2019: Paavo Nurmi Half Marathon

Currently in week #02 of a training cycle towards a Fall marathon, my original plan for this event was to run the full distance as a supported long run. But the collective wisdom of my mentors suggested that I no longer had as much of a need to train for full distance (the comfort zone) as I did for holding the desired needed pace for longer-ish distances (the discomfort zone). So, the new plan and its goals were to (a) reproduce the pacing strategy used in 2019 Canal Run Half Marathon (i.e., hold back in the first half and then push the effort in the second half) on what has historically been a hillier course with warmer weather and (b) earn a PR as a result. This year’s edition included a change in travel plan as well: a day trip instead of the usual overnight trip in an attempt to keep to more home-cooked meals.

A recap of the 2018 edition

According to the training plan, this was supposed to be a 19 mile LSD run at the end of week #10 towards Chicago Marathon. Since I had already decided to participate in the 50th edition of Paavo Nurmi festivities (Jan got me into this last year), I had two options: add 7 miles and do a full OR add 6 miles to the half marathon. Since I wasn’t yet ready for the full marathon distance (definitely not for the hilly course of Paavo), I opted for the latter. Since running 6 after running through the finish line would make it mentally difficult while delaying my return to Houghton, I mapped and tested a 10k course from Hurley Chamber of Commerce in Downtown (finish line) to the Gile Flowage (starting line). Pre-event festivities gave me a wonderful opportunity to interact with veterans of this event including the very first champion from 1969 and his better half.

When I woke up (almost slept through as I had set the alarm but only for weekdays), I was a bit flustered and thus incorrectly assumed that I needed 9 miles before the half marathon started at 8 am. So, I started running shortly before 6:30 am and at a pretty decent pace. Only at mile 3 did I realize that I just needed 6 miles total instead of 6 more and that I’d arrive at the start line about 30 minutes before the scheduled start time (instead of 7-10 minutes as originally planned). I spent much of those 30 minutes stretching and walking and failing mostly at conversing with strangers/fellow runners.

Having run the course last year and knowing that a very large number of aid stations existed at frequent intervals, I was able to maintain a decent pace for all of 13.1 miles (instead of just the last 9 as originally planned). It was warm and at times hilly but an occasional gentle breeze negated the humidity. Jim Engel’s roadside signs (All It Takes Is All You Gotand Harder The Conflict, Greater The Triumph) and cheers from spectators and volunteers provided sufficient energy to keep running. Tips learned from The Run Experience and RunRx (thanks to Angela for the latter) came in very handy. I was pretty happy with the official finish time of 1:59:03 (53/185 overall, 34/89 in gender and 4/7 in AG).

An additional change to making this a day trip was to re-arrange the Friday’s 10 easy 10 miler into two parts: a 3-mile easy shakeout on Friday (ideally completed before 8:30 am but I didn’t do it until about 11 am – to feel the heat and use it to my advantage on Saturday) and a 7-mile easy recovery run afterwards – maybe some of it immediately after the race and rest on Sunday morning. A major change from the organizers was to introduce a new course for both half and full marathon distances. Mapping it out ahead of time in Strava’s Route Builder (here’s the mapped course), using the turn by turn directions the organizers graciously provided, indicated that the new course would still be quite hilly. But after what seemed like one long climb, the course would ease up around/after mile 6. A relatively gentler climb over the final 5k would take runners to the finish line.

Packing up the necessary stuff and going to bed quite early the night before, and waking up around 4 am gave plenty of time to have a relaxed morning. An easy 2-ish hour drive (bless the timezone change and westward journey) got me to Hurley with sufficient time to pick up my race packet and catch the shuttle to the start of the half marathon. That, in turn gave me enough time to complete the warm-up (a routine similar to what Craig had shown me during 2019 Canal Run Half Marathon) few minutes before the starting gun was fired.

13.11 mi, 1:38:06, 7:29 min/mile (4:38 min/km), 8.02 mph (12.90 kmph)
Garmin Forerunner 935 and Tempe Sensor, Stryd Power Meter, and WP GPX Maps Plugin

The goal for this event, as noted before, was to learn more about pacing: hold back for the first half and and push the pace for the second half, and as a by-product, earn a new PR for the half marathon distance (i.e., finish below 1:39:15). After starting near the very front of the pack, I immediately peeled back to let the faster runners go. to be a mid-packer to stay true to the plan. Holding the pace in the neighborhood of 7:40 min/mile through the first 6 miles, in spite of the long ascent, felt non-taxing. An indication of holding back was the cumulative average pace after 6 miles, 7:37 min/mile, would have taken me across the finish line about 40 seconds slower than my current PR. The course eased up a little over the next 3 miles, and clipping away at 7:10, 7:27 and 6:53 min/mile felt easily manageable: breathing was under control and HR was about 20 bpm below my accepted maximum value.

Course got a little bumpy, stony and gravel-isque shortly after mile #10. It made the footing a little less confident for about a mile, mile and a half – especially with racing flats. After another ascent of about 5k, the course eased up again over the final 1.11 miles facilitating a strong finish. The clock showed a few ticks past 1:38 when I came through the finish chute – good enough for 7/91 overall, 7/55 in gender, 1/11 in AG and a new PR.

Goal: 13.11 miles in 1:39:14
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 7:41 138 172 07 85 57.5 1.00 0:07:41 7:40 007 085 1:40:30 -0:01:16
02 7:38 164 174 26 03 62.7 2.00 0:15:19 7:39 033 088 1:40:17 -0:01:03
03 7:43 166 174 69 00 66.2 3.00 0:23:02 7:40 102 088 1:40:30 -0:01:16
04 7:37 167 174 66 07 68.2 4.00 0:30:39 7:39 168 095 1:40:17 -0:01:03
05 7:30 165 175 46 10 69.3 5.00 0:38:09 7:37 214 105 1:39:51 -0:00:37
06 7:36 155 175 52 16 71.2 6.00 0:45:45 7:37 266 121 1:39:51 -0:00:37
07 7:10 162 177 16 49 70.9 7.00 0:52:55 7:33 282 170 1:38:58 0:00:16
08 7:27 167 176 30 26 69.9 8.00 1:00:22 7:32 312 196 1:38:45 0:00:29
09 6:53 167 177 07 161 72.8 9.00 1:07:15 7:28 319 357 1:37:53 0:01:21
10 7:36 169 173 39 13 71.0 10.00 1:14:51 7:29 358 370 1:38:06 0:01:08
11 7:36 168 172 10 20 73.1 11.00 1:22:27 7:29 368 390 1:38:06 0:01:08
12 7:50 170 173 62 07 71.8 12.00 1:30:17 7:31 430 397 1:38:32 0:00:42
13 7:08 171 174 52 89 72.4 13.00 1:37:25 7:29 482 486 1:38:06 0:01:08
14 0:39 175 179 00 03 73.4 13.10 1:38:04 7:29 482 489 1:38:06 0:01:08
The final cumulative time, 1:38:04, may not match the actual time owing to rounding errors. The overall distance, 13.10 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.

I was quite happy with the overall effort given the hillier profile of the course. Mother Nature, for the first time in my 3 years of being a part of being this event, cooperated with sunny yet pleasant weather. LiannaLauraJenelleAndiDeena‘s help with matters of the mind in recent times helped have a plan ready should fear or pain make an appearance derailing my plans. Much like the 2019 Canal Run Half Marathon a couple weeks ago, I was quite proud of sustaining fairly even splits throughout the course (fastest mile at 6:53 and slowest mile at 7:50) and approximately even 5k chunks (23:52, 23:27, 22:14 and 24:07). Post-run activities included re-hydrating, getting a quick courtesy massage and chatting with Mitch Lake (2:38 marathoner at Paavo some time ago), fellow participants, volunteers, organizers. After picking up the age group award and getting a healthy bite to eat at Sharon’s, the drive back to Houghton was smooth and uneventful.

Progress report
# Year Weight
kCal Position
01 2017 182.7 2:05:00 9:31 161 162 0.00 1614  
02 2018 167.9 3:00:38 9:21 160 159 0.00 2256  
03 2019 156.9 1:38:06 7:28 164 174 263.00 1334 7/91, 7/55, 1/11

Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, 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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