Feel Great! The Bix in ’08!

By Matt Vortman

Visit Bix 7 WebsiteThe Bix 7, a seven mile road race held each year in Davenport, Iowa is hands-down my favorite road race to participate in. The race is named after a famous jazz musician, Bix Beiderbecke who was born in Davenport. I was introduced to this race while at St. Ambrose University in 2002 and have done it ever since.

There are several events that surround the race each year. The Wells Fargo Street Festival, Alcoa’s Annual Junior Bix 7, and the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival are held each year in conjunction with the actual road race. RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is also held during the week leading up to the Bix. So if you like running, biking, music, eating and drinking; this race is for you!

The Bix 7 is famous for the hill at the start of the race called Brady Street. It’s 0.43 miles long starting down by the Mississippi River and heading up into Davenport. There are numerous hills throughout the course, but Brady is what the Bix is known for. The course itself is an out-and-back heading towards Bettendorf and then ending back down on 4th street in Davenport. Usually held on the last Saturday of July, the Bix 7 is known to be tough, hot, and crowded.

Each year, I come with new goals. How fast can I make it up Brady Street? Will I have to stop and walk at KAB Hill? Will I die on Kirkwood Boulevard? Can I set a PR? This year, my goal was to finish under 56 minutes. It’s a power race, not a fast race and I thought I could manage 8 minute miles. I had not trained specifically for this race. It’s funny, six years ago I trained for this race and thought seven miles was an eternity. Running had always been punishment for missing free throws in basketball practice. Now, it’s a way of life for me!

This year, I was lucky to start right behind the “elite runners”. For six years, I have paced myself up Brady Street, working through the crowd and saving my legs for the other hills. This year, I decided I was going to see if I could actually run up it! So when the gun went off at 8:02, I charged up Brady Street! I actually felt pretty good at the start, but by the time I got up to Brady’s peak, my legs were burning. Ok, burning was an understatement!! I felt like I had just run a half marathon and needed to sit down. As Brady Street flattened out and we turned over onto Kirkwood, I slowly felt my legs come back to me. Note to self: pace yourself up Brady next year! So, as I continued down Kirkwood, I started to feel better and kept a 7:43 pace for the first mile.

View the Bix Course Videos

By the second mile, I was back to my old self. I actually got to run with Bill Rodgers for most of the second mile. Bill Rodgers won several (4, I believe) New York City and Boston Marathons. Along with Joan Samuelson, he is Bix 7 legend. It was interesting to hear everybody cheer him on and root for him. He was very appreciative to the applause and waved as much as he could. I tried to take that in as long as I could, but even though he’s 60, I couldn’t keep up with Bill Rodgers! I finished the second mile with a pace of 7:04.

During miles three and four, I felt pretty good. There are two steep, quick kills (KAB) that tend to slow most runners down, but overall I was able to manage 7:43 and 8:23 during the third and fourth mile respectively. At the turnaround, I stopped and grabbed some water. I have yet to manage the ability to slam water or Gatorade while running. How is that done? Mile five and six are the toughest part of the Bix, in my opinion.

This is where you head back up Kirkwood Boulevard from the Mississippi River, back towards Brady Street. It’s a very slow, miserable incline the entire way. The hill at Brady Street is famous, but the incline at Kirkwood will make you cry. I’ve seen several runners get sick, pass out, cry and/or quit on this hill during the years.

Fortunately, is was pleasant and cool this year. The heat was not a factor in this race like it usually is. Also, the crowds and bands are great at this part of the race. They do their best to cheer on all the runners, offering them water and ice. I managed an 8:20 pace during mile 5 and 8:31 pace during mile six. I was pleased with this time. I usually shoot for 10 minute miles heading back up Kirkwood, so when I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace, I knew I was running a good race.

Finally, mile seven ends the race and you have to go back down Brady Street. Some say it’s harder to go down Brady than it is to run up it; to me going down Brady Street is so much fun. I usually just let myself go and fly down towards the turn at 4th Street. I could see where if you had knee trouble, going down Brady Street wouldn’t be much fun. I finished the last mile with a 7:40 pace and finished with a time of 55:18. It wasn’t a PR, but I finished under 56, which was my goal.

After the race, I looked for members of the Cutting Edge Running Club, from my hometown of Winchester, Illinois. I also looked for old classmates. The Schnucks Post-Race Party is actually a lot of fun! Often times, it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends and compared how the race turned out. This year, 13,711 runners took part in the Bix 7. This was the fewest runners they’ve had since 1990. Unfortunately, flooding and gas prices, kept some away.

I plan on running the Bix as long as my body will let me. It’s just tradition. I’ve never met a runner, who’s done the Bix once. It’s a well organized race, and almost everybody comes back to do it again. For me, it’s part competition and part nostalgia. Being in my upper 20’s, its fun to compare my times now to when I was in my early 20’s and just starting to run.

It’s fun to strategize and think of different ways run the course. I also love to hang out with old friends and meet new ones. Its also a chance to head to Whitey’s and grab some ice cream, head to Rookies and order my favorite beer, and visit all the other places I used to go when I was in graduate school. Davenport is my home away from home, and the Bix 7 is my favorite race of the year.

– Matt Vortman

“Wild Hares – Guest Star Blog”  is written by our favorite rabbits.  We will display a new blog post, every week or so from one of our viewers.   Email Dan for more information on how you can be a “Wild Hare.”