what can I say…once a Queen, always a Queen!
as my faithful readers know, the Queens Half Marathon was the “big one,” my first real goal race of this year. I chose this one since it was a little later in the year, so more time to prepare…end of April would hopefully mean better weather, and I just love the course…there’s just some vibe about this race that’s just very special to me. Maybe it’s the whole Queens connection (I was born in Queens, and have family who grew up/still live there)…maybe it’s because I ran my 2nd-best half-marathon time there…or maybe it’s a course that just works with me.
As previously mentioned, I had “bronze, silver, and gold” goals for this race…now that all is said and done, I’ll reveal them all:
Bronze-beat my Brooklyn ’06 time (1:55 and change)
Gold-course PR (1:47:23)
So based on that, and where I felt I was at with my training, I decided to try for the sub-1:50. I figured at least through the first loop (this is a 2-loop course) I’d aim for 8:15-8:20 splits and if I felt good enough to significantly pick it up in the 2nd loop, try for the course PR. My legs, having enjoyed a little bit of a “taper” this week, felt good and ready to go.
So, way, way too early on Saturday morning, I headed over to Engineer’s Gate where there would be a caravan of yellow school buses waiting to take a bunch of runners out to Queens. I saw one of my teammates while we were waiting to board, and we sat together for the trip out to the race and just chatted. Unlike the trip out to Brooklyn, no one got lost this time 🙂 There was quite a bit of traffic on the Whitestone Bridge though, as only one lane was open (who knew there’s so many people driving at 6 AM on a Saturday anyway?) We made it to MacNeil Park with plenty of time to kill. However, it was still quite chilly!! I looked for a place to just hang out and stretch in the sunlight to help warm me up a little…still an hour to go before the race! Not too long after I did, I saw Skylight and a few other teammates and we all just chatted and did whatever else we had to do to prepare…stretch, get out the mp3 player, all that jazz 🙂 Was warming up a little bit and finally was time to drop off the baggage and jog to the start line.
oh, and if anyone is interested in the fashion report 🙂 I went with my Flyer singlet, my red-hot Nike shorts (the ones I have on in my profile pic,) my “Matrix-style” shades, and my infamous orange/white Asics Cumuluses, which just went so perfectly with the orange and white race bib. 🙂
Knowing that the start of this race is even more of a bottleneck with sorta narrow streets with cars, I decided to line up a little more aggressively than usual-between the 6 and 7 minute pace markers. I know I had no business lining up that far, but I really wanted a clean start this time. The weather at the start could not have been better….around 50 degrees and sunny. If there was an ideal running day, this was it. I re-iterated my plan to myself-shoot for 8:15-8:20s and take it from there. Finally the race started…and my iPod “Queen of Hearts” playlist started with Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It”…nice kickoff song, dontcha think?
The start worked out just fine for me, didn’t have to do as much swerving as usual. When I hit the mile 1 marker I thought to myself “whoaaaaa…slow the f*ck down girl, this is NOT a 4-miler!” I obeyed for the most part…pace pace pace. There were a coupla tough hills, but were much shorter than Central Park or Prospect Park, and more often than not, followed by a downhill reward. The scenery is pretty cool too…the beginning of this loop (around miles 2 and 3), you go through the neighborhood of Malba, which has some gorgeous mansions…I’ve heard others describe it as “Beverly Hills in New York.” After that, goes through a neighborhood with shopping centers, then into a more industrial area, and the end of the loop is along the water. Great support from the locals, be it cheering, or water stops (no Red Bull stop this year…not that I’d touch the stuff during a half!) My shins were bugging me a little in the early going, but the pain completely subsided for good after a coupla more miles (note to self: when it’s a chilly race, really warm up more-I think that’s what’s always been my undoing in the short races.) In mile 6, I tried to grab a cup of Gatorade, but someone in front of me nabbed the cup the volunteer was handing out and by that time, i had passed the table-I was like “dammit, I needed it.”
And so the second loop began. Even though I knew there wouldn’t be a water stop til around mile 9, I choked down my gel during mile 8 and slowed a little in mile 9 to get some water. Despite that, my splits were still pretty consistent, so I decided to just focus on getting the sub-1:50. Was planning on trying to pick it up after mile 10, but remembered there was going to be a climb in mile 11…so tried to hold off until I conquered that, which I did. But I was starting to feel a little sick to my stomach and my legs were getting tired…come on, you’ve come so far now, you have your goal time in clear sight, just keep it together for another coupla miles!! I decided to slow in mile 12 to get Gatorade-meh, was so watered down, I don’t think it would help me…too little, too late. Mile 13-well that’s what a headwind due to being near the water + tired legs will do to you…but by that time I knew I had it anyway and a few seconds wasn’t gonna kill me 🙂 Daft Punk was playing on my playlist then…”music’s got me feeling so free, we’re gonna celebrate…ONE MORE TIME!!” yeah, definitely time to celebrate at this point!!
The final .1 kick-:53
Saw a bunch of my teammates who had already long-since finished standing by the 13 mile marker cheering us on to finish strong!! I tried the best I could for a finishing kick, but the finishing corral was so narrow, and my legs were just spent!! But kick it I did, and finished in 1:48:47, 8:18 pace (NYRR originally had my time 2 seconds slower, but just decided to give me back those 2 seconds! 🙂 )
Mission accomplished and then some…I actually got one of those cheesy Brightroom “finisher” pictures taken…I think this one warranted one!! Afterwards, grabbed something to drink, found my baggage, found my teammates. There were some good runs today…our fastest guy had run a NYCM qualifying time, and another certain somebody had a kick-ass PR…can’t wait to read his race report 😉 Another teammate was very nice and gave me and a few others a ride back to Manhattan…saved us from waiting on long lines for the bus (and potentially getting stuck in traffic again!) and dropped me off on the west side too 🙂
So, even though there were a couple of slower miles near the end, I think this was still a very well-run race. I was dead-on and realistic about what I was capable of-an 8:15-8:20 pace. (Last year, I had a sub-8 pace through 8 miles, then really lost it in the last 5.) I think having more longer runs under my belt than I had this time last year helped me to hang on a little better. Nah, this was definitely my best race this year. I think this also confirms that maybe the longer distances are my strength…this and the 15K were my best race performances this year. (and for those of you who do follow the AG% thingies, this was the first time this year I’ve gotten back into the 60s…had a 60.5% for this one.)
So, even though this wasn’t a PR in terms of time, this was exactly where I wanted to be at this time. And it’s a little shot of confidence that I can handle the longer distances well…hopefully will bode well for the marathon this fall!!
so, not only did i not leave the tiara at home…but i wore it well yesterday 🙂
now playing: “one more time” ~ daft punk