Friday, January 16, 2015

Bib of the Week -- Quad City Times Bix 7, July 30, 2005

The Bix 7, run in late July in Davenport, Iowa, is one of those races that was born out of the running boom in the mid 1970s and still has that kind of feel to it. It's not super corporate-driven and has a more "pure running" aspect to it, not just in the way the race is organized but the fact the course is an absolute beast.

Since the beginning, it's also had an international flavor, as runners from all over the world have come to run in the race. It's been won by such greats as Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Khalid Khannouchi and Meb Keflezighi -- among others. Last year's race was won by Sean Quigley and Molly Huddle, who are both excellent, national class runners.

Although I've only run the race one time, I guess you could call it a sort of "hometown" race for me, as my family history in Eastern Iowa goes back well over 125 years. I was born there, in the same hospital as my dad, in fact, and lived there for five years before we moved away when I was in kindergarten. Lots of family and friends still live in the area and the Bix is a tradition a lot of them.

In fact, the year I ran, there were a half dozen family members that were in the race as well: my two cousins, Guy and Bill Heller, Guy's wife Julie, as well as my mom and sister Karen. When I arrived in town the night before the race, Guy picked me up at my hotel and gave me a tour of the course.

Which was a very good thing! The Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side, Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side) sits in an area where the Mississippi River cut a huge swath through and left a deep valley on both sides. While there are several "flat" parts of all the communities, the areas within shouting distance of the river are pretty hilly.

I'm glad I saw the course first because it changed how I approached the whole race. If it had been a flat run I would've gone hard from the start, but I definitely changed my tactics once I saw it.

Here's a good course description from the Quad City Times website.

The next morning, I went outside the hotel to wait for Guy to pick me up, and there were two Kenyans sitting outside waiting for the shuttle downtown. I wished them luck, but couldn't figure out why they were wearing sweatsuits in this kind of heat!

One thing the race is known for is its weather. It's usually very steamy, and 2005 was no exception, it was pushing 75 by race time and the dew point was in the mid-60s. Crazy sticky.

Due to a snafu with race numbers (mine and Julie's were switched) we had to make a couple of stops before we arrived downtown for the race. We still got there in plenty of time, I just didn't have as much time for a warmup as I wanted. That summer I was working with a coach and we were using the race as the middle section of my long run. I was supposed to run 2-3 miles before the race, but only had time to get a mile in. Oh well.

When you line up for the race, the start is super imposing because it starts on Brady Street and goes straight uphill. The first turn is about a half-mile up, but in the meantime the elevation change is 115 feet. While it's nice to know that you get that coming back to the finish, you also know that's about six miles away and your legs are already burning!

Once at the top of the hill, I tried to just settle into a nice pace and let everything shake out of my legs. Fortunately the second mile is a nice, easy downhill, so that helped. This part of the race is run on a street
that is separated by a grass parkway, and as we approached the third mile I could see the elite runners already on their way back (the course is an out and back with a turnaround, if I haven't mentioned that already). That was a real treat because it's so rare that you get to see elites at the same time you are running! Soon the lead women came by and I recognized Catherine Nderba, who once held the world record  in the marathon (2:18:47) and won two Olympic medals in the marathon.

I always enjoyed watching Catherine run because she had this smooth, elegant looking stride. She didn't have a lot of leg drive, instead she more glided along the pavement. It was beautiful to watch.

With the course being an out-and-back, miles three to five have their share of uphills and downhills, and all of them are challenging. With the faster runners on their way back, I kept looking for Guy and Bill, and suddenly Guy appeared in the masses just a few yards in front of me. Guy is pretty close to my age and is a very good athlete, especially as a runner and swimmer. He's also a pretty intense guy, and his dark sunglasses, bald head and goatee gave him a pretty badass look, I must admit. I tried to call out to him, but he was in his own special place by then and didn't hear me.

By the time I hit the turnaround, the heat was really beginning to get going, but I was in pretty good shape so I just charged on and tried to stay consistent. No doubt, though, it was pretty awesome to take the left turn back onto Brady and take the big downhill home. I really let loose down the hill, passing a lot of people and just trying to go as fast as I can. I think I ran a sub-7 last mile, it was great fun!

Guy took home family bragging rights with a finish in 51:31, while Bill was just behind at 51:52, which, given their competitive natures (albeit friendly ones), Bill didn't hear the end of that for a while. My official finish time was 1:09, but since the race was not a chip race I believe by my watch I finished in the 1:04:30 range. Not a bad effort, all things considered.

After the race we gathered for some beers in the finish area, which sits near the statue of Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Both won the race on multiple occasions and helped build the race to the stature it enjoys today. Very cool.

Someday I plan on running the race again, I'm thinking this year as it fits well into my running plan, but we'll see how it works out. If you are within driving distance of the Quad Cities, I encourage you to check this race out. You won't be disappointed!

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