Bourbon Chase Relay Race Report

It’s hard to explain relays. I’ve heard it called a sleepover for adults, which I guess is pretty close, down to the snack food and not actually getting any sleep.

This year I ran the Bourbon Chase relay with members of my old Columbus running group. We fielded two teams, one masters group (over 40) and one other. The coordinator did a great job at creating little profiles of all the runners, which was super since we didn’t all know each other. He was also meticulous in trying to make the teams even, to the point where we were switching legs and vans up until the night before the event. I was actually glad with how it turned out: I ended up sharing a van with some familiar faces –Meredith and Dave, Doug and Doug’s son and his son’s friend. The more time I spend on my own, the more the idea of being cooped in a minivan with 5 other people for 25 hours makes me anxious, but I was glad it wasn’t with strangers.

I flew into Columbus on Wednesday, and met up with some other runners: Chuck and Helen. Helen and I even hit the bike path for a few miles. Then on Thursday I did some errands and then met everyone for the trip to Kentucky Thursday afternoon. We all ended up at an Olive Garden for some good old carb loading, and as we chatted it occurred to me how into fitness and health all these folks are. Doug’s son Chris was planning to start the caveman diet, and folks were discussing their diet or training regimen. Soon enough it was back to the hotel, and I tried to stockpile some sleep!

We all met in the morning for breakfast and to grocery shop. Our van got a bunch of water and Gatorade, some recovery drinks (boost and ensure) and a bit of food- protein bars, uncrustables and trail mix.

In a relay, runners and vans are competing against each other in a variety of ways. Our van number was an indication of our starting time: we were #297 so we started with #s 294-296. Smaller numbers started before us, so we gauged our progress on how often we caught up with those numbers. Also, runners often keep track of “roadkill” – how many people they passed vs how many passed them.

Our first leg started at 3pm. I struggled with mine: going out too fast (a 7:17 first mile? Whoops…) and then dealing with hot temperatures and too much Gatorade in my stomach. The true demoralizer was a huge hill in the last mile. I felt pretty anxious that I wasn’t prepared for this, and actually apologized to my team as I came in. So I was really happy to see this was rated a difficult leg, and I’d still better my projected time. And- the rest of my legs were rated easy! Roadkill: 0-2 (I didn’t pass anyone, 2 people passed me)

Our team did well, with the first five of us all finishing a minute ahead of our predicted time.

When the last runner in our van started (6:30), we texted the other van to let them know the time to meet us at the exchange. That runner (Doug) finished around 7:20. We did the transition at the Makers Mark distillery so we toured a bit then headed to a local bar/restaurant to get some solid food. Well, if you can call “the ultimate grilled cheese” (a blt with cheese on Texas toast) food… But it was better than their choices of fried broccoli, fried mushrooms and tater tots!

At 10:00 we got the text that Kevin would be at the exchange at 10:55. The other van had fewer runners, and they were faster, so we had shorter rest breaks.

I had a bit of a mishap to start my second leg (#15) – I wasn’t sure where the portapotties were so I went into a coffee shop to use the facilities before my leg. I was just coming out when Meredith came in to say Dave had arrived. I burst into a sprint right from the shop itself to get going!
I love running at night and the temperatures were much cooler, so I felt great during this leg. There was one decent hill on which I got passed, but as the girl went by she mentioned shed done this leg last year. That also helped me in knowing I could be assured I was going the right way so long as I kept her in sight. I also passed someone myself on that leg, bringing my overall roadkill count to 1-3.

Our legs took us until about 3:30, when the other van took over. We drove right to the next transition spot, in the parking lot of a church. It wasn’t officially a two-van exchange (because we were short a runner) so there were few other vehicles. We pulled into a corner of the lot and four of the six team members took their sleeping bags outside to the grass. Being short, I happily curled up in the backseat of the van.
I know he waited as long as he felt he could, but the text from Brian still came so early: at 6:15 he let us know our runner would be there at 6:42. We got up and ready for our last legs of the day. Our second runner got to run as the sun rose, and my last leg was great weather. I wore a tshirt and shorts, gloves and armwarmers and calf guards. I peeled off the gloves and armwarmers, but was glad I had them to start. I felt strong and held a good pace. Much of the course was downhill and my quads hadn’t given up on me. The last half mile was on a steep descent with two-way traffic, pretty congested but I still managed to snake my way around cars and runners and passed my last target with perhaps a tenth of a mile to go. I passed 12 runners, with 4 getting passed me. So my final count was 13-7.

We passed off again around 11am and we were done running! We drove up to a few more exchanges to cheer on our team before going to eat. The combination of little food, even less sleep and just being in a van with people for 20 hours was wearing on me and I was getting grumpy. Funny how just sitting at chilis with a beer and guacamole made the day so much better! After we ate we headed to downtown Lexington to await the runners.

Although the two vans were supposed to finish near the same time, the projections were off and our masters team finished a half hour before their target time, and we ended up finishing about a half hour after our projected time. Still, we finished 200 miles in a respectable 25:52:04 (average pace 7:46, 10th in our “Men’s Open Division” and 20th overall out of 200.

Honestly, this was the best race I’ve done in a long time. Not because of how it was organized (because there were some rough spots), not because of how I ran personally but because of how I felt afterwards. I felt motivated by the people I was with and the joy of running to get back into this part of my life. For the past two years since I moved to Colorado I’ve really struggled with training, and just running marathons on old endurance was discouraging. This race made me feel connected with other crazy runners (although I’m not as crazy as most of them!) and motivated to be able to train more. So, success!

Then I came back to Colorado and a few people have suggested I look into the local Wild West Relay a bit more seriously.. so, maybe I will.. 🙂