Monday, October 21, 2013

Bourbon Chase - Recap

Bourbon Chase 2013
It is hard to know where to start with this recap.  I’ve scratched notes here and there.   How does one recap a 200 mile relay race?

Some facts and figures
2 vans
2 drivers
5th year the race has been run
12 runners (2 injured at the end)
33 hours
36 legs
200 miles
315 teams (303 12 person teams; 12 6 person (ultra) teams)
3,708 runners
All teams finished

Shortest finish 19:01  (HH:MM)
Longest finish 33:54  (HH:MM)

Results:  Click Here  A data junkies dream come true!

We, Van 1, kicked off at 8:30 on Friday a.m. and all crossed the finish line 5:27 p.m. on Saturday evening.  307th out of the 315 teams.

At my Tuesday night running group one of the gals had just finished Ragnar and I asked her for some tips.  She said “Everyone gets grouchy at the same time.”  I took note of that.  I also asked her about running in the dark.  She said it was very meditative and her favorite leg.  I took note of that and it also quelled my anxiety over running unfamiliar roads in the dark.

My plan was to start out my drive to Lexington KY on Wednesday afternoon finishing up on Thursday so I’d be at least presentable meeting 14 people I didn't know, at all.  

Wednesday the plan was to: sleep in, pack, maybe go on a bike ride with Dave.  

  • Sleeping in didn't happen, per usual, Jax decided he needed to wrestle with me and who am I to refuse that cute mug?  
  • Packing was an adventure, I packed the stuff on the list, added in a few things and ended up with two bags of stuff, one big one and one to keep with me in the van with small stuff I’d lose in the big bag.  I have a better idea how to pack for NEXT year.  
  • Bike ride didn't happen, it was very evident Dave’s cold wasn't getting much better and mine was borderline, so I vacuumed and we picked up the house a bit and I reviewed my race legs with him and what I knew of the race.

Then I took off.  The sad faces on our pups always breaks my heart.  Figured I’d drive 8 hours or so…

Made it to Morgantown, WV and found a shopping center and a hotel.  You can buy beer in the grocery store in WV, how cool is that?  You can’t in RI, just in a package store.  After 14 years of this no booze in the grocery store it is a novelty to me to find booze in the grocery store.  Even more so when I visit my family in MI because you can buy hard liquor in the grocery store!  The strangest things entertain me.

It was nice to have the bed to myself and not have to move an 83 lb Gus from my legs every time I wanted to turn over. I also figured a good night’s sleep was important as this was going to be 30 some odd hours with little sleep and what was left of the head cold Dave gifted me was nearing its end, yeah!

I arrived at the hotel in Lexington, which had changed its name in the last few weeks.  I was in a bit of a panic because I had the right street address but was this really the place? A quick text with our fearless leader confirmed that I was in the right place and three of them were arriving shortly, after a quick tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort KY.  I headed to the bar to have a drink to quell my nerves a little bit.  

Meeting the other participants.

I met Dana, Tonya, and Steve.  Dana and Tonya I had gotten to know a little on Facebook.  Dana did set up a FB group for our team Run Bitches Run!! I didn't really check out much on the other members of my team.  I figured they were runners so they were ok.  They were better than OK!  With so much going on between training and races and work and family commitments everything is getting minimal attention these days, which isn't exactly how I like to run my life.

The plan was to meet all but three of the team members and go to dinner.  Three had friends in the area and had made plans to meet up with them.  So 9 of us loaded up in the passenger van and went out to dinner. I had a hard time with names, but by the end of the race I think I had it all figured out!  We only saw the 7 in the other van at the exchange points and at the end so I only got to know a couple of them over dinner and then at drinks post race.  Hey, they are runners, so it is all good.  

We were 3 and 4 to a room, sharing a bed with a stranger, I knew would happen, hence the importance of a good night sleep on Wed night!! We all have our weird sleep things and I need the right side of the bed, Tonya needed the left side, so yeah, that worked out well. I was just happy to not have to share the bed with one of the guys.   

Guess that lays all the ground work and now to get into the nitty gritty the race.

We were van 1 so we kicked off the event.  Started in Clermont, KY at the Jim Beam distillery.  It was a bit of a chilly foggy morning, the weather promised to be warmish and sunny.  Someone said this or hoped it, I’m not sure, it ended up being nice so no worries.

Beautiful View

I was runner 5 so I got to see a bit how the exchanges worked.  It is a relay race, and our baton was a plastic bracelet.  Beautiful.  I haven’t had to pass off a baton since HS track…

Exchange - no pressure!

Sally kicked us off with a 7.1 mile run
Sara  6.2
Dana 3.9 
Tonya 5.2
Me  4.7
Steve 6.0

Mine was mostly up hill.  The runners guide said the view from the top would be worth it, and oh it was!

Worth the run up!

All in all the run was great.  Nice and sunny, yet cool and a nice breeze once in a while.  The strange thing were all the Wooly Bear caterpillars all over the road.  For this leg stepping on one of them would have been my only 'kill' (over taking another runner).  I was 'kill' for maybe 5 runners.

This was my first hand off to Steve and it went well.  I got the bracelet off and he was on his way.  

Exchange point 1 was at Makers Mark, this is where we handed off to Van 2.  Nice distillery, couple of bourbon balls and some bourbon lemonade thing.  I picked up a bottle of MM 46 and was able to put the red wax on myself.  Had to get all dolled up in an apron, arm protectors, gloves, and safety glasses.

We had two hotel rooms reserved so we could shower or nap or eat.  Ordered pizza, showered and tried to nap.  I know I wasn't able to. 

About 6 we got the call to meet van 2 at the exchange point 2, for a 7:30ish hand off.  Now was the time to sort of remember the other runners names.  I did OKish… 

Sally kicked it off with a 5 mile run

Sara 4.9 miles.
Were to meet her in Danville.  Janet got a call she twisted her ankle.  Knowing Sally had to run Dana's leg and Tonya had the most difficult of the legs and Steve was a part time runner I volunteered to run.  And who knows what got over me.  After we got to Sara and she was OK, nothing broken I took off like a bat out of hell and 2/10 of a mile in I realized I didn't have the baton (a rubber bracelet) or directions.  Well the directions should be OK my first leg was well marked.  I had no idea how far we were into her 4.9 mile leg either, I figured I had less than 3 miles to go to the exchange point.  This was the only leg where I made a kill.  The rest of the legs I was a hash mark on someone else’s van.

This gave me a bit of a feeling for what it would be like to run in the dark in KY.  Although it was along US 127 so busy and well lit.  My 8.6 later in the night was going to be with NO street lights, just the moon and my head lamp.

Now to figure out what to do about this bracelet hand off business.  OH I have my Lung Cancer Alliance bracelet so I have something to hand off, cool, problem solved, now I wonder if they realize I don’t have the bracelet.  

They did, and as I handed off to Sally, she said “How did you get the bracelet?” I said “I didn't you have it?”  She said “Yep” and off she went.  I got back to the van and they explained they told Sally to fumble around with the bracelet so it looked like we changed something.  HA!  Brilliant minds think alike.  After Sally’s run we compared notes and laughed a bit about it.  They all teased me for taking off  like this was some foot race we could actually win…   

Caught that did ya, I handed off to Sally…  Sally was subbing for Dana because she is coming off a leg injury, fractures up and down her tibia and fibis from jumping off something at a Tough Mudder (that took that event off my to do list, at least for the moment, never say never), Sally volunteered to run a double.

Tonya’s 6.5 was a tough all up-hill hilly run.  By the time she met me at the exchange point at 11:30 on Friday night she was done, stick a fork in her done.  

I took off for my 8.6 night time hilly run, there weren't too many wicked ones but it was a night and like Jeff said “you won’t know what is coming, just run”  ok seems that is the advice I get from most people, just keep running.  Strava says 555 climb, so there must have been a hill or two!

Super Safety Dork!

 Once out of town it got dark, not completely dark, there was a full moon, behind me, casting eerie shadows at times.  I passed by a few grave yards and just ran along KY 309 up and down hills around corners, getting passed A LOT.  The problem with all of this was I was in such a trance running, the sloshing of my big ass water bottle (I should have grabbed the smaller one) and the stupid peace sign button clicking along and my breathing and foot strike pattern sounds.  Nearly every time I got passed I let out a scream because they didn't make enough noise to either pull me out of my trance or alert me they were behind me.  So point to note, when over taking a runner, announce yourself, and even if you have don’t expect they noticed!  I think I scared one of the guys with my sharp scream, sorry dude, really sorry.  I was kill for maybe 10 guys... I lost count.

One that did manage to get my attention beforehand ran a few steps with me and said ‘Why are we doing this?” I said “I dunno about you but I do it for the booze.”  A little while later I hear him say “I thought about it, I do it for cheeseburgers too.”  I wished him well and thought about cheeseburgers till I hear Margaritaville off in the distance and know I’m getting approached by a runner.  NO headphones were allowed but you can play music.    So I transitioned from Cheeseburger in Paradise to Margaritaville in my head and we exchanged good jobs while he floated past me.

It was a foggy chilly night (temp), there was frost on the gras!!  At one point I looked over my left shoulder a couple times and caught something green and glowing.  Took me a little bit but eventually I looked long enough over my shoulder and my eyes focused, cows, standing there staring at me, probably with a “What in the world are YOU doing, you fool human?”  look on their cute faces.

I’m quite certain I passed some beautiful ranches, just based on the elaborate mail boxes and gated driveways.   I kept thinking about all the ranches in Dallas and who shot JR.  yeah yeah, I was in KY not TX at that point I was kind of going out of my mind a bit.

The fog and the moonlight and lack of sleep and eating garbage played tricks on my mind as I kept thinking I saw something or heard something, nothing identifiable, fleeting images and sounds.  In between the times the other runners scared the crap out of me passing me.  

When I saw that 1 mile left sign I was ready to collapse, hungry, tired of getting passed, chilled to the bone and soaking wet.  I couldn't get the damn bracelet off my wrist and I was slightly delirious.  Sally was good and put her arm around me and got me back to the van.  I noticed we were at a gas station and all I could mumble was I want a chocolate milk.  They were closed.  Seriously?  Sara had chocolate soy milk and that did the trick.  Note for next time pack some Zico, I really wanted chocolate coconut water that was just far too much to say or even expect to find in BFE.   

Eventually I got the bracelet to Steve who was off for his 5.3 miles.  We were going to exchange point 3 for van 2 to do their second legs.  

In Danville I managed to get into dry clothes and hopefully didn't flash the whole town, just most of it I am sure.   Pretty dry and comfy  I snuggled under my blanket with the heat cranking to warm up, eventually we could get to the motel and sleep.  Sleep was all of 2 hours.

Van 2 rocked their second leg the driver also managed to pull the roof rack off of Cay’s personal vehicle so they were more focused on getting that taken care of than giving us more than an hours warning to get to exchange point 2.   After that bit of confusion they were off to get some sleep and deal with the roof rack while we ran our 3rd legs.  This was an easy leg for me, mostly downhill with up hills still direction-ally going downhill.  This is also when the rain started picking up, oh yeah…   Fortunately I was smart enough to grab my Marine Corps jacket and that kept me warmish and dryish.  The hat kept the rain out of my eyes for the most part. 

It was a nice rolling easy 5 miles, Space Watch only recorded 4.8 So not sure what is going on with that.   Lots of beautiful horse ranches and cow pastures. I didn't get passed as much, 4 times, and that was a bit more soothing on my ego.  

This time I was prepared for the bracelet hand off to Steve and didn't flash the whole town getting into dry clothes.  I was done d.o.n.e. done.   Yeah.  Once we finished exchange point 3 it was off to the hotel in Lexington to shower and wait for the final run in.  

A real shower was fantastic, a beer would have made it better.  I was not functioning well enough to even think about a beer.  Clean dry clothes, awesome.  

We got the call runner 12 was off with an expected finish of 5:20ish.  We were all changed into our finish line shirts and met Danny to run and limp across the finish line with him.  That was pretty cool!  After a bunch of paperwork checking we all got our medals and our picture taken and were off to find food showers for who hadn't and then off to the Blue Martini Bar to celebrate our victory.

Really hard to know how to recap this race.  It was EXTREMELY well supported at the exchange points.  Clean porta potties and the opportunity to buy SWAG as well as food.  

Some final thoughts:

There is a lot of traffic, and some of the distilleries are not located in places where there was the ability to go in one way and out another.  Where it was one access point in and out these places got pretty jammed up.  So expect some points of utter frustration with the situation.

Having distillery stops along the way was nice.  A chance to use a real bathroom, sample some bourbon, and spend some money.  We sampled a bit of bourbon and spent money because you can’t put a price on a real bathroom once in a while. The Race Officials were pretty serious about no drinking and if someone offered a sample, I wasn't going to turn it down, nor was I going to get in line 2 or 4 times.  Just not the time or the place.  We know of no one getting DQ for drinking or wearing ear buds, so that is a good thing!

The race does take a toll on your body, things just don’t function normally and don’t expect them too.  Also you have to figure out how to fit in your pre and post race rituals, like stretching because you spent  A LOT of time sitting in the van if you aren't careful. Once you stop abusing it with lack of sleep and bad food, it does bounce back pretty quickly.  Just be prepared!!  I’m a bit tired, however absolutely itching to run.  My body is sore my mind a little fuzzy and I need one more good night of rest and will run tomorrow.  Plus I do have Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday and need to focus on running that not just running because I feel like it.  If that makes any sense?   I don’t want to be wiped out or injured I think is more my point.

Packing tips:   Pack a second bag, in that keep it with you in the van, your wallet, change of dry clothes, safety equipment, nutrition.  These are the things you are going to need handy.  The bag with the rest can stay in the back of the van and you won’t need to sift through it to find what you need.  Pack your main bag thinking about what you are going to wear for each leg and pack these together.

We had a great team captain.  She set up a FB group so we could chat with each other and find out our assignments and who we owed what to.  I volunteered for van decorations and finish line shirts, possibly not the best thing to do but not the worse.  No one was all that into having a costume, there were plenty of groups with matching costumes some were a set of super heros, that was very cool, and probably really easy when you all live close.  Our  14 people were from AR, IL, MO, OH, and RI  some knew each other through the event the previous years some through other events, and me, just virtually.  

This takes a lot of organization and planning.  Dana was at it a year planning and re planning and finding runners and then having runners drop out. Coordinating the logistics of hotels for the team and assigning tasks like food, decorations, team spirit and hoping like hell people followed through on their commitments. It really is a commitment one person makes to a team.  We lost one runner 6 weeks before due to injury, she quickly found a replacement.  I couldn't imagine trying to convince anyone I know to come with into a situation I don’t even know what to expect.  Next year though… We lost one runner two days before due to a family emergency, the injured runner decided she was OK to run 2 of the 3 legs and worked a deal with another to run one of her legs.  A week before we lost a driver, fortunately one of our runners was able to convince her wife to drive for us.  It all works out, but I can’t imagine the stress for the team leader!

All in all it is a fun event, you get to know your van mates really really well you all get on each other’s nerves and at the end of it all call it a job well done and either vow to never do it again or put your name in for the 2014 lottery and hope for the best!

Beth, probably still a little fuzzy happy you stuck with this to the end!


  1. Sounds like a fun and hectic event. Great write-up. One day I'd like to do one of these relays.

    1. It was fun, I'd do another one, for sure!

  2. Wow, so much fun! Great recap! Not sure if I am a relay type person,but I do want to give it a try. So happy you had fun. Now rest those legs and get psyched for Sunday!!!

  3. Wow. Your recap is the most incredible, honest, fabulous, real, funny, scary recap I've ever read. You've made this Grandma WANT TO DO IT. Did I just say that?! I mean it. I've read this twice to get in all the details... and even the hills, the hotels, the last minute changes, the fog, the chill, the dark, the passers with no announcement... it sounds awesome. You are not only a great runner, Beth, but a great writer, too. I've gotta get this ol' ass in motion for something this ass-inine! Thank you for sharing... !

    1. Thanks! The words just sort of flow out in a stream of consiousness at times. It was fun! Oh and I did MCM last year too!!! Got stuck in DC for nearly a week!! Awesome you were able to run with your DIL on National MIL day, I had no idea there was such a thing, I better get a card for my wicked cool MIL!!

  4. Also, best luck at Marine Corps. I ran it last October, just preceding Hurricane Sandy... with my daughter-in-law on National Mothers-in-Law Day. Gotta love a daughter-in-law like my Nicole Couto!

  5. WOW - nice recap / i think i need to go take a nap after reading it
    Great Job - never done something like that but running at night with the full moon must have been cool.

    1. Thanks! Hope your nap was good! I'm kinda jonesing to run at night again, it was really really really cool! Imagine the Greenhaven loop would be a good one for that!