McFarland, USA

mcfarland, usaHave you ever watched a movie where you instantly find yourself cheering for and hoping that the main characters win? I do. I’m a sucker for underdog movies and especially sports movies with underdogs as the main characters. I checked out McFarland, USA not realizing really what this movie was about, except there was running involved, Kevin Costner was in it, it was based on the 1987 true story, and was also a Disney movie.

In McFarland, USA, Kevin Costner stars as Jim White, coach of a football team in a predominantly white, influential, and affluent neighborhood, until he has a falling out with administration and is forced to move to the only place where he can find a job, at McFarland, a primarily Latino high school in an economically challenged town in the Central Valley of California, where farms can be found everywhere. Here, Jim and his family are forced to live on a teacher’s salary where he makes less than usual when he is forced to get creative to make a cross country team when 1) he loses his job as assistant football couch and 2) he notices that the students in his P.E. class do not have cars, are running from the fields to school to home, and that they don’t actually mind running in class. Running long distances is very easy to them, so he decides to create a cross country team, the first in McFarland’s history.

With a first-time cross country coach and a first-time team, they meet adversity and are forced to band together to show their families and community that they can win and are actually on the same playing level as the rest of the teams they are competing against. This description may sound cheesy and like the classic underdog story, but I encourage you to check this movie out, as the directors make sure to flesh out and give lives to all of the people in Jim’s life, the people in his players’ lives, and in the community all around them, making this movie entertaining no matter what character you find yourself relating to the most.

Road to Failure, pt. 2

In the early 1980’s, the local Oscar Meyer plant pulled up its ramps and closed the killfloor. However, the storied tradition continues the last week of July as squealing tons of undulating meat pack Brady Street in the name of “fun.”

All of which, it turns out, got seeded ahead of me for the 36th Annual Quad City Times Bix 7. Apparently an answer of “0” on the registration for prior Bix finishes funnels one into the pile with certain species of mold, molasses, and garden slugs. Silly me, I forgot to pack my salt shaker!

That being said, I can’t really complain about the finish. It’s a number that reflects an outdated engine being fueled by aggression and liquid-cooled by a torrential downpour.  As a reward, it’s time to hang up the $120 shoes that cost 17 cents in foam rubber and Malaysian labor in exchange for a world where one doesn’t walk down steps like Frankenstein.

In retrospect, I learned an awful lot about this little subculture those sweltering Thursday nights and that timed monsoon morning.

-The finish-line beverages they serve to simultaneously carbo-load and rehydrate you are especially refreshing at 930AM.  What better way to celebrate the legacy of young Beiderbecke?

-The people that live along the route are a special breed of patient, compassionate, and proud.  Your selfless hose work and ice cubes every Thursday night are a testament to the human spirit.

-Antagonizing people whose bodies are in oxygen deprivation with a lit cigarette is not funny. Seriously dude, you have a problem. That problem, incidentally, is that you’re plagued by erroneously finding your schtick amusing.  Your sidewalk privileges are revoked effective immediately.

-Don’t respond with an impudent tone when it’s suggested you double-knot your laces prior to the race.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a one-floor elevator ride to catch.

Bix Weekend is Here!

It’s that time again – Davenport puts on it’s party hat (and running shoes) and hosts the annual Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival and the world-renowned  Bix 7 Road Race. There’s plenty for everyone – music, shopping, running (or walking) so get out there and soak up some of the great atmosphere that helps define the city of Davenport.

Because of the crowds and chaos in the downtown, the Main Library will be closed all day on Saturday, July 24. However, both the Fairmount Branch Library and the Eastern Avenue Branch library will be open their regular hours, 9:30am to 5:30pm. Main will reopen on Monday at usual.

And be sure to check the blog next week and find out how our own Bill did in his first Bix 7 race!

Have a great holiday weekend!

Road to failure… pt. 1

In case you’re wondering, it has a grade of 7-9%.

I know a few masochists taking part in the area’s premiere social/sporting event, the Quad-City Times Bix 7.

It was my hope this post will collect new knowledge, as well as construct a semblance of personal commitment resulting from the embarassment of not not taking the plunge and registering.  I started writing several weeks ago before the registration price went up, after this brave young lady was randomly chosen to draw the world’s spotlight for a shot at a small fortune. There would be no jackpot victory with any kind of Ed Froehlich advantage thrown thus beginner’s way.

The nadir of six months of accumulated self esteem occurred at the first of four Bix at 6 events, designed to fine tune the mettle of participants.  Methinks these events were designed out of necessity, as this footrace is clearly the magnum opus of convicted Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele.  However, by the looks of the participants, these training runs are more recess time for human gazelles than the potentially injury-prone.

The Bix 7 is what is it means to be a Quad-Citian.  It started as a Prohibition-era cornet playing phenom of dubious repute, became a little jazz festival spawned out of civic pride in the 70’s, and then blossomed into a monolith that almost eclipses our little burg.

However, given the Bix’s history and global renown, there is a surprising dearth of information out there when Google searching for “tips”, “strategy”, and “advice” outside of the sagelike wisdom to drink water and prepare for hills…for real people, that’s embarassing.   It’s 2010 in the age of global GPS and I sadly have to straw poll my neighbors for data.

Advice would be great, as there are hills, and there are HILLS.  Lower-case hills are what are alive with the sound of music.  Bix 7 HILLS are acts of hatred borne of a sadist’s wicked imagination.  They are the hills your grandparents walked up both ways to get to school in the snow.  As I sat there at the base of on mile 3 profusely swearing, I felt like Medic Wade in Saving Private Ryan.

So here are some techniques developed by a pale, sickly amateur, since over several decades of accumulated experience no one has posted any truly prescriptive course advice on the Internet.

1- Run the four Bix at 6 practices.  They are free, and an excellent value because of the safety personnel and water stations.  If you go in there half-cocked, you will have a rude awakening.

2- Take Brady excessively  slow so you have something left.

3- Take two waters at the turnaround and nurse off the second’s cup of ice, also pop 4 GU Chomps

4- Drink a water before the race and eat a bunch of rice at lunch and a couple bananas in the afternoon (can’t rightfully say if this helped, but it didn’t hurt).  Fine for 6pm, not sure about how this would work at 8am.

5– Fire off a rallying soundtrack at about 1.5-2 miles left as you pass Arlington or Davenport street as a reward for making it back up the cruel ascent.

6– Yes, you do need to prepare for hills, but where, what, why and how safely is what no one is covering.  Do a few circuits at Longview Park Rock Island’s bike path in your off days.  Sidewalks are for people paying attention.  Don’t be the person with the MP3 player oblivious to vehicles making turns.  Pedestrians have an obligation to be courteous that comes with their right of way.

Bix at Sixes 1-75:38 2-74:41 3-72:13 4-74:31 (Extreme humidity, for which I am told there is no known cure)  Not exactly a Kenyan pace, but it’s as far into the red as I can push this old jalopy.

With one week left, shin splints and knee pain are signs this bag of bones is betraying me.  Progress toward this foolhardy goal ebbs away with every day of inactivity.  Finish line “refreshments” and 35 dollars spent in vain are the only thing that will rouse me out of bed next week.  The forecast for running through a 7-mile sauna isn’t helping matters either…

Chariots of Fire

Who can forget the iconic slow-motion Vangelis theme music? Or the race around the courtyard of Trinity College? Or Eric Liddell’s race in which he is tripped and  heroically rallies.

Winning the 1981 Oscar for Best Picture, Chariots of Fire had it all. Stylish 1920’s fashions, beautiful Cambridge buildings (actually Eton), lush British estates, and a glimpse into history. (The main characters do have some basis in fact).

The title is taken from a William Blake poem:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:                                                                               Bring me my Arrows of desire:                                                                                     Bring me my spear;  O clouds unfold!                                                                         Bring me my chariot of fire.

The film embodies the Olympic spirit and is just what you need to get inspired for marathon Olympic viewing.

Marathon? How adorable.

Imagine a race of superhumans capable of tearing off 300-mile jaunts on foot in fits of blinding speed than span days on end with little sustenance.  They exist in a remote region of the planet Earth away from all human beings.  They are impervious to most disease and live to an extraordinary age.  Oh yeah, they don’t wear shoes.

Now, stop imagining.  They are the Tarahumara tribe from Mexico’s Copper Canyons.  Perhaps the secret to their powers is their geographic remoteness or lack of roads to their hidden homes carved out of rock.  To get even somewhat close to the Tarahumara requires traversing perilous terrain guarded by bands of murderous drug cartels.

The author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall, is an aspiring runner plagued by injury.  He seeks out this mythical people to learn of their secrets.  He discovers a peaceful and protectively withdrawn people that crosstrains for their multimarathon races with gallons of corn beer and nightlong dancing jags.  What’s amazing about this New York Times bestseller is that isn’t fantasy at all.

Big Weekend in Davenport!

Bix 7Just in case you’re new to the Quad Cities, here’s a heads up – this is a big weekend for events in Davenport! The Bix 7 road race, featuring world-class runners and ordinary-Joes alike, gets started at 8am today. And then the celebration of all things Bix Beiderbecke gets going with the Bix Biederbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, filling the Davenport riverfront and various locations with the sounds of jazz.

Because of the crowds and congestion, the Davenport Main Library will not be open today, Saturday July 25. However, the Fairmount Branch library will be open their usual hours, 9:30am to 5:30pm. Both buildings will be open their regular hours on Monday.

Now get out there and soak up some jazz! Have a great weekend!

Bix Weekend is Here!

The annual celebration of the music of Bix Beiderbecke is in full swing today and tomorrow. Be sure to get out there and participate, whether you’re running or walking in the nationally renowned Bix 7 road race or enjoying music of some of the world’s finest musicians at the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival.

Just a reminder, because of the congestion in downtown Davenport today, the Main library will be closed. The Fairmount Street library will be open 9:30am-5:30pm. Both buildings will be open their regular hours on Monday.

Have a great weekend!