Tuesday, July 30, 2019

2019 Bix-7 Recap



Supposedly, the third time is the charm. For myself, though, the fourth time was where the magic happened.

I'm talking about the Quad City Times Bix-7. This past weekend, I returned to this famous event (after a 5-year hiatus), with all kinds of hopes and aspirations for a PR. After all, 2019 has been pretty kind to me in terms of my racing endeavors, including a couple of hot and humid races earlier this month. Why not hope for the best?

Located in Davenport, IA (a city along the bank of the Mississippi River), the Bix-7 was celebrating its 45th year. I've run this race three times prior (2009, 2010 and 2014), and was ever-so-eager to run it again.

The Bix-7 is held in conjunction with the Bix Jazz Festival. The race has several rather unique nuances...the weather is ALWAYS warm (bordering on hot), and usually quite humid. The route is hilly (VERY hilly), and is run almost exclusively through residential neighborhoods. The course is a  seven mile out-and-back excursion (how's that for an odd distance?).
A map of the course (start line is on the lower left corner of map)
Also, the Bix-7 attracts a hefty field of elites, all vying for $50,000 in total prize money. Some famous Bix-7 champions include none other than Joan Benoit Samuelson, Billy Rodgers and Meb Keflezighi (all three have repeatedly been featured speakers at the expo and usually run the race every year as well).
from 2014
With a race of this caliber, security on race day is tight. Temporary "real" fences line the curbs of Brady Street for several blocks, where all the runners line up. Everyone has a colored tag on their bib (which corresponds to an assigned corral, based on projected finish time). There are entrance gates to get to your respective corral, then limited entrances along the fence line to actually enter the street itself.
   

It took a few minutes to get through the first security gate, then even longer to make my way through the actual gate into the street. After getting into position, I had about 20 minutes to stretch and do some dynamic warm-ups.
The start line, way up ahead...
The National Anthem was sung, and the gun fired. All race start lines are crowded, but the Bix-7 start line seems to be the most crowded of any race I've ever done. The first stretch is a shoulder-to-shoulder jaunt up the famous Brady Street hill, for nearly all of the first mile. I was almost halfway up the hill when I spotted the hubby on the side of the road.

 

The mass of runners was a major cluster of frustration (at least for me it was). I kept getting stuck behind groups of friends, or walkers (who should have been much further back), or simply runners who were going slower than I wanted. Trying to weave around and pass others was next to impossible, as if climbing a steep hill right out of the gate wasn't challenging enough. Alas, once we cleared the top of the hill, the road leveled off for a short ways, and the route turned right, onto Kirkwood, giving us a split boulevard for the next couple of miles.

Even though the runners had started to spread out some, it still was very crowded on the street. As I had done in previous Bix-7 races, I tried to stay on the grass-laden median as much as possible, to avoid getting trapped behind other runners.

Although the temps were hot (89F at the finish line), the humidity wasn't as heavy as in years past. None the less, it still was a hot July morning with full-sun (though, there was some intermittent shade cover at various points along the boulevard).

There were water stands, on both sides of the street, every mile or so. The streets were lined with non-stop crowds of spectators, and there were several live bands along the way as well. There even was an occasional Slip-N-Slide set up, along the grassy median, for those who really wanted some water relief.

About halfway through the second mile, the route begins a long, gradual decline as we make our way to the 3-mile mark. So far, I was feeling great. I had been running steady and only pausing for a few seconds at the water stands for a fast swallow (or two) to stay hydrated. As we all know, that which goes down, usually comes back up...and near the 3-mile mark there's another short (but somewhat steep) incline as we wind around towards the hairpin turn at the halfway mark. The route declines again, at the turn-around, only to reward us with another short hill (followed by a brief downhill) as we approach the 4-mile mark.

Just past the 4-mile mark, the route then begins a long and gradual climb back towards that big hill we'd ascended in the first mile. This final climb lasts for nearly two solid miles. A small herd of Elvis impersonators greeted us at the left turn, now back on Brady Street, just before the 6-mile mark.

Still feeling good, it was full steam ahead at this point! The street levels out for about two city blocks, then we're blessed with a well-earned descent for the last trek of the race (our reward for having climbed it from a stand-still at the start line). Again, I spotted the hubby, this time about halfway down the hill.

There's a left turn, at the base of the hill, then the finish line is about three blocks away. I could tell my pace had dramatically picked up going down that big hill, and I still had some energy in the tank. That final jaunt to the finish line, though, was tough. Even though I was running fast and furious, it seemed like it took forever to get through the canopy of balloons and across the timing mat. I was running too fast to read my watch, so it wasn't until I'd crossed the finish line that I could finally see what I'd just accomplished....

A new Bix-7 PR!
Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor
I did it!
I'd first run those seven miles  in 1:13:08 (2009), then in 1:05:14 (2010). In 2014, I came close to matching that 2010 PR, running it in 1:05:26. So, when I saw the 1:04:22 flashing on my Garmin, it was quite the euphoric moment to have set a new PR...nine years later.

My splits tell an interesting story:
Mile 1 - 10:12
Mile 2 - 8:57
Mile 3 - 9:15
Mile 4 - 9:16
Mile 5 - 9:21
Mile 6 - 9:13
Mile 7 - 7:44
 (.06) - :25

My official stats:


Overall, I'm very happy with how the race went. I never felt fatigued or dehydrated, and am thankful I was able to run such steady splits, given all the hills and the heat. That said, I am frustrated with that first mile. Granted, I would not be running that steep, long first mile as fast as the other miles, but I do think I could have run it faster had there not been such a cluster of runners to fight through. Yes, everyone else had the same crowded race start as I did....but I can't help wondering if some of these "slower" runners (and numerous walkers) were legitimately in their correct corrals? Or, were they just exhausted from the steep climb, already within the first 1/2 mile? Then again, maybe that slow start was what enabled me to pace myself  and finish so strong? Things that make you go, Hmmm....

None the less, this is a great event! It's exciting (for me, at least) taking on the challenge of the hills in the heat of summer. Surviving that first hill is pretty empowering, even though I have to climb it again, right before the big descent en route to the finish line. And, seeing all the elites racing back from the turn-around is pretty inspiring.

Side note....there's a commemorative statue that pays tribute to Joan Benoit Samuelson and Billy Rodgers, near the finish line.




Since this was the 45th commemorative year of the Bix-7, there were finisher medals for the participants. Nice, huh! I was hoping to get an autograph (or two) on my medal's ribbon, but wasn't able to find any of the above-mentioned racing icons (and Meb, unfortunately, wasn't able to attend this year).
Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

 Have you heard of the Bix-7? Ever met Joan, Billy or Meb? Would you be intrigued by a hilly race, such as this, with an odd distance in the heat of summer?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

**I'm also linking this with Debbie and Marc  for the Running Coaches' Corner

Are you following me on social media?
Let's connect : Facebook Instagram  Pinterest Twitter

28 comments:

  1. Congrats on that awesome PR!

    This seems like it would be such a great race, and I love that they provided medals this year to celebrate the anniversary!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is such an awesome race, Kim!! It's a major endorphin rush at the finish line, knowing you've conquered all those hills, especially in the hot/humid conditions.

      Delete
  2. Wow, what an awesome race you had! It's always so frustrating to be trapped behind slower runners/walkers (even for this slower runner!), but sometimes that can be a blessing in disguise, keeping your from going out too fast.

    I have to admit that no, 89 by the end -- just NO! I don't think I've done a race quite that hot, and I've done some pretty steamy ones.

    You are on fire this summer, Kim!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Judy ;-) Trying to keep my glass half full, I do agree the slow start probably served me well, but it was SOOO frustrating at the time LOL

      Delete
  3. Congrats, Kim!! You are doing so well in your races. I have heard of the race and know several people that have run it. I have met Joan and Meb but not Bill. I do love odd distance races (one of the reasons I run a 4 mile race on July 4th) and this one is definitely interesting. Maybe it was a good thing you got stuck behind the "slow runners" and walkers, to help pace you for the rest of the race. Hey, it turned out even better than you expected!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, the slow start DID benefit me...but it was such a buzzkill at the time. This race really is one to do...if you're ever on this side of the Mississippi on the last weekend in July ;-)

      Delete
  4. Congrats again on your PR despite the crowded race.
    This summer you are working hard and well.
    Now I prefer not to enter anymore races with many runners, better local events where my finishing time is "real" and where I can enjoy a different atmosphere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an excellent point...your finish time is more "real" under better circumstances (ie, no one getting in your way). At least I know most of the other runners also had similar start-line experiences at the race...

      Delete
  5. Well done, great work! Sounds like people were in the wrong pens having incorrectly predicted what they could do. Hm. The Sutton Fun Run is like that, terribly crowded and uphill at the start, then wheeeeeeee into the finish. And 8.5 miles, which is very weird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, definitely, I think many of the runners were in the wrong place (as were some of the walkers). I don't know if they give false info upon registration (and get the coveted "higher place in line" sticker), or if they shove their way towards the front after the fences come down. Regardless, I refuse to play their game and compromise my integrity. I'm grateful I was able to enjoy that WHEEEEEE to the finish ;-)

      Delete
  6. That is a really strange distance race! Huge congrats to you on your nice new PR. Seems like summer running really agrees with you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The seven mile distance is really unique...that's just one of the things I love about this race ;-)

      Delete
  7. I've said it countless times before but I will say it again! 2019 is YOUR year!! To course PB NINE years later. That is just incredible - and the first thing I thought was it was a PB with the large crowd of runners at the start. Wow! Just wow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so sweet ;-) Thanks so much!! It's nice when all things come together on race day, especially on a tough course in the summer heat. Ever grateful ;-)

      Delete
  8. People clustered together like that was one of the things I wrote about in my half marathon etiquette post. Obviously it applies to all distances. Congratulations on your PR! I think a seven mile race sounds like a perfect distance. There should be more of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AlL the people clusters are annoying, no matter what race. This race is a lot of fun, despite (or maybe because of?) all the challenges with the course and weather.

      Delete
  9. Great great job! Your splits are actually perfect except for mile 2 (excited??). That's what I like to see, though. Slow to start, faster in the middle, fastest at the end. #nailedit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rachel ;-) I think mile is faster because I finally felt free from most of the crowded street...I stayed on the grassy median for most of the 2nd and 3rd mile LOL

      Delete
  10. Wahoo! You go, girl! Congrats on your PR...that's so exciting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. A PR day is always a good day. Sounds like a fun race and thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! This PR was 9 years in the making, so it felt especially great ;-)

      Delete
  12. Congrats!! Sounds like a really cool race. I love that last picture with the medal in front of the statues - so neat!

    ReplyDelete
  13. You ran a great race! Congrats on your PR!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Michelle ;-) It was one of those races where everything just clicked and felt great from start to finish. I'm really grateful ;-)

      Delete
  14. Congrats on your PR! You ran a solid race and like you, I always wonder if those slow crowded starts actually give me an edge when they seem so frustrating.

    Bill Rodgers served pasta at the carb-loading party the night before the 2010 Boston Marathon, but just as we were about to reach where he was serving, the organizers had us turn left and we ended up getting our food from non-famous volunteers. Also, that same weekend we watched Joan Benoit Samuelson beat her husband in the Sunday morning 5K. The announcer was pretty funny saying something like, "There goes Joan, beating her husband again."

    ReplyDelete