Bourbon Chase Overnight Relay

For me, running has always been an individual sport. Sure, I enjoy the camaraderie of sharing the race experience with others, but my success in an event has always been up to one person: ME. The Bourbon Chase, a 200 mile overnight relay from Bardstown to Lexington KY, allowed me to share the challenge and accomplishment with others. My company put together a corporate team consisting of 15 people- 12 runners and 3 van drivers.

With a course that ran through 6 famous bourbon distilleries- Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Makers Mark, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve- it was bound to be a unique experience. Add to that the fact that none of us really knew each other and we were about to spend 24 hours traveling and sleeping in a van while rotating running segments totaling just under 20 miles each...

John, leg 7: I was actually thankful for the rain. Once I hit that first hill it didn’t matter! I was hurting from there to the check point.

JC, leg 8: Cooperage hill kicked my butt (a little bit). Small detour in town. A bird crapped on my head on the last segment; they said it was good luck- I’m not so sure.

Logan, leg 9: Great time. Love it. Felt wonderful finishing knowing everyone was there waiting.

Suzy, leg 10: Okay, so I didn’t feel “great” the whole time (blame the hills!), but my teammates did make me feel like a rock star at the handoff. It was peaceful to run in the dark.

Tim, leg 11: First leg in full darkness! Was so dazed n’ confused after running that I forgot to pass on the bracelet.

Jen, leg 12: First 2 miles were uphill…a little challenging in the dark. Almost stepped on a dead possum in the road- yuck! Felt good to finally run.

Sundar, master of transportation: It’s a lot of fun being a driver and watching other people running with confidence and pride. It has also helped me to get to know our teammates better.

John, leg 19: I think I should do all my legs on just a couple hours of sleep! Felt good the whole time. Runners bunched together more on this leg, so it gave incentive to try and catch peeps.

JC, leg 20: 5 miles of headwind, but no rain and good road. A green eyed Weimaraner 3 feet from the road. Needed the pants- the time sucked.

Logan, leg 21: Good run, fast for me. 8 miles instead of 5- went the wrong way!

Suzy, leg 22: Went to Wild Turkey instead of Four Roses for the handoff and waited and extra 45ish minutes before realizing the mistake! Spent the next 8 miles wondering how we’d explain this to van #1…we wanted an “adventure”, right?!
Tim, leg 23: Best view of the day for me, but very hilly. The bridge was so high- I would like to see it again.

Jen, leg 24: Beautiful! Got to see horse country and Woodford Reserve. The course was very hilly, but Logan cme with me and we finished strong together.

Logan, leg 31: Last one! My legs and mind were tired. Feels great to be finished…also sad that it isn’t going on until next year.

JC, leg 32: Saw 3 horses being worked out in the Kentucky Bluegrass. Felt great to get a beer and a Blantons! Make reservations for 2010!

John, leg 33: Waffle House was the death of me!!! While I met the goal time, I paid for it on every hill! Still loved it!

Suzy, leg 34: It was nice to see neighborhood spectators along the course. Thought I’d throw up at the end, but I didn’t want to embarrass Logan as he joined me for the final stretch!

Tim, leg 35: Very long rolling hills. It might be awhile before Sir Timothy runs for 36 hours and sleeps in a van…!

Jen, leg 36: The last leg was extended from 6.2 miles to 7.6 miles. I paced myself and finished strong. My knees hurt, but the adrenaline rush was awesome! It felt great to cross the finish line with the whole team!

Although it doesn't count as my Kentucky race (already have that one from Kentucky Derby Marathon 2007), I wanted to share the experience and recommend that everyone put at least one overnight relay on their "running to do list".

Midsouth Marathon

No, seriously- this was the shirt.

The Mid South Marathon in Wynne, Arkansas was a small race with the opportunity to take a shot of my own at pacing a group. Having utilized pacing groups in the past with very positive results (including my first BQ), I was eager to add a new type of experience to my 24th marathon.

I drove the 7 hours to Wynne by myself- Trey and I established long ago that he does not need to be at every race. The marathon isn’t exactly a spectator sport and Wynne isn’t exactly a tourist hotspot. I signed up to pace the 5:15 group- when I ran my first marathon in 2003, I finished in just over 5:15 and this experience was about paying it forward.

It was nice to have the added security of my Garmin, “Amanda” (named for the only training partner I’ve ever had who can keep me consistently on pace), as my running has improved and this was now quite a bit slower than my normal pace. I drove the out and back course to get a feel for turns, terrain, etc. That evening, I not only got a good night of sleep, but it was the first time that I didn't obsess over race strategy!

The entire field consisted of around 300 marathoners and 300 half marathoners gathered at Wynne High School for the start. The race itself was pretty old school with a spray painted line on the road serving as the start and pieces of felt with times printed in iron on letters. About 15 minutes before the start, we did introductions and instructions about running with the group. Our crew had a handful of full marathoners and a good deal of half marathoners, most planning to use the “Galloway method” (run/walk).

Upon the start- not a gun, a megaphoned “GO!”- I lost at least half of the full marathoners. Ironically enough, these were also the runners who (predictably) we would pass in the later miles of the race. It doesn’t matter if you are shooting for 8 minute or 12 minute miles, the same holds true: go out too fast and you'll hit the wall, go out too slow and you won't be able to make up the time later.

Around the 6 mile mark, the temperature was already in the high 70s and (I am guessing) the humidity was over 80%. The weather conditions brought out every ambulance in Cross County…all three of them. The course ran through rural farm country and offered little shade for us, but water stops at every other mile helped us stay cool.

Along with tracking the walk breaks and affirming that it was okay to be human in a marathon on an 80-degree day, our group stayed motivated with good conversation and also discussed advice for recovery and training for the future. We shared stories of training runs, previous races, and told knock knock jokes. One member was running the race in memory of his spouse, who he spent miles describing in both happy and trying times- I was grateful that he shared the memories so willingly.

At the 12 mile marker, we wished our half marathon bunch farewell- they were on target to finish within their desired time range. With only a handful of remaining, we were able to enjoy the intimate camaraderie of running with a small group. The other runners were extremely positive. Since I opted not to bring music on the course (typical dissociation in the late miles), it was refreshing to have conversation and the optimism of the group to pull through.

Around 23, my stomach reacted to all of the Gatorade I had been drinking to stay cool...Gatorade is not usually my drink of choice but I drank it anyway. Rookie mistake- some pacer I am, huh? We were all in various forms of pain by that point and had made a pact that if a negative thought entered your head, you had to say something positive. “I have the yummiest strawberry lip gloss on!”, “We get a medal!”, “My ear lobe feels great!” I’m not sure I’ll ever deal with a negative thought the same way again.

State number 24 was crossed off my list with a pacer time of 5:13:46 for the 5:15 group- not bad for a rookie! On the flip side, I realized how much I savor racing alone- soaking in my surroundings, drifting in and out of conversations with other runners, and strategizing as the race goes on based on how I feel and controlling my own moves versus consulting a group. In 2010, I need to beat my PR in Akron...perhaps I'll use a 3:30 pacer to do it!