A Bittersweet Anniversary

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

Continue reading A Bittersweet Anniversary

364 Training Days Left

It’s another one in the books folks!  Yesterday was my 8th running of Bix7 and probably one of the toughest ones yet from a couple of perspectives.  I am still nursing a leg problem I have been trying to get resolved for a number of months and if that was not tough enough to deal with, the weather god decided to unleash on us.  As in previous years, Linda and I went up with some friends of ours.  Ron O. and his son Tim are pictured here BEFORE the race.

I emphasized before since it looks like we already ran the race and now soaked from sweat.  In reality, it was raining from the moment we arrived at the course (7:00am).  The day before the race, the Quad Cities was hit with a major thunderstorm that dropped power lines, tore off tree limbs and even took some roofs off.  The city crews were busy most of the day and night trying to get everything cleaned up for the big race.  Apparently another flare up occurred in the early morning causing even more scurrying around.  The local news were telling everyone to hold off a little longer before coming to the race location in case they had to delay it due to lightening.  I was wondering how they handle lightening due to the dangers involved with 15,000 runners massed in such a tight location.

So we decided to head downtown and hope for the best.  By that time, it was raining pretty good and we were soaked as we made our way to the starting chutes.  It was bearable temperature wise (~low 70s, but when the wind blew it would bring out the goose bumps).  The picture above was actually taken inside while we were making our last visits to the restrooms.  Around 7:40 we made our way to the staging areas and proceed to stand in the rain for the next 20 minutes as they prepared for the start.  Luckily the lightening was holding off so hopes were still on for an official start.  Linda snapped this shot as she waited in her start area.

Gray, gloomy and terribly WET.  I think from a conditions perspective, this was the worst I had ever run in.  Sure, runners like the cool temperatures, but a constant downpour tends to get on your nerves.  At race start time, they lined up the elites, completed the requisite introductions and sang the Anthem.  About 3 seconds after the last notes, a huge lightening bolt flashes across the sky followed by an impressive rumble.  I actually relaxed a bit thinking they would delay the race because of it, but there were no other bolts coming after it.  Sure enough, the gun went off and the mass of humanity starting making its way up the steep  Brady Street hill.  Here is another shot she took at some point after the gun went off.  Note, there is a significant delay before the start ripples down to those in the back staging points.

A couple things of note in this picture.  First, it is still raining (and not just a drizzle).  Second, you can get a feeling of how many people there were if you follow the mass of people up the picture and lastly, some people dress up for this race in various costumes.  Linda wasn’t sure exactly what the individual was wearing in the lower left, but she thought it looked like a giant round of cheese on their head.  Well, at least his head was dry and the cheese looked like it could double as an umbrella.  Linda was doing the 2 mile Quick Bix option (as opposed to the 7 miles for the full race).  This was why she was able to take pictures along the way.  Unfortunately, she was on the move and in the rain, so a lot of her shots were a blurry mess.  She did get a shot of the most important competition out of the entire race field.  This is the one individual that every Quick Bix competitor must beat or forever face humiliation.  Who is this nemesis that puts so much pressure on us (well, the Quick Bixers) every year…..

Sorry for the blur, but it’s the Oscar Mayer Wiener.  You can probably imagine what if feels like to lose to a hot dog.  Guessing this costume was horribly heavy due to the foam soaking up all the water.   Now, coming clean, I was passed at the halfway point by a Where’s Waldo dude, but he was moving pretty darn fast.

As mentioned, the race was pretty tough for me.  I made the first turn up the hill and found myself running through a small lake due to a low point in the road.  Immediately my shoes filled up with water making them feel like boat anchors.  This sucked, but not as much as feeling the squishy slosh every time my foot hit the ground.  At mile two, the left leg hamstring started tightening up as expected, forcing me to concentrate pretty hard on watching the stride length and ankle flex to help compensate for it.  The split times were okay up to the turnaround.  I was not on any PR pace so kept it controlled trying to save the leg for the hard climb back.  About mile 4, the rain subsided a bit which started raising the heat index to an uncomfortable level.  I decided to partake on a couple more water stations than usual to to keep the demons at bay.  About mile 5.5, the rain started up again which felt good at first, but quickly turned annoying as I approached the left turn back to Brady Steet.  Remember that lake I hit there at the start… well, I hit it again packing on all the water weight I had ran out of the shoe since the last dunking.  By now, the leg was hurting and the water on the road made me more cautious than usual as I made it down the steep incline.  When I passed over the finish line, I had nothing left in the tank.  I had given it my all which is all I expect out of myself in every race.  I came in around ~61:04 which is significantly slower than my previous (healthy) year of 56:41, but faster than the 66.24 the year before.  All things considered, with my leg problems and the hampered training schedule that caused coupled with the rain, I’ll take the time.  I have 364 days to prepare for a better run next year.  In retrospect, I guess any vertical finish is better than having to go home in one of these….

Ironically, we look about the same as when we started.  Oh, by the way, Tim came in just under 46:00 (he’s 21, give me a break) and his dad Ron came in with an impressive 64:09, surpassing his pre-race expectations.  Reminded by this picture, I need to point out a sad situation that occurred during they race.  Running is an athletic event that can stress your system.  Your training can have a definite influence on how your body handles that stress.  There are also health issues that may be aggravated by running and quite honest those things that just happen for one reason or another.  I am sad to say that a 41 year old male collapsed at mile 6 and passed away.  He was a wrestling coach in a city about 15 minutes North of us.  Our deepest sympathies to his wife (who was also running) and family.  Let’s all be careful on the road!

Also, congratulations to Ryan Hall for a tremendous performance to take the ribbon.  I always appreciate it when an elite runner comments on just how tough the Bix7 is and he even congratulated all the runners who competed in the race.  Everything looks good for him to have a great run in the Chicago Marathon and quite frankly one of the true bright spots in our Olympic Running program.

Now time for me to plan out this week’s training schedule.

What Is This (WIT)  ANSWER:

As you may know, the last post was the first WIT.  I thought it would be harder, but two of our readers nailed the quiz.  It was indeed a scaled model of a Wankel Rotary Engine.  They were pretty common in the Mazda RX series of cars, but I don’t believe they really caught on in domestic cars.  Apparently there were some issues with maintenance of them – See Skid’s great comments.  Congratulations to Skidmarks (who was first) and my brother for identifying the mystery object.