if it ain’t broke…

“what was up with all the f*cking hills?”
“this started too damn early.”
“it took forever to get here.”
“why was this scheduled the day after yom kippur?”
“this sucked.”

And that was just a sampling of what was heard after today’s Queens half. A new date, start time and course change wound up turning what was my favorite NYRR half into my least favorite. I absolutely loved the old course-a 2-looper through College Point and Malba, not too hilly, in late April/early May so the weather was always great, and I was always able to consistently run under 1:50 (1:47 and 1:48, to be exact.)

But this year, it was decided to change the course from a 2-looper to a 1-looper including Whitestone as well. Which forced a new date in September and an earlier start time (7 am)…which seemed to cause a bunch of logistical issues. With a 7am start time, you can’t really rely on public transportation, so the bus from NYRR is the best bet. However, they didn’t really plan for that, and the bus was sold out early (thank god I got my ticket early!) and left a lot of peeps scrambling to find either a ride or some type of alternate way out to Queens. Second, the date was less than ideal, being that yesterday was Yom Kippur, which meant fasting for 24 hours. Yeah…great half-marathon prep.

I wasn’t sure how I’d do, my training had not been going well ever since the San Francisco Half, and it was warmer than I would like…but was hoping to get under 1:50. I made it out there in one piece, though the bus driver kept driving in circles once we got to College Point…I was thisclose to faking being sick so I could walk. But we got there, and there were lots of people sitting down in the dark, trying to kill an hour…seemed like the marathon start. Saw NSA, and Johnny and a few other Flyers and chatted. Finally it was time to get to the start…oh, and anyone note in Mary Wittenberg’s speech, that “we were a part of history, there’s never been a race start at 7 am.” Um…didn’t the NYC Half start at 7 am? Not to mention the old-school late-August version of the Manhattan Half? Anyway, off the subject here.

So yeah, we started. First mile was slower than I wanted, there was quite a bottleneck in the first mile…made up for it a little on the 2nd…slowed on the 3rd and had a feeling it was not gonna be my day…never, ever again will I do a half marathon the day after Yom Kippur. I definitely was not properly fueled, even though I ended the fast a coupla hours early and tried to eat as much as possible yesterday evening and this morning…these mile splits tell a story of someone who hit the wall hard at mile 4, and was just trying to hang on for the last 9 miles…

  1. 8:42
  2. 8:18
  3. 8:42
  4. 8:59
  5. 9:06
  6. 9:08
  7. 9:11
  8. 8:44
  9. 8:58
  10. 9:13
  11. 9:31
  12. 9:01
  13. 9:20

Last .1 :53

The goals kept changing from “1:50” to “1:55” to “just get in under 2 hours.” Hell, at one point a DNF sounded appealing-I was so off my goal time, what did I have to prove by finishing? But I didn’t know how I’d get back to the start and my baggage (and my family was taking me out for an early birthday dinner later in the day, so I needed to earn the extra calories.) The scenery on the course was nice, though I was too delirious and too busy climbing to appreciate it…I thought I was hill trained before today, the hills on this course killed me-especially that one in mile 13 that I actually had to walk up. And to put things in perspective-SF was easier than this!! There were at least a good share of downhills and flats in the SF half. Here, I felt like we were going uphill the entire time. (You can see the elevation here…)

Finally, somehow, I made it to the end…a bunch of Reservoir Dog guys who had finished cheered for me in the last .1 mile (thanks guys!! I really needed to hear that)…crossed the finish line in 1:57:46 (8:59 pace)…I had never been so happy to be done with a half-marathon in my life. First thing I did was get ice from the med tent for my knees which hated all the climbing (they’re fine now!)…then was the usual game of “spot the blogger” on the way to get my bags…saw Moz, Crazy Bandana-head and Uptown Girl, in addition to other Flyers and Rez Dogs…the usual post-race recrapping. Thoughts on the new course among the masses were mixed, but the majority was a thumbs-down.

Not sure what to make of my race. I know there were things out of my control, but I know I’m capable of much, much better than a 1:57…I feel like I have to do something about my training, I just don’t know what!! I’m a little disappointed in running a PW today…2 minutes slower than last year’s Staten Island half (which you may remember, I was only doing as a training run…whereas I was trying to put in the effort this time!) But I’m a little sad that my favorite half is really no more…as this post title says, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!! If this course remains, I definitely will not be doing this race next year…and will need to look outside NYRR for some good halfs (any recommendations, anyone?)


i didn’t leave the tiara at home

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)
Silver-sub 1:50
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?

1st loop:
Mile 1-8:07
Mile 2-8:17
Mile 3-8:18
Mile 4-8:08
Mile 5-8:15
Mile 6-8:22

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.”

2nd loop:
Mile 7-8:17
Mile 8-8:13
Mile 9-8:25
Mile 10-8:19
Mile 11-8:19
Mile 12-8:25
Mile 13-8:29

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