October is when running explodes, it seems.
We finally have a break in the oppressive heat, the trees explode in color – turning those roads and paths we’ve spent hours and hours running on into a new experience again, and race season starts anew.
Week 1: Jim’s Triple Ironman
I wanted to write all about how I crewed and paced for a friend as he met his goal of finishing a triple-ironman triathlon. But, this adventure isn’t really mine to tell. So I’ll just do a quick synopsis. Jim put out such an amazing effort, and despite swimming, biking, and then running for a total of 53hours and 50 minutes, without sleep or rest – he looked fresh and strong throughout the endeavor.
I only ran beside him and sat in his crew shelter, ready to give him food and refill water… He did all the hard work. I also organized “bonus” pacers and cheering crowd to come out and help him through the night. These were people from various running groups in the area that may or may not have known Jim personally, but who appreciated Jim’s efforts and wanted to show support. These were people who weren’t on Jim’s fancy spreadsheet, he didn’t know many of them were going to be there – so when a new face or group of faces were there when he came back from a loop, he got a pleasant surprise. Their presence and willingness to run a 6 mile loop with a guy slowly going loopy as the night dragged on was a nice break from the expected for him, and they gave the rest of the pacers and crew a chance to cool their heels and rest.
If Jim wants his story up on this page, I’ll let him set that up himself.
Week 2: The Queen Bee Half Marathon
I raced this half last year and put up a race recap at that time. The Flying Pig organization puts this race on as well, so its well-known that it will be well run. And it is. This group never disappoints. They know exactly what they’re doing. This year I volunteered at the expo for the running store I coach with. As a coach, I was able to pick up a coach’s bib for the race – it’s basically supposed to give me rights to be on the course to help runners, but I don’t have to pay for the race, and I’m not supposed to get any swag or medals.
I lined up with Minh and his friend and ran along with them for a little over half the race, but then I zoned out and started running my normal pace. Along the way, I encouraged some people and pulled a couple who were struggling along. After crossing the finish and hitting the restrooms, I was back on the course in the last quarter mile, jogging back along the course and picking up runners who looked like they were struggling and helping them up that final hill to the finish. It was an honor to be there for these women who were putting everything they had into overcoming whatever went wrong to finish. It spanned from cramps to injuries to their mental game. One woman was pushing so hard to fight through her injury to finish that I was almost in tears as I coached and pushed her through to the finish.
Week 3: The Bourbon Chase
Friday and Saturday brought the Bourbon Chase Relay.
I ran this last year and did a “leg by leg” – 3 part – recap.
As with last year, we had perfect weather with cool breezes, some warm sun, but no rain to really bother anyone.
My first run was unremarkable. Starting at about 1100AM, I left the hand-off point with the words, “Just keep up with bat girl and you won’t get lost” ringing in my ears from my group. Bat girl was this skinny girl in costume who busted out of the exchange at the same moment I did – only she was kicking out a 6:40 pace right off the bat. I was on her heels when I glanced my watch and saw 6:40 in the pace and said, “Oh hell no.” I slowed back to a more reasonable 7:30 pace and chatted with a guy for a while until he faded back some. The route took us through a small neighborhood, which was pleasant, before turning us up a long hill climb on a 4-lane highway. I realize that not every leg in this race can be the gorgeous horse farms and rolling hills of Kentucky’s bourbon country, but this was lame all the same. I ran on a gravel shoulder, trying to maintain my pace at around 8 minutes flat, and fighting to keep the dust that was kicked up by speeding semi’s out of my eyes. I managed to come into the exchange having gone the 7 miles at a 7:50 overall pace, and a foot injury. My foot started recreating the pain from the Queen Bee around the last mile of the race. It wasn’t bad, but it still hurt enough to hobble me a little as we hiked back toward the van to move to the next spot.
The jokes in the van ranged from bad puns to very dirty outright sexual commentary. It was raunchy. It was hilarious. It was just what we all needed. I haven’t seen a few of these people since last year’s Bourbon Chase, and it was so relaxing and wonderful to have them around again. From the looks of the other vans and the stuff written on them, ours wasn’t the only van at the dirty jokes level.
“….And then we saw this dildo-bong thing on the ground…” I mentioned to my husband during the phone call as I told him about my first miles.
“Where?” My husband asked, his voice one of surprise, and morbid curiosity.
“Uh…. What do you mean where? It was on the ground…. like roadkill, man… just sitting there.”
“I mean, I thought you guys were down there for running, where are you that you’re seeing dildo bongs just laying on the road?”
“They are everywhere. Hold on, I’ll send you some photos of the other vans.”
A moment later he muttered, “Oh. Yeah, that’d explain it. I guess I didn’t understand this run as much as I thought I did.”
“Don’t try to understand it.”
“I have his number, I’ll send him the photo I took!” Jim volunteered, overhearing the conversation.
“What the…?” My husband said quietly, after receiving the photo. “Oh, that is weird. I see what you mean …. dildo-bong.”
Part of being van 1, is that the time works out that we get a real dinner, but not a real breakfast. Dinner was at some little cafe in downtown Stafford, Kentucky. The town was gearing up for the runners, the hundreds of runners and vans that would be swarming through for an hour at a time and then leaving…like a migratory herd. Which, honestly, we were. The great Bourbon Runner Migration.
My second leg of running came about 12 hours after my first, and though we had a couple of hours to stretch out and nap in a hotel before running, we didn’t really. We mostly rested and talked about running.
Leg 2, I had hoped, would be more interesting than the first one, but it was another 6.6 miles along a 4-lane highway. I didn’t mind that it was a straight line, basically, up and down the hills on the highway. At least I wouldn’t take a wrong turn in the dark while I was tired. But it was a shallow and uneven shoulder, often I ran just inside the “slow lane” of the roadway, a constant worry of rolling my ankle on this pavement…(Heh..just wait). The motorists were pretty good about sticking to the other lane the whole time, except for one semi, that was bound and determined that the roadway was his and his alone. A turn off the highway, made possible by the volunteers and police who stopped all traffic for us (awesome!) and I finally had a cute roadway to run along. One car got all my stress and frustration and exhaustion as they narrowly missed the brightly lit runner ahead of me, and then screamed past me honking and flipping me off. “Slow down fat ass!” I screamed into the dark. The two runners farther back echoed my sentiments as the car continued to zoom toward them. The “one mile to go” sign came and went, and in this part of the run people were out in the dark, sitting on their porches clapping and cheering for the runners. It was so polite and so nice in the dark to be cheered. I followed a sign indicating a turn to the left, but as I made the turn the girl ahead of me with the illuminated purple light-up vest was gone. I was keeping her in my sights, but to lose her outright after a turn? I immediately determined that I made a bad turn and that I was probably following the signs for the vans – which were passing me slowly. I glanced behind, but the next runner was still a little bit too far back to call to. No one stopped him, so I kept going. As I brought my attention back to the front, I was blinded by on-coming headlights and like lightning, I rolled my ankle. I have no idea what I stepped on to cause it, but my joint made the full rotation to the ground. It also relit the pain from earlier, in my instep, causing it to feel like the whole foot popped. I screamed out in pain and tears shot to my eyes automatically. I didn’t have the chance to stop and feel it out. My scream set off someone’s dog, and he burst through the wooden fence like a nightmare. I pushed myself forward through the pain, whimpering. Between the ankle and the foot, it was like running on a stump of pain. I slowed down and the other runner caught up.
“Did we make a mistake” He asked jogging along beside me.
“I’m not sure. I feel like I did.”
“Well, lets keep going, we’ll figure it out.” “Eh.” I didn’t want to get into how much pain I was suddenly in, and how a few “extra miles” would break me. We huffed on, made another turn, and suddenly the darkness became light. Homes and the streets were lit up with lights everywhere, vans were moving up and down the road, and volunteers were controlling everyone. We were in the right place and busting into the center of town. A downhill finish, with a quick turn onto Main Street, and we were done.
I told my group that it was the worst run I’ve had in a long time. With the near misses from the cars, the boredom of the highway hill, my runner-brain and the “missed turn” and rolling my ankle…I was in a low spot. Being tired wasn’t helping at all. I hobbled along as the group told me that one of the other runners also rolled her ankle – on the tall curb while they waited for me. Then it came out that Jon “rang the magical bell”. Apparently, there was a large bell in the parking lot that they were parked in near a church, and Jon got the idea to try ringing it. And it was resoundingly loud.
“So? Basically, Jon cursed us.” I commented as I limped toward the van, the bell obvious in the lot.
“What do you mean?” Julie asked.
“I mean, you don’t screw around with sacred shit, guys. Jon messes with the bell and then Ashley and I roll our ankles at almost the exact same moment? Curse. We’ve been cursed.”
“Don’t be such a downer.” Jim told me.
Back at the van the group scrambled to try and locate the key – Jon sat it down somewhere while trying to fix an ice pack for me and Ashley for our mutually rolled ankles. The more that went wrong in such a short time, the more the idea of “curse” took hold. At the next exchange we picked up our runner, who complained that her headlamp went out immediately after she started running, and then, while leaning on the car, she let out a blood-curtling scream. We all jumped, started, thinking that there was a snake or some other nasty critter, but no – her hand got shut in the door. She was all right, and didn’t even bruise, but it certainly got everyone’s attention.
“That’s it. We need to cleanse of this curse.” Julie, the driver announced. “Time for go-go-juice and to decorate the van in glow stick penises.”
At the next runner exchange, the team went to work decorating the van and unwinding from all the unfortunate events. Blessed with a … large, but blue, and excited member on the grill, we made the way to the next runner exchange.
When we finally handed the baton back to van 2 in downtown Danville, we rushed out of there to our hotel so that we could sleep and, hopefully, break from the drudges that were pulling at us all. I had no trouble climbing into bed and dropping off, but around 0500AM, my foot started throbbing pretty bad. I got up and decided maybe a warm shower would loosen up the ankle pain. Standing brought another issue – my stomach was not happy. I stood under a hot shower, hoping that my foot would stop hurting so much and that my stomach would settle. Instead, I realized that my 7-8 mile run coming up was probably not going to go well.
An hour later I was begging the team Captain to let me swap runs with someone who had a shorter route. Instead she had her husband, a doctor, look at my foot.
“Well. It’s not the bone.” He muttered, prodding the instep dutifully.
“Yay?” I muttered. My toast sat uneaten on the plate. I was the complete opposite of hungry. It felt like everything was going wrong.
“Looks like a ligament strain.” the Dr pronounced. I frowned. And then I frowned at my food again. Now it seemed like trading wasn’t going to be a good idea – I might not be able to run at all.
“I’ll trade runs with you.” Jim said. I thanked him profusely and then asked the Dr for Imodium.
We had a 45 minute drive to the start line, and the Captain told me I could sleep as we rode there, no need to rush to get ready, despite her concern that we weren’t going to get there in time. I closed my eyes and hoped as hard as I could that the meds would kick in.
Leg 3 for me started pretty early in the morning – but not unreasonable – and definitely before dawn. The hand-off came through just underneath the gift shop building at Wild Turkey Distillery. I grabbed the baton from Greg, who was desperately looking for Jim, and took off…at a slow pace. My stomach was still not in the game and my foot screamed with each push off. The route rolled downhill pretty smoothly, and then I crossed ‘the bridge’. This was the view to have – if only the sun were rising as I crossed it. As it was, it was dark, but still quite pretty. Some lady rolled up too close for comfort in her car and yelled, “Don’t jump assholes” at me and the other runner I was passing. We both grumbled a response and then bonded over how terrible the drivers have been this year.
Then I had “the hill”. Everyone warned that this view on this leg was amazing, but it had that “terrible hill”. I didn’t have any issue with the hill. You know, beyond the foot pain that was an issue no matter what I ran. The climb went smoothly, and I got passed by a guy just killing it up the hill. As I followed the course turn under a bridge and into the farms, I was greeted by horses and the sunrise – finally (for both)! I stopped and took photos, I tied my shoe… basically, I bummed around and took my time. Halfway through this leg my stomach settled down and I had a moment of blissful feeling okay before the intense hunger kicked in. When I passed through the baton hand-off lane my stomach was growling and I felt light. But there was no hand off.
I called my team captain, and her husband answered.
“What’s going on?”
“I’d like to give this timing thing to Jim so I can go eat something now.” I said jokingly. “Oh! You’re here! Jim is on is way to you – he’s running to you.”
And then the line went dead.
“Does your team know you’re here?” A sweet volunteer asked me kindly as she checked my number and wrote something on her clipboard.
“Yeah.” I said, recalling that I saw a couple of them near the porta potty line when I ran onto this road – “I think my #2 runner is handling his #2 and will be here soon.”
Jim came up and grabbed the baton from me, and I thanked him one more time for switching before I joined the Dr and walked back to the van. When he asked, I commented that my stomach felt better, but my foot did not. The Dr wasn’t surprised.
The rest of the ride was good – we bounced from place to place, trying to beat our runners there. And we brought the party to each hand-off point, playing music and creating mandatory YMCA dance moments. As the day went on, it got warmer and warmer. Our last runner, the Doctor, took off from Woodford, and headed out on a long route with the worst climb. We drove that climb. And blasted Bohemian Rhapsody out the windows. We stopped at the top of the hill to play the song again (and again, and again) and decided to hand out the cold Gatorades we had left. We were that team. We made the crowds at the finish cheer for the runners coming in, we used a microphone to announce the runners and encourage them, and we sat at the top of a hard hill in the heat and gave other runners cold drinks as they passed us by. We were the awesome group.
After we collected our runner and handed the baton to the other van for the last time, we headed toward Lexington for lunch and to check into a different hotel to shower and rest before the finish. Fed and refreshed, I still felt pretty sickly and was still limping, whether I liked it or not. My group went to get some bourbon samples, I found a coffee shop with AC and sat and watched the teams run for the finish while I drank a chai latte.
It was a big weekend, and a blast!
This whole month is pretty full with running. Right now, there is nothing on my race calendar, and I have yet to write up my training schedule for the next marathon: Route 66. I don’t know what’s going on next weekend, but I’m sure I’ll find another race to sign up for in the mean-time.
You know, you can follow all the excitement as it unfolds at the She Runs This Town Facebook Page!
Go like the page HERE