A while back I entered the Queens 10k.
Not sure why; maybe I just wanted to hit a marathon qualifier for NYC 2014, just in case (since a sub 1:19 in a half does not guarantee an entry at the race no more due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy).
Somehow I dragged Bud into the race and Michelle was somewhat undecided about race day registration.
Lately I have not done any particular speedwork – I have actually focused on building more endurance in terms of high weekly milage and resistance in terms of heat training, since I have always struggled with temps above the mid 60s – so the expectations for this race were non existing.
However, when I picked up the Bib on Thursday I was given number 11. This means the field was not going to be very deep. My first thought was: “Maybe if I try to race hard (even if I am lacking some speed and tempo training) I can place in the top 10. And what if…nobody of the big shots shows up?”
My mind was pushing me to run easy, my heart (or subconscious) was telling me to give it a shot.
Sunday morning, after picking up Bud from his place, we reached Citi Field and Corona Park in Queens, where the race was organized by NYRR.
One of the first dudes moving around the park was Mike Cassidy. Well…his view gave me the answer to the subconscious question “can I place in the podium in this race?”
Given Cassidy was around, for sure one spot was taken, and I felt much more comfortable to stick to the pre-race plan my mind developed: run, have fun and don’t race, even if it is hard to see 100 people ahead of you when they are usually behind.
I liked the idea of pacing somebody and since Bud signed up almost to keep me company, it was time to prove myself I could control my instinct of giving my best at every event. This was also a good chance to re-charge mentally after the difficulties experienced at the LUT.
We lined up kind of late after waiting in line for about 25 minutes before getting into a porta-potty. Great news also before entering: no more toilet paper!! At least we had some leftover from the harder and thicker internal paper “support”. Bud and I jumped the fence at the back of the blue corral during the National Anthem. Actually, I did, Bud respectfully waited. Maybe he was just scared to get caught, since he was assigned a yellow bib by the registration personnel.
The gun went off and after approx 35seconds we crossed the start line. It was almost like running in the middle of a mined camp. Soooo many people around for at least a mile before one could settle in a decent spot following a precise pace.
We hit the first mile in just under 6:30 and I thought that was pretty good, given we did not warm up and we had to hussle through a tough crowd of people that obviously did not belong to the front lines. Bud was cruising next to me, and I felt actually that the pace was a bit “uncomfortable” for being just a fun run. At mile two the watch said 6:05 and I was pretty surprised Bud was going that fast.
I kept the effort going, happy to pace him towards a good result, and here I saw he struggled during mile 3. I tried to encourage him and I asked him to stay tucked in behind me so at least I could shield him from the breeze that was pleasantly blowing that morning in some sections of the course.
We slowed down a little, and had to take on a short overpass across the Van Wyck Expressway. I was feeling very relaxed and comfortable here and I wanted to see how it felt to run at a good harder pace the uphill. Even pushing just a bit in that hill made a difference and passed several dozen of runners. Bud came up pretty well, passing people that were not as strong as he was. Then we entered the section where we could see the lead runners coming bacl towards the finish line, around mile 5 for them and 4 for us.
I tried to encourage a few familiar faces (Cassidy in second trying to close the gap, Sammy, Bob with Warren Street in good solid top 10, Ignatio, Bobby Asher with Vandy just to mention some) and then I focused again on making sure Bud was not falling behind his good pace. We passed the 5 mile marker and I told him we had to get ready for a good sprint for the last half mile to pick up some positions and improve the overall time.
So we did and we picked up several spots, enjoyed the easy ride for the day with a nice strong finish (watch said the last quarter mile was a 5:00; not sur ethe previous split) and happily ended the morning in one of Bud’s joints getting a good meal from the Astoria neighborhood.
It is great to pace somebody. It sucks to go slower than what you know you can achieve, but it is great to feel that your mind is in control of the effort. This was a good training for UROC: at least for 10k my mind can stick to the strategy that I wanted to follow. This was a great lesson put in practice