Posts Tagged ‘Queens Half-Marathon’

Queens Half-Marathon

I’d been looking forward to this half-marathon for months, and my training since the beginning of June had been tailored to it. I knew I wouldn’t PR, simply because I wouldn’t have the necessary base, but I thought I could definitely run under 2 hours on five days a week of training (which would include race pace workouts, and a handful of overmileage long runs). I wasn’t too concerned about racing in the summer since two years ago I set a strong PR on the old Queens course on an in hospitable day (73 degrees, 87% humidity). I felt confident I could acclimate to heat by the end of July

Yeah well, a few weeks ago my body said, Screw you TK, ain’t no way I’m acclimatizing to this! After weeks of 90+-degree days and crazy humidity, I had resigned myself to the fact that every workout would be run about a minute-thirty slower than what I would expect to do in more humane temperatures. It’s not a big deal, since I am willing to use my summer running to maintain fitness, and bide my time for Fall’s snappy, cooler weather when I will be able to lay down a little speed again.  To keep things in line with my attitude adjustment, my Queens Half-Marathon goal went from “a good race effort” to “run smart to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration.” Temps at the start of the race yesterday? 86 degrees with 63% humidity. It was a scorcher.

Luckily, a few days earlier I had arranged to run with a few friends from Twitter– @runamyrun and @mdwstrnNYer.  They are faster than I am so I knew they would keep me moving forward through the heat for 13 miles.  The other motivating factor for me was the new course. I was one of the few people who never minded the out-of-the-way location or the twisty and hilly route the old half took; nevertheless I was excited about running past a lot of Queens’ landmarks, including Citifield and the highly recognizable Worlds Fair Globe. And it goes without saying that any opportunity to race through my borough is one I hate to pass up.

There’s really not much to report except for the odd exceptions to my usual racing M.O.:

  • Husband and Matilda the dog were on-site to cheer. I spotted them three times along the way, and Matilda’s expressions and sudden attentiveness when I called her name as I ran by provided amusement for me, AC and MP
  • Three (count ’em, three!) hair ties snapped on me during the race. Always the left pigtail, too. So I had to cross the finish line with a ponytail. You all know how much I hate that.
  • I drank at every water station, and walked through them, too! Usually I will have a few sips of water every other station on cooler days, or have Gatorade whenever it’s offered on hotter days. But this time I was drinking full cups of each at nearly every fluid stop. We were sweating so much that I didn’t even get a sloshy stomach despite having drank nearly a gallon of fluid along the course. I didn’t gt annoyed at the folks walking thru the water stations, and in fact I was grateful for the chance to walk a few steps every mile.
  • I didn’t eat my energy gels. I carried them, but the thought of ingesting hot gooey banana-flavored energy gels made me nauseous.

The course wasn’t as great as I had hoped. We didn’t really get into a neighborhood (I love residential races), and the miles run out of the park were through industrial parts of Queens that frankly (and literally) stunk. The back streets and byways of Flushing stink like rotting fish, like stagnant water, like garbage, like bird shit. I hate to say anything bad about my borough which I support so fervently, but I have to say the old course showed us off better. I enjoyed running with AC and MP, they took my mind of my stresses, kept my feet moving and my smile turned on (even if you couldn’t see it, I was smiling on the inside).

All told, my official time for the race was 2:04:09. Average pace 9:29; fastest split 8:58; slowest split 9:47. I came in 41st out of 221 in my age group, which is consistent with how I usually place (which means everybody really slowed it down out there).

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Friends, I’ve done it again. If I weren’t so happy, and proud, I’d be embarrassed at my streak of PR’s, but fuck that. I ran today’s half-marathon in 1 hour, 53 minutes and 34 seconds: now is the time to revel.

All week I was waiting for my right leg to feel strong again, for that warm, tender spot in my hamstring to go back to a painless normal. Alas, I woke up this morning still not feeling 100%, so I reset my goals for the race. Instead of breaking 2 hours, I just wanted to beat my last PR (set in Brooklyn) of 2:06:02, which would have required a 9:30 pace. I knew I could do that, and after all, I thought, there’s still Staten Island next month to go for the sub-two. Another part of the original plan that got scrapped was my cheering section. Husband and Matilda were going to be there, but he’s been sick with some back to school bug and sorely needed the rest.

I arrived at the race with just the right amount of time to drop my bag, empty my bladder, and stretch in my corral, all without rushing or stressing. The staging area seemed much less crowded than when I ran Brooklyn, or even The Bronx. I suppose the out-of-the way location, and the tougher, hilly course kept away the less-serious runners. (There were 3,054 finishers today, as opposed to the 5,832 who finished at Brooklyn.) Because of this, once they pushed aside the barriers from within the pens, I was able to move up closer to the start, and hopefully align myself with some faster runners out of the gate.

Nevertheless, I knew the first couple of miles were going to be slow simply because the course was narrow. I’d heard it was picturesque, through the neighborhoods of College Point, but I hardly remember a bit of the scenery. Mile 1 took about 9:45, and Mile 2 9:15, but once I hit my stride somewhere in the middle of Mile 3, I was so focused on what I was there to do that almost everything else dropped away. It was a humid morning (87%), my clothes were drenched halfway through, but again: by Mile 3 I was only vaguely aware of the conditions, and I never once thought they were slowing me down. I watched my splits at each marker, expecting to run 9:15’s, then realizing I was running 9’s and they felt fine. Soon after that (Mile 5? Mile 6?) I was going faster than 9’s. I can only assume each mile got progressively faster (by seconds), since I finished the last 1.1 miles in at most 8 minutes.

Scattered impressions: running through an aroma cloud I can only assume had wafted from a nearby bakery, which made me dream of Linzer tarts, croissants, and jelly donuts. Giving up somewhere around Mile 6 at checking my pace and instead just letting my body go with the sub-9’s it wanted. Realizing at Mile 9 that I was beating the clock, since the net time on my watch had officially dipped lower than the time on the NYRR’s digital clocks. (I have no recollection of running the tenth mile at all, since I was so pumped by this.) Looking up, always (normally I watch the ground when I run). Running the tangents. Being completely contained within myself, but also feeling like I was watching the race from ten feet above the ground. Doing the math over and over in my head to reassure myself that I was not only going to break 2 hours but I was going to break 1:55. Hills–I know they were there, and I’m sure I adjusted my form for them, but none of them were a struggle. Maintaining my form was where I pinpointed my focus, repeating to myself over and over Abs down. Collarbone up. Going for it at Mile 12, gently picking up the pace, cued in to my breathing and right hamstring, until I saw that finish line and told myself (one word for each step until I crossed) Strong, Beautiful.

I crossed the finish line with my arms up over my head, and I gave myself a huge cheer. I couldn’t stop running I was so excited so I zigzagged through the chute for a few seconds, then dashed over to some guy with a spray hose and let him mist me. I was soaked before anyway! Then it all sunk in and of course I cried for a second or two, no tears but just that emotional release that comes when I allow myself to believe what I just accomplished. And finally, the mechanics: Gatorade, bagel, bag watch, chip return, finding friends (I saw a fellow polar bear; TW from my Green Mountain Relay van–who was running on literally three hours of sleep as he raced Reach the Beach this weekend; a ton of TNTer’s, and my speed training partner, DT–who also PRed Yeah D!)

A shout out to Romy and Jimmy, two people I just met today. Romy (from Chicago) ran nearly the whole race at my shoulder, we were on pace together perfectly. She reminded me of Deena Kastor with her little blonde haricut, her trim physique and long strides. We acknowledged each other, and after the race I found her in the finish area and she told me how even my form and pace were. That was great to hear; even better to hear once I realized she’d qualified for Boston at my first marathon (Phoenix 2007). Jimmy was my seat-mate on the bus coming back from the race, an ultrarunner who ran his first ultra on a bet. Um, yeah. He also lives in Woodside (the neighborhood right next to Sunnyside), runs over the 59th Street Bridge as often as I do (I guess I’ll share it with him), and is going to hook me up with some long run routes over other bridges. Once again, my faith in the essential goodness of runners is affirmed.

[To EN: I missed you and lamented that you wouldn’t be there next to me talking up a storm, but when I finished I could imagine you saying, “You’re in the best shape of your life.” Thanks for that, friend. See you at Staten Island, yes?]

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Ultimately, it has worked out for the best that the New York Road Runners moved the Queens Half-Marathon to September. First off, I no longer have to try and PR in the brutal August humidity. and, secondly, it means the Staten Island Half-Marathon got bumped to October — October 12, 2008, to be exact. Which coincides absolutely perfectly with: the Phedippidations Worldwide Half-Marathon Challenge! For those of you who read my blog and also listen to Steve and/or The Extra Milers, you will know what good news this is.

There was just no way I was going to get out there and do 13.1 all on my own. I know myself. I’d run 18 as part of my training, but to specifically find a 13.1 mile route, and run it that weekend? Sorry, nope, I’m a stickler and I like my races on measured, official courses.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Phedippidations, or the Extra Mile Podcast, visit the website for the Worldwide Half, and consider registering to be part of this global race.  I for one am psyched to put my results up against those of other runners from around the globe. I will run happier, knowing that while I’m out there tearing up Staten Island, other like-minded runners will be tearing up their local road races.  And what I’d really like to know is: are there any other WW1/2 racers here, in New York, who will be participating on Staten Island that day?  And if so, can you give me a ride to the start?

All kidding aside, I’m glad to make the Staten Island Half-Marathon my WW1/2 race. It was the first Half I ever ran, in 2006, and I can’t wait to go back and crush my old course time, set a new PR, and run my first WW1/2, all in the same day.  How often can you run a race for the second time, while also running a race for the first time?  

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