Monday, October 13, 2014

The Bourbon Chase: A race recap

This is the true story of 14 (mostly) strangers, who chose to sit in a couple vans, run together and have their legs jacked up, to find out what happens when people stop being polite... and start getting chased.

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The story of how I came to be on the Pirates of the Bourbon Trail team is one made in social media heaven. My twitter BFF (and now real-life friend) knew I dreamed of doing the Bourbon Chase. She also knew a guy in Lexington, also via Twitter, who was putting together a team. He needed ladies for the co-ed division, and Alyse knew I needed a distraction. Connections were made, money sent and Facebook friends accepted.

As the months passed, my excitement and anticipation grew - but my expectations did not. I had been disappointed the year before when I thought Hood to Coast would be a life-changing, litter of puppies-double rainbow experience and it was just a puppy and a glimpse of a rainbow kind of time. I would know no one on the team but the captain, and I hadn't met him in person. I knew the running would be hard, too, and harder still at 14 weeks pregnant. I just pictured myself sitting in the back of the van, eating Red Vines and playing on my smart phone.

But when I showed up at my teammates' house on Thursday night to crash, I got my first inclination that it wouldn't be that way. They were kind, generous, fun and adventurous. They were the kind of people that you want to run 200 miles with.

And so, just shy of 3 p.m. Friday, I hopped in a van with six relative strangers with little worry and ready to take on the journey ahead.

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Stop No. 1: Maker's Mark in Loretto, Kentucky. The distillery was the first major exchange, where Van 2 (I was runner 12) would take over the race. We got there with plenty of time to spare - always good in a relay - affording us the opportunity to explore the grounds, sample bourbon cocktails (well, some of us) and peruse the gift shop.

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The ground was wet and the air damp as we wandered in and out of barrel rooms and mash houses. We could all hope that the rain would be temporary. After all, the Bourbon Chase guidebook declares that this time of year is the driest in Kentucky. But, as you could expect, it was not temporary nor was the race dry.

Ahead of schedule, our first runner took off for the seventh leg of the race. His 4.9-mile run was rated medium but as we wound the narrow, windy roads of the Kentucky countryside, we quickly learned that "medium" is a very loose term meaning "holy hell, for the mother of God" hilly. I knew from that point on that this flat-land Hoosier would be in for a challenge.

Leg 12/Run 1

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11 p.m. It was far past my bedtime but I was awake. Relatively excited. And wet. The rain was continuing. Steady, maybe even strong. I knew I would be hot with a long-sleeve shirt but I threw on my Flyer jacket anyway. Red Pro Compression socks were pulled to my knees. My Nuun visor securely on. Lights flashing.

Standing on the side of the highway, I was ready to go.

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Amanda passed off the slap bracelet, and I hauled my behind up the first hill. Always starting uphill. I was slated to run 8:30s based on my 10K pace, which I submitted just before getting the big fat positive. I was hopeful I could still come close to that - at least for the first leg of 3.6 miles - and was ready to push.

The first mile beeped in at 8:17. Good. Great, even. And then the next hill. It was almost a mile of steady climbing, along the shoulder of the highway. I was hot and soaked and the 8:17 pace wasn't fun. It was hard, and I knew I had to adjust. So I did. I trucked along, moving left to avoid getting splashed, and skipping over puddles. I was soaked but I didn't need to be more so.

I was able to breathe a sigh of relief as I turned into the city of Danville. The first leg was done. I had come close to my projection. And I could sleep. Maybe.

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The team stopped at The Hub in downtown Danville to get a bite to eat. My stomach, though, was in knots - equal parts "I might throw up" and "I hope I don't have to call a Code Brown." I sat for a few minutes and then ordered a breakfast burrito, cognizant that it would be my last real food for a while.

We drove to the high school where the gym and showers were open to runners for a nominal fee. Half the van went in, half the van stayed. I was too tired to muster the energy to get out and feared the gym would be too loud for me to sleep. I grabbed a free bench and covered up. Sleep didn't come easily but it did arrive. I got a couple hours, maybe, but I was glad to have that.

Leg 12/Run 2

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The perk of being the last runner in the van was that I had a chance to rest a bit more before having to get ready. I was searching for that sweet spot that a short nap gives but didn't find it. So, I grabbed my doTerra peppermint oil and put a drop in my mouth, underneath my nose and rubbed it on my hands.

I headed to the exchange at Four Roses, where the distillery had a sweet setup for runners. Beautifully decorated bourbon balls and wrist bands of the sweat variety were out for the taking, I grabbed one of each when I heard "470" from the mouth of a volunteer. It was go time - even if I was still chewing.

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This leg was the one I feared most. Eight miles and hilly. So hilly. I knew I wouldn't hit my projection so I didn't even try to start out speedy. The goal was to start around 9 minutes and see where things went.

And they went up. Up, up, up.

I can't really complain - I didn't have the most challenging set of legs nor the farthest. But, yeah. I need to do some work if I do this race again. I was muttering a lot of not nice words as I went up the hills. It went from "fuck" to "motherfucker" to "shit, motherfucker, shit" every time I saw an incline. But it's a hill, and I had to get over it. So I did.

This leg was far more beautiful than the first, running on country roads and through a quaint downtown. There were cows and fields. It's exactly what I hoped to do when I signed on.

I made a turn and the exchange was in sight. Just at the bottom of the hill, at Wild Turkey Distillery, Rebecca awaited. Whether it was the excitement or grade, I'm not sure but I went for it. 6:45, 6:30 the watch flickered. I was going so fast I wasn't sure I could stop. But I did.

Leg 36/Run 3

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We were tired. We were smelly. We were ready to be done. And, because my team was mostly local, we had the unbelievable advantage of knowing someone in the area.


She graciously opened up her home, allowing us to shower and nap. Let me tell you - a shower never felt as good as it did Saturday morning. I felt warm, awake. Like a person. I didn't think I'd sleep but I looked at the clock at 10:30 a.m. and didn't see the second hand tick again until two hours later. It was glorious.

It wasn't going to be pretty but I was now ready to take on my last run.

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Our final runs took us from outside Frankfort past multi-million dollar horse farms to the Legacy Trail to downtown Lexington.

My final leg - and that of the race - was 4.9 miles starting on the Legacy Trail and into downtown Lexington. The clock read just past 6 p.m. as I made final preparations - two pee stops and the last minute decision to wear my Flyer jacket. It was raining. Again.

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I'm not going to lie. This leg HURT. I was awake, I had energy but my legs were lead. I was grateful that there were a couple women in the distance on whom I could focus. I had no intentions of passing them, though I did; I merely wanted to stay in sight of them as we wound around the urban areas of Lexington.

I was passing the LexMark sign when, in the distance, I could see the Lexington skyline. Booms and thunder filled the air and fireworks lit the sky. It was the grand finale. And, if I could dig, I would soon be there.

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So I dug. I focused on running tangents, getting to the next landmark, the next turn. Over the hills and through the woods. It wasn't pretty but when I got to the final straightaway and my teammates joined me, I was filled with joy.

I had had the race I wanted but never expected and the adventure I couldn't have thought to wish for. And though my legs ached, my heart did, too - knowing I have to wait to do it all over again.


  1. Whooo! We were very glad to have you! It was a blast for sure.

  2. I am happy it was such a great experience!!!! :)

  3. Well written. Who you're in a van with can make or break the relay race experience in my opinion. I'm lucky to get to do them with my husband and family. PS I love that you swore on your blog. It's the little things .. and sometimes we swear.

  4. Love it. I demand a relay in our future.

  5. This sounds like an amazingly cool experience! Way to go, girl! You rocked those hills!!

  6. Sounds like such an awesome adventure!!! I am so glad that you had a good time and ran hard!!

  7. HI! Great post!! I'm runner 12 for the Bourbon Chase this year. Do you have any tips? I'm behind on my training - only up to 6 miles. I know I need to step it up and I know I need to hit the hills hard. Any advicce you can provide would be most helpful! Thank you!

    1. Have fun, No. 1!

      My tips:
      • I'd try to be in half marathon shape. Runner 12 has some decent mileage and a good base will help.
      • My second leg was by far the toughest. I would take it easy on the first one and save the effort for the second. Also, re: the second leg: the downhill to Wild Turkey is no joke. I had trouble stopping to hand off the bracelet.
      • Pack rain gear and capris. I packed a lot of summer stuff thinking it would be hot but I spent a lot of time being cold and wet.
      • Roll and stretch as much as you can in the van.

      I'm not sure I can think of anything specific to runner 12 save for the second leg. Maybe we'll see you out there! I'm running again but will be the first runner this year.

  8. Thanks so much! I just read this again and saw that you were pregnant!! WOW you go girl - and you maintained an amazing pace! I will think of you when I'm thinking "shit motherfucker shit" on leg two, and I will suck it up!