On Saturday morning I caught a bus from DC’s Union Station to up to New York City just for an overnight. Originally I wanted to run the 4-of-6 deal to secure definite entry into the 2015 NYC Half, but the Bronx 10-Miler is scheduled for the same weekend I’m doing a half in Nashville, which is a bummer. But the mileage works out better in my marathon training plan for a half that weekend than a 10 miler, so I suppose it’s just as well. In any case, I did want to follow through and run the Queens 10K.
I’d never been to Queens, spending most of my young life in Brooklyn on visits to New York, and staying in Manhattan when I visited as a teen and early twentysomething. But when you major in theatre in college, you end up seeing a lot of your friends move to either New York or LA after graduation, and lucky for me, my good friend Jordan is one of those people who found his way to an apartment in Astoria. Thus, like I do, I used the Queens 10K as an excuse to get away for the weekend and check out a place I’d not really seen before.
So after lugging my suitcase from the bus stop on the Lower West Side to a subway stop, riding up to the Upper East side, picking up my bib and official race t-shirt (which I love, even though blue seems to be the main color for tech tees from races), I hopped a bus crosstown back across to the Upper West Side to pop by my friend Ali’s bar (yes, another acting friend lost to me to the wilds of New York), the Grange Bar and Eatery in Harlem. If you’re ever up on 141st and Amsterdam, pop in and say hi. The place is cute and rustic and I wound down from the 4-hour bus ride and the suitcase-lugging just sipping my Diet Coke and watching the Germany vs. Ghana game on their giant TV screen.
Eventually it was time to head east to Queens, so Ali and I walked to another subway stop, hugged goodbye after our brief reunion, and I jumped on a Q train to Astoria.
Jordan asked me what I wanted to do in Astoria the night before the race and since running all over the place the last time I’d been in New York, for the Brooklyn race, had completely worn me out, I mainly just kind of wanted to hang out with my friend. Of course, I only had one requirement: pasta. I know plenty of runners debate about whether carb-loading on pasta the night before a race actually has an effect, but for me, and it may just be psychological but even so, it does. (Also I’m part Italian so you know, I always want pasta in general.) So Jordan and I went to a place called Via Trente and sat outside soaking in the gorgeous summer solstice evening, watching New York wake up as the sun went down at 9pm.
By the time I was stuffed from my delicious pasta, and happy from great conversation with one of those kinds of friends with whom you can always just pick up right where you left off, I was pretty tired and ready to call it a night. We returned to Jordan’s apartment and hung out with his roommate and their friends for a bit while I readied my stuff for the race, and finally I threw myself on the very comfy couch and drifted off to sleep.
Maybe it’s my girly side, but I love putting together a flashy or cute outfit for a race, even if it’s a straightforward 10K. One day when I look back on my twenties I’ll see the pictures of my sparkly skirts and coordinated colors on a healthy body hopping around the US running (literally) around different cities, and I’ll smile at the fun I was having. You can shit on my taking pictures of everything from my post-race French toast to my race bib, but every race is an adventure and having the memories of the whole experience is what makes me come back for more.
Sunday morning I woke up to start getting ready for the race. 10K’s are so much less stressful to be ready for than half-marathons, man – I had no GU or handheld water bottle to worry about. I wasn’t going to need to fuel during the race and I was planning on relying on aid stations than bothering to bring a handheld just to shave off a few seconds by blowing through the aid stations if I needed fluids. All the running stuff I brought with me was my Garmin watch and my phone for tunes. Jordan, who is an awesome enough friend to get up at 6:30am on a Sunday to wait around a park for an hour while his friend goes on a run, and I grabbed breakfast at a bagel shop and then jumped in a cab to Citi Field/Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
With my flagging pace times lately since before my ankle injury in March, my expectations for a PR were low, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try. I had two things working for me: I am the Hill Queen at home, making my training runs a lot tougher than they usually make race courses, and of course, race day adrenaline. The Queens 10K course, a loop around Flushing Meadows, is almost entirely flat except for one maybe 20-foot ascension on a bridge, so both factors played in nicely.
I started at the very back of the corrals, having been paced at an 11-minute miler with NYRR when I ran Brooklyn, but I was fine with it. I knew with a 10K my pace would be faster than 11 minutes. To PR I was shooting for an average of 10:47.
Mile 1 felt surprisingly comfortable considering how fast I knew I was going out. I wasn’t caring about negative splitting this race – it was my last race before everything switches into official marathon training mode in my head, so I was just in it to do it. So I shot out fast and clocked a 9:46 first mile. Before I even remembered about my usual 10:1 race intervals I was halfway through the second mile so I just kept going and didn’t stop until I hit the second aid station a little after the Mile 2 marker. My second mile was 9:47. Yeah gurl yeah!
At this point, though, it wasn’t my legs that needed a short walk break. It was officially summer in the northeast US after all, which means humidity city. I slowed to a walk through the aid station, guzzling my cup of water and walking for a full minute before picking it up and taking off on a run again.
I didn’t take many pictures of the course itself because I was trying to PR, but I can tell you “flushing meadows” is pretty apt. It was pretty, for New York. We ran around a big lake that kind of spilled out onto the paths sometimes, and after mile 2 was a pathway through some high brush and once we crossed over the Long Island Expressway we were seeing signs for the Queens Theatre in the Park. I was in a good mental place, between listening to a new RockMyRun 60 minute mix, and also thinking about all the history of the Park, including the old World’s Fair. Evidence of the old World’s Fairs that took place there included the New York State Pavilion, which looked pretty haunted as we ran past it. Being a museum and culture nerd, of course, as well, I wondered what might be on display in the Queens Museum as we passed it heading to the 4th mile marker.
My third, fourth, and fifth miles were all exactly the same pace according to my Garmin, at 10:31. By now I was taking my normal walk breaks as the humidity was getting to me, but the course had these glorious spray stations that I drank in at the aid stations to cool off. At the 4th mile marker, the runners heading to the fifth mile marker are moving past you in the opposite direction, so I took heart knowing it wasn’t that far for a turnaround. I felt my pace flagging in the heat a little, and also knew I had consciously gone out faster than I could maintain, but I didn’t really care and just kept moving as strongly as I could.
Finally, approaching the mile 6 marker, I saw this guy in the distance.
Yup, you’re welcome, Queens 10K runners. This guy was right at the start line and about .15 miles from the finish to give you that extra kick. And yes, he is the aforementioned Jordan. He also won the Queens 10K guys. Didn’t run a step, but was definitely the undisputed winner of the day. It took us probably 45 minutes to get out of the Park with different runners asking for pictures. The #runbitch hastag on Instagram was pretty blitzed with this sign for a while on Sunday. I, personally, saw Jordan (well, I saw Jesse Pinkman dancing in the air) from before the 6 mile marker and started running a little faster, laughing. I shouted, “LOVE YOU JORDAN! AND I LOVE YOU JESSE PINKMAN!”, blew Jesse kisses as I ran past, and kicked it into a sprint to the finish line.
I finished with an official time of 1:04:19, a PR by 2 minutes and 9 seconds. I knew I could PR from mile 1, and with every mile I knew it was that much more within my reach if I just kept pushing. So I did. But I quickly forgot about the excitement of my PR in the face of all the fun of joining Jordan at his loyal post with Pinkman for the rest of the runners finishing the race. It was so much fun to hang with Jordan just before the finish and watch runners notice the sign, scream “YEAH BITCH” Pinkman-style, and give us (well, it was all Jordan) thumbs ups and thank-you’s. It made me really want to spectate a race and bring a sign more creative than the ones you always see. “Run faster my arms are getting tired” are getting old at this point. But Jesse Pinkman face blown p giant saying “run bitch”? I’ve never seen so many delighted runners.
We finally hailed a cab back to Astoria, as Jordan said the subway ride would take close to an hour and I had to catch my bus back to DC at 2pm back in Manhattan. I didn’t even bother to shower; I cooled off and dried off pretty quick after the race as the breeze picked up for the day, so I just changed into some clean clothes and Jordan and I headed to brunch. French toast and scrambled eggs on patio seating on a gorgeous Sunday, and I was a happy, freshly PR-ed runner girl. Jordan even said the race had inspired him to go for a run in the park of his own. That’s the kind of thing I love to hear. 🙂
But sadly, my whirlwind overnight to New York had to come to an end and Jordan and I parted ways in Astoria as I caught the subway back to Manhattan. The Megabus stop was so far west it was practically New Jersey, and crossing that many avenues with my heavy bag was just not in the cards for my tired body, so I hailed a cab at Herald Square and crossed town to the bus stop. I slept for most of the ride home and by about 8:30 was back at my house, my bling still around my neck.
I love that the NYRR 5-Borough Series medals are all very alike with the details signifying each borough’s unique landmark. Like I said, I really wish I could do all 5 boroughs. Maybe I’ll do Staten Island Half, though it’s the weekend of my 12 mile taper after my 20-mile long training run for the marathon, so I’d have to really work hard mentally to take that easy physically. Or maybe I’ll wait until 2015 to try and do the 4 of 6 instead and do the 2016 NYC Half. In any case, for the time being, my Queens and Brooklyn medals compliment each other quite nicely. 🙂
So today’s the day! My 18-week marathon training officially begins — with a rest day. Because it’s an even-numbered week plan, and it alternates Mondays and Fridays being rest and cross-training days, it wants the final week’s Friday to be the rest day so we have to start with Monday being the rest day. Another reason running Queens yesterday was totally worth it. Happy resting y’all.
Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?
Have you begun training for your fall goal race? What is it?
Have you run all 5 boroughs of New York yet?