Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bix 7-Miler

Finally! A race, a run, ANY run, where things just came together; from start to finish, the 2009 Bix 7-miler race couldn't have unfolded any better for me.

I've run this race I think about 8 times, I can't remember exactly because most of it was in my high school/college years. The last time I raced it was in 1997 where I ran 67:44, according to the website results (I'm sure I have this time written down, in a log book which is probably in my attic); it was the same year I was training for my very first marathon and learned to drastically slow my pace down so that I could run farther. This year I crossed in 54:40 (7:50 pace) and I am certain that is by far, the fastest time to report on this course from this chick!

And another bragging right comment: I landed 11th place of 477 in my age group division.

But the thing is, what means more to me than my killer age group placement, is the fact that I lined up at the start line with minimal nervousness and finished the race feeling incredible. And not incredible because I just placed well, because it was hours post-race that I even knew what my official time was due to operator error of my watch at the start and only guessing at what my finish time was, I felt incredible because I ran smart and never died at the end, like I am notorious for doing.

THAT is my feat! I don't care about PR's or age group wins - sure, they are nice and they bring a special smile to my face (and I'm sure one also to my highly competitive trainer, Rob) but the fact that I could run strong up all those infamous hills and still have enough left at the end to run a sub 7 minute mile (okay, it was mostly downhill.....still...). I could have run the course in 11 minute miles and probably had the same affect but I didn't, I ran a 7:50 pace and didn't die. That is what this game is all about for me!

This race is as legendary to Midwest runners as the Boston Marathon is to all marathoners. Elite runners, alike, come from all over to run the Bix. Joan Benoit and Bill Rodgers used to be the winning favorites in their days, now taken over by elite Kenyan runners. This year, Mebrahtom Keflezighi won the men's division. He is a very famous/elite runner. In celebration of it's 35th anniversary, USA Track & Field awarded Bix 7 the honor of hosting the 2009 American National 7 Mile Championships. There are thousands of running events in the United States, yet only six National Championships. It was an honor to join the elite American runners as they pursued their quest for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I mistakenly did not pack my regular watch in the bag that I was bringing to Iowa and only had my Garmin watch to wear. I did NOT want to wear it but in the end, I am glad because it was only at mile 1 that split times were called and had I not had a watch at all, I'd never have pulled back my pace. Maybe splits were called at other mile markers and I did not hear them due to my excessively loud iPod (will I be deaf at age 50? I sometimes wonder). I also have not learned enough about my Garmin watch yet to realize that the thing shuts itself off after being inactive for x-amount of time after it's ready to go. I have no idea what this x factor is and so about 10 minutes before the start of the race, while I was dutifully lined up ready to run, I set the watch so that it was all ready for me to just hit the ‘start’ button when I crossed the start line. Apparently, this unknown x number is about 9 minutes and 50 seconds; when the gun went off, I hit ‘start’ only to find, about half way up the grueling Brady St. hill, that my watch was back on regular watch mode and was never started. Err. So I figured I’d reset the thing and hit ‘start’ at mile 1.

Cross under Palmer Chiropractor college bridge where fans are so thick, they produce a roar almost in comparison to the Wellesley College girls in Boston. This race reminds me so much of Boston in terms of local camaraderie and crowd support. The town is abuzz for weeks on end in preparation for said event; they host the Bix jazz festival (the entire weekend events, including race, are in honor of Bix Beiderbecke, a famous jazz musician in his day whom was born in Davenport) and street fest where vendors come from afar with food galore and crafts from wonderful artists. It’s an all-weekend event alrighty! But also the crowds that line the street during the race are incredible. Never is there an entire spot anywhere along the course where there is one open area – and along the easy to access areas, people are lined several deep. They are all enthusiastically cheering you on in the mid-pack just as they are the first elite runner out there. The locals love this race; they will plan for days in advanced and make a big tail-gating party out of it. I can’t even tell you how many times I smelled various BBQs going on in someone’s yard while running. These things are very emotional to me; how people come together to cheer those of us on that pour our guts out on that brutal course. I miss it dearly and am proud to say I was born and raised here.

Just before mile 1, the hills crests and you get a nice reprieve from the first arduous. The Twinkie man and truck (Hostess is a local business; you wouldn’t believe all the Hostess sugary-cake products that were available at the expo and post race party - ironic, huh!?!) have the street blocked where you need to make a turn into Kirkwood Blvd, which is great – no one can get lost by going straight (he is at the turn onto McClellon Blvd., too). Right as you turn the tight corner, you run about 200’ and you are at mile 1. Someone reading splits says I ran about 9:30.

I also realized at mile 1 when I when go to hit that ‘start’ button, that the previous 9:50 shut-off time is just an random number and that yet again, my watch was not ready and has turned itselfl back to regular watch mode. I quickly had to reset it again and just hit that little start button about 10 or so seconds, however long it took to reset it, after I crossed the first mile. I thought of Dennis and how this would have drove him crazy. Ha. It was rather annoying and I was in disbelief but really, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I’ve learned a lesson, I guess: my watch is not to be ready to ‘start’ until about 1 minute before official starting time.

This 9:30 first mile time would have normally set me in a tail spinning I-need-to-make-up-for-lost-time sprint but I remained calm and tried to get in a comfortable yet strong pace -- not under a 7:30. I can probably thank extremely large crowds (that truly never thin as in most races) for holding my pace back - the last thing I wanted to do was start weaving; but I really knew that for me to do well in the end, I needed to conserve here.

The next two miles are a nice, steady downhill and I desperately tried to keep my pace under control. I also knew that since this is an out and back course, these nice down hills were going to be uphill at miles 4-6, right when things got toughest. I also started sweating a lot along this section and decided I’d try to run along the left side of the street where shade from large trees were providing a little reprieve. I am not used to this humidity even though the locals were all in heaven that it was “cold.” Yes, it was “nice” for Iowa this time of year but I can really feel the humidity and I was sweating quicker than normal and feeling the heat. I got water at every stop, except for the first one, and I poured half of it on me to try to keep a little cooler.

Mile 3 is the is the big turn up McClellon Blvd where the richest of the rich in Davenport live; these houses are old and huge and overlook the Mississippi River. For a house to “overlook” a river, it must be perched up high on a bank so yes, it is here that we climb yet again another hill. This hill comes in a couple sections, just like the Newton Hills in Boston, and just as steep though shorter in length. A nice turn-around point with a view of the river and back up the hills. I am in awe at how well my back and glute are feeling as I tackle these beasts. But I know that miles from 4-6 is where I have faltered in past years so I am being cautious.

I might add that I did not become obsessed with my watch and my pace - just like my victorious Boston qualifier in St. George. I looked at my time and my pace, periodically, but never did I think I had to push harder because I was going too slow or whatnot. Something to be said about that, for sure!!!

Mile 4 hits at the end of a downhill and you turn a corner here and head back up Kirkwood Blvd. and the start of two miles of up hills. There are sections of these two miles that are definitely steeper than others but as much as I worried about these two uphill miles, they were not as demoralizing as I feared and I felt incredible! In fact, when I could see Brady St, the street that started the race, I was stunned I had reached this point already. I crossed over to the other side of the divided street, ran a bit on the shaded side, and turned onto Brady street for the final mile.

The final mile WAS downhill and I tried to pick up the pace here and see what I had left in me. At one point I looked at my watch and it said I was doing a 6:47. Wow! For this chick, that’s incredible this late in the game – even with a nice decent. The course levels out at the bottom of Brady St. and you turn the final corner (no Twinkie man here ) to the final push of about 600M to the finish. They even had signs at about every 1/8 of a mile to guide you along.

I crossed the finish line with the clock reading gun time of 55:30. I knew I started a bit back after the gun but I was not really sure how far back – thinking about 30 seconds. I was in awe.

I was suppose to meet my posse afterwards at 9:30 at the grain elevators across the street from the post-race festivities so didn't have time to linger much but wow, I couldn't believe the amount of food and drinks available. I thought of my friend, Tim, who said the worst thing about the Boston Marathon was tiny amount of post-race food they give you afterwards (I will admit, it was lame). Here, there were hundreds of tables lined up with everything. And I mean EVERYTHING (including those notorious Twinkies - ha). I grabbed a couple things, a Diet Coke, half a Michelob Ultra (it was 9:30 in the morning after all, and I had a 6 hour drive up North to Michigan yet - could not indulge too much) and exited the post race party to find my ride outta there. I was kinda sad that it was all over!

I thank the good ole Quad Cities for putting on a fabulous race; I am honored to run your race and I hope I'll be back in the very near future to race it again!

I had some logistical problems meeting my crew afterwards as they were late and could not find me so we had to quickly scurry out of town, therefore I was not able to get some pictures from the race. I did, though, have a great time with my Iowa friend in my whirlwind 2-day visit and will post those at the bottom!
I am one very happy running girl right now! :)

Meg and her beautiful, Victorian House in Des Moines

Me, wandering the antique stores in Walnut

Dinner in Iowa City (clockwise, starting with me); me, Meg, Kathie, Karen
The banners that line the lampposts in Davenport; reminded me of similar at the Boston Marathon

Out on a Friday night with old classmates: Kathie, Me, Bob Anderson, Karen


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elaine said...

Wow!!! Great job.

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That is not just a blog... it's a novel. thank you for sharing all the ins and outs of the Bix 7 miler. And thanks for the pics of you in Iowa. Have fun in Michigan. You are a great friend :). See you in 26 days :)

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