It’s the number 6 post for the month and as the tradition goes for the month of July, the topic is the premier running race of the season. There is one race I look forward to every year and probably the focal point of my yearly training program — that is the Bix7 held in Davenport, IA the last Saturday in July. For those without a calendar handy, that means yesterday was the date of this year’s extravaganza. Things were falling into place nicely this year, the training had been going really well and as decided from the Steamboat Race (link here), there was plenty of heat acclamation – a lot of 95 degree runs with a sprinkling of 105, 108 and 110 degree runs addressed that shortfall quite nicely. The weight was perfect (153), the distance endurance was there and the injuries were in check for the most part which is generally the critical concern for this time of the year. Life was good and expectations were high! The three races ahead of this one were miraculously PRs so there was an outside chance I could go 4 for 4. After the last taper on Wednesday all that was left was to keep from getting sick or hurt before lineup at 8:00am Saturday morning. Piece of cake right… umm ..wrong. Even though I tried my best to sequester myself from large masses of people (greater the people, the greater the chance of catching a bug is my philosophy) and watched my food intake for the week to prevent another Steamboat incident (link here) some contagion made it through. Friday morning I woke up with the start of a sore throat followed immediately by concern and genuine fear. If there is one thing I know well, it is when my body isn’t hitting on all cylinders and even though Linda was confident it was just my standard pre–race fretting (Linda’s words), there was little convincing me. Immediately, my thoughts rocketed back to an emergency 3 hr meeting for work the previous Tuesday where one of the attendees coughed during the presentation – the spidey senses went in full riot mode the minute that happened. Here it was Friday, a mere day before the race and panic was setting in. If there was any sign of hope, it was the fact that the throat didn’t seem to get any worse from the travel, dinner, the packet pickup process (although for the first time I really had a lack of interest in checking out all the running booths) and the pre-race prep. Just a constant annoyance in the throat and a slight forming of congestion. Maybe it was just pointless worry.
The alarm went off Saturday morning at 5:30am and the answer to that quandary was apparent. I was officially sick with a sore throat and some form of sinus congestion. The heart sank and the confidence was shattered. A lot of hard work and sweat was at jeopardy. The thoughts of PR were quickly transformed into hopes of being able to just finish. The only thing going for me was my body’s ability to bend to the will of the mind – a lifelong creed that has come in handy many times over the years.
Here is what your pre-race photo looks like when you are not on your game – hanging out in a hotel lobby! (part of this is because a certain someone ..uhummm LINDA was complaining about being cold … let me repeat that … TOO COLD for a Bix day, now that is a shock.
Hit the jump to see how this turns out
It was time to leave for the starting chutes and thus time to suck it up and go for it. This was my 10th anniversary of the Bix7. In that time, I’ve successfully ran in the in rain, in cold, in heat, with a damaged hamstring and even a badly infected wound – adding in being ill just seemed to fit right in line.. That which doesn’t kill me … based on some past history of the Bix race we’ll just forget that adage for now. So there I stood in the staging gates staring up at Brady Street hill wondering just how this will turn out. There was always the option of diverting to the 2 mile course (suggested of course by my wife), but that would limit my ability to guilt my friends into the 7 mile course in the future.. and besides it is the BIX SEVEN, not TWO. Luckily there was someone there to distract the now rampant thoughts of concern. Whenever I see someone fidgeting in the staging area and constantly stretching and bouncing around the word Newbie comes to mind. In big races like this, the staging process takes 25 to 30 minutes to carry out. Any efforts to maintain the benefits of stretching or, god forbid, a pre-run is futile unless you are in the elite section which is allowed to stay active up until the anthem is sung. Every runner remembers his first overall race or the first time at a venue – as a way to give back I always try to help by introducing myself and helping to calm them down. The runner next to me was displaying all the classic signs so when he asked me how many runners were there, I took the opportunity to chat a little. I guessed between 17 and 20 thousand based on past experience (there was actually a little under 16). I asked him if this was his first time running the Bix and he confirmed (check one for profiling). Based on hard learned lessons, I gave some pointers on having a successful race like – save something for the often underrated hill at the turn around, watch the ice on the ground from the bags handed out by spectators and told him to most of all to enjoy it. He actually thanked me for the “sound advice” whereby I noticed his left arm ended at the elbow. It was not visibly evident if it was a birth defect or an accident but it suddenly put my petty cold into perspective. Before I knew it, the anthem was playing and it was time to get this over with.
I picked out my rabbit as the gun went off and joined the sea of humanity testing their resolve against the formidable street course. One thing did catch my attention after about 50 feet up the hill – the mouth was too dry. Mental note, plan on including additional water stations along the way – typically I use one at the halfway point and one halfway through mile 6 to help push through the incline. Kudos to the rabbit for pulling me through the crowd, staying on the far outside helped cut down on the weaving generally required to get past the walkers (why they continue to line up where they do still baffles me) and groups of “red rover” chains you inevitably encounter on that close to one mile trek up the hill. A quick glance at the watch showed a surprisingly good time but the fluids were escaping fast. They had a water station at mile one which helped enough to be able to skip the following station. My mile splits were in the 8 to 8:30s on the way down which was surprising for two reasons – one due to the illness, of course, but the other reason due to the fact I rarely know my mile splits on this course – for some reason I always miss the mile markers on this course and instead have physical landmarks (turn off of first hill, railroad overpass on the way down, start/finish of midpoint hill, turnaround and then the same in reverse). Obviously, this race was going to be less of the crowd experience (which is awesome at this race) and more about counting down the difficult miles.
The turnaround showed a decent split but the return trip was putting a dread feeling in my gut – a lot of that due to the legs starting to get heavy. The easy part was over now until the final mile. A few racers starting passing me on the uphill return which is admittedly rare for me in this race since a large portion of my training is dedicated to hill climbing. Fortunately, there were no costumed people passing me. Unsure of what it was going to take to finish the race I ignored that surge and decided to concentrate on keeping a steady pace that put equal strain on the legs and the lungs. Another water station was added somewhere around 4.5miles and the standard one around 6 helped me through that ag0nizing part but the 6 miles split confirmed that the bug was starting to take its toll. Rounding the turn back onto Brady brought a huge relief – a nice downhill and a gut check straight to the finish was all that was left. Another glance at the watch provided a shot of adrenaline – I was on pace somehow, someway. Now it became a strategy game for how much to reserve on the downhill to make it to the end. Usually my legs have more pop in them at this time, but at least were in the game and that was all that mattered at this point. Twice I tested the energy levels on the hill and each time I was able to cut the gap between myself and my new rabbit. It was going to be close.
Upon turning the last corner I could see the finish but it felt like a long way off. Last task is to figure out when to pull the trigger on the final push to the finish – it wasn’t about the time anymore, it was about closing this out vertical. I tried firing the cylinders at the photo line (there is a stripe on the ground where the Marathon Photo photographers take their finisher shots but there is still some distance to go to stop the clock), but nothing took hold. The legs were gone and all that was left was to ride out the current gait. I had truly left it all on the course and the tank was empty. The foot crossed over the chip trigger and my thumb came down on my my stop watch. It was over, the mind had once again prevailed . All that was left was to accept the outcome…
well, that is what I was expecting. a double take at the watched brought a jolt. My race PR up to that point had been 56 something and the previous year was a good race (as in healthy and benefited from the same extended training cycle) ending in the 57s. The watch was displaying 56:23.
Done and still vertical!
Not only had I pushed through it, I had done it in one of my best times. The official race chip time put me at 56:19 which ended up putting me about 24 seconds better than my best time ever – yes folks, that means I’ve gone 4/4 on PRs this race season. Unbelievable. That is when the bittersweet thoughts came into play. What could I have done if I was not sick? was breaking 55 finally in reach? I can only speculate that the answer is yes. Oh well, one must live in the moment – I’ve once again conquered this course with adversity giving renewed hopes for even more success next year.
… and why do we put ourselves through this torture? I’ll show you why:
That’s right, the TWINKIES .. well, to be honest, that is primarily Linda’s excuse – I’m all about the Whitey’s root beer pops (yummy) which you can tell I was already enjoying when Linda took this shot.
10 successive years are now in the books – seems like eternity from when I made a commitment to start running – that commitment needed a goal and the Bix7 was selected. I have not forgotten the first run back then, just barely making it to the end of my driveway, down to the street to the next driveway and back. 10 years later I now have another run I’ll never forget.
Congrats also to Linda who made it through another Quick Bix while providing valuable encouragement to her friend Ann who dedicated herself to participating in the Bix for her first time ever – Welcome to the Brady Street Club Ann! looking forward to seeing you at the starting line next year and maybe.. just maybe we’ll have some more friends joining us for this awesome event.. time to get busy, only 364 more days of training to go hehehehe.
Oh, the tradition holds – although it was questionable at the start, once again there was no need for one of these: