Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Bix 7

 Greetings All:

It is the morning after the world (and certainly Quad City) famous Bix 7 road race, or as us locals simply call it, "Bix."  The "Bix" began in 1975 in conjunction with the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival. Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke was the Janis Joplin of his time. That only was he a brilliant musician who helped usher in the Jazz age, he was also, unfortunately, a chronic alcoholic and abuser (or he might have referred to it as a "fine purveyor" of the various varieties of bathtub gin. In a tragic foretelling of future musicians, he died well before his time at 28. This was largely forgotten for many years until someone discovered his music and recognize a connection to Davenport at some time, a jazz festival was organized and musicians from around the Midwest and I presume the nation with convergent downtown Davenport to play the kind of Dixieland jazz that was all the rage in the era of rumble seats. 

(Photo of Bix Beiderbecke- Doyle's Academy of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio., courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, public domain,

In 1975, 84 runners took part in the inaugural big seven Road race. (To read more about the race, please visit the website and the history section-  I am not sure why it is 7 miles. Just speaking for myself, I think the experience would be just fine at four or five miles. In any event, it became seven. The race has evolved into perhaps THE major annual event in Davenport, perhaps the entire Quad Cities . According to this morning's paper (The Quad-City Times) 15,011 runners and walkers took part in the race. For those you who are not familiar with this race, it's not just 7 miles. But it's 7 miles up to significant hills in Davenport, Brady Street and McClellan night. For me the devil is in the details as in on the way back into running a Kirkwood which is a nasty little climb the price you pay for the nifty little decline about miles two and three.

These races are something I look forward to and enjoy being a participant.  I know plenty of people who watch it and have a ton of fun.  (and after all, is not that the point?  There is a reason we go to work/school and the Bix 7 is not one of them.)  Putting on the bib, the running "D Clip" (the thing in your shoe that tells your official time start to finish line) and picking out the clothes you are going to run in (that criteria was based on what was clean and in a nearby laundry basket) are part of the process of the pre-race.  I suspect for some this process takes on almost ritualistic overtones.  For me, I'm excited just to get a good parking spot.  

And I did.  It was not too far from the starting line and more important, a shorter walk from where I planned to conclude my race day activities.  (More on that later.)  It was by coincidence that I ended up parking here:

Now can you think of a better place to park for Bix?  Neither can I.

So there is the little matter of actually running the race.  As I mentioned, it is not a flat route and the hills do get your attention.  I had done some running before the race but as for actual "training," well, not so much.  I think the longest run I had gotten in was about four miles.  Olympian Juma Ikanga is quoted saying, “The will to win means nothing without the will to train.”

Now you tell me.

Actually, the race started fine.  I had run into Bill, my friend from work as we were making our way to the corral where we had to line up with the masses.  I stayed with him until the second water station, then lost him.  At that point, I settled into what I thought was a good but sane pace.  Along with the crowd and the several bands playing along the path, I had my iPhone and a variety of song.  Usually, I listen to books as when you run as slow as me, you do not need music.  However, for these kind of things, I make an exception.

So here I am chugging along Kirkwood, heading to Brady street and trying to figure out why it is so much longer on the way back.  Oh, that's right, I didn't train that much.  Oops.  I am getting to the end of my play list when thru my headphones comes The Boss singing "Born in the U.S.A."  Actually announcing that The Boss will  soon be on the mic is the haunting "DA, da, da, dadada..." notes of a keyboard I think.  At this point, I had no idea what was next on the playlist but that was all I had to hear.

At this point, the blister on my right big toe is yelling at me, "Hey MORON!  See what happens when you don't TRAIN?!  How's THAT feel??"  Thanks, appreciate it.  Then for some reason, my head swivels left.  There, on the corner of some forgotten cross street is a house with American flags on the fence with one large one, flying on a pole.  Here comes The Boss, "...I was born in the U.S.A.!"  I feel just fine and even the blister is shamed into shutting up.

Then the coolest part of the race happened for me.  Shortly after the flag house I saw a ginned-up slip 'n slide set up on the boulevard.  Despite the cool temperatures I saw several people take the running plunge and embrace the water and the fun.  I almost missed seeing the message spelled out in simple green letters.  "FOR BOSTON" 

You had to be there to appreciate the sincerity of the message.  I am so damn grateful I got to be there to witness it.  Blister, what blister?

So about 10 minutes later, it's over.  I've crossed the finish line.  Congrats to me.  As I walk (er hobble) towards the the post-race party, I see this:

Ah, the Palmer College of College of Chiropractic tent.  My wife is a graduate of this fine school and the school offers adjustments to the runners and walkers as they finish the event.  I met "Bill," whom I thought was a student (turns out he's just a really, really young looking doctor) who in a few moments rendered unto me that most magical of sounds: CCCRRAACKK!!!  In Chiropractic parlance, that is called an audible.  I call that nirvana. 

Now, off to the post-race party.  As I slurped down a Diet Coke, I run into Ed Froehlich.  Ed is a local legend and has directed the past 30-something Bix races.  He is Bix personified.  Although he had more important business to attend to, he was gracious enough to shake my hand.  I had to ask him as I gestured to the crowd.  "So Ed, did you ever envision this in your wildest dreams?"  He smiled and shook his head as he moved along.  Something told me he had something like this EXACTLY in mind.  All great leaders do.

There was the not insignificant matter of beer.  One of the drawbacks (among others) of being a slow runner is that by the time you get to the finish line, you're waiting a L-O-N-G time for cup of draft beet that is (at best) 1/3 foam.  I elected to head down to the street party and buy my beer.  Sometimes, you really get what you pay for.

I ran into a few friends at the outdoor set up with the bars that anchor Third Street between Ripley and Harrison streets.  Although I did not make it into Mac's Tap, here is a photo of one of the coolest bar signs I know:

And with that, my Bix experience ended.  It was a wonderful time.  As far as my time, I am pleased to report I did even better (officially) than I originally thought- 1:18.50.  Who knows, maybe one year I'll break an hour.  Then I may take the next year off and watch.  Either way, I hope that if I am in town I will be a part of Bix and if you are in town, I hope you will as well. 

You don't have to win to compete.  To me, that is what makes it all worth while.  See you at the bottom of Brady Street next year.

Be well,

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