Seems like just yesterday I was being treated to an ambulance ride to our favorite Emergency Room. If you recall, there was an “incident” after one of my long runs that left me a ummm let’s go with less than fresh (link here). Since that episode I’ve slowly been working my way back to running form. From a residuals perspective it was pretty clear that the heat stroke took at least 30 seconds off my pace and as warned more susceptible to the heat. Essentially the body would start to panic as soon as it felt the temp going up and just start sweating profusely – pretty much premature panic. Each training run I tried to get more conditioned to the weather and gradually increased the mileage eventually topping out at 9 miles, 2 miles short of the incident mileage. The reason for the continued push to get back in running form was primarily due to the fact the Bix 7 was just around the corner. No rest for the wicked and the Bix hills are nothing to take lightly. Well, race day was last Saturday and as you can tell from the fact this post exists, I survived the first real test since the escort to the hospital.
The Bix 7 isn’t usually a medal event, but thanks to it being the 40th anniversary of the race they broke out the medals. This was a nice addition to the 3oth and 35th anniversary medals already hanging on my walls. More importantly, the cool medal was enough to motivate my friend Sung to run the race with me. He has recently started to run as part of his new health kick which has provided some amazing results. If you recall he went up with us to complete the Bix@6 training run a few weeks back. The success of that effort coupled with the opportunity to get a trophy for the wall was enough to convince him to sign up for the real thing. In addition to Sung, another friend, Ryan, was also signed up to experience the mega-party. The recruiting effort is going well, Rhonda and Ron were also there to participate in their second year (hope they got their pins) – once you experience the Bix you definitely want to set plans for attending the next year – one of the funnest races in the area for sure. We were unable to meet up with Rhonda and Ron before the race but (from L to R) Ryan, Sung and I were able to take the traditional pre-race shot together.
Hit the jump to read how everything turned out
Most of the days leading up to Saturday were pretty cool thanks to rain and another wave of the Polar Vortex. The Friday night before was chilly enough for me to even consider long pants – trust me, with the exception of last year, that is considered downright frigid for a Bix weekend. At 6:30am we headed out to the car and the first thing that entered my mind was “Whoa, why does it feel this warm?” Not what I expected based on the predictions (early forecast was it was suppose to rain) and the experience of the days before. Still not overly hot I put it out of my mind. At the designated time, we left Sung with my wife to navigate to their gate while Ryan and I made the trek to our start location. A quick warm up and we were positioned in my traditional starting point – after years of doing this, I’ve figured out the best area to start that allows for avoiding a lot of the humanity up the hill and eliminates the cross traffic from those short timers.. I mean Quick Bixers turning off at the top of the big hill to make their way to the beer before the rest of us show up. Minutes before the gun… er. make that a howitzer this year.. went off it occurred to me that the temperature had definitely moved up, but more concerning was the humidity was rocketing up. This was my Achilles heal at the moment and it looked like it was going to be some effort to get through the hilly course. No reason to really worry about it then, one foot in front the other and see if I’m still vertical at the end.
The first hill went pretty well – kudos to Ryan who beat me to the top of the first hill – we broke through the initial surge and the first thing I noticed was Ryan was well on his way. Noting the heat will be playing a part, I added three additional water stops to my internal plan (first one being at the one mile marker). Everything was feeling good to the second hill point. That is always a struggle (in my opinion the worst part of the entire race) so nothing really out of place there. After passing the turnaround point and starting back up the second hill two guys came up behind me and I heard one say quite loudly – “This is where all the weak willed people start to fall off” In honor of that statement I passed their ass and never saw them again. The moment of truth came near the end of the 5th mile. This is a particularly nasty part of the race that increases the elevation significantly as it curves up Kirkwood. By then, the body was starting to panic. I knew this was the last test of the race before turning the corner and beginning the long decent down the first hill. This was also the true test point on whether the body was on the road to recovery or if it was time to reconsider the rest of the year’s races. Good news – I beat the heat and negative voices in my head – to be honest, the essence of running is basically trying to control your inner pessimist … within reason of course – every once in awhile it’s correct hehehe. With that out of the way, the turn off of Kirkwood was made and enjoyed every inch of that downhill. At finish, the clock showed me at three minutes over my last year’s PR, but that didn’t prevent a HUGE SMILE from forming. My first race since the incident was completed and neither of these were needed!
Ryan, Sung, Rhonda and Ron all earned their medals that morning and based on their comments after the race we can plan on meeting there again next year! Oh, almost forgot – big congratulations to my wife who completed her 13th Bix this year (one more than me). All that walking up and down mountains looking for waterfalls out in North Carolina was a bonus (that’s what I keep telling her, but don’t think she is buying it). Here’s our traditional post Bix picture – note, the pavement was very uneven at this particular spot giving the ILLUSION that Linda is taller than me – will have to remember that next year and pick a more even spot to take the shot – minimally remember not to stand in a similar hole.
As mentioned early, I was three minutes off my PR time which was in the 54 minute range last year – to be honest, not sure I’ll ever get back to that level without another record cold front coming in ahead of the race (last year was the coldest start in 39 years). Final chip time was a respectable 57:20 – the 20 seconds was definitely taken up by the extra water points and my race pace ended up about 30 seconds faster than my recent training runs – was having difficulty really breaking 8:40’s to 8:50’s since the return to the road.
Rankings were favorable as well even breaking into double digits in my age group. It does pain me to see that I’ve entered the “Masters” category. Thanks again to everyone for making the trek up there with me – hope you enjoyed yourselves and looking forward to toeing the line again next year – hopefully without the health scare from this year.