So, um, yeah. This was an AMAZING weekend! I can’t think of any better way to spend 30+ hours, sleepless, hungry, and stuck in a cramped van with 7 other people! We laughed, we dozed, we made “go-go juice”, things got seriously adult-rated pretty quickly after the sun went down. Hahaha!
The relay itself was such a large event, and there were so many things that happened that I’ve decided to break the recap into 3 parts. Mostly to give each portion of the relay I did it’s own retelling. The views and the route were just so stunningly beautiful! Even the portion of the race I did in the pitch dark of a star-filled sky were amazing. And I think the only way to do those runs justice is to retell them as their own run.
What is the Bourbon Chase?
It’s a 200 mile relay race that tours through horse farms and small towns of central Kentucky along the portion of the state known for the bourbon distilleries. It’s typically set in the fall, so the color of the trees along these horse farm and hill riddled country sides are brilliant.
The run itself is broken up into 25 legs. Each of varying distance and difficulty. Most of my miles were 4.7-6.3 distances, and two of my runs were rated at as “difficult” and the third was “moderate”. There were tons of hills, loads of white transport vans, and a lot of inappropriate jokes. I had a runner’s high that lasted 48 hours. Fact. Have you ever had one last that long?
Is there bourbon?
Hell yes. Though the race rules discouraged us from partaking during the actual race – the distilleries were open at all hours – giving out samples and bourbon balls. Hell. I even bought a jar of bourbon honey after my final run.
I was the second runner in van 2. That made me runner #8 of 12. Because our van had the later start, we were able to meet up in Lexington about 3-4 hours ahead of our start time and grab some lunch before heading out to Maker’s Mark Distillery. Each of the exchanges where you actually trade off from van 1 to van 2 were huge! Because, duh, there was double the amount of people there at the time.
We were able to check in, get our race shirts, and watch the safety video, which, although typical goofy for safety video, was actually well done. We also got to wander around the distillery some. I toyed with the idea of buying bourbon, but decided against it due to the cost.
We also had some time to decorate the van. This is a “thing” for these type of races, decorating the vans to outdo each other…. or maybe just so that you can find which van is yours in the sea of white transport vans.
Our first runner for van two took off, nerves and all (it was her first time doing this relay, just like me) and we piled into the van quickly – having to rush to the next relay point so she could hand off the baton to me for my first run in the BC.
The day was warming up still as I hit the porta potties at the next check point and watched for runner 7 to come into sight from the hillside.
I also couldn’t have asked for a better day. Really. It was so damn beautiful and the skies were a perfect blue. I worried about missing a turn or getting lost along the route, so I took a picture of the route directions to have handy on my phone, just in case. I didn’t need to worry, however. The race did a great job of marking the roadway and the route. There were constantly signs visible.
I got the hand-off and took off down the road, struggling with my other worry: Maintaining the pace that our team Captain had me predicted to run (8:10min/mile). In a normal race, that’s usually no problem, but like any true worrier, I was looking ahead to the night time run and the run the next day with no sleep and all the muscles tightened up. I was also so deeply inside my head…it was awful. I hate running by myself, and I hate doing so where the only distraction is what my brain provides me. The race restricted headphone use severely. To the point of disqualification of runners and time penalties. So for my first 4.8 miles? I ran in silence.
At the start it wasn’t a big deal, I figured I’d catch up with the two girls who were ahead of me and we’d chat and become friends for the miles. That’s what I do at races, after all. Alas. Within the first 100yards the course took a right turn and started a big hill climb. The girls ahead of me started walking the hill pretty early on. And I, ever unaware of my reverse-gravity syndrome on hills, sped up the hill like a dumbass. I was winded at the top, alone, and looking ahead at three more rolling hills to come.
This was going to be a hard run.
Maybe I should have looked at the elevation chart a little bit…plotted out some attack plan for those hills? Strategy. Yeah?
Instead, I consoled myself by repeating what I told runner 7 before she headed out on her run: “you can do anything for five miles.” I even lied to myself. Telling my legs that I only had two more miles to go. When I really had 3.8. I sucked it up though, and started looking around. The beauty of the run really stunned me. This place, though a hell made of hills, was gorgeous. I felt lucky to experience it the way I was.
I passed over a small lake, and wound up another hill. Crossed a busy highway where there were no road marshals to stop traffic for me – just a large fire engine with staff waiting to take action if I got hit by a car… Then it was a left turn onto a final down hill and into this tiny town.
I felt like I was flying – and really, my splits ( a little off because I forgot to start my watch right away) showed that I managed to meet my Captain’s pace expectations: 7:45; 8:34; 8:25; and 6:55 – the overall pace of 8:06. The fact that I told my Captain I could guarantee 8:45min/miles and she argued that I said 8:10s became a running argument as the relay went on. I still doubted that I would pull that time off at 0400 in the morning.
Post-run, each runner marked off the leg they completed, and then tallied up their roadkill spotting.
And then the van hurried onward to the next spot to change runners again. I settled into my seat, feeling good and tired…and hungry. My runner’s high was starting and I kicked back with some music to unwind while we traveled point to point… finishing out each runner from our van… experiencing “van envy” for the van with team Moofia…. and laughing so hard we all were in tears.
Part 2 will take us through the evening hours, the battle of “not driving the van into the water”, the go-go juice, the moment we all lost our minds and our van got …uh… happy, and, of course, my first time running night time hours in a race.