I signed up for NYRR’s Queens 10K a couple of months ago on a whim while I still lived on Long Island. I had no other 10Ks planned other than September’s Cow Harbor, and when I saw that the Queens course was “flat and fast,” I thought, why not get another 10K in there?
I registered for last weekend’s Mini 10K later. Two races two weekends in a row is something I wouldn’t even have considered a year ago, especially two 10Ks. It wasn’t long ago that 6 miles was my long run. To race that distance 7 days apart would have seemed crazy.
These days, 6-7 miles is a “regular” run for me. Ten miles is mid-distance, and 15 is long. It’s funny how your perspective shifts the more you challenge yourself.
Also, I figured if racing two 10Ks a week apart felt too hard, I could just relax on the Queens one.
I did not relax on the Queens one.
I was a little sore all week. I think I hadn’t done a great job of stretching after the Mini, nor after the following day’s 10 miler – after which I walked over 3 miles home along Broadway and through a street fair where I ate a delicious falafel. I’d done a lot of moving my legs and not a lot of stretching. I felt it on Tuesday morning’s run, which was pretty slow going. The run home from work that day was better, but still on weary legs.
After Wednesday morning’s speed workout with the Harriers and a slight-but-somewhat-concerning hint of soreness in my left heel, I decided to take Thursday off and do some low-impact lower and upper body strength training instead. I also took off Friday morning, and did something I’d never done before: I GOT A MASSAGE.
Techincally, a “sports massage.” It was FANTASTIC. It was at Body Mechanics, not far from where I work. They specialize in runners. My masseuse was a lovely woman who not only did a great job on my muscles, but took the time to explain what she was doing, why she was doing it, and gave me tips and advice as to how to best take care of myself before, during, and after a run. I even got a free massage ball. It was absolutely well worth the $120 (plus tip).
She taped up my calves, too. A first for me. Kind of cool, in a tribal tattoo sort of way.
Luckily, I felt good enough to go for a short, easy run Friday evening, still in the tape. Just under 3 miles. Slow as hell at first, organically speeding up to a brisk 8:30 pace by the end. I was very glad I did this, as it made me feel much more prepared for the following morning’s race.
Which all brings me to… the race!
The Queens 10K was to start in two waves: Corrals A-F (the faster runners based on past NYRR races) at 7:45 am, and Corrals G-? (not sure where it ends) at 8:15 am. There had been some confusion when I’d gone to pick up my bib a couple days earlier: the person at NYRR put the letter D on a Wave 2 bib, which I didn’t even notice at first. Luckily before I left I remembered that the race email said I was in Wave 1. I told them, they were like “Oops,” and I got my proper bib. All good.
I immediately liked this number, as my mom and dad were 28 and 31, respectively, when I was born. It seemed like a good omen, if I were one to believe in omens, which I’m really not.
And here’s the as always super nice NYRR shirt we got.
The subway ride to the race was supposed to take an hour and 15 minutes – a longer trip than if I still lived on Long Island and had driven in. Damn. I wanted to check a bag, as I anticipated wearing a hoodie on the long, air-conditioned train ride.
So I got up at 4 am, ate my standard oat bran/banana & coffee breakfast, walked the dogs, and left my apartment at 5:30. One other guy at my subway stop was also headed to the race, and he sat directly across from me in the nearly empty car. Naturally, I made sure not to make eye contact.
The trip wound up taking only 55 minutes, so I got to Flushing Meadows Corona Park with plenty of time to spare. Most of the people on the train at that point were runners. I still wasn’t sure how many people were doing this race, but it seemed like quite a lot.
One nice thing about having the race in this park: PUBLIC BATHROOMS. No porta-potties for me this time. What luxury! I used the facilities, pinned on my bib, threw a couple of Clif Bloks in my pocket, and checked my bag.
I jogged around for 10 minutes. Probably a mile. Super slow, just to loosen things up. I felt good. I was very glad I’d had that massage the day before. A few others were running lightly. Some were stretching. Some were sitting, which, honestly, I don’t understand. Maybe they think they’re conserving energy, but to me it just feels like you’re making yourself stiff? Am I nuts? I mean, to each their own. Whatever works for you. I prefer a non-stiff butt.
The park itself is nice. It’s bigger than it always seems from the Grand Central Parkway, there are plenty of trees, it’s where the Mets play. Perhaps due to the old-timey, World’s Fair-era structures – the most famous being the Unisphere – it also feels a bit dated and worn. Like it could use a good coat of asphalt and some fresh paint.
The start was right alongside a highway overpass. Maybe because of the narrow space in which we all had to stand, which lengthened the distance from the starting line, it felt as though we were very removed from whatever activity was taking place up front. I couldn’t see the actual starting line or hear anything. If there was a performance of our national anthem, I cannot tell you how good it was.
I didn’t even hear a gun. People just started moving. Slowly. It took about 10 minutes of inching our way up, but soon, people started running. Eventually, I crossed the starting line amid a chorus of tiny watch beeps.
My goal (in addition, of course, to HAVING FUN!!!) was to beat my last week’s 10K. That’s it. Just finish in under 49:21 and faster than a 7:57 pace. My plan was to run at a 7:50 pace for the first two miles, and then speed up if I could. I thought 7:50 seemed like a good middle ground between a pace that would beat last week’s and a pace I could handle for a bit. If I had aimed for 7:30, I don’t think I could have kept that up for more than a mile. 8:00 was too slow, and 7:56 was cutting it too close. So 7:50 it was.
I guess due to bottlenecking, I moved a lot slower than I would have liked at the start. It took a good half a mile to find a nice groove alongside others who were going my pace.
The course was pretty flat. Initially, I was confident I could beat the 49:21 finish time I achieved on Central Park’s relatively hilly course. But I hadn’t anticipated one, very important thing that might slow me down: ALL THE DAMN TURNS. Look at this pretzel of a course:
There are like, 12 right angle turns in there. Damn. I had actually realized this beforehand, as I had seen the map of the route – but it hadn’t occurred to me that this might be a factor in slowing me down. Apparently, just like cars, runners must also slow down when making sharp turns.
Mile 1 was relatively straight; just one sharp turn. Still, I had been slowed by the initial bottlenecking, and fell short of my 7:50 goal.
MILE 1: 7:53 pace
I knew I had to make up the time, so I sped up. Nothing crazy, just pushed it a little harder. The second mile had a short hill leading up to a small bridge – maybe the biggest hill of the race, which really wasn’t big at all. It reminded me of the hill I run up at the end of my Central Park runs – I typically don’t stop running until I’m half a block from home, and the streets heading west from the top of the park all go uphill. Try running along West 110th from Central Park West to Amsterdam Avenue and you’ll see what I mean.
Since these hills tend to come at the very end of my runs, I tend to go up them pretty fast; I know I only have a minute or two left, and also by that point I can’t wait to get home so I can eat. So I’ve gotten used to pushing up short hills.
And that’s what I did here, in Mile 2, on the small hill leading up to the bridge. I booked up that thing, passing a bunch of people. Bye, suckers!
MILE 2: 7:42 pace
But I had a few more miles to go before I could eat. And I didn’t want to get overly confident. It was hot, and we still had 4 miles to go. On the plus side, this mile was a long, pretty straight stretch without any turns. On the minus side, a lot of it was in the sun. The end of Mile 3 would come right before a turnaround, after which we’d run back along the same stretch. Before the turnaround, we had to endure watching all of the faster runners well into their fourth mile. I watched some of the women who were probably going a 6:30, 6:00 pace, and wondered if I’d ever be able to go that fast for more than 18 seconds.
I did okay, though. Still under my 7:50 goal. So far, I was on track to best last week’s pace.
MILE 3: 7:47 pace
Mile 4 hit the turnaround and came back along the same path, this time with the runners behind us on the other side. This flat course wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. At least there’s some variation with a hillier course, and nice downhills. This was very samey.
And just like in last week’s 10K race, I slowed down a little in Mile 4. Maybe my body is so used to doing 5Ks it’s confused as to why I’m still running fast at this point. But I knew that if I wanted to have some steam left at the end, I needed to hold back a bit here, so I did.
MILE 4: 8:03 pace
Just hearing “8” made me pick it up. Mile 5 had a few twists and turns, and a nice shady section under some trees. At least there was some relief from the sun. I was glad I had worn sunglasses, a last-second decision I was relieved to have made. Just one mile to go. I managed to get back to my initial pace.
MILE 5: 7:52 pace
Almost over. I knew I could pick it up a bit, and I did. One of my favorite Lady Gaga songs popped up on my playlist at that point: “Venus.” I love this song. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. No idea what it’s about. The solar system, goddesses, love, panties? All of the above? And I swear, as soon as I heard her sing Take me to your planet, take me to your planet, I looked up, and lo and behold: it was the famous Unisphere. Right in front of me. I laughed to myself.
I picked up the pace. I looked for the finish line. I was sure we were almost there. I could see runners across the field to my left but it was hard to tell how far ahead they were. I kept thinking we were almost at the finish and we weren’t. We were in the sun again by this point. I felt like I couldn’t go any faster. We had less than a mile to go. I didn’t want to hold anything back at this point.
MILE 6: 7:30 pace
When I heard “7:30” my jaw dropped. I think that’s the fastest mile I’ve ever run in a race.
I finally saw the finish line up ahead, and somehow, out of somewhere, I picked up the pace even more. I really wanted to finish strong.
MILE 0.2: 7:14 pace
My watch said 48:56. I knew this would be a little off from the official results, but I hoped I’d beaten last week’s 49:21 finish.
(Spoiler alert: I had.)
After that selfie, a man offered to take my picture. I’m glad he didn’t run away with my phone because I would have been too exhausted to chase him.
We got a nice medal and swag bag. I had this idea for a photo and walked to a shady patch of grass well out of the way of others so as not to fully embarrass myself. But I just couldn’t resist.
I drank the Gatorade and ate the Powerbar right away. The Gatorade was pretty good. I was dehydrated. I never buy sports drinks, but I probably should try getting more electrolytes in during and after long runs. The Powerbar tasted like a big Tootsie Roll.
I didn’t really hang around, as I wasn’t sure what to do. I never go to races with people, which is just fine with me, but it also means that I just head home afterward. It was going to be a long trip.
I ate my pretzels on the subway ride back, which for some reason seemed to take twice as long as the ride there. I felt good about the race. I did what I set out to do: beat my last 10K time, set a new PR, and, of course, HAVE FUN!!!
Only time will tell if I can PR again at this September’s Cow Harbor 10K – a MUCH hillier course (although fewer sharp turns). My goal since last September has been to run Cow Harbor at a 7:30 pace. Based on what I did here, I feel like it might be… possible. Maybe. We’ll see.
Good to see you again, Queens.
- Time: 48:54 (PR)
- Pace: 7:53/m
- Age Group: 45/714
- Women: 339/5242
- Overall: 2236/11439