Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bix 7 Race Report

As long as I have been involved in the running community of Quincy, I have heard "you have to run the Bix!" from my fellow runners.  This year, we made it happen.

My wife and I drove to Davenport, Iowa on Friday afternoon.  Our first stop was the race expo to pick up our bibs, chips, shirts, and race-day manuals.  Our "goodie bag" was a virtual one; we received an email with links to discounts at local businesses among other things, the usual.  Walking around the expo, we saw a line of people waiting to get autographs from Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi, and Bill Rodgers.  I knew (basically) who they were, but I do not get too excited about getting autographs or meeting celebrities.  So, I snapped a photo and moved on.  We did not need anything and we were hungry, so we did not linger at the expo, although it rivaled the marathon expos I have been to.  We found our way to the Clarion, checked in, and had dinner on site.  (Side note: the hotel was okay but, I cannot recommend eating in the bar--horrible service.)

As is usually the case the night before a race, I slept poorly and was up early.  I made my cup of caffeinated coffee and forced down some Pop Tarts--the hotel's breakfast buffet did not start until 7:00, about the time we would be leaving.  I just piddled around the room until it was time to leave.  I thought we would have loads of time, but there was a lot of traffic heading downtown and we had to rush a bit to make it through the porta-potty lines and get to the start early, according to our instructions.  Of course, we still had to wait a while...with over 15,000 of our closest friends.  After a very tasteful singing of the Star Spangled Banner and a flyover of four T-6 Texans, the starting gun fired and we were off!  At a very slow shuffle to the starting line about a block away. 

As I neared the actual start line, I was able to begin jogging, starting up Brady Street Hill--7-9% grade for about one third mile.  This did not thin out the crowd as much as I would have expected.  I was ready to run, but had to weave around slower runners, frequently jumping onto the sidewalk for short stretches at the rare spots where there were no spectators, dodging the occasional walkers.  This set the stage for the whole course.  

Hilly:  According to my Garmin (for what it is worth), the elevation gain for The Bix 7 was 376 feet.  For comparison, my Garmin measured the Hannibal Cannibal 5k at 333 feet, the Raider Classic 5k at 155 feet, the Hannibal Cannibal 15k at 676 feet (which should be just a little higher than the 10k), and the Raider Classic 10k at 321 feet.  Regardless, it was a hilly course.  After the first big climb, the course flattened and then, we descended for a while.  There were a few bumps on our way to the turn-around at the halfway point.  Then, we got to climb back up again, with short respites after each of the few rollers.  Of course, we got to descend the big hill where we started; I flew down this hill, passing loads of people.  At the bottom, we turned toward the finish for our final three-block sprint.

Crowded:  As I said, there were about 15,000 racers at the start.  Some only ran the two-mile event and they turned off before the top of Brady Street Hill.  10,790 of us continued on.  I did not really notice their exit.  We continued to fill the entire street--four lanes, perhaps?  At our first turn, there was a little bottle neck as we entered a divided boulevard with a grassy median.  We were able to take up both lanes of traffic initially, but then, we had to make room for the elites on their return and move out of their way.  (It was cool to see Meb and his peers doing what they do best.)  There really never was a point in the race that was not crowded.  I was weaving in and out of traffic most of the race.  I spent a lot of time on the grassy median too.  I am certainly not complaining.  It reminded me of running trails, where you have to watch where you put your foot on nearly every step.  As a result, your mind is occupied and time passes quickly.  I looked for my friends, my wife, and fellow Quincy-area runners throughout the course.  But, I only saw one person, a former trainee, I knew on the course until another Quincian tapped me on the shoulder about a half mile from the finish.

Spectators:  There were spectators throughout the entire route on both sides of the road.  It was the most festive event I have ever run, I think--more rock and roll than the Rock N' Roll San Antonio half marathon I ran.  People everywhere, a lot with signs.  Bands every quarter to half mile, there was rarely a moment when a band could not be heard either in front or behind.  Davenport really supports the event.

Fun:  In addition to the spectators with their signs and the music, there was plenty of other entertainment.  I saw lots of costumed runners: many super heroes, a group of Marilyn Monroes and a group of Elvises.  There was also a slip and slide set up on the median at one point.  I thought about it, but...  I realized early that I was not going to achieve my time goal.  So, I just continued at a comfortably hard pace and enjoyed the moment.  Toward the end of the race, there was a guy singing Baby I'm a Star by Prince, a song I have always enjoyed.  Initially, it sounded okay, but then he started screaming and sounded just like Prince; totally nailed it!  I was impressed and loved it!  I wanted to go back and listen, but I had a race to finish.  Overall, I would certainly consider going back just for the fun of it.

I felt pretty good most of the race.  Around the five-mile mark, I started to tire a little.  That was during the climb back up to the top of Brady Street Hill.  But, I soldiered on, enjoying the experience.  Despite the challenges, I still managed to finish in the top 20% overall and for master's men.  So, not a bad performance.  I was pleased.  But, for me, The Bix was all about having a good time, at least after I got started.  By the way, they also had nice tech shirts and finisher medals.  I generally am not a fan of finisher medals for shorter races, but I see this medal as a memento for a special event--something to remember the experience.

So, to my fellow runners: YOU HAVE TO RUN THE BIX!!

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