This is a three-part (One for each leg of the race I ran) recap. The whole process of team relay racing is so involved, I didn’t want to drown you lovely readers in a giant post…. and I didn’t want to leave anything out. The course was so beautiful, and the weather was perfect for running, and I found many things on this run – I felt each run was due it’s own story.
After the first run; a “behind the scenes” of van 2’s down-time adventures:
I snuggled up under a sweatshirt and rested, wondering about how we were going to pull off dinner. The rule was that the van didn’t stop until everyone was back on board. Runner 3 for our van had a long haul of a run – about 8 miles, I believe, and when he made his way to the next exchange point, the sun was already setting. Race rules required lights and reflective vests. So as the sun set, the glow sticks went up. So. Many. Glow sticks.
We also experienced a bit of “van envy” for team Moofia’s van. I think I mentioned this, but you have to understand. They went all out. Eyes that were spot lights, disco lights, a loud speaker that moo’ed….. even an udder.
As we waited for the fourth runner out of our van (Runner 9), the driver (pilot) and navigator (co-pilot) along with runner 7, hopped out of the van and started applying glow sticks to the exterior with reckless abandon. Soon the loud talking from outside became a sort of hysterical laughter and giggling that could only indicate one kind of joke: Penis jokes. All three, all women, had applied a rather large glow stick and deemed it to be…uh…much like the male anatomy part…and then continued to decorate it as such.
I went in search of chap stick and available bathrooms…finding a gas station with a huge bonfire set up in front of it near the exchange point… Yes. I was only mildly apprehensive about this arrangement – as the prospect of food trailer food to satisfy my serious hunger overrode any sense of not wanting to be blown up.
Runner 7 and I purchased two $3 cheese burgers and were instantly in heaven. Then it was back into the van (newly adorned with what we referred to as its “strap on”) and on to the next spot. Our Captain was out, runner her leg of the race, and things in the van only continued to “flow in the gutter”. The Captain’s husband, the Doctor, spelled out “That’s what she said” on the side of the van. After all, this was the phrase that rang out 200 times if 10 during the short ride from the gas station fire to this strange field.
Our Captain exchanged the timing wrist slap with our final runner out of van 2 and we were quickly making plans for figuring out our way to our lodging for the short break we had. Runner 12 came in and we handed the timing thing off to van 1 again. A quick meal of good, but terrifying, chilli dogs near the exchange point in town and then it was off into the sticks to find a cabin on a lake. The bridge that normally takes vehicles to the cabin was out, and the instructions actually said, “Go straight, follow road around, do not drive into water”. It was 11PM, darker than good black coffee, and the road was…uh…tight.
No worries, dear reader, we made it to the lake house and split up quickly to crash for sleep as fast as possible – hoping to get as much as possible. Luckily, thanks to my husband, I was exhausted to start the whole trip, so once the Captain pointed me to a place, I was OUT. A solid 1.5 hours of sleep and it was time to get up and head out for the next major exchange. There was no grumbling, no fighting, and no issues with sharing the single bathroom among 8 people. We quickly back out into the now freezing world. The temps dropped low in the night and were at frost levels when we got back onto the roadway, again doing a good job of not ‘driving into the water’. Our driver, a seasoned veteran of the Bourbon Chase method, quickly mixed her specialty, a concoction called “go-go-juice” (She said she got the idea from some awful-sounding TV show called honey-boo-boo).
Red Bull, Giant pixie stick, and mountain dew.
This truly is not for the feight of heart….or the easily affected by caffeine…. and probably not meant to be used as an every-day drink. I’m not exactly sure yet that it should be used in moments of extreme exhaustion either. But! As our navigator pointed out, the red bull was sugar free…so….
Juice mixed, and, I assume, sipped upon, we were enroute to the exchange. I was still pretty out of it, from sleeping, and so kind of have no memory of the exchange. I know I headed out with the group to see runner 7 off. She’s my friend after all. And I knew she had a 3-ish mile DOWNHILL course, meaning I didn’t have a whole lot of time to contemplate my run before it would be my turn.
I was feeling nervous. That is a fact. It was dark out, and I kinda do suck at running by headlamp. I get all disoriented and weirded out when other headlamps are bobbing around behind me and I have a serious concern for rolling my ankle…or worse… in unseen pot holes. After all, I have a marathon coming up next weekend. I couldn’t afford a serious injury this late in the game. It was also cold. But I didn’t pack anything beyond gloves, ball caps, and a bright yellow jacket.
At the exchange for my run, I waited wrapped in the fuzzy brown blanket affectionately called “Chewbacca”. We only waited a few moments for Runner 7. She came down the hill at a good clip, looking pleased with herself – after all, she did 9:30min miles, which was great for her!
(There are no photos for this part of the story. It was dark. My hands were in gloves. And, as you’ll read, I don’t think I was actually conscious for the whole running bit….)
I took the wrist slapper timing thingy and headed into the darkness, struggling a little with my gloves and the phone to turn on some music. That’s right. I wasn’t going to suffer another bought of running with nothing but my thoughts. I don’t like myself that much. The race had vetoed any and all headphone use, but they didn’t outright deny runners music… so long as it came from a speaker…. I tuned into what few songs on my phone actually had a good beat for running and turned my attention upward. My thighs burned some from the cold, and I could see my breath puff out ahead of me in the headlamp light. Red lights (runner’s lights) blinked onward, stretched ahead of me in almost even intervals, until disappearing into the horizon.
My course was another hilly one. Rolling, and a couple of longer climbs, into the darkness from some small town. Luckily, there were no turns or curves to the route….just run straight…no chance to get lost. Which is good. Because I don’t actually think that I was really “awake” for my run. As I started to get out of the “town” area and into more country side and darker roads, the ambient lights along the side of the road were fewer and farther from the road. In the country, its common for homes to have a giant and bright light placed over top the property, illuminating the area. These were distant and shown just enough light to cast long, wicked-look shadows from the runners.
I passed a couple of runners – a phenomenon we noticed toward the later runners from our van the evening before was how uniformly the runners seemed to spread out, and aside from me, this pretty much was true for my run too. Soon, I was on my own and I found myself going into hyper-vigilance (A state of awareness I have cultivated and require for my day-job). At one point I thought that someone was running directly at me – Attacking me – from the right! I sped up a little (A feat, considering I was working up the first long climb), threw my arms up to defend, and quickly glanced to see what the person’s deal was. Only.
No one was there.
Just my shadow.
On a rock wall across the four lane highway from me.
Soon the light that was casting that shade was blocked by trees and I shook my head wondering what was going on with me. I tried hard to focus on being in the moment, and being aware of cars. As I crested the hill, ran down a short one, and started back up the next, I realized that the complete black of the surrounding hills and trees, all funneled head of me, pointing me toward the top of this hill and the stars, made it feel like I was being shot in the space! The stars people! It was so dark out and there were so. many. stars! It was beautiful. I latched onto this concept of being shot into space as I climbed at a steady 8 minute pace. I latched so hard that I think I was audibly making rocket ship noises as I passed a fellow runner. I remind you, I don’t actually think I was awake for this run.
At mile 4.5ish on this 6+ mile leg, I heard my red rear blinker clatter off my back and shatter. I was working on another uphill, and, in my sleep-delirium, I realized I HAD to go back and get that blinker so that my team wouldn’t be disqualified. So I stopped, and ran back down hill a little…and after a moment of staring at the dark, dark, dark grass I came to my senses and realized I would never find all the pieces of that stupid-cheap blinker. So I huffed up the hillside again.
A short while later, as I watched a pair of headlights make a slow approach toward me (actually, I realized as it passed at normal speed, it was really just far away), I thought that the four-lane highway we were running along was suddenly a two-lane road! And this car would need space to pass, but there was no shoulder beyond the white line, only dark grass! I moved to the grass and let the car pass…. in the wrong lane… and then three more cars drove past in the wrong lane, like there was no concern for on-coming traffic. I’m proud to say that I realized that the highway did not, in fact, become two-lane. It was still four lanes wide. The cars were passing in the inside lane for their direction of travel, and it was only my sleep brain that said the road was suddenly two lanes.
A mile away from the exchange point, I saw a blinking light off the roadway in the grass, and it looked like a runner was doubled over. I called out, “Are you okay?” But got no answer. Then I neared the light, and saw that it was the light indicating the sign that read “one mile to go”. Embarrassed, and hoping that the last runner I passed was far enough back and far enough in their own head-space that they didn’t hear me just calling out to the sign, I hurried on.
I tore into the exchange and saw the sign for our team illuminated and at the entrance to the chute. I heard the Captain say, “No that’s not Emily” and I yelled back as I passed them, “Yes it is!”
The crowd laughed as I handed the timing thing over to the Doctor, our next runner, and was wrapped in “Chewy” for the hike back to the van. My Captain told me I was wearing green shorts when I left and looked down at my blue shorts, replying “that was yesterday.”
I explained my theory that I slept through the whole run, telling about the stars, the beauty, the rocket ship, and loosing the blinker…. I left out the part about talking to the “one mile left’ sign though. My driver stopped and gave me a look before saying, “No wonder you don’t like running without people around”.
In the van, I was feeling really good about my pace: managing – despite fear of pot holes, injury, and (as I developed) getting struck by drunk drivers – to maintain an average pace of 8:04 min /mile! I changed, sprayed some “smell good” stuff on myself, and snuggled into warm clothes. We were on our way to Four Roses Distillery, to do the next exchange, and I was on my way to dozing off for more sleep.
Come back for Part 3, the final leg of the Bourbon Chase. 🙂 And thanks for reading!