Month: July 2019

BIX 7 HITS 45 AND SAYS SO LONG TO ED FROELICH

Davenport, IA. – The Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race is one of the American Road Race classics. Now it is 45th year, the Bix 7 is celebrating the final year under the leadership of Ed Froelich who is in his 40th year at the helm as race director.

In his term, Ed transformed the BIX from a local/regional fun run to a national and internationally celebrated event while helping transform the sport of road racing from its amateur past to its professional present.

Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch announced Ed Froelich Way along Third Street near the Bix finish at today’s pre-race gala.

With the invitation of Marathon superstar Bill Rodgers in 1980 after the USA announced its Olympic boycott, the BIX field doubled in size. Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter also was an early contestant during the Froelich years, and when women’s marathon world record holder Joan Benoit Samuelson began her annual trek to Iowa in 1983, the legacy of excellence was set. International stars just kept on coming.

With the aid of his long time and beyond-able assistant Ellen Hermiston and a cadre of committee heads that Ed tasks then lets alone to do their jobs, the Bix has become a well-oiled machine and the pride of the Quad Cities.

With retiring T.C. Cornelis broadcasting his 40th straight Bix 7

I have been fortunate to be part of the broadcast team on KWQC-TV6 for 27 years, working alongside local legend Thom “TC” Cornelis who will be hosting his 40th and final Bix tomorrow morning.

Another great lineup of athletes will compete in the 45th Bix and you can watch a live stream on KWQC beginning at 7:30 a.m. central time.

Part of what makes the Bix special is its race course. Here’s a preview.

The Bix 7 miles

Mile one is dominated by the iconic Brady Street hill, a quarter mile beast with a 7% – 9% degree grade, similar to climbs Tour de France riders face in the Pyrenees and the Alps.

Mile two descends along tree-lined Kirkwood Boulevard, a blazing downhill that is a Siren’s call to speed. But beware, because mile three is a roller coaster, the first half after you turn off Kirkwood going uphill – and it’s a pretty severe little uphill at about 2 1/2 miles – before the next half of mile 3 is downhill as you approach the Mississippi River on McClellan Street.

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Statues of Bill Rodgers & Joan Samuelson were installed along the River in Davenport in 1999. Ed Froelich’s statue went up several years later.

Then we turn around just before McClellan intersects at State Street running along the river.  Now we go back uphill heading toward mile 4 passing many beautiful homes perched atop their well-groomed lawns.

But the climbing is far from over. Now there’s another hump requiring serious attention. No time to peruse the blossoming gardens. And I wouldn’t like to have to mow the lawns on these slopes, either.

Yep, the 4th mile is definitely back up again and then just after the fourth mile sign hanging over the road, you take a right hand turn back up onto Kirkwood where that second mile that you blitzed down is now a wall to climb in mile five.

The course finally flattens out as you pass 5 1/2 miles approaching the end of Kirkwood and the left turn back onto Brady Street. But there is no cruising ahead. Instead, it’s a screaming downhill after all the uphill running. And that steep a drop just pounds your quads as the thick crowds urge you on.

The stretch run down Brady Street

You blow by the start line before turning hard left on Third Street for the final half-mile to the finish line. But don’t be deceived by the huge Bix 7 sign hanging off the train trestle. That’s not the finish. You still have several blocks to go.

Yes, sir, the Bix 7 is a real race course, a real challenge, befitting one of the American road race classics. Congratulations, Ed, you’ve done yourself and your community proud.

Fast Eddie Froelich signing an autograph for 23-time Bix runner Dan Kedley of Lowden, Iowa.

END

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STARS LOOK TO REGAIN THEIR GLITTER IN SAN DIEGO

San Diego, CA – With the IAAF World Championships scheduled for October this year in Doha, Qatar, everyone’s schedule has been thrown back a month and you never know who’s going to show up where on any given night in the world of track and field.

Last night at San Diego’s Mesa College, two world-class runners joined tracksters young and old at the 8th Summer Nights Track & Field Series meet as they sought to re-find the form that had previously brought them to the very heights of their sport.

Two-time Olympic 1500-meter medalist Nick Willis and three-time sprint medalist Tori Bowie feel the clock ticking and know it waits on no one.

Willis warming up

Nick is now 36 years old, yet the University of Michigan grad and New Zealand legend is still on the hunt for that elusive fitness that produced a silver medal in Beijing ‘08 and then a bronze in Rio in 2016.

Last night we found Nick at Mesa College testing himself in the 800 meters just one night after running 1500 meters at the Sunset Series up north at Azusa Pacific. There he fashioned a 3:37.8, good for fourth place. Not a usual position for Nick, but better than what 2019 has shown so far.

“I’ve been last in my last two races,” Nick told me after his 1:49.23 win over stubborn Daniel Herrera’s 1:49.27 and Eric Avila‘s 1:50.51. “I ran here because I need to get my confidence back.”

Mac Fleet paced the first 400

You wouldn’t think a two-time Olympic medalist would be short on confidence, but as we all know, foot racing is a humbling game and a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately one, too.

At the bell!

Yes, we’re only as good as our last race, or in Nick’s case, his last two.  And when they don’t go well, even a glittering past doesn’t mean too much or offer much consolation, especially as we grow older.

Into the homestretch (L-R: Daniel Herrera, Nick Willis, Eric Avila

In his last Diamond League outing, Nick barely broke 4:00 at the Bowerman Mile at the Pre Classic at Stanford on June 30 as things just haven’t snapped into place in 2019 like they once did. He finished 14th out of 14 starters.  

“When I was younger my 5 km and cross country strength would automatically transfer to track speed,“ Nick explained. “But my muscles don’t come around so easily anymore. So this is my Tiger Woods’ season to make a comeback. Thing is, I feel healthier than ever but that doesn’t mean the elasticity transfers as quickly as it once did. But tonight I came out and ran 52 seconds for the first 400 (paced by former 2x NCAA 1500m champ for Oregon and local University High School star Mac Fleet) and I think it’s starting to come around.”

Nick will head back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan today before flying back to Europe for a 1500 meters in Heusden in 10 days in the Netherlands. The very next day he will run a mile in London as he looks to find that fugitive form before the World Championships in Doha.

Several hundred people were on hand for last night’s Summer Series meet, now in its 10th season under the guidance of local running guru, Coach Paul Greer. The other world-classer the crowd was fortunate to see testing her fitness before the U.S. Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa (July 25-28) was sprinter Tori Bowie, the three-time Olympic medalist from Rio 2016 (gold in the 4 X 100, silver in the 100m, and bronze in the 200m), then two-time World Champion in 2017 (open 100m & the 4 X 100m.)

2018 ended early for Tori when she tore a quad muscle at the Pre Classic in late May (5th, 11.03). It’s been a year of battling back from injury and off-track issues, as well, including changing home bases and coaches. She hasn’t gone sub-11 since 2017. At the Pre Classic this June 30th, she finished 7th in 11.30.

Last night at Mesa, Tori ran the 100 again in 11.50, which she said “was pathetic.”  But her new coach Craig Poole, former head women’s coach at BYU for 30 years and then director and head coach at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista just south of San Diego said, “she achieved all the goals she was looking for. Time was not the goal here, she was just working on some technical stuff.”

Working back into form is the kind of thing local meets like the Summer Nights Series can offer a top athlete that big-time meets can’t. At the same time, having Olympic athletes perform on the same track inspires the youngsters on hand.

Nick remarked how New Zealand had this kind of local meet all around through their summer months, but he never finds them here in the U. S.

Nick addresses the crowd

Before taking off, Nick addressed the crowd of track enthusiasts on another ideal San Diego summer night.

“Get off the concrete and find some beautiful trails and enjoy your body to the best of your ability.”

Yes, do it while you can, kids, cause gravity is not a user-friendly force field and it will exact a toll. Just ask Nick and Tori.

The sun slowly dipped beneath the west grandstands, the light faded as the final events were contested. Then the small crowd dispersed knowing many will meet up again for the 9th Summer Nights meet on July 17th.

It had been a good evening. Pleasantly fatigued was the feeling left behind, which is how famed New Zealand distance coach Arthur Lydiard used to explain the feeling of being in full training mode.

And so it goes.

Full ahead!

 

END

P.S.  Nick Willis was named to the 2019 University of Michigan Hall of Honor the next day. Congrats, Nick. Best of luck ahead.

PURPOSE IN THE PROCESS

Let’s just consider running shoes for a second, shall we?  I mean, the name itself, not just their brands or models. “Running shoes”, as opposed to shoes that we wear while running. But doesn’t it seem like we are getting closer to the reality of that literal description with each passing marketing season?

The way modern running shoes are being designed it won’t be too long before some built-in flinging device will be inserted to take the nasty little requirement of generating our own power out of the equation.

Soon we will begin to hear about the first sub-1 hour marathon before Eliud Kipchoge has a chance to fully recover from his first sub-2. And everyone will applaud but like the proliferation of home runs in Major League Baseball this year, the performances in one era will be impossible to compare against another and something fundamental will be lost. (more…)

PEACHTREE 2019 PREVIEW

Atlanta, Ga. – For those too young to remember, the nation was even more divided in 1970 than it is today. 50 years ago an idealistic generation of Baby Boomers were still trying to change the world through sit-ins and political protest, primarily to end the war in Vietnam. That May 4th, the killing of four unarmed students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard mobilized student unrest across the country. 

Yet just two months later, 110 intrepid pioneers (107 men & 3 women) were on their feet in Atlanta running to change nothing more than their own lives. And in so doing, they helped begin a whole new social movement that one person and one step at a time accomplished what sitting-in as a group never could.

Thus was the first AJC Peachtree Road Race born, inaugurating a tradition and cause that now stretches half a century long and 2 million finishers deep.

With such a legacy to serve, the world’s largest 10K has welcomed back not just many of the Original 110 who ran that first Peachtree 10K, but has assembled perhaps the deepest fields of pro talent ever, with bonuses of $50,000 going to any one of the foot racers or wheelchair athletes who can break the very sturdy event records. (more…)