?” I tease? “No, second breakfast tomorrow,” she replies earnestly. You heard it here first, folks: breakfast of champions is, in fact, a slice of day-old carrot cake.
Thanks so much to Cat for sharing her day in Boulder with us (and to Jessica for the awesome pictures). Here’s to many more gorgeous days in our new favorite mountain city.
-The Sufferfest Team
PS: We’ve just announced that we’ve rolled out in select Colorado locations — check out our Buddies Map to see where we’re pouring. Can’t grab Sufferfest anywhere near you? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us where to be. Cheers!