Wow. friends. Buckle your seatbelts (as we were reminded is required by law even in 14-passenger vans) because this is going to be a loooong post. That’s what happens when I review a 34 hour race. I had told several people before I ran that I kept reading the same thing in reviews of relay races: “It was brutal and I hated it but I had a great time!”
And, honestly? I totally get that now.
Welcome to the Bourbon Chase Recap.
I almost don’t even know where to start. This race caused me to lose all concept of time and space. By the time it was over, I had no idea where I was geographically, even though I am fairly familiar with all towns that held transition spots. I had no idea what time of day it was, if the sun should be shining or not, when I should be sleepy, or when I should be hungry. I sat in sweaty clothes for hours. I lived out of a van. I became very familiar with portajohns.
And a good time was had by all.
I ran the Bourbon Chase on a charity team for Hospice. I know a few of my team members, but for the most part had only met them once at a get-to-know-you dinner. But by the end, I felt like I knew them all. Maybe that’s what happens when you exchange sweaty hugs and middle-of-the-night run stories.
We started the relay with a 90-minute drive to Jim Beam. The crazy thing? We parked the van. Got out. A van pulled up beside us. And out pops my friend Kathie that I haven’t seen since college. (I graduated in 2000.) I mean, I knew she was running the Chase, but to see her first thing? It was just the coolest.
The DJ at Jim Beam was pretty awesome. The Captain Jack Sparrow song. Mumford. Just great. We checked in, showed our gear, got our shirts, and it was time to get started. At 9:30am on Friday, our first runner took off!
And she had a very soggy run. It was partial trail, which would have been cool if it wasn’t for the standing water. She finished strong, but it wasn’t exactly the best way to get things started. I looked a little like this at the first transition.
Over the next 3 hours, we drove from transition area to transition area, dropping off runners. And before I knew it, it was my turn to run. At 1:18, I took off.
My first leg (Leg 5) was pretty eventful. My first hill was the hardest hill in my entire series. It was good to get that out of the way. Then I saw a guy almost get killed by a rottweiler (saved only by an amazing invisible fence). The rain had stopped, but returning with the sun was the humidity. I was on skinny, winding, pretty deserted country roads. My kind of landscape. I had amazing climbs, amazing downhills, and amazing views. 4.47 miles in 49:09. Average pace of 10:59. Totally thrilled to be under 11min/mile. Especially with the amount of walking I did.
As we drove away, I felt horrible for our runners. Because they were out in this.
We made it to Danville. We had about 45 minutes to kill before we needed to head to dinner. I tried to sleep but was too wound up. I put on my LexRunLadies shirt (because I was actually Runner 5) and got ready to go active again. Oh, and with our Hunger Games theme, I was also sporting Katniss braids. I’m that cool.
A little less than 6 hours after going inactive, we headed to Perryville to start our overnight legs. It was good to see Van 2. So many characters over there.
About the time we started our second legs was when I really started to freak out a little. We were under a dense fog advisory and I would be running this in the middle of the night.
I was pretty freaked out. But the closer it got to midnight and the more tired I got, the more I just wanted it over. As runners in my van completed their legs, I stopped getting more nervous and just realized that I had to do it. We headed to the transition area in Stanford. I visited the bathroom in a really cute cafe. I put on my vest, headlamp, knuckle lights, and blinky red light on my back. I just wanted it over.
Time for scary Leg 17. I headed out of Stanford at 12:34am, and I felt like I was going to be okay. There weren’t any runners around me, but I knew that I only had 2 turns. I ran past the graveyards. Kinda creepy, but I was still in town. I made the second turn and there were a few runners around me. The fog wasn’t that bad. I was happy that I couldn’t see my garmin to know how fast or slow I was running. I was channeling Forest Gump. I was just running. And I felt pretty good. It was really foggy, but there were people around me. I couldn’t actually see anyone, but I could see red blinking lights ahead of me. I could see lights inside the houses I passed. The elevation profile was serious. I had a few substantial climbs. It was bizarre to not have any clue that a hill was coming or when it would end. It was strange that I could see lights ahead now and then but not have any idea how far away they were. I didn’t know if there was a hill between me and a red dot that was at eye level. I did have the occasional runner come up behind me and we would exchange pleasantries, and had several real conversations before they would move on. I felt pretty cool running in the middle of the night with nothing but the cows and the occasional runner going by. I could see blinking red lights ahead of me. Everything was okay.
Until right around 5.5 miles in That’s where things got dicey. The fog was very dense. I couldn’t see anything. I could tell I had a rock wall to my right but I had no idea what was on the other side of the guardrail on my left. I had been climbing a hill for a while and didn’t know when it would end. I was tired and needed to take a walk break, but I was too scared not to run. I went over half a mile without seeing a runner or being passed by a van. The fog was so incredibly thick and my knuckle lights just reflected more fog back at me. I got my cell phone out and had no service. And I was really close to freaking out. Really close. But then I heard banjo music. One of the vans had a big plywood banjo lit up on the top and was piping out bluegrass music. That’s all I needed. It snapped me back to reality. I wasn’t alone. They hooted at me as they passed. Not long after that, a runner came up behind me. I started the descent around 6.3 and I was doing better. The problem then was that I was physically spent. I was hungry. I’d been up for 20 hours. I’d pushed hard on my first leg and the freaked out miles of this leg. I just wasn’t in a good place. But I finished at 2:04am. 8.64 miles in 1:37:09. Average pace of 11:16/mile.
Angie ran her leg and we headed back to the hotel. After a quick shower, I was able to get 2 hours of solid sleep. And it was very good, quality sleep. I felt almost well rested when I got up on Saturday morning. We headed to Lawrenceburg to take the baton/bracelet from Van 2 and get our last legs finished.
Susan got us started. I think because it was our last runs, we were all excited in transitions. As much fun as we were having, we were also really tired.
We had some really strong third legs. We were ahead of our projected times. We transitioned at distilleries. We rode rocking turkeys. The routes were hard, but we were used to them. Honestly, a lot of Saturday morning/afternoon is a blur. My body was very confused. I lost all hunger and sleep cues. I didn’t have any motion sickness even though I forgot to take dramamine. I had no idea if I had drank enough that day. I was totally on autopilot.
I had been talking to a few friends via Twitter, but it hadn’t really hit me that I was going to see familiar faces on my last leg. I mean, my teammates were my friends at this point and I was seeing other friends in passing at transitions, but I felt like I was in a different reality. When I saw Faith at my transition point to start my last run, I really thought I was going to lose it. I must have hugged her 20 times. I mean, I knew that I wasn’t ever more than 90 minutes from my house, but I felt like I was just in a strange land. (My brain was seriously scrambled, friends.) Seriously. I hugged her over and over.
I was ready for my last leg. Ready. I took off on Leg 29 at 11:42am. I knew I had a hill and a turn in the first 1/4 mile, but it was a straight shot and elevation decline after that. I had 5 miles to crank out and then I was done. My legs were toast since I’d ran the prior 2 legs significantly faster than my usual pace. It wasn’t raining. It was beautiful two-lane road through horse country. I was getting honked at and cheered for by lots of white vans. I had nothing left in my tank at all, but I cranked out those 5 miles.
Close to the end of my run, I turned a corner and saw a familiar car. There was Lydia. I knew she was going to be cheering at some point, but I didn’t know I’d react the way I did. I was all smiles and cheers and hugs when I saw her and her sign about taking a nap, but I got very emotional after I ran past her one-man cheering station. I was finishing something crazy. I had lots of people cheering for me – virtually and in person. Running has changed me. Running has given me friends and health and pride. I just love running.
I finished my last Bourbon Chase run at 12:54pm. 4.88 miles in 52:16. Average pace 10:42/mile.
And I was truly in a beautiful place. Even if I was sitting in a van…down by the river.
Angie finished her leg and we passed the baton to Van 2 again at Woodford Reserve. I had a ham and cheddar scone from the Midway School Bakery. I was feeling pretty good. Our van was done. I was ready to go home.
On our way out of Woodford, I saw all of my friends who were running with other teams. There were a lot of hugs between the building above and our van. Lots of hugs. I am part of a family of runners. They are everywhere. I encouraged the ones that still had runs to go. I celebrated with others that were done. It was one of the highlights of the run.
Then we headed back to Lexington. And I started coming out of my fog a little. I felt like we were in a different world, but we were less than half an hour from Lexington. It was just crazy. I unloaded my stuff into my car and drove home. Just like everything was normal, I talked to Nathan. I took a shower. I took about an hour nap. And then we headed back downtown to the finish line celebration.
I still don’t know how to tell you exactly how I felt. My body was just confused. I still had no physical cues about anything. I didn’t know if I was tired or hungry or thirsty. Just nothing. I had 2 sample pours of bourbon and I definitely felt tipsy. We cheered other teams to the finish. We chatted with all of our friends. We were waiting for our final teammate to come into town. We thought we had about 7 minutes when I heard a frantic “THERE SHE IS!” and we took off. It was like a scene from a movie. Our final runner just came barrelling through the homestretch. We didn’t have time to react. So there we are – half of our team holding purses, and I think a beer or two – and we are SPRINTING to the finish line. It was hilarious. Just the perfect end to the race.
And we were done! Team Bourbon Games for the win!
And by “the win” I actually mean last place. With an average pace of 10:18. Last place. I’ll take that all day long.
Would I do this again? I really don’t know. Did I have a great time? Absolutely. I ran with an amazing group of people. I really didn’t know any of them very well when I started, but they took me in like a long lost friend. Even when we were all tired and hungry, no one got cranky or snippy. You are looking at a group of people who are very friendly, supportive, encouraging and warm (even when I lost my crap freaking out about my foggy leg).
So after 30+ hours and 200 miles, I am a Bourbon Chaser. As my friend Tim said, it is something to check off the Bucket List. It may be something that I look back on with longing after a few days or weeks, but I’m not there yet. I am proud. Very proud. But in my heart, I kinda feel like this is a one-and-done. But I’m not making any promises.