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)|
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 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.
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....
|I did it!!!|
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.