Race Report: Queen Bee Half Marathon
The event I’ve been waiting for all summer finally got here – the Queen Bee half marathon! Years ago I was pretty dedicated to long-distance running, but for the past several years I had fallen out of it because reasons. I had some injuries, I had some pretty un-fun bouts of depression and anxiety, I kept getting more and more out of shape… before I knew it, almost six years had passed since I’d done a race of any length. I’ve been kind of laser-focused on my health this year, and running is a major reason for that. Simply put, I needed to lose weight and build up strength & flexibility to have any hope of running again (at least, without immediately getting plagued with overuse injuries). So that’s what I’m doing.
When I started up running again this spring, I needed a goal race to keep me motivated. Then a friend told me about the Queen Bee in Cincinnati. A half marathon for women? Sign me up! Literally, I registered way back in early July. It’s put on by the same organization as the Flying Pig, which I later became an ambassador for. I’ve done the Pig half a few times and loved it, so I had really high expectations for the Queen Bee. I’ve spent the last few months working my way through a slightly modified version of the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan, and this weekend I finally got the see the results of all that work!
Race: Queen Bee Half Marathon
Date: October 12, 2019
Distance: 13.1 miles
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Race website: http://queenbeehalf.com/
Finish time: 2:06:12
|No walk breaks||Yes|
After my Friday afternoon class I headed up to Cincinnati with Joseph, and we met our friends Kara and Andy there (Kara ran the race too). We checked into the hotel, then I headed over to the expo. It was a really good one – tons of exhibitors. They had the usual packet & tshirt pickup, of course. The was also a braid bar (which I don’t have enough hair to take advantage of), lots of running gear vendors and all sorts of local organizations. I was manning the Flying Pig Marathon booth so I didn’t spend too much time walking around. I met a ton of awesome people though, including a reddit friend who did the 4-mile event.
Side note – early bird pricing for the Pig ends on October 31, so register for that if you’re planning to run! My Flying Pig discount code NIKKI10 has 10% off the registration fee for any of the weekend’s events.
I also have to give a shoutout for the Queen Bee swag – it’s pretty sweet. Half-marathoners got an Aruna duffel, SweatyBands headband and a long-sleeve asics tech shirt. Finishers also got to pick up the medal – which is adorable, it has blinky lights on it! – and a winter ear warmer.
The morning started off with a 5:30AM trip to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin (mmmm carbs). In general I’d rather support local shops, but that was the only thing open so early. Some dude asked if I was headed to work, despite my ratty sweatpants, windbreaker and bedhead. What is this job where you can literally roll out of bed & go, and how do I get it?
We headed out about 30 minutes before start and immediately got really concerned. We sort of expected a crowd of people headed toward the start, but there was hardly a soul outside. We weren’t technically running late, but it did turn out that most people got there ahead of us. I got to pet a French bulldog near the start line, so that put the day off to a pretty good start!
Weather-wise – it was coooooold! I’m not complaining, but fall weather showed up about 2 days before the race, so it was the chilliest run I’ve had in months. It was 38 degrees at the start, and worked its way up to a whopping 44 by the time I finished. I remembered to grab a long-sleeve tee from the thrift store a few days before the race, so I was able to wear that to stay warm while we waited. I ended up discarding it around a mile in.
We had both signed up for corral D (11:30-14:00 pace). It was a smaller field than the Pig (I want to say around 3000 people?) so it didn’t take long at all to make our way to the start line.
In other news, I’m still figuring out the best way to get photos while I run without having to stop. I used my cheapie action cam for this one, but I failed to account for the temperature change once I got outside so the waterproof housing got some condensation in it. Also the battery died halfway through :-P
The race got off to a slower start that I would have liked, not gonna lie. I definitely could have used a better warm-up. A lot of walkers also started in the same corral, so it took a few minutes to get in a good groove. Once we took the turn to start the climb up to Eden Park it started to spread out a little. That was the steepest hill of the race, and honestly it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remember it being. Then again, I’m in much better shape now than I was the last time I ran a distance race.
The course takes you through a lot of different scenery, from business districts to industrial areas to residential neighborhoods. Eden Park is beautiful, especially since we hit it right around sunrise. The finish line was adjusted this year due to construction, and now it ends up in Yeatman’s Cove, a nice park overlooking the river.
The spectators were excellent. There weren’t quite as many as for the Pig, but they were just as enthusiastic. Lots of music, costumes, and quite a few doggos that looked like they wanted to run a half marathon too. Not to mention they had tons of snack offerings for us. Candy, oranges, crackers, cookies – and tissues, which were much appreciated in the cold! Not sure how many of the snacks were official, but it was nice regardless. I try to stick to tried & true stuff on race days, so I only had gatorade plus the Honey Stinger gel around mile 9.
After the first couple miles I was able to maintain pretty even splits through the bulk of the race (at the end of the post if you wanna see). At some points I felt like I was holding back a little too much, but I didn’t want to run out of gas before the finish line was in sight. My longest training run was only 11 miles, so I was trying to be a little conservative about pacing myself. At the finish I actually still felt really good, which makes me think I maybe could have pushed it a little more. It was still almost 30 minutes (29:30) faster than my previous half marathon PR, so I’m incredibly pleased with it. I can’t even describe.
Only two annoying things happened during the race. My phone decided around mile 4 that it was tired of playing music. Actually I think I just hit the end of my spotify playlist. I would have had to stop & dig it out of my race belt to turn it back on, so I opted to go music-less for the rest of the race. I would have liked some tunes, but oh well. Then a bit past mile 10, some jerk pulled out of their driveway and drove. across. the. race. course. In front of me. In a car. And the gap between runners definitely was not big enough for that. But no one got hurt, so no harm done I guess. I’ll also add, the course officials are in no way to blame for that – there was signage all over the place letting people know the road would be closed, but I guess some folks just don’t think rules apply to them. At least I got a little burst of adrenaline out of it!
The recovery area was pretty baller! Immediately after the finish we had the medals, mylar blankets, water and nutrition bars. Past that were fruit (yes please), pancakes (line was too long for me), mimosas(!), chili dogs… you get the idea. It was a nice party area with a band, a massage station, local running store booths, and all the Queen Bee merch at 50% off. I was seriously regretting my seasonally-inappropriate outfit by that point, so I snagged a cute pullover with the bee logo. I’ll be running through the winter for marathon training, so it should come in handy.
I met up with Joseph and Andy, and we did the photo station while we waited for Kara to finish. I handed off all the stuff I was carrying to the guys – I’m calling it payback for when Joseph loads stuff into my purse. Once Kara made her way through the finish area we headed back to the hotel for showers and to pack up our stuff. The start and finish lines weren’t that far apart, but the walk back felt infinitely longer than it did that morning.
Brunch was at the Sleepy Bee Cafe, keeping on theme for the morning. Highly recommend, the avocado toast and pancakes I had were delicious. There’s a store close to the hotel called Appointments in Carew Tower, and I dragged everyone in there so I could grab a couple bottles of fountain pen ink and a notebook. I’m a little obsessed with that whole building because I absolutely love art deco. Last up we made a stop at Rhinegeist brewery, then headed back to Lexington. BTW, the day wasn’t over – we did taco night with our friends that evening, so I finally went to bed around 1AM. Whew.
Overall, the Queen Bee exceeded my expectations in every way. It was super organized, had a great expo and finish line party, and the course was awesome. Even though my finish time was nearly 10 minutes faster than my goal, I can’t help feeling like I didn’t run quite as hard as I could have. My relative lack of soreness afterward says a lot about that too. Soooo I signed myself up for the Gobbler Half Marathon the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now that I have a feel for how the ol’ body handles 13 miles these days, I’m hoping I can improve my time a little bit. I’ll also be at the Hot Cider Hustle 5K on Nov 3, and the Thoroughbred Classic 5K on Thanksgiving day.
I’m also looking forward to taking some runs while we’re traveling this winter and spring! I’m headed to Las Vegas for work for a few days in November – if anyone knows a good 5-mile route near the strip or a public track, drop a comment please!