It was a beautiful morning in McNeil Park, cool air with a clear sky and a fair headwind. Just the right kind of weather to set a personal record and have a great race.
I had volunteered to drive a few teammates to the race and we met with what seemed like plenty of time. Disappointingly, the traffic on College Point Boulevard was a bit of a mess and didn’t allow much time to get ready at the start.
The gun went off before I was able to get into the starting queue. This unfortunately put me at a bit of a disadvantage as I was stuck way in the back with slower runners. I spent the first 1 or 2 miles zigzagging left and right, speeding up, slowing down, getting boxed in and finally cutting over and running on the sidewalks. I managed 7-minute miles but I wasted a lot of energy and was off my game plan before the race really got underway.
As the race course made its way through Queens I settled into a pace which was slightly faster than I had planned (I realize that this was probably not a great idea but I was pushing for another big PR) which worked out great for the first lap of the course. (Thanks to Jared for the photo)
Coming around Mile 6 “The Hellgate Cheering Squad” spurred me on (thanks guys!) but the lift was temporary and the hurt was coming. Miles 8, 9 and 10 were bad. I mean frothy mouth, snotty nose, mental malfunction, synapse misfiring, only enough awareness to keep me upright putting one foot in front of the other bad.
Seeing the sign marking mile 11 snapped me back to cognizance (the water and Gu may have played a role too).
With only a 5K to go I glanced at my watch and realized there was still a shot of achieving my goal... A sub 1:35:00. So I pressed on... but there wasn’t too much left in the reserves. The poor starting position, hilly course and the now damnable headwind had taken too much out of me. Regardless, I went for it.
Approaching Mile 13 the Hellgaters were there making noise for me once again but I knew that my 1:35:00 wasn't within reach. Still,I put my nose down and kicked. But it wasn’t there. My 1/4 mile kick wasn't there.
I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:35:51 - an average pace of 7:19.
I suppose that I could blame the headwind and hills, or point a finger at the misfortune of a poor starting position but the real responsibility resides with me. My training has been too casual these past two weeks and lacks sufficient speed work. I need to focus and balance my training.
Long. Tempo. Speed. Recover.
Despite all the piss, vinegar, doom and gloom, there are a couple of points I would like to make before I sign off. They are:
- A 1:35:51 is still a Personal Record by over a minute.
- I've learned (or perhaps re-learned) that running a good race has more to do with a Personal Feeling of accomplishment as a result of hard work than with a Personal Record.
With that said, does anyone know of a good (and flat) half marathon in the New York area toward the end of May?