2019: Bridges & Bluffs Half Marathon

I would have never known that this event even existed if not for a conversation with Jan Haase in last week of August. Opting to race it required re-arranging the week #09 schedule of my training towards Fall marathons: Thursday’s 9 tempo miles would be run during this event. A good portion, if not all, of Friday’s easy 10 miler would be repackaged as a recovery run on Sunday. Saturday’s 20 miler was swapped with last week’s 13 miler. Assuming that the weather angels and the course cooperated well, the plan was to start slow-ish through mile #3, and reach and hold the tempo-like ponderous pace rest of the way. I expected the by-product of a proper execution of this plan to help me earn a new PR for this distance (below 1:32:22) … preferably at or below the 1:29:59 mark that seems to be within reach.

Unlike the previous many events, I skipped the 3-mile shakeout run on Friday morning but used the said time to complete annual medical checks that included blood tests. A travel bag with necessary ingredients was packed by mid-afternoon. An at-home dinner with Dan marked the end of day’s proceedings well before 10 pm. A mostly full and restful night of sleep meant waking up around 5 am felt easy. Courtesy of a late start (9 am) and a different time zone, so did the 2-hour drive to Ironwood with Jan starting around 6:30 am. With a brief detour in Bessemer to check out the turn-around area, we reached the Cold Iron Brewing (referred to as CIB henceforth) to pick up our race packets. It was awfully kind of CIB to be not only the title sponsor for the event but open up their doors to provide a warm and cozy place for runners to change into and out of racing outfits … especially for out of owners. The air seemed crisp, typical of this time of the year, but not cold enough to warrant a second layer (or a hat or a pair of gloves). A 3-ish mile warm-up with Jan down and back The Iron Belle Trail left me with sufficient time to complete the stretching routine before the start.


The main goal for this event was to learn more about pacing … improving the personal definition of slow start and the length (of time or distance) to which I can hold a faster pace. In the process, through trial and error, I hoped to identify a pace (or an effort level) sustainable for a vast majority of the run. Given the terrain and its elevation profile (I didn’t make time for course recon ahead of time but just mapped it out in Strava Course Builder), I expected to put in a stronger effort in the second half and practice even effort approach that’ll come in handy in Big Apple soon.

13.11 mi, 1:33:06, 7:06 min/mile (4:24 min/km), 8.45 mph (13.60 kmph)
Elevation profile should be symmetrical for an out and back course. But it’s not! (thanks Jan for pointing this out!)
Garmin Forerunner 935 and Tempe Sensor, Stryd Power Meter, and WP GPX Maps Plugin

The event started on time and I held true to my plan … for the first couple miles. My initial focus was on posture and cadence but later shifted to breathing and eventually settling on the lovely scenery that was The Iron Belle Trail … the ebbs and flows of what seemed like a one-way mirror: tucked amidst bushes, trees, shrubs and bogs but nearly invisible from US Hwy 2 although it’s less than a stone’s throw away. Once past mile #5 (0:35:08), unlike my plan though, I couldn’t sustain the up-tempo pace on a consistent basis managing to reach the halfway point at 0:46:15. Despite a stronger effort, the flat hills of the second half kept me off rhythm ever so slightly and again made it difficult to reach/sustain the up-tempo pace per my plan.

With a bit of kick over the final mile, I crossed the finish line at 1:33:06 – about 45 seconds shy of a PR and about 3 minutes past the expected goal time. But it was good enough for 5/60 overall, 5/24 in gender and 1/3 in AG (offiical results). I was/am quite happy with the 5k splits (0:22:08, 0:21:38, 0:22:08 and 0:22:44), nearly even splits (0:46:15 and 0:46:51) and the overall result, and grateful for the progress so far. Getting to chat with Elizabeth before and getting cheered on by Donna during the run were pleasantly surprising and welcoming bonuses on this trip! Should the taper period go as planned, I am pretty confident of an above decent performance in two weeks.

Goal: 13.11 miles in 1:32:21
Distance in miles, lap time in m:ss (cumulative time in h:mm:ss), average heart rate in bpm, average cadence in spm, elevation gain/loss in feet, average pace in min/mile and average temperature in fahrenheit.
Lap Cumulative
# Time Avg.
Distance Time Avg.
Finish Time
Goal Time
01 7:18 163 178 26 10 51.8 1.00 0:07:18 7:18 026 010 1:35:42 -0:03:21
02 7:16 169 178 20 20 50.0 2.00 0:14:34 7:17 046 030 1:35:28 -0:03:07
03 6:53 172 179 00 20 48.2 3.00 0:21:27 7:08 046 050 1:33:31 -0:01:10
04 6:54 173 180 03 03 50.0 4.00 0:28:21 7:05 049 053 1:32:51 -0:00:30
05 6:47 174 180 10 49 50.0 5.00 0:35:08 7:01 059 102 1:31:59 0:00:22
06 7:08 173 178 16 16 48.2 6.00 0:42:16 7:02 075 118 1:32:12 0:00:09
07 7:09 173 177 39 33 50.0 7.00 0:49:25 7:03 114 151 1:32:25 -0:00:04
08 6:54 174 178 00 26 51.8 8.00 0:56:19 7:02 114 177 1:32:12 0:00:09
09 7:25 171 176 49 03 50.0 9.00 1:03:44 7:04 163 180 1:32:38 -0:00:17
10 7:11 170 177 03 13 50.0 10.00 1:10:55 7:05 166 193 1:32:51 -0:00:30
11 7:20 169 177 13 07 50.0 11.00 1:18:15 7:06 179 200 1:33:04 -0:00:43
12 7:15 168 177 13 20 50.0 12.00 1:25:30 7:07 192 220 1:33:18 -0:00:57
13 7:16 168 178 13 20 48.2 13.00 1:32:46 7:08 205 240 1:33:31 -0:01:10
14 0:22 176 186 00 00 46.4 13.07 1:33:08 7:07 205 240 1:33:18 -0:00:57
The final cumulative time, 1:33:08, may not match the actual time owing to rounding errors. The overall distance, 13.07 miles, may not match the designated event distance owing to idiosyncrasies associated with GPS data collection and in some rare cases, incorrectly measured courses. As a result, the cumulative pace and the projected finish time might not match the recorded values as well. The Garmin Tempe sensor doesn't work at times and as such, the recorded temperature could be that of my body ... shifted by prevailing ambient temperature.

Post-race activities included the awards ceremony (Jan and I finished 5th in respective genders and won our respective age groups), reviewing the activity with Jan while waiting for the said ceremony (learning that HR stayed below Z5 was an indicator of rationing my resources well), grabbing a good bite to eat at the Sharon’s Coffee Company and an uneventful drive back home.

Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timing folks, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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